When you're the nth choice...
July 13, 2014 11:30 AM   Subscribe

I had a date with someone I met online. I liked him. But I don't think my interest is reciprocal.

I'm a female who had a date with someone I met through OKC recently. I was surprised by how much I liked him, and we had a conversation that flowed nicely. He said that he enjoyed the date and gave me a hug at the end.

I texted him the next day saying I enjoyed it and asking him to let me know when he'd like to hang out next. He agreed and said we should see a movie or something. I also suggested we could do a bar (he gets off work late in the evenings, and I don't drink much, so I figured I'd make clear that I didn't mind just getting an appetizer). No reply.

Five days later, I sent him some silly message on OKC pretending to be a spammer. He responded, apologizing for not replying to my last message. He'd been "a bit busy" and suggested we do something this week.

I realize that he could have actually been busy, but his apology was a little too self-effacing; he probably had other dates. Which is fair enough. But since I've done most of the initiating here, should I even bother cementing plans to meet with him again? Would there be any benefit to doing so? My instinct is that there probably isn't, especially since our work schedules conflict and we live on opposite sides of town.
posted by dean_deen to Human Relations (21 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I think you are over thinking this. He messaged you suggesting you do something this week, and other than the delay in responding to you, hasn't really given you any reason to make you think he's lying about being busy. Try to set a second date up. If it doesn't work out, then stop seeing him.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 11:34 AM on July 13, 2014 [9 favorites]

Nope. Your work here is done. He knows you're interested, and he knows where to find you. I'd focus on other dating prospects -- use the energy instead to contact other guys who seem interesting.
posted by nacho fries at 11:35 AM on July 13, 2014 [4 favorites]

I realize that he could have actually been busy, but his apology was a little too self-effacing; he probably had other dates.

What? You're drawing this conclusion based on what? You're reading way too much into things for someone you don't even know.

But since I've done most of the initiating here, should I even bother cementing plans to meet with him again?

You contacted him twice. People get busy and sometimes need more than one prompt to get together. If I cut things off at two contact attempts in a row, I'd never see anyone again ever. It's not like the relationship books where a dude shows interest by hanging on your every contact. (Do you really want that? That would be creepy.) You said he suggested you do something next week. There's not much effort to be made here. Just set something up.

My instinct is that there probably isn't, especially since our work schedules conflict and we live on opposite sides of town.

Again, you barely know this person. You went on one date. If you don't want to date someone who doesn't live on the opposite side of town, that's valid enough reason not to pursue it.

You sound like you're trying to sabotage yourself or preemptively blow things up in case they don't work out to protect yourself. Is this how you think things through all the time?
posted by unannihilated at 11:39 AM on July 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

Don't contact him again or pursue him. If he's interested, he'll contact you. I hate to say it but it doesn't seem that he is interested. If he were interested he would make getting together a priority.
posted by Fairchild at 11:45 AM on July 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

I agree that it doesn't sound like he's terribly interested but I don't see the harm in making one last final, firm date suggestion. Set a specific date, time and venue and see what happens.
posted by Diskeater at 11:50 AM on July 13, 2014 [2 favorites]

From what you've said, it sounds less like he's making other dates and more that, as you stated, "he gets off work late in the evenings." He probably, maybe, could've been busy just with that.

That doesn't mean you have to keep seeing him, if you're this worried so soon.
posted by RainyJay at 11:58 AM on July 13, 2014

It sounds like you like him, he might like you, and you're in the middle of setting up a second date. Why not go ahead and finish scheduling the second date, and see where it goes from there?
posted by John Cohen at 12:36 PM on July 13, 2014 [15 favorites]

Who cares if he had other dates? You're not exclusive.

He's continuing to show interest, and you are interested, so keep continuing to show interest yourself.
posted by samthemander at 2:13 PM on July 13, 2014

It can be hard to balance between taking someone at their word, and letting things drop once you've tried a couple of time to make plans. He didn't reply the first time, and the second time he said "sometime this week," but nothing more definite.

I would leave it to him to make contact next, and if he didn't, I'd let it drop. A lot of people are really uncomfortable just saying, "nice meeting you, but I didn't feel a spark." If he's one of them, he's just not going to say an outright no.

When I was dating, and also now for various situations, if I invite someone once and they don't accept, I say, "OK, the offer still stands. I'll look forward to hearing from you when you want to get together." It means that I'm not bothered that they said no, and I'm not going to ask again. You could do this after the second time instead of the first. A third invitation does seem pointless to me.

Alternatively, you could lay your cards on the table. "I felt like we really clicked. Did you feel a spark, or more like a 'friends' vibe?" That might make it easier for someone to tell you that they've already decided you're not in the running.
posted by wryly at 2:46 PM on July 13, 2014 [2 favorites]

I think differing ideas of "appropriate" communication timing has been an issue inherent in dating since forever. This is only exacerbated by using/swapping between the multiple communication channels available today (online dating platform --> personal email or call --> face-to-face --> email or call, etc.).

For example: What seems like a reasonable window in terms of an old school phone reply (a few days, on average) seems really odd in the context of instant texts (a few hours).

Another issue is that people dating online often hit "feast" periods, where -- all of a sudden -- multiple dates line up and interest is high.

So, my two theories:

1.) Men are typically advised to wait a few days before initiating a second date (to show a lack of "desperation"). Possibly, your date got his wires crossed; i.e. received your message, but still felt that he had to follow this convention (even though the message from you made it unnecessary).

2.) He has been "busy," and -- yup -- there's a good chance that is code for "going on a bunch of dates." I've definitely found myself in the position of having super-enjoyed a date with Woman #1, and then had a so-so/not-great date with Woman #2; it only seemed proper to pause communication with #1 (to avoid confusion) while waiting to meet/forming an opinion of #2. Then, I had to politely decline further dates with #2 before resuming contact with #1 to ask for another date. This takes time.

It's impossible to predict people's dating behavior in the early going. There are just so many variables in terms of personality, cultural expectations, and mistakes made in the attempt to guess at same. But if he's replied to your request for a second date in the affirmative -- without taking the opportunity to either fade out or say no -- I'd say there's a decent chance that he's interested in seeing you again. You may just be on separate "schedules," here.
posted by credible hulk at 3:42 PM on July 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

Invite him to something specific; if he begs off and counter offers then yay, if he begs off and doesn't counter offer then oh well.
posted by Sebmojo at 6:08 PM on July 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

My policy for all social interactions with new people, romantic or not, is two contact initiations. After that I back off, as I've made it clear that I'd like to hang out. For me personally, three invitations when someone hasn't responded leaves me feeling desperate and icky. Two lets me move on with my dignity intact.
posted by vignettist at 6:43 PM on July 13, 2014 [2 favorites]

I know AskMe is very much into open clear communication, going for what you want, etc. but according to 21st-century online dating and social norms, BALL IS IN HIS COURT. Following up again will officially be you breaking those norms. Not saying it would lead to disastrous--or even negative--results, but I think it's worth noting what the general expectation is before you deviate from it.
posted by whitewall at 6:46 PM on July 13, 2014 [3 favorites]

Everyone who isn't the first person you ever had a crush on is technically your 2nd, 3rd, etc. choice. It's not until you get to know someone that you come to truly prefer one person over all others. So don't fret about him going on other dates until you've had a chance to get to know each other.
posted by Jacqueline at 7:09 PM on July 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

I think as others have said, it is probably worth giving it another shot, but..

My instinct is that there probably isn't, especially since our work schedules conflict and we live on opposite sides of town.

Mr. Getawaysticks and I met at an online dating site. His previous contact before me - he decided not to pursue due to distance. I lived quite a bit further away than she did, and it was never even an issue for us. If he's into it, the distance shouldn't be a barrier at all... so just give it another shot :)
posted by getawaysticks at 7:14 PM on July 13, 2014

The joy of dating is that a lot of it is Guess Culture because most people don't want to have to say to you directly they aren't interested. A lot of it is trying to figure out if you should "take the hint" that someone isn't interested so that you don't embarrass yourself or make things even more awkward because you didn't.

This is why I concur with everyone else who said "ask twice and then stop, and if he wants to contact you, he can." If you're supposed to guess and take the hint that he's not interested, then you've done it. If he shockingly still has interest, he knows you'd say yes if he wants to answer back.
posted by jenfullmoon at 8:21 PM on July 13, 2014

You don't know why he didn't respond, so I'd stop assuming he was out on other dates. I do think it's fair to say if he were really interested, he would've made it a priority to respond. But, he did suggest a second date and when you wrote him, he again said you should meet again. Make plans for a second date and then if after another good date he isn't the one initiating contact with you, you can let it go. But at this point, it was only one date and he's allowed to not be super sure of how he feels. I would just make the second date and then worry about his interest level then. Like I said, you've been on ONE date.
posted by AppleTurnover at 11:34 PM on July 13, 2014

It doesn't matter if he had other dates or if he was just busy. His behavior is not typical of someone who is *really interested* in another person. You want, deserve and can have someone who is genuinely excited about you.

A separate issue, perhaps: In all honesty, the whole "pretending to be spam" thing sounded really weird and kinda scary to me. If I was on the receiving end of such a message, I would find that off-putting.
posted by Gray Skies at 6:49 AM on July 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

should I even bother cementing plans to meet with him again? Would there be any benefit to doing so?

What's the downside of making plans to meet again? Serious question. If you are thinking you'd regret spending time going to a movie with him over doing something else with your time, it might not be worth bothering going on another date even if he wants to.

he probably had other dates

So what? It's expected that you'd still date others after your first meeting. You don't know what stage things might have been at with others he had met -- it's quite possible that this had something to do with him being out of touch or not available to date, but so what? Would it be more appealing to date someone who had no other dating prospects available to them?

He'd been "a bit busy" and suggested we do something this week.

He's trying to find out what days you are available.
posted by yohko at 3:14 PM on July 14, 2014

I agree he doesn't sound very interested. 10% chance this is due to a busy schedule.

Also if this kind of behavior is okay with you (i.e. no response unless you prod him) it sets precedent for how flaky he can behave in the future, and it could set you up for being a back-up plan when other dates don't work out for him. Don't be too accommodating. You deserve someone who's excited to hear from you and doesn't keep you waiting.

So respond and say, "Xday and Xday evenings after Xhr work for me. What did you have in mind?" When he responds, be specific about what you'd like to do, too, don't just do what you think he would want to do. Why go to a bar if you're not into drinking? Go to a teahouse or a cafe instead. This isn't about making him happy but finding a common ground where you two can comfortably meet.

Meanwhile contact others. Don't wait around for his response. If his next response doesn't lead to a firmer plan then I'd assume he's probably pursuing others online and and stringing you along as the backup. If you don't act like this is okay he won't treat you this way.
posted by lillian.elmtree at 4:48 PM on July 14, 2014 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Update: Wow. I did not expect to get as many replies as I did...Before I got the advice from several of you to set a concrete time and venue, I followed up with him suggesting a time and left the place up to him, since I'm not as familiar with the area but I was going to be there anyway because of other plans.

He didn't realize this, though, and suggested that I come to his part of town or that we meet somewhere in the middle for the both of us. In a vengeful streak I suggested a place in my part of town. After I had time to really think about it, I sent a second text canceling altogether.

That's done.
posted by dean_deen at 7:54 PM on July 15, 2014

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