This week we welcome a man’s perspective on dating courtesy of Josh Schneider (@Diji), with our first in an ongoing series of guest posts.
We’re on a date. Not our first… we’ve had some fun so far. Things seem to be going well. We’re sitting over dinner, laughing over an objectively bad dad joke that I’ve just told. There’s a momentary pause in the conversation, and I decide to broach the subject.
“I really like this. I’d like to keep exploring this. What would you think of being exclusive?”
There’s a long pause; I’m sure she’s thinking this through. Her facial expression doesn’t say surprise, so I’m guessing she expected this, but there’s still something she’s thinking of. The silence, although only seconds, feels far longer.
“I like this too, but I’m not really looking for a relationship.”
I’ve had this situation play out a few different times over the last year or so, and it always causes the same sense of cognitive dissonance. In that moment, I’m usually feeling hurt, but also confused and puzzled. Things seemed fine… I’m not sure what happened.
I’ve done some thinking, and have come to two possible conclusions.
Possibility #1: She really doesn’t want a relationship right now.
A woman of her word, she really, truly doesn’t want a relationship right now. So what was the purpose of dating? It certainly wasn’t for fast sex… I’m generally not that kind of guy. Not that I would turn it down if it were offered… I am a healthy male, after all, but I generally don’t move in that direction until there’s a good chance it’s going to last. Partially it’s because I assign a lot of value and intrinsic meaning to sex, and partially it’s because it’s safer that way. Considering she hasn’t even sort of mentioned a hint of sex… I’m guessing that’s not what she’s after.
Company? Connection? A free meal? I’m never entirely sure. Maybe this disconnect is because I have always seen the purpose of dating as vetting potential relationship partners for their viability. I have friends for just “hanging out” and connecting with other people.
Regardless of the reason, it is frustrating. For the dates we’ve had so far, she’s (knowingly or unknowingly) been showing me a wonderful plate of tacos, showcasing all the fresh ingredients, talking about the seasoning of the meat, and teasing me with the idea of fresh, warm tortillas – and then, when I finally say I want those tacos, I am told that there was never any intention of making the tacos and there will be no tacos. It’s a sad, tacoless place to be. And I’m still hungry.
Possibility #2: She really doesn’t want a relationship with me.
She drops the line. The date trends downward a bit, and over the days that follow, conversation and communication also slip to lower levels.
A couple of months later, I find out through the grapevine that she’s in a relationship with someone else. Invariably, the realization sinks in that “I’m not looking for a relationship” really meant “I’m not looking for a relationship with you.”
The problem is that, while this line is a rejection, it is not a firm rejection of me. “I’m not looking for a relationship” does NOT mean the same thing as “You’re not my type,” or “You’re great, but this is not quite what I’m looking for.” Either of those would potentially invite conflict, but they would also provide clarity. However, a lot of us are conflict-averse, either because we don’t like the idea of hurting another human being, or because we don’t want to deal with the “drama” that might result from straight-up rejection. So she goes with the noncommittal, softball cliché… “It’s not you, it’s me.” She might also be hedging her bets… back-burnering me, so that if nothing better pans out, I might still be around for her later.
The problem is, since there’s been no clear, direct rejection, I often end up in a holding pattern. When I inevitably find out that the person is onto their next relationship (so neatly disproving the whole “not ready for a relationship” thing), I feel the weight of wasted time wash over me. It hurts more than being out-and-out rejected would be, since I now feel used on top of it.
I know there are some that might say, “You should take the hint, she’s not that into you.” How am I to know that? None of us are mind-readers (If you are, can you contact me? We need to go to Vegas!) and truly know what anyone else is thinking or feeling. We’re resigned to taking people at their word, or doing our best to read others’ words and actions for intent.
In this situation, I could take her at her word. I would try to maintain a friendship, biding my time with the hope that one day it might develop into more. I won’t turn down any opportunities that come my way, but I also don’t go looking for new opportunities either. This might be a mistake, but in that moment, I am holding onto this hope that things may change for the better if I can just hold on for a little while, since the problem with a relationship right now is not me, but timing. When I recognize that I’m investing far more than I’m getting out of it, and my friends point out that things are getting unhealthy, I cut my losses, and try to move on.
Alternatively, I could go with my gut, and realize that she probably isn’t interested in me and may never be. It was fun while it lasted. Hey, she has my number; if she changes her mind, she can call me.
I move on. Don’t call. Don’t text. Don’t think about the delicious tacos that could have been.