Not trusting my gut on guy I'm dating
July 22, 2020 6:50 AM   Subscribe

I've been dating someone for three months. He's thoughtful, intelligent, successful, wants the same things in life as me and has made it clear that he sees a future with me (as much as someone can in such a short space of time). He also has literally built my dream life and is inviting me to be a part of it. But my gut keeps telling me to run away, and my therapist says that one of my key challenges is learning to tune into and act on my gut. I'm obsessing and would love your thoughts.

I worry I'm focusing on the negatives too much. I'm about to be 36, keen to have children and tired of being in a dating pool with guys that either don't have their shit together and so by default aren't ready for kids, or who are emotionally avoidant and not willing to put their cards on the table. This guy is neither of those things, and is up for doing the work of a real relationship. So I worry this is just my commitment issues - and potentially anxiety at having met someone so amazing - coming to the fore. What would you think?

Good things:
- He is open about wanting to settle down, feeling ready for children (a priority for me), about having done the necessary work to get to this point with a therapist (he went to boarding school from a young age and was very starved of love - so had a very avoidant dating pattern). He had one 18 month relationship which ended last year which he said went a long way to healing some of his commitment issues. However, he never loved her and they broke it off as they both felt (I think it was more that he felt) that what they had wasn't 'enough'. This was after they had moved in together to test the relationship (I kind of think you should know if you love someone before making that move, and wonder how much anxiety she was hiding?)
- He is very successful and leads a really great life. He's open and generous with this life - introducing me to friends and family, making fun trips happen all the time
- His future vision is the same as mine to an uncanny degree
- He's not afraid to challenge me and be honest about things, something which I find difficult (I have an anxious attachment pattern)
- Seems to have a realistic view of what to expect from relationships
- He's very good at going for what he wants and making things happen, which I find attractive
- Has great, very close long-term friendships - shows he is capable of longer term intimacy
- Is very up for 'doing the work' in a relationship
- Is kind when I open up to him about difficulties, and makes an effort to be there for me
- Is very consistent with communication, very much leading on this aspect of our relationship

Bad things:
- He has a very avoidant past (41 years old, has had one relationship in the past 20 or so years and many flings), and I think may have difficulty in general connecting to people. Even though I know this, I keep blame myself for what I feel is a lack of connection in our interactions (I'm not sure he feels this too, although I'm thinking about asking him as it's driving me crazy - like an elephant in the room)
- I just have a terrible gut feeling a lot of the time. When I'm with him, there's a sort of stilted atmosphere (I feel) and I don't feel able to relax. We hardly laugh. He's quiet quite a lot. He's been honest that he has abandonment issues and that he is hypervigilant to signs of rejection, which makes him quiet, so I've tried to have patience with it but I also feel hypervigilant around him. I've tried to spend lots of time with him to get over this and it's still there most of the time
- Talks about relationships as 'work' a lot - feels a little joyless
- Despite talking quite a lot about money / having lots of investments and also enough savings to never have to work again, he has let me somehow do all of the grocery shopping for every visit we've had. Majority of these have been me going to his city, which is nicer to hang out in as it's close to the countryside, so I'm spending money on train tickets AND about £80 at least every single time. This is really stacking up. In comparison, he knows that at 35 I'm still saving for a housing deposit and am going through an expensive egg freezing process. He is extremely frugal in general. The one time he paid of out food on a visit (because I lost my bank card) he asked me to settle up with him afterwards. He probably doesn't realise how much I've spent, as I've not communicated this and frankly find it awkward and quite rude that he wouldn't enquire himself or just say 'I'll pay for groceries next time'. Of all the things, strangely, this one makes me most angry and uncomfortable. I guess because we're from very different social classes and I would never want to be seen as a gold digger (he knows this, we've spoken about the fact that I've always dated people from a 'higher' class than me and that I've always gone at least halves or paid for more because I don't want to be seen as with them for their money)
- I find our conversation often turns to serious subjects - trauma, how messed up someone is, work stuff - and there is little lightness. He is a thoughtful and quite serious character, I think, but I also worry this is just a chemistry thing and he'd be better with someone else (which then makes me want to fix it)
- Because he's very open about wanting to settle down, it can sometimes make me feel like he is being spurred by that rather than wanting to be with ME. This could be my paranoia. But he doesn't often express how he actually feels about me, or why. He expresses his affection, I guess, through wanting to spend lots of time together, but even this feels a little intense / out of kilter with our level of emotional intimacy. Lockdown and living in different cities doesn't help - our dates are several days long, which I think I find a bit much
- He's commented a few times about how I have a higher sex drive than him / enjoy it more. This makes me feel self conscious about asking for sex. When I did the one time, last week, he was too tired. We didn't have enough physical closeness in my four day visit for me to feel particularly cared for or happy. In general I find him just quite distant. Sex feels a little transactional - like he'll do the minimum to make me orgasm, then he's like 'job done' and then gets his and it's over. There isn't enough kissing or general sensuality for me. I don't feel very connected with him
- I said I was uncomfy meeting his parents on our third ever date (it was a week long, and we'd been talking on zoom for a month before meeting, plus we actually know eachother from 13 years ago in a work context, but still). He said that was fine and they weren't coming, then the day before told me they actually were and I could 'hide in the house as they'd be in the garden and he'd just say I had lots of work to do' if I wanted. I felt intensely uncomfy with this setup so just met them anyway, but felt very awkward. He hadn't seen them all lockdown, and apparently it was just circumstantial that they visited that day, but I felt a little blindsided. I also met his sister and niece on the day, had been living with his other sister for a week and had spent the day with his best friends that week also. It all felt a little much

So - am I looking a gifthorse in the mouth? My anxiety levels are through the roof on this. For some reason I feel like I need to end it NOW even though I know there's loads of great things going for this guy. Any idea what might be going on?
posted by starstarstar to Human Relations (61 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
He’s a cheapskate and it doesn’t sound you have fun together at all. Is that accurate? If it is, I wouldn’t settle down and have kids with this person.
posted by cakelite at 6:58 AM on July 22, 2020 [73 favorites]

Do you love him?
posted by heatherlogan at 7:02 AM on July 22, 2020 [2 favorites]

I wouldn't want spend the rest of my life with a person who I didn't enjoy being around. Based on what you've said, I don't see why you would want to stay with this man. There is someone else out there who can both be willing to do the work, and, when you wake up every morning, you will smile to see they are there with you.
posted by past unusual at 7:04 AM on July 22, 2020 [18 favorites]

Listen to your gut. It sounds like he has his life together in ways that have been missing for you in the past, but that doesn't nearly make up for the things you are finding missing. A good relationship should make you feel light and cared for. It is one thing to work on relationship specifics in a larger positive context, but reading this, the foundation isn't there.
posted by meinvt at 7:04 AM on July 22, 2020 [28 favorites]

I just have a terrible gut feeling a lot of the time.

This is all you need to know.
posted by warriorqueen at 7:05 AM on July 22, 2020 [86 favorites]

You can't relax around him. You don't laugh around him. He never picks up the check. It feels like work. If that's what it's like at this point, is it really going to get better?

I think your gut is telling you that he's ready to settle down, and you're the closest person who checks his boxes. And I think you should listen to that.
posted by pie ninja at 7:05 AM on July 22, 2020 [95 favorites]

Trust your gut. He may be a very nice guy but his actions of being a cheapskate (he makes way more money but it doesn't sound like he shares AT ALL), being emotionally immature (he still sounds like he needs to work on his personal issues with a trained therapist, not have you baby him) and rushing you (you said you weren't ready to meet his family, but oops! they are here!) I would run far away. It sounds like he gets his way all the time and you are a convenience.
posted by tipsyBumblebee at 7:07 AM on July 22, 2020 [9 favorites]

This does not sound like a fun relationship to be in or a supportive partner for raising kids with.
posted by ChuraChura at 7:09 AM on July 22, 2020 [11 favorites]

I've noticed that some men hit a certain age/place in their lives and kind of decide "ok, it's time to find a mate and settle down" and then the person they're with at that moment becomes the person they marry, whether or not the fit is great. It sounds to me like this guy is in that place in his life -- successful, has his life together -- and has maybe decided that you're an acceptable partner so let's work on settling down and doing the family thing. So I could see that's what the relationship is from his point of view, but I agree with everyone else about YOU -- if you're not happy/laughing/having fun, get out of it now. Someone can be a decent person and still be a bad fit for a relationship.
posted by jabes at 7:10 AM on July 22, 2020 [18 favorites]

oh dear.

Look... I understand wanting to settle down. And yes, sometimes that involves settling. On the other hand, dude is boring, you don't actually have fun with him; he's not real into your sex life; and he's oddly self centered.

I'd probably let this one go. But I can't stand being bored; and I think it's better to be childless than to have had kids with someone you dislike. Others may have a different calculus.
posted by fingersandtoes at 7:11 AM on July 22, 2020 [19 favorites]

I don't feel able to relax. We hardly laugh.

I wouldn't want to regularly spend time with someone I couldn't relax or laugh with, much less settle down with.

Another way to ask it: When you are apart from him, do you miss him? Are you eager to see him again? Three months in, I'd hope that you'd be counting the minutes until you get to be together.
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 7:17 AM on July 22, 2020 [8 favorites]

Best answer: Bad in bed, boring outside of bed, uncommunicative, ungenerous, pushy, and knows nothing about relationships...doesn’t seem like he has the emotional intelligence to be a keeper, sorry. I get wanting to settle down but this guy will drive you nuts, you don’t even like him (and why would you). You can do better.
posted by rue72 at 7:24 AM on July 22, 2020 [14 favorites]

Everyone's dealbreakers are their own and there are things I'd be fine with in your cons list. But someone I could not feel relaxed and have fun with at least a reasonable chunk of the time is not someone I would want to build a life with. Perhaps more to the point, it is not someone I would have children with unless I were prepared to do 100% of the work and 100% of the nurturing and 100% of the play, and have their dad be someone who spends his time off in his study and shows up for awkward mealtimes and leaves again. I don't think this is a good long-term partnership for you.
posted by Stacey at 7:27 AM on July 22, 2020 [12 favorites]

I could not be in a romantic relationship with someone I couldn't/didn't laugh with. He sounds like he might be a very nice coparent or business partner, but it sounds like after three months you've figured out that you like him "that way." And even on the coparent/business partner front you would need to do a bunch of work to address the money stuff.

Now is a great time to break it off. You knew he was a good guy, then you got to know what being in a relationship with him would be like, and now you are realizing that this is not the kind of relationship you want.
posted by mskyle at 7:42 AM on July 22, 2020 [4 favorites]

Best answer: However, he never loved her and they broke it off as they both felt (I think it was more that he felt) that what they had wasn't 'enough'.

This is under the "good things" and I understand that life doesn't fit into tidy lists, but really, what did he think they were doing for that last year or so? Surely six months is plenty of time to notice something like "I don't actually love this person," don't you think? Do you really want to pour a year or more into this and then have him pull the same "never loved them" stunt on you? Also, notice that the same general thing is happening here, where you're jumping into later-stage stuff like "multi-day dates" and "meeting the parents" really early, as if those too are test-ballons or can create a deeper level of intimacy/connection simply by virtue of having happened, versus having happened because the intimacy/connection was already there and you both wanted them to happen. I know the pandemic situation complicates things, but so does living in different cities even in regular times, and I'm concerned about the pattern here where all the inconveniences and risks are yours and he just accepts those offerings. It seems like it'd be really easy to continue letting that sort of thing slide because you might feel like changing things would mean "going back on" some totally unspoken, unagreed-upon "deal" where you do the shopping, you pay for everything, you do all the travel, et cetera.
posted by teremala at 7:43 AM on July 22, 2020 [10 favorites]

My gut agrees with you. Honestly, he just sounds kind of tedious. I wouldn't want to live that way, and some of those red flags you've noticed are the kind of thing that tend to become highly magnified when parenting comes into the picture.

There's probably someone out there who's a perfect fit for him, and she is probably also kind of exhausting.

Ultimately he sounds like one of those people who knows how to say things that sound good, but doesn't actually walk the walk in any meaningful way. Sometimes when men are like that, they're actually dangerous, but even if that's not what this is, they don't tend to stay and need a new relationship every 2 years or so because they've burnt out the existing one.
posted by Lyn Never at 7:56 AM on July 22, 2020 [24 favorites]

Good things: 289 words
Bad things: 869 words

This is what your gut sounds like. A 1:3 ratio of good things to bad.
posted by aniola at 7:58 AM on July 22, 2020 [52 favorites]

I agree with everyone else, but have you raised these issues with him? He seems covered in trauma and not very well socialized.

Straight up spray him with silly string or take him to a live comedy show. Do something you think is fun and see how he reacts. Is he really joyless or just scared?

Tell him he's the one who has to pay for this date. There is no 'gold digging' at the dating stage. Is he really cheap or just clueless?
posted by The_Vegetables at 8:04 AM on July 22, 2020 [1 favorite]

He’s good on paper but you really don’t sound like you’re enjoying the actual time spent with him. Doesn’t sound like the road to happiness.

I think your styles around money are pretty significantly different as well. Despite the fact that he has asked you to settle up on occasion, apparently you keep buying groceries and never ask him to settle up. From what you said I think you want him to be ahead of the curve and offer to settle up with you preemptively but you might need to explain that to him.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 8:07 AM on July 22, 2020 [3 favorites]

He's commented a few times about how I have a higher sex drive than him / enjoy it more. This makes me feel self conscious about asking for sex. When I did the one time, last week, he was too tired. We didn't have enough physical closeness in my four day visit for me to feel particularly cared for or happy. In general I find him just quite distant. Sex feels a little transactional - like he'll do the minimum to make me orgasm, then he's like 'job done' and then gets his and it's over. There isn't enough kissing or general sensuality for me. I don't feel very connected with him

There are a lot of red flags in your negatives list, but this one doesn't seem to have been addressed very much in the answers you've gotten so far. The first few months of a relationship is generally the peak time for sexual passion. Even low libido people often feel much more passionate and horny during the early stage of a relationship, though they often return to a lower baseline of sexual drive once the newness wears off.

If his sex drive is lackluster now, it's only likely to get worse over time. If sex is important to you, this is a big incompatibility issue.

The lack of lightness in your interactions with him would also be a big "no" for me. As would more of less manipulating you into meeting his folks after you said you weren't ready.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 8:15 AM on July 22, 2020 [25 favorites]

As a single woman of a similar age, this question makes me so sad.

If there were no such thing as a biological clock, would you be considering this even for a second?

I have friends who compromised because they were ready for a child. They’re either unhappily married or divorced and co-parenting with mixed success.

Can you picture co-parenting with this guy? I cannot imagine he’d make your life as a mother any easier. And then kids grow up and you’re left sharing the most precious things any of us have - time and energy - with a man whose company you don’t even enjoy.

Like, considering sharing your entire life with someone you wouldn’t even enjoy a long weekend with.

It’s bleak, I get it. For myself I froze eggs and seem to have out-waited my biological clock. But other options are single parenthood by choice and looking directly for a co-parent that is not a romantic partner.
posted by Salamandrous at 8:18 AM on July 22, 2020 [23 favorites]

It's very important to enjoy the day-to-day and moment-to-moment aspects of a relationship!

You should be careful about being blinded by the on-paper theoretical view of your relationship when you reference things feeling "joyless". If you want life satisfaction, it is much more likely to come from you actively seeking out and building that life, rather than depending on someone else to build it for you and "invite you to join", so to speak.

If he's good at communication and you're both mature and have "done the work" to be ready for a committed adult relationship, see about broaching these topics and working through them together.

A good relationship is about meeting each other where you both are and working together. If you both can find a way to do that, you've got a workable relationship that has the potential to last long-term. If you both can't, that doesn't make either of you bad people, it just means the two of you are incompatible for a long-term commitment and there's no value judgement in realizing that.
posted by Goblin Barbarian at 8:21 AM on July 22, 2020 [2 favorites]

A lot of the things you have listed under "good things" are things that he has said to you which could easily not be true. For example, him saying he has exactly the same vision of the future could be him just parroting back what he thinks you want to hear. And him saying he has his finances together and that he's just very frugal while he lets you buy all the groceries when you're together could mean he's talking shit and doesn't have a penny to his name.

So I would strike the things he says from the list for now and look at just the things that you have experienced with him. Like when he manipulated you into meeting his parents. How you feel when you're with him and what actually happens when you're with him is what you need to go by because those are things he can't fake.

There are a lot of great questions on here that ask for help in identifying red flags. Maybe read through some of those and see if you get some clarity on all of this.
posted by dawkins_7 at 8:26 AM on July 22, 2020 [25 favorites]

I think there's 2 things going on here:

There is nothing "wrong" with the other person, their positive qualities are real and the negative issues they have might not be a problem for other people. They obviously have trauma and aren't "fun" but they could definitely be a good match for someone. I feel like some of the commentary on the internet can be overly demanding, as not everyone and every relationship can be "joyful" given who people actually are and their goals in life. Whatever decision you make here is not a judgment on them, it is about your relationship together, so you should do what is best overall for you.

That said it definitely doesn't sound like you two are a very good match from the outside. None of the issues you bring up sound like "fake" problems that anxiety could be lying to you about. You can tell because when you try to explain fake problems they make no sense, but all of the issues you mention are serious issues that would make a happy long term relationship very difficult. Even if one or 2 aren't, the rest would be enough. It's a good idea to question what your gut is telling you, but you've done that and it's telling you the truth! At least from what you've written, this relationship is unlikely to make either of you happy over the long term
posted by JZig at 8:36 AM on July 22, 2020 [10 favorites]

May I ask if we could set aside your feelings about him for just a moment, so I can ask - why are you even contemplating "is this a forever thing" after only three months? That's very early on in a relationship; no wonder you have questions about him. There's just too much about him you don't know, because you are still getting to know him.

The great benefit you have right now is that you have time to figure things out. It sounds like you've identified some problems that you're having (him putting the financial burden of things on you sounds like one big one) - instead of wondering whether he is capable of change, you have the chance to speak to him about your concerns, and then find out if he is capable of change by seeing if he takes your concerns seriously and....well, changes.

Talk to him about your concerns. Not, like, an all-at-once dump of "I have the following issues to address" - just, you know, as things come up, discuss them. Like, when he comments on your sex drive, you say "you know, this is how I feel when you say that and it's kind of getting to me." Or when he starts talking about groceries for the weekend, say "you know, I'm starting to have trouble affording all the groceries and my house payments, could we discuss how to split that up?"

If he reacts well to your concerns and hears them out, and takes an effort to change things, then...well, then you have the evidence that "oh hey, he listens to me." But if he resists or just doesn't do anything, then....that's more of a concrete thing to point to than "my gut is telling me no".

I get the sense that you're wanting to know now whether to hang in there or cut and run, because you're thinking of the sunk cost fallacy. My point is that thinking that far ahead after only 3 months is premature. However, identifying problems after 3 months is an opportunity to speak up and say "hey, this is kinda getting to me," and seeing how he reacts could help you sort this out.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:36 AM on July 22, 2020 [12 favorites]

>But my gut keeps telling me to run away

I can see why!

When you think of being in a relationship with him for the next 3-9 months, what's your reaction?

Because if it's not an enthusiastic "hell yes that sounds great!" it's a hell no.
posted by foxjacket at 8:41 AM on July 22, 2020 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks all, some really great messages here. Lots are resonating. I do think I'm feeling the pressure of my age and like my childbearing years are quickly disappearing and I need to find someone quickly. I think he is in a similar spot. This is not fair on him or me.

Is there hope though in finding the right person now, at almost 36, before my fertility runs out? I do have some eggs on ice already, and the fertility clinic said I had the ovarian reserve of a typical 28 year old. So maybe I'll be okay.

@teremela your comment really struck me - this is exactly what I feel is happening. It's felt kind of flattering but also discombobulating. I have tried to explain this to him, but he doesn't seem to really understand and said that of course it's because he's serious about me, not just wanting to settle down etc, and that he hadn't introduced other people this early etc (although to be fair there's only ever really been one proper girlfriend anyway)

Surely six months is plenty of time to notice something like "I don't actually love this person," don't you think? Do you really want to pour a year or more into this and then have him pull the same "never loved them" stunt on you? Also, notice that the same general thing is happening here, where you're jumping into later-stage stuff like "multi-day dates" and "meeting the parents" really early, as if those too are test-ballons or can create a deeper level of intimacy/connection simply by virtue of having happened, versus having happened because the intimacy/connection was already there and you both wanted them to happen.

Ugh. I literally hate ending relationships. Like so badly I'll stay in them despite knowing they're wrong. Wish me luck...
posted by starstarstar at 9:04 AM on July 22, 2020 [8 favorites]

My partner and I went through rough times when we had our kid and it was only due to a bedrock of good humor, fun times and trust that we made it through to where we are now. His clock is ticking, for sure, but it doesn't sound like he's right for you.
posted by amanda at 9:05 AM on July 22, 2020 [3 favorites]

“Is there hope though in finding the right person now, at almost 36, before my fertility runs out?“

It definitely happens! But maybe it won’t. I understand how you feel but it seems like you think marrying and having children with a man who makes you feel anxious and unhappy is better than being a single woman in your late thirties. This is such a foul lie that we are fed from an early age. Life has so many possibilities! If having a child is extremely important to you, try doing it on your own. I promise this is better than doing it with a guy who doesn’t make you laugh and nickel and dimes you over groceries. I promise!
posted by cakelite at 9:22 AM on July 22, 2020 [37 favorites]

For me “trust your gut” would not be useful; sometimes my gut said: “quit this job”, “drop this class”, etc., which was more about my fears than the situation being untenable.

Putting that aside, there are problems that justify your anxious discomfort:
“We hardly laugh” -- It sounds like he is just too serious and a real cold fish and this heightens your insecurities, which is the opposite of what a partner should be doing for you.
Sexual mismatch-- different affection levels can be navigated—such as one person likes to hold hands in pubic, another person doesn’t. But in bed, I doubt things would change. That would be a very lonely existence.

You express concern that he is more oriented to being ready to get married rather than “this Star chick is so incredible I have to spend the rest of my life with her.” But, aren't you in the same boat? He is checking many of your boxes, you’re asking if should just suck the bad stuff up because of where you are in your life and your hopes for a family. If you don't want him to just settle for you, then don't do it to him.

If you aren't ready to totally break up: I would disrupt the pattern of you adapting and accepting things.
For example, have him come to your place (the excuse that his digs are nicer masks that it is more convenient and less effort for him), and you choose an activity/movie, etc.. Basically, seconding everything that Empress C. said above; it is early, if you want to try for a bit longer, go for it. Eventually I think you will be clear on this.

Good luck.
posted by rhonzo at 9:32 AM on July 22, 2020 [11 favorites]

Your gut is SCREAMING at you to break up with this guy. Can you honestly stomach settling down with him to have children no matter what the situation is? Can you deal with that gut screaming situation every day?

A friend of mine ignored her gut and married a guy and had two kids with him and man, does she regret it.
posted by jenfullmoon at 9:34 AM on July 22, 2020 [5 favorites]

Yes, I feel such a strong urge from you for having a child “before your time runs out”, so strong that maybe you’ve forgotten what comes after the conception? Say you stuck with this guy because he’s there and also wants to settle down quickly. You conceive. You give birth. Then you are a new mother with no sleep, your life turned upside down, and then forever more you are a parent with someone else’s life depending on you. Do you want to do that with a stingy guy who is emotionally cold, pressures you, is bad at sex, is no fun to be around, and to be honest sounds like he doesn’t really care to find out how you need to be loved and cherished? Do you think he seems like someone who would be a great coparent and father? Can you imagine relying on him through the trials and tribulations of parenthood? Do you think he would be able to give a child the care and love every child deserves from their father?

I agree that it seems your highest priority is having a child, and you feel you need to secure a man to do that. Or is it that you need to be validated by having a man, and the idea of being a single mum is even worse than being a childless 40 something but who could still date? Could you examine your motivations more, think about what you want and why? Is dating and stressing about men who you don’t like keeping you from a living a life that fulfils you?
posted by Balthamos at 9:36 AM on July 22, 2020 [13 favorites]

Sounds like he has a lot of good qualities “on paper” but the emotional and sexual connection just isn’t there for you (and probably not for him either). That’s a shame but at least now you know that there are guys out there who have many of the qualities you are looking for.

I agree with everyone else that it would be a bad idea to make a long-term commitment to this guy on the basis of what you describe here. If you feel like the clock is running out on your window to have kids, you might be better off to address that separately (eg by looking at options to freeze your eggs or even becoming a parent on your own) rather than tying your life to someone you are not really comfortable with.
posted by rpfields at 9:36 AM on July 22, 2020

Response by poster: @balthamos: this. A thousand times this. Weirdly, when I'm not dating and 'free' I feel way happier in general. Then when I get into these situations with the wrong guys (there have been a few now that have gotten my gut going) I feel pressure to lock myself in, hence staying in them longer to see if they work or not. I think when I've ended this I'll go back to regular existential anxiety rather than obsessing analysing. And the egg freezing does take some of that pressure away for me so it's not as bad as it could be.

Or is it that you need to be validated by having a man, and the idea of being a single mum is even worse than being a childless 40 something but who could still date? Could you examine your motivations more, think about what you want and why? Is dating and stressing about men who you don’t like keeping you from a living a life that fulfils you?
posted by starstarstar at 9:51 AM on July 22, 2020

Yeah, I say peace the hell out of this relationship.

If there is seriously no laughter or silliness then that future with this person will be rather bumpy. I dated a guy like the one you describe and he couldn’t deal when I had a panic attack after a ski crash. That relationship did not work out.

Fast the hell forward to now...Laughter is what has not only gotten me and my now spouse of over 5 years through a litany of family, legal, work and friendship related drama, but through a house renovation, two job changes and one midlife crisis while still deeply loving one another. In other words: if laughter is not there and you can’t be lighthearted through the shit life WILL hurl your way then this might not be the right person for you. This guy might be great on paper, but what’s his resilience like?
posted by floweredfish at 9:54 AM on July 22, 2020 [7 favorites]

Contrarian position:

Your bias right now is to find an excuse or something 'bad'. So, you will.

First off, these past 3 months have been intense, so an out of ordinary time, which also will affect how people behave, what's important/focused on, and how much time you spend with someone. Lots of alone time coupled with lots of close one-on-one with only a limited set of people.

But, put that aside for now.

Whenever we try to analyze people, we will do it from our own frame of reference - which is difficult because we assume what someone else's frame of reference is. And our own insecurities pushed onto other people end up informing their frame of reference, and how they start to treat us in order to accommodate what they think is what you feel.

The whole money thing, for example. You say you have a hangup about dating 'above your class'. Which you've expressed to him. And now he has a certain perception of how you want him to treat you in order to satisfy your 'non gold-digger' status. Which, well, he may not even have thought of before you brought it up.

Everyone here is easily piling onto the negatives - because that's all you have brought. Because you have some insecurities about this. (Of COURSE you do, and that's not wrong.. but you should be aware of how that is actually influencing how you speak, frame, and think about it, as well).

Can I, or anyone tell you that he is right or wrong for you? No. So, my main contrarian view here is to not listen to anyone here.

My next one is to go back and have a think.

Some color; I'm a guy. I got married when I was 25 to someone who was 34, and in the position of not wanting to 'wait around', meaning she wanted to have kids, and all that. I was 24. Not fully established, still a 'kid'. She owned her own home, had a career. Total red flags around me. We celebrated 24 years and 3 kids last week.

What I'm saying is your inventory list isn't the story. What is your story? Look at the entire story from when you met, how things got restarted 3 months ago, and what has happened since then.

How about 13 years ago? Maybe what he knew from you 13 years ago also are influencing things today.

How he approaches problems (like relationships) sound like an analytical person. Detached when trying to solve a problem. It doesn't mean they don't have feelings or expression. Also, some people are just reserved. Boarding school issues, solo, self-sufficient for 40 years.. people tend to create masks they start to feel more comfortable wearing than being themselves sometimes.

If you think there is something here, then there's more work to do. I'm not saying it'll work out, but just dumping it all because of a list of things that you haven't really seemed to have co-addressed at all seems a bit premature/reactive.

Take what you have, and turn it around, look at it from different angles and perspectives. And, well, find a way to talk about them with him without it coming across like a list of bad things. More like, things to discuss and change the way you have both thought about xyz, and hey, maybe we were wrong or maybe we've evolved and we have to start thinking differently about that.

The sex thing, also - likely a lack of experience that has now turned into embarrassment and thus non-desire to feel uncomfortable. Not insurmountable. (no pun intended).
posted by rich at 10:04 AM on July 22, 2020 [3 favorites]

Having a baby with a man who's not going to stay is ultimately a lot more complicated (and potentially abusive) than having a baby on your own.

Honestly, the older I get the more often I give this advice: build you a support system of friends, family, good supportive job. Make and have a baby without entanglements if you don't stumble across a really fantastic person (maybe just to coparent with! it doesn't have to be a long-term romantic relationship!) while you're doing that.

It will be hard, especially the years before kindergarten, doing it on your own (but you'll have a good support system!). But a "partner" who won't help still means doing it on your own AND having to take care of that person, and you probably lost out on some of that critical support system construction you could have been doing instead of courtship.

Doing it yourself leaves you entirely free from any pressure to be with someone until you meet someone truly spectacular, worth having in your kid/kids' life, who will be the kind of partner you need. It might be a person who'd be complete shit for having a baby with but great with older kids where their responsibility isn't so intense.

I know so many people who ended up in that situation the hard way, often with at best mediocre financial support along the way anyway, that it seems easier to just skip the drama.
posted by Lyn Never at 10:05 AM on July 22, 2020 [7 favorites]

There may not be anything terribly wrong with this guy, but something about him is terribly wrong for you. Let's say you ignore your gut and marry him and have a baby with him: then you're stuck caring for a baby with a guy who gives you at terrible gut feeling. That would be so, so, so awful.

Here is the thing. When I met my husband, there were a lot of things I liked about him and a few things I didn't like (these were small things, like "takes longer to do small task than he predicts he will" not "i have a terrible gut feeling with him all the time"). It's been 8 years and I still like all the things I liked at first, and the things I didn't like still drive me nuts and always will and were 100 times more nuts-driving when our babies were tiny. You do not want to procreate with a person who gives you a terrible gut feeling.
posted by millipede at 10:18 AM on July 22, 2020 [14 favorites]

A great rule of thumb for relationships is that in the beginning everyone is on their best behaviour. If you're having second thoughts now, bloody well listen to them. If you stick, things you don't like will only get worse the more entangled you get. (There can come a point, many years down the road, where you've learned a whole lot about your partner and grown a whole lot as a human, that things can get better than the beginning.)

But if you're not feeling gung ho now, it's time to bail out.
posted by seanmpuckett at 10:21 AM on July 22, 2020 [4 favorites]

Forget about the gut stuff for now—I think the issue is that you don't appear to enjoy being with him. All your positives are built around "we could have the life I imagine having" and not about "we could enjoy that life together." (Which is not to say I'm putting all that on you in particular! I'm sure he's just as involved in building that environment.)

If you think about it from his perspective you can imagine the awful way it ends up looking to him, in the same way we can imagine the awful way a failed version of this relationship might end up looking to you—"this person pretended to like me because she was desperate for kids even though it's increasingly apparent she kind of detests or excuses-because-of-trauma all these little things about me." Obviously you aren't behaving with that bad idea in mind in the same way he isn't intentionally trying to screw you out of grocery money or make you feel weird about sex—in the same way neither of you is likely trying to use the other person just because you're both ready to settle down—but it can all kind of be read that way at the end of an unsuccessful relationship because of your basic discomfort with each other.

One thing I would say just from reading this post is that you seem to put a lot of weight on "work" and "commitment" and a kind of psychologized conception of a relationship—given all his talk about trauma I'm guessing he's in a similar headspace. That's fine and a lot of people prefer to see things that way, but I wonder whether it's creating some distance between you that is exacerbating the distance that's already inevitable given the weirdness of trying to build relationships in COVIDland. It's possible both of you just bring out the Seriousness and the Heaviness in each other because of your own individual personalities and current desires in life, and that you could be lighter or more balanced with different people.

That said, I think if you're interested in pursuing this it might be good to try to explicitly back up and be... not "just friends," but friendlier with each other. Do friend stuff—try to enjoy a date without worrying about your ages or what you want in the long term or meeting each others' parents. Try to examine the feeling in your gut and see if it goes away once you both enjoy each others' company more.
posted by Polycarp at 10:54 AM on July 22, 2020 [1 favorite]

Flip a coin to decide if you should break up with him.

Your emotional response to the result will give you your answer.
posted by Automocar at 10:56 AM on July 22, 2020 [2 favorites]

Yikes! Give this guy a hard pass. A friend of mine once wisely compared marriage to a magnifying glass. "Whatever exists in your dating relationship, be it good or bad, will be magnified ten fold by marriage," he said. So go from Bad sex to awful or completely non existent sex. Miserly behavior to abusive (in terms of money)behavior. Which might look like the two of you never sharing your incomes which isn't of itself a problem, but add to that you are expected to take on all the expenses of running the housrhold. You may actually be lied to about his income and spending since you wouldn't be offered access to his accounts. And as for your awkward discomfort around him, this turns to bone breaking despair when you find yourself trapped in a loveless marriage with a man who has no interest in you as anything but a caregiver to his children.

If it were me, I would run, not walk, away.
posted by WalkerWestridge at 11:15 AM on July 22, 2020 [7 favorites]

My husband of 23 years makes me laugh every single day (often many times), it’s a huge part of the glue in our relationship.
I’d “nope”:this guy now, and find someone you can be you with, and relax with.
posted by dbmcd at 11:43 AM on July 22, 2020 [2 favorites]

Tell me more, tell me more, 'cause he sounds like a drag.

This guy doesn't have to be a bad guy for the relationship not be right for you. And it sounds like it's not! And look, this is obviously just anecdotal, but my wife is 42 and we're expecting a child in October.
posted by Ragged Richard at 11:53 AM on July 22, 2020 [2 favorites]

Of everything you've listed as a problem, this would be enough to end just about any relationship:
- I just have a terrible gut feeling a lot of the time. When I'm with him, there's a sort of stilted atmosphere (I feel) and I don't feel able to relax. We hardly laugh. He's quiet quite a lot. He's been honest that he has abandonment issues and that he is hypervigilant to signs of rejection, which makes him quiet, so I've tried to have patience with it but I also feel hypervigilant around him. I've tried to spend lots of time with him to get over this and it's still there most of the time

You've said this guy has built your dream life, but this does not sound dreamy at all. It sounds sad and depressing and a bit scary. I'm wondering of how much of how you think about him is from when you knew him before and from your month of video calls. Sometimes we think we know someone, and we have a sense of intimacy with them, but until we spend time with them in person romantically, it can be really hard to assess chemistry and get to know each other as a partner.

Now, a few thoughts based on my own dating and conversations with my therapist: I once saw some confusing red flags with a guy about three weeks into dating him. I wasn't sure about what I was seeing. My therapist was alarmed by a few things. She said something like, "Most people can repress their worst qualities for three months or so and then they start to show up. It's lucky that you are seeing all this so soon, so you can get out before you feel more attached and committed." I was trying so hard to understand this guy that I was tempted to ignore this stuff until I knew why he behaved that way. I didn't need to understand; I just needed to end it. I did, and it took me hardly any time to move on.

You're at that further alone stage, where you feel like you already have invested something. But in the grand scheme of life and relationships, three months isn't that far in. And the whole reason we date people is to learn if they are suitable partners! We don't pick our partner and then start dating them. We pick someone to date to figure out if they can be a long term partner (if that's what we want).

It's a confusing time with the pandemic, but three months in should have some magic, sparkle, sexiness, etc.

It's okay to want something different, to move on. Good luck.
posted by bluedaisy at 11:58 AM on July 22, 2020 [6 favorites]

The sooner you get rid of him, the longer you have to find someone that you actually like and who likes you to potentially father your child.

I really doesn't sound like you would be considering him if you weren't worried about running out of time to have children. That is a terrible reason to waste years of your life on someone. There are better ways to get pregnant than putting up with someone who makes you feel so unhappy when you're with him. Drop him back in the water and go fishing for someone new. And maybe work out how you could have a child alone if a baby is more important than a relationship, so that you have that option to choose from too.
posted by plonkee at 12:05 PM on July 22, 2020 [3 favorites]

I'm not sure how intentional you were with the wording, but using the phrase "look a gift horse in the mouth" here feels kind of telling. A partner or future husband isn't a gift - you put work into dating (both in finding someone and into the relationship) and in return you have agency and choice around who you are building a life with and it's fine to be selective and particular if you want. It's not, like, an ugly sweater or unreliable car your great-aunt gave you and you have to pretend to be grateful for or something.
posted by needs more cowbell at 12:15 PM on July 22, 2020 [3 favorites]

Mod note: One comment deleted. Sorry, OP, AskMe isn't really a space for ongoing processing; I've Mefimailed you the text of your comment.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 1:05 PM on July 22, 2020

Best answer: I've been in a similar situation and my advice is to trust your gut. If you can't relax and feel stilted in conversation and anxious a lot of the time with him; if he is not being actively kind and generous with his conversation, atmosphere and resources towards you; if you feel its a bit forced... then he is not the right man for you and it's really, really ok to walk away.

You deserve a partner who makes you feel safe, respected, protected and valued. You really do.
posted by latch24 at 5:05 PM on July 22, 2020

Best answer: If it helps, my gut was tossing up red flags when you were listing the 'good' things. He sounds very self focused. There is a 'type' of guy that finds 'doing the work', 'active listening', etc. in a relationship as a challenge for them to take on. Its somehow still about him and the world's perception of him. I may be completely off, but his connections seem slightly fabricated and not authentic.

Just my two cents, but I see what your gut is saying.

And life with no humor is no way to live.
posted by MountainDaisy at 5:51 PM on July 22, 2020 [2 favorites]

Marriage expert John Gottman had a rule of thumb: Five good things for every one bad thing. Bad things happen in all relationships. To counterbalance that you need to have reasons to stick around, that's what the five good things are for. If you have less than five then the chances of it being a happy partnership dwindles.
posted by storybored at 10:06 PM on July 22, 2020 [1 favorite]

I just have a terrible gut feeling a lot of the time.

What is your gut feeling like in other situations? If you’re just generally a doubtful/anxious person, this might not be a reflection of him or your relationship.
posted by panama joe at 10:08 PM on July 22, 2020

Wait, you've been in a long distance relationship for three months and when you do manage to get together for four days you're not spending almost all that time in bed? Something seriously up there...

36 is not panic territory if you know you have the eggs of a 28 year old. I've had kids with two different women, both of whom were 40 when first pregnant. Sure, risks increase, but if nothing happens at 40 it doesn't mean it would have at 36. And you have your freezing backup anyway to add a little insurance.

Go find the perfect guy where you say "f*** yes" to a relationship with him.
posted by tillsbury at 12:07 AM on July 23, 2020 [2 favorites]

How you guys have framed money is problematic. When women frame themselves at the start as “not a gold digger” who will pay their share then I think it’s demeaning. I wouldn’t do that in the future. You’re a unique person who is bringing lots of different things to the table and there are other ways to factor you in to his budget that you’ve shut the door on by not wanting to look like a gold digger. I’ve lived in the uk and Ireland so I understand the dynamic you’re describing but if it’s possible definitely move away from thinking of yourself as in a lower class. Regular nice guys won’t think about it too much, regardless of their standing, and steer clear of any “middle class snobs” as I like to describe them. I never experienced it before moving over here because middle class in America means something a little different and I’ve been uncomfortable in the past even in trying to build friendships with other women because they can’t work out where I fit on the ladder (I’m an Uber casual SoCal chick) so I would avoid anyone who cares about that stuff too much.
posted by pairofshades at 12:33 AM on July 23, 2020 [1 favorite]

I'm hearing you don't want to be with this guy. You have reasons to be with this guy, but I don't hear wanting to.

Frankly whether that's 'on' you or him or both doesn't matter. OK hypothetically what if you self-sabotage by seeing negatives? Well, doesn't matter, you don't deal with that by handcuffing yourself to someone you don't want to be with, that does not work. If you were self-sabotaging like that you'd raise it with your therapist and do probably a lot of hard work, and then once you are able to want to be in a relationship, be in one. And if you have any concerns that you're sabotaging, talk to your therapist, but I bet their response is going to be therapistese for "shit nah."

Parenting is exhausting and harrowing in the best cases, and without being alarmist, can turn out to be devastatingly hard. Co-parenting with someone who is a literal downward drag on you is the highest possible difficulty setting.
posted by away for regrooving at 12:39 AM on July 23, 2020 [3 favorites]

“Is there hope though in finding the right person now, at almost 36, before my fertility runs out?“

Well, I can say that you def won’t find the right person by staying with this guy longer.

Also, having gone through the donor egg process (as a recipient because my eggs were shiiiiiiit) I can tell you from experience that this is a huge factor in fertility. To be told you have eggs of a 28 year old is *chef’s kiss*. They can help with making optimal womb conditions and hormones. But eggs, they’re either good or they’re not. My fertility doctor literally told me I had an “A+” uterus, but I had to use a donor egg to have my daughter (at 39!). So yeah, it’s a great backup to have! Obviously I wouldn’t tell you it’s a guarantee but I would personally feel some confidence from that. Just a factor I wanted to share as I think everyone else is covering the other aspects pretty well.
posted by like_neon at 1:01 AM on July 23, 2020 [3 favorites]

There are certainly many red flags, but I want to speak to this one - his "frugality."

If he's being this cheap during the very early dating stages, it will not be fun being married to him. Because "Can you pay me back for dinner," turns into "You spent what on makeup? Getting your hair done? Buying new things for the baby?" Every financial decision is going to be fraught, and he sounds like a guy who is used to getting his way - especially when it comes to dollars. Whatever discomfort you feel now about the disparity in your financial situations, is going to be magnified a hundred-fold when you butt heads about how to manage shared expenses, savings and investments, big ticket purchases, discretionary spending, and on and on. I can all but guarantee that he will pull the "I make more money, I call the shots" card.

I know this because I married a cheapskate. He wasn't even cheap when we started dating. His greed and control issues only really came into view when it was too late for me. You've only been dating a few months and your guy can't even treat you to dinner or something? He really can't help himself but to ask for that money back, even though he certainly makes it seem like he can easily afford it. My ex became more controlling as the years stretched on, and starting fights over money was a tactic he used often. Since he made more, he felt entitled to control all of it. And often belittled me for not being as smart and "successful" as him. He started pressuring me to start a family, and I just felt so scared for my financial independence of all things! That is not a normal feeling to have in a marriage, and it pretty much pushed me to seeking divorce.

Yes, money inherently carries power (however you feel about that, it's true) and can create icky power imbalances in a relationship, but only where someone chooses to wield it that way. It's funny that after our divorce, my ex chose a new partner who earns a fraction of what I do - he clearly likes having that power imbalance. Last year I earned nearly twice as much as my fiance did - and yet money has never been a problem between us. Not once! We have our issues for sure but money, despite the vast difference in our earning power, never. Because I'm not a controlling cheapskate.

If you decide to stick it out a bit longer, keep a close eye on this aspect of his character. If you don't feel comfortable enough to bring it up point blank and say, "Hey, I'm the one who's always traveling to you and buying all the groceries, why is that?" then that may be a sign too that this isn't the guy for you. Because these types of conversations can only get more awkward as a relationship progresses.

PS - You say you don't think he realizes how much you're spending on these visits - except he does, at least on the food, because he made you pay him back for it. So he absolutely knows.
posted by keep it under cover at 12:41 AM on July 24, 2020 [1 favorite]

Throw out all the stuff he says and consider what his behavior tells you; it's a much more accurate indicator.
posted by theora55 at 1:57 PM on July 24, 2020 [1 favorite]

Life is too short to waste it in an uncomfortable relationship. NEXT!
posted by tarvuz at 5:10 AM on July 25, 2020 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Hi all, just an update - ended it with him today. He said he was sad as he thought I was amazing and really wanted to make a go of things, and felt we had a good connection and lots of lovely moments etc. He feels that he is not the kind to fall head over heels, but that given time once his anxieties died down we could have built something really good together.

He said that what I pointed out re the odd atmosphere was 'fair and true' because that is just the way he is in relationships because of his anxieties and relationship OCD, and he 'didn't want to drag me into his thrashing around in this realm of his life'. To be honest, I have quite similiar issues to him - I second guess everything and it ruins relationships - so both of us doing that just feels like it would have been a disaster.

He also said that because he finds relationships terrifying it's also a bit of a relief to break up, and he said he'd been thinking over the weekend about how it might be better to go back to just dating and take away the 'pressure' of 'the structure of a relationship' (whatever that means). That would have sent me a bit mad I think.

I hate it when people just throw around accusations of 'narc' but I looked up the symptoms of narcissism and he did seem to fit a lot of the criteria, so I think I may have really dodged a bullet here.

Not going to lie, I am feeling a bit sad. Which is only natural - he had many good qualities and we did have some really nice times and many lovely chats on the phone during lockdown which was a bit of a lifesaver.

But I'm glad I listened to my gut on this - I frequently ignore it. I DO have anxiety issues, but I don't think that was it - I think I was picking up on the potential for a very unhappy future. It's been really helpful to look through your comments when my resolve has weakened, so THANK YOU.
posted by starstarstar at 11:52 AM on July 28, 2020 [12 favorites]

It sounds like he knew on some level that this wasn’t a relationship for keeps, but was going to make you be the one to break up with him however long it took. I’ve been in that position and it sucks but after the immediate angst, I felt affirmed in my judgment that that person did not have the integrity or guts to merit sinking more of my own effort into, and affirmed in my sense of myself as steering my own life (to the extent such a thing is is possible). I hope that you will get there too.

FWIW, my counterpart in the somewhat parallel situation also had a lot of great qualities and the total package of them could be a great fit for a relationship with someone else, just not with me. But it’s also totally possible that your guy was kind of an asshole. And the nice thing about being broken up with him is that either way, it’s utterly not your problem anymore, and you don’t have to spend a single extra second of your time and energy trying to figure him out.

That said, it is still hard and can suck even when you do the right/best thing. Be kind and gentle and patient with yourself, and remember that you have within you the soul/guts of a hero - because doing the right/best thing even when it’s hard and painful is what heroes do.
posted by Salamandrous at 11:40 AM on July 31, 2020 [1 favorite]

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