Is it bad that I want to bicker?
July 17, 2007 4:45 PM   Subscribe

Is it a horrible idea to date outside the personality type you're most attracted to?

So, for most of my life I have been intrigued by the sort of antagonistic love affair embodied by Rhett and Scarlett, Han and Leia, Prof. Higgins and Eliza, Rochester and Jane, Petruchio and Kate, Benedick and Beatrice. I tend to be drawn to guys who have an air of [more or less] commanding self-assurance and who are willing to challenge me on my ridiculousness, bicker and banter with me as well as have healty intellectual debates.

Of my two most significant romantic experiences, the one long term relationship I've had did not especially follow this pattern, while a few months of dating another chap more closely emulated the gold standard, and I found it delightfully refreshing.

Now to the present: I've got a crush on a chap in my circle of friends, who is not so much a Han Solo as a Luke -- which is to say, pretty awesome in his own right, just a substantially different personality: less confident and commanding, more introspective and sensitive (obviously, there is a balance). He's really attractive, and can make me laugh. I like talking to him about the things that fascinate him -- if there's one thing I require in a person I'm going to involve myself with, it's that they be passionate about something. We have very similar tastes in media (movies, music), and both heartily enjoy outdoor pursuits -- I mean, we're in the same fairly close-knit group of friends, so clearly we share some interests. We have good dialogue in emails, on the phone, in person. I'd be perfectly happy just being friends, except I'm frequently seized with the desire to pounce him and take things to a very non-platonic level.

The crush is mutual, to the extent that he has admitted he likes me; however, I told him that things couldn't work out because I was a) still hung up on my previous relationship (I was), and b) too uncomfortable with his being a year younger than me, and feeling like I needed someone older (by several years, preferably).

...but, it's been a few weeks and while I'm not shaking the crush; I AM re-thinking my earlier statements. Ex-chap is looking less and less of a tragic loss, and current chap is looking significantly less young and naive now that the ostentatious flirting has died down.

I'm only in my early 20's, so I figure there is something to be said for trying it before I knock it, right? I'm just concerned that I have these doubts beforehand, as it makes me feel like anything I'd be getting into with him would in some ways be an experiment. (But then... dating kind of is, right?)

Insight and advice, anecdotes, horror stories welcome -- should I just see where things go and stop agonizing about it (I do like him, after all, and you're only young once!) or should I hold back and not muck things up?
posted by dorothy humbird to Human Relations (31 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Go for it. You might not marry him (reader, I did) but dating a non-commanding kind of guy gives you a chance to take the lead in a relationship for once. It can be a real learning experience.
posted by b33j at 4:50 PM on July 17, 2007

Imagine the worse thing that could happen if it were to end badly and if it wasn't too bad then you only live once. To me, I wouldn't necessarily worry about trying a different personality type (after all you admit that you are young so why not expand your horizons). What I would be more concerned about how this would effect your circle of friends if it went down bad or if you would feel bad about potentially losing a friend. Only you know your friend's scocial network to know if that will be a big deal or not.
posted by mmascolino at 4:55 PM on July 17, 2007

I'm only in my early 20's, so I figure there is something to be said for trying it before I knock it, right?

Early 20's? Are sure you really know what personalities your attracted too? There are pretty much an infinite combination of traits out there. You can't have tried them all yet.
posted by tkchrist at 4:55 PM on July 17, 2007

Maturity isn't about years. My husband's a year younger than I am, and was always much more focussed and driven than I am, which is what I needed when we met.

I say go for it, too. That first kind of relationship is great in the early days, and maybe a little longer, but constant bantering could lead to constant bickering, and incessant conflict gets old.

Besides, this guy sounds like a catch.
posted by misha at 4:56 PM on July 17, 2007

Oh lord, stop pigeonholing yourself, and stop overthinking this. I spent a good chunk of my life insisting that I was only attracted to pensive, cynical, intellectual hipster types with geometric glasses and obscure record collections. I finally dropped my bullshit about having a "type" and started dating a wildly funny, optimistic goofball who doesn't even have a record collection. I'm the happiest I've ever been in my life.

You've got nothing to lose except some preconceived notions. Give it a whirl.
posted by scody at 4:58 PM on July 17, 2007 [6 favorites]

Why do you crazy women do this sort of bizarre second guessing?

You like him, he likes you, hurry up and pounce on him for christsakes.

That doesn't mean you have to sire his offspring.

Now go! Shoo! Get away from your computer. Go make sexy fun time with your new crush.
posted by wfrgms at 5:06 PM on July 17, 2007 [7 favorites]

After many a relationship that started strong but ended quickly and/or badly, I went way outside my "type" when I hooked up with the woman I've been married to for eight years, and with whom I have two lovely kids. Give it a go.
posted by davejay at 5:07 PM on July 17, 2007

I second Scody.

You've done a good job of putting everything in very neat, organized categories. "These are the qualities of someone I like," "This is the age of someone I like," etc etc. That's a very good way to keep control of a situation and stay sure of what's going on... But it's not a good way to handle matters of the heart.

Most people can't accurately describe what it is about their partners, I bet, and even less people could accurately describe what characteristics in a person would attract them. (Again, I'm just guessing, but this has the feel of truthiness to it.)
posted by Ms. Saint at 5:08 PM on July 17, 2007

You're definitely overanalyzing. If you think this stuff can or should be figured out logically, I have to think you're doing it wrong. Screwdrivers vs roast beef, and all that.

I second the "pounce" above. Stop thinking so damn much.
posted by rokusan at 5:10 PM on July 17, 2007

Naw, go for it.
posted by lemuria at 5:18 PM on July 17, 2007

Yeah - you dig each other. Go for it - what's to lose?

When I was a teenager I was very into the idea of dating "challenging" guys. Or, as I now like to think of them, guys who were just jerks to me, and I lapped it up, imagining I was in a Katharine Hepburn movie. Ugh. Then I started dating someone who was, you know... considerate. That was the smartest thing I've ever done.
posted by LobsterMitten at 5:43 PM on July 17, 2007

Go for it. I was attracted to the Han Solo's until I met the my husband, who is a sensitive Luke-type and eight years younger than I am. We have a lovely daughter. I don't miss the drama at all.
posted by jeanmari at 5:45 PM on July 17, 2007


But seriously. Try it you might like it.
posted by gergtreble at 6:08 PM on July 17, 2007 [8 favorites]

I figure there is something to be said for trying it before I knock it, right?


...anything I'd be getting into with him would in some ways be an experiment. (But then... dating kind of is, right?)

Right again!

(I do like him, after all, and you're only young once!)

Absolutely right!
posted by altcountryman at 6:11 PM on July 17, 2007

I think that going out with somebody outside your preconceived type can be quite enlightening, as you may find yourself surprised by all kinds of personal attributes, traits, talents & so on that you might not have expected to find so valuable & endearing, and which you mightn't readily be able to pick from external appearances anyway.

One example that springs to mind is that I always thought that I could only ever date, as a non-negotiable base necessity, one of your academically successful, culturally hyperliterate, liberal types, until I found myself once with somebody almost the complete diametrical opposite of that, and she probably turned out to be my favourite (ex-) girlfriend evar. I just quickly got over my supposed 'need' for my partner to have those attributes, especially if I can talk intellectual crap all the time online or with friends. In fact, her unpretentious down-to-earthness was very refreshing, and she brought a whole bunch of other impressive qualities into the relationship.

Getting back to you, you're quite young still, and have plenty of time to sample what different kinds of people have to offer. I say go for it - you might be pleasantly surprised. On the other hand, if it doesn't work out, you can put it down as a learning experience that has helped you refine your ideas of what you do or don't want in a partner & keep looking. Best of luck!
posted by UbuRoivas at 6:11 PM on July 17, 2007

You are not presently happily married or in a perfect romantic relationship. Therefore, it would be fair to say that every romantic relationship you have had up until this point has failed in one way or another. Apparently, most of these failed relationships have involved you dating the same kind of person.

You shouldn't second guess yourself for dating someone different. You should second guess yourself the next time you want to date someone who is the same.
posted by flarbuse at 6:46 PM on July 17, 2007 [2 favorites]

bla bla bla, get to shtuppin'
posted by poweredbybeard at 7:46 PM on July 17, 2007

Y'know, you find that over the years your tastes change. You think you like one thing...only to find out something else tastes good too.

You're letting your silly second guessing, about what you think you want mess up something that could be wonderful. All because you already think you know best.
posted by filmgeek at 7:46 PM on July 17, 2007

I have a type. The best type. The type that will sleep with me.
posted by tkchrist at 8:00 PM on July 17, 2007 [2 favorites]

You're young enough that these things shouldn't matter, and maybe you're getting ahead of yourself in considering the implications of this crush.

However, just as an anecdotal data point speaking to the more general issue of this flavor of attraction, my parents are bickerers and the effect this had on me as I look back at history is that I had parents who never seemed to like each other.
posted by rhizome at 8:23 PM on July 17, 2007

I'll go against the grain a little and say that I have a bit of empathy for your situation, even though I'm a guy (also my 20s.)

Love is a fundamentally irrational, shaven-monkey kind of exercise, and these preferences we have are deep-seated and, in my opinion, rather important. In a relationship you're going to have some tough times, some hard decisions to make and you'll need to have a lot of patience. You'll need to 'sell' yourself on being with this person time and time again and these sorts of preferences will be your 'sales pitch.'

I'll say right off that I'm the same kind of guy as who you're describing - amiable, easy-going, sensitive, introspective. Less outward confidence and more self-doubt. Many of the girls I've dated have been more like you, I think - wanting someone that will play along with your crazy female games in a pithy, confident kind of way. Not my scene.

These relationships never worked out.


All of them (3) regretted it afterwards, and wanted to come back after a little while. But that proverbial ship had, for me, had sailed.

Interesting to see the relationship pattern from the other side of the table, no?

So, my advice to you is this -

Go for it, but be prepared to grapple with yourself to turn down the kinds of sassy, petulant behavior that may come instinctively. It might hurt him more than your realize. Be very, very careful never to draw attention to the differences you outlined above, it will be emasculating him and cut deep. Never show him this thread.

Good luck!
posted by milinar at 8:31 PM on July 17, 2007 [1 favorite]

This question answers itself. Did you honestly think anyone was going to say anything other than "go for it"?
posted by jejune at 8:58 PM on July 17, 2007

Do it.
And... you're uncomfortable with someone being a year younger than you? That's going to be something you'll have to get over. I consider it a total fluke when I date someone my own age - at 24 now I find I'm attracted to women from 18-38. Other 24-yr-olds only make up 5% of that group.
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 9:04 PM on July 17, 2007

You can doubt the sun is going to come up in the morning. That doesn't mean that those doubts mean a damn thing. Neither do these. What's the worst that could happen? It doesn't work out?
posted by Ironmouth at 9:17 PM on July 17, 2007

Go for it. But, whatever you do, do not hyperfocus on his personality traits, and yearn for him to be something he is not. Accept him for who he is, and enjoy.
posted by LoriFLA at 10:30 PM on July 17, 2007

Thinking that your "type" is someone you would bicker with is probably a sign that you grew up in a household where arguing was the norm, and you try to replay that dynamic because it feels like "home" to you. The fact that now you're considering being with someone you wouldn't argue with is a sign that you're gaining maturity, I think. The fact that he is one year younger is nothing.

You're second-guessing yourself because he seems like a serious guy and so, to you, giving it a shot means immediately getting into a serious relationship with him. So instead of doing that, tell him you want to give it a go but that you need to take it slowly. Seconding that he sounds like a real catch - definitely go for it!
posted by hazyjane at 11:12 PM on July 17, 2007

I went with someone outside my type, 10 years ago. Alas, he has come down with a cold as of this morning, poor guy :-O

That is, 10 years on, longest LTR for me ever, still honeymooning.
posted by Goofyy at 12:59 AM on July 18, 2007

I never had a type, and can't fathom why anyone would want to.
posted by BrotherCaine at 4:06 AM on July 18, 2007 [1 favorite]

Preferences change. People grow. Nice boys need lovin', too.

Wile E. Coyote dating strategies are bad news anyways. Solutions (and excitement) are found, not by doing the same thing over and over again, but by trying new things and new combinations and experimenting. So, POUNCE! Things might work out with Luke or they might not, but that's the deal with any new relationship. If it doesn't work out, keep in mind that it's not necessarily damning your compatibility with the Luke-type, but just that it didn't work out this time with this dude, just like any other dude. And if you really need some bantering sexual friction, the right Luke-type guy would certainly be GGG in this regard.

Also, you might try to be more in the moment and less fretful about relationships in general. The antagonistic love affair probably feels right to you because you're too busy thinking, "OMG WHAT WILL DUDE DO NEXT?" and it distracts you from this other, less tangible, anxiety. Many a woman has sabotaged their first nice-guy relationship with thoughts like yours. So, go in and be fair and give Luke the chance to rock you by his own merits and not in comparison to some archaic literary archetype.
posted by Skwirl at 12:34 PM on July 18, 2007

Best answer: The bad thing would be if you found yourself saying, "I ought to go out with this guy because he's awesome in many ways -- even though I'm not drawn to him."

But instead you're saying, "Maybe I should stay away from this guy because, even though we're attracted to each other, he's a year younger than I am." A year seem can more important in one early 20's than in one's later 20's -- but have you noticed signs of a maturity gap of any kind? If not, go ahead and date him.

But what about that earlier relationship? You're no longer hung up on that? I'd see that as more of an obstacle, if it's significant.
posted by wryly at 6:40 PM on July 18, 2007 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: The bad thing would be if you found yourself saying, "I ought to go out with this guy because he's awesome in many ways -- even though I'm not drawn to him."

I'm worried that this is actually what I'm saying internally, wryly. I realized after I posted the original question that I didn't make my doubts about his "youth" clear enough -- it's not just that he's a year younger, it's that he often gives off the impression of youth (and naivety) beyond that, as well as general self-deprecation and a lack of ability to be confident in himself. Not conceited, just confident.

I don't like feeling like I have the upper hand (wisdom, experience, powers of objective reasoning) and I have gotten that feeling on a number of occasions. But... I'm going to give myself another week or so and observe how my perceptions fluctuate. I have all these hormones getting in the way, after all.
posted by dorothy humbird at 3:03 PM on July 20, 2007

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