Dating is a battlefield.
November 1, 2007 10:23 AM   Subscribe

Is there something wrong with my dating priorities, or is this totally normal?

For the past year or so I've had a string of dating experience that have ended abruptly. This is all after exiting a long term relationship that lasted years. When I was in my teens, this all seemed much easier, when I liked a guy and he liked me back, we went out for a couple months, broke up and there was no complicated discussions about what we were to each other.

Now, I'm getting guys in their twenties that are claiming that they feel like they're having an existential crisis or otherwise unable to have relationships with me that apparently have nothing to do with me. This speech often comes after dating for a short period of time, so the relationships last no longer than a month.

I'd like to say at this point that I honestly believe them that it's nothing to do with me. And besides, even if it was, I'm happy with who I am and not concerned that I need to change anything about myself.

Then there are the guys I have met through online dating. With that, I feel like they're in to me, but I just don't feel it. I end up breaking that off after a date or so.

My question is: Is it normal to have so many missed connections with people you feel you are honesty (emotionally, physically) attracted to and connecting with? To put it another way, is it normal to (apparently) only be into people who aren't so into you?

Stats, in case they matter: straight girl in her 20s.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (27 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Could just be the age. I got out of college about a year and a half ago and all my friends are going through existential crises at the moment. I've also noticed I have about the same type of luck as you - girls I'm interested in don't reciprocate the feeling (and I'm really oblivious to whether other people are interested in me, so I don't have any data for that).
posted by backseatpilot at 10:36 AM on November 1, 2007

Now, I'm getting guys in their twenties that are claiming that they feel like they're having an existential crisis

Quarter-life crisis, perhaps?
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 10:40 AM on November 1, 2007 [2 favorites]

Well, wait a minute. Statistically, doesn't this situation have to be the norm?

Otherwise, if attraction and commitment were regularly equal on both sides, we'd all be in serial relationships with virtually no breaks in between for dating. All our first dates would work out and turn into long term relationships of some flavour, right?
posted by DarlingBri at 10:41 AM on November 1, 2007 [1 favorite]

Unfortunately, as a fellow straight girl in her 20's, this sounds a lot like my life. I find a lot of guys our age are still getting over their first serious relationship, which they either come out of severely damaged or very bitter. The sort of thing you have described has happened to me three times in the last two months. Very depressing. So yeah it's normal, well at least normal for me.
posted by whoaali at 10:45 AM on November 1, 2007

Well, if my dating experience (mid 30s) is remotely typical, then it's definitely normal -- I have yet to find anything other than "person crazy for me who I have no real feelings for" or "awe-inspiring person who isn't into me at all." Basically, the kind of person I want doesn't have any obvious use of one like myself, and vice versa.

I think it's the very rarity of finding a pair of people who have the mutual connection that makes it seem so magical.
posted by Pufferish at 10:49 AM on November 1, 2007 [2 favorites]

My m.o. back in my swinging single days would be to date a girl until I had gotten tired of sleeping with her and then come up with some excuse for why I was breaking up with her, somewhere along the lines of an existential crisis. You have to make it clear that you can't be her boyfriend, but you have to make it look like the obstacle to being her boyfriend arose after you started dating, so that she can't say "Well if you knew you couldn't be my boyfriend then why did you start dating me, jerk?" So, it is like a little twenty minute emo speech that really means "I wanted to bone you for a while, but there is no way I want you for a girlfriend." It avoids getting yelled at like 9 out of 10 times. Could be that.
posted by ND¢ at 10:50 AM on November 1, 2007 [15 favorites]

I'm a straight female in my late 20s, and the exact same thing happened to me for about five years. I simply could not get any relationship off the ground. Three months was the max, and that's a generous estimate. It was really discouraging, but I have a feeling it's not unusual.

Some of these guys would claim the "not ready for a relationship" thing, but then they'd turn right around and have a serious relationship with someone else. That line is more likely a He's Just Not That Into You cliche than a real existential crisis, but either way, you're right: nothing's the matter with you.

Not sure if you experience the similar new-relationship anxiety and clinginess that was my downfall, but if you do, my advice would be to be aware of it and relax. After a few repeats of the short-term relationship pattern, I got tense when dating a new guy, and took every positive sign to mean that maybe this was the one relationship that would actually last for longer than six weeks. Likely I ended up scaring a few guys off with that attitude. Stick with guys because you like them, not because you think they'll be around in six months.

Another piece of advice: if a first date doesn't totally click, don't write it off as a bad one. Unless you really do not want to see someone again, give them another chance. The person who broke my unlucky streak, and with whom I am deeply in love, is someone I started dating over a year after our first "he's not that into me" date.

In short: you're fine!
posted by Metroid Baby at 11:01 AM on November 1, 2007

I'd give it two dates, instead of one. Otherwise, yeah, it's a numbers game. And what ND¢ said.
posted by sondrialiac at 11:02 AM on November 1, 2007

Maybe we could talk about this over a nice dinner in a candlelit restaurant...
(I kid.) The short answer: yes. The long answer: some guys will claim "they're having an existential crisis" when they don't mean it, because these internal excuses are inarguable, and you're more likely to let go. Some just don't want to hurt you, even if there is something about you they don't like. But some guys genuinely are- and I think that the ones most likely to have issues are the ones recently out of major relationships. If they aren't being honest about why they won't date you, you'll have to find someone more candid to reject you.
posted by wzcx at 11:02 AM on November 1, 2007

To me, it seems like you have hit upon the easy to miss truth of dating - only going out with people you're really interested in actually dating. You're not letting these guys quarter life crises affect your inner well being, which is good. So what if who you're interested in isn't so into you? That just means they're not the one for you, since you can't be perfect for everyone.

No worries, you're normal. Or, actually, because you're being sane and rational about dating, you're abnormal, but here that's a good thing. You're comfortable with who and what you are, and apparently know what you like in a guy. Don't compromise on what you want and values that are important for you to have in the person you're dating, but don't limit yourself by being so exacting in details. Best of luck!
posted by blueorchids at 11:03 AM on November 1, 2007

ND¢: did we ever go out? Jerk. (I kid.)

Seriously, though, I do wish more guys were open with what they wanted. A lot of women are perfectly fine with having one person to hook up with every now and then, outside of the context of a relationship. It spares a lot of drama and tears to say "I just want sex," and it's honest, and it saves you date money and time waiting to get in people's pants, though it's not always easy to say without coming off as sleazy.

Back in the day, I would much rather have heard "I just want some action every now and then" than the whole dating bait and switch, only for the dude to pull away as soon as I started thinking there was something more than physical attraction.
posted by Metroid Baby at 11:22 AM on November 1, 2007

I'm with the camp that says you're normal. I too am female, in my 20s, and have had the same kinds of relationships. I think part of it with 20-something guys (not all of course, but many that I have known), is that they get freaked about the notion of "a relationship" so soon.

I know a month doesn't seem like too short a time if you're spending lots of time together, but ultimately he has to decide he wants to be with you exclusively, and if a guy feels pressured to make that decision sooner than he wants to, he might bail.

It's weird - even if you're just dating and you are the only girl he's seeing, just making the declaration that you're "in a relationship" puts you on a different level. It's like, he may not want to see other people, but likes knowing he has the option. I think I'm getting off topic.

To address your concerns about online dating, I feel like a lot of people who seek relationships online want serious relationships and are likely to try and make them happen sooner than in "the real world." If there's an air of desperation, even someone who is physically attractive, successful, etc. is going to seem less attractive to you.

While you might be wanting to meet them, get to know them, consider whether you want to pursue something with them, they might assume you're as ready for a serious relationship as them and have some expectation that you'll pursue that with them unless you have a solid reason not to. I don't know if that helps. Just some observations I have made.
posted by Ruby Doomsday at 11:30 AM on November 1, 2007 [1 favorite]

Nthing "You're normal." For one thing, "I'm having an existential crisis" really means, "I'm just not that into you." If a guy (or gal) really likes someone, they won't let "existential crises" get in the way of a relationship. Don't take it personally, though - it doesn't mean you are unattractive or undesirable, it just means you didn't ring that guy's bell. I'm sure Angelina Jolie got "I'm just not that into you" from time to time.

People in their twenties are often loath to settle down - they're just not into anybody for a serious relationship, not just you. Some people want to stuff their faces at an actual or perceieved sexual smorgasbord, and again it's not about you. It's about them and their priorities.

Finally: the cliche is true, you have to kiss a lot of frogs before you find your prince(ss). Don't be discouraged. The same factors that have opened up our lives to meeting more and varied people have opened us up to meeting a lot of people who just don't "click." Dating is often a numbers game. The thing is not to be discouraged or think it's all about you (unless it is - some people DO have off-putting personalities, but that doesn't sound like you at all.), it's more about "you can't be expected to like everyone you meet enough to commit to them."
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 11:37 AM on November 1, 2007

As a guy in your target demographic I can say that Rosie M. Banks is basically exactly right. Also whoever said that guys around my age are often getting over their first really serious relationship resonated with me, as I didnt realize it was so common to feel completely broken about that at this age.

So, its not you, its them.

Finally, dont worry about meeting Mr. Right just enjoy people while you are with them, and make them work to get into your pants, I wouldnt never admit this to a girl I havent slept with yet, but I like the chase.
posted by BobbyDigital at 12:35 PM on November 1, 2007

that are claiming that they feel like they're having an existential crisis or otherwise unable to have relationships with me that apparently have nothing to do with me.

You can believe it, from the emo kids I see out there. Most of the dissapointing things people do in relationships has very little to do with the other person.
posted by Ironmouth at 12:50 PM on November 1, 2007

let's not forget just how much breaking up sucks. most people don't like confrontations, tears and all that. they will avoid saying anything potentially hurtful and come up with some excuse that will get them out of sight as fast as possible. I'm guilty of that myself.

how do you tell someone that something to them bothers you, that they are not it, that there is something you don't like, that you're not feeling it? and what is the point of doing it if you have already made your decision to go away?

you are normal and chances are they are normal, too. people just suck at communicating when consequences might be less than pleasant.

I, btw, am guilty of pulling the 'not ready for a relationship' excuse once myself. it was bs but it got me out of it. I could have never told her that I just couldn't deal with the drama that ensued every time we had sex. she loved oral but let's just say she didn't taste well and thus I did not feel like doing that. "I'm not ready for a relationship" seemed a much better excuse in such this situation than saying that.
posted by krautland at 1:12 PM on November 1, 2007

He's Not That Into You, But He'd Rather Be With You Than Be Alone

As a guy -- hell, as a person -- I think it's pretty hard to get yourself to a place where you're happier being alone than with somebody you sorta-kinda like but see no long term prospects with. I'm thinking that they genuinely do like you, but they want to be free to jump ship in case they meet somebody they like better.

It sucks, but the good news is that at least they aren't going along with the whole exclusive relationship thing with that ulterior motive in mind.

And, yeah, it's pretty hard to find somebody you're crazy about who's also crazy about you. Good luck!
posted by LordSludge at 2:03 PM on November 1, 2007

This doesn't suddenly change when they're out of their twenties, alas. With all due respect to the other half of the human race but: boys are dumb.

Guys are so very much unlike women as to be complete cyphers. Thinking about what they're feeling just doesn't happen--a feeling arises, it (most of the time) either baffles or unsettles them, the only way to get that to stop is to make the external (perceived) source go away.

Worse: guys who do like you, who even see potential with you, will still walk away if something, anything is wigging them out. It's a problem, it makes messes, it is frequently devastating--but this is how things (mostly) are.

It's not about you. And that's why they bolt. And you have to figure out a way to live with the simultaneous relief and severe disappointment that you do not factor, at all, in their decision to leave.

Again, respectfully: 99.9% of my friends are guys. I love them all. But I also know them.
posted by gsh at 2:46 PM on November 1, 2007 [2 favorites]

Don't sweat the fact that people you meet online tend to be unsuitable. It's a structural problem.

The vast majority of people in the world are going to be romantically unsuitable. When you're meeting them in real life, the large subset those people whose unsuitability is immediately evident get screened out automatically -- there's never a baseline for an innocent flirtation to say the least of an offer an acceptance of a casual coffee on neutral ground.

When you are meeting people online, you lose the advantage of that automatic screen. Tons of people who'd immediately be a turn-off met in the flesh can slip right through to that flirtation and setting-up-a-coffee stage, but it's doomed to fail shortly thereafter. This is especially true for people who -- not the OP I hope, but common -- who have poor insight into, or are simply kidding themselves about, their own criteria for attraction.
posted by MattD at 2:58 PM on November 1, 2007

I was totally like ND¢ in my twenties. I don't know if that makes me a bad person, or if that is just what guys of that age are like. But in fairness, a lot of the girls I met back then weren't relationship all-stars, either, for a lot of the same reasons (had too much sex in college, didn't have enough sex in college, too interested in commitment, not interested at all in commitment, etc).

That said, if what you are doing isn't giving you results that you want, doing more of the same probably won't help. Are you totally sure that you are behaving in ways that would appeal to the sort of person, at the sort of place in their life, that you are looking for? I've known lots of people who claimed to be "looking," and spent a lot of time dating, but when push came to shove they always, always, always, had a reason why each candidate was unacceptable. That may be dating, but it sure isn't looking, if you know what I mean.
posted by Forktine at 3:16 PM on November 1, 2007

Know thyself.

Maximize opportunity.

Know when to stop looking.

I tried online dating for a while. Someone told me " is what you do in between actual dating", but I think that might extend to any service, not just Match. I think she was correct—people aren't the same as what they write down, even if they are being as truthful as possible.
posted by Araucaria at 4:17 PM on November 1, 2007 [1 favorite]

... to finish my thought: online dating keeps you in practice, but that's about it. What really seems to help is doing things that make you feel like a better person, that give your life meaning outside of relationships. People tend to end up with someone who is at a similar emotional stage of development, so ask yourself: do you want to find a guy who is at about the same place you are? Be the best you can be and you will discover someone who's there also.
posted by Araucaria at 4:23 PM on November 1, 2007

Errr, I was in the situation you described and that was when I really sat down, examined my life and finally realized I was a lesbian. No shit. :) YMMV
posted by CwgrlUp at 5:33 PM on November 1, 2007 [1 favorite]

from what i've heard and read around here
guys at that age decide they're not into u later rather than sooner and then they make something up to get out of it cos they dont want to admit they dont really know what they want.
My other half's daughter found a good relationship with someone older after repeatedly dating guys her age that went thru seeming interested then not bothered

if your immediate peers are all useless look someage else
posted by browolf at 5:49 PM on November 1, 2007

I agree that it's probably because guys in their 20s don't know what they want quickly enough to tell before starting to date. Once they hit their 30s, they generally can screen a lot better, and don't bother dating unless the person is a lot closer to ideal.

Because this applies to women as well, you're also contributing to the problem: you're in your 20s, you're not as good at spotting a mis-match early on, and you date guys that won't turn out to be right for you in the long run (as evidenced by the fact that they aren't there anymore -- the right guy will be there after six weeks).

But don't let this stop you from dating: dating is how you develop the skill to spot what you want/don't want/can't tolerate in a partner. (I include sticking around as a desirable quality that you'll get better at spotting early on.)

So ...
In your teens, it's all just silliness.
In your 20s, relationships will be hit or miss.
In your 30s, they'll succeed in much higher percentages. Ideally, one will stick permanently (if that's what you want).
posted by Capri at 8:16 PM on November 1, 2007

This doesn't suddenly change when they're out of their twenties, alas.

oh yes, please, read that again. I sincerely wish people would get over the concept that the twentysomethings of this earth have some kind of monopoly on assholishness. Sure, ok, younger people don't have as much life experience and may be a little flightier, and we're all fools to some degree when we're young... but honestly if someone's a fool at thirty, they're likely to be a fool at fifty... and a fool at fifty will probably be a fool for the rest of their life.

believe me, thirtysomething dudes PEOPLE *ahem* play these games too. hell fiftysomethings do. I know this for a solid fact.

In a nutshell, it sounds like there is really nothing to worry about, dear anonymous. It isn't you. Dating is damned hard work, whether you're in high school, college or post-divorce, and regardless of your gender or any other modifiers.

I won't bore you with how many years of frog-kissing I had to go through (in my mid-late thirties) but honestly I could have pretty much written that OP up there about my experiences.

oh and for GOD'S sake, please don't get desperate or complacent and settle for Mr. Right Now just because you can't stand sleeping alone or get worried about some arrant OMGIMGONNADIEALONE bullshit... take that as gospel from a wise older gal, because I spent ten years of my life stuck in a moderate-to-desperately unhappy rut that way. On the flip side, there's also absolutely nothing wrong with keeping an FWB if that's your thing, but be honest with yourself and him if that's what you're doing.

Whatever you do, don't stress about being 'broken', because you aren't, keep an open mind, (here's the catch) ENJOY yourself, and you'll find someone cool eventually.

The key thing I found is that every single relationship I was in, every person I met, whether I had one date with them, or went out for a month, or lived with him a year (or ten) - they all taught me something about myself, if I was smart enough to pick up on it. I learned some good (and not-so-good) things about myself, and was able to transform myself into a calmer, easier-to-be-with person from this process. I quit being so high-strung, and lost a bunch of the shallow "expectations" I'd been clinging to.

Not to say everyone wants or needs this sort of self-enlightenment journey, but if you turn around your perspective and begin to look at dating as a [warning: trite cliche ahead] journey rather than a destination (or even worse, a checklist-fulfilment exercise), then you'll probably enjoy it a lot more.

... and yea, look out for the ND¢ types. they're everywhere, and can be of any age/gender/persuasion.
posted by lonefrontranger at 9:11 PM on November 1, 2007 [1 favorite]

[a few comments removed - metatalk is for saying you wouldn't date other MeFites.]
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:37 AM on November 2, 2007

« Older latin translation help   |   In need of advice: what should be done with a dog... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.