You can't have everything. Where would you put it? -Steven Wright
Question #92927 posted on 02/16/2020 10:43 p.m.
Q:

Dear 100 Hour Board,

Sometimes (not every time!) when I'm romantically interested in someone, and they clearly reciprocate interest back, I find my brain feels abruptly "undecided" or "meh" about them, and setting up additional dates with that person becomes more difficult for me to do so (because it feels like it might not be something I'm really interested in anymore, but I can't fully tell).

Is this normal? I feel like, in the past, sometimes I've gone through with full-on committedly dating people who I felt like this about, because I don't want to have "unrealistic expectations" but that as a result those relationships have been lower quality compared to other relationships I've had where it seemed like both people were equally excited to date.

How do I not be a jerk about this?

-My Name Here

A:

Dear you,

I don't know if this is exactly the same thing, but I get freaked out if someone shows too much interest in me too quickly. Even if it's someone I might be interested in, if they are too eager or too dazzled by me after a few dates, my interest wanes.

This may be related to a weird quirk of my self-esteem: I like myself a lot but I'm not convinced anyone else ever will. I also feel like I'm not myself on the first couple of dates, because I'm nervous and cautious so I come across noticeably nicer and more optimistic than I am in real life. These factors combine to make me inherently suspicious of anyone who seems susceptible to my charms.

I can't necessarily say if that's normal or not, or if it's even remotely close to why you have historically felt your feelings change, but at least know that you aren't alone in your abrupt fluctuations in interest.

My solution, and a solution that might help you, is not to jump to conclusions about how I feel or why I feel that way. I won't proceed into a committed relationship with the person, but if they continue to show interest then I'll keep going on casual dates until I'm more secure in my feelings, one way or the other. With that method, I can be sure whether it was a temporary blip in interest or whether it was my intuition letting me know it's not a good match. This does require some honest conversation like Babalugats mentions below - I recently had to tell the man I'm seeing that I'm not ready to be his girlfriend, but I would like to continue dating and exploring the relationship. It was awkward, because he was more into me than I was in him, but I've gotten more excited by him as we've continued to see each other so I'm glad I didn't shut him down completely, even though he was more enthusiastic at first.

You definitely aren't a jerk for not being interested in someone, or for feeling interest wane. Finding a partner is a difficult endeavor, and not everyone you date will be the right fit for you.

Best of luck in your dating endeavors!

Love,

Luciana

A:

You,

I'm kind of seeing two different questions here. 

The first is about that weird moment when someone likes us back and that somehow makes them less desirable. The second is about how to manage lukewarm/undecided feelings about someone we're still curious about. 

It is normal. At least I really hope it is because I do it too. In many ways it is a self-esteem thing like Luciana mentioned. In some ways it's also stress about pacing and sensitivity. Like "woah, they already like me a lot more than I do and I just can't match that right now and I don't want to hurt them." Which leads into the other question about how to handle a relationship you're not sure about. 

You've been out a little bit, you get the feeling they like you more than you like them. If they were more lukewarm you might feel better about going out with them more, but you're getting worried that you're leading them on. You have a few options:

1) Dump them. Just make a decision to end the ambiguity and let them know "hey, I'm not really feeling it." This is a completely worthy and important option, which you MUST NOT BE AVOIDANT OF. Be honest about it if this is really the right way to go. Don't let fear, complacency, boredom, or loneliness be the reason for staying with someone.

2) Keep going on dates, not sure if you're setting them up for heart break, worrying about it, and holding back all the time. You hesitate to initiate dates. You hesitate to be your charming interesting self. You hesitate to do or say anything vulnerable. 

3) Talk to them, ask them questions. What this conversation looks like depends on how many dates, how much they like you, how much interest you still have. I recently came to the decision to do number 3. I wasn't sure about things and I noticed it effecting how I dated him (see number 2). I thought "If I liked someone who wasn't sure about me, what would I want them to do?" I thought back to times I'd been dumped early and said "I would want them to give me a chance, but I would want to know exactly where they were with things." So I talked to him and basically told him everything. "I keep thinking about breaking up, but I can't fully tell and I like spending time with you. How do you feel about that and what do you think we should do?"

He basically told me it was okay to date when you're not sure, that I had to be intentional about finding out, and that as soon as I knew I should tell him. Honestly, it was excellent advice and very attractive. I think the conversation was important because it involved shared control. I gave him a little power in the relationship by telling him how I felt and letting him in on the decision-making. He reciprocated by helping me feel free to explore, stay, or go, and to be intentional about figuring things out.

The caveat here is that conversations like these look a lot like a committed relationship. If you're talking like this everyone will say "It sounds like you're in a relationship. You guys are dating. Congratulations." But I think that's stupid. Because you are in a relationship with everyone you talk to, the relationship already exists. If you're not intentional about these relationships you end up trapped in bad ones, or losing ones you cared about. You're not in a committed relationship until you say you are, and it's okay to have nuanced conversations before then. 

tl;dr It's normal. It's okay to keep dating when you feel that way, as long as you're intentional about figuring things out and letting the other person know what's going on. Dating is a way to explore how you feel about someone, not a way to express it. You should be free to investigate until you have answers. If you worry about how that will effect someone else, talk to them about it. 

Babalugats