"It's not spiders I dislike, just people." -Petra
Question #91663 posted on 10/03/2018 2:06 p.m.
Q:

Dear 100 Hour Board,

Warning: rambling ahead.

I could use some opinions and advice at the moment. There's a girl that I'm interested in, and she's interested back. Hurray! But everything feels more confusing than that. For some background, I'm 24 but I've never officially dated anyone before, so this is all new territory that I'm trying to navigate. Also I am the worst decision-maker I know. Also I hate the idea of hurting someone, and I know that it's inevitable in dating, but I want to avoid it wherever possible which makes me think "eh if I'm not totally sure about how interested I am in her then better to stop things now." But there's the other part of me that I think has gotten very comfortable being single and kind of freaks out about the idea of committing to date one person, when I'm naturally inclined to always be "on the lookout" for other people to date and unfortunately start comparing people. Which makes me think "you know what I need to stop freaking out and just do this thing and put all other girls out my mind for now."

But then I think well do I like her enough to potentially date her? From what her roommates and friends have told me it sounds like she probably likes me more than I like her. I've told her that I like her but that I'm still figuring things out, and she essentially said the same thing to me, so we're on the same page there. But then I wonder why I like her, and if it's for the right reasons. Do I like her because of how much she likes me? Do I like her because we've cuddled during a few movies? Do I like her because of pressure from our friends? Do I just like the idea of a relationship since I haven't had one before and think it would be a valuable experience? And if that's even part of it would it be fair to date her? Also, is it a problem that I still notice other girls that I instinctively want to go on dates with? When I start dating someone should I only be interested in dating her? Or is it normal to still be interested in other people and to just have to mentally get over it? And is it a red flag that I really don't think it would bother me if she went on dates with other guys right now or even just started dating someone else? (Frankly, that would almost be a relief since it would mean I would be able to stop worrying about all these things.)

And if the answer is to just take some more time to figure it out, should we stop cuddling? Would it be bad to cuddle during movies with her while I'm still going on dates with other girls, especially considering that she's probably more invested than I am despite us both trying to be open about where we're at?

Umm yeah I think those are most of the main points. Writing that down gave me a bit of clarity, actually. All the same, any of your opinions or perspectives or suggestions are very welcomed. Thank you!

-"I don't wanna be in love" (but actually I do)

A:

Dear you,

I feel you about the whole making decisions and being in a relationship thing. It's definitely normal to feel weird and confused about making these types of decisions. I had my first relationship ever a few months ago and felt some of the same things. Obviously our individual situations are different, but I'm gonna share some general principles for me and maybe you'll find something useful.

1. Taking things slow: At first making relationship decisions seems scary, but it's really not that bad. A lot of the stress that comes with relationships is worrying about where things are going. A lot of the bad decisions come from making hasty decisions and trying to rush things. Slow is a perfectly acceptable speed, especially if one of you have never been in a relationship before. If you aren't sure that's okay because you don't have to plow full speed ahead; you can just take things a bit at a time.

2. Communication is everything: I 100% agree with Luciana about communication. It's seriously the best. I remember being stressed about not knowing how the other person felt, so I stressed a lot about it. Finally I brought it up and we had a 2 minute conversation about it and I felt so much better. You don't have to guess what someone else is thinking or feeling. Just talk about it and you can avoid all the stupid little dating games we often play.

3. Don't be afraid of pain: I hate to break it to you, but there is a possibility of pain or disappointment in pretty much every human interaction you will ever have. Welcome to life. You obviously don't want to cause pain or put yourself in bad situations such as leading someone on, but if you base your decisions on fear you'll miss out on so many wonderful experiences. Not everything will work out, but the only way to know is to try--and you can have amazing experiences even if it all doesn't work out in the end. Vulnerability is a part of friendships and relationships. Thinking about the future is important, but with relationships I think the most important time to focus on is in the present.

I hope this helps! Good luck out there!

Peace,

Tipperary

A:

Dear you,

I certainly do have opinions about this that I'm going to share, but none of us can really decide how you feel or say for sure what the best course of action is for you. I'm glad writing it out gave you some clarity, but you should still give all your options some serious thought and evaluate your own emotions.

In any relationship with another human being, whether it be family or friends or dating or in a relationship, communication is key. Every person is different and likely has different expectations regarding any given relationship, so it's incredibly helpful to be up front and honest. If you've already talked to this girl and discovered that you're both feeling things out right now, that's a good first step. But it's not a one-time conversation. If she truly is more interested in you than you are in her, you should keep her expectations tempered, because like you said, you don't want to hurt her. That's not always something you can prevent, but communication will be very helpful.

It's not a bad thing to want to have the experience of dating and being in a relationship, but dating someone for the sake of dating is not the same thing as having a real connection with someone. You should want to date someone you look forward to seeing every day, with whom you're eager to talk and whose company makes you happy. Those feelings and that sense of love and passion don't have to be there from the beginning, because they can certainly grow. But if you haven't experienced any inkling of those feelings, then maybe you aren't interested in her for the right reasons. At the end of a date you should be smiling and looking forward to seeing her again. You should get a thrill from holding her hand or cuddling up to her during a movie. If you don't feel any of those things, that doesn't necessarily mean you should give up, but it could mean that she's not what you're looking for. There's absolutely nothing wrong with continuing to be interested in other people.

There's also nothing wrong with continuing to date other people, as long as you're open about it and of course assuming you don't commit to anyone. I'm seeing a few different men at the moment, because I'm still in the process of getting to know them and seeing how things go. You can always take time to figure out what you want.

To answer your last question, if you're worried that cuddling is a questionable choice, talk to her about it. Ask how she feels and whether it implies a great commitment than you two have reached. Come to a conclusion together based on your individual thoughts and feelings.

Good luck!

Love,

Luciana

A:

Dear 100 Hour Board,

Congratulations, you're a super normal human!! Or at least you're as normal as Anne, Certainly (which may be a bit less comforting).

Okay, let's break it down.
I hate the idea of hurting someone, and I know that it's inevitable in dating, but I want to avoid it wherever possible which makes me think "eh if I'm not totally sure about how interested I am in her then better to stop things now."

Yes, you should definitely avoid all dating until you meet a person you're confident that you can never break up with and thereby hurt. Don't date anyone until you find someone that you know without even a first date you'd marry.

Wait.

I think we all know it doesn't work like that.

I think the helpful reframing here is to realize that we can hurt people by omission as well as by action. You hurt people by not offering them the opportunity to see if a relationship with you would work. Imagine for a minute that this girl is someone with whom you could have a beautiful relationship starting now and ending when you die holding hands in your sleep 65 years from now surrounded by photos of your children and grandchildren and the houseplants you've lovingly cared for in your golden years while your favorite touching song plays softly in the background and okay this is getting a bit too detailed...

Point is that if you don't date someone because you're "not sure" and you don't want them to have a brief sad/awkward period after you say "You know, I had fun going on a couple of dates with you and you're a really wonderful girl, but I don't think I'm interested in pursuing a relationship with you," you hurt them by depriving both them and you of any possibility for anything positive to happen. It's like you've got a giant cake but you won't share it with someone because you know you accidentally dropped a few raisins in the batter and you just cannot subject anyone to a piece of otherwise delicious cake that might have a gross raisin in it. 

But there's the other part of me that I think has gotten very comfortable being single and kind of freaks out about the idea of committing to date one person, when I'm naturally inclined to always be "on the lookout" for other people to date and unfortunately start comparing people.

Guess what! This is fine. The reason you don't usually call someone your girlfriend on the first date is because the purpose of early dates is figuring out whether you're interested in committing to one person. I can tell you that after my first date with my now-husband it took him a few weeks to ask me out again and I already knew which guy I was going to try to date next if it didn't work out with Man, C! You don't have to commit to dating one person right now. You have to commit to going on a date with one person. And then after that you get to decide whether it went well enough for you to want to commit to going on one more date with them. Eventually, you'll get to a point where you decide that either a) you don't want to go on one more date with them and so you have one awkward conversation and then both get over it and move on or b) you'll decide that you're willing to at least temporarily stop actively pursuing alternate people to date and then you'll be "in a relationship." And if that stops working, you'll have an awkward conversation and then both get over it and move on and go back to looking for different people to date! Or, better yet, it won't stop working and you'll eventually decide that you are both comfortable enough to commit to never looking for alternate people to date and that's when you get engaged/married.

Point is: you're not making irreversible decisions of commitment here. You're making a commitment for one more date, and as long as you're both just at the "one more date" stage it's perfectly acceptable to be looking for other people to date. Eventually you have to decide whether you value this relationship enough to stop hedging your bets (at least at this point, if not necessarily "ALWAYS AND FOREVER") but by that point you'll know more about the girl and more about how much you like her.

Which makes me think "you know what I need to stop freaking out and just do this thing and put all other girls out my mind for now."

I mean, I think it's more about focus. You're not exclusive. You're not engaged. It's fine to notice other girls. But I would focus enough on this main girl that you're able to notice what it is you like about spending time with her (or even just that you do so that you can decide whether you'd rather be spending time with her or playing the field.

But then I think well do I like her enough to potentially date her?

Stop trying to tell the future. You can't. Decide whether you like her enough to go on a date with her, and then go from there. Eventually maybe you have to take a leap from "one more date" to "let's put dating other people on hold" but even that decision is reversible and messing it up is not the end of the world, it's just a breakup that you handle in as tactful and graceful and kind a manner as you can and then move on.

From what her roommates and friends have told me it sounds like she probably likes me more than I like her. I've told her that I like her but that I'm still figuring things out, and she essentially said the same thing to me, so we're on the same page there.

Cool, then don't worry about it. She hasn't decided to marry you, you haven't decided to marry her. In the meantime you can both just take it one date at a time. It's lame when one person reaches "yeah, I'll stop dating other people" while the other person reaches "yeah, I don't want to go on one more date" but I think a lot of the time we worry more about this than we need to.

But then I wonder why I like her, and if it's for the right reasons. Do I like her because of how much she likes me? Do I like her because we've cuddled during a few movies? Do I like her because of pressure from our friends? Do I just like the idea of a relationship since I haven't had one before and think it would be a valuable experience? And if that's even part of it would it be fair to date her?

I mean, all of these are okay to have as partial motivations, probably? I like that my husband likes me. I'd probably like him less if he didn't. I liked him because I enjoyed cuddling with him. The social pressure one's a bit different, but if you have friends with good judgment and they like the idea of both of you dating, that's not a bad endorsement (though obviously it'd be bad if you decided to date her just because you wanted to make your friends happy). I think it was valuable for me to have a relationship that taught me a lot with my now-husband (and I would've learned from it even if we broke up). Basically: you're worrying a lot about your motivations. It's good to be introspective to a certain level, but can I suggest that you worry more about ensuring that your actions towards this girl are kind and respectful, rather than overstressing why you want to be kind and respectful? That allows you to move forward honorably while you work on sussing out what's going on in your head.

Also, is it a problem that I still notice other girls that I instinctively want to go on dates with? When I start dating someone should I only be interested in dating her? Or is it normal to still be interested in other people and to just have to mentally get over it? And is it a red flag that I really don't think it would bother me if she went on dates with other guys right now or even just started dating someone else? (Frankly, that would almost be a relief since it would mean I would be able to stop worrying about all these things.) 

This is fine. Even married people notice other people. Dating starts with very little commitment and progresses because over time the person you're dating becomes more important to you than the other people you could theoretically date. It's healthy to understand that it works this way for both people and that commitment increases gradually over time.

And if the answer is to just take some more time to figure it out, should we stop cuddling? Would it be bad to cuddle during movies with her while I'm still going on dates with other girls, especially considering that she's probably more invested than I am despite us both trying to be open about where we're at?

This is one that's up to you. If you think that hormones are distracting you from making a realistic evaluation of whether there's enough there to make you want to move forward, I'd stop. It's fine for physical chemistry to be a part of what you enjoy about being with someone, but because it's often a strong feeling, it may be worth backing off if you're concerned you can't tell whether there are other feelings there too. 

Good luck. Keep reflecting, but don't spend all day staring at a mirror, per Dumbledore.

~Anne, Certainly

A:

Dear Lover not a fighter,

So I totally get you on the commitment thing. Who wants to commit to just one person, am I right??? The beauty is, cuddling can be commitment free! That's why I send every girl I match with on Mutual a message that says, "Hey babe, how about Netflix and snuggling?"

-Provo Bros