Curiosity in romantic relationships
February 20, 2017 6:47 AM   Subscribe

I feel like I am dating the same guy, different packaging. Last two short-term relationships (met their friends, parents, etc) lasted under 5 months for one reason: the guys never ever asked about my life--neither my past or current. No curiosity about where I was born, what religion I was raised, who my parents were (both are dead), how long I was married, etc. Both basic biographical and more personal questions were avoided. Why are some people like this? I felt very alone in those relationships.
posted by Jaspersen145 to Human Relations (39 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Two people does not necessarily a pattern make, but I am wondering why you went on a second date if they didn't ask you about yourself on the first? Seems like a pretty easy way to screen for these people.
posted by Waiting for Pierce Inverarity at 7:00 AM on February 20, 2017 [13 favorites]

A lot of men don't feel the need to hold up conversations or express interest in their partners. The Emotional Labor thread is littered with examples of this.

If you want something from a partner don't tolerate not having it. If someone won't express an interest in the details of your life, move on. Fast.
posted by French Fry at 7:02 AM on February 20, 2017 [26 favorites]

Granted, I am quoting Dr. Phil here, but I've always felt it true to to a large extent we teach people how to treat us. It's possible you're dating people who have natural inclinations to not ask about their partners but clearly you're allowing that behavior to be the norm.

It doesn't really matter why some people act this way. What matters is you're accepting a behavior you don't particularly enjoy. It may be that you can't get a partner to become more curious about you but it's absolutely certain that in no way do you have to stay with someone like this.
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 7:07 AM on February 20, 2017 [4 favorites]

I ask a million questions of everyone and I'd never ask what religion you were raised.

If religion is specifically important to you, look for religious people.
posted by SaltySalticid at 7:07 AM on February 20, 2017 [10 favorites]

Some people are like this because they think if the other person wants to share something, they will without being asked. You don't have to date this type of person.
posted by AFABulous at 7:08 AM on February 20, 2017 [20 favorites]

As a man who didn't ask a lot of questions during the beginning of my relationship, I'm going to tell you what my now wife did - she called me out on it.
She said "I wish you'd ask more questions," and I did.
Sometimes, as men, we're so focused on a million other things during the beginning of the relationship, we forget basics, like asking questions.

There's nothing wrong with mentioning it, like my wife did.

The problem comes when the man decides to ignore the request.
posted by Major Matt Mason Dixon at 7:11 AM on February 20, 2017 [22 favorites]

I just find it incredible that you can claim to love a person without asking about their past AT ALL or showing any curiosity about them.

Without being curious about a person, how can you claim to be interested?
posted by Jaspersen145 at 7:11 AM on February 20, 2017

I did mention it and both said "I am just not curious about you" and "all that matters is the here and now".
posted by Jaspersen145 at 7:12 AM on February 20, 2017 [3 favorites]

That's a pretty good indication of them seeing your date as a lead up to a one night stand.
posted by Marinara at 7:14 AM on February 20, 2017 [20 favorites]

After five months, though, you'd think that a person would want to know something about the person he's dating. I'd think that after the first date.
posted by Dolley at 7:17 AM on February 20, 2017

I did mention it and both said "I am just not curious about you" and "all that matters is the here and now".

That's the point where you pick up your purse and walk out.
posted by AFABulous at 7:29 AM on February 20, 2017 [109 favorites]

I'm really sorry you dated people who literally told you they're not curious about you. That really sucks. But you're not without power here. Stop dating people who clearly have no interest in you.
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 7:31 AM on February 20, 2017 [13 favorites]

I believe curiosity in a potential partner should be included in everyone's dating standards. Definitely a red flag if someone is not interested in your life story. But sometimes, especially for the inexperienced, it's difficult to show that curiosity. When I first started dating in college, I would not ask personal questions because I was still uncomfortable in that initial dating environment, but internally, I was very interested in learning more about the women I was seeing. It was only through experience that I learned that it was necessary to externalize my curiosity if I wanted a relationship to last. I also didn't learn this until a woman I was dating asked me if I cared about their life story because I never asked about it.
posted by Become A Silhouette at 7:35 AM on February 20, 2017 [6 favorites]

[Couple comments removed. Ask works best as an "ask your question, let people answer" thing rather than as a running dialogue; asker, go ahead and let folks make what they can of your question as stated, and if you need to make some major clarification down the line adding an additional comment is okay but peppering the thread with responses isn't really within the guidelines.]
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:52 AM on February 20, 2017 [1 favorite]

Well, it becomes chatfilter for us to just broadly opine about how men are. I would say that people can be very incurious and people can also, for whatever reason, not do the work necessary to be an engaging conversationalist. If they have other attributes such as wealth, power, good looks, they can often skate by on this for quite awhile...sometimes forever! Some people might think that being an engaging conversationalist is something for the ladies. I think some of our social training in school, church, and civic clubs for youth used to include how to treat other people, ask them on a date, be conscientious while dancing, etc.. All that was going out of fashion when I was in middle school (I'm 40+) so I imagine it's even less so. Then there's just plain self-involvement and narcissism.

When I was a teenager and working as a waitress, I'd often get guys hitting on me left and right. Why? Because I was paying attention to them and being friendly. Because it was my job. This is a common thing then and still is today. If you're leaning in and doing all the talking and emotional void filling then these guys that you have chosen to date may feel like the relationship is all handled. You're "clearly" into them so what's the problem?

If you want to break this pattern, you need to not be the void filler, not be the emotional water carrier, decide early on what is your 100% and stick to it. You can also ask early on very plainly and explicitly for what you want. Good luck! Don't settle!
posted by amanda at 7:53 AM on February 20, 2017 [5 favorites]

The question is why are some people like this?.

As asked, I am not sure there is even close to an answer. To me, this question is chatfilter but it could be part of the "new" ask culture. If so, I think, on the first few dates, at the point you are asking about them, if they do not immediately or shortly thereafter ask about you, rather than proceed into a months long relationship and then break up after they don't ask, for your own sanity, break up much sooner if this is important to you.
posted by AugustWest at 8:02 AM on February 20, 2017

Some people are very self-involved (like the person you described). Others are very shy. I dated someone who would not ask a big question like what religion was I raised, but if I offered something, would listen intently then ask a follow-up question. He would never initiate much questioning aside from the here and now, but I could tell it wasn't a lack of curiosity, just maybe not knowing where to begin due to social anxiety. If someone can't muster some interest about you after a few dates, I think you're well within your rights to either inquire or move on.

It's true that two does not a pattern make, but there is nothing like dating to make you realize how many crummy people are out there in the world. Definitely pull the plug sooner and move on to someone who is less self-absorbed. They're out there too. It's a numbers game and a luck game. But you have to be available to find them, not wasting months of your time on uncurious jerks.
posted by *s at 8:14 AM on February 20, 2017 [1 favorite]

I tend to feel that if people want to volunteer information about themselves, they will. I don't like to pry because what if my question uncorks something they'd rather not deal with at the moment?

Having said that: after five months, you never had those exciting through-the-night multi-hour conversations about yourselves where both people volunteer this type of information in the course of getting to know one another? That's what I'd find odd. Not that they didn't ask but that the opportunity never arose where you both shared that information with one another.
posted by soren_lorensen at 8:24 AM on February 20, 2017 [11 favorites]

"Why are some people like this?" is not really for us to answer, it's kind of unknowable. Two doesn't make a trend, but at least you've identified something that's a deal-breaker for you. Personally I'm the question man - I'd probably err on the side of asking too many probing questions but that's just me. If someone I was dating told me "I'm curious, I'm just not curious about you" I'd probably tell them to fuck off. "We only have the here and now" is some shitty dialog from a rom-com. Keep trying, but maybe recalibrate your radar? Five months, met the 'rents, and the whole time they never asked you?
posted by fixedgear at 8:29 AM on February 20, 2017

Agree with the folks saying that the "why" doesn't really matter here. It is not at all universal that people (or men in particular) will not be curious about you - you've simply come across two such people. Your tolerance for that may be different than mine, but personally that would put those two in the "not a quality individual / not worth my time" category for me.
posted by DingoMutt at 8:32 AM on February 20, 2017 [1 favorite]

People don't necessarily feel invited to ask about this kind of stuff. Some people would never dream of it without a cue from their partner. Nobody knows what you want unless you tell them.
posted by Sing Or Swim at 8:33 AM on February 20, 2017 [2 favorites]

They said they weren't curious about you, so there's your answer. Not sure what more you need to know.

I have - in my many, many years - only dated one or two guys who didn't seem curious about me. And one of them was kind of a "here and now" guy. He was also an insufferable asshole. He fancied himself kind of a deep, philosophical guy - he wasn't particularly. Mostly a conceited idiot.

The other I'm not sure particularly liked me. The jury is still out; the jury will likely always be out.

So there are your two options. I'd say find someone who's curious about you unless these guys are fulfilling some other needs that are more important to you. Maybe they're good in bed and you're not that interested in a long-term relationship. Or they make you feel safe, are good at fixing things. They might have other good qualities.

The second guy, for instance, was brilliant and creative and I trusted him in ways I don't often get to with guys I dated. There were some really terrific things about our relationship, but something was missing - and that thing was that I just couldn't get a read on how he felt about me. No matter how long things went on. In part because he just wasn't curious about me.

So maybe your follow-up question could be, "Have you been curious about the other girls you've dated?"
posted by crankyrogalsky at 8:45 AM on February 20, 2017

Like a lot of the other commenters, I don't generally ask a lot of probing questions of people because I don't like people doing that to me.

However, based on their responses, that they're just not curious or that it doesn't matter, I don't think that's it.

I think they actually don't care. I used to have that problem, too. I'd date men who approached me sometimes, and I'd realize we had pretty much nothing in common at all, and I'd wonder why they were even interested. And I'm pretty sure that, in some cases at least, they just didn't see women as actual, fully realized humans. They didn't care what I thought or what my background was or whatever because they intended to mold me into whatever they wanted anyway. They just liked the way I looked, or they thought I seemed malleable or something, and those men tended to be overconfident, blustery, and, of course, misogynistic, usually in that 'benign' way where they want to take care of you. This is the exact 100% opposite of anything I've ever been interested in, but the fact is that, because I am relatively quiet in most social situations, and because at the time, I came across as sort of 'dainty' or something, that's what I was attracting.

So I realized that if I wanted to get involved with the type of men I was interested in, I was going to have to take the initiative. The type of men I wanted to see tended not to have the confidence to approach me, so when I found myself attracted to someone who was respectful and obviously interested in me as a person, I'd make the first move. And because I tend to be attracted to people I've already gotten to know at least to some extent, I stopped ending up with the sort of boring, incurious buffoons like I'd dated when I was letting men do the choosing.
posted by ernielundquist at 9:03 AM on February 20, 2017 [24 favorites]

I have a friend who thinks this can be a cultural thing - she was raised in a culture of "mind your own business." She's also queer, grew up around immigrants and is mostly in community with marginalized people and sex workers - populations for whom answering personal questions might feel uncomfortable unless/until you're really close.

So, that is one possible reason that people do this. It doesn't seem like that is the situation with your dates, though. And either way, whatever the reason, it's fine for this to be a dealbreaker for you. It is a dealbreaker for me.
posted by needs more cowbell at 9:37 AM on February 20, 2017 [1 favorite]

I did mention it and both said "I am just not curious about you"

Um, excuse me? Why the hell didn't you walk away right then? That is a jerk-ass thing to say to anyone, let alone someone you're attempting to court.

Perhaps unfair assumptions I would make based upon them saying that:
1. They are only in it for the sex.
2. They don't really consider you a person of value or "worth their time".
3. They don't consider you their equal. Consciously or unconsciously, I would assume they are looking to be with someone they can ultimately control.
4. They are egotistical. Why talk about your life since their life is clearly the more interesting/important one.
5. They expect the people they date to accommodate them in every way, and that their preferences are more important than the preferences/needs of the person they date. They may not even consider that their partner has differing preferences or needs.
6. They are awful in bed, the pleasure of their partner being secondary to their own pleasure.
7. They are unlikely to ever be encouraging in their partner growing or developing.
8. They are great big giant assholes. For someone you're dating to point blank say they aren't curious about you or your personal history is just super fucked up and I would raise a red flag for me for future abuse. Granted this is possibly unfair of me, but jesus christ. Who says this?!

Walk the hell away. This isn't love. Moving forward you really need to weed out people who clearly don't display any interest in you as a person. First dates should be spent learning about each other in more or less equal measure. If on a first date they aren't expressing any interest in you then don't go on a second.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 9:38 AM on February 20, 2017 [13 favorites]

I'm a bit of a "mind your own business" person, and I don't like to ask what think of as "prying" questions of people I don't know well, but yeah, if I was on a date (even a friend date) with someone I even remotely liked and they asked me why I never asked them questions, I would say something like, "OK, what do you want me to know about you?" rather than "I'm not curious about you." "I'm not curious about you" is pretty dickish.
posted by mskyle at 9:43 AM on February 20, 2017 [7 favorites]

so I'm taking this class right now towards my phD in psychology. My professor said something in class that really blew my hair back: people tend to surround themselves with others that reflect the way that they feel about themselves. Maybe start there?
posted by floweredfish at 9:51 AM on February 20, 2017 [9 favorites]

I ask brief, polite questions when forced to interact with people I don't like.
I ask LOTS of questions of people I like, even if they are new acquaintances -- my friends and family say, "I don't know how you come up with all of these questions!" but they generally delight in answering them. I watch people's body language and responses; those who aren't interested in revealing their personal interests, background, opinions, etc., make poor conversational partners for me.
The person for whom I care most in the world, I doubt I will ever run out of questions.

While I recognize that others are not like me, I would not be able to sustain much of a friendship, let alone a romantic relationship, with a person who found merely what I outright said (and I say a great deal) to be sufficient. Someone who is not curious about me is not the person for me.

To answer your question, there are some people who are just incurious, who take things as they come, and who are just not interested in that which is not right in front of them. For me (and likely for you, OP), those can be lovely people to interact with when ordering your dinner or doing a work project, but heart-wrenchingly ill-matched for you for a life partner. It doesn't mean they are bad or even, necessarily, selfish people, but I'd find there horrifically dull to date. (Similarly, the idea of hiking or going on a bike ride, or doing almost any (public) activity that didn't involve words -- creating or consuming -- would be agonizing for me. But my lack of desire to be "active" might make me seem very dull to a potential partner who might agonize over my boredom with silence or nature.)

As for claiming to love a person about whom one asks little, and thus only knows what they volunteer and what they look like, well, I believe this is not love, but a shallow and pale imitation. One cannot truly love someone one doesn't really know.
posted by The Wrong Kind of Cheese at 10:56 AM on February 20, 2017 [4 favorites]

I'm reading the book "Attached" and it strikes me that these people may have avoidant attachment styles in that they are wary of getting too close to you and so avoid questions. I've dated my fair share of avoidant people and have noticed the lack of questions thing from many (though not all- some people are just excessively curious) of them.

I've dated plenty of people with avoidant attactment style- it's not just you, and two people is not really a pattern. You were right to break off the relationships I think- it's something I also would have a big problem with.
posted by bearette at 11:25 AM on February 20, 2017 [6 favorites]

I've noticed this as I get older and especially after I moved, new people I meet easily tend to only talk about themselves or be very needy or be generally a disaster. Not to be mean but I think that older people who don't have established relationships, its for a reason. I've had to kind of butt into a few well established friendship groups to meet normal people. The ones hanging out on the fringe welcoming newcomers tend to not be great friends. Not that I dropped those people but I will only reply to one "woe is me" text or email per week.

It's harder dating, because it's not like you can butt in and say "you guys seem awesome, can I come to lunch with you one day?" but I think the same rules apply. If there's no good reasons someone is single after the age of 30 proceed with caution.
posted by fshgrl at 11:35 AM on February 20, 2017

This is one reason it works well to have history in common, e.g. same HS, same college, same company, etc. It breaks the ice. "Did you have Mr. Larson for US History II?"

It's worrying though. These was guy, now deceased, Leo [last name forgotten] who was a popular advice-giver and who talked about how one of the first stages of a relationship is telling each other our life stories. The typical re-telling goes something like "we met at [event] and stayed up all night talking".
posted by SemiSalt at 11:51 AM on February 20, 2017

I just want to chime in and say curiosity about people's pasts, and personality, etc, does not matter to everyone. One of my exes consistently was baffled by my interest in what he deemed 'nostalgia,' when I would inquire about his childhood or family or whatnot. That sounds a bit like the 'here and now' comment you got. I'm not sure why this is, but some people only want to look at the present and future.

This was not okay with me. I felt like he didn't have any interest in what made me me. I brought it up a bunch of times, like, 'I wish you'd ask more about me, or, 'I wish you'd seem more interested in my life,' which is, truth be told, one of the sadder things I've done. It sucks to ask to feel cared about.

If this is important to you, go find someone who feels the same. I did, and I feel so much more valued.
posted by rachaelfaith at 11:59 AM on February 20, 2017 [3 favorites]

For what it's worth, I've been noticing a similar pattern in my own life and have been trying to incorporate this observation into my own future. It can be tough to take a step back from your own life and recalibrate your relationship radar, but on the face of it I'd suggest not meeting the parents of partners until you've ticked off some or all of these boxes, and definitely not meeting them if your concept of the relationship is indeed "short term."
posted by rhizome at 12:12 PM on February 20, 2017 [1 favorite]

I'm curious about people, and love unpicking them and finding out how they work. My wife actively resists that so I've got out of the habit. As to why people are like that, it's some combination of their nature, culture and upbringing just like every other quality they possess.
posted by Sebmojo at 12:20 PM on February 20, 2017 [1 favorite]

Every person and every person's needs within a relationship are different. My husband expresses no curiosity about me and never really has. He is interested when I tell him things, though, and to be that's the barometer I care about: he isn't indifferent, he is just very different to me.

I do not doubt that he loves me, however. I never have.
posted by DarlingBri at 12:38 PM on February 20, 2017 [4 favorites]

I can't really address this from a romantic point of view... so I debated answering...

But, hmmm. I think you are picking up on what is potentially a real problem: Sometimes we find ourselves in relationships with people who are not really interested in us as individual people. They use us to meet their needs for emotional and physical intimacy, and only really see us as an extension of themselves. Your past is irrelevant because hey, they weren't there for it. I get the feeling this happens to women more than men.

Some of the answers are responding to that. But, others are responding from the point of view that lack of curiosity about your past doesn't necessarily mean that someone isn't interested in you as a person, in the same way a sneeze doesn't necessarily mean that you have a cold.

I admit I wanted to jump on this question and say, "Hey! I don't ask these questions, either, but that doesn't mean I'm not interested." I don't generally ask these types of questions to people I care about either - partially because of the way I relate to my own past. The idea that people find these things important to talk about is foreign, and while I can try to empathize it still doesn't come naturally.

There's a big difference about not being interested in where you come from, and not being interested in your inner life more generally. The thing is, though, the first can be a symptom of the latter. I think you need to look at the bigger picture, e.g.: Do they ask for, and listen to, your opinions? Do they ask how your day went with real interest - not just in a cursory way? Do they seem aware that you have a life apart from them, and do they respect that? Do you have meaningful personal discussions about things that affect you, and not just things within the relationship? And within the relationship, do they respect your needs/desires?

Because honestly, I get the sense from your description that they don't all that much and that your instincts are right, even if you are pinning it on this specific thing I personally don't find important.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 4:06 PM on February 20, 2017 [7 favorites]

Personally, I tend to be an "all that matters is the here and now" kind of person. And I've dated people who didn't ask -- they just took me at face value as I was and accepted that. They weren't writing my biography; they were enjoying spending time with me and vice versa. If you want someone who is really into understanding your life story, that's your prerogative -- by all means, go out and find a partner like that! -- but I don't think this is quite the "some people are just bad" thing that some of the early comments suggest.
posted by salvia at 4:59 PM on February 20, 2017 [7 favorites]

I did mention it and both said "I am just not curious about you" and "all that matters is the here and now".

Holy crap, those are extremely jerk-faced answers! No matter what else was going on, responding in that way is rude and disrespectful.

Seriously, there are a number of reasons people might hesitate to ask a lot of questions: cultural differences, shyness, being told they did too much "interrogating" on a previous date, genuinely thinking that it's better if the "mystery" unfolds slowly, etc., but telling you they're not curious about (synonym: interested in) you is obnoxious. If you plan on seeing either of these men again be aware that you have told them you are prepared to put up with rude and disrespectful behaviour.

If you want to avoid such people in the future, perhaps give some thought to other characteristics they might have in common, e.g. did you meet them all through one dating app, or at a particular place? If so, there might be a higher proportion of turds in that particular swimming pool.
posted by rpfields at 5:07 PM on February 20, 2017 [8 favorites]

Some people are brought up that what you call "curiosity" is "prying". I grew up in a fairly complicated family, and there were lots of secrets that an innocent question might uncover if answered honestly, so I just got used to personal questions being answered with a vague "well, you know, a bit of this and that", so over time just learned not to ask.

Also, I can see someone being wary of the question being turned back on them at the end of the answer. Just because you have a conventional, innocuous answer to the question "What did your parents do?", someone might be afraid of asking it because of the inevitable "and you?" at the end of the story gives them a dilemma between an evasive answer, making them sound shifty, and an honest "Well, they drifted in and out of prison." or whatever. Better to not start the conversation at all in that case.
posted by Jabberwocky at 3:14 PM on February 21, 2017 [1 favorite]

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