He says "he is not looking for anything in particular"
September 23, 2016 12:47 PM   Subscribe

Met a guy on tinder. First guy I met that is smart, employed, attractive and not after a hook up. Am I wasting my time?

I want a serious relationship. I would be super excited by this guy if he didn't say on the first date that he is "not looking for anything in particular". He didn't try to sleep with me either.

He kind of overshared, told me that his 14 year marriage ended 2 years ago. He has been single ever since (says he hasn't even slept with anyone) and just processing the end of the marriage. He is seeing a therapist who pointed out that he hasn't been single since he was 15 and was in long term relationships all his life. He proposed to his ex wife within few months of meeting her. So he is trying to work on being single. I am the first person he met through tinder and it was at the therapist's suggestion to go for a drink with someone.

But where does that leave me? It is also obvious that he likes me. He texts me every day and takes me to nice places, dinners, plays. He usually asks me out for both Friday and Saturday. We have kissed and held hands but he didn't try to take it further. After each date he sends me a message how much he enjoys spending time with me and how excited he is already about seeing me again.

I sort of can't feel too happy because I remember his first date "disclaimer". I mean this isn't going anywhere right? Or if I give it more time, he may warm up to the idea of being in relationship again...Or I am just setting myself up to be hurt
posted by sockiety to Human Relations (35 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
How long have you been going out?
posted by bunderful at 12:50 PM on September 23, 2016

Yeah, I think your instincts are right here, and you should bail. I think the overwhelming likelihood here is that you get hurt down the road, and then he's all, "well I told you I wasn't looking for anything!"
posted by Ragged Richard at 12:50 PM on September 23, 2016 [9 favorites]

I want a serious relationship.
he is trying to work on being single.

I don't mean to be reductive, but these are about as conflicting as two reasons-to-be-dating get. I don't know how or what he's working on in therapy in re: being single, but it doesn't sound like anyone should be encouraging him to go right back into a serious relationship, which is exactly the thing you want. Keep seeing him if you're having a nice time, but if you start wanting things to get serious with him, even if he goes along with it that might not be the best thing for the two of you as a pair.
posted by griphus at 12:54 PM on September 23, 2016 [21 favorites]

Is he explicitly not looking for a relationship right now, or is he not looking for anything in particular/taking things as they come? Those are two very different things in my book.

If the former, if you are, I would just move on. Maybe keep seeing him until someone who is looking for a relationship comes along, but I would at the very least keep your options open.

If the latter, unless this is a ticking biological clock situation where you want to be in a settled permanent relationship with someone ASAP for the purposes of having children, yeah, see where it goes, I guess.

Also: why not just ask him this question? The worst that could happen is that he's like "lol no and it's definitely personal because you suck", and then you don't get to go to the theater as often. But I kind of doubt that's going to be the result?
posted by Sara C. at 12:55 PM on September 23, 2016 [12 favorites]

When I date I'm not looking for anything in particular. If it turns out we click just as casual, nonserious dating people for a little while, fine. If we continue to see each other and actively choose to stop seeing other people, fine. If it becomes a formal relationship, fine. All of these outcomes are perfectly within the bounds of "not looking for anything in particular." Not seeking casual dating, not seeking serious relationship, just dating to have fun as long as it feels fun.

If this level of uncertainty is not something you're ok with, you should end things. But there's absolutely no reason to think that "not looking for anything in particular" means a serious relationship is off the table. It's just not the primary goal of dating for him.

Say your feelings to him using your words and see how it goes.
posted by phunniemee at 12:56 PM on September 23, 2016 [42 favorites]

I would be super excited by this guy if he didn't say on the first date that he is "not looking for anything in particular".

Maybe I'm missing a nuance here, but isn't he simply saying he wants to do with this with you with no preconceptions, to take things as they come? That would seem to fit with what his therapist is trying to do.

I'm not seeing why that should be a red flag.
posted by bonehead at 12:57 PM on September 23, 2016 [25 favorites]

He should be dating someone who is looking for something casual, and you should be dating for someone who is explicitly seeking a serious relationship. I think you're wasting each others time. You're going to be wishing and hoping while he's still figuring things out, and he's either going to hang in there and feel guilty or break up with you. Pull the bandaid off now. (Disclaimer: I'm also 2 years out from a divorce and I would say what he said on the first date too.)
posted by AFABulous at 12:58 PM on September 23, 2016 [5 favorites]

The actions you describe are not the actions of someone who wants to be strictly casual, IMO.

Talk to him. Tell him you're looking for something serious. Ask him how he feels. See what he says.
posted by bunderful at 1:01 PM on September 23, 2016 [13 favorites]

Or if I give it more time....

Stop right there. You're falling for this guy. It's not actually a waste of time to just enjoy yourself and see where things go. But the fact of the matter is, you want to get an answer to this now. And that's absolutely fine. Set up a fun, low-pressure date with him, like going out to the food carts or checking out some community thing in the park. Gauge how the mood is and if it's still favorable, say this: "Hey, when we first went out, you said you wanted to explore being single. But ever since then, we've spent all this time together and we talk all the time. I'm really enjoying myself. But I'm also a little confused. Do you still feel like this is just 'playing the field' or is something else going on?"

Then listen. If he says that he is not up for any committment and that he wants to continue dating whoever then you can be honest and say that you need to think about that a little bit because you are looking for a long-term thing. You'd be interested in exploring that with him but he should just know this and think about it on his own for a bit.
posted by amanda at 1:02 PM on September 23, 2016 [17 favorites]

Also, I have a feeling he's into you. But, you are into him and you know that. Check in with yourself, find your 100% and ask for it. But, since he started out with hesitation and has clearly been struggling with moving on to a new relationship, it's fair to bring this up and ask him to check in with himself. This relationship is clearly growing but don't waste time in some self-imposed limbo-land when you could be actually building something solid.
posted by amanda at 1:06 PM on September 23, 2016 [5 favorites]

He's the marrying kind. They tend to warm up a little slow. But, if you want a serious relationship, this is the kind of man you are looking for.

Though I would talk to him about the bullshit advice his therapist is giving him (about working on being single) and let him know "I am looking for a serious relationship. If that is just absolutely not possible, I would like to not be wasting my time here. So, is that within the realm of not looking for anything in particular or not?"
posted by Michele in California at 1:08 PM on September 23, 2016 [9 favorites]

If there is anything I've learned about dating in all my ten years of it, it's that if someone says something, you should believe them and not hang around trying to figure out what it all means or if you can work through it.

When a person tells me things like "not looking for anything in particular" it means he's not looking for anything in particular. If he says he's "processing the end of the marriage", that means it's exactly what he's doing when dating. All these things are anathema to being in a stable steady relationship. People who are coming out of very long term relationships are especially prone to not knowing how to do casual at all, so everything they do seems serious even if the intentions are not just because that's all they know.
posted by melissam at 1:10 PM on September 23, 2016 [5 favorites]

He's telling you that his intention was to start dating again, not to move in with someone ASAP. He is being very transparent by telling you about the divorce and how he's never really been single before. I think you are right to be hesitant if you are looking to "settle down" on some kind of aggressive timeline since that is exactly the opposite of what this guy is telling you he wants.
posted by deathpanels at 1:14 PM on September 23, 2016 [4 favorites]

When someone shows you who they are, believe them.
posted by Jairus at 1:15 PM on September 23, 2016 [2 favorites]

You need to ask him, and understand that the answer already exists and he's just not offering it to you. Asking him will not make him hate you, or fall in love with you.

I think his behavior is skeevy if he's supposed to be someone who actually meant in good faith that they weren't looking for Anything In Particular. That puts the burden on him to set boundaries and not stealth-date you, or use you to more or less not be single, or wait until you go "so, uh, what's up with the together all the time then?" and him to freak out about how he saaaaaid he wasn't looking for anything.

And he will ghost when he finds someone he actually wants to have sex with.

An ethical casual dater is proactive about this stuff, and if he couldn't figure that out on his own he ought to be told.
posted by Lyn Never at 1:15 PM on September 23, 2016 [6 favorites]

If you need to know right now, he's not the guy for you.

But if you can hold out without it being too stressful... honestly, in my experience, guys who have never been single before don't stay single for long, even if they intend to. For the most part it's just not how they work. Unfortunately for me, they always end up getting serious with the woman they met like the day before meeting me so they break up with me in two weeks and then get married six months later, but that doesn't need to be your experience. :)
posted by metasarah at 1:24 PM on September 23, 2016 [2 favorites]

This guy is still learning how to relationship. He has to go through a number of relationships to understand himself, how he relates to the people he loves, and what his part is in the way things break down, so he can grow in those places. He hasn't done that yet.

If he met, fell for, and proposed to his wife in very short order, and that relationship didn't last, then I think it's a really bad sign that he is saying that he's "working on being single" but his actions show him falling right into patterns that are too deep, too fast.... Just like he did with his first wife.

He is "working on being single" because he doesn't have the boundary skills to keep things light. Beware.
posted by Sublimity at 1:26 PM on September 23, 2016 [5 favorites]

Nobody can say from this side of the green screen what kind of person he is and what he wants or will do etc.
But one thing is certain: the chances that someone who is being slow, thoughtful, and perhaps a little hesitant after recovering from a capsized first long-term relationship is going to turn out being a good and thoughtful partner is really high.

Where does that leave you? That totally depends on whether you like 'thoughtful' in your partners, and how much of your patience you want to invest in this thing overall.
posted by Namlit at 1:31 PM on September 23, 2016 [9 favorites]

I don't see anything red-flaggy. "I'm not looking for anything in particular" doesn't necessarily mean "I'm not interested." It might just mean he doesn't have a specific relationship goal in mind, or he's not in any hurry to be coupled.

It sounds like you two haven't really talked about where things are going, and maybe like he hasn't shared much about his dating goals (or lack thereof) since the first date. If it's been several weeks, and you two have settled into a nice pattern, and you know you're into him, it's time for a define-the-relationship talk. It doesn't have to be a big production; just say "I'm really into you and I'd like for us to be [whatever your preferred terms for relationship]. What do you think?" If he's into the idea, cool! If he's definitely not, move on. If he still needs time or space or whatever, decide whether you want to wait around indefinitely for him to make up his mind (you probably don't).
posted by Metroid Baby at 1:34 PM on September 23, 2016 [5 favorites]

This is a big ol' bucket of nope. He doesn't necessarily sound like a bad person, but his goals (whatever they are) are very different from yours and he doesn't sound like he's in a place with himself where he could be a good partner even if he wanted that, which he doesn't. Keep looking.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 1:43 PM on September 23, 2016

Why not have it both ways? Keep seeing him but start dating other people. Tell him you like spending time with him but are looking for a serious relationship so you're not ready to be exclusive.

One of two things is virtually guaranteed to happen:

1. He gets jealous and panicky and starts thinking very seriously about "taking you off the market."
2. He realizes you are too much work and there's too much competition for a "let's see where this goes" meander and fades away.

Either way, you win.
posted by stockpuppet at 1:50 PM on September 23, 2016 [3 favorites]

He's had enough time to figure out if he wants to turn what you have into a real relationship - have another conversation with him and see if he's on board. If he's not, you should get off the train, and let him continue to figure out what he wants.
posted by Candleman at 1:57 PM on September 23, 2016

Do you think his therapist is going to give him permission to date you seriously?

He's a "serial monogamist" type, it seems pursuing you as he has been is against his therapy goals. That said, it's been 2 years since his divorce, so that's a long time.

You will have to talk to him. Be open to ending things since your goals and his goals do not align.
posted by jbenben at 1:58 PM on September 23, 2016 [5 favorites]

I think you need to be careful with yourself here. You're looking for a serious relationship and this guy is letting you know right away that while two years have passed since his divorce, he's only now entering the dating phase, where he's trying to understand and experience being "single" which means dating casually without intent on entering into a relationship. This means rebound.

From personal experience, I dated someone who was fresh out of a divorce, was a self-described "monogamous type" and saw himself as a good guy. He wanted to date me, he liked me, he obviously liked me but he was in a completely different place than I was in life and I should have bailed early. I wanted a serious relationship and I mistakenly thought I could casually date this guy and not get too involved too soon. Instead, we dated for months and he asked me to be his girlfriend and then changed his mind and I got really, really hurt when he broke it off because I wanted to have a relationship and he did not. I had never felt so used or rejected in my life. Like, this hit something deep in me and just shattered me.

Don't go down this road unless you're emotionally OK with not having a serious relationship with this guy. You cannot wait this out with him. I promise you.
posted by vivzan at 1:59 PM on September 23, 2016 [3 favorites]

If a single statement on your first date is causing you to fret, then you will likely have the same problem with every guy you date.

Think about it this way: what you're really seeking is a demonstration of perfection. When people speak, we lose that guarantee because humans make mistakes. That's why actions over time speak louder than words. And, you are downgrading his admittedly good actions for that one, early statement.
posted by Tanzanite at 3:38 PM on September 23, 2016 [3 favorites]

Mr. Motion and I started dating when I was very very sure that I loved being single and didn't want any serious relationships (my new year's resolution that year was "no boyfriends"). I told him that on our first date, and reminded him of it multiple times over the next few months (mainly by flaunting our non-exclusivity by my choices of who to hang out with). I am extremely fortunate that he has the patience of a saint, because he was still there when I got my head out of my ass enough to realize that he is the one.

In this case, with this guy? I don't know if you'll be as lucky (it's really more the "first date since the divorce thing" that worries me). But I figured I'd provide my evidence that "I don't want anything serious," can become serious, with the right person.
posted by sparklemotion at 3:51 PM on September 23, 2016 [2 favorites]

Romantic relationship customs were pretty different 14 years ago when this guy was last unpartnered. I would interpret "not looking for anything in particular" to mean "I don't have preset expectations about how this will go," not "I only want a casual thing." If I kissed someone ten years ago and they asked me what I wanted I would have thought they were weird and said something similar to this dude. And since you are the first person he's gone out with he may be unfamiliar with this newer custom where people declare their intentions instantly. So, I wouldn't fixate on that utterance, or at least would clarify.
posted by hungrytiger at 4:13 PM on September 23, 2016 [9 favorites]

Here is my guess: he knows how hard dating is going to be for him since he was committed to someone until very recently and so he is leaving it to you set a course for the relationship. You can confirm this by telling him where you would like the relationship to go, and then asking him "Is that OK with you?"
posted by Mr. Fig at 5:06 PM on September 23, 2016 [1 favorite]

I would interpret "not looking for anything in particular" to mean "I'm okay with a number of possible outcomes," e.g. anything from just having a few pleasant evenings together where you enjoy each other's company to getting more serious. It doesn't necessarily mean "I won't be able to appreciate a good thing if more starts happening between us." I agree with the suggestions above to ask him what he meant by that comment, since there's no way of really knowing otherwise.

But, that said, you do need to watch out for your own feelings in this, and be prepared to bail if it becomes clear that you're not going to get what you're looking for, or if you start to feel jerked around. Keep your eyes and ears open, and don't let hope blind you to what really happens. And keep your own options open.
posted by rpfields at 6:35 PM on September 23, 2016

Given his history, his therapist is probably advising him to keep options open and not dive into anything with the first person he dates.
posted by kapers at 7:33 PM on September 23, 2016 [2 favorites]

If a single statement on your first date is causing you to fret, then you will likely have the same problem with every guy you date.

Think about it this way: what you're really seeking is a demonstration of perfection. When people speak, we lose that guarantee because humans make mistakes. That's why actions over time speak louder than words. And, you are downgrading his admittedly good actions for that one, early statement.

This. You're reading way too much into what was likely a flippant, off-handed comment that he likely hasn't thought twice about since, made while the two of you were still basically strangers. Just ask him how he feels.
posted by wats at 7:59 PM on September 23, 2016 [1 favorite]

Yep, just ask him about it. Let him know you're looking for something serious and as if he's feeling like that could happen with you rather than "working on being single."

[disclaimer: I'm happily married many years now to a man who I started dating before his divorce was even finished. He is a happy-to-be-partnered type, and your guy obviously is as well or he wouldn't have been serially partnered his whole life. But make sure he's on the same page and not still harboring an ideal of he wanting to be single.]
posted by fingersandtoes at 8:18 PM on September 23, 2016

Wow can't believe all the negativity here. He sounds nice and pretty open too. Just date him and see where it goes. Do not kill off your promising new relationship because of one remark on the first date, which could easily be construed as him trying a little too hard to avoid looking desperate.

I dated someone from an online site where she'd said more than once that she was absolutely, definitely, not interested in having any more kids. Within three dates she was talking about it and within two months she was pregnant and super-excited about the future. In other words: people change their minds if the relationship is worth it.

Definitely don't dump. Go along with things, enjoy your time right now, and perhaps bring it up in a month or two...
posted by tillsbury at 10:43 PM on September 23, 2016 [4 favorites]

I can see where this is pretty confusing because you've got some contradictory and unclear stuff happening:

* making dates and obviously enjoying you but no sex
* says he's working on being single but is putting out pretty straightforward dating-type behaviors.

Just talk to him. Explain this feels like dating/going steady/wanting to be together a lot and you're enjoying this, but if he's just practicing dating and using you as his guinea pig, that's not something you're interested in.
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 6:34 AM on September 24, 2016

What sublimity said. I've been this guy. He doesn't have the relationship skills to perceive his own behaviour patterns or needs, or establish boundaries. So he's getting seriously involved unintentionally; it's not what's right for him now but he doesn't know anything else to do.
posted by ead at 8:26 AM on September 24, 2016

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