Sometimes, you just need to hear it from other people
February 10, 2021 9:49 AM   Subscribe

I don't know if analyzing the situation threadbare with girlfriends would help, but I don't even have that option, so here I am. Would you have the conversation, or proceed straight to an amicable breakup? Would you wonder what's wrong with your choice of partner, or even your preferences? Sorry for the slightly ranty question, but details below the fold.

I (F, mid thirties) met someone (M, late thirties) off a dating app- one of the major reasons that we hit it off is because we work in similar organizations that are decidedly not the common employers in my country (somewhat elite, high security clearance, endlessly frustrating as evidenced by multiple previous questions in my Ask history). I was thrilled to find someone to really be able to talk to about the unique frustrations about our jobs. And we talked and talked and talked. Meeting was off the agenda for a very long time due to Covid, but the restrictions relaxed and dice. I didn't push because everyone has the right to calibrate their risk tolerance...anyway, long story short, he suddenly asked to meet one day, we had a great time, and then quickly met again a couple of times (all initiated by him), where we had both intimacy and intimate conversations and I was like wow these apps really work when they work.
Three months later, we chat every day (he checks in if I go quiet), we meet only when I ask for it, he is VERY affectionate when we meet but NEVER intimate, and basically treats me like...FWB-lite, I guess? I've asked him pointblank about what's going on, but he evades or jokes or says he's busy with work or tired or a combination of all four.
I know, I know. DTMFA territory. I'm regretful about losing the friendship in the bargain, but at this stage his behaviour is actively hurtful. But I'm frustrated because in my head, I don't know what went wrong, and continues to go wrong, when I meet men. He is the last in a long line of dating partners who have all been commitment avoidant at best (several telling me that I'm great and special BUT they do not want to commit long term) and abusive at worst. It takes a toll, especially since I live alone, have GAD, and have a demanding job in a toxic workplace in a city with very few friends.
My therapists suggests to not take this as a referendum on my value as a person, and we have scheduled some time to discuss why I seem attracted to a particular type of non-available person (they had initially cautioned me not to build up the person/attraction too much in my head, but that particular horse had already bolted the stable - I was so relieved to find someone I liked so much and seemed to like me too. I find dating exhausting). In the meanwhile, my question is twofold, I guess -
(A) can you, internet stranger, tell me what went wrong in the scenario I described with the dating app guy? I've tried to describe the situation as accurately as possible. Is there any value in insisting on an honest conversation with him before pulling the plug?
(B) if you have experience in terms of breaking a dating pattern that was bad for you, how did you do it?
If you've read so far, thank you for any and all advice that you may have.
posted by Nieshka to Human Relations (25 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
The only thing that went wrong is that he's just not that into you. Doesn't mean there's a thing wrong with you or your actions, just that he, for reasons that are his own, is not interested in being with you.

That is all.

Going forward, if long term mutual commitment is your goal, just remember that and hold it dear to yourself. If the person you're seeing cannot meet you at this fundamental basic relationship need you are seeking, it's just not going to work out, no fault no foul. See it, acknowledge it, drop the guy, and move on to the next.
posted by phunniemee at 9:55 AM on February 10, 2021 [15 favorites]

So I am gathering that by "intimacy" you're talking about sex - you hooked up a couple times, now he's affectionate but doesn't seem interested in more. That doesn't seem like a failure on anyone's part, necessarily, nor do you need to lose the friendship. You are allowed to just say "Hey I like you, but we seem to be heading in a friends-not-lovers direction. I'm going to start dating other people" and see where it goes from there. He might just not be up for a romantic/sexual relationship right now! That is, ideally, on him to communicate, but you can just move on if that's the case.
posted by restless_nomad at 9:56 AM on February 10, 2021 [13 favorites]

Response by poster: Sorry to threadsit and won't do it after this, but two things -
We didn't hook up. Which is why I used that dopey term instead. But yeah, he definitely doesn't seem to want that (but what's with all the handholding and hugging and kissing?)
How early in a dating scenario is it okay to bring up the importance of long term mutual commitment? It just sucks to like someone (and overthink!) and then discover that there is a fundamental mismatch in what we want.
posted by Nieshka at 10:05 AM on February 10, 2021

When I've been in similar situations it's been because they started dating someone else but want to kinda keep me in the wings. This may or may not be true here, but his behavior is telling you that he's not super into you in that way, and restless_nomad has a good way to address that.

I know some people do get into patterns of dating people who aren't good for them, but I wouldn't assume what's happening here. If you're typically dating people in the same demographic as this dude, the issues you're encountering are unfortunately pretty common. So I know it's hard not to take it personally, but this MIGHT not be on you.
posted by metasarah at 10:06 AM on February 10, 2021 [5 favorites]

Internet dating convention seems to be that it's totally fine to have your goals (long-term relationship, FWB, whatever) on your actual profile so that people can sort by that. Otherwise, third date at the latest, I'd say.
posted by restless_nomad at 10:07 AM on February 10, 2021 [1 favorite]

(A) can you, internet stranger, tell me what went wrong in the scenario I described with the dating app guy? I've tried to describe the situation as accurately as possible. Is there any value in insisting on an honest conversation with him before pulling the plug?

Honestly, it sounds like you're probably "the other woman." That's my guess for why he's physically unavailable and weird about physical intimacy. But of course, it's just a guess.

I don't think he's open to having an honest conversation about it, but sure, why not ask? I do think you should resign yourself to breaking up, though. It's heartbreaking and I get why you're heartbroken, but this man isn't actually emotionally available.

(B) if you have experience in terms of breaking a dating pattern that was bad for you, how did you do it?

The two things that I did were:

1. Continuing to go on dating sites and continuing to try and connect with an open heart. That's really hard! But it's necessary and worth it.

2. When I found someone and we fell in love, I have reminded myself to be protective of our relationship (and protective of him). I treat him and our relationship tenderly, because he means so much to me and our relationship means so much to me. That also requires trusting and accepting the other person, assuming the best of them, etc.

But that's also for after you fall in love. When you're first starting to see people, just take everything slowly, let feelings and relationships build slowly. If it's the right person at the right time, the relationship really will be pretty easy and straightforward, and because of that it'll be easier to see any self-sabotage (and troubleshoot it). I know that sounds like a cop out, but I've really found it to be true. I've come to think that relationships kind of are what they are, there's only so much you can do to "transform" them.

For what it's worth, I don't think you're necessarily doing anything wrong, at least based on your description of the early days of this relationship. Very possible he just isn't the right guy for you, or isn't in the right place in his life to be in a relationship with you.
posted by rue72 at 10:28 AM on February 10, 2021 [2 favorites]

He may be a virgin or have some other reason to not be comfortable trying for sex, like past trauma. He may think that he should always wait for his partners to ask for it. He may be asexual or similar. He may feel that it's wrong to have sex with someone you aren't already committed to.

These are potential reasons why he may want to hug/kiss but not be ready for more. You'd have to ask him to know.

And I say, sure, go ahead and ask. If you're planning on breaking up anyway you have nothing to lose. But his answers might also convince you to stick around and see how it goes.
posted by SaltySalticid at 10:31 AM on February 10, 2021 [11 favorites]

Are you sure he's not married? Meeting only on his terms, being affectionate but not going any further than that... "he's married" was my first thought.
posted by jabes at 10:39 AM on February 10, 2021 [8 favorites]

(A) Nothing went wrong, you just found out that your expectations are different. I can't think of many reasons that would make me think an honest conversation isn't a warranted step, with the proviso that his avoidance may extend to avoiding this request, too. Align your expectations with your experience.

(B) This is a work in progress, but I learned to use my emotional cues to recognize red flags and respond to them accordingly, rather than compromising my values by sticking out situations that feel wrong (not simply uncomfortable, but genuinely against a personal value) in hopes that they may change. Previously I tolerated repeated infidelity under the misled idea that unconditional love is firmly rooted in forgiveness and that should be applied to all situations equally. Now, if I'm getting halfway serious about someone and let them in on how I feel about this, I don't endure so much as a flirt without bringing it up as a reason we're probably not a good fit. It feels uncomfortable to do this because I'm putting my present self first at the expense of some imagined future self, and that was an astonishing realization (I started going to therapy for the first time after my divorce a couple of years ago, and this is one of many awarenesses that I've found helpful in the course of it).
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 10:56 AM on February 10, 2021 [4 favorites]

A possible flag here: you say "in my country" so if you're not in the same North American dating culture I'm most familiar with I may be totally off base. If you happen to be living in (even if you/these men are not coming from) a culture with very divergent marriage/family expectations than US/CAN/UK it's probably more complicated than this.

I think other commenters are right that you should be more intention-forward from the start to filter out some of the men seeking sex, affairs, or cover girlfriends (not necessarily that he's not into women but may have an existing partner or preferred type of partner who would not be "acceptable" to work, family, social networks, or his partner is frequently not around and he's keeping himself occupied), and abusers who are just going to work the numbers and try every woman who comes along to see who will take it. Save yourself some time - don't imagine you're leaving any great opportunity on the table who might "change his mind", don't date men who haven't made up their minds already.

It's entirely possible this person isn't into you but is short on friends or wants to keep you on the back burner in case another opportunity doesn't work out or has intimacy issues, but it's not okay to hide his motives - that's dishonest in the greasiest "technically I wasn't lying" way and you shouldn't have time for it.

Women are trained from early on that you can't have too strong an opinion on your life or you'll "scare" men off, but a man who isn't aligned with what you want is always a clock counting down to 0 - you can "scare" him off on the first date or 6 months later when you frustratedly press for some kind of commitment and the only winner there is him, who got his needs serviced and likely had someone running some part of his life for him for six months. So put in your bio that you are looking for a serious relationship with someone who has similar priorities, and focus your initial conversations and meetings on chemistry, communication, and value-matching.

That's not to say you're not going to feel excited and nervous, or that you won't get the high of having someone interested in you. You will; you should. But feelings are not a mandate, you can feel them and still have standards and sadly say so long to someone who isn't going to reach them.

I would strongly suggest, even though covid is going to mitigate this some, do not spend extensive time messaging before meeting. It creates a lot of the relationship in your head and invents a person who does not exist - on both sides.

And something that is really important is when you catch yourself trying to "figure out" someone's behavior or "waiting" to get a better or more enlightening response or attention or answer to a question someone won't address, that's a Known Issue for you. It's big warning flag that you are being too passive and are ignoring what someone is showing you who they are in hopes that they will change. Stop waiting for change.

That also doesn't mean you have to marry the first relationship-minded man who makes it past the initial filtering stage. Just because he wants a wife (you should always be skeptical first - WHY does he want a wife, WHAT does he think a wife's role is in his life, there are plenty of men who just don't want to handle their own shit, so hold out for someone who wants a long-term partner to partner with and not a mother with benefits) doesn't mean you are obligated to take the job. You should like him AND his priorities in life AND how he treats you/people AND ALSO he should like you in a way that is honest and genuine, and at the point any of that is in question you should stop and reconsider.
posted by Lyn Never at 10:58 AM on February 10, 2021 [12 favorites]

While it is important to have a post-mortem about your relationship, it's also important NOT to treat it as an evaluation (or worse, condemnation) of your dating practices.

Instead, I would suggest you start expanding your social circle, which I understand can be difficult if you are used to the same security clearance circle.

If the same thing happens to you (you keep dating same type of men), you need to hang around DIFFERENT type of men. Which means different social circles. Maybe not completely different, but... adjacent? Close proximity? Something that is similar, but not the same?
posted by kschang at 11:34 AM on February 10, 2021

I think the restrictions on meeting around COVID have prolonged the "early dating"/"getting to know you" phase for a lot of relationships that would otherwise have fizzled out pretty quickly as the participants realized they just weren't all that into spending a bunch of time together. The reliance on texts and other distanced forms of communication that have been required to deal with the pandemic also allow for a certain amount of engaging interaction without the weight of spending time together, assessing physical compatibility, etc., that most budding relationships take on in the first few months. I think in another environment you would have realized quite quickly that he wasn't all that engaged and might have ended it quickly, but in the current circumstances it's been prolonged, you've put effort into electronic communication, etc., and now it feels worse than it might have otherwise. Restless Nomad's wording is excellent and acknowledges the good things about your interactions while making it clear you're moving on.

I think mid-thirties is a tough time to be dating because a lot of the people who are comfortable with commitment have already made one by that age, and mostly aren't divorced yet. But not everyone! Awesome people are out there. Internet dating is a numbers game, and since it is, it's good to be up front about what you want and what's important to you so that you're not sinking time into someone who's never going to work out. Mature adult men are not shy woodland creatures who have to be lured gently into a relationship without scaring them. (I wish I had internalized that realization a lot earlier than I actually did).
posted by The Elusive Architeuthis at 11:42 AM on February 10, 2021 [4 favorites]

How early in a dating scenario is it okay to bring up the importance of long term mutual commitment?

If you're thinking about breaking up, it's not too early.
posted by Obscure Reference at 1:03 PM on February 10, 2021 [1 favorite]

What's with all the handholding and hugging and kissing?

He gets boyfriend/girlfriend benefits without commitment. I would personally withdraw all "free" affection. Not as a ploy to make him move towards you but rather for your own sake, to keep your emotions steady. Also, though, fuck him for getting shit for free.

I'd say you're too curious about and invested in someone who isn't giving you want you want. I think a lot of women stay in that "but why?" phase instead of moving on because either they believe the issue is theirs or they want to explore the man's "troubled childhood" or search his natal chart for Chiron placements so they can fix him (we've all been there). He's not worth that investment. You are. It's good to aim for "who cares why he isn't delivering?" as "he isn't delivering, I'm only interested in those who are" is all you need to know. It's a shift in perspective that enables you to sit in your power.

Without a solid foundation around you or faith in there being a person out there who you can connect with, it can make things trickier. That lack of a solid foundation (toxic workplace, few friends) can make you cling to even the slightest bit of "warmth" or make a glance between strangers look like the start of "how your father and I first met" and you lose yourself. I would focus on building yourself a better foundation. Yes it all feels very "big" to start chiseling away at the monumental-seeming rock in between yourself and your ideal life but nothing will change until you start working on it bit by bit.

I'm glad you're going to explore the issue of attraction to unavailable men with your therapist as it means your are investing in yourself. There is a theory (hypothesis?) that those who seek unavailable people are themselves unavailable. They just haven't realised it yet.
posted by ihaveyourfoot at 2:31 PM on February 10, 2021 [8 favorites]

Is there any value in insisting on an honest conversation with him before pulling the plug?

This somewhat depends on what you value more - the abstract idea of your "dignity" or closure? I personally favor closure and don't mind if I have to wade through a bit of awkwardness to get there.

There are a lot of reasons that a guy might be keen to take a relationship slow, especially now. I mean, globally a lot of people feel pretty precarious in their work right now, and are juggling far more than they're used to- unless you know this man's entire social, work, familial world/commitments, it's totally possible he is tired right now. (I am so tired right now). Or, as someone else mentioned, maybe he's a virgin or just lacks much experience and very ashamed about it or nervous around sex.

I'm blunt (sometimes too much so for my own good) and I'd probably say something along the lines of "Hey, I've really enjoyed our meetings and getting to know you, but I'm confused about why we've yet to go beyond hugging and kissing. Sorry if this is a bit blunt, but it feels like you're stringing me along and so I'm at the point where I need to know if this is something you're interested in. If not, no worries, and I'd enjoy being friends given our shared work experience." I think it's fine (and perhaps preferable given how he's responded before) to do this over text.
posted by coffeecat at 4:02 PM on February 10, 2021 [2 favorites]

I'll just be blunt here - you're talking about long-term mutual commitment, but it's tricky to even have that on the table with demonstrated mutual romantic/sexual attraction. Yes, not everyone wants to (or should!) hop into bed early, lots of people have issues with prior experience or trauma, asexuality/demisexuality is a thing, etc. Even so, you probably want to date people who are clearly interested in you in a lovers-not-friends kind of way. This isn't a sex drive thing; it's going to be awkward to try to have a romantic relationship with someone whose feelings for you are almost entirely platonic.

Here's an uncomfortable hypothesis, from experience: dating people who you really connect with over talking shop, and who really seem to place a high value on such, has a really big risk of being a non-starter. Why? It's because either you or the other person may consciously or unconsciously try to substitute the warm and fuzzy feelings of intellectual connection for actual romantic attraction that isn't quite there. Sometimes someone may want to take a relationship slowly for good reasons, but other times it's happening because they're not into you in quite the way they recognize that they need to be.

The pandemic complicates how relationships progress physically, obviously, but has this pattern shown up in your pre-covid relationships?
posted by blerghamot at 4:19 PM on February 10, 2021 [1 favorite]

Sounds like he just wants to be friends. Either he's not into you sexually or isn't sexual in general and just wants the occasional hand holding. If you want more than that, I'd look elsewhere for sexytimes, but you can still gripe about your jobs if you like.
posted by jenfullmoon at 4:45 PM on February 10, 2021 [1 favorite]

There are so many things that could be going on with him not wanting sex right now--religious/cultural choices, being asexual, something medical, having something to do with his body that he's embarrassed about, a kink he's embarrassed to share, being in a bad mental health place. Or, yeah, any of the less-savory options upthread. The fact that he laughs off your concerns isn't great, and you seem incompatible on this front (both sex and communication-wise), but neither of you seems to be a monster. This is how you figure out whether you should be in a relationship! I don't see anything that you've done wrong, and he's throwing yellow flags at worst.

I think it's perfectly fair to say something like "Hey, I like you, and sex is an important part of a relationship for me. Is it for you? Is it something you're interested in soon, or later, or are you more comfortable with our friendship as it is right now?" You could write it in an email if you wanted to give him time to think. No matter what the answer, it's okay to decide that this incompatible timing, or failure to communicate, isn't for you.
posted by tchemgrrl at 5:10 PM on February 10, 2021

It could be useful to you both in a sort of post-mortem way to have a final conversation about this in a friendly way, but only if you are prepared to potentially hear something that might sting, hurt, or fully shock you, with a slight possibility that he will turn deliberately cruel in response to your imagined "rejection".

There's certainly a possibility that there is some misunderstanding, or that the truth is he's just really lonely and likes your company, just not in that way. He's not obligated to tell you why if he doesn't want to, but if you put it straight on the line like, "I had been looking for a romantic relationship and I don't think this is one, is that worth having a conversation about or are we done?" to make it clear this is a closing conversation, he might decide it's worth sharing information you didn't previously have.

But it could be pointless, and you're not less of a person for just walking away.
posted by Lyn Never at 5:25 PM on February 10, 2021 [5 favorites]

"Three months later... we meet only when I ask for it"

What if you stop asking to meet? I'd be curious to see what would happen on his end, but you might be ready to cut him lose at this point. So it's really up to you how to proceed, but no matter what, don't think that there MUST be something wrong with your "pattern." On-line dating is a drag, until you meet someone right for you.

He seemed to be evasive when you asked what's going on, so you might not get the honest, open answer in this case even if you press...

FWIW, most of my long-term relationships developed slowly, such as the first kiss on date 6 - 10, and sex 2-3 months in of consistent dating (this is pre-Covid). I'm engaged now to the person with whom it went similarly in the beginning. I think this is not uncommon, and I personally prefer it this way. Perhaps people are just a bit shy/burnt/unsure how to proceed at first? I never pushed the issue. This is through my late 30s - early 40s. They WERE eager to meet up though. I could tell there was interest.
posted by LakeDream at 7:09 PM on February 10, 2021

I've asked him pointblank about what's going on, but he evades or jokes or says he's busy with work or tired or a combination of all four.
I think whether it's worth trying to have a conversation about the relationship sort of hinges on what exactly "asking him pointblank" looked like. If you haven't said that you're unsatisfied with the way the relationship is currently, it seems probably worth explicitly bringing that up (although there's nothing wrong with not doing that and just cutting it off if that's what you want — I say this because it seems possible, if unlikely, that the relationship could be salvaged if you can figure out how to communicate with each other, and that sounds like an outcome that you'd like?)

It also might be worth separating "commitment" from "physical intimacy", and thinking about what specific things you want when you talk about commitment — different people can have very different ideas about what acts are important in signaling commitment, so if you bring up specific examples of what you want, that can make things easier. Would you be satisfied if he did things like initiating meeting in person, but wanted to wait longer for physical intimacy?

It's hard to tell from this description whether he's just an asshole and a conversation won't be useful, or if there's just some miscommunication and he doesn't realize that he's hurting you. I think it'll be very difficult to figure that out without a frank conversation, so I'd say it seems worth talking.
posted by wesleyac at 7:28 PM on February 10, 2021

Response by poster: Last round of threadsitting, I promise
Not American or living in America, but that's fine - I would adjust the answers for cultural context. He's definitely not married.
I understand the tiredness, I do (though job anxiety isn't an issue for either of us). I've been tired since...2017, I think (stressful job, horrible commute). But wouldn't you make the effort to socialize if someone is important to you? I would.
All that said, I do not think he's a bad person and I'm sorry if my question came across as that. I asked him what he thinks a committed relationship might look like for him, and he said it'll happen when it has to happen. Either a cop-out or that's what he really believes. I don't and I'm willing to work at it, like I would for anything important, but it seems like a fair expectation to be met halfway.
He's just not that into me. Maybe it really is that simple. Thank you for the reality check.
posted by Nieshka at 8:23 PM on February 10, 2021

He might not be into you, he might have something going on, who knows. Whatever it is, it really doesn’t matter at this point because he’s not giving you what you want and he’s also unwilling to communicate about it so that’s basically all there is to it. Life is too short to wait around because someone whose really into you will let you know and not dance around it. You deserve to be with THAT guy. Leave this one behind and go find him.
posted by Jubey at 9:55 PM on February 10, 2021 [4 favorites]

Have you actually asked to define the relationship? That's unclear to me. If you haven't then start there - see if he wants this to become exclusive. Three months is long enough to get to that point. It seems like you're asking in more general terms what he thinks about committed relationships but aren't straight asking if he wants to be committed with you.

He may not be into you.... or he may have anxiety around sex, or be inexperienced and unsure of how to proceed, or a host of other reasons that don't have to do with him liking you. You can certainly decide that dealing with his baggage is too much, but give both of you a chance to find out what the baggage is before writing the whole thing off.

If you have specifically asked to define the relationship with you, sorry, please proceed as if I didn't say any of this.
posted by Amy93 at 4:21 PM on February 11, 2021

I really related to your question, because I changed a horrible dating pattern! From my very first teenage relationships until my early 30s I had a constant stream of terrible/unsuitable/abusive boyfriends, and at the age of 37, I’m in my first healthy relationship, with the man of my dreams, and we’re getting married next month.

How I did it:
- Therapy. Very helpful for figuring out patterns, understanding where they come from, and having a sounding board for your feelings- if you don’t have good boundaries or a good internal barometer for what’s ok, it’s very helpful to have an external sanity check. I spent a lot of early therapy sessions basically asking “is it ok that I feel this way?” Eventually I learnt to start trusting and listening to my feelings. You say this guy is actively hurting you- those feelings are trying to protect you and move you towards something good for you, so you need to start listening to them.
-Self help- I read so much self help. You can find loads of great recommendations on here for whatever your particular issues are. For what it’s worth, the game changer for me (I’m always recommending it on here) was Hold Me Tight by Sue Johnson- this was where I learnt that we all have emotional needs, and that a relationship should be about meeting those needs (and those of your partner). You’re not demanding or needy for wanting the person you’re dating to make you feel secure, safe and adored, that’s absolute baseline.
- Getting really clear about what I wanted. After a horrendous breakup 5 years ago, I decided I never wanted to date again. My relationships had caused me nothing but pain and I distrusted men and myself. I avoided men and dating like the plague for about 2 years, and I accepted and even embraced that love and a relationship was not on the cards for me. I know this sounds bleak, but if you truly, truly believe you are better off alone than with the wrong person, you are much less likely to put up with bad or even ambivalent relationships. You don’t have to be single for 2 years to do this. Love has been very healing for me and I don’t think you need to be perfectly healthy in order to find it and make it work. You also sound much further along the road to recovery than I was when I went scorched earth. But get really clear about what you want, and what you don’t want, and grow comfortable with the idea that you aren’t willing to pay for companionship with your happiness. Write down lists of requirements and dealbreakers. Be really specific. Put it in writing. Before, I’d just drift into relationships with people I thought were ok, thinking it would be a fun way to pass the time, then getting entangled and pouring huge amounts of energy into fixing something that was just fundamentally wrong for me. If someone was generally nice (or nice to me) I overlooked bad behaviour or glaring signs of incompatibility. Be intentional. If you haven’t already, read about emotional abuse learn to spot the warning signs. Decide that you want commitment and don’t settle for anything less. If being with someone makes you feel bad (actively hurt), actively stop your involvement with that person. Whatever you’ve learnt you want or don’t want from past relationships, therapy, positive relationships with friends or role model relationships in fiction or reality, write it down, and be strict about moving on when the person you’re seeing doesn’t measure up. Have a no tolerance policy for dealbreakers. If I’d implemented this earlier, I would have saved myself many years and a lot of heartbreak.

A couple of thoughts about your situation:
- this sounds very frustrating and disappointing, and because you chatted extensively before you met because of corona, it feels like a lot of investment. But look at it this way- you met someone you liked who helped you pass the time more enjoyably in lockdown. On a separate note, you met someone on an app, tried dating for about three months, and it fizzled out/didn’t go anywhere. Neither of these things seem strange or indicate there’s anything wrong with you. Most relationships will (or maybe should!) end within three to six months, because that’s how long it takes for novelty of the initial chemistry/commonalities to fade and the full person starts to emerge. We’re not going to be long term compatible with everyone we think is great/we’re attracted to. Dating (particularly online dating), involves a lot of sifting and vetting. Unfortunately there’s no shortcut (beyond screening for your requirements/dealbreakers, and cutting your losses early when you recognise incompatibility). You might have a few 3 to 6 month relationships. Don’t see this as a sign of failure, the best way to learn new relationship skills is in the trenches of dating, and getting good at recognising what isn’t working is just as important as finding what you do want.

- re the “how soon can we talk about commitment” question. I am an avoidant Brit so take with a pinch of salt, but I didn’t ask that question, partly because of fear of vulnerability, but also because I felt the answer wasn’t relevant. I’m not looking for someone who says he wants commitment, I’m looking for a series of behaviours that shows someone is committed. A guy can say he’s looking for something serious because he thinks that will get you into bed, or because he thinks that will make him sound like a nice guy, or because he really does want something long term. But that doesn’t mean he wants commitment with you. What I found more helpful in the early stages was to think about the behaviours I wanted and that indicated he was in to me- did he text/call me frequently? Did he respond quickly when I texted him? Did he seem keen to see me? Did he take an interest in getting to know me? Did he seem attracted to me? What was his relationship history? What does he think about relationships/women? Etc etc etc. Of course, someone can fake these things for a while, or do them genuinely at first then lose interest, but again, that’s what these 3 to 6 month relationships are for- you can’t see into someone’s soul via their dating profile, you have to put in some work (and risk getting hurt) by getting to know some people who will end up not being right for you. But that’s part of the process and not a sign that you’re in any way defective.
- it doesn’t really matter what his deal is. I mean, I know it must be infuriating, but whether he’s genuinely too busy, not that into you, or has some emotional/relationship issue that’s holding him back, he’s not available for you in a way that makes you happy. Who knows, perhaps that could change, but for now I would pull back from this person. It’s great if you can be friends but that can be hard to do in your situation without continuing to pour too much emotional energy into a “friendship” you’re hoping will turn into more and leaving you with nothing to invest in better romantic prospects. I think there would be no harm in saying something like “I think you’re great and I was hoping we had potential for a relationship, but it doesn’t seem that’s what you’re after. I’d love to be friends, but I’m going to pull away for a while to get over you and refocus my romantic attention. I’ll hit you up in a couple of months when I’ve done that and we can get coffee and bitch about work”. I’ve found there’s a lot of power in vulnerability and owning and honouring your feelings. It’s not weird or needy that you grew romantic feelings for someone you met on a dating app, spoke with daily for months, and has been attentive and affectionate towards you. Don’t dismiss yourself here- these are very reasonable feelings to have and it would be odd if he thought otherwise. Caring for someone, feeling hurt your feelings aren’t returned, being upfront about that and taking steps to protect yourself (without lashing out at the person who hurt you) are healthy, grown up things. I think it’s a great opportunity to practice honouring your feelings, being vulnerable and putting your needs first.

Good luck, I’m rooting for you.
posted by Dwardles at 2:30 AM on February 13, 2021 [3 favorites]

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