Dear Captain Awkward,
I’m a serially-single female in my mid-20s who has only been in two relationships. The first was when I was 20 and lasted seven months and the other was a on-and-off disaster that ended a few months ago. At the encouragement of my friends. I entered the world of online dating. It wasn’t my first time online. I’ve gone on a handful of online dates over the past few years and that have never resulted in a second date.
Until now. Somehow the first person I decided to have a conversation during my most recent fory turned into a good date, and now a good series of dates. We’ve already entered the hairy business of talking about our past failed relationships, our family, our habits etc. It’s only been five dates over three weeks, but to me it feels like I’ve known him much longer. Everything has been going well and for the first time in a long time I feel like I’m getting attached.
Yesterday out of boredom I signed onto the dating site where I met for the first time in a long time. I’m pretty savvy with my online privacy settings and avoided clicking on his profile, so he couldn’t see that I had visited it. However I did manage to see that he was “online now.” Since then I’ve gone on twice since and seen that he has logged on twice since as well. We have never had a talk about exclusivity, so this is all fair game.
Seeing that he was online hurt me and threw me a little. Since we met, I’ve all but stopped browsing on the website. I’ve logged on occasionally to read messages people have sent me and browse out of boredom, but I would describe myself as no longer actively looking. I’m fully aware of the irony of this, being that I had to be online as well in order see him. But my intention wasn’t to cruise other people? It doesn’t help that he’s been in many long-term relationships and doesn’t do one-night stands. He’s only been kind, open and considerate towards me so I’m worried it means I’m not enough relationship material for him.
This is going to sound weird and maybe a little conceited, but I’ve never been the one in the relationship to like the other person more than they like me. I’ve never had to initiate the “Where Is this going” talk. However, I have been a little freaked out by this talk before, which is why I dread having to start it. And knowing that he’s still browsing, I feel reluctant and fear I know the answer already. My friends think it’s too soon for me to bring it up and think that I should be making the most of the online dating world by seeing other people too.
Am I making a mountain out of a molehill? Is there a way for me to bring this up that will not result in the “relationship” talk? Or is it just time for me to deal with the inevitable conversation? Do you have any advice about how to start it, things to avoid, or things to definitely bring up in this talk?
Thanks Captain Awkward.
I do have some advice.
One, as you mentioned, you see him signed into the dating site only when you are also logged into the dating site. The Gift of the Magi keeps giving, apparently!
Two, sometimes people have their settings turned on so they get an email every time someone messages them. So you click a link and whoops! You’re logged in. Checking out who messaged you gets to be a habit, does it not? Curiosity! Affirmation of your own attractiveness and desirability! A message that makes you ask yourself “What fresh hell is this?” and submit it to the An(n)als of Online Dating! (That link is safe for neither work nor eyes).
Three, often we correspond with and casually date a few people at the same time. He may indeed have settled on you as the person he wants to date more exclusively, but needs a little time to politely phase out communication with other people that he genuinely likes. Both Commander Logic and her awesome husband went on dates with other people after they first met and liked each other. It didn’t make them not like each other, it made them say “Oh wait, I choose YOU.” So, going back to point one, Dramatic Irony, he may be feeling exactly as you do: Into you! But feeling like he needs to keep his options open for a little longer. And wondering “Hey, what’s she doing online?”
I feel like I had a very similar situation/conversation a month or so ago, where I knew that the person I was seeing (am seeing) was going to be important to me and I didn’t feel like writing back to a bunch of nice dudes saying “Hey, thanks for your nice note. Unfortunately(?!?) I just started seeing someone really great and want to see where that goes, but if it doesn’t work out, yeah, let’s get a drink sometime!” So I disabled my profile and stopped logging into the site. Until we figured out what we wanted, he was free to do whatever he was going to do, and I was free of driving myself nuts wondering about it. I was also free of expending energy on “keeping my options open.” That stuff is time-consuming, yo! If things didn’t work out, I could re-open my “options” at any time. In the meantime it felt great to be sure of my own feelings – “Okay, I know I’m IN. Let’s see what happens.”
There’s something in there, I think, about making romantic choices from a place of confidence and abundance rather than the feeling of scarcity. You both have other options and know that you do. If you both choose each other, you can feel pretty confident about the choice. People who like you will act like they like you; it will be easy to communicate, to make plans, to talk about stuff. It sounds like this guy likes you. There’s also something here about timing. People don’t fall in love with each other at exactly the same moment.
So, chill out. Remind yourself it’s only been three weeks. Temporarily disable your profile and make a decision to stop tracking his online activity. Spend time with your friends. Channel that anxiety into work or school or exercise or art projects (but not art FOR or ABOUT him, aka, FEELINGSART).
That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t express your feelings. This thing where people are actively looking for love and connection but they only get it if they pretend really hard that it doesn’t really matter and play it cool all the time? EXHAUSTING BULLSHIT. But I strongly suggest that you go with “Hey, I really, really like you and dating you is making me really happy and hopeful,” vs. “Why are you looking at other girls? Are you looking at other girls? I can see that you are probably looking at other girls.”
That vulnerable anxious feeling you have, like, this is really really good and suddenly there is something to lose here and you don’t want to lose it? You don’t get to the good parts of love without going through a little bit of that. Go ahead and be vulnerable. Give the guy a little breathing room to figure out his own mind, and trust that someone who likes you will do what he can to let you know and reassure you that he likes you. If a couple weeks from now, you’re still feeling anxious and unsure? That talk goes something like “Hey, I really like you and I’m pretty sure I don’t to date anyone but you. What do you think about that?“
If it doesn’t work out, you have options, and the same good qualities that made this person like you will attract other people. But if this is good and is making you feel good? Trust in that enough to give it a little time. Nothing good gets away.