Taking it easy in a new relationship
February 6, 2017 6:13 AM   Subscribe

Need advice on keeping things light in a new relationship. Snowflakes inside.

After a very tortuous period of being separated for two years prior to divorce and seeing some people here and there I met someone who I actually like and might be something good for me in terms of rebuilding a positive dating life. But I need some help to avoid screwing things up.

I met B through Tinder and we met for the first time three weeks ago. We live a 1h40min drive away from each other. I must admit, when we met for the first time for dinner somewhere halfway my main goal was to see if we would get on after two weeks of really interesting conversations and...get laid. I have been trying to keep things casual and I am not interested (or even ready) to have something super serious.

However, after seriously making out in the car I asked him if he would like to come back to mine and he said he wouldn't. I was (visibly) shocked and a bit miffed about his refusal, said goodbye (it was already late) and left. He later said to me that initially he felt like following me, but decided to let me cool down.

When I got home, I saw that he had sent messages to ask if I got home OK and we started to talk - it was past 1am, and we talked until nearly 4am. He explained that he decided not to come because he "didn't feel intimate enough" to come back to mine and that he needed time to process things.

Two days later, under the excuse of buying sports accessories, we met to go shopping and then had dinner. During dinner some small things happened that I thought revealed some other parts of his character: he was happy to share one meal (I wasn't too hungry) and was happy to pick a vegetarian dish (I am veg) and was mainly concerned about what kind of food I would like and was really laid back.

When it comes to talking about his feelings and his emotional behaviour, he drip feeds things to me. He told me that he had been alone for a long time and needed time to get used to seeing someone again, and that he had set other priorities and things to do in his life - which I think it's great btw - but that dating, or even having sex was not something he saw as a must-have. For him, things would happen at the right time.

That same evening, again, some big time making out in the car. It was good, obviously, but I started getting a bit frustrated towards the end because I didn't want to go to some drive-in or somewhere like that and also was decided to not ask him to come to mine (he lives with his mum - he says it is due to financial reasons as he prefers to spend his money elsewhere like travel - another red flag for me, but I decided to park that concern for now).

We text each other everyday and talk for more extended periods in the evening - thankfully he doesn't text me and demands attention during my working day, but always takes the time to send a few messages in the morning or briefly say hello during the day. After that second date we continued to do this and...have a lot of phone sex and cranking up the levels of interest in that regard.

I told him I wanted to feel free to do what he felt comfortable with and that if he wanted to come to mine, he would be welcome to. Then during one of those soul baring moments he asked me what I would be doing the weekend after next. I said I had no plans and he said he would like to come and see me if that was OK.

We then spent a couple of weeks looking forward to that weekend and, the day before yesterday, he came. What ensued was a day and a half full of light conversation, laughter, movies and...sex of course. He was super nervous at the start, but now I can understand that the whole situation was a real novelty for him.

It was a very nice weekend and I feel more emotionally linked to him. His attitude was really laid back and affectionate. During the weekend he said he wanted to see the sights around the place where I live and that he needed a guide, and some other stuff that seemed to indicate that things might progress. I mentioned that I'd go to a mountain range that we both wanted to see in a few weeks and invited him to go, but he seemed elusive.

We also talked at length about our current dating situation - I said I am talking to several guys from dating apps but not actually meeting/going out/screwing anyone at present and he said his situation is pretty much the same. When he mentioned some previous dating situations, he would usually add something along the lines of "don't worry, I am no longer going out with her/it has been a long time/I'm over it"

When he got home, exhausted, he texted me to let me know he'd arrived and I had collapsed in the sofa. He just said he was really tired and was going to bed, but again in quite a nice tone. Today, I texted him in the morning just to wish him a good week and some light conversation and he got back to me a few hours later in the same tone.

All of the above to explain the dynamics of the start of something that it is also new to me. I was having a few casual encounters but am tired of investing emotional energy in a bunch of random stories - and at the same time, and as I said above, I am not ready for a real serious involvement.

It looks like he really needs that kind of space to do his stuff (he loves cycling, exercising, reading, geeky stuff in additional to normal work routines) and has stated that he often freaks out a little about relationships because his routine is too settled and he fears "losing something."

From my perspective I would like to have something light - but not casual - with someone, see each other, have a good time, go out, travel occasionally, keep daily contact. But I am not ready to give up on my personal plans, time with my friends/family and doing my own activities. I am happy to invest time and energy into something with someone and be exclusive in exchange for a situation where the person agrees to do the same but also agree to not be too heavy in the traditional relationship sense.

I actually liked B's attitude in our first date, even though I got initially upset. As well as being something positively unexpected it allowed me to get to know him in a way that I perhaps wouldn't if we just got back to mine for first-date sex. I told him yesterday this was the case and also that I was no longer after casual sex - it seems he has taken this on board.

The summary though is that I get concerned that I might screw this up by perhaps giving him the impression that I want something more complex and that is much more time and energy-intensive than he is able to do.

We might well be more or less on the same page, the difference between him and me is that he is still working out how a relationship (or something similar) fits into his life.

My question is, how do I handle this without being too "heavy" and let things run their course even though I would like to have some proximity with someone?
posted by longjump to Human Relations (10 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

Reading this question, I'm having a hard time understanding what you want. What does "too heavy" mean? If you're feeling casual, why would you be worried he would think you are "too heavy" (however you define that).

It sounds to be like you might be developing feelings for this person which are scaring you a little bit.

Otherwise, I can't really see what you need to do except communicate with this guy about what you are looking for (make sure you are clear yourself, first) and seeing if he is on the same page.
posted by bearette at 7:15 AM on February 6, 2017 [1 favorite]

Being "too heavy" in this case would specifically mean depriving him of his time, the things he likes to do and making him feel like he has any sort of obligation relating to me or that I want to move too fast.

I am capable of dividing my time and I want something more exclusive and to be able to invest some time/energy on that, but he seems to need to adjust.
posted by longjump at 7:22 AM on February 6, 2017

1300+ words about someone you've spoken to a bunch and met a few times feels kinda heavy, if I'm honest (although that's okay, and not really my point).

Whenever in the past I've tried to keep a relationship "light" on my end, what that has meant in practice is pushing down my wants and needs at the expense of letting the other person dictate the rules of our engagement. It has meant having relationships that were less serious and less intimate than I wanted because the other person didn't want the same thing, and my response to that was to give them what they wanted instead of leaving to pursue what I wanted (which I ultimately did, and which was ultimately right, but I could've saved myself a lot of misery in the meantime).

It's the difference between my last relationship, which I wanted to be more serious than it was and which I spent walking on eggshells around a dude who clearly didn't want that (but in this case also clearly didn't want to say that and spare me the time and effort I was putting into something that ultimately wasn't viable), and my current relationship where my partner and I discussed doing big things together (taking a trip, moving in) fairly early on, actually moved in within six months etc. because we were so much more on the same page about the kind of relationship we wanted. PLUS we had all the compatibility, enjoying each other's company etc. stuff going on. I think you really need both, not just one or the other.

My advice is to think really hard about what you want before you get more emotionally invested in this guy, because it's only going to get harder to be honest about that the more involved you get, especially if there are incompatibilities.

If you want someone who is like this guy but also wants to spend more time together/doesn't have hangups about his own lifestyle being cramped by a relationship/wants to move closer to the pace you feel you want to move, you should keep looking and make that your aim.

I definitely think it's possible, sensible even to slow yourself the heck down in the early days of a relationship and make sure you're comfortable with the pace, but if you feel like you're being squeezed into a box of his making in any way, including around how deep and how fast the whole thing is going to move, that isn't an equal partnership and you don't want to live in that box in the long term.
posted by terretu at 7:39 AM on February 6, 2017 [21 favorites]

You seem like you want:
-to have daily contact with him via text or phone
-to be sexually exclusive and off dating sites
-to see each other regularly but not at the expense of each of your lives

To me this is basically a committed monogamous relationship, just with less expectations/time commitment in terms of seeing each other and I guess that's where the "keeping things light" comes in.

I think if you want to invite him to something, invite him, he can decide if he wants to go or not, he sounds very able to maintain boundaries.

You're not geographically close to each other so the issue is you both need to want to set time aside for each other or else your schedules won't match up often enough to maintain a good connection, so it's hard to keep things light and see each other regularly because of that.

I think you'd have a better chance of the sort of relationship you want with someone who is geographically closer to you and who lives alone/with adult roommates so that things are more balanced (in terms of who is hosting who, who is visiting who) and more casual plans are possible, the distance would be a deal breaker for me because it makes it really hard to do more than have big weekends together which is the opposite of casual time together imo, it leaves less time for your other relationships and interests. If you can find someone closer and less set in their ways that would probably suit you better, also someone who genuinely wants regular sex and time together and not the "take it or leave it" attitude this guy has.

I don't think you should force yourself to be ok with what this guy is telling you he wants, your wants are also valid and you'll end up resenting him or being unhappy if you don't do what you want to do/try to get your needs met.
posted by lafemma at 7:48 AM on February 6, 2017 [7 favorites]

Yeah, I was in a relationship with a guy like this for four years. It went to hell when we moved in together and he decided that just having me breathing the same air as him was me taking up too much space in his life. We had our own lives and interests and only spent two days a week together even when we lived together but that became too much for him. Honestly he held me at arms length for four years and it was really fucking painful. Don't do this to yourself. It really sounds like you're trying to convince yourself to give him what he wants at the expense of you getting what you need from a relationship and trust me, in the end it will only cause you pain and heartache.
posted by sockermom at 9:23 AM on February 6, 2017 [7 favorites]

Don't lay too many hopes on this guy - not because he's not potentially great, but because it's more important to keep working to make your own independent life awesome. It'll give him more space to approach things at his own pace, not to mention protecting you against heavy disappointment if it doesn't work out.

"From my perspective I would like to have something light - but not casual - with someone...But I am not ready to give up on my personal plans"

Two things strike me about this - firstly that it contradicts your question. Be honest with yourself: are you working hard enough to live your statement about not giving up personal plans? Throw yourself into your own stuff and leave less room for worrying about this - it will do you a lot of good.

The other thing is that you say "someone" here and elsewhere and I feel like that gives away another facet of whats going on. It's a weird feeling to be dating a person who just wants to be with "someone" and not necessarily you. That sounds cruel, but it IS often a cruel reality that the more you want to be in a relationship, the harder it is to find a well-functioning one to be in!

In other words, while this guy is finding his feet, ensure that every day you see value in your life and your self, live as if you are single for the forseeable, and really work on finding peace and contentment in that. Don't save space in your life for him - fill it with things, and allow him space as he asks for it, and earns it, if you want to.
posted by greenish at 9:36 AM on February 6, 2017 [4 favorites]

ask him what you need from him and if he's not comfortable with that then he's not right for you. you shouldn't feel weird about wanting to chat every day or see him at regular times. if he feels like his hobbies are being impinged on by his relationship, he's an adult, he can speak up about that and a compromise can be reached.

i don't know him and i can't say anything for sure, but the protectiveness of time for hobbies along with this "he lives with his mum - he says it is due to financial reasons as he prefers to spend his money elsewhere like travel" seems to signal to me that he is pretty selfish about how he spends his time, and if you develop feelings for him and he is that way and doesn't compromise, it might not be very fun.

keep meeting people, it's more fun when the other person really wants to see you and isn't hesitant to spend time with you. and also you don't always have to invite them home because they don't live with their mom.
posted by zdravo at 9:59 AM on February 6, 2017 [3 favorites]

This sounds to me like a friend with benefits (or burgeoning relationship, but more explicitly FWB since you both stated that is what you'd like). But yeah, with actual friends.

The good thing is you get along well and it seems like you already know he's not really for you on paper.

What to know about keeping it light: This is where it gets confusing! It's still possible to develop feelings (even relationshippy feelings) for someone that, if they were to turn around and say YEAH, would not be a good fit. So watch out for that!

Another thing to be careful of is that if you're used to relationships just happening easily, be aware that this could literally be as far as this person wants to go. That can be... ouch, not a nice feeling, but it is common. There is a reason people say it's a fine line in doing FWB!

I'd say to keep it light, see other people - don't let the relationship feelings develop. It's great that you found someone nice to hang out with!
posted by benadryl at 11:19 AM on February 6, 2017 [1 favorite]

Oh yeah TALK about it a lot - no harm in it. You're doing this to have fun not to please! The right guy will get it. Don't worry about screwing things up, it sounds like you're doing good and still maybe a little stressed from your divorce.
posted by benadryl at 11:32 AM on February 6, 2017

Like some of the commenters above, I'm also a little dubious of your motives, and wonder if you're being completely honest with yourself.
The main red herring for me: I wonder why "exclusivity" needs to be included in such a casual interaction for you? If you're not interested in something for the longterm, and if it isn't about how much you like the guy (but rather more about companionship), then should it matter whether you're both exclusive?
I'm absolutely not advocating that you settle for polyamorous relations; you want what you want, and that's the best starting point for these decisions you're facing. I'm just questioning your desire for both distance and exclusivity.
It sounds like the dude is charming and clearly enjoys his life; understandable qualities for you to be attracted to. But he also sounds like he's hesitating over some aspect of this. Maybe it's the distance, maybe it's that he doesn't feel as strong of a connection, maybe it's that his heart was shattered into tiny bits a couple years ago, or maybe it's just because you have a similar mannerism as a hated ex. Who knows why? But it's clear that he's not fighting like crazy to be with you. As much as it profoundly sucks, we've all been there; nobody is exempt from a tepid response by a lover.

So, considering your desire for both distance and exclusivity, I ask that perhaps you take a closer look within, and ask yourself why you want that specific combo. Distance makes sense considering the pain you must have suffered after a divorce, ain't nobody can judge you for that. It also sounds like you're sensing his lukewarm enthusiasm, are responding to it, and are understandably trying to protect yourself and your heart. Regardless, these are all actions guided by fear. *Something* has you scared to death about getting too close; and actions guided by fear don't help you grow, or get you closer to what you actually want and deserve. Only proactive actions informed by desire accomplish that.

Remember, exclusivity means you're going to stop looking for someone you really, really like, as well. It means a million potential missed connections, it means failing to meet many individuals you could resonate with. I'm sorry, the guy sounds great and I understand the attraction (from what you've said), but if he's not really, really into you, more often than not you are setting yourself up for pain.

Best of luck.
posted by anon7 at 2:42 PM on February 10, 2017

« Older Best ways to set boundries with a uncooperating...   |   Suggestions needed for avoiding family schism... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.