Dating disaster…. I need some advice….
January 6, 2018 6:12 PM   Subscribe

The year 2017 was a very bad year for me in terms of dating. Let me give you some context… I currently live in a country that is not mine. I came here because of a job opportunity that was too good to reject. Things are good here but my dating life is a disaster. I feel that I have chosen the wrong men, that I have rejected the right men… I have been hurt by many men and I have surely hurt some men as well.

Only on the last year, I had multiple dates and relationships that all ended in disaster. The first short relationship that I had last year was with a man who is my coworker and is much younger than me. Because of these reasons, I hesitated a lot to give him a chance, but I finally did, after he insisted. From the beginning I knew that the relationship with him was not going to go anywhere. I am at an age where I want marriage, children… and he is definitely not… I started to feel a bit upset about silly things, mainly that he was giving a lot of attention to another co-worker and that he was partying a lot. When I expressed to him that I was a bit uncomfortable with this, he reacted telling me that, on second thoughts, he didn’t think he was ready for a relationship. What was very surprising for me was my reaction. Even though I had my doubts about the whole thing, I felt extremely upset and sad about it. I think that the whole situation made me feel humiliated in front of other co-workers and also, it made me feel rejected. I decided to never talk to him again.

After that I met another man. He was generally very nice to me… but I wasn’t very sure about him because of some vague reasons. Basically, the main reason was that I didn’t find him too attractive. He was not ugly, but I didn’t feel very attracted to him. The other reason was that he was very distant in his communication with me, and I just felt that I preferred men who are more romantic and expressive… Anyway, I was behaving very distant too and he ended up breaking things up with me. I wonder if I should have done more to develop something with him.

After this, I dated two other guys. I really liked them and felt very attracted to both of them but things didn't work out. The first one I dated for about two months… at the beginning he was very nice to me, but after a while, he started to cancel dates, to arrive late, and just to act disinterested. I expressed to him what I was feeling. He said sorry but didn’t do much about it. I decided to have another serious conversation with him and he ended up accepting that maybe he was not ready for a relationship with me. Things with the second guy went different. He acted very interested all the time, and I could always feel him close to me. The problem with him is that he had drug issues and other serious problems… I hesitated a lot about breaking up with him, because I developed feelings for him and because I was aware of how hard it would be to find a person as interested in me as him, but I ended up feeling that all his problems with drugs and other stuff were too much for me to handle. So I ended the relationship. Sometimes I wonder if I did the right thing and if I could have been happy with him and perhaps help him leave that world.

This was my dating year last year… As you see, pretty full of failures. I have many guys interested in me now… but I don’t know if I should give them a chance or not. I honestly feel completely lost about what to seek in a partner, who to give a chance or who not… I realize that I have to get to know these men better to determine if something could develop between us but this process has become very painful for me. I feel very sad and even angry when I start to notice that a man is not sticking to my standards of ‘good behavior’. When he is late, when he cancels a date, when he is not asking for a new date soon enough. I start to get very sad and angry. Mainly because I feel that I could be doing something else with my life… that I could be using my time and energy for other things… and also, because I feel that I am getting older (I am in my early thirties), that all my friends are getting married and having children… and that I am here alone… To be honest there have been occasions where I have been the flaky and disinterested one. There are two men that are very interested in me and I have dated them a couple of times… but I just haven’t shown them a lot of interest. I find both guys attractive and nice, but I don’t feel too excited about seeing them because I don’t feel that we have a lot in common…. One of them is extremely quiet and this annoys me…. I feel that I can’t have a proper conversation with him. And the other one is more fun, but he doesn't have an education.... and I feel that I should find one who does. I guess this has always been an important aspect of a person for me.

But anyway, with the guys that were uninterested when I was, I feel that even though these men were not innocent and were also immature, impolite, selfish or simply not interested in me… I may have also be doing something wrong. Something that I haven’t been able to see. And I think this may have to do with me being too sensitive, expecting too much from men too soon, being a bit quick with my expectations or too easily offended… Not giving myself the chance to develop attraction if it wasn't there initially... Or maybe it’s something else… I just honestly think that I must be doing something wrong when this situation happens over and over again… and when I have one failure after another.

I also feel that these men, most of them, have an advantage over me. Most of the men that I meet here are locals, whereas I am a foreigner. This puts them in a situation of advantage over me. I am alone in this country, but they are not. They have a lot of things to do with their multiple friends and family members here. I usually don’t have many plans. I am not very familiar with the place, they are. This shouldn't be a problem I guess, but lately I have felt that maybe it is... For this reason, I sometimes think that I should only date other foreign men, like me, because that makes things more balanced between us. But I don’t know if this is the right approach in dating…

Also, some friends have told me that I should stop dating… that I should focus on other aspects of life… I see their point but I feel that I cannot abandon myself to this loneliness… I don’t have many people here and having a partner has always been important for me… I also feel that I cannot delay this… I am not so young and I cannot postpone dating until I am older… mainly, because I want to have children.

Anyway… I just thought maybe you could share some insights with me… and help me navigate this painful process. Thank you for reading me.
posted by Fromthesouth to Human Relations (22 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
First off, stop trying to force it. As long as you are engaging on a generally honest level, whether or not someone else is into you or decides to date someone else is out of your hands. It's also not your right - if someone isn't feeling it, that's FINE, they get to have a say. Wish them well and send them on their way. Equally, if you're not feeling it for someone, time's up, move on.

Be yourself. If you're too sensitive for someone, that's a mismatch, let it go. If someone isn't generally matching your interest level, let it go. Don't waste time. If he's too immature, there you go, he's too immature for you. This isn't about winning or losing or who's to blame, it's whether it's a good fit or not. Stop dating people when it stops being a good fit.

Most of the men that I meet here are locals, whereas I am a foreigner. This puts them in a situation of advantage over me. I am alone in this country, but they are not. They have a lot of things to do with their multiple friends and family members here. I usually don’t have many plans. I am not very familiar with the place, they are.

So...okay? I mean, yeah, cultural differences can be an extra layer of difficulty, but again: when you really get along with someone, that stuff stops mattering as much. I don't understand why this should be a reason not to date someone, but you ultimately get to decide that.

It might be for the best to stop dating for, say, three months? Spend some time with you, coming to embrace who you are and that it's best to be with someone who also embraces who you are. Spend some time thinking harder about what you actually want and find to be a good match with your goals and personality, and then stop dating men that turn out not to be those things when you start dating again. Your eggs aren't going to dry up in three or six months, and you're going to waste a lot less time overall if you're truly prepared - in a homework and getting-right-with-yourself way - to meet a long-term partner at that point.
posted by Lyn Never at 6:30 PM on January 6, 2018 [4 favorites]

Dating from a position of lonliness and need is never going to work. My suggestion is that you stop dating and spend this year making friends and developing hobbies that involve other people and creating a family of choice.
posted by DarlingBri at 6:32 PM on January 6, 2018 [46 favorites]

I am alone in this country, but they are not. They have a lot of things to do with their multiple friends and family members here. I usually don’t have many plans. I am not very familiar with the place, they are.

I don't know how long you are planning to be in this country or what the dating pool is like but... you sound pretty homesick. And so the dates/relationships are higher-stakes for you than for him, because you don't have a local support network, plus your desire for children. Is there a way to build a non-date network of friends? Hobbies? Meetups?

For what it's worth, I don't think you did anything wrong in any of those relationships, as presented. The first guy had different priorities than you, the second guy you weren't attracted to, the third guy was flaky and unwilling to change, and the fourth guy had drug problems. Not sure that any of those scenarios is great for co-parenting. So I wouldn't call them failures. The biggest thing is to use those experiences to figure out what you do/do not want in a co-parent.
posted by basalganglia at 6:33 PM on January 6, 2018 [3 favorites]

I think the one thing you are doing that isn’t helping you is dating these people for too long before you realize they aren’t a good fit. For example, why date the young coworker of you already knew that he wasn’t in the same place, in terms of goals, as you. It’s alright to state your end goals right off the bat and cross off those that don’t share the same goals.

As to the loneliness, find friends first, so you aren’t coming to dating from a place of scarcity.

Lastly, and unsolicited, with anyone you date long term/forever one of the most important things will be the feeling of friendship between you. It’s the glue that will keep you together in the tough times. Truly.
posted by Vaike at 6:50 PM on January 6, 2018 [9 favorites]

there seem to be two separate problems here. Others have touched on the dating. I’ll add a bit more about your expat existence.

You seem to have few local connections and seem to be a bit bored and lonely. Dating can help pass the time and distract from feeling isolated but as you are finding it really does not solve the overall problem. What would you do at home? What sports do you play (going to the gym alone does not count, this has to be a team sport, class/club or at least a two player thing like tennis), what other hobbies do you have or might want to try? Could you volunteer? Have you explored this country and the local area or region? And are there any other expats you could go exploring with? Basically, find things to do, preferably things that force you to talk to people and make connections. Connections you make as part of such a joint pursuit would go a long way to making you feel less lonely and you will have a range of other things to do the next time you date.
posted by koahiatamadl at 6:59 PM on January 6, 2018

I'm curious whether you dated at all in your home country, and if so, how it was different from your experiences in your adopted country (other than feeling like you were on a more level playing field in terms of being familiar with the area, etc.). Like...what makes these relationships "failures" while the ones at home that ALSO all ended (I mean, they have to have, or you wouldn't be single, right?) are ...not?

I guess it just seems bizarre to me that you feel like you have no options, everything is a disaster, you should have settled for a guy with a drug problem, etc. You've literally had more relationships/dating partners in the past year than I have had in my entire life. You're coming from a mentality of scarcity but scarcity is not your problem.

I don't mean to sound harsh, but basically you just sound like you're exhausted and these dudes sound like they're completely sub-par. Dating sub-par guys isn't fun. You gotta stop doin' that.

If you're honest with yourself, you knew with most of these dudes right away that they sucked. You knew that work dude wasn't ready to settle down. You KNEW you didn't want to get freaky with the nice but unattractive dude. You KNOW these two dudes you're seeing lately just suck all kinds of butt and you can't even talk to them. But you kept dating them anyway, out of vague fears and loneliness. Well, that way lies exhaustion and despair, and here you are.

Your friends are right, much as it sucks to hear it. You gotta just stop with the dating. You just gotta build your life, find your friends, learn your new home! THEN start looking into the whole dating thing.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 7:03 PM on January 6, 2018 [12 favorites]

Just back to say looking at your history you’ve been in this country for a while now. Assuming you’ve extended your contract you really need to focus on the local connections, not dating.

Alternatively, if you have now learned the language and you have dedicated significant time and effort into making local connections that are NOT romantic interests and you still aren’t developing these connections consider if the country is really for you. Not all people are equally happy and well suited to living in all countries.
posted by koahiatamadl at 7:29 PM on January 6, 2018 [2 favorites]

Thank you all for your answers. They help a lot, they really do.

Some of you raised some issues that I feel that I need to explain better. Someone asked here, why I dated the young co-worker when I already knew that it wasn't going to work. Well, precisely, because I thought it might, even if odds were against. I thought 'why reject someone who is so interested in me?, there are good relationships with significant age gaps'... But this is why I think that I am completely lost when choosing my partners... because I seem to make the wrong choice, over and over. For instances, in the case of the second guy. He was a nice, mature man who treated me decently. But I just never really showed a lot of interest in him because I wasn't too attracted to him. Now that time has passed, I'm judging my criteria and thinking that it might be completely flawed. It's also confusing when you apparently have so many 'choices'. I live in a big city and I meet new men all the time. Of course, in many cases, I find out that these are not suitable choices, but I realize that after I already spent time with them and gave them a chance. I would like to know earlier if they are a suitable, just to avoid the pain.

Many of you focused your advice on how I need to make an effort to develop connections here, to make friends, to build a netowork for me. I have made an effort to build a network, and I have some friends here. Some of these friends are closer than others, but I have met many nice people here. Some friends that I have met here have also left, because people come and go here all the time. The thing with friends is that they are just that, friends. I like them, but I cannot get from them the same level of love and attention that I can only get from a partner, and of course I cannot get sex and intimacy from them. Also, they have their own lifes, works, partners, problems, children, pets, trips... I am not their priority in their life and although I value friendship, I know that many times friends leave, friends find partners and they stop going out when they do... I don't see why I should focus on friendship first when I can do both things simultaneosly. I've really made an effort to balance both things but I cannot just quit dating and reject the men that have expressed some interst in me. Because I do not only need friends, I also need love. And even if I had dozens of friends, I would still be coming from a place of 'scarcity' to a relationship. Because I would not be lacking friendship, but I would still be lacking love. I realize that in this country I will never have as many friends as in my home country, but the reasons why I came here were not because I thought I could have many friends here. I came here because of my job, and that was an important reason for me. I don't know for how long I will stay here (right now my contract was extended for two years) but I know that at the moment I am here... and I should be thinking as a person who lives here and not somewhere else.
posted by Fromthesouth at 8:31 PM on January 6, 2018

Something else, someone here asked me if my dating experience had been significantly different in my home country. Well, yes and no. It was different in the sense that all the men that I met there and I share the same culture. This already makes me more familiar with their ways. I have a better feeling of who they are when I meet them, even from subtle things such as words they use. I obviously don’t know the people here as well as I know the people of my country so I am navigating with less information. Also, it was different in the sense that I think the men there also get a better idea of who I am, whereas here a lot of people see me as an exotic girl, there I am just one of them and they see me more as a normal person. I had some stable happy relationships in my home country and I also had some very bad ones there. I also had one nice long-term relationship with someone abroad, but not from the country where I currently live. What is significantly different, is that back in my country, and maybe this is related to the fact that I come from a smaller city, I only had a few dating choices. But here, I meet many more men. Something else that is different, I am older now, and I feel more pressure now to find 'the one'.
posted by Fromthesouth at 8:45 PM on January 6, 2018

Some relationships are never going to work out. For example, because you work with them (not necessarily a death knell but often bad news), because they're flaky and not ready to commit, because they have drug issues, because they're not mature enough. Because neither of you are really interested (no chemistry). I wouldn't characterize the relationships you talked about as failures on your part, not at all. It sounds like these guys were not good for you and it was never going to work. So don't think you did anything wrong or you need to "power through" a relationship until you feel good about it.

If I had to find myself another husband in this country , I would join a local club or organization that skews below 40. For example, Junior Chamber International. If a local man is in JCI, he's got his shit together enough to be active in his community. Or, I dunno, a running group or something. Then I would go to that club for a year and (this is also important) enjoy it on its own merits and see if anyone there seems interesting. Then, I would invite that person to do something 1 on 1, if that doesn't work out, rinse and repeat.

Or, I might try the group date things that happen in Japan ("gokon") but I don't know if you have any local equivalent. I'd try a speed dating service if I were anywhere near something approaching a big city.

You can find someone who loves you for you, not because you're "exotic." But the power dynamic thing of living as a foreigner is part of the package and something you can work on by both improving your grasp of the language and culture, and by being choosy about who your friends and allies are (nice understanding people who are willing to try to "get" you, as opposed to close minded patronizing jerks who have never been out of the country).
posted by sacchan at 8:57 PM on January 6, 2018 [2 favorites]

The first few paragraphs describing your dating life don't make you sound like a failure. You took some chances on a few people and I'd say you made the right decisions about them.
posted by bonobothegreat at 10:13 PM on January 6, 2018 [2 favorites]

I cannot just quit dating and reject the men that have expressed some interst in me. Because I do not only need friends, I also need love. And even if I had dozens of friends, I would still be coming from a place of 'scarcity' to a relationship. Because I would not be lacking friendship, but I would still be lacking love.

(a) Sure, you can! If you don't want to be romantically involved with them, you 10000000% can reject them. Them being interested in you doesn't mean you owe them anything but kindness and respect when you tell they you're not interested. People take breaks from dating all the time. No one here is telling you that you need to quit dating forever, but it can be super useful to take a break from it to focus on yourself, which brings me to....

(b) A romantic relationship is not the end-all, be-all of human experience, and it's not the only way to find and experience and share love. There are all kinds of love in the world -- including the platonic love we find in friendships. I know many women, including myself, whose friendships have proven more emotionally fulfilling at times than romantic ones. I think perhaps you need better friends; real friends. "Not dating anyone" is NOT AT ALL the same thing as "abandoning yourself to loneliness."

(c) not to sound like a cliche, but I think the person you need to learn to love the most is yourself. Because even if you DO end up in a relationship with a great person, that doesn't mean you're not ever going to feel lonely or sad again, and it doesn't mean you won't ever be on your own again. People die. People break-up. Shit happens. The only person you know will ALWAYS be with you is yourself. You are looking for another person to fill a hole in your life right now. Try to fill it yourself and see how you feel. Having a string of dating failures SUCKS, I totally, totally get it -- but it's so much easier to deal with if you're not pining so much of your hopes for future happiness and contentment on another person.
posted by Countess Sandwich at 10:45 PM on January 6, 2018 [11 favorites]

I seem to make the wrong choice, over and over.

This is basically the definition of dating. All relationships fail until one doesn't.

I cannot just quit dating and reject the men that have expressed some interest in me.

Sure you can. And also why are all these other people in charge? Why are you sitting there like a passive princess?
Why are you not pursuing the men who interest you?

Because I do not only need friends, I also need love. And even if I had dozens of friends, I would still be coming from a place of 'scarcity' to a relationship. Because I would not be lacking friendship, but I would still be lacking love.

Romantic love is not the only love, nor is it healthy to get all you love from romantic ties. Love your friends, love yourself.
posted by DarlingBri at 12:49 AM on January 7, 2018 [7 favorites]

I thought 'why reject someone who is so interested in me?

What I was looking for was some advice into what things I should look for when I meet a man

What you should be looking for is a mutual interest, not just their interest in you. DarlingBri is right - you’re giving all of your power away by thinking that their interest in you is the only criteria that matters. Find men you’re interested in and then see if it’s mutual. Sure, you might go on fewer dates but you’re going to waste a lot less time in relationships that are never going to work.

I know how hard dating in a foreign country is - I’ve done it. And you know who I ended up with? The guy where we both felt a strong connection when we met and it wasn’t just about him pursuing me and me giving in because it was ‘better than nothing’.

As others have pointed out, ‘nothing’ is not always the worst outcome.
posted by scrute at 1:43 AM on January 7, 2018 [5 favorites]

[One deleted. Fromthesouth, sorry, but Ask Metafilter isn't meant to be a back and forth conversation, or place to debate or react to every suggestion. You will get different sorts of advice, and it's fine to just relax and focus on whatever seems helpful to you while ignoring answers that don't seem useful.]
posted by taz (staff) at 2:36 AM on January 7, 2018

What things should you look for when you meet a man?
How does he treat others, especially those with less power?
Is he sexy to you?
Is he trustworthy? Do his words match his actions?
Is he grown up; does he manage his own finances, his own person, his own feelings?
What is he looking for? Does he want to be loved? What does love look like for him?
These things take some time to figure out unless you make them a priority to discover in your dates.
posted by SyraCarol at 11:06 AM on January 7, 2018 [1 favorite]

I think you should keep in mind going forward two things: 1) Trust your instincts, and act on them. In some of these cases you knew you weren't interested or it wouldn't work out, and of course it's fine to go down that road for a bit to make sure but if I were you I would focus on what you know to be true and move on when you don't think it will work out or you have misgivings. Thing 2) is that what you describe sounds pretty normal for dating. Going through a period where you get situated and you try some different things out - some of which end in you rejecting the other person, some of which end up with them rejecting you, unfortunately some of which end up with one party or the other not acting the best they can. Think of it as both a slew of learning experiences combined with the unfortunate randomness inherent to this process that has chosen to send a lot of situations your way that just didn't end well.

If you want to keep dating, keep dating. If you think you need a break, take a break. But realize that the discouragement you're feeling right now is normal and new opportunities are still around the bend.
posted by knownfossils at 12:37 PM on January 7, 2018

I do think you should find a different framing than "failure" just because you haven't sparked and married one yet. I think you're right, in one sense, that dating in another culture - especially if it's a fairly different masculinity/femininity/family relationship culture - is harder work. That's going to mean that a higher percentage of men you might meet at any moment are maybe Not For You as far as the kind of husband you want and also the kind of wife they expect. Language is an issue too, obviously, and it's harder to find the red flags when you don't speak the same dogwhistles.

So maybe you need to decide that you're going to give X amount of time together with any one person simply as an exploratory process, unless he fails a Serious Red Flag before that time period is up and you stop early, and just understand that you're doing due diligence. It's not a personal failure if you decide it's not going to work out, it's just the process.

You may also need to have a firm conversation with yourself about whether you want to marry into this culture. Do you? If you don't, then go date expats. If you really really don't, do you maybe need to reswizzle your life to get back to the culture you want to marry into?
posted by Lyn Never at 6:37 PM on January 7, 2018

I think you're treating dates way too seriously. A date is just that : a single date. Maybe a coffee at lunchtime or if you have a good rapport a dinner. Neither of you have any obligation whatsoever to contact the other ever again. Go on way more dates than four in a year. Heck, I had a girlfriend who would organise five a week just for the sake of it.

If you dead keen to see him again, contact him afterwards. If you get a good positive response then go for date 2.

Rinse and repeat until you're in a relationship
posted by tillsbury at 9:27 PM on January 7, 2018 [1 favorite]

Drugs, cancelled dates and so on save you a lot of time. Block their numbers and carry on.
posted by tillsbury at 9:28 PM on January 7, 2018 [1 favorite]

Date the guy with no "education". I thought I had low basic qualifications for men when they were:
1. has some sort of post high school education (trade school, apprenticeship, college)
2. does not live with parents
3. non smoker
4. has a job
5. not a crimnal

Well...I never actually dated anyone who met all five of those, but they did turn out to be excellent humans anyway.
posted by WeekendJen at 1:54 PM on January 8, 2018

To be honest, your dating experience sounds very healthy and normal.

I suggest you think really hard about how you really want to feel in a relationship and what kind of a relationship you would most hope to find. Are you looking for marriage? Something long term with possibilities?

Also, observe your friends who are happily coupled. The ones who don't need to complain or vent about their relationship because everything's always cool. Observe how they interact, how the guy treats the girl, how she responds, etc.

And take care of yourself emotionally - don't get sucked into to feeling lonely, that will make you take bad decisions. See friends, do other things, other interests, make sure that you are seeking a relationship from a place of security and fulfillment, not emptiness or boredom.

Trust yourself. Sure, you can make adjustments to your criteria, sure you can experiment a bit to see if you are being too picky, or too unavailable, but it really comes down to trusting yourself and how you feel. Don't spend too much energy on regretting past decisions - for example, dumping the guy who was on drugs and stuff was a REALLY GOOD THING - not some lost opportunity to have true love and save someone at the same time... !

You can't force it. All you can do is take your chances, try to learn and take care of yourself and try to focus on what's important for you. And yes, they are not failed relationships - on the contrary, those were difficult and painful relationships that you successfully avoided.
posted by Locochona at 8:49 AM on January 14, 2018

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