How to ask for what you need/want in dating?
November 21, 2017 6:32 AM   Subscribe

New to dating, and it seems so different than what dating used to be- how can I ask or express what I want for my long term without putting pressure or expectations?

I just started casually dating... it has been fun getting to know people, and in turn getting to know myself and what I want/need. I was in a pretty bad relationship for a while, and have spent the last year really focusing on myself because I really lost who I was. Although I am not pressuring myself to date for any other reason than to learn, have fun, and hopefully meet that right person one day, I do know that in my future I would like a partner to experience life with. I have no expectations or time-lines of marriage, more kids, exclusivity, or anything else- but my long term goal as far as relationships go is to hopefully encounter someone that I connect with on an emotional level, to committ to, to gain a best friend, and to experience life with. I like to date with intentions but not expectations. I am not looking for someone to fill a void, or a role- and the only reason I say this is because, I am finding that most of the men I'm dating keep me at arms length, and I can tell I'm creating this dynamic in allowing it, because I am afraid to voice what I want without it coming across as I'm saying "hey committ to me, I need a husband, or boyfriend." So, I end up getting caught in pseudo relationships where the men express how amazing I am, we have a great time together, we open up- but we don't see each other but once every two weeks. It's a pattern, and it is because I'm not saying (or I don't know how to) say, hey look, this once every two week thing isn't working for me, I need a real connection and I can't do that with seeing you twice a month for 7 hours.

How can I make it clear what I am looking for in the beginning so I can avoid these string along type of "relationships." I don't want to move fast, I am happy with moving slow, but it feels like twice a month for 4 months is turtles pace, and I'm not sure how to differentiate between healthy progression, or no progression, and how to voice what I desire for myself in my future one day. Thats part two, is what are signs of healthy progression- I try to remind myself that with the right person you just kinda feel like it's right, and there's no questions, but if I don't learn to speak up for myself how is anyone going to know what I want or need?
posted by MamaBee223 to Human Relations (10 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
Whenever I've had guys turn into good longer term relationships they are fairly eager to see me regularly from the start (excepting when they are working A LOT, sick, or have prior commitments) and I don't need to tell them anything except that I appreciate and enjoy spending time with them.

Interest should be mutual and fairly evenly matched so it's obvious after a few weeks if there's a progression. What I have done is to let them know I am looking for a more serious relationship, and break things off (because in my experience it always means the guy is fine with things as they are and not looking to step things up, if they wanted more contact they'd be making it).

You need to decide what you are willing to accept and it sounds like you need to call things earlier, like "this is not working for me, I like you but I want to see you more often". If they don't change anything right away that's your sign to move on, I wouldn't be happy seeing someone twice a month either.
posted by lafemma at 7:11 AM on November 21, 2017 [19 favorites]

"Putting pressure" on someone to see you more than twice a month is not the same as putting pressure on someone to fall in love with you and be your life partner!

What about asking for what you want/need *right now* - like, "hey, I also think you are super cool, and I'm excited to get to know you better. Can we do $ACTIVITY next Thursday instead of waiting until the end of the month?"

You say, "It's a pattern, and it is because I'm not saying (or I don't know how to) say, hey look, this once every two week thing isn't working for me, I need a real connection and I can't do that with seeing you twice a month for 7 hours." Maybe switch out the part about "I need a real connection" for something a little less intense like, "I want to really get to know you," but otherwise I think that's a pretty OK thing for a grown-up to say to another grown-up.

There's always going to be some level of ramp-up, though, because people are busy and they don't necessarily have time slots carved out for a new person in their lives. I guess you could try dating multiple people at once but it doesn't sound like something you'd be interested in (I've never been able to.)
posted by mskyle at 7:23 AM on November 21, 2017 [3 favorites]

I could have written this exact question, and am struggling with the same situation. There is no depth or intimacy development when contact is so sporadic. Even when both people say they want real connection, this is happening. Very frustrating.
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 7:57 AM on November 21, 2017 [1 favorite]

When dating as a person with large swaths of free time, it might work ok to just let the amount of time you spend together increase or decrease based only on "I like you, and I'd like to spend more time together;" "Me too, I'll call you tomorrow."

Like that might work if you're college students who only have to go to class and maybe a few hours of work-study. Or if you meet someone while on vacation. But if you're two adult people with full-time jobs and at least one of you has caregiver responsibilities... it's just plain hard to schedule the time in.

It's like even a lot of married people who love each other and are committed and love spending time together need to be reminded to schedule it because life gets in the way otherwise.

So you might look at your schedule and see how many evenings or weekends you are available, and decide you want to be with someone who wants to and can be with you for like 4 out of 5 of those, or whatever you decide. This might unfortunately mean a guy whose schedule has a lot of conflicts with yours (through no fault of his own) would not be able to fill this need for time spent together. But if you generally have similar schedules, you would then have a clearer idea of what you're asking for: at least every Tuesday and Thursday night and Saturday overnight through Sunday brunch, for example.
posted by Former Congressional Representative Lenny Lemming at 8:21 AM on November 21, 2017 [2 favorites]

One way to to this without it being uncomfortable might be to be more proactive about planning the time you spend together? That puts the onus on them to either a) engage with you more or b) give you a clear sign that they either aren't interested or don't have the time to spend with you, and you can make a decision from there.
posted by sagc at 9:07 AM on November 21, 2017 [3 favorites]

My suggestions, based on my own experience...

Raise the question of long-term goals early (like: profile or first date) and very straightforwardly -- "I'm at a point in my life where I'm looking for a long-term partner; how about you?" If their answer works for you, then you can leave the long-term questions alone and just take it moment by moment for a while. It's helpful for everyone involved to find out as quickly as possible if you're a match on goals/life stage -- it frees you up to focus on just getting to know that person and finding out if you two are a good fit. Note that this also works if your goal is something other than long-term partnership -- you can just as easily say, "I'm at a point in my life where I'm looking for more casual dating (or "casual sex," or "marriage," or "exclusive but low-time-commitment relationship," or "just a summer fling," or whatever); how about you?", and it will help both of you to know upfront if this match has any potential or not.

I think you're absolutely right in your instinct that you need to be more decisive about cutting off what's not working for you. Practice getting better and faster at saying, "I'm really enjoying this and I'm looking for more -- I'd like to spend more time together / see you more often / get more serious. How about you?" When I have made that request out loud and given the other person a chance to respond, it has really clarified things for both of us. You'll get nope'd sometimes, and that may hurt. But, it will also allow you to exit the situation with no regrets, and to free yourself up to find someone whose goals do match yours.

Finally, do your best not to take it personally. Different people have different goals at different points in their life; just because another person's goals aren't yours doesn't mean that one of you is wrong. If you see dating as a kind of mutual job interview, it does help take the sting out. It also makes it clear that, if you're seeking good fit, it's important to ask straightforward questions and be clear about what it is you're looking for -- it's a favor to both you and the people you're dating, since it keeps you both from wasting your time.
posted by ourobouros at 9:55 AM on November 21, 2017 [13 favorites]

Are you suggesting activities to these guys between dates that they suggest, or are you leaving planning up to them? When you ask them to hang out with you, what do they say?

I think there's a difference between a guy who sees you every two weeks because has a busy schedule but wants to make time for you and a guy who isn't interested in making a bigger commitment. You can often figure out which category someone fits into by asking them to join you for things and seeing what they say. It's also possible that these guys are just worried about coming on too strong, or figure seeing twice a month is enough for now to get to know you but wouldn't mind more often, and if you want to see them more often you need to tell them that, either explicitly or by being more proactive about planning things.

Regarding the second part of your question, I actually completely disagree with your premise that with the right person there's no questions. Rather, I think a great way to figure out whether someone's right for you is to see how they respond when you raise your needs and concerns. You don't have to make it into a big deal, just something like "hey, I'm really enjoying getting to know you, and I'd like to see you more often." The right guy for you will be happy about this. The wrong guy will be weeded out earlier. Otherwise, what if you dump a guy who's otherwise wonderful because he's only arranging dates every two weeks, but he would've been happy to see you more often if only he knew you felt the same?
posted by ersatzhuman at 9:55 AM on November 21, 2017 [7 favorites]

Here's what I said at the end of some good first dates: "You seem cool. I don't have a lot of free time but I'm looking for someone to have sex with, and who's emotionally open even if this doesn't 'progress' in some traditional way. Think it over and if that's something you'd like, lemme know."

Here's what I said after a great second date to someone who met a lot of healthy criteria and stirred feelings of long-term commitment in me: "I like you and am curious about where this might go if I give it my attention. I've been happily dating around but if you want to see each other exclusively I'd like that. Think about it and let me know. "

While these statements technically "leave the ball in their court," they're primarily statements about what you want that ask for mutual participation in the conversation and definition of the relationship. I think it's key that they're said as you part because they give someone time to think and they prime you to express your wants while literally disengaging from the object of those wants. At least, that was very important for me.

One thing to ask yourself is whether you're afraid of the response you might get ("No thanks.") or whether you're afraid of expressing yourself. If it's the former, speaking up early is really your friend. Ya gotta shoot to score, and all that.

If it's the latter (as it was for me)? Practice, practice, practice. Seriously, I'd write the stuff out and talk back to my man crushes as I watched tv. "Well Ewan, you seem cool. I don't have a lot of free time but I'm looking for someone to have sex with, and who's emotionally open even if this doesn't 'progress' in some traditional way. Think it over, Ewan, and if that's something you'd like, lemme know." And "I really like you, Jean-Luc, and am curious about where this might go if I give it my attention. I've been happily dating around but if you want to see each other exclusively I'd like that. Think about it and let me know. " Wrap it up with a devil-may-care half-wink before you turn away.

And finally, some good info in "The Case Against Chill." "Chill has now slithered into our romantic lives and forced those among us who would like to exchange feelings and accountability to compete in the Blasé Olympics with whomever we are dating."
posted by cocoagirl at 10:23 AM on November 21, 2017 [20 favorites]

Agree with all of the above. Take a new look at your profile (wherever you have it), and perhaps take out the parts that suggest "casual dating" and what you're talking about at the beginning of your question.

You're finding the wrong people, that's all. I'm a guy who's had three serious relationships (one married 17 years, one engaged but broken off, one still married), and in all three we were pretty much inseparable immediately after the first date. Dates were sometimes separated by a day without a date, but not very often. Things move quickly when they're right.

Perhaps put in a couple of comments somewhere on your profile deliberately intended to scare off part-timers. Your line "I would like a partner to experience life with" is a good one. A serious guy should not be dating others after your second date with him. If he's that unsure, he's unlikely to be sure any time soon. Call him out and keep looking.
posted by tillsbury at 12:22 AM on November 22, 2017 [2 favorites]

These are really great responses, and exactly what I was hoping to understand. The dating world is such a ambiguous place but knowing what you want and how to say it, is important I realize or else you get stuck in something that isn't making you happy.

It wasn't so much work related that kept him busy (although he does train sometimes half a month-month at a time at various times, or is gone every other week), that didn't bother me one bit as I am busy and have a pretty full life- it was the fact that his off time was for his friends, and his plans, and he had never tried to include me. We had a great time when we saw each other, and I wanted to be able to spend a little more time getting to know him better, but it would only happen every two weeks and I felt squeezed in. Anyway, I finally said something to the effect of Hey, I want to see you more and this once every two week thing isn't working for me. I need more time with someone in order to get to know them better. If this isn't want your interested in, no hard feelings. He then told me he was sorry, i was amazing, etc., that he didnt want to stop seeing me and felt bad he couldn't give me what I needed that on top of his work his doesn't feel willing to be in a "serious relationships." That was that.

Since when did wanting to spend time with someone equate to a "serious relationship?" I'm sure it's just a gentle way of letting me down without hurting my feelings... I wanted to say, who said I wanted, or knew if I wanted a "serious" realtionship with you anyway? I just wanted to spend time getting to know you. We ended it there, and said he would stay in touch with me once I felt it was ready, which won't happy. But I'm glad I at least said what I needed, he was honest, and now i can move forward.
posted by MamaBee223 at 6:21 AM on November 29, 2017 [2 favorites]

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