I turned him down. So why do I keep thinking about him?
January 18, 2014 10:16 AM   Subscribe

I met someone online. Had a great date with him, but ultimately decided not to pursue things with him. So why can't I get him out of my head? And should I try again with him?

I met a guy online over a month ago and to say we hit it off is an understatement. We met in person and I had such a good time with him! I felt like I was talking to a great friend. But I didn't feel the "spark" that I had felt with guys I ultimately ended up dating. I didn't get any butterflies or any desire to rip his clothes off; he was just a really cool guy who I had a lot of fun talking to and getting to know.

He asked me out again the next day and I agonized over the decision. On the one hand: had a great time with this wonderful guy. On the other hand: felt more of a "buddy" kind of vibe. Should I go out with him again and see if attraction could develop over time? Or would that be leading him on? I ended up telling him that although I had a great time, I didn't think we had that kind of chemistry. He took it very, very well and wished me luck--and that should've been it, right?

The problem is that I can't stop thinking: Did I make a mistake? Did I make a rash decision? I've always gone for the guys I had that instant "zing" factor with and those situations ended up blowing up in my face, big time. Maybe this was more of a slow burn situation that could've been really good. I have a terrible habit of making snap judgments in dating/relationships--I either trust people way too quickly and then end up getting hurt, or I push people away before I can even give them a chance because I don't want to get hurt or whatever.

I've rejected people before and have never felt like this. Granted, there were red flags with those guys, so I never felt like I was "missing anything" by ending things with them. There was relief and I didn't really think about them much afterwards. With this guy there's just regret.

Should I reach out to him and tell him I'd like to try again and see how things develop (yes, I know full well that he might not be interested anymore, and I'd respect that)? If I do, how would I even phrase it? Or would that just be totally out of line and awkward, considering we only met up once and I was the one who turned him down?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (21 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
What do you have to lose by reaching out? If he says no, you'd respect it, and if he says yes, see where it goes.
posted by mmf at 10:21 AM on January 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

The worst that can happen is he says no, right? So you would be no worse off than you are now.

Ask him, nicely, say you've been thinking it over and if he's still interested, you'd like to try going out again. If he's not, you completely understand.
posted by emjaybee at 10:22 AM on January 18, 2014

Go ahead and ask him on another date.

I think the third-date rule exerts a hell of a lot of pressure on people. It makes me reluctant to date at all frankly [1]. Because what should be a reasonably light-hearted chance to spend time with someone and find out how much you like them, turns into SUUUUCH A HUUUUGE DEEALLL.

If you knew this were just a matter of asking to spend more time with him, and that it didn't imply more of a contract than that, would you be so conflicted? I really can't see a reason not to ask him again.

[1] in my case, because I know I'm going to have to explain my weird preferences from another planet that I get to know someone thoroughly first, and that kind of thing takes a few months, not a few dates.
posted by tel3path at 10:27 AM on January 18, 2014 [4 favorites]

Relationships start all kinds of ways. Sometimes there isn't a spark for a long time. Sometimes people hate each other, then grow to respect each other, then become purely and honestly platonic friends, and then eventually start to fall for one another. There's no roadmap, no one way to do this. So the absence of an identifiable spark is not, in light of the rest of what you've said, a deal-breaker.

I say this because you are clearly still thinking about this guy. That means there's something there. It might never blossom into romance, but there's something. If you decide you want to find out what that something is, that's a totally reasonable decision.

I think, to be honest, that a first date is really not long enough, even with pre-date correspondence, to know whether you're into somebody or not. I think people often need more time than that. So from my perspective you pulled the trigger early. That, too, is totally your decision to make: I only bring up my thoughts here to suggest that other decisions are also possible.

So I think you'd be totally within the bounds of decency to get back in touch and say that you had a great time last time and you'd be interested in a second date. Worst case is, he says "no" and you're still right where you are now.

From an ethical standpoint, though, I think you should be careful not to send mixed messages, not to run hot and cold on the guy. You should also be prepared to make the first direct romantic move, should things proceed in that direction.
posted by gauche at 10:28 AM on January 18, 2014 [7 favorites]

You're having second thoughts because you're anxious about not meeting someone else, and you genuinely liked this person, but this whole business of "can I learn to be attracted to them" is, 99.9% of the time, total BS that your brain is using to second-guess yourself because you don't feel right placing that much value on physical attraction.

Maybe you would have been friends if you'd met any other way, and it's totally reasonable to regret that you didn't meet in a way that would have allowed friendship to be an option. But if you didn't see him as the sort of person you were going to want to have sex with, let him go find a person who is.

Now, if what you mean is "you totally thought he was attractive enough to sleep with but there wasn't some Love At First Sight quality to it" then I might change that tune, but it sounds a lot like what you mean is that you think maybe you could learn to find him physically attractive, and it almost never works that way, and it's really not very nice to put someone through that.
posted by Sequence at 10:29 AM on January 18, 2014 [7 favorites]

I sort of think everyone who relies on first-meeting chemistry to decide whether or not to sleep with someone is a space alien, because it does not in any way work like that for me. I'd tell the guy you wanted to meet up again, that you wanted to take the physical stuff super slow, and if he's ok with that and still interested, then go for it.
posted by restless_nomad at 10:40 AM on January 18, 2014 [14 favorites]

If you think that you are missing out by perhaps not waiting for sparks and chemistry to develop, you could be right. You could also be wrong. You won't know until you try it.

And... yes, it is kinda awkward, but it's not out of line, and he will either say yes, or he will say no.

Anecdotally, I used to give "meh" dates a second or third chance. This netted me a few, ultimately untenable, "relationships." I stopped doing that, because it was a waste of time. I feel pretty lucky that on my first date with SO I knew I both wanted to further get to know this really interesting guy and bang him like a tambourine, and I was not picky about the order either.

Good luck, dating kinda sucks.
posted by sm1tten at 10:48 AM on January 18, 2014 [5 favorites]

Yeah, ask him out.

It could go all kinds of ways - you could be great friends, you could date a bit and have an awkward breakup, it could be the beginning of an serious relationship. But you'll have to spend more time with him to find out.

If you are anxious about diving into sexual / romantic territory too quickly, tell him up-front that you want to take things slow and see what develops. Invite him to do something activity-based, like volunteering or rock-climbing during the day, rather than drinks at night.

Good luck!
posted by bunderful at 11:24 AM on January 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

I ended up telling him that although I had a great time, I didn't think we had that kind of chemistry

The mind can be quite a mischief maker ...

When you were with him, you made this decisive decision.

The next day...

you told him your decision, and now that he's physically not in front of you, your mind runs completely away with the "what if..?" But — the lack of chemistry still remains, and you'd be totally reminded of it if you suddenly met him again. But, in his absence, your mind is buzzing with the finality of your decision conflicting with
how much he turned you on, as a person.

Let him go - if you were to contact him again, the self-pressure to find chemistry would be a heavy burden, especially since you will likely dump him twice.
posted by Kruger5 at 11:27 AM on January 18, 2014 [5 favorites]

The whole thing about not thinking about him loads.. until he's out of the picture.. is my party trick. Having had anti-luck in the romance department I am pretty avoidant now.. so that thing I think can be about avoiding intimacy (not necessarily consciously).. can you relate? It's just a thought.

I like the post about not being able to teach yourself to be attracted to someone.. that said it sounds like you've been blinded by chemistry before. Me too. After the school of hard knocks I know when extreme chemistry kicks in it's telling me "WALK AWAY". Seems like there's a negotiation you may need to make with yourself.
posted by tanktop at 11:29 AM on January 18, 2014

I know a married couple that met online, dated for a month, said "eh" and went their ways. Six months later he reached out again and that's when things heated up. Boom. Married.

Hey come to think of it, I know another couple that did exactly that. She said 'eh' after the first date, months later she reached out again and now they're engaged. Sometimes it just takes time to heat up. Nice 'ok' guys become attractive very quickly once you get to know them. You might be surprised to see him again and think "jeez when did he get so cute"?

So yeah for sure give him a shout, this is totally normal and above board. Just don't play interested/not interested games. If you find that stuff coming up then you'll need to explore your intimacy issues STAT.

How to phrase it? Simple. Email: Hi Mike, remember me? Just remembering funny joke XYZ that you told. How's it going? [mike replies] Then you say: so are you open to getting another coffee?

This is how adults date and if he can read between the lines & see that you're reconsidering the two of you. If he enjoyed the date as much as you did and if he wasn't too bruised from the "no" then he'll give it a shot. Worst case, you might just find yourself a good new friend. So go on a few dates, space them out, see what happens. This time don't pressure yourself to like him or not like him, don't pressure yourself to make a decision. Give it time and just relax into what you feel. Good luck!
posted by St. Peepsburg at 12:06 PM on January 18, 2014 [6 favorites]

Also even if it doesn't work out, don't worry so much about 'leading someone on.' As long as you don't make statements or promises that misrepresent how you feel, you're above board. This 'unknown' phase is a totally normal part of dating, and can cause a lot of dating anxiety for people who want to know things 'for sure.' So enjoy not knowing and exploring what will develop.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 12:09 PM on January 18, 2014 [3 favorites]

I don't think the reason you said no at first nor the reason you would ask him again is relevant. Ask him. If it sucks, it sucks. Maybe it will be great.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 12:26 PM on January 18, 2014

Probably one of the biggest mistake you have made. We all think we know the ideal person who will be our SO but that is not how it works. Dont presume you know who is your right match. Call him!
posted by ladoo at 1:01 PM on January 18, 2014 [2 favorites]

So many women are super strict about that 2nd and 3rd date. Honestly I think they're missing out. While I think everyone will agree that physical attraction is important. . . sometimes a person grows on you. I really think that it takes time to find out if there's a true connectoin. As others have said you havr nothing to lose. Ask him out again. See where it goes. If after 2 mor>e dates you're not feeling it then move on. But give it a shot. Who knows what eill happen...
posted by ljs30 at 2:01 PM on January 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

People become more attractive when you get to know them and like them. The opposite is also true, people you thought were hot become less attractive when you realize what a jerk/loser/etc they are. In other words, attraction really isn't only skin deep and there's way more to it than first impressions. If I understand correctly, you went out on one date, hit it off, and then wrote him off because you didn't want to fuck him immediately? Yeah, I'd say you made a rash decision.

If you want to ask him out again, you could just be as honest as you can without calling him ugly. Just say you had a great time with him and you think you made a mistake and thought only friends could have such a good time. You'd like to go out again on a date, if he's interested. He might say no because you do sound a little flakey, but the worst that can happen is he won't go out with you again, which is what is already happening anyway.
posted by AppleTurnover at 2:49 PM on January 18, 2014 [2 favorites]

Why not just spend some time with him in a way that is clearly not dating? You like him, right? You might not need to take it any further than that, or you might decide you want to.
posted by current occupation: at 4:04 PM on January 18, 2014

In my experience, it's those kind of relationships that are the ones that have potential to work out long-term.

IMO, it's got something to do with the fact that if you don't have a strong friendship, you've got nothing left after the initial spark burns out. And that friendship is what gets you through the rough parts later on, because all relationships have them, sooner or later.

Neither of the two loves of my life have even been what I thought of as my "type", the kind of guy that automatically appeals to me. I find it slightly amusing, now that I'm in my late 30s... but other than that, it's had no real relevance whatsoever.

It's possible, too, that those you feel an immediate "zing" with - that it's THEM creating that feel, and not the combination of the two of you. And for guys that have that whatever it is, it often happens with a LOT of women - and they'll make sure to enjoy a lot of them, too, with many of those relationships crashing and burning when the guy finds the next ZING.

I'm much happier with the guy I fell in love with over time, rather than those I had instant chemistry with - and now, seeing some of those guys as acquaintances around town, I wonder what it was that ever attracted me, because I'm not so sure I'd like who they are now. I know in some cases I don't have any respect for who they are now.

Your mileage, of course, may vary, but it's food for thought, at least.
posted by stormyteal at 4:48 PM on January 18, 2014 [4 favorites]

Instant chemistry is WAY overrated. It has nothing to do with how good a partner will be 10 years down the line. I strongly believe that seeing someone as a great friend has a lot to do with how good a partner will be 10 years down the line. He sounds more than worth another date from my perspective!
posted by treehorn+bunny at 5:16 PM on January 18, 2014 [4 favorites]

After lots of bad relationships with lots of chemistry and little else, I ended up marrying a woman with whom I didn't have that spark but loved, and loved being with. We has great kids together, and when we divorced we handled it really, really well, because we are like best friends and probably always will be. At this point I have come to the conclusion that you need both: a strong friendship to make life together a dream, and a spark to encourage short and long term physical intimacy and keep you close and secure during the inevitable moments when things aren't going so well.

So, maybe usually you spark, and it doesn't work out. This time you may have found a great friend, which isn't enough for a relationship. If you and he can actually be friends, you'll both probably be better off for it, so why not try reaching out to explicitly ask if that's an option you two can pursue in an upright and straightforward way?
posted by davejay at 10:28 PM on January 18, 2014 [2 favorites]

I put my vote in the minority and say, no, you shouldn't date this guy again. Spark may not need to exist for some people, but clearly for you it does. You are trying to talk yourself into giving him another try, when you already know it's not going to work. You're just wishing it could, maybe because you have no better prospects right now.
posted by mysterious_stranger at 4:45 AM on January 21, 2014

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