I met a man via online dating about a month ago. He seems like a not-terrible person on paper. Probably even nice. He’s friendly, has a sense of humour, watches similar shows, and is showing consistent, genuine interest in me. We live in different cities and have never met, but we’ve been texting almost every day for the last few weeks. I don’t expect to be able to meet him until September when I move cities to attend grad school. At that point, I will be in a much better position to see him regularly if we click.
The trouble is, I’ve already stopped being excited. I have to remind myself to text him back, and I often forget. I don’t know what’s wrong with me, because here is a person who is clearly great and interested in me, and checks off all the things on paper. I would really like to be dating him, or someone, but:
a) I am very bad at generating meaningful feelings for people without in-person interaction.
b) I still have all these feelings for a very unavailable ex (we’ve been broken up for 3 years, so it makes no sense for me to have Feelings, and I would like to be over this person immediately). If I could move on with someone else, maybe I could finally let this go.
c) It takes me a long time to feel anything for anyone unless we have a strong emotional bond and pre-existing intimacy (ex and I discovered we were bi together. We were/are also best friends). I could meet this person in September and still feel nothing until we’re in a car crash together or something ridiculous. This makes the quick-decision world of online dating really difficult, because it takes me a long time.
So I don’t know what to do. Is it normal to feel kind of indifferent about texting someone you haven’t met? I’m not wildly excited to continue texting him (the way I think I should be) but I’d be open to at least meeting him in September. Would it be incredibly weird to say, “I find it sort of difficult to stay in regular contact via distance when I’m getting to know someone. I think you’re nice, and funny, and sweet. Would you be willing to put this on pause until September so we can see if there is real sparking going on?” How do I date people when it takes me a very long time to feel close to people unless we’re in some sort of crisis? I don’t know the difference between “There’s no spark here” and “There’s no spark here- yet”.
More importantly, why is my heart such a stubborn beast? I don’t expect you to know the answer to that one, but I would appreciate your advice with the rest of this very much. Thanks!
– Literally Elsa from Frozen
Your script for what to tell this dude is great. He might say “Yes of course” and then you can hang out with him in September, or he will say “No I insist we keep texting” and you will say “That’s not how my heart works, sorry” or he will say “Why bother, then” and you will say “good point.” No matter what, you will be free of months of Obligation Flirting.
I can’t break the magic power of your ex, or help you manufacture intense bonding experiences (like wartime sex in a crowded room during the siege of Stalingrad in Enemy at the Gates, for example), but I can tell you that there is information to be had here, in that you are starting a new adventure in a new place and that times of transition are exciting because we tend to be vulnerable and active in a good way when we set up a new life for ourselves. I wouldn’t ascribe too much meaning to those pesky feelings for your ex. Right now, when everything is changing, it’s not weird to me that you would suddenly be extra-nostalgic or thinking about another time in your life when you were in transition. And hey, maybe online dating isn’t for you right now, maybe a series of first dates where you sit at tables in well-lit coffee shops talking about TV shows with “people who aren’t terrible on paper” isn’t for you. Maybe right now you need to climb some walls or rocks or fence or act on stage or learn a new language or go to a loud dark dance club and dance your face off. Maybe you need to write letters to the editor and register people to vote. Maybe you need to explore the queer-friendly places in this new city and find other bi people to hang out with.
It’s not all one or the other, since online dating will be there when you want it, and “take me to a place you really love, Shiny Online Dating Person” is a great way to get to know a new city. Still, I don’t think it will hurt for you to throw yourself hard into things that interest you, try out new things that *might* interest you, and then see who else is around when you come up for air. New friends. Dates. Academic collaborators. Solid trivia team members. Fellow quilters. Dance partners. People in terrible bands that you listen to in cramped basements drinking watered-down liquor. Locate Your People, and maybe nearby will lurk Your Person.