Am I just not couple material?
March 25, 2013 4:22 PM   Subscribe

I can't tell if I’m overreacting/over analyzing because I've been single for so long. Do I just need time to adjust to being a couple? Should I just calm down and stick it out for awhile?

We've been dating for a month and a half. I haven't been in a serious, committed relationship for 9 years. I've dated here and there but been very happy single. I like doing whatever I want, whenever I want although I do want to be in love and in a relationship again. I've been clear about needing space to do my own thing and he seems okay with this. He recently went out to buy a new bike and he knows I’m an avid cyclist. For me this felt like, “Oh NO! Does this mean you want to spend even more time with me??” I make time to see him at least three times a week. I've also recently moved to a new city and I’m still making friends. I was talking to a friend in front of him about something she had invited me to and he assumed he was invited…it wasn't a problem (it was a group thing) but I actually hadn't thought about inviting him and it kind of bothered me that he made the assumption. He contacted me at one point before making plans with a friend to find out what *we* had planned that week to make sure there wasn't a conflict; something that wouldn't have occurred to me. His being interested in my interests and basically being thoughtful and considerate…made me…uncomfortable?

I wonder if I've forgotten how to be in a serious relationship or if I even want to be. Is it just this particular person or am I not interested in anything serious with anyone right now? I am reluctant to end things because he is great many ways. He is attentive, thoughtful, communicative and responsible. He is definitely super smitten. I’m just not sure I feel as strongly as he does. I’m hoping that will in the past I have been slow to fall in love. We have a lot of fun, geeky stuff in common and similar values. When we're together I'm happy and I feel super affectionate towards him and we definitely have sexual chemistry. When friends ask me about him I light up. Yet, when I’m not with him, I have all these doubts and question my feelings. Also, I’m 40; mind you, a pretty fabulous 40 but still let’s face it…I’m no spring chicken and good men are increasingly hard to find at my age. On paper he sounds great…like THIS is what you should want! But I have moments where I ask myself, am I settling?
posted by g33kygal to Human Relations (28 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: No one *forgets* how to be in a serious relationship. Some people don't want to be. But, if it's worth it, you learn how to be in THAT relationship.

It sounds like you need to tell him that you need to take a step back. Slow it down. Consider what you want, what he wants, and what you both - together - would want. Consider what you need. What you don't need.

It doesn't matter what he looks like on paper - it matters how he treats you, how you treat him, how you feel when you're with him, and how you feel when you're not with him.
posted by eenagy at 4:32 PM on March 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

I just want to say that I have identical problems. The first time my now-ex RSVP'd for both of us to one of my friends without asking me I wanted to throw myself off a cliff.

Some people are probably going to tell you to dump him because if you're second guessing yourself so soon then it's not going to work out. Those people would be wrong. I'd give it a few months. It takes a while to re-adjust your expectations after being single if you're the independent type.

But keep him in the loop. When I've told partners about the level of independence I like in a relationship (which isn't extreme but is certainly more than average) most of them have been really accommodating, and my needs have loosened up as I've gotten more comfortable in the relationship.

On preview, this:

No one *forgets* how to be in a serious relationship. Some people don't want to be. But, if it's worth it, you learn how to be in THAT relationship.

feels like tautology to me: the right relationship is the one that works out; it works out because it's the right relationship. I disagree. You should make some concessions towards being in a relationship with this guy and see what works. Maybe it won't. But you'll only be able to find out what the right relationship feels like if you try to get yourself out of your single/independent comfort zone.
posted by no regrets, coyote at 4:41 PM on March 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

I think, 'you're just not that into him!'
posted by Youremyworld at 4:42 PM on March 25, 2013 [4 favorites]

I've been clear about needing space to do my own thing and he seems okay with this.

Does he have his own thing to do as well, or is he waiting around on you to do things with? Do all these things add to your relationship in some way? Maybe you feel those things make you more interesting people who have more to share with each other, or give you interesting stories to tell when you are doing your couple thing. Maybe you need time to yourself to be able to share yourself with him.

Talk about what you both get out of having space, and how great that is. Talk about what this adds, instead of focusing on having him "give" you space.
posted by yohko at 4:43 PM on March 25, 2013

People take different times to feel comfortable at different levels of commitment. It sounds like his timeline is a little faster than yours, but if you don't articulate that to him, he won't know.

Have a sit-down talk about your need for space and moving slowly. The only way to resolve this is to communicate your needs.
posted by xingcat at 4:48 PM on March 25, 2013

I was talking to a friend in front of him about something she had invited me to and he assumed he was invited ... it kind of bothered me that he made the assumption.

Perhaps he assumed you were following the rule advocated by Miss Manners, in which one does not mention social events in front of those uninvited.
posted by feral_goldfish at 4:51 PM on March 25, 2013 [38 favorites]

You don't seem cool about your dynamic or, IMO, it sounds like you aren't really a partnership person or you're not ready to really share your life. I think it will probably get frustrating and hurtful for him. You really should be honest and upfront with him so he can understand you better and figure out if you're what he wants to further invest in. Don't waste his time.
posted by discopolo at 4:54 PM on March 25, 2013

Best answer: You say that you've been single for a while, but has he? To be honest, it seems like you just need a little more space while he's used to either the patterns of a longer relationship or falls into a lee pattern more quickly. I don't see why it would be a deal breaker unless he can't back off just a bit-- you're still learning each other, and you've both had years of forming your own habits separately. Maybe just ask him what his time expectations are, and explain gently that you need more time to get used to things.
posted by jetlagaddict at 4:54 PM on March 25, 2013

You haven't been in a serious relationship for 9 years - you've forgotten what it takes to build a successful relationship, and you may have forgotten the real joys of a great relationship.

Decisions, ways of life we choose have an impact on our future. It they didn't, those decisions would not hold value.

If you are looking for a serious relationship, you will need to adjust. There are no two ways about it. The very essence of a relationship is compromise. That involves a bit of discomfort. Compromise is a very different thing than settling.
posted by Kruger5 at 4:55 PM on March 25, 2013 [4 favorites]

Best answer: A month and a half would be way too soon for joint planning/shared calendar stuff for me, too, and I *have* been in relationships for the past 9 years. I'm a tortoise. Maybe he's a hare? Seconding xingcat and jetlagaddict. Let him know your comfort level!
posted by PaulaSchultz at 5:00 PM on March 25, 2013

keep dating him and what you want will eventually become clear.
posted by bananafish at 5:01 PM on March 25, 2013

But I have moments where I ask myself, am I settling?

This is your answer right here - what if he read this? He would run for the hills.

But he hasn't read this. However your thought is still there, albeit safe in your mind. That leaves you with a decision about the "right thing to do."
posted by Kruger5 at 5:07 PM on March 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

I was talking to a friend in front of him about something she had invited me to and he assumed he was invited

I would have assumed I was invited as well, as it is rude to discuss an event in front of someone who isn't invited.

But anyway, the pair of you don't have to experience the emotions of couple-hood in lock step. It happens but sometimes it doesn't - my husband and I were months apart on that one. You also don't have to have a relationship that looks like everyone else's - and in fact, not everyone's looks the same. If what you want is a relationship with a great guy where you enjoy the time you have together but are not a matched set in one another's pocket all the time, you can have that. There is no actual default setting for relationships; they are what both partners negotiate.
posted by DarlingBri at 5:10 PM on March 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I can't tell you how you feel about this specific guy, but I was also single for a long time (8 years!) before I met my fiance. And remembering to include him in my plans, in my day-to-day life was, and sometimes still is, an adjustment. I love him like crazy and totally want to be with him forever, but I was very used to coming and going as I pleased. If I wanted to go shopping after work, I could do that and not have to text anyone and say I was going to be late. If I wanted popcorn for dinner, I could have it. If I wanted to take a book and go have lunch alone at a cafe, I could do it. I can still do those things, but I do generally run it by him or at least let him know what I'm doing. And sometimes that feels like a bit of a drag. But it's really not and I get over myself and do it. It helps that we're both pretty introverted (him more so than me), so we get plenty of alone time and have things we like to do apart. It's good to miss each other a little sometimes.

Also, I was VERY slow to fall for him. We were together, um, eight months before I told him I loved him.

I think that unless he's giving you that icky feeling in your stomach, you could maybe let this ride a little longer. You don't have to! But these aren't immediate red flags to me. But if he's being too pushy, set boundaries and stick to them!
posted by Aquifer at 5:13 PM on March 25, 2013 [6 favorites]

Response by poster: Before anymore etiquette police show up...I am aware it is rude to discuss events in front of people who are not invited. My mama raised me right... Mostly :) My friend brought it up and it's something I didn't think he was interested in based on a previous experience.

Also, I suppose what I really wanted to know is...are these feelings normal? Is it okay to slow things down a bit? Thanks for your thoughtful responses. I do understand the need to compromise and I absolutely don't want a relationship to be all about my needs.
posted by g33kygal at 5:42 PM on March 25, 2013

If you guys had been dating longer and you still felt this way, I'd suggest that you open up and compromise, but you've only been dating for a month and a half. It sounds like this dude has put you two on the relationship fast track. Has he been a serially monogamist?

The bike thing would kind of weird me out, but biking is good (for the body, for the planet, for the soul), and maybe it was something he'd been considering for a while.

If you want to get this relationship out of the fast lane, tell him.
posted by ablazingsaddle at 5:58 PM on March 25, 2013

Best answer: Yeah, I bet if he wasn't doing all those things that mark him as smitten, you'd probably feel fairly relaxed about the relationship. You might even wonder how much he's into you... I think you have these doubts because you clearly see how interested he is and you don't want to be in the position to let him down. That just means you care. I say let him know where you're at and just see what happens.
posted by Locochona at 6:06 PM on March 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I am relieved that at least a couple of you agree this seems a little fast. I forgot to mention that he was in a two year relationship with a live-in girlfriend that ended last November. ..who moved in with him after 6 weeks! That's also causing me a little anxiety. I did talk to him about that and let him know that that totally freaked me out. I know he's not expecting that type of committment anytime soon and seems genuinely grateful that I am also a responsible adult who can take care of herself, has her own place, etc. I guess this was an issue with his ex.
posted by g33kygal at 6:19 PM on March 25, 2013

He recently went out to buy a new bike and he knows I’m an avid cyclist. For me this felt like, “Oh NO! Does this mean you want to spend even more time with me??”

This strikes me as the platiest of bean plating. Yes, sometimes people do things like this in hopes of doing something with a partner/person they're having some kinds of relations with.

I think the thought jump from "oh, he got a bike" to "AHA, he must be trying to worm his way in to activities with me!" is pretty self centered and as i said, bean plate-y.

Sometimes a bike is just a bike. It's spring time, which is when everyone who says "hmm, i'm gonna take up cycling like i always said i would!" grabs a bike because the sun is coming out.

If this is any kind of sampling of how you generally analyze his actions, i can't help but feel like you're overthinking a lot of this.

I think introspection is in order of why you think it would be bad if he was doing that also. He's basically saying "hey, that would be a fun activity for us to do together" which is honestly cute, and completely innocent. The way you framed it made it sound like you almost thought it was some manipulative act.

That said, the first couple months of a relationship have always been full of weird doubty feelings like this for me. Always. Especially after i had been single for over a year and suddenly ran in to someone who i pretty much fell in to dating.

His being interested in my interests and basically being thoughtful and considerate…made me…uncomfortable?

I think it's pretty good that you realize that this feeling doesn't quite make any sense. I can understand feeling like it's weird to not have 100% control of your own time and activities, and to have someone else who's relating to you in this way be in the drivers seat... But i'm going to have to side with the small chorus on here saying you should really just give it more of a chance. A month in a half is right in the middle of the initial butterflys zone of any kind of relationship.

Especially since it's not like he's buying tickets for both of you to go tour spain or something. Buying a bike is pretty low of the levels of commitment for "maybe this could be a couple activity"(which i seriously think is the maximum amount you should be assuming he's thinking about it), as is all this other stuff. It definitely all reads as appropriate, non presumptuous early relationship stuff from what you've wrote.
posted by emptythought at 6:21 PM on March 25, 2013 [2 favorites]

Oh jeeze, i didn't see your latest reply on preview. That kinda changes what i would have written for at least half of my post. In fact, disregard most of it.

I think that you may have been more spot on than you thought, and just have very different paths of how you expect a relationship to progress. I generally don't assume someone to be the "serial monogamist"/"lets move in together after a month!" type of person since those people usually stand out, and it's kind of a crappy assumption to make about someones actions...

But yea, i think he's probably just attempting to butter you up for the fast track to partnerville. If that's not what you want, then you know what to do.
posted by emptythought at 6:24 PM on March 25, 2013

I think that there is something here that is throwing up a red flag for you. I'd definitely stay in a bit of an "observation" mode and see what the next few weeks bring.
posted by dawkins_7 at 6:29 PM on March 25, 2013 [2 favorites]

You have just GOT to communicate with him about some of these and see how he responds.

In bed, while cuddling: "Hey baby, can I talk to you about something that made me feel kind of weird? it might sound silly but I want to be honest with you."

Him, worried that this is something huge: "Of course, what's up?"

You: "When Sarah invited you to come rock-climbing and you RSVP'd for both of us without asking me...I don't know, I know someday if this keeps going well, we might get to the point where we RSVP together and people treat us as kind of a unit, but I am SO not ready for that. Especially not with one of my own friends. I just kind of don't want us to assume that we are always going to do things together, or that we schedule things together yet. I know that's eventually part of a relationship and I'm open to it someday, but this is still really new and I'm used to being independent. I really like you and I want this, but things like that make me feel claustrophobic and skittish. I think you are much more used to being in a relationship than me. I'm used to coming and going as I please and not having to tell anyone and having total control over my schedule (give some of the examples above) - and I'm willing to adjust, but that will take time. I need time with my friends, and I need us to not make assumptions that we will go to things together. Does that make sense?"

Him: Relieved that this is pretty minor as issues go, hopefully.
posted by amaire at 6:49 PM on March 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

Haha, a lot of your post resonated with me although I haven't had the long singledom stretch. Instead I had a stretch of dating a totally manipulative sociopathic jerk. Going out with someone who was genuinely kind, as opposed to kind-when-trying-to-get-away-with-something, really threw me for a loop. I very nearly broke up with the guy because I just felt like he was trying to trick me into getting too involved, like he was trying to trap me in some kind of niceness web in order to lock me down.

A friend of mine broke into my anxiety spiral and simply said, "you know, some people just do nice things because they are nice people." That had literally not occurred to me, at least not in a dating context.

I didn't dump the guy. The relationship went way better after that.

It's pretty common to regard any major shift in one's life as uncomfortable and bad, even when it objectively is AWESOME. Talk to anyone who is in the second month of their "dream" job. You get past the initial whoosh of adrenaline and it all turns into "does not compute" for a while.

Ride it out for a bit. This guy isn't going to secret-marry you and move into your house in the middle of the night. Be honest about your comfort level and let the chips fall where they will.
posted by like_a_friend at 7:08 PM on March 25, 2013 [2 favorites]

Things move much faster when you are older. It is like speed chess versus tournament chess. By age 40, people have been around the block a few times and know what they want out of a relationship. Things become a bit more workmanlike because it's all well-trodden ground. Everybody has had their heart broken. Everyone has been burned. So at that point, people who want a relationship just keep after it and don't take multi-year sabbaticals between attempts. (Or they give up, but that's another story...)

So I actually see where he is coming from.

But that is not pressure on you. It is 100% okay for you to move at your own pace. Your feelings are your feelings. But are your feelings typical? Not in my experience.
posted by 99percentfake at 9:16 PM on March 25, 2013

You like to bike, and your new boyfriend wants to get into biking and may want to bike with you, and your first reaction was "OH NO!" It seems a little extreme. He may want to go on the occasional fun bike ride... I am really wondering how this could seem creepy or clingy or aggressive.

am I not interested in anything serious with anyone right now?

if you're asking me, I say you are interested in something serious. Not because I know you better than you know yourself based on a few sentences you typed up on the inter web, but because I want you to be happy, you like him, and this guy sounds nice.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 10:42 PM on March 25, 2013

Best answer: he's been trained by all his ex girl friends to do these things, so don't hold it against him for doing them. do bring up specific things though, tell him what he did, how it made you feel, and how you'd like it to go in the future.
posted by cupcake1337 at 11:11 PM on March 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Case closed. We had a conversation tonight about how we were feeling about where we just came up naturally, oddly enough. And no, I didn't say"OMG you bought a bike, does that mean you want to get married?!?" :) Yes, I was over thinking it.

I do believe him when he says that he is comfortable with how we are and that he likes that I am not dependent on him. He also stated that he was really happy that he didn't feel any pressure from me for us to move in together, which apparently has been an issue with many of his previous girlfriends.

Basically, we're on the same page, he's just awesome...and I need to stop thinking so much and just enjoy the awesomeness.
posted by g33kygal at 11:19 PM on March 25, 2013 [5 favorites]

OK, I know this question is resolved but I just wanted to say:

He contacted me at one point before making plans with a friend to find out what *we* had planned that week to make sure there wasn't a conflict; something that wouldn't have occurred to me. His being interested in my interests and basically being thoughtful and considerate…made me…uncomfortable?

Sometimes I worry about myself and then I read questions like yours, particularly the bit above, and realise there are other people in the world like me. :)

I do not think you are not couple material. I think you're not material for the kind of couple he may have been in the past. But you're communicating about it clearly, which bodes really well for your relationship I think. Enjoy and good luck :)
posted by Ziggy500 at 5:00 AM on March 26, 2013

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