How do I get off the dating merry-go-round?
April 21, 2017 10:23 AM   Subscribe

How can I choose one romantic life partner and shut off all other options forever? Do I need horse blinders?

Single childless heterosexual monogamous female here. I'm at an age when everyone is settling down and getting engaged/married. (I'm actually kinda PAST that age, but I'm in a big metro area where lots of people marry late. Heck, I'm lucky to still have options!)

Lately I've had some good first/second/third dates and am also continuing to schedule new first dates with people from online dating apps and some real-life acquaintances. I'm also reconnecting with a few guys from my past who I never really dated before. All of which is a HUGE bumper crop for me--no complaints here!

However... I feel uncomfortable being so romantically diversified. It's not in my nature to bond with more than one man at a time. I WANT to fall in love with one person and pursue a monogamous relationship and start to build a connection leading to marriage and kids. Going on a fourth date with someone while I'm literally lining up a first date with someone else distracts me from Fourth Date Guy and makes me feel like I'm "dabbling" with all these people rather than forging a lasting connection.

I almost didn't date my last ex-boyfriend because I was excited about a third date with someone else (who turned out to be a dud), so I know from past experience that I can overlook a good guy due to being distracted by other dating prospects.

Some of the current guys are smart, appealing, nice people, and they're probably going to marry their next girlfriend. Their taxi lights are ON. I don't want to miss out. But which one do I settle with and choose? Should I just know it when I've met the one? I have had long-term relationships and never EVER felt tempted to cheat -- so it's not that I'm not wired for fidelity. I just don't know who to commit to right now!

Part of the problem is that ONE of these current guys - the one who has shown the most interest in me, so far - lives far away and we only see each other once every 3-4 weeks or so. Not long after I've seen him, each time, my feelings start to fade and I get the urge to line up dates in my area. I could step up the frequency of seeing him but it would come at the cost of seeing other people in my town. It would probably require an overnight trip to his area (he's come to my area a few times, staying overnight with his family here). He's not a *plane* ride away, but it's a substantial train ride. He's stuck in that area for a few more years for work (think: medical training), so I'd basically have to move in order to pursue things with him if it got serious. And here's the kicker: His area isn't a place that appeals to either of us for the long term. So he's a great guy who comes at the price of me giving up my job and social circle in order to move (temporarily!) to his area. I'd do that if I were madly in love with him, which I'm not--at least, not yet. Meanwhile, appealing guys keep popping up in my town. I can't get emotionally invested in ANYONE as long as I have other dates to look forward to. Do I need to just pick someone and shut off the spigot?
posted by Guinevere to Human Relations (15 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
I can't pay serious attention to anyone if I'm also meeting new people. So when I meet someone with potential, I stop making other dates until I make a decision about him or her.

You don't sound ready to commit to what a long distance relationship entails with the out of town guy, so don't.

Since you say it's not in your nature, what is making you feel compelled to keep seeing more people? Is it fear that rejecting any single connection could be preventing you from finding your one true love? The world doesn't really work that way; don't let fear of missing out prevent you from making any deep connections!
posted by metasarah at 10:59 AM on April 21, 2017 [2 favorites]

"Some of the current guys are smart, appealing, nice people, and they're probably going to marry their next girlfriend. Their taxi lights are ON. I don't want to miss out."

I mean, if this is how you think it all works, just pick whoever and marry him and live your life. Or, you can keep dating until you meet someone who you are crazy about, and marry that person. I think you should choose the latter.
posted by cakelite at 11:00 AM on April 21, 2017 [27 favorites]

Should I just know it when I've met the one?

I can only speak from personal experience, but yeah, I kind of did "know it" when I met my future husband. It wasn't a feeling of "OHMYGODI'MGOINGTOMARRYTHISMAN," it was more like, I'd been dating around, had a few other second/third/fourth dates lined up, but after my first date with FutureHusband, my thoughts during dates with other men kept wandering back to him. I felt...intrigued by him in a way I couldn't explain. The other guys were decent, funny, attractive individuals, but something about him just...spoke to me.

When that curiosity and intrigue only strengthened after our second date, I just lost interest in spending time with other dudes. I canceled all my other upcoming dates, just because it wasn't fair to those guys.

So, to answer your question, my own experience would suggest that it's not necessary to actively "shut off the spigot" and work to focus on one particular guy. It will be an effortless focus, when you meet the right person.
posted by mylittlepoppet at 11:03 AM on April 21, 2017 [11 favorites]

Well, I mean... no. You don't just pick someone. But you also don't have to go on quite as many dates in such short, frantic, overlapping time frames. (I'm like you. Hated dating around.)

What about relatively short turnaround serial monogamy, though? Like, date one dude at a time but be quicker and pickier about your dealbreakers, and amp up the honesty with the dude. Give him X weeks or months (whatever's most comfortable to you) and see how it goes.

For example, if he seems vaguely mean-ish to your cat or stands you up repeatedly... peace. Not passing go. [Insert your dealbreaker here.]

But if he's, like, texting more often than you prefer, tell him and see what he says. Or if you want him to plan more dates, tell him and see what he says. If the honesty ain't working and he's not compromising, then just move on.

And yeah. It doesn't have to be lightning bolts when you meet your future partner. Sometimes it's a gradual drift toward each other and everyone's happy about that.

PS: it doesn't sound like you're planning on it, but do. not. move. for. that. guy.
posted by Empire Today at 11:18 AM on April 21, 2017 [5 favorites]

You need a decisive list that cuts through it all. Here's one:

- Which guy has the best career
- future salary
- marriage time frame matches yours
- wants/doesn't want kids
- he lives in your area

Because you're marriage minded.
posted by Tanzanite at 11:33 AM on April 21, 2017 [3 favorites]

Going on a fourth date with someone while I'm literally lining up a first date with someone else distracts me from Fourth Date Guy and makes me feel like I'm "dabbling" with all these people rather than forging a lasting connection.

Your pace sounds exhausting and counter-productive. If you like a guy enough for a fourth date, why are you setting up first dates? Just date one guy at a time, until you don't want to date him anymore. Set aside your dating FOMO (I get the metaphors, but romantic partners really aren't crops or taxis) and focus on the people you are going out with.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 11:50 AM on April 21, 2017 [21 favorites]

If you're marriage minded, I would assign a scoring system, giving priority to the men you also feel are in that frame of mind. But I'd also limit it to three evaluees at a time.
posted by corb at 12:05 PM on April 21, 2017

What do you do on these dates? How much time do really get to know them?
posted by Obscure Reference at 12:12 PM on April 21, 2017

One question to ask is how do you feel about yourself after a date with someone? If post-date after Guy A makes you feel that you've been heard and respected (for example), while Guy B makes you feel as if you had to compete for his attention all night, then Guy A is a better prospect than Guy B, even if all other things are equal.
posted by the return of the thin white sock at 12:42 PM on April 21, 2017 [11 favorites]

Just date one guy at a time, until you don't want to date him anymore.

Seconded. It lets you concentrate on guys rather than 'dabbling', and lets the relationship actually grow. You get to know each other more -- whether it ultimately leads somewhere or not -- rather than keep everyone at the same unsatisfactory surface level.

Also, it's a bit fairer to these fourth date guys, who probably think that this is going somewhere substantial by then. Do all the dating you want, but please don't waste anyone's time, not when the 'taxi lights are ON'. (Which is not to say you have -- just be aware.)
posted by Capt. Renault at 12:51 PM on April 21, 2017

If you want to get married and have kids soonish dating a guy who isn't in your city and is still in training isn't a good choice, I'd stop seeing him for those reasons even though you like each other.

I'm a fan of date one at a time, if you start to want to date others don't take it as a sign that you're a bad person (if you know you don't have commitment/intimacy issues), take it as a sign they're not what you're looking for. Or go on a few first dates around the same time and focus on one person after a few dates, take notes about each date/guy to keep clear if you have to. Usually one will progress and the others fizzle mutually anyway.

Let guys know you are dating and looking for someone to settle down with fairly early on, that will help you to avoid guys that don't want that/aren't serious. I've found the serious ones bring that up fairly early too. Focusing on the longterm goal and the qualities you want in a partner might help you to avoid the "shiny new" aspect of online dating too, it can feel like there are lots of options when you're getting notifications but in actuality, in my opinion/experience there are usually 2-3 out of 100-200 that are solid prospects, most aren't serious or a good match, which doesn't mean freak out and feel desperate, it means if you find someone who makes you laugh and ticks your boxes take the time to nurture that connection and see what happens instead of playing the field.

I (mid-30's F with one kid already) wanted a peer (close in age), fairly matched in income/education/values, kind/thoughtful/organized (i.e. easy to live with), good in bed, and found it, so far so good but it's early days, and it was easy to let the other prospects go/de-activate the apps after a few dates with him. If it doesn't work out I can get out there again, and because we're both serious I think we both trust we won't drag things out if we start to have doubts.
posted by lafemma at 1:23 PM on April 21, 2017 [1 favorite]

Long distance guy is not good for you. Move on from him.

Continue to go on many first dates with a variety of guys. That's actually a GREAT strategy. I highly recommend it. I know it sucks, but "you can't hurry love" as they say, and the only way to get the annoying dating phase out of the way is to suffer through it.

The only thing I would change is don't go on 4th dates with dudes you aren't sure about, ramp up your dealbreakers and cut off dudes after date #1 or date #2. Specifically lay things out on the table that might be dealbreakers to get them out of the way.

I'm basically reading your question as, "I'm dating - a lot! I want it to be over! Dating a lot kind of sucks! Where is my #1 Mr. Right??" and believe me, I sooooo get it. But you're not doing anything wrong. He just hasn't shown up yet. Trying to "force it" by dating one guy at a time isn't really going to magically turn that guy into #1 Mr. Right, it will just slow down that annoying "dating" phase and maybe make you miss out on options.

Continue doing what you're doing, give up on Mr. Long Distance, and you'll know when Mr. Right arrives. It may just take time. Sorry. :(
posted by stockpuppet at 2:17 PM on April 21, 2017 [10 favorites]

I mean, if this is how you think it all works, just pick whoever and marry him and live your life. Or, you can keep dating until you meet someone who you are crazy about, and marry that person. I think you should choose the latter.

Respectfully, I disagree, and suspect this commenter may not have dated in the age of the dating apps, which make an endless string of options literally available. We're suffering from paradox of choice at this time in human history. Personally I ended up picking the guy who seemed kindest and more trustworthy right off the bat, and knew that I was leaving options behind. Frankly, it wasn't easy at all, but it's a leap of faith for those of us who don't fall head over heels on the first date (which is a good thing).
posted by namesarehard at 6:55 PM on April 21, 2017 [6 favorites]

I'm a guy, but I'm not sure that matters here. I wouldn't be going on first dates if I were at the fourth date stage with someone. When I was online dating i would "disconnect" my account if I was still interested after the second date, and commit to trying with third-date person.

With respect to picking, no I wouldn't have a list. During the second date with my partner, I was having some concerns over a couple of issues that had come up. I reasoned with myself that I couldn't be with them long-term because of these differences between us and my logical brain told me it would be best to keep searching. At that point, I was almost physically sick with the idea that I'd have to break up with them and had to go to the bathroom for a while to recover (we were in a restaurant). My emotional brain told me that breaking up was not an option. We are still together and more in love than ever.

Give each guy a chance. When it happens, you'll know.
posted by tillsbury at 2:29 PM on April 23, 2017

I dated at the same pace as you in my 30s - once had 3 dates in one day - and ended up marrying a nice guy with whom I had a kid and eventually divorced. I was always lining up the next date because I was looking for some sort of rush I wasn't getting from my last one. Also, the sheer volume contributed to my sense that I was racking up failures.

It's hard to date that much and keep a balanced perspective on yourself, for me anyway. I mean, I was always viewing myself from the way I thought the dates were viewing me. It made me go a little whacky in the head. Short version of my story is: by the time I met the guy I married, coupling with him was a reactionary response to wanting to justify all the dating that I did. I think the strongest emotion I had with him was relief, which I mistook for love.

When I look back, I wish I'd dated slowly enough to recalibrate with myself and my own compass between dates. I didn't do that. Yes, dating apps make it seem like a fast-flowing river of opportunity rather than a still lakefront of possibility, and you don't want to miss out on anything. But just know that it's ok to let some of them drift by. You couldn't possibly meet them all anyway. Another opportunity will be along shortly. So take time away to clarify your priorities to yourself.

Good luck!
posted by Libelula y colibri at 7:56 AM on April 29, 2017 [2 favorites]

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