Dating without being a heel
November 11, 2016 1:43 AM   Subscribe

How can I date without hurting people when I'm not after anything serious?

I've spent the last 6 years in an on/off boomerang relationship which I've written about here before. I'm single now and I've put a profile up on a Tinder and Match and I've had a few dates. The problem for me is that I don't really want anything serious. I feel a bit burned from my previous relationship and just want something light which would hopefully involve sex. I'm sensing that the women who I meet understandably probably want something more serious. I may be overthinking it but once I get that feeling I usually don't follow up with a second or third date and I have sent them a message to say I'm not after anything serious. Is that too presumptuous and premature of me or am I correct to be this clear at the outset?
posted by blokefromipanema to Human Relations (19 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Put in your profile you're not after anything serious.

Say in early messaging before date 1 that you're not after anything serious.

It's presumptuous of you to assume that women "understandably probably" want something more serious, but it's also a bit dick to toss out your intention not to have a second date after you meet and have sex with someone.

First, be smart honest from the very beginning.
posted by phunniemee at 1:56 AM on November 11, 2016 [26 favorites]

You are making this all about what you want and that is unreasonable because you hope to involve another person and you can't do that. Well. you could, but it wouldn't make you feel any long-term better. What you think you want is probably not what you need. Your solace is elsewhere.

I'd be looking at why spending 6 years in an on/off boomerang relationship was tolerable.
posted by Mr. Yuck at 2:24 AM on November 11, 2016 [4 favorites]

I've spent the last 6 years in an on/off boomerang relationship which I've written about here before.

As Mr. Yuck said, this is worth investigating.
How long ago did you break this off for good? A week? A month? 6 months? A year?
Have you had enough time to heal? To question your actions and learn from your mistakes?
Are you currently surrounded by good friends? Are you capable of great friendships? Or are you alone?

If I were still a Life Coach, I would recommend a period of just being single; a period of rediscovery, a period of healing that allows you to relax and rest into who you are, as opposed to stressing yourself out over dating and Tinder and Match, and getting laid.

Whatever you do, do not go down the path of the Seduction Community and PUA (Pick Up Artist), for therein lies madness. A lot of my clients were former PUA guys, and I had to help them unlearn that mindset; I even wrote a book about how to quit The Game.

Focus on your friends. Be a good friend, and get back into the social swing of things. Get out and about. Meet people and take an interest in them beyond their sexy bits.

Connect with those around you; eventually you will start finding yourself attracted to certain women, and they will find themselves attracted to you, and nature will take its course.

Focus on yourself, focus on improving yourself, focus on being a good friend, focus on taking care of yourself, your health, your diet, your fitness, your finances, your home, and your career, and you will naturally become a man that women are interested in, and will be attracted to.

Thus endeth the lecture :)
Good luck out there!
posted by Major Matt Mason Dixon at 3:55 AM on November 11, 2016 [11 favorites]

You should be clear at the outset (in your profile, and on your first date). You should NOT guess what they're thinking and preemptively break up based on your assumptions about what they want; you should have conversations with them about it instead. Lots of women want casual or just-sex relationships.

Depending on your location, you might do well with people in open relationships who already have serious partners. As a general rule however, they're more likely than average to expect direct communication, so you'd need to cut the guessing right out.
posted by metasarah at 4:15 AM on November 11, 2016 [10 favorites]

You use the word "date." Dates are social and personal experiences you share with other people. They can be lots of fun, and in virtually every society where dating is a cultural thing, dating is the primary way that people get to know each other. Getting to know someone means you share yourself, and engage in conversation and other behaviors that build connection and attraction and you cannot expect those you date not to do that. If you call it a date, the other person is going to be stepping into that cultural norm and those expectations and behaviors are there, no matter what you may want.

People are people, and dating is not a solo sport. It's disingenuous (and maybe even cruel) to think that as long as you state your boundaries up-front, you're protected and no one's pain is ever going to be your fault.

Dates are not boring, required prerequisites to sex. Unless they are. If sex is all you want, say so. And stop making yourself and others jump through "dating" hoops. That hoop-jumping is where Feelings and Expectations happen, and that's where the hurt and disappointment comes in, and Heel status is duly earned.

You need to find someone who thinks like you do. No expectations, no strings, just fun-in-the-moment type stuff. Hookups for sex, not true dates. Not sure of your age range or the age range of the dating pool you're swimming in, but IMO this mentality skews much more to the young side.
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 4:42 AM on November 11, 2016 [9 favorites]

I'm sensing that the women who I meet understandably probably want something more serious. I may be overthinking it but once I get that feeling I usually don't follow up with a second or third date and I have sent them a message to say I'm not after anything serious. Is that too presumptuous and premature of me or am I correct to be this clear at the outset?

But you're not being clear at the outset, you're waiting until you're already involved with someone and then, based off assumptions that are probably rooted in sexism, you're telling them that you don't want anything serious. And trust me, when you send that message they're thinking either "I never said I wanted any serious? Gross to assume" or "Wow, I wish you would have told me from the start. He's either leading people on or bad at communicating".
Either way, it comes across poorly from you.

Like other people have said, you need to put it in your profile, or let them know before the first date. You'll find what you want. Despite the (sexist) popular belief, women are not any more clingy or needy or emotional than men.

Sorry to be harsh, but what you're doing is actually pretty gross behavior, from the point of view from the women you have interacted with.
posted by FirstMateKate at 5:34 AM on November 11, 2016 [12 favorites]

In retrospect... I'm not clear on exactly what you're seeking here.

You're rebounding from a long period of drama and complication, and want to hang out with someone who doesn't bring that to the table. But also sex.

But not wanting to "Be a heel" shows me that you know what is likely to happen in this scenario (i.e., you will want to back out when your defenses kick in, and you decide any sort of move toward "seriousness" reminds you too much of your previous relationship).

"I'm sensing that the women who I meet understandably probably want something more serious." If they do, it's likely that framing your interactions as "dates" contributed heavily to that expectation.

Do you want permission to believe that saying "I don't really want anything serious" up-front is always 100% valid defense against "heel" status? And future dates who get mad at you after agreeing to the rules of engagement are the cause of the problem?

Or are you asking for help in how to meet less relationship-minded people, who will join you in the no-strings space, and thus lessen the possibility that you will end up in another situation where you feel like a heel?

It sounds like feeling like a heel bothers you most of all. Which tells me you're probably not a player at heart. All this self-awareness and perceptiveness is going to bite you in the ass.
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 5:41 AM on November 11, 2016

So, you need to be clear about what you want Date 1, or even before. Not after a few dates and/or sleeping with them. Very clear. Then, your dates will have enough information to be able to make good decisions for themselves, which is only fair.

Good luck out there!
posted by Fig at 5:50 AM on November 11, 2016 [3 favorites]

Sex is unpredictable, and sometimes people can get attached when they don't expect to. Try not to be blind to the fact that someone is developing feelings that you can't reciprocate, and don't lead them on. End it.
posted by bunderful at 6:02 AM on November 11, 2016 [1 favorite]

You will also have to be pretty explicit, because if you just say you want something casual and nothing serious, a reasonable person would think you just wanted to date but not have sex. Since dating strangers is the part that's light, casual, and not too intimate.

So since you're after the exact opposite, maybe don't fall back on the misleading pre-set idiom for this. Anyone who is offended by accurate descriptions of what you want to do will also be offended when you do it.
posted by queenofbithynia at 6:03 AM on November 11, 2016 [3 favorites]

I just want to clarify that I have not slept with anyone nor am I being sexist. The only times I've done this has been after meeting once for a coffee, but the vibe I've got (which I concede I may have read wrong) is that they like me and see me as potential relationship material.
posted by blokefromipanema at 6:04 AM on November 11, 2016

Dude. They may just think you'd be fun to hang out with and fuck. Seriously. We aren't all desperately waiting for a ring.
posted by SockPuppetOfShame at 6:40 AM on November 11, 2016 [13 favorites]

Naw I think it's better to err on the side of not getting involved if you get that vibe.

Get on Adult Friend Finder and OKCupid and put it in your profile.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 7:15 AM on November 11, 2016 [1 favorite]

Find someone who is on the same page. State what you are looking for upfront on dating sites and let those who aren't interested self-select themselves out of your pool before you chat. Don't try to play it vague to keep your options wide - if you really want something casual and light, getting close to someone that wants more will not be light for long.

Set clear boundaries for yourself. Define the edges of what you are willing to give so you can articulate that for anyone you date. How often will you see them? Is there a desire to date and possibly sleep with more than one person concurrently? Don't mince words. Lack of clarity leads to misunderstandings and hurt feelings.

The scenario you describe is one that many have tried at one point and have discovered is often harder to do successfully than it sounds. Before you get out into the dating scene, I would encourage you to consider the following mistakes people often make and do your best to avoid them:

- Do not treat the people you date like a committed partner. This means limiting the emotional sharing and not leaning on them for support, both practical or spiritual.

- Dating and sex are always intimate on some level. Even if you find a person who is in the same headspace as you, there is always a risk that one of you will start to have complicated emotions at some point. If you aren't up to the challenge of sorting through some heartache, whether yours or theirs, don't date yet. Hurting someone will make you feel crappy and add to your struggles, not diminish them.

- Light and casual is not the same as emotional and sexual connection without responsibility. Dating a person and ghosting when you sense they want more is not an ethical way to date. This may not bother you consciously at first, but usually it will start to add an unpleasant malaise to your life. Most of us want to feel like good people so half-assing it eventually wears down our self esteem. Only date if you have the emotional reserves to have direct conversations and shoulder the occasionally uncomfortable chat. Don't be afraid to try it though - learning to kindly tell someone you aren't interested gets easier with time and practice. Most people will be gracious if you treat them with respect.

Best of luck to you!
posted by amycup at 8:18 AM on November 11, 2016 [5 favorites]

Just dont. There is no ethical way to do what you are describing.
posted by Violet Hour at 8:19 AM on November 11, 2016 [1 favorite]

Plenty of women enjoy casual acquaintanceships that can involve sex. Or, that have the main purpose of sex, and enough social compatibility to make that not horrifically awkward. ... Probably as many as men, or more; my experience has been that guys who say "I'm not looking for anything long-term" mostly mean (1) I want to fuck other women and (2) I am totally looking for someone who will listen to my concerns, ideas, maybe hopes and fears, visit and help me set up the house for a gathering - but I'm totally not willing to do that in reverse.

It's also been my experience that most guys really can't do "we like each other; let's screw if we feel like it today. Oh hey, today's a day ending in "Y" and we both have a free couple of hours - looks like it's time!" (I have known exactly one guy who managed this.) Other women who'd be happy to be in a very casual relationship with sex attached are likely to have similar experiences - and be wary of the guy who says "I'm coming off an intense relationship and just want casual for a while." Because those are, almost invariably, guys who fall hard & stupid for the first woman who either reminds them of the ex, or has the traits they wished the ex had more of.

There is nothing wrong with an approach of "I just wanna get laid." Just make sure the profile says that - not looking for romance, not looking for a lifelong friend; looking for people I can have a pleasant get-to-know-you session with, enough to establish that we enjoy the same kind of musics and movies, and can move from there to bedroom funtimes.

And make sure, before you do that, that you actually do want that. Because the reason many women are wary of "no strings attached" relationships is that a lot of guys who say that's what they want, really mean, "I won't be tied to your needs or wants, but you damn well better be available when I am, and listen attentively when I want to talk, and tell me my ideas are awesome." (And because of that, many women who are looking for something more permanent will respond to "just seeking casual" ads - because that's a lie for so many men; most of them just mean "I still want to be able to date other women," which is not the same.)
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 8:48 AM on November 11, 2016 [7 favorites]

Don't "sense" things and pick up "vibes." Use words. Say what you want. Ask them what they want.
posted by headnsouth at 1:17 PM on November 11, 2016 [6 favorites]

As a woman who dated online when I was single, definitely make it clear in your profile that you're not looking for anything serious right now. That's totally cool, and it's just plain helpful for people to have that info upfront. There were times in my life when I wasn't looking for anything serious, and times when I was.
posted by Pearl928 at 3:52 PM on November 11, 2016 [1 favorite]

Don't sense, speak. Clearly and first. This may limit your options, but I assure you there are women out there -- in your age group, or older/younger -- who actually choose FWB status especially if it involves great conversation, laughter and respect. Good food and chocolate are a plus.

You might care to read: Brief Encounters by Emily Coleman. And for thinking about relationships that are perhaps more fluid: The Ethical Slut by Dossie Easton (I'm listing only the first of two authors for both books). I read the first book in my 20's and the second book in my mid-50's.

There is no need to feel like a "heel" if everyone involved is being honest and truthful to themselves and others.
posted by alwayson_slightlyoff at 3:56 PM on November 11, 2016

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