Boy meets girl. Boy likes girl. Girl likes boy…maybe?
July 22, 2014 8:09 PM   Subscribe

I'm 24 and have almost no dating experience, and I need help knowing whether I should pursue things further with this guy or end it.

I'm female. Because of shyness and anxiety, I never dated in college and high school, so I’m behind many of my friends in terms of dating, sex and romantic relationships. I’ve never had a boyfriend. I’ve never had sex. I've had a string of one-off dates and "platonic" hang-outs that once I thought about them, still had some undercurrent of attraction on my part.

I’m still trying out whether I could ever have a close guy friend without feeling some level of attraction to him; so far, the answer seems to be no. So for the sake of putting this question and my current thought process in context, here are three guys I’ve been drawn to in some fashion since I’ve ventured into the dating world over the past year or so:

Guy 1: Super-cool, similar interests as me and fun to hang out with, but I didn’t feel physically attracted to him. He responded to a craigslist ad I'd posted, but by the time we decided to meet up I was freaked out by how into me the guys I met seemed to be right off the bat and I told him I just wanted to be friends first. He said this was fine (he later faded out, so I guess it actually wasn't)

I think what made me consider him more as a friend was that he was introverted, like me. Once we hung out with a friend of mine, and he was very stiff and quiet. At the time, I thought I didn’t want to be with someone who would force me to be the social one if we were at a party, but now I'm reconsidering. Since then, I also wonder if I’ve placed too much emphasis on appearance, and whether I would have dated him if I hadn’t been so concerned over looks.

Guy 2: Confident, extroverted and attractive. We met at a Meetup and I really wanted to date him after one platonic coffee meeting, though he wasn’t interested in being in a relationship with anyone at the time. I acted too overeager to hang out with him, and he ended up feeding me a line about being too busy to hang out again.

Guy 3: Cute, similar interests as me, but he also was introverted and his quietness meant there wasn’t that much conversational chemistry between us. He would sometimes not say anything and leave conversation up to me, which drove me up the wall.

Which brings me to Guy 4. Based on my experiences with above-listed guys (and others similar to Guy 2), I thought that primarily, my type was someone who is extroverted and a good conversationalist. I guess I'm realizing I'm attracted to how they make me feel--less shy and awkward, and more like a good conversationalist, by virtue of their drawing me out of my shell.

Given this, Guy 4 is not the type I thought I'd be interested in. He's pretty soft-spoken and not a talk-easily-with-any-strangers type, such as Guy 2, but conversation flows pretty well between us, and he doesn’t let conversation die, like Guy 3. He’s also a science grad student and outdoorsy. I’m a writer and very indoorsy. What we have in common: interest in foreign films, certain TV shows and a common love for certain ethnic cuisine. Less stuff in common to talk about than Guy 1 and me, but I do enjoy spending time with him. We had two dates over the weekend, both of which lasted about three hours each, and we've texted back and forth between them. I enjoyed hanging out with him both times. I know he really likes me, and we're going to hang out again sometime in the near future.


All of the three previous guys I was excited to get texts from. When this guy texts me, though, I don’t feel any highs. It’s more like, “Oh. Cool.” It has been sort of nice, though, not feeling like my entire day is made by whether this person gets back to me or not.

Also, after hanging out with Guy 1 and the one time with Guy 2, I left feeling really buoyant and energized. With this current guy, I’ve walked away from our two dates feeling that it was a pleasant time, and I’d happily hang out with him again, but again—no high. It's nice, just not limerance-y or exciting.

I know that similar questions about ambiguously spark-y dates have gotten answers like “Grab their hand, and see how it feels” or “Kiss them, and that should clear it up.” But I don’t feel comfortable doing that sort of thing. Not even hand-holding, because I am not naturally a touchy-feely person. I’m also scared that doing so would give this guy the wrong impression that I’m more into him than I actually am. Like me, I don’t think he’s had much, if any, relationship experience. He hasn’t even initiated a hug with me yet. I know he’s into me, though, and I don't want to do anything that will encourage his attraction when I'm still confused. best to handle this?

Some commenters on these AskMe questions have suggested that the person feeling "meh" at least be honest with the other person about how they feel, just so that they're both on the same page. I'd like to be honest with this guy about my feelings, but really, what's the best way to say "I think I kind of like you and would like to continue seeing you, but I'm probably not as into this as you are. What do you think?"

That's my main question. But because I over-analyze everything, I have two other concerns:

1. I just moved back home after living in a different city with some college friends. Part of me is worried that I’m just trying to fill a social void by dating. In my previous city, I had one friend who I could contact or hang out with pretty much any time when we weren’t working. I fear I may be looking for something similar by seeking a relationship.

I think the sudden lack of a social support network is what drove my interest in dating right after a moved back home the first time, post-graduation. It also probably led to me unintentionally stringing Guy 1 along. I liked having someone to hang out with consistently.

I have since realized how problematic this is, and in addition to dating, I’m trying to expand my social circle by taking up hobbies and connecting with old high school pals. So I like to think I’m being smarter about dating this time. But even so…I don't want to use this guy and lead him on.

2. This person is the third guy I’ve met off OKC since moving back home. (I've been using OKCupid on and off for about two years.) I know people say it’s better to just keep messaging and keep dating, but I find it exhausting, especially because my city's small-ish, so there's not a huge pool to choose from; a majority of dudes I message don't reply; and I've never been one to experience a flood of messages in my inbox.

Subconsciously, maybe part of why I’m reluctant to break things off with this guy is the rarity that someone I kind of still like-like after meeting them in person actually likes me back. Usually it’s imbalanced on one side or the other. So I think, deep down, I'm afraid that I'm interested in him because I won't be in this situation again for awhile. Like, if he did the slow fade and never spoke to me again, I don't think I'd be too torn up about it. But I also don't want to ask if he just wants to be friends, because assuming that a friendship could actually work out, I'm scared that I'd one day find myself attracted to him, but he won't feel the same.

So as you can see...I have a lot of fear and uncertainty clouding my mind right now. Fear of stringing him along, mixed with maybe a fear of commitment and dating in general, I guess. The last thing I want to do is hurt Guy 4. We've been texting tonight and he's already told me a few times how pretty I am. I'm not used to such talk, so I really need advice on how to proceed here. My throwaway email is
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (13 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
He hasn’t even initiated a hug with me yet. I know he’s into me, though, and I don't want to do anything that will encourage his attraction when I'm still confused. best to handle this?

I don't think there's anything wrong with just continuing to hang out with this guy and seeing how you feel later on if anything romantic does happen. It's not like you'd be accepting his marriage proposal or anything, it's just hanging out. Unless you actively don't like spending time with the guy, I'd go on a couple more dates/'dates,'' at least.
posted by showbiz_liz at 8:15 PM on July 22, 2014

If you enjoy hanging out with the guy, just keep doing so. Maybe you'll develop feelings for him, maybe not. If you do, awesome. If not, maybe you guys can just be friends, or maybe not. Remember, there's no commitment associated with hanging out with the guy.

I'm reading a lot of worries and anxiety about how things could go in the future (you might become friends and then develop feelings later, you might hurt his feelings, etc.). But really, you have absolutely no idea what will happen in the future, so the only thing that matters is whether or not you enjoy spending time with him right now.
posted by lunasol at 8:22 PM on July 22, 2014 [4 favorites]

I think you are over-thinking this. If you enjoy hanging out with him, hang out with him. Keep doing that until you either no longer enjoy it or until it becomes more than that. If the latter, then there you go, you are in a relationship.
posted by 724A at 9:14 PM on July 22, 2014 [3 favorites]

I read the majority of this as you trying to talk yourself out of pursuing anything with anyone because of your fear that you might get into a romantic relationship you don't know how to handle.

For example, you just moved and don't have a lot of friends in your new location, and you're feeling like that means you can't date because you'd be "using" the person you date as someone to hang out with? No kidding, that is what dating is all about - that doesn't mean you're 'using' the person! Friends and dating partners fulfill different needs, you don't need to stop pursuing one in order to pursue the other. I actually don't understand what your second concern is - so this is a guy you met outside of OKC… so what? You are afraid to date people you don't meet on OKC? You don't explain why you think meeting people without using OKC is a bad thing. Traditionally, this is how the vast majority of the world's populace has met the people they have dated.

So back to your current guy - don't sabotage yourself! I understand you're not feeling butterflies - if you said you were not physically attracted to him, like guy #1, I'd say forget him, because there's no future there. But I think you might be reading too much into how many goosebumps you get with text messages from him, especially after only 2 dates where no physical contact has occurred. If you suddenly hit him with a heavy discussion about how "I'm not as into this as you are" I foresee it killing off any potential for romance. I don't think you should ask him to just be your friend, either. Saying that to a guy that you have gone on dates with sounds like a brushoff, heck, it usually is a brushoff. Give it time. Go on more dates. See how it goes!

(and stop worrying about your type! Type doesn't matter. Individuals do.)
posted by treehorn+bunny at 9:17 PM on July 22, 2014 [9 favorites]

As a general rule, once you're getting into hypotheticals stacked on top of hypotheticals, i.e. "what if I ask him to be friends and that's cool with him so we decide to be friends, but then what if some day in the future of this hypothetical friendship I get attracted to him, and then in this hypothetical unrequited romance on top of a friendship, he might not return the sentiment?" - that's a sign you've gone too far down the rabbit hole.

That's 3 different hypothetical situations you're proposing with guesses as to what might happen in each scenario down the line. That way lies stress and anguish. Just focus on the here and now: "I am looking for someone to date, I found someone I like who likes me back, should I go on another date with him?" No guessing what might happen after the next date, or even what might happen on the next date if you hold his hand or otherwise make yourself vulnerable... just deciding what you want to do based on what you know so far of him in reality. I think if you just look at that specific scenario that's happening at this moment, you'll find it much easier to answer yes or no.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 9:27 PM on July 22, 2014 [12 favorites]

My boyfriend felt no spark with me when we first met. I know because someone in his family spilled the beans to me!

Sometimes a spark is unnecessary. You want to have chemistry, but good chemistry is not the same as butterflies and excitement when hanging out.

I suggest you just take it slow and see where it heads. Sometimes love is a slow burn.
posted by sockermom at 9:58 PM on July 22, 2014

Man. I was you. I totally sympathise. And unfortunately, I can't answer all your questions, but what I can say is that you are looking for the wrong answers.

Other commenters noticed the shocking amount of anxiety and fear in your post, so I won't belabour that point. And I don't think the problem is poor social skills, or shyness, or whatever. I think the problem is that you need to find your people. And then a relationship...maybe. In that order.

I spent decades chasing the perfect relationship and trying to make it work where it just didn't (I could have written your post every few months for the majority of my 20's. Honestly). And now I'm 31. I know the "when you stop looking you'll find what you wanted all along" cliche is trite and obnoxious...but it's also true. It took a failed marriage and a lot of bad relationships to decide that I was going about this all wrong. I was looking for a relationship to fill the gaps in my life that no one person ever could. Any guy who could put up with me and was moderately interesting took so much of my time, and energy and affection...and now, I see how much that was wasted. It makes me sad to read my journals about a new guy every freaking week who I auditioned for the role of Man Who Would Be All Of The Things For Me.

That - no joke - took most of my teens and all of my twenties.

For me, finding a church community was the thing that made the biggest difference. I learned how to talk to people - even guy people! - without needing there to be anything beyond friendship. I learned what GOOD relationships looked like, and I got to see them from the inside, and see what it looks like to pull as a team, even when life got difficult.

Then I built friendships with people in my profession through the magic of Twitter, and those people helped even more in making my life full and rich. And now I have the most amazing guy who loves me and with whom I am COMPLETELY in love. No question. No drama. Our relationship is EASY. Like, we just naturally fit, and we have since we first became friends. Also: building a friendship first makes a huge difference. I still get excited when I get his texts and voxer messages. It is just right, and we both feel it.

So all that to say this:
1. Hang out with guys, but lay off the pressure of it being "a date." Start seeing guys as not potential partners, but rather friends and people. Make it clear you want to build friendships first and state your intentions up front. If romance happens, it'll happen.

2. Find more people to talk to and hang out with who can help you settle in more. Post-college was the crappiest time of my life and thank GOD I don't have to go through that again. John Green says that there are now days where his baby throws up in his actual mouth, and that STILL beats every day of the first few years after graduating from college. It's a huge transition and it sucks. Be gentle with yourself.

3. Live your life. Find more things you can do that will let you meet other people. If you are finding that fear is holding you back, find a therapist to talk to about that. You'd be shocked how much more energy and attention you can have for relationships when you're not using so much of your brain analysing shit to death.

4. (This is still something I'm working on) Say what you want and what you actually think. If you're anything like me, you say what people want to hear (or what you think they want to hear). And it's really really okay to say what you think, even if what you think changes a lot. If you like someone but are not totally sold, tell them. Something like, "You know, I'm really enjoying hanging out with you, and I'm not super experienced with relationships. I'd like to keep getting to know you but I want to take it slow. Does that work for you?" is honest and up-front. I also have less and less time for people who say one thing and do something else. Don't waste your time and affection on someone who isn't being honest with you. But the flip side is that you have to also be honest with them. This shit is tough, and it takes a lot of practice.

5. The right relationship will feel easy and it will work. Don't settle for something that isn't.

If you want to chat more or want more details than I've given here, gmail or memail me (my gmail is the same name as my mefi name). Hang in there. It DOES get easier.
posted by guster4lovers at 10:04 PM on July 22, 2014 [2 favorites]

You're already encouraging his attraction by continuing to go on dates with him. This is no different than holding his hand.

You should not tell him you feel lukewarm about him but are willing to keep going on dates to see if that changes.

It's fine to keep hanging out with him and to see where things go. It's also fine to stop seeing him, if that's what you want to do - and I think that is what you want to do. You never need to date someone you don't want to date.
posted by J. Wilson at 5:23 AM on July 23, 2014

Don't pursue it or end it, let it play out in its own time, unless you are bored, then end it. Don't rush things because you don't want to be alone. You are going to meet so many men in your life that will set your thoughts on fire. Enjoy your time dating and when you meet the one that you can't imagine living a day without, then that is the keeper. In the meantime, have fun, be safe, and don't compromise who you are to fit into anyone else's idea of who you need to be.
posted by myselfasme at 5:39 AM on July 23, 2014

Today, why don't you just decide if you want to go on another date with this guy. Like, if you went on another date with this guy, do you think it might be fun? If so, go! If not, move on.

I totally sympathize with all of this because I used to have a lot of anxiety over not having much dating experience but seriously the only way to get over not having dating experience is to, you know, date. And you'll catch up fast. It's not rocket science, and a lot of the lessons you learn in other types of relationships (friends, family), are totally applicable to dating, so it's not like you're starting exactly where you would be starting if you were 16. I totally regret not dating more in my 20s.

(Also, *of course* you're trying to fill a social void by dating... there's nothing wrong with that, and I think for most people post-university it's a lot easier to find dates than it is to find potential friends, and dates can turn into friends or introduce you to friends... just go on some dates!)
posted by mskyle at 6:35 AM on July 23, 2014

Guys are just people with penises. That's it. Dating is a thing you do to learn about people and to see if you want to have a relationship with them. It's a two-way street and sometimes at the beginning, one person is more into it than the other. It may take a few dates to see if there's a true compatibility and attraction. Sometimes you know right away, "Nope, nope, nope." Sometimes you go out a few times before you realize there's not a whole lot there. Nothing wrong exactly, just that it isn't right either. It's a process, not a destination.

So keep dating. It's fun, you meet people, etc. Just don't invest too much up front. My sister had a rule, if she'd rather be home watching Walker, Texas Ranger, then her answer was, this guy's not for me. (For the record, she didn't even LIKE Walker, Texas Ranger.)

While you're dating do other social stuff. Volunteer, take classes, hang out with friends, go on walking tours, join a church or synagogue or coven. The better your life is, the less bullshit you put up with in dates and the better your connections are.

Stop thinking that dating and guys are going to change your life. Dating and guys enhance your life. They're the icing on the cake. You're the cake!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 7:20 AM on July 23, 2014

I get the sense that you're assessing all of these guys as potential life partners. None of them are likely to be; very few people stay with the first person they officially date forever. My advice:

Don't think about how things would work out with any of them long-term. Think about how things may work out with them next week.

Don't push yourself to get into a romantic/ physical relationship with anyone if you're not feeling it. I get the sense this might be hard given your situation... you may be so simultaneously nervous and eager that you can't even tell if you're really attracted to any of them. See if you can step back and determine whether cuddling with or getting naked with any given person you've met would feel good.

On a similar note, decide how you feel about sex if you haven't already. Are you even interested? Are you super nervous about it? Are you super excited about it? Do you see it as a life milestone you want to get past? That might help you decide where you want to go with relationships.

You will date various people and break up with them. It's scary to think about, but try to see it as a normal part of life, not a failure. Even dating someone who turns out to be a jerk can be a positive learning experience.
posted by metasarah at 7:36 AM on July 23, 2014

It also probably led to me unintentionally stringing Guy 1 along.

I don't see any indication in your question that you were stringing Guy 1 along at all.

If you like hanging out with Guy 4, do so. It's okay to spend time with a person, to flirt with them, and whatever else, and not know if you want to be in a relationship with them yet. It's also likely that he likes you and thinks you are pretty, without knowing for sure if he wants to be in a relationship with you yet--so it sounds like you're making spending time with him into a bigger deal than it probably is.
posted by inertia at 10:30 AM on July 23, 2014

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