Go on a date with me? In March? Of 2019?
February 25, 2018 11:39 PM   Subscribe

I made gym-friends with a clique of regulars late last year, and now I have a crush on one of them. He and I (mid-30s, hetero) are gradually moving toward talking about other things and spending time together outside the gym. We're both single right now, but we're each taking time off from dating to focus on personal growth. And, frankly, that's one of the things I really like about him.

I've been single for about two years and enjoy it enough to not want to spend precious time and energy seeking out people to date. At the same time, there are things I really miss about having a partner, and when I get to know someone who might be a good fit, I end up daydreaming.

I don't know a lot about his romantic history, but I know he wants to spend some time without feeling like he's beholden to someone's expectations of him. I know he wants to seek out transformative, spiritually challenging experiences.

My friends encourage me to be bold with him, ask him out. Doing so is my usual style, but right now I hesitate. More than fearing rejection, I'm afraid that he likes me enough to give things a shot, and the relationship complicates his personal growth, and he ends up resenting me/the relationship.

On the other side, the "suck it up and keep things platonic" side, I'm afraid that if I keep my feelings to myself, I'll be hurt and jealous when he does start dating again. Plus the inevitable pain of harboring secret feelings until the crush fades away.

How do I navigate this in a sane, ethical, uplifting way?
posted by itesser to Human Relations (11 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
You are over thinking this. He's your gym friend. So this is pretty low stakes. His personal growth trajectory is his responsibility, not yours, so you can take that concern off the table. Just ask him out already.
posted by jojobobo at 12:34 AM on February 26, 2018 [12 favorites]

I would ask him out, but in a way that acknowledges his desire to focus on personal growth (and also gives him an easy out if the feelings aren't reciprocated). Paraphrasing from what you wrote, I would say, "Hey, I know you are focusing on personal growth right now, and I respect that so much. I've really been enjoying spending time together, and I'd like to go on a date with you. Are you free to eat ice cream/do peyote/make out Thursday evening?"

Another thing to think about is your own needs in this potential relationship, and how/whether they might be impacted by his desire to not feel beholden to someone else's expectations.
posted by BusyBusyBusy at 4:37 AM on February 26, 2018 [6 favorites]

He kinda sounds like the sort of guy that might say yes to going out but then when he doesn't meet your needs is all "but I warned you that I'm focusing on myself and don't want to be beholden to other people." I think you're better off keeping him as a gym buddy and trying to meet new potential partners who are emotionally available.
posted by emd3737 at 4:55 AM on February 26, 2018 [50 favorites]

Don’t worry about hindering his own “personal growth” and whatever resentment he might build because of it. You’re putting a lot of responsibility on yourself that frankly you are not responsible for.

But I would take this as a factor to consider in terms of relationship potential. If he is serious about not getting into a relationship then you should take him at his word and ask yourself if you’re willing to take that risk and ask him out knowing it might lead to you to being into it much more than he is. (Personally I agree with emd3737 and he’s already setting up excuses for being one foot out the door.)
posted by like_neon at 5:25 AM on February 26, 2018 [1 favorite]

100% what emd3737 said
posted by greta simone at 6:13 AM on February 26, 2018

It's been two years off- you sound ready to date again. You should pursue meeting people who are available and want what you want. I don't think this guy is truly it.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 6:34 AM on February 26, 2018 [6 favorites]

I know he wants to spend some time without feeling like he's beholden to someone's expectations of him

How did this even come up? If he's telling you this in a platonic context, I'd call it a fairly clear signal that he's not interested. This is not something you walk around volunteering to people you think you might want to date, unless you're testing to see if you can get some nice one-sided action as described above. (Also, this is language that warrants a bit of a side eye from a man...under normal circumstances, the "expectations" put on a man in a heterosexual dating relationship are not such as should overwhelm someone in their 30s. But maybe he had a particularly bad experience.)

Keep in mind that "personal growth" and "transformative, spiritually challenging experiences" are fairly empty concepts. People can use them freely to mean almost anything they like. I wouldn't take deployment of that rhetoric as necessarily a sign that you're spiritually in tune.
posted by praemunire at 7:13 AM on February 26, 2018 [21 favorites]

So I think this is about asking yourself what you really want and believing what he’s saying about himself:

He wants to spend some time without feeling like he's beholden to someone's expectations of him

If you go on a couple dates and you fall for him, are you going to be okay with him not wanting a relationship? He doesn’t want anyone to have expectations of him. Will you expect stuff of someone you’re involved with? I sure would!

I hope this isn’t mean but what he’s saying isn’t deep— he wants to be selfish right now. It’s also something players say to warn you they’re going to use you for sex, though obviously I have no idea if this is the case. Nothing wrong with any of that, but if you’re wanting to date seriously he’s not the appropriate person to focus on.
posted by kapers at 7:51 AM on February 26, 2018 [3 favorites]

Eh, I'm not as convinced as the others that this is a person signaling to you that they're not interested in either a relationship, generally, or a relationship with you, specifically. There's just not enough evidence here for me to go on to peg this dude as already having one foot out the door, so to speak, or planning for some side action sans commitment -- I've only got your description of what you sense or think he wants. And besides: people say all kinds of things when they're in those early days of just meeting/becoming attracting to someone, trying to suss out if there's mutual interest, whatever. You said that you're happy single now, too -- could be he's picking up on that and trying to mirror or match what he perceives to be your feelings on the subject.

You won't be able to reliably assess whether or not he's interested in dating you unless: 1) you ask him on a date or 2) he asks you on a date.

Personally, when I've been in situations where I felt "hesitant," as you say, I usually hang back a bit. That's because I like feeling fairly confident that both partners will pull their weight in the caring and feeding of the relationship-- so I usually prefer to wait and watch if they'll gin up the gumption to ask me out because I like being in relationships where we take turns ginning up our gumption. That isn't to say I never ask anyone out, just that I definitely do some gauging as we go along to make sure we're both investing fairly equally in the relationship.

For me, this waiting/watching approach -- whether in terms of asking him for a date in the first place or getting through that early period of dating -- will also clarify where he's at in terms of his goals re: "personal growth." Trust him to have ownership over this and to express where he's at to you in words as well as actions. And then you can decide based on what he says and does (or what he doesn't say or do) what works or will work (or what doesn't or won't work) for you, especially since you know that you can be happy and satisfied single.
posted by pinkacademic at 9:23 AM on February 26, 2018 [1 favorite]

I know he wants to spend some time without feeling like he's beholden to someone's expectations of him. I know he wants to seek out transformative, spiritually challenging experiences...  the relationship complicates his personal growth, and he ends up resenting me/the relationship

Ok. See he's already got you all twisted up with the new-agey player talk. Think about these statements he's made for a minute...

- He EXPECTS to spend time with someone without being held to expectations.  Wow. Selfserving bullshit.

- He WANTS transformative challenging experiences... except that those types of experinces arent ever things that you want to happen. Like ever.

- Realtionships don't complicate personal growth, they enhance it, UNLESS it's a very bad or unhealthy relationship. Realize he's only offering you that.

- And so all of this aside, this spiritually evolved man who can handle life's challenges and grow with them, would somehow passively let himself be persuaded by manipulative or malevolent means to not only get into, but stay with, a relationship that led him to RESENT. uh huh...wait what?

Leave this dude alone before YOU resent everything about him because he's using a script and telling you exactly who he is upfront, and don't "expect" anything different of him.
posted by OnefortheLast at 10:29 AM on February 26, 2018 [4 favorites]

You know, you guys met at the gym. It's not that uncommon that people have to give up their health and fitness efforts for a relationship. He may feel that taking care of himself is "selfish" and incompatible with a relationship. Let's be realistic here - unless both parties are really good at setting boundaries, relationships are more likely to undo personal growth rather than enhance it. This is how people with difficult relationship histories see the world, so it's not necessarily a matter of him being a player.
posted by blerghamot at 11:35 AM on February 26, 2018 [1 favorite]

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