shy person dating
July 4, 2013 4:39 PM   Subscribe

Can you help an unexperienced, shy person figure out if I'm doing this dating thing right?

I'm a 28 year-old woman, who used to be really really shy, and who is now just sort of shy. I'm a late-bloomer, I guess: still pretty new to dating, sex, etc. And now I need some help, because I met a really amazing guy at a mutual friend's party. We sat on the kitchen floor and talked until 3 am. When we said goodbye, he started looking sad, so I got up the nerve and asked him if he'd want to hang out another time. His face lit up and he said, "Yes!!" I was so delighted and surprised that I managed to get his phone number without giving him mine.

So I texted him later in the week to ask him if he'd have time to get together that weekend. And he wrote me right back and said yes, he'd have time on Friday, Saturday, or Sunday. We've gone out three times now. I've asked him out all three times. Every time I've contacted him, he's gotten right back to me, he's said yes, and he's taken an active part in the date-planning process.

I fluctuate between feeling shy/not-shy with him. I think one of the reasons I get shy is that he's not a very physical person, and so I get unsure about what kind of physical contact is appropriate. He does hug me hello, closely and affectionately, and he also seems to hug me goodbye at least twice every time we part, but inbetween hello and goodbye he doesn't really touch me. He does let me touch him though as much as I want to, so when I'm not thinking about it, I gravitate towards him, and then when I notice what I've done, I get self-conscious and move away.

For example, yesterday we were walking to the train and I was too self-conscious to even put a hand briefly on his arm, but when we were actually in the train and looking at a weird advertisement on the ceiling, I suddenly realized I had moved so close to him that my breasts were almost brushing his chest. Like, kissing distance without the kissing. It felt really natural, actually, to be that close to him, and he looked down at me and didn't move away, but then the train jerked and I stumbled sideways and once I was no longer right next to him, I got shy again.

So I guess my questions are threefold. First: is the fact that he lets me get so close to him a good sign, even if he doesn't initiate physical contact all that often? When I touch him, he never tenses up or moves away. Can I take that as a sign that I'm allowed to keep touching him?

Relatedly, is it okay for me to just give up on subtlety sometimes? What I mean is: when we are saying goodnight, and he is standing two feet away but spending a lot of time looking at my mouth, can I just move forward a step? When we are sitting on a couch and he is on one end of it and I am on the other, and he is looking at me wistfully, can I just scoot over closer to him? Is it weird to not even try to offer up an excuse for moving? Because I can never think of one, and so I end up staying where I am.

And finally, a lot of my otherwise sane female friends have been telling me I should be waiting for him to contact me, instead of contacting him first. They've been making me feel embarrassed and ashamed about asking him actually, like I'm doing this totally wrong. And I know that healthy relationships should be mutual, and if things do go well with this guy, then I shouldn't have to keep being the one to initiate contact. And I also know if he fades away, or declines two or three times in a row, to back off and not chase him. But for now, since he's told me several times he's an anxious, introverted sort of person, and since I think I keep giving out otherwise contradictory signals, I'd like to be as clear with him as I am (currently) able to be. Which means contacting him again, I think. Is that an okay dating strategy?
posted by swamp rocket to Human Relations (14 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: You're an introvert dating an introvert. Your roles, to the extent there are roles, are not dictated by gender, but rather by who is braver. This is apparently you. Your girlfriends are well intentioned but misguided.

You should give up on subtlety, not by moving a foot closer but by using words. You can say "I would like to kiss you" or "It's okay with me if you want to kiss me." Breaking the first kiss barrier will make a lot of the awkward go away :)
posted by DarlingBri at 4:45 PM on July 4, 2013 [29 favorites]

Best answer: I think you are doing great. Yes, you can give up on subtlety. Don't listen to your friends. Trust yourself: you are doing it right.
posted by at 4:46 PM on July 4, 2013 [8 favorites]

Yep, you've obviously got mutual attraction going, so I doubt it would do anything but help to talk about it! He should try to be less anxious and initiate contact certainly, and you can encourage him with that. But it sounds like a good relationship, and I wouldn't worry about the gender stereotyping of your friends!
posted by an opinicus at 4:57 PM on July 4, 2013

It sounds very cute, like maybe he is even more shy than you but really likes you as well. Sounds like everything is going great and DarlingBri has it. Read her first sentence again.
posted by bquarters at 5:20 PM on July 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Mouth-looking, huh? Wistfulness? Yeah, scoot in there, and no, you don't need an excuse. Words are good, too, but if you just can't bring yourself to gasp out, "Kiss me?", there's absolutely no harm in closing the last gap and kissing him. There's not as much correlation between who starts it the first time and who starts it thereafter as you might think: I dated more than my share of shy fellas, back when the dinosaurs were young, and once they have proof of concept, they usually find it easier to take the initiative.
posted by gingerest at 5:29 PM on July 4, 2013

Best answer: Stop listening to your friends. Start trusting yourself. You're doing great!!! Everything you're saying sounds adorable, and I'm happy for you!

Kiss him.

And if you're even having a thought about how women are supposed to wait for men to make the move, disregard that garbage entirely. The idea that you're supposed to be passive due to your gender is ridiculous. It's 2013, not 1913. He might be really shy.

Kiss him :)

I once had a woman say to me "I was about to tell you to shut up and kiss me, but I changed my mind." Before I even had a chance to look confused, she kissed me, and then she said "Like I said, I changed my mind. I decided I was going to kiss you first." That was AWESOME.
posted by 2oh1 at 5:31 PM on July 4, 2013 [7 favorites]

Best answer: I can only speak with certainty for myself, but, as someone who falls into the anxious/shy guy category, when I actually come right out and tell people I'm getting to know about those traits (they're obvious, of course, but that's beside the point) that's my way of telling them that I like them, want to keep contact going, and don't want them to take the expression of those characteristics as signals that I don't want to continue, which is how most people interpret them.

Agree with those saying don't listen to your friends--they're parroting the gender role bullshit that both women and men spread about who should take initiative. "Otherwise sane" people have a weird way of falling uncritically back on social scripts like that.

You seem to have a really balanced, self-aware take on this whole thing, so, if you want to keep exploring your connection with him, and it sounds like you do (and like he does as well), then totally go for it. He's shown that he's pretty receptive to you already and he'll probably be relieved at your forwardness.
posted by Kosh at 5:38 PM on July 4, 2013 [3 favorites]

Best answer: My boyfriend and I are both introverts and your story sounds familiar. However, I'm a bit more extroverted than you all, and boy, I'm glad I made the first move with him. Worked out well.

If you make him uncomfortable, he'll tell you. It really sounds to me like you have no reason to think that you'll make him uncomfortable. He will almost certainly be thrilled if/when you make the first move.

Also, my boyfriend doesn't really contact me much. We've talked about it - at the beginning of our relationship, he told me that he didn't really contact people, even his family members - and I listened to him. My feelings aren't hurt when he doesn't text or email me first. And he works on it, because sometimes he does text me unprompted.

This stuff is so individual that specific advice other than "communicate with one another" and "go for it!" is difficult to give.

This sounds like it will be great and fun! I'm excited for you. :)
posted by sockermom at 6:33 PM on July 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

Agreeing with above, just sounds like you're both shy people. This is ok.

If you want to kiss him, just do it. It sounds like youll be doing both of you a favor. Dont bother asking for permission, a kiss is innocuous and can be discussed ex post facto, if necessary.
posted by charlemangy at 7:11 PM on July 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: It sounds like, by not touching you, he's doing his best to respect your boundaries at an early stage. I've certainly been taught and feel, quite reasonably, some squeamishness about violating a woman's sense of safety early in the dating process - especially if you've shared with him that you haven't dated much, or are shy.

He doesn't tense up or move away when you touch him. That's indeed a sign that he likes you touching him, and that you can continue to ramp that up. Do what you're comfortable with, and don't feel bound either by what your friends say is appropriate for a woman to do, or by subtlety.

As a sort of shy guy myself ... directness and foward-ness are a huge turn on from a woman. Even if its not for this guy, if he can't handle you kissing him first, there's bigger problems. The correct response to someone you like kissing you is always pleasure.
posted by Apropos of Something at 7:27 PM on July 4, 2013 [3 favorites]

Telling you that he is an anxious, introverted person IS a strong signal that he will be hesitant to make a move, and that it probably isn't signalling anything that he isn't asking you to make plans. In the long run, that aspect SHOULD change.

As for physical contact, make a move. In my experience, a LOT of shyer guys are hesitant to make a move, and were glad when I did. If you're unsure about consent or boundaries, go for something along the lines of saying "I'd like to do x." I got a really cute text message from a shy guy after a date once, saying 'I wanted to kiss you... should I have?' You can also talk about this kind of thing with him, even this early in a relationship.

Worst case scenario, he's not so into you and as a result the gender role stereotypes might hold. You seem to have a pretty good viewpoint on what to watch for, so unless you're seriously concerned about being hurt if this does happen, forget gender roles. It's highly likely that paying any attention to them could lose you someone who IS into you!
posted by Ashlyth at 9:35 PM on July 4, 2013

Best answer: You two sound very sweet together, and like you are doing all the right things. He sounds like he's trying not to crowd you and come on too strong - he is either very shy himself, or aware that you are shy, or possibly both. He does sound as though he really likes you though.

I agree with everyone above - trust your instincts, don't be afraid to make the first move, talk to him if that's less scary than actually plunging in and doing something ("I feel like we should be snuggling/kissing now, what do you think?" or similar). You've already seen his face light up when you suggested hanging out more, just think how much he'll glow when you've kissed!

Best of luck and enjoy! :)
posted by Athanassiel at 1:10 AM on July 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

It's okay to tell him It's your turn to make plans to get together.
posted by theora55 at 9:31 AM on July 5, 2013

Response by poster: Thank you all very much for your answers and your encouragement!
posted by swamp rocket at 1:55 AM on July 6, 2013

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