We're no strangers to love / You know the rules and so do I
October 24, 2012 7:11 AM   Subscribe

How to properly pursue a budding romance when hoping for some kind of fairly serious relationship. Difficulty level: I am young and foolish and what is this.

I'm heterosexual, male, quite introverted, in my mid-twenties and things are pretty good. I feel fulfilled and happy in almost every regard. I guess I must have figured that this was a too-boring way to live life because I just started dating a coworker.

The good news is that after getting along well as friends during the day, and now two weeks spending various kinds of time together outside of work, everything seems great so far. We have a tremendous amount in common and it feels really comfortable; she really seems like a kindred spirit. We're both pretty straightforward (if slighly shy) people, and we've managed to make it clear that there is quite a bit of mutual interest. An appropriate and growing amount of physicalness is occurring. I can hardly complain.

However, I find myself anxious. It's been years since I had a relationship that lasted more than a few months; my primary mode of operation is to be single for a while and then have a brief fling with someone whenever there's some mutual physical attraction, which usually fizzles out. The reason it fizzles out is that frankly, throughout my life so far, I just haven't met that many people I liked a lot, and that's been true for women, too. I am naturally very content mostly independently of other humans.

This one is sort of different. I'm not afraid of rejection, or of forthcoming workplace awkwardness; I'm nervous that I'll screw up my chance to have a meaningful connection with this woman who I deeply respect. I know there are many fish in the sea, but empirically speaking I don't actually find that many fish in the sea. I don't know what kind of advice is applicable here, but if anyone who is wiser than me wants to put any good ideas in my head it would be great.

So: Is there anything I can do to help give this thing the chance it deserves? And a slightly more concrete question: short of dating other equally-awesome women simultaneously or fast-forwarding time by one or two months, is there a way to think that will help me calm down right now about the outcome? I'm normally not super-anxious about dating anymore, but this time the tension won't stay away, and I could do without it.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (6 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
"You see it all around you
Good loving gone bad
And usually it's too late when you
Realize what you had

So hold on loosely but don't let her go
If you cling too tightly
You're gonna lose control
Your baby needs someone to believe in
And a whole lot of space to breathe in" -.38 special "Hold on Loosely"

Relax and enjoy.

Trust that she's into you and doesn't want to screw it up either.

I was you (other than the coworker thing), with a bunch of abandonment issues and stuff when I met Kate. It was really hard early on for me (she used to spend weekends at my place and i got really sad when she left to go home on sunday nights). But I explained what was happening and she was patient and kind and we've been together three years in November.
posted by softlord at 7:16 AM on October 24, 2012

...my primary mode of operation is to be single for a while and then have a brief fling with someone whenever there's some mutual physical attraction, which usually fizzles out

It is until it isn't. Or, rather, that's the standard mode of operation in one's mid-20s until something sticks. You seem to like this person a lot, so why are you afraid of this happening? If it does, you didn't like her as much as you thought you did, and no big deal. If it doesn't happen, you may very well end up in a serious relationship eventually, and as long as you keep on being a good person, there's nothing you can do about external factors effecting that.

It sounds like you don't trust yourself, but it doesn't sound like you have any good reasons to not trust yourself.
posted by griphus at 7:17 AM on October 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

I recommend this book so much I've started prefacing it with a disclaimer that I'm not the author, I swear --

If The Buddha Dated was the only self-help book on dating I ever thought was worth a damn. One section deals with exactly this sort of nervous "oh shit what if i screw this up" fear; and yes, it does use a few techniques gleaned from Buddhism, but it's not about Buddhism, if that makes any sense. It really helped me rein in the nervous energy and helped me remember "okay, these nerves are about me rather than this thing that's going on." It doesn't help you not have those nerves, because that's kind of impossible - but it does help you process those nerves in a much more constructive and helpful way. It won't help you calm down, but instead it'll help you pinpoint "oh, okay, THIS is why I'm so freaked out and here's how to handle it without dumping it on her".

I also like how it doesn't go into all the nonsense about how "men are like THIS and women are like THAT"; it helps you cut through all that and focus on "okay, wait, what do I personally feel right now and why", and help you present that in the most open and compassionate way.

Give it a shot.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:26 AM on October 24, 2012

It sounds like you have nothing to worry about, but that doesn't mean that it isn't totally normal to be worried about messing things up. I know I get that way when meet someone who I really want to be around.

My only word of advice is to tell her how you're feeling. Not like, "I really like you and I am anxious about messing it up." More like, "I really enjoy spending time with you." Or "I'm really looking forward to our date tomorrow." You can also demonstrate your seriousness through interest. Ask her questions, be genuinely curious about her life. Maybe you're already doing these things, in which case you have even less to be worried about.
posted by BusyBusyBusy at 7:30 AM on October 24, 2012 [3 favorites]

I'm nervous that I'll screw up my chance to have a meaningful connection with this woman who I deeply respect.

You're honestly more likely to "screw" this up by being concerned about this than you are by just doing what you've been doing. Think of it this way: you want to be in a relationship with someone you respect, but also someone who respects you and who you are. The way to make sure that happens is to be yourself (as you are now) and let things develop from there.
posted by OmieWise at 8:02 AM on October 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

Just keep on being emotionally honest and take pleasure in the fact that you're able to relax and be happy around her.

Keep in mind, that if you hit a road bump, it may not mean you've irrevocably screwed things up. I was in your exact position a couple decades ago when a friend told me about his concept of "level testing". He said, as the romance progresses from level to level, she may start pushing your buttons and get upset with you over inconsequential things. She's not necessarily crazy or trying to dump you. She probably has her own relationship-falling-apart issues and is trying to get a glimpse into how you'll behave when circumstance aren't as perfect as they appear now.

(I know it sounds corny but it proved to be really timely for me)
posted by bonobothegreat at 8:47 AM on October 24, 2012

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