First of all, I’d like to thank you for this site, which I just found. I think all of your advice is so sound and mature, a big change from some of the other sites out there.
I’ve had a pattern of being involved with guys who make all the right “noises” — they ask me out, call every day, spend time with me, introduce me to their friends and family, are exclusive, don’t cheat—but I’m always left feeling like all the signs of a great relationship are there, but without the real substance. They don’t open up to me, don’t express themselves or their feelings or dreams, they seem to just want to get into a comfortable, monogamous routine where the relationship doesn’t really evolve or develop into anything deeper. I usually have to end the relationship after 1-2 years, when I see that they really don’t know how to open up and move things to another level, and they are usually devastated. I know this is kind of a ridiculous problem to have, considering all the “real” problems on this site, but I’m having so much trouble finding a real, nourishing, satisfying relationship where I can really connect with a partner over the long-term.
Anyway, that has been my history and I’ve started online dating for the first time and I am understandably a bit on the look out for early signs of this behavior as I just don’t want to fall into it again. I’ve been on three dates with a guy who seems nice, but has a few red-flags. He’s 42 years old and never married, no long term relationships for the past NINE years! What first bothered me was that each time we went out, he waited three days to call me, which is unheard of in my dating life. (I usually get a call/email/text the next day or at the latest the day after.) I asked him jokingly if he was following the “three day rule” (Although my feelings were hurt) and he was genuinely surprised and said no, he was just taking things slowly and enjoying getting to know me. He said that if it meant a lot to me, he would call me more frequently, which he has. But I still can’t shake that feeling of him being emotionally distant; he certainly is somewhat “walled up” —he gets uncomfortable when the conversation gets serious and looks like he wants to escape and withdraw when anything deeper is discussed.
Is this a red-flag that I keep choosing the same emotionally unavailable men who, deep in their hearts, just aren’t into me? Is there a way to spot this early on? Or are my experiences making me paranoid? I really would love to hear your thoughts and opinions on whether a slow start to things is a good or bad sign? (I believe it’s important for a guy to be pretty excited about me in the beginning and wanting to call a lot.) And whether I can spot an emotionally unavailable/immature man, so I can make better choices in the future.
Thanks for your kind words. We appreciate it.
Okay, you’re saying two different things. First you say that you seem to pick guys that don’t know how to open up, and that you end up having to break up with them. (They are devastated.) But then you say you keep choosing guys that are emotionally unavailable, and who deep in their hearts just aren’t that into you. The former is about the guys you are choosing, the latter is about you, and some sort of worry and insecurity. The issues are different, but they are related.
Ultimately, people choose partners that make them feel good about themselves. Take altruism for example. We believe in it as a concept, but people perform altruistic acts because of how their actions make them feel about themselves. It all comes down to the self, if you follow that logic. So our question is: What level are you trying to get to with these guys? (It sounds like there’s been quite a few.) And is this level attainable by anyone, or is it something that no matter what they do, they won’t be able to reach the level you’re looking for? (We’re just asking the questions so you can think about them.) Which brings us back to our original take: That your issue might be a combination of the wrong guys and what you ultimately need, or think you need.
Relationships require compromise. Obviously no one should compromise on important matters, like values, morals, attractiveness, and things like that. But in our society, we’re told our partner needs to be our soulmate, our best friend, our everything, and frankly, it’s not possible. That’s why people have friends and family. (Those help fill other needs.) Like we said, we are not telling you to settle. Absolutely not. But we are asking you to take a look at what you’re asking from these guys. And are you open to surprises? What do we mean? Maybe the guy who’s right for you is not the guy you seek? Do you have a list of attributes or requirements before you date someone? Maybe that list needs to be revised, or thrown out entirely? Maybe, the very attributes you find attractive in a man, directly impact his ability to open up.
We like that you’re trying new things: online dating. What about adult ed classes, or joining some local club to meet people who like to do the sorts of things you like to do? Maybe meeting someone in a completely different setting would help take things in a different direction than your past experiences.
And so what about this new guy? He’s slow coming out of the gate. We don’t necessarily see that as a bad thing. We didn’t love his slow response time to your texts, and agree, that that needed to change. But we did like his openness to modifying his behavior to make you happy. We see this as a very positive sign. Flexibility and compromise are good things in a relationship. Sure, he’s 42, single, never been married, all the signs of a player, or someone stuck in their ways. But you’ve got to give this some time. If he’s slow with his response time, he’s also probably slow with opening up to someone new. Right now you’re uncomfortable and we can tell you don’t particularly like being uncomfortable. (Who does?) But we think it’s good for you. Just go with it and see what happens. And keep the conversation flowing. He seems open to discussing issues, so if something comes up, talk to him about it.
We also can see you’re worried about your ability to choose a keeper in general. So here are some signs of one:
Someone who is willing to compromise and be flexible. Someone that listens, but also absorbs what he’s listening to and applies it later. Someone who is willing to share about himself, but also wants to know about you. Someone you think you know but then is still able to surprise you. Someone who genuinely wants the best for you, and has your best interests in mind when he’s out in the world without you.
We hope we didn’t offend you with some of our questions. We’re just trying to get you to consider all possibilities as you navigate the complex world of dating, online dating, and social network groups.
We’d love to hear your thoughts. Please leave us a comment below, and ask as many follow-up questions as you’d like. And definitely keep us posted about this guy, or any other situation that comes up.
Also, we hope you’ll share our site with all of your friends. And on Facebook, Twitter. @TGPBuzz
More relationship advice and dating advice about online dating: