Intimidated by guy I'm dating
May 6, 2020 4:22 AM   Subscribe

I think this guy I'm dating (which at the moment means lots of video calls) is great. We have a lot in common, and get on really well. Very similar ways of being and thinking about the world. We've just come back into each other's lives after working together many years ago, so he's not a stranger. But as I get to know him the more I keep feeling like he is 'better' than me in many ways. He's quite focused on achievements and accolades, which is probably making me feel a little on edge. And he was in the past an avoidant person but now feels he has moved past this and is very keen to settle down. I can feel myself going from feeling secure with myself to anxious, and I don't like it (this is not uncommon for me in relationships). And I keep also getting this feeling he's better for my super successful friend, in lots of uncanny ways. I realise this is odd. Could it be that he And I should set them up, or is this just self-sabotage?

He's really into me and I think he's truly awesome. I've actually been following him as a person peripherally for years (he has a successful blog etc) and feel admiration for who he is as a person and for the way he lives his life. This is somewhat intimidating. We also both want the same things in life, to similar timelines, and have talked openly and excitedly about that.

He is making all the right signals of interest, is consistent and kind, and seems to be very emotionally mature.

But I keep imaginging him one day meeting my friend and realising she's better suited to him. Down to similarities in looks, career paths and industries, mindsets, leisure activities, daily routines - even family setups. I realise this is weird, but I'm almost inclined to check with my friend to see if she's attracted to him in case they are meant to be.

He's not had any really long term relationships yet - longest is 18 months and he's 40. He is adamant he has done a lot of work in therapy and has come to a place where he is very ready for commitment, if he finds the right person. This is also putting me on edge - I worry that, if none of the other (highly accomplished) women weren't enough, how can I be?

Or that he'll realise over time that I'm some sort of fraud that talks a good game about living a good life but on a daily basis can be really up and down and a complex person to live with. Or that I'm not good enough for him (he's super successful, and basically living a dream life with an amazing bunch of friends and family. I'm.....not, although by most standards my life looks pretty good from the outside. I also have very many great attributes like being kind, generous and intelligent).

Is this just self-sabotage from bad self-esteem or could it just be that despite him being amazing and really into me, my unconscious is not into it?

I realise the friend thing is kind of a strange thing to be thinking about. But it's distracting me a lot and making me wary of growing more feelings for him, along with the other fears.

Am I just not ready for dating?
posted by starstarstar to Human Relations (17 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
This is also putting me on edge - I worry that, if none of the other (highly accomplished) women weren't enough, how can I be?

I used to ignore everyone else in my dating life because I wanted someone similar to me in terms of accomplishments and creativity. I dated other artists and other people wrapped up in accolades.
Turns out we weren’t at all compatible and in fact our similarities made them intolerable in the long run. He’s probably opening himself up to more people and it sounds like he likes you. If he’s truly mature and gone through therapy chances are he knows what is best for him in a long term partner rather than surface level similarities. That’s why you see a lot of people who seem “amazing” settled down with someone who may not be on their “level.” Compatibility is far more complex.
posted by Young Kullervo at 5:05 AM on May 6, 2020 [5 favorites]

Do you actually like this guy? You've written an essay here and the only positives you list about this person are qualities you assumed about him during the period you had no personal contact. Of course he makes himself look interesting in his own blog.

Stop worrying if he likes you or not, or likes you enough or more than your friend maybe. For the next few weeks, your sole focus should be "do I actually like this guy, really?"

If it's your anxiety telling you you're not good enough that's one thing, but I don't get the impression from what you've written that you've spent a lot of time looking at this dude with a critical eye. HE needs to be right for YOU before you start concerning yourself with whether you're good enough for him.
posted by phunniemee at 5:08 AM on May 6, 2020 [65 favorites]

Your question reads to me like you are a bit down on yourself about your achievements and success and that being in this relationship is creating a bit of anxiety because there's a mis-match between how this guy sees you and how you see yourself. Everyone seems more successful on the outside than they feel on the inside - he may see something in you that he aspires to and feels a bit insecure about.

If you stay together you will both get to see more of how you are both complex people with ups and downs. Relationships can founder on a lot of things but I don't see anything in what you wrote that makes me think you can't be happy with this man.
posted by crocomancer at 5:10 AM on May 6, 2020 [3 favorites]

I actually came in to ask exactly what Phunniemee asked. I can't actually tell if you like this guy! It seems like you don't like how he makes you feel when you're around him, that's not a great sign. But if you really like the guy and you want things to work out, then I would look inward towards yourself and reflect (with our without the aid of a therapist) on why your self-esteem is feels fragile around him.

(Although I have to say, "He's quite focused on achievements and accolades" sounds like a turn off.)

"could it just be that despite him being amazing and really into me, my unconscious is not into it?" If it turns out you don't actually like him, maybe you feel guilty that he looks great "on paper" but for some reason you're not feeling it? I've definitely been there with guys in the past. This is totally a legit thing. It's ok you don't click with someone who is "great". Just come clean and say you like him but you think it's more just as a friend and let things end.

Setting him up with a friend is a red herring. Anyway it's hard to set someone up with someone you've already dated.( ie "If he's so great, why aren't you dating him? What's wrong with him? Why is he good enough for me but not for you?") Instead, focus on your feelings and motivations.
posted by like_neon at 5:54 AM on May 6, 2020 [3 favorites]

Attraction is a complex phenomenon. And he's attracted to you it would seem. The fact that he doesn't yet know the more private you is normal at this point. People unfold over time and I've never been close to anyone who wasn't at least a bit challenging in some way or another. A hell of a lot of people sell themselves better than they deliver. And all of that applies to him as much as you.

I don't see anything in your question that gives me pause. Except the feelings of anxiety or insecurity that are coming up. No matter the source, it's not sustainable to live with a situation that creates feelings that undermine your sense of self.

For that reason alone it makes sense to at least slow things down. This might allow you to protect yourself as you get to know the guy better. And it will give you more time to work out whether you really like him or not. Social distancing could be an ally here.

Remember too that ideally an SO will help you feel like the best version of yourself. At least some of the time. Things should be feeling great at this point because it's all new(ish) and there's so much promise. If that's not happening then maybe this isn't the right situation for you now, regardless of how great the idea of it might feel.

Whatever you end up doing, don't forget to be kind to yourself.
posted by mewsic at 7:27 AM on May 6, 2020 [2 favorites]

seems to be very emotionally mature[...]

He is adamant he has done a lot of work in therapy and has come to a place where he is very ready for commitment

How do you feel about yourself? Do you feel emotionally mature? Have you done the work you need to in order to function well in a relationship?

Those challenges would be far more intimidating to me than achievements and accolades.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 8:06 AM on May 6, 2020 [1 favorite]

My partner tells me we're like yin and yang. We wouldn't work if we were both yin or both yang.

Also, do you know why people always seem to end up doing the same thing even though it doesn't work out? It's comfortable. And what might be healthier? Uncomfortable! A person might say, "Man, I only attract people who won't commit." but explain they don't feel chemistry with anyone who wants to commit because it is (unconsciously) a new, uncomfortable position. They reject it mostly without thinking and find someone who will replay the same old pattern.

I had to work on that a lot. So is your being uncomfortable genuine (valid!) or because something about this isn't what you're used to even if it's a good thing?
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 8:16 AM on May 6, 2020 [2 favorites]

I think this falls squarely into the "mind reading" camp of self-sabotage. You're making a lot of inferences about what he finds attractive in you and projecting those inferences outward onto him and onto your friend.

When you feel these thoughts creeping in, are you able to notice that happening in the moment? Can you recognize your "triggers" for these thoughts, and identify some strategies for short circuiting the usual loop of following that trigger down the path of difficult thoughts that make you wonder if you're sabotaging yourself? I'm in therapy (ACT) for this sort of thing. I started with a workbook that was so helpful that I found a therapist.

I get the impression you two have been fairly open with one another about your histories and trajectories. Is this situation something you think you'd be comfortable bringing up with him?
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 9:14 AM on May 6, 2020 [2 favorites]

You know what else your best friend and him both have in common? YOU. You're clearly very compatible with all those traits you see in both of them. And having things in common isn't nearly as important as compatibility in a relationship.

You said your life looks good on the outside... what makes you think his real life (not the blog version) is NOT just as complex with daily ups and downs?

You seem to be in the vulnerable and scared phase. So you're overthinking it and self-sabotaging by believing that, "omg, he's so wonderful and he's going to come to his senses and leave me after seeing how much of a fraud I am because I clearly don't deserve someone that wonderful so I'm going to make excuses before be can see who really am". It happens. It's scary and uncomfortable. Whether you chose to face the discomfort and brave it out to try to make this work OR turn around and run and screw it up and be alone - that's a choice you have to make. Daily. Best of luck to you.
posted by Neekee at 12:32 PM on May 6, 2020 [3 favorites]

So, one thing to think about is that you're not getting any in-person time with this person, and so you are not getting a lot of the cues that make up "good chemistry," the interactions that make you think "we are a good fit" and drive out a lot of those intellectual doubts.

Not to mention that spending time in a person's presence, in their home and neighborhood and life, gives you a much fuller picture of them as a fallible normal human. You're still essentially just dating his Insta, you know?

Now obviously people get past this because distance relationships do often work out! But be aware that you're making your inferences about him based on like 30-40% of the normal data you'd have.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 1:17 PM on May 6, 2020 [3 favorites]

So I think there are a few possibilities here, and I definitely can't say what's going on with any confidence:

Could this be self-sabotage? Absolutely. Do you usually struggle with self-esteem and valuing yourself, with comparing yourself to others? Are you pretty jealous of your friend in general? Why is your friend better or more deserving than you? Another framing on this could be that wow, this amazing awesome guy is into you, so you must be pretty amazing yourself!

A friend of mine once said to me, "Do you trust yourself to know who is safe to love?" Meaning, if you don't always make great choices in dating, sometimes we doubt our feelings, even when things seem good.

Attachment issues at play: if you are generally securely attached but lean at all anxious, then anything he does that feels mildly avoidant could be really stressful for you, and then you start to wonder, "Am I good enough?" Also, have you been in a relationship before where your partner left you for another woman? Maybe someone you knew? I wonder why you are focusing on your friend in particular. Any guesses as to what they could mean?

It's also possibly that you are feeling red flags you can't quite articulate yet. Does he seem boastful or like he thinks he's better than other folks? Is he judgmental or negative?

Early in a relationship, we put our best selves forward. He should seem pretty awesome! It takes a while to see what someone is really like as a partner, even if we have dated them for a while. (My therapist once told me I was lucky to see big red flags with someone who I had been dating about three weeks; her comment was that it usually takes three months for that stuff to start to show itself.)

I definitely want to push back on this way of thinking:
I worry that, if none of the other (highly accomplished) women weren't enough, how can I be?
This is really not a good way to think about people, as if we are a list of achievements and accomplishments, and we have to find a partner who is has a similar list. Like somehow we are dating down if our partner hasn't won awards in their field but we are award-inning widget builders. People aren't sums of their accomplishments, and relationships don't work because people are similar in their accomplishments. I think you might know this intellectually. Do you think you are better or worse than other people? If so, that would be a very healthy thing to work on.

Am I just not ready for dating?
There's not necessarily a magic time when we are "ready." Do you want to be dating? Then date. Yes, it can be stressful, and come with the risk of getting hurt.

It's a complicated time to be initiating a relationship. Has it all happened remotely? Have you been intimate together and been able to measure your chemistry as dating partners? I can see why this situation would be extra anxiety-producing. There's only one possible issue I do want to highlight, in case you hadn't considered it: he said he has been avoidant in the past but is working on that in therapy. Is it possible that dating remotely is another way of avoiding intimacy? Maybe not, and I don't mean to sow doubt.

If there's a way you can both relax and enjoy this and keep an open mind about your possible future with him, it sounds like it's worth moving forward.
posted by bluedaisy at 2:31 PM on May 6, 2020 [3 favorites]

Some great comments so far, I just want to add the following:

You think he's great, and "We have a lot in common, and get on really well. Very similar ways of being and thinking about the world." Maybe that's why he's interested in you.

That he was once avoidant and has "moved past it"and "He is adamant he has done a lot of work in therapy and has come to a place where he is very ready for commitment, if he finds the right person." I'd be a little wary of that tbh. I'm not saying that it can't happen, but it sounds a little like love bombing to me. That plus "We also both want the same things in life, to similar timelines, and have talked openly and excitedly about that" just gives me a little pause. Just a little. Like definitely keep getting to know him. There's no rush, especially now. I'd be interested to know what he says about his avoidant nature and if he can speak honestly about it, and how he's come to this place of being ready for a commitment.

On thinking that he's too good for you/you're not good enough for him/thinking your friend would be better matched: you ARE good enough for him. For whatever reason, you don't believe it and it's worth thinking about that. Is he good enough for you? Is he good for you? There could be a few things at play here. I think this thinking does point to some self-worth issues. And/or it could be that you're not that into him, but you feel like you "should" be because he's so great on paper, etc., and it's coming out as "I'm not good enough." That's certainly happened to me before. And you just so happen to have a friend that lines up on a lot of things with him, and so what? You could have everything in common with someone on paper, but the chemistry just falls flat. The point is, you have no idea and it's easier to fixate on this rather than looking at the real issues: Do you think you're worthy? Do you think he's right for you?

Am I just not ready for dating?
Only you can answer this. I peeked your post history and you've been through a lot. Would you say you're in "good working order," as Dan Savage puts it? Be honest with yourself here.
posted by foxjacket at 4:17 PM on May 6, 2020

I can't answer all of your question, but I can speak to the part about setting him up with your "successful" friend.

Last year I was dating a woman. One day she told me "I know this sounds weird, but I can't shake the feeling that I'm supposed to introduce you to my friend J. Like, you two would be perfect for each other."

"Uh, you and I are dating. Are you wanting to break up?"

"No. Not at all. But I just feel you and J have so much in common. If you and I didn't work out, but you and J did, and I could be at your wedding, at least I'd be happy knowing I brought you happiness."

I didn't understand. I still don't understand. And we broke up soon after. I can't imagine a situation where saying "I think you and my friend would be awesome together!" doesn't ruin the relationship and make you sound... weird. I suggest you don't do this unless and until you are already broken up.
posted by tacodave at 6:12 PM on May 6, 2020 [7 favorites]

Seems like maybe you are getting along, but you're noticing some icky feelings in you and some yellow flags in him. Maybe you can work through it -- try to just enjoy being who you are with him.

But then again, for me, I'm learning more and more not to force things when they don't jive. If I have to be a different person to maintain the relationship, it's not worth it. Too much stress.

Surely there is some work for both of you as individuals (for all of us, right!), but if it takes work to feel good in the very beginning, it's not going to get easier.

As for your friend... I'm wondering how much of that is coming out of insecurity. You don't need to introduce him to anyone until well after you decide not to pursue each other romantically and see that you can be friends anyway.
posted by jander03 at 7:57 PM on May 6, 2020

This sounds a lot like the start of my relationship. My boyfriend is incredibly impressive in almost every way imaginable to me, and he also used to be pretty avoidant- as did I. My avoidance manifested in choosing partners I felt ambivalent towards, and he was the first real exception.

At the beginning, I felt very anxious for the first time, because he seemed too good to be true, the stakes were high, and if he’d left his (stunning/highly intelligent/extremely accomplished/terribly nice) ex girlfriends, surely I wouldn’t last long. I also had depression, and felt stuck in a job I hated. I didn’t feel I had much to offer.

The way I got through it was by reminding myself that even if it proved to be short lived, I loved being with him and he was making me happy. If we broke up, I wouldn’t feel it had been a waste of time. If I got hurt, it was a price I was willing to pay. I didn’t want to spend my (possibly limited) time with this amazing person worrying about when and how it would end.

I think my anxiety was a reaction to the vulnerability of being hurt by someone I really liked. But I realised that love comes with the inbuilt risk of being hurt, and that I couldn’t fast forward the uncertainty of getting to know someone. I had to sit with the discomfort of not being sure of his feelings towards me, or if I could trust him. Because these are things that take time to unfold.

We’re now a year in and although I still think he’s the most amazing person I’ve ever met, I feel very secure in the relationship. Partly because I’ve got to know him as a real person with flaws. And partly because I see what he values and loves about me. I still admire him greatly, but I don’t have him on a pedestal.

I do still worry I’ll mess it up from time to time, because I never thought I could be happy like this, but I remind myself that even if we don’t work out and I get my heartbroken, the impact he’s had on my life has been more than worth it.

It’s possible you guys won’t work out for all sorts of reasons. Maybe he’ll break up with you, maybe you’ll realise you actually don’t like him that much, maybe one of you will die in a freak accident. Is that a risk you’re willing to take? If he did meet and fall in love with your brilliant friend, would it have been a waste of time? Would you prefer to avoid that potential future hurt than spend time with him now? Will you trade the possibility of falling in love for the possibility of heartbreak?

I love this quote by CS Lewis, which sums it up much better than I could:
“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”

You ask if you’re ready to date- I don’t know what that means exactly, but I wondered the same thing about myself. I used to think you needed to be perfectly self sufficient before entering a relationship, but I don’t believe that any more. Love is incredibly healing. In the last year, I’ve pretty much got on top of my depression (which I’d been struggling with for 4 years) and I’ve changed my career. This is in no small part because I have someone amazing in my corner. Being loved and giving love is, in my opinion, the quickest route to healing attachment issues, and many of the issues that go along with them.

But I’ve had therapy and read a lot of self help books, including books about attachment (Hold Me Tight by Sue Johnson was a game changer for me).
posted by Dwardles at 5:20 AM on May 13, 2020 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Hi All,

Update: So, I dated him for a while, and realised he had some intimacy issues and that I didn't feel comfy. I think my spidey senses were picking up on these when I posted this question.

Also, he could be subtly undermining with his jokes which I think was leading to this sense that I wasn't 'good enough'. In fact, he only seemed to surround himself with 'impressive' people, places and things - along with a whole host of other quite narcissistic qualities.

For more detail on what happened, see here:

I hate being critical of others and always look for the best, and for some reason my natural inclination is to assume it's my issues when things don't feel 'right'. But I now realise I felt like crap because I was not feeling safe with him or like this was a good thing. So the person who said that this might be because I don't like him was right - I just couldn't admit it to myself!

I've finally listened to my gut and ended it. Took 3 months, but I got there. This is a positive step for me. Can take me much longer than that!
posted by starstarstar at 12:34 PM on July 28, 2020 [2 favorites]

Oh, wow, thanks for the update on this and the other post! Until today I hadn’t connected these two posts even though I shared the same wisdom from my therapist in both (oops!). Three
months is good — you have it a real shot, but you moved on when it became clear it wouldn’t work, before you were too attached.

I do wonder if having followed him for a while gave you a false impression of him. This happened with a friend of mine. He dated someone he had long admired professionally and I think it took him a bit to realize he was drawn to her because of that more than because of relationship compatibility.

Anyway, you did the right thing and listened to your gut. Take care of yourself and let yourself feel sad and grieve this loss.
posted by bluedaisy at 9:56 PM on July 29, 2020

« Older Rhythmic chants & songs for toddler   |   Best garden tools Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.