How do I get a boyfriend?
January 14, 2014 4:56 AM   Subscribe

How do people go from crushes to more?

I am not experienced in this field, but lately I've just sort of been wanting a boyfriend. I've had boyfriends in the past (like middle school) when they just flat out asked me 'will you go out with me'. But that doesn't really happen much anymore because I don't know how to show guys I'm interested without being creepy or seeming desperate. And I think it might be a self-esteem issue as well, because everytime I like someone I have this overwhelming feeling that they're out of my league and I'm not good enough for them, because my life is too much of a mess. It's not because I'm palpably unattractive, guys have been interested in me before and asked me out on dates and stuff like that. But I don't know how to show more-than-friends signals. Is this failure to flirt an issue? I'm not sure if I'm brave enough to try flirting, it just seems so silly! And scary. Mostly scary.

There are girls out there who always have boyfriends, or get into relationships very quickly after they meet someone. What are they doing differently? Is it a vibe thing? Are they just better looking than me?

I am being greedy by asking so many questions but basically my specific questions are:
a) how do I get over feeling like I'm not good enough for guys I like?
b) how do I flirt without seeming creepy or desperate?
c) mefites who don't flirt, how did you get an SO?
d) people who are serial-daters, what do you differently from your chronically single friends?

I've let so many people get away where I sort of felt that we both were interested in each other... And just this time I don't want to let it happen! Thanks hivemind!
posted by dinosaurprincess to Human Relations (22 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
A) I would bet most people feel that way
B) Never do anything you don't like to do
C) By being natural and seeking the same
D) Can't comment
posted by Murray M at 5:02 AM on January 14, 2014

A. Fake it until you make it.
B. Flirting is not creepy or desperate so long as you back off if the other person doesn't join in.
C. I totally flirt, but I also ask people out. "Hey, want to grab a coffee?"
D. Ask people out. Accept that some of them will say no, and this is not a referendum on your awfulness as a person. They just don't want to go out with you, no big deal. Most people probably don't want to go out with most other people. If you don't ask you'll never know!
posted by emilyw at 5:08 AM on January 14, 2014 [3 favorites]

I never dated too much and I am a horrible flirt. My first boyfriend wasn't until college, but I found my fiance through online dating. It takes out the guess work of flirting and with the benefit of giving more information about the person to hopefully select someone who is a good match for you.
posted by Jaelma24 at 5:10 AM on January 14, 2014 [3 favorites]

Try online dating? Everyone involved is looking for more than friendship, so you don't need to worry about how to get that message across.
posted by Catseye at 5:15 AM on January 14, 2014

have you tried online dating? It's very useful because by it's very nature it clearly communicates "I am not looking for more friends, I am here to DATE" and that jumps a bunch if initial hurdles for the shy.

I'm not sure if I'm brave enough to try flirting, it just seems so silly! And scary. Mostly scary.

Can you clarify what you think flirting consists of? Because unless it's being done by an agenda-driven airhead, it should neither be nor appear to be either of those.

(And no, it isn't that the woman who "always have a boyfriend" are better looking than you; they may be more outgoing or confident, though.)
posted by DarlingBri at 5:22 AM on January 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

Dating isn't a video game, where if you engage the correct sequence of moves, you'll achieve a boyfriend. It's about getting to know people and seeing if each of you wants to take it to the next level.

If there are dudes you're attracted to, why not just be yourself and ask them out? If they're put off, they aren't the dude for you. Don't fear rejection. It just means that that particular dude isn't right for you.

Here are some things you can say:

"You seem really into X. I'd love to go for coffee and hear more about it."

"We keep running into each other at these things, want to grab a bite after this?"

If you want some insight as to what kinds of conversations to have with people, to learn more about them, I recommend the horribly titled book, "How to Marry the Man of your Choice." It's not about how to date, not really. It's about the kinds of conversation that helps you really understand the person, and helps you determine if this is the kind of guy you'd want to be hooked up with for the long haul.

Don't put guys on a pedestal. They have their issues and insecurities too. Just try not to be too goofy and put yourself out there.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:28 AM on January 14, 2014 [10 favorites]

Is this failure to flirt an issue? I'm not sure if I'm brave enough to try flirting, it just seems so silly! And scary. Mostly scary.

Smile at them, laugh at their jokes and physical touch. I'm pretty sure every woman who's ever shown interest in me did so, at least at some point, by putting their arms through mine, leaning against me or my placing their hand on my knee.
posted by spaltavian at 5:59 AM on January 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

Past a certain pretty low bar of brushed teeth, bathed in the past few days or so, isn't wearing clown makeup or carrying a big knife or wearing a leisure suit, appearance doesn't matter much. Not everybody will like your body type- be it short, tall, model thin, or larger; be it red hair, blonde, black, straight curly, what have you... someone somewhere will like it and someone wont. What does matter is confidence... the ability and self balance to go 'I am dinosaurprincess. I AM awesome. If you are lucky, you get to share in and contribute your own awesomeness"

Patience, numbers, and ignoring the admittedly silly bits of flirting. Asking guys out will get you places. Flirting is kinda a game that not everybody picks up on on their own. Your choice of outfit on a date can send signals- yoga pants and a sweater vs a daring hot dress. Don't use closed off body language- arms crossed, frowns, leaning back. Asking questions is usually a really easy way to have a date go smoothly- most people like to talk about themselves.

Of course, the more comfortable you are with you, the better things go in general.
posted by Jacen at 6:04 AM on January 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

On flirting:

So, I think I get what you say about flirting feeling silly and scary. I think it's always going to be a little scary, because you're putting yourself out there, which is hard, but if there's an aspect of flirting that feels unnatural and silly to you, you don't have to do that thing. Like "witty" banter and double entendres feel super dumb and gross to me. So my flirting style tends towards increasingly dirty jokes and invasion of personal space (like, if you're out with a group of people, and there's a booth, and you can sit next to him, and then you have to squeeze in another person at the booth - gold!). This does not work with every guy! This might feel gross and silly and unnatural to you! But I'm confident that there's a way for you to flirt that will feel not too gross.

The secret to not seeming desperate when you flirt (and to responsible flirting in general) is to back off if your flirts are not reciprocated.

As far as how to find someone without flirting goes, I guess you can just straight up say, "I find you attractive and would like to go on a date with you, how about next Thursday?" Flirting seems less terrifying than straight-up asking, at least to me.

On not feeling good enough:

Eh, let him decide whether he wants to be with you or not. Don't make the decision for him. And if he decides he's not interested, that doesn't mean you weren't good enough, it just means he wasn't interested.

On serially-dating vs. chronically single:

I'm actually very much on the chronically single side of the spectrum (though I have a boyfriend at right now, and hope that will last a good long while). But I don't think there's anything big that separates the coupled from the uncoupled. There are unhappy, insecure single people, and there are unhappy, insecure coupled people. There are confident, happy single people and awesome, mutually-supportive couples. There are singles who have lots of sex with people they barely know and love it. There are couples who barely spend any time with each other and don't seem to like each other much.

Basically, I'm not sure that's a useful distinction to make. Focus on being happy, not on getting dates. "A" boyfriend won't make you happy (though the right boyfriend can definitely contribute to your happiness!).
posted by mskyle at 6:07 AM on January 14, 2014 [3 favorites]

Sometimes questions get posted to Ask Me that just don't do well in cyberspace. I think this is one of them. The answers to your questions (they're all good questions, too!) depend quite a bit on who you are and how you present yourself, two things no one on the internet can speak to (sadly).

Why you feel "not good enough" will affect which answer is right for you. I know for me, I decided to stop being the authority on how people "should" see me (well, for the most part). If someone likes me, they like me. They certainly aren't "wrong" for the way they see me; respecting their opinion is the first step towards deciding how to properly to respond to it (we're talking about positive opinions here). Otherwise, we're stuck in a preliminary stage, where I'm saying "nuh-uh!" to people's view of myself. Nothing you build from there as a relationship (and I'm talking about all relationships, romantic and non-) is going to be as solid or dependable as it would have been had you just said, "Okay, you think I'm X. How do I want to respond to you, as someone who you think is X?" My life has gotten more awesome as a result of this mindset.

Hand-in-hand with this idea, is to not do the rejecting for them. You need to give other people the chance to come to their own conclusions about who you are, especially if the only other option you're willing to give them is that you aren't worth their time. You don't know that! Lead like you're great, and if that creeps you out or feels wrong, let me tell you a secret: people like to be liked by people they like. If you act like someone who believes she has real value, and then treat other people as if they are valuable, your affection will be twice as valuable to the people you're interacting with. Liking yourself is a gift you give other people through the act of liking them.

I'm sorry this sounds so self-helpy. It's because I'm repeating words. It's the AM! But everything I'm saying is science (literally). So if you can't value yourself for yourself, consider valuing yourself for the benefit of the people around you.

Flirting is an art. And because it's a social skill, it ends up being something that you either "get" to some degree, or you don't. You have three options, as far as I'm concerned, if you want to learn how to flirt. They are not exclusive.
1) read books, watch tutorial videos, watch people. I have some opinions about how a woman would go about flirting, but I've never been one and there's a host of information out there written by people who have either gotten under the hood and figured out how it works, or have an intuitive sense but are still able to teach it to others. Google searches yo.
2) People watch! You know the girls that you're thinking of who are "good" at flirting and always have dudes. Watch those ladies! What are they doing? When are they doing it? How are they presenting themselves differently from how people around them (who aren't getting the results you want) are presenting themselves? Make it a research project. I guarantee you, those girls are aware of their surroundings and value male (--or female! Whatever) attention. Flirts are goal-oriented, especially when they're the kind of flirts that result in dates. They also tend to cast a wide net and not get bothered when they can't pull a particular person. People are weird, and there are a hundred different reasons that they might not reciprocate your feelings. It could have nothing to do with you, and it could just be a temporary thing. Or not. But there's no reason to overthink it.
3) Upgrade your appearance. This works better, I have to assume, post-college, but even now, if you look like you play soccer, someone is going to invite you to get on the field. Clothes that fit, that don't have stains (bleach and otherwise), that are "attractive". Makeup. Et cetera. Cheat of off other girls who look like the kind of person that you imagine is where you want to be.

I can't speak to your third question, other than to say that even people who don't flirt have a "biological imperative" (Real Genius reference!). Things happen. Right place, right time. You meet people you like. You hang out.

Serial daters and uh, "flirtists": They're aware of how their physical appearance speaks to people around them. They make eye contact, and position their bodies to be accepting of other people's physical space. The people you're thinking of are communicating that they are available, interested, and worth people's time. Again, Google searches! You can MeMail if you have follow up questions, because like I said, this is a hard question to answer without knowing you personally.

And finally... it sounds like there might be a particular dude who you are into, but you don't know how to take the next step. Smile when you see him. Open body posture (Google). Ask him questions about his life. Ask his friends if he's seeing anyone (even if you know he isn't). Some people are more dense than others when it comes to this kind of thing. If you ramp up to, "I want to see a movie with you" because he's not getting the message, cool.

Dealing with the fear of rejection is another question (and post), but see the beginning of my post. Good luck tiger!
posted by Poppa Bear at 6:18 AM on January 14, 2014 [4 favorites]

Touch his knee or arm when you're talking.
posted by history is a weapon at 6:25 AM on January 14, 2014

My suggestion: Don't send "more than friends signals". Ever. I know that's how most people do it. But there's a better, deeper way.

Try for human contact with everyone you meet. If you already do that, try harder, try deeper for genuine heartfelt connection in the moment, even if the person doesn't attract you in the least. Learn to do this in a way that doesn't scream "sex". it is possible, even though, especially for girls, intentions can be misunderstood.

Some people will respond in kind, and you'll feel an urge to spend more time with those people. Don't keep thinking forward, don't strategize yourself to some scripted end game. Just settle there and ENJOY. It's rarer than you think!

Languish! Default to staying right there - to having that person be someone you spend time with sometimes. Suck every iota of enjoyment from that. And if it doesn't seem sufficient (I'm not talking desire-of-the-loins here, I'm just talking humanity!), then bring them in closer. A real friend! Make it organic. And then hold right there. Suck every iota of enjoyment from that. ENJOY. It's rare!

Eventually, if someone's gotten closer and closer to you, and you've paused at every stage but kept wanting more (again, from your heart rather than your this point it could include people you find terribly physically unattractive!), eventually, with a very select few, you may feel a deep more-than-just-loins desire to superimpose your body and life with them. When you consummate, the heavens will quake. And it will happen organically, because you'll both "know".

This is not how most people do it. They go out and recruit romantic partners. They "send signals" that that's what they're after. And they tend to not have very fulfilling or long-lasting experiences. And they miss lots of other, intermediary stages and the enjoyment therefrom. Going that route you never experience the supreme profundity of superimposing yourself with someone with whom you've forged a deep, solid, time-tested connection and real love. I promise you it beats the hell out of "hey, you seem hot, let's hook up".

Just a thought. Mileage varies, I know....
posted by Quisp Lover at 6:26 AM on January 14, 2014 [67 favorites]

Don't put guys on a pedestal

This, from Ruthless Bunny, is good advice. You might imagine dating as a mountain right now; daunting, scary, huge, difficult. I recognise how hard it is to tackle that. But this line of advice is great.

You don't want to jump out of the plane, pick up the spider, dive into the water. Of course! It's fear. It's natural, and irrational too, because the guy is thinking a version of that exact thing. A way of defeating fear is exposure. Being near the spider so you see it's harmless, doing a pretend parachute jump, wading in shallow water to see there is nothing to be afraid of...The exposure bit is uncomfortable for everyone, acknowledge and embrace it. You might even have a bit of fun with it!

Is there any fear you previously had that you conquered and now imagine to be easy peasy? How did you do it? Perhaps you can use that process and apply it here?
posted by 0 answers at 6:38 AM on January 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'm not positive but it sounds like you're still in high school, yes? Being in school is a bit like being in a fishbowl -- you can't flirt or put yourself out there even the tiniest bit without the fear that not only will you be rejected, but by 5th period everyone will know you were rejected. And then you have to see that person every day for what feels like the rest of your life!

Once you're out of school, a lot of that pressure disappears, and quite frankly people become a lot more self centered and stop particularly caring who is flirting with whom.

The friends I have who are serial daters are far less than picky than I am. Nothing against them -- they're lovely people and I admire that they can find something good and attractive in many, many people. Me, unless I'm really crazy about someone I can't stand to date them... so I only date people I'm really crazy about, and they come along in their own time.
posted by telegraph at 6:42 AM on January 14, 2014

There are girls out there who always have boyfriends, or get into relationships very quickly after they meet someone. What are they doing differently? Is it a vibe thing? Are they just better looking than me?

Don't assume they're happier or more well adjusted or better than you in any way. It doesn't take a lot of skill to get into a relationship. It takes work to get into a healthy one.
posted by empath at 6:55 AM on January 14, 2014 [2 favorites]

Just to add to that, go ahead and do a survey of anonymous questions in metafilter to see the post-apocalyptic emotional wasteland left behind people who get into relationships just so they can be in a relationship. That way lies heartbreak, resentment and wasted years.

When you meet the right person, and you're ready, it'll be easy. Just talk to as many people as you can, and be yourself. Eventually you'll meet someone who finds your awkwardness, if you want to call it that, charming and looks past it to get to know you. Just be careful that you don't settle for the first guy that shows interest.
posted by empath at 7:11 AM on January 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

I am being greedy by asking so many questions but basically my specific questions are:
a) how do I get over feeling like I'm not good enough for guys I like?
b) how do I flirt without seeming creepy or desperate?
c) mefites who don't flirt, how did you get an SO?
d) people who are serial-daters, what do you differently from your chronically single friends?

a) What I always tell myself is--the other person doesn't know all of my terrible secrets, habits, how I really feel about X body part, whatever. They are seeing something new. I'm not saying "get out there and deceive people." What I am saying is, people are initially attracted to novelty, and your good qualities, and the right person will take the good with the not-so-good, and you will discover those not-so-good things about them over time, and you will both decide if they're dealbreakers.

b) Keep it light with someone you're interested in. There's ways to pay attention to someone and show interest without being creepy. Compliment them on something they do or wear, especially if it relates to your interests. "Nice shirt, I saw Cannibal Corpse in Milwaukee once." or "Do you have a dance background? You move gracefully." This is great because not only are you going "Hey, you're interesting to me" but also "Look, we have something to talk about while we size each other up." Actually, my last fling started with me literally saying, "I find you very interesting" which was kind of lame but true (behold my mad game). Ask them lots of questions--people love to talk about themselves. If you don't like the answers, or they never ask you a question back, you've learned something about them and can move on. (I had this experience with a kind of cute academic at a party once and turned it into a game. How many questions could I ask him without him asking me anything back, i.e. having an actual conversation. A: 22.)

I have been turned down more than a bed in a five-star hotel. I have probably come off as desperate at times. I did not get anywhere with those people. People who find me charming rather than desperate, I did get somewhere with.

c) Extrovert here, sorry

d) Most of my "chronically single friends" are super picky, actually. A couple are shy. But mostly picky. My advice is to practice. Get on those dating websites that I keep hearing about and practice date. I don't use them, but I do try people out. Don't lead people on, but go on a couple of dates with someone even if they seem like they're not your type. I love knowing what I DON'T want in life. You'll learn to recognize red flags.

A+ for empath up there: "It doesn't take a lot of skill to get into a relationship. It takes work to get into a healthy one." I argue that some people luck into the right fit early, but most of us have to practice and practice and practice...which is pretty fun. You cannot like all the ice cream flavors but it is fun trying them.
posted by Lardmitten at 7:17 AM on January 14, 2014 [2 favorites]

Hi OP -

In order to be able to give a useful answer to your question, I'd need a little more information. Specifically: What do you mean when you say flirting? What behaviors are you talking about?

I spent years of my life convinced I didn't know how to flirt, and then it turned out I'd pretty much been doing it all along and it was mostly just that my sense of constituted flirting was a bit out of whack, so it would be helpful to know what you mean by flirting. Once I know that, it'd be a little easier to answer your question. Thanks!
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 8:20 AM on January 14, 2014

I could have written most of this.

But I thought I'd pop in to say that flirting doesn't have to be complicated. Not all music is Bach - Arlo Guthrie also has his charms.

Flirting can be as simple as a warm smile, held for just a beat longer than normal.

Flirting isn't restricted to romantic prospects - you probably use flirt muscles with your friends without thinking about it.
posted by bunderful at 8:45 AM on January 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

Also, keep in mind that guys are often at least as clueless as you are. That's why both the ask-him-out and the overtly-touch-him strategies keep coming up, because a lot of time what you think is flirting is just being rationalized away by the guy as "she's just nice." So it's good to put yourself out there both to find out if there's a possibility and to be sure that you're even being heard.

Good luck!
posted by acm at 1:09 PM on January 14, 2014

I can answer (c), at least: I despise flirting* and flat out refuse to do it. I never like anybody back and I don't want to mislead anyone, so I take pains to not give off that impression. However: if a guy is interested in a lady, he pretty much assumes you are interested back, no matter what you do. Now, this has been pretty terrible for me because I'm trying to NOT send off signs of interest, and the dudes pretty much think that because I said hi and didn't spit on them and make the sign of the devil in their direction, I want to fuck them. And then heinous awkwardness ensues.

But in your case, this might be a good thing because (a) it means you don't actually HAVE to flirt. If you just act like a normal nice enough person who doesn't spit in a dude's face, and (b) if he likes you back, he will assume it's mutual and you won't have to flirt. If he's not interested, then you can figure out he's not worth bothering with. Indeed, the few times I've actually had a boyfriend, that's pretty much how it came about and I didn't really have to do anything other than say yes when they asked. Just having a conversation and paying attention to a dude will pretty much count as flirting and showing sexual interest in your part if he already wants to boink you. Sad but true.

There are girls out there who always have boyfriends, or get into relationships very quickly after they meet someone. What are they doing differently? Is it a vibe thing? Are they just better looking than me?

I honestly think they're just SUPER friendly and not very picky.

* which I define as "indicating that I would like to fuck you," not just "being friendly and having a good time in the same way that I would with any random human on the planet with no sexual context." Apparently it is most people's opinion that flirting is the latter thing.

posted by jenfullmoon at 6:03 PM on January 14, 2014

Are you a human? Then you are never "not good enough" to interact with another human. Humans are bags of meat with Opinions About Stuff, and possibly one or two Talents, and that is literally the full and total extent of what they are. Find a visually appealing meatbag and find out what their Special Opinions are about Things, if they have any Good Talents, and see if they can choke down yours. BAM! YOU'RE ON A "ALPHA DATE"! Alpha dates help you refine your approach to the beta date and eventually the full release, which can be with the meatbag currently under consideration, or with a different meatbag you discover elsewhere if you discover the current code is just too irredeemably broken.
posted by turbid dahlia at 8:39 PM on January 14, 2014 [4 favorites]

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