What do I doooooo
November 13, 2012 8:32 AM   Subscribe

Need advice on how to "break up" with a guy I've only been seeing for a few weeks... and whether or not I am being an idiot.

Earlier in the year, I became single again after a year-and-a-half long relationship. It really sucked, but I learned a lot about myself and what I'm really looking for in a serious boyfriend and relationship.

I took a few months off from dating, partly on purpose and partly because I was busy with work and didn't have time to meet people. Since then I've gotten back into my hobbies and have been meeting a lot of eligible guys. I am being extremely picky this time though, but in a good way. For example, if I know a guy's family expects him to marry someone of a certain ethnicity or religion, and family is important to him, I don't even start anything with him in order to spare myself the grief. I am also at that point in my 20s where I'm not really playing around anymore; I would like to settle down within the next few years.

Over the past few months I have become friends with this guy who seems pretty perfect in every single way that is important to me. (He is extremely kind, considerate, caring, intelligent, very honest, loyal, we have a lot to talk about, many interests in common, etc).

Eventually he asked me out, and I agreed to go out with him. Since then (it has been a few weeks) he has called me and wanted to see me every single day. I never have to worry and wonder if he will call me because he is calling me and texting me all the time. That makes me feel very happy. I think he is really serious about me and he has started to repeatedly mention that he is getting to the point in his life where he is open to settling down with the right woman.

The problem is that I don't feel any sparks with him. I'm not excited about him. I don't have any crushy feelings about him. I'm not infatuated with him. I'm not like thinking about him all the time. I don't feel the urge to stare at photos of him. I have had sex with him just to see if that would change anything, and it was good and I enjoyed it, but I still don't feel any sparks.

I think the reason I don't feel sparks, unfortunately, is mostly because of his looks. He is not what you would usually call a good looking man - he has odd, irregular features, bad teeth, and a few other things going on. This is the main thing that makes me feel like such a total idiot, the idea that I would give up someone so great just because of something like this, that it must mean I have some kind of deep shallowness that is going to screw me over in life.

At the same time, there is another guy who I DO feel sparks for. Nothing is going to happen between me and him for a variety of good reasons that I won't get into, and he is not right for me. But it just reminds me of what isn't there. All three of us are friends and whenever I hang out with them both at the same time, I feel extremely weird and uncomfortable. That I am there with one guy, but I feel this really strong urge to kiss the other one, and a feeling like I wish I was there with him instead.

I feel like I should "break up" with this first guy and stay single until I find someone who is compatible with me, and I do feel sparks with.

But then I'm thinking that maybe I'm an idiot for giving up such a perfect guy for a reason like this, rather than appreciating him more. I know very well that a good man can be really hard to find. If I made the decision to commit to him, I would be completely loyal and give up all thoughts of the other guys (I have never cheated on anyone, physically or emotionally) but just the idea of making that decision to commit is scaring me.

If I do "break up" with him, what should I say? We haven't had any kind of exclusivity talk yet, and it's only been a few weeks, so I feel really weird having a whole formal talk. But I think it would be really abrupt, rude, and cruel, to go from seeing each other every day and sleeping together almost every single night, to nothing, without talking about it. But what do you even say to someone in that situation? We have pretty much been acting like two people who are falling madly in love, and I do think that's what it is on his side, while on my side, in my head, it's more like "Wow! You are really perfect on a personality level and I like you so much and like having sex with you! But..."
posted by anonymousme to Human Relations (28 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Don't settle.
If you're not feeling it, you're not feeling it. That's not going to change. Do yourself and him a favor and end things now so you can both move on and find someone you don't have to settle for.
posted by DoubleLune at 8:37 AM on November 13, 2012 [16 favorites]

It's not fair to someone to whom you're not attracted to keep plugging away at a relationship that doesn't have a future. Let him down easily.
posted by xingcat at 8:39 AM on November 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

This is one of those classic cases where you're basically without "good" options, so you just need to go with the less awful of two awful options. Namely: Yes, just break up with him. Yes, it'll be sudden and kind of brutal no matter how you slice it. But what's the alternative? Keep going with someone you feel like you're settling for?
posted by Tomorrowful at 8:39 AM on November 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

You don't have to give him a reason when you break up with him. I've always just used the "I don't see us being together" or "I'm not feeling a spark".
posted by ethidda at 8:41 AM on November 13, 2012

He's not a "perfect guy" if you're not attracted to him. In fact, there's no such thing as a "perfect guy," just a "perfect (or thereabouts) guy" for YOU. It's about the relationship, not about a list of "qualities."

You're very young, and you're meeting a lot of people now, so you will likely meet somebody you are attracted to in a reasonable amount of time.

It's not fair to either of you that you're acting as if you're falling in love with him. You should tell him ASAP that the relationship is not going in that direction and move on.

and if your question is really asking for permission to break up with him, oh boy are you going to be getting that now:
posted by DMelanogaster at 8:42 AM on November 13, 2012

You have to break up with him as soon as possible. In the long run, it's the kinder option. Good guys are not soooo hard to find that you should settle for someone you sound a bit repulsed by. Both of you deserve more.
posted by peacheater at 8:42 AM on November 13, 2012 [2 favorites]

You're not being shallow. Trust and believe that the looks thing wears off after your first great date. If you were sympatico, you'd date him if he was a troll.

If you're not attracted, you just can't fix it.

Move on. You don't have to make a big deal about it, just say, "You know, I think you're awesome, but I'm just not feeling it."
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 8:45 AM on November 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

Just one more thing to say, about settling: in all the of the relationships I've ever had, I've felt like I was settling in one way or the other. Like I had one where I was head over heels for the guy, but we were extremely sexually incompatible and couldn't find a middle ground there. And I've had others where most things were great but we didn't have hobbies in common and much to talk about when we were just sitting around, or relationships where we didn't really relate to each other's families or friends. So I feel like no matter what relationship I end up in I will probably be settling on something. Or am I wrong? Is it realistic to hold out for that relationship where you feel like everything is exactly what you want? If not, is this an especially bad area to settle on? (no sparks.)
posted by anonymousme at 8:45 AM on November 13, 2012

You start your question by asking not whether, but how. Luckily, the period of time you describe is about the usual one for deciding whether or not to move forward. You can tell him some version of that-- it's been fun but it's just not going to the next level, for you.

"Bad teeth:" I don't think this is shallow if you mean he doesn't take care of his teeth. Dental problems can happen to anyone but not going to the doctor or dentist, and being complacent about it, to me is a perfectly good indicator.
posted by BibiRose at 8:47 AM on November 13, 2012 [2 favorites]

Why do you have to solve your relationship problem right now? Just tell the guy you don't feel it, and stay single until you are not feeling like you are settling. Unfortunately that may take much longer than you would ideally like. 10 years plus here, waiting for Mr. Right, interspersed with some Mr.Obviously Nots.
posted by bquarters at 8:50 AM on November 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

I was in a somewhat similar situation with a girl I "dated" for about two and a half months. We were never official but neither one of us dated anyone else during that time. I did bring up becoming "official" but she said that she'd prefer to not have any titles due to some stuff that happened to her in the recent past.

We spent a great deal of time together and I liked her. She was cute, we had some compatible interests, her friends liked me, and so on. She ended things with me by telling me that while she enjoyed our time together, there was a certain "spark" missing and she was ready to move on because she had given it enough time. I was surprised since we were spending basically every day together and her response was that if she was feeling this way at this point, it wasn't going to get any better.

Everyone deserves to feel that "spark". I wouldn't focus on the negatives because that seems unnecessarily harsh. Tell him that he's a great guy but there's "something missing" that you can't put your finger on and no, you don't think it's going to happen because it's already been a few weeks.
posted by Diskeater at 8:51 AM on November 13, 2012

Break up with him. You can make "generally attractive but with one or two features that are unfortunate" work with new-relationship energy. If it's not working right now, either you don't have it, or he is far beyond just mildly unfortunate. Stay single until you can find someone attractive.
posted by corb at 8:52 AM on November 13, 2012

I think you can absolutely find a relationship where you don't have to settle when it comes to anything major. There are no perfect guys out there, but there definitely are some who would be perfect for you. With my current boyfriend, I am strongly attracted both to his looks and intelligence, and I could write this about him too: He is extremely kind, considerate, caring, intelligent, very honest, loyal, we have a lot to talk about, many interests in common, etc. We share a common vision for the future. Yet, I'm not saying he's perfect, just that his faults are not important to me or pale in comparison to his good qualities. I'm sure that he would not be acceptable to many other women -- he has a fairly strong Russian accent, he's somewhat nerdy and not macho at all, he's fit but also very skinny, he has a big nose, he is very attached to his family and wants his divorced mom to eventually live close by him. These could all be dealbreakers for someone else but not for me. Incidentally, I previously dated a guy for a really long time who was perfect for me on paper. We had a 99 % match percentage on OK Cupid and honestly he was a wonderful guy. But like you, I just was not attracted enough to him in the end. We were too similar in a lot of ways with our faults tending to reinforce rather than cancel out the other's. It was sad, but I'm glad I broke up with him, or I would never have stumbled across this amazing guy that I am dating now.
posted by peacheater at 8:57 AM on November 13, 2012 [2 favorites]

When I was shopping for a house (bear with me here, it's an applicable analogy, I swear!), I read a lot of advice about being very rational and calculating about the house and don't "fall in love" with something that was out of my price range or had other problems with it. I should take a purely rational standpoint – if it didn't meet my checklist, move on!

This is true, to an extent. However, you do need a little love, you need to feel an emotional connection, you need to feel pride so that when you are calling the plumber on a Saturday or looking at a new roof bill, you aren't beating yourself up for settling.

So, everyone has flaws. Holding out for Mr. Right doesn't mean you will get Mr. Flawless. That person doesn't exist. But, if you don't feel the spark, then when you're working through the bills after a long week, when you're caring for him when he is sick, when you're trying to decide if the two of you should have a second kid when the first one was tough, you need that spark to be part of the glue that holds you together.

Remember, by rejecting this guy (gently and with grace and empathy), you aren't rejecting all the guys. Don't fall into that way of thinking. You are giving him the opportunity to find a woman who feels the spark and you are affirming that you can find the spark, too.
posted by amanda at 8:59 AM on November 13, 2012 [2 favorites]

Kiss all the boys.

Just kidding (sort of). But there is no reason you should settle for a guy who doesn't make you feel at least a bit of a spark. Also, when you're young, it doesn't make sense. There's a lot out there. Lots of different personalities and styles and sizes and colors and so on and so forth. You aren't going to know what you want until you figure out what you don't want. And it sounds like this guy falls into the category of things you "should" want rather than things you "do" want. And, based on the fact that this guy has started to make mention of the "settle down" phase of life before y'all are even exclusive indicates to me that he probably doesn't know you all that well, and is looking for someone to fill that role. Which isn't the greatest basis for a relationship.

Be polite and empathetic, but also be firm. You aren't feeling it, and that's ok.
posted by picklesthezombie at 8:59 AM on November 13, 2012 [2 favorites]

You're never going to find somebody who matches your needs in every single way, and if that's what you're looking for, you're going to be waiting a very long time. This is why couples negotiate on things - because compromise is the key to getting what you want out of a relationship.

That said, looks are probably the one thing that you can't change by negotiating, so don't you think it's necessary to have at least a basic level of physical attraction? I know everybody says that "looks fade as you get older" but I've found that due to the subjectivity of attraction, people I've dated look just as attractive to me when they get older - provided that I am attracted to them to begin with (which it sounds like you are not). So wanting that "spark" is not an unreasonable expectation, as long as you don't expect it to last indefinitely.
posted by wolfdreams01 at 9:04 AM on November 13, 2012 [3 favorites]

You may have to settle eventually, but that doesn't have to be anytime soon, however much you have a vision of How Things Are Supposed to Go. It's good that you are aware of having switched to a more serious sort of looking, as that will keep you from "wasting time" on relationships with obvious killer aspects, but I think you should view this as one of them -- there are, in fact, people out there with a good combination of qualities you value, whose drawbacks seem trivial or even cute to you, and vice versa. You just haven't found that person yet; it's nobody's fault.

Tell the guy you're sorry but it's not happening, and get back in the water!
posted by acm at 9:06 AM on November 13, 2012

I think the reason I don't feel sparks, unfortunately, is mostly because of his looks. He is not what you would usually call a good looking man - he has odd, irregular features, bad teeth, and a few other things going on.

Nah. You're not feeling sparks because the intangible chemistry isn't there. Believe me, if it were, you'd manage to find his irregular features irresistibly charming.

We all "settle", I think, because no one in the world is perfect. (Not even we ourselves, alas!) But you should hold out -- for someone whose "flaws" seem charming, or negligible, or entirely unimportant. (For example: He doesn't make plans in advance. Or, he likes to watch TV in bed. It could be annoying... but it doesn't seem to matter.) Once you've found someone whose "flaws" are apparent but don't irk you, you'll know you've found someone for whom you can "settle," because the term "settling" won't even make sense -- since the flaws don't matter.

This is what you should hold out for.

As for the guy you're seeing -- tell him you've so enjoyed getting to know him, but you're not seeing a future together. And then, gently, tell him goodbye.
posted by artemisia at 9:20 AM on November 13, 2012 [7 favorites]

There are a lot of things you may find yourself settling on in life, but physical chemistry should never be one of them, and you'll be miserable if you try to. I've tried to do that before and it was an awful time, and then once I found someone with whom I did have that spark, the difference was like night and day. It was incredible.

Somewhere out there is someone who is just as awesome as this guy is - moreso, even - and who also clicks with you in that way. You are not being shallow. If the spark isn't there, it isn't there.

Is it realistic to hold out for that relationship where you feel like everything is exactly what you want?

You're thinking of this in the wrong terms. The guy doesn't have to be every single thing you want. He only has to meet enough of your needs that you're not second-guessing yourself enough to ask the internet whether you should break up or not. If you're even asking yourself these questions, you should just end it with him now and spare both of you the pain.

If not, is this an especially bad area to settle on?

Yes. One of the worst.

Just break up with him. Your problem here is that you're experiencing indecision paralysis - you already know what you have to do but you're holding off on doing it until you can think of a way to dump him that he'll be okay with and no one will feel bad.

It doesn't exist.

There is only a least worst way to do it. Here it is:

1. Do it in a place where he doesn't have to do anything special to exit. His house, or whatever. If you do it in public or at your place then he has to be really upset in public and that will suck for him.
2. Do it soon. Do it today. Each passing day will make it harder on him when this does end, and it's absolutely going to, so the kindest thing you can do is minimize that hurt when it drops.
3. Don't soft-pedal it. Don't say you don't want a relationship right now, don't say you want a break, don't say you would be open to trying again someday. End it decisively.
3a. Don't rub salt in, either. Don't tell him it's because of his appearance or any of that. So what do you tell him?
4. Tell him you've been having a great time together but your feelings really aren't progressing in the way they usually would be in situations like this and that it would be unfair to him to keep dating when you know that, whatever it is, it is just not there for you.
5. Tell him that you're sorry to be causing him pain and that you completely understand if he needs time and space away from you before he's ready to be on friendly terms again, and that the decision is entirely his as to when that is, if ever.
6. Don't let yourself be pulled into an argument about this. He probably will try to argue you into not breaking up. He may even succeed, if he uses logic or guilt. Don't be a sucker. The chemistry isn't going to change. Stick to your guns and say, "I'm so sorry and I know this is a hard conversation to have, but I've made up my mind about this."
7. Take your cues from him in the aftermath. You will feel a bit guilty. This sucks but it's normal. Keep sane boundaries. Don't let him keep calling you and saying how hard it is without you - you're his ex, not his support network, and mixing the two is an awful idea. Remember that there are no good ways to dump someone, and that of all possible outcomes, this is still the best one.

Watch some of your favorite movies, spend time with friends, get sunlight, etc. You'll be okay and so will he. Good luck.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 9:38 AM on November 13, 2012 [14 favorites]

If the spark isn't there, it's more of a friendship than a romance. You need BOTH for it to work long-term.
posted by xenophile at 9:41 AM on November 13, 2012

I think you should probably go with contestant #3, TBD. Feeling emotionally low key or steady is okay, but you flat-out say you're not attracted to him. There is probably not as much of a rush to this as you're thinking. Saying 'I'm going to settle down in a few years' in your twenties isn't necessarily realistic. Lots of people take much longer than that.

If that really is your attitude, if you're just going to will that into happening, you probably do stand a good chance of 'just settling' for someone because you've kind of set the priority of the time frame above the priority of finding someone who has the qualities you list and also happens to be attractive to you.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 9:46 AM on November 13, 2012 [2 favorites]

I feel like no matter what relationship I end up in I will probably be settling on something

Possibly but...

is this an especially bad area to settle on?


This is perhaps the worst thing to settle for. Because it is so amorphous and yet so essential.
posted by French Fry at 11:01 AM on November 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

Chemistry is key for most people. It sounds like it's key for you. Me, too! I don't think it's shallow.

Break up. Be kind and respectful. There are people out there for this dude who will think he's the cat's meow.
posted by Sidhedevil at 11:37 AM on November 13, 2012 [2 favorites]

When you do break up, please DON'T do it in a place that he is likely to visit again. Your place or a bad restaurant would be good. Took me 4 years before I could walk through Washington Square Park.
posted by anon4now at 12:11 PM on November 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

To quote my mother when my best-friend-in-eighth-grade came to her for advice in a similar situation: "Sweetie, you know what we call a boyfriend you don't want to kiss? We call that a friend."

And wanting to kiss somebody has to do with the presence or absence of the spark, not with any kind of "objective" level of attractiveness. There are people for whom Steve Buscemi is sex-on-a-stick. There are people who, if they opened the door to find Jennifer Lopez standing there wrapped only in a towel, would hand her a robe and then shut the door in her face. That's one of the funny things about attraction — when you're really attracted to someone, it doesn't matter what anybody else thinks about their looks.
posted by Lexica at 12:17 PM on November 13, 2012 [6 favorites]

This an instance in which I feel sure that pointing you to Miko's breakup advice is the right thing to do.
posted by Specklet at 12:26 PM on November 13, 2012

If you're not attracted to him, it's time to end it.

That being said, Dan Savage's The Price of Admission is very relevant here.
posted by cnc at 2:20 PM on November 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

So I feel like no matter what relationship I end up in I will probably be settling on something. Or am I wrong? Is it realistic to hold out for that relationship where you feel like everything is exactly what you want? If not, is this an especially bad area to settle on? (no sparks.)

I think you're absolutely right that you have to settle on something. Commitment is — if you want to describe it in a maximally unromantic way — basically just announcing "I like the good shit about you enough that I promise to keep putting up with the shit that I'm just settling for." I don't recommend ever actually phrasing it like that when you're making pillow talk with anyone, but, you know, nobody is ever perfect for anyone and the goal is just "awesome enough to be worth it."

I think you have to decide for yourself what's worth settling on. For me, it ended up being shared interests. My wife and I have exactly zero hobbies in common, but we deal with that (and it is sometimes annoying!) because we work well in all the other ways and we finally just decided that hobbies weren't the most important thing in our lives. You gotta work out for yourself what sorts of imperfection you're okay with.

The thing about sex is, it affects both of you. People really, really want their partner to find them attractive and enjoy sex with them. If you tell a guy "you have annoying habits but I still love you" or "your family is totally disfunctional but I still love you" or whatever, most guys will be like "oh, awesome, I'm glad my flaws don't bother you much." If you tell a guy "from day one I felt absolutely no sexual chemistry with you but I still love you," for most guys (hell, most people of any gender) that's gonna be an enormous slap in the face. And that means you should really think twice before making sexual attraction your Settling Area Of Choice.
posted by nebulawindphone at 2:25 PM on November 13, 2012 [6 favorites]

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