#1048: The Unbearable Awkwardness of Dating

Dear Captain Awkward,

I am a woman who met a guy online a month ago. He is really good looking, funny, shows interest in learning more about me (sadly uncommon!), and gets along with my friends. It hasn’t been perfect so far. Because I live in the city and he doesn’t, I have planned all our dates, so I don’t feel like I’m learning what he likes to do. Physically, he is moving much slower than I would prefer. He stares at me a lot when we are together and it makes me feel uncomfortable, like he is waiting to kiss me instead of enjoying time hanging out together.

We already had a talk about where things are going, and I told him his nervousness was making me feel uncomfortable and I wanted him to relax. He responded that it didn’t matter because I must like him since I’m hanging out with him. He also said he hasn’t gotten this far with a date in a long time, and he has “reasons” for being so awkward. He brings up his awkwardness quite frequently.

The real problem is that all this talk about being awkward makes me feel extremely angry and panicked. I find it very presumptuous that he assumes his “reasons” or trauma are worse than mine. That’s not how trauma works. I am also angry that he won’t be patient and give the relationship a chance to unfold. I feel like he is already emotionally committed, and that he doesn’t want to “screw it up.” It’s putting a lot of pressure on me. And, finally, the “I am really a nice guy” act sends up a big red flag for me.

Why am I so angry? How can I make him stop? Is our relationship doomed?

Thanks,
Triggered by Awkward Guy

Hi Triggered,

I’m not sure I understand what “traumas” are at play here or who is being patient vs. impatient, but here’s what I do see:

  • You just started dating him a few weeks ago.
  • You don’t 100% like how it’s going. For example, you wish you didn’t have to plan all the dates. You don’t enjoy it when he stares at you.
  • You told him about how you felt, and after that “He responded that it didn’t matter because I must like him since I’m hanging out with him.” You: “I’m uncomfortable with x behaviors.” Him: “It doesn’t matter because...” Interesting. Is it fair to say that you’ve learned that when you talk to him about your feelings it doesn’t feel better or more resolved afterwards?
  • There’s a vibe here where he’s doing stuff that makes you uncomfortable, and when you tell him how you feel, you’re in the position of reassuring him because he is so very awkward & nervous (with the implication that he can’t help being so) and also a very, very nice guy. This is pissing you off because hey, everyone’s awkward and vulnerable when they start dating. When do you get to be the awkward one? When does your nervousness (at being stared at like prey, for example) get to count?

I’m not the one who can pronounce doom on your relationship. Here are your options:

A) Decide, hey, this guy has a lot of qualities that you’re looking for but after a month in it just feels like too much work. Stop doing the work, end the relationship, and look for someone more compatible with you.

He doesn’t have to be a terrible person or to have done something wrong for you to make this decision. The early stages of dating are for figuring out stuff like “Am I enjoying this and do I want to do more of it?” You can decide “Nope, can’t put my finger on it, but I always feel angry and a little bit off-kilter around this guy” without assigning blame or looking for incontrovertible proof that he sucks. I once dumped a very nice man after a week for ending every text to me with a sadface emoji. Was he evil? No. Do I wish him well in life? Indubitably! Did interacting with him feel like a lot of work? Yes. 😦

B) Give it a little more time and see how you feel. Some people do take a little while to relax, to get physical, etc. Chemistry isn’t always instantaneous. You can always implement Option A if things don’t get better.

If you choose Option B, I would suggest not planning the next couple of dates.

Him: “Do you want to get together this weekend?

You: “Sure. I’m free Saturday, if that’s good for you.Why don’t you plan something and let me know, I’m up for whatever.” Then, disengage a bit and see what he comes up with. If he invites you to the suburbs, go and see where he hangs out, who his friends are, etc.

As you figure all of this out, spend a little time with friends and/or family who make you feel great and who light you up. Spend a little time kicking ass at work or school. Pet your pets and brush their pretty hair/rub their scales. Do solo stuff that makes your body feel good, whether that’s exercise or eating something delicious or getting really great sleep or other, uh, solo stuff. Re-read your favorite book. Remind yourself of your own awesomeness. Potential boyfriends are here to complement that awesomeness.

Above all, pay attention to how you are feeling and how you are enjoying yourself. Dating someone you really like should have an extremely high “yay, this is fun” to “whoa, this is nerve-wracking” ratio. Even if the Anonymous Jury of Internet Commenters were to read your letter and decide “Well, he doesn’t sound that bad, are you sure the problem isn’t you?” (unlikely, but you never know), the fact that you are feeling angry and triggered by something about the situation is important. It’s actually the most important thing. Those feelings don’t have to be fair or logical to be true.

Bottom line: It’s okay to be awkward and nervous and go slow, but it’s also okay to hold out for someone whose brand of weird intersects comfortably with your own.

 

246 comments
  1. Amy said:

    OP, honestly it sounds like you and this guy aren’t very compatible? Like, it sounds like he approaches dating as ‘develop strong emotional ties quickly, then later move to the highly anticipated physical part’, and it sounds like you approach it as ‘move more quickly physically, then develop emotional bond slowly over time’. Neither of those is a wrong approach, but they don’t fit together very well. It also sounds like he’s an awkward person, and like you’re uncomfortable with awkwardness. Once again, neither of those things is inherently bad, but they’re not a good match; he’s probably not going to just stop being awkward, and you’re probably not going to just stop being uncomfortable with it.

    Sometimes two people can both be good people, and still be ill-suited to being together. If you’re finding that you need a potential partner to change their entire approach to dating, or rework their entire social behavior, in order for you to imagine having a long-term relationship with them….probably you shouldn’t be dating.

    And yeah, the ‘nice guy’ thing and the ‘it doesn’t matter’ about your feelings thing are flags of some bright color to me too. But I think there are some deeper incompatibilities here, even if those things weren’t happening.

    • randomcheeses said:

      This comment is spot on. Two people can be the nicest, most thoughtful and considerate people in the world but still be wrong for each other.

      (This guy does not sound thoughtful or considerate tho. Just full of himself)

      • grr said:

        Yes- traumas are not a competition, and this guy with a past you don’t even know is allowed to be awkward – hell, he is even “allowed” to be traumatized enough to never leave his flat or to stay in a psychiatric hospital on sucide watch. On the other hand, you are entitled to only date people you enjoy the company of. “not dating him because he has issues” might feel unfair, so one is tempted to find more “legitimate” reasons, but actually it would only be unfair if women existed for the satisfaction of others and would not deserve to have our own preferences prioritized. And in reality we are people with human rights, so your reasons are more than enough to dislike and dump him if yoy choose to, even if he is not traumatized AT you. (Also, separately from this, the “it doesn’t matter because” quote from him was awful.)

    • Lissa said:

      It took me a long time to realize that two people can just not be compatible, and that there’s nothing wrong with that. When an ex and I broke up because it just wasn’t working out, my Team Me wanted to bash the heck out of him. And while I appreciate their love and support, it really made me realize that there was nothing wrong with him, and there was nothing wrong with me, and even though on paper we seemed like we’d work well together, we didn’t.

      To further stress something about Option B – Option A is still an option *whenever you want it to be.* It could be after one more date. It could be after three, or five, or 20. It could be after planning one more date, and realizing you really don’t wanna do this, so you call and cancel.

      One more thing – your gut is a strong and powerful thing. When you say you dread it, there might very well be a good reason for that. I’m not talking “Gift of Fear” level necessarily, but that dread is coming from something you might fundamentally dislike and are subconsciously picking up on. I had that feeling leading up to a date with a guy I thought I knew fairly well, who seemed nice and kind and someone I should want to go out with, but I felt that sense of “ugh no I really don’t want to do this” while planning the date and everything leading up to it. I ended it after one date because that feeling just kept coming back super strong anytime I thought of going out with him. He ended up having some creepy stalkerish tendencies and misogynistic habits that I didn’t notice when we were sort of friends.

      • Frankie said:

        I once went on a few dates with a perfectly lovely human, after which they decided it wasn’t working. I was a little disappointed, but it turned out to be a really good decision because we had incompatible anxiety (they needed the other party to initiate most-to-all dates in order to feel like they were still wanted, and I in turn was getting anxious & frustrated having to plan all the dates). Sometimes things just happen that way.

      • RVA Cat said:

        It’s like how orange juice and toothpaste are both very good things, just NOT TOGETHER!

      • slythwolf said:

        Western culture (others also? I don’t know enough to say) likes to frame the end of a relationship (any interpersonal relationship, but particularly romantic ones) as a *failure*, with the heavy implication that someone has to be *at fault*. Advice about getting over your relationship baggage skews heavily toward “accept the thing(s) YOU DID that ruined the relationship, don’t just put it all on the other person”, which doesn’t leave room for the concept of incompatibility, in addition to being super unhealthy framing for abuse victims/survivors. Like: very often no one “did anything” to “ruin” things, shit just doesn’t always work out, and that’s okay.

  2. Nicole said:

    Ugh, dating can be so hard that way, because it is hard to tell the difference between “dating is awkward” (to start with at least) and “this genuinely isn’t working out”. However- after a few experiences where I wrongly encouraged friends to “tough it out” because “it’s always awkward to start with”, I’ve come up with some general rules I apply for myself (and for advice giving).
    1) Are you having fun for most of the date?
    2) Do you genuinely like this guy or are you just “trying” in the hopes it will get better?
    3) Do you look forward to the next date?

    If the answer to any of those 3 is no, then give yourself permission to stop seeing him. I know personally I have struggled with feelings that if I just tried harder or “gave him a chance” things would get better….but it is so. much. work. to keep seeing someone if you aren’t having fun or looking forward to it. From your letter, it sounds to me like you are not having fun, and you are not looking forward to seeing this guy again.

    • subliminalflicker said:

      I love that list and am going to copy it down and use it.

      • subliminalflicker said:

        Also, replying to myself here – replace “date” with “interaction” and it basically goes for anyone.

        • AnonBee said:

          Agreed except for professional interactions, where (barring harassment/discrimination) you’d have to find some way to suck it up and continue interaction with the other person.

          I really dislike a couple coworkers. One rambles far too much, another does a terrible job at being the left hand in the term “the left hand should know what the right is doing…”…but I still have to see them.

          • subliminalflicker said:

            Haha yeah, well coworker interactions are often not voluntary. But maybe a decent metric for “do I want to go to that optional work thing and deal with these people or would I rather set my hair on fire?”

            Also I feel you with the left hand knoweth not what the right hand does – as this is basically how the company I work for operates (except we’re so small I don’t really understand how it happens).

        • Catherine from Canada said:

          Well there’s the needed metric for dealing with my mother!
          Thanks so very much, I was about to descend into an obligation/ reluctance spiral with regards to reestablishing contact with her.

          • subliminalflicker said:

            ! That’s mostly what I was thinking, actually. It was pretty telling for me too, to realise I never feel good interacting with either of my parents.

    • Jenna said:

      I once realized in the middle of an all day activity date that I wished I had gone alone. I was very suddenly done, but, I still had to get through him driving me all the way home.

      The person doesn’t need to be a bad person to be a bad fit for YOU. It’s ok to not be feeling it. It’s ok to move on.

      You are working really hard at giving him chances. Maybe he can work on that himself with someone else who’s a better fit?

      • I once thought in the middle of a date “I wish I was home, painting my skirting boards.” I realised at that point that we weren’t a terribly good fit. Nothing wrong with the guy, besides the fact that I’d rather do DIY than spend time with him.

        • Working Hypothesis said:

          Heck, I once broke off a 2.5-year relationship because he was planning to come out and spend some time with me over a holiday and I spent some time with a local friend just before that holiday and suddenly thought, very strongly, “I don’t want to be spending this holiday with him. I want to spend it with you.” It really woke up my awareness that the way I felt around my boyfriend and the way I felt around my friends was very, very different and the latter felt a whole lot better. That led me to a whole set of realizations surrounding the general concept that this relationship for which I’d fought so hard had eventually dwindled into ONLY a thing to fight for, and was no longer something that I enjoyed.

          I broke off the relationship by phone before my boyfriend showed up for the holiday and offered him the choice of whether to come anyway, as a friend, so that he wouldn’t be abruptly without anyplace with people where he could spend the holidays; or whether to bow out if he’d rather not see me. He chose the first, and it was definitely Awkward, but we got through it and stayed friendly overall. But there was nothing wrong with him or with me in the first place — I was just emotionally Done, and that was about me, not him.

      • When I first started dating, my father gave me some advice. Among that advice was this:

        Always carry enough money with you on a date to 1) pay for your own meal/activity, and 2) pay for a taxi home. This is in case you need to make an escape, without being stuck depending on him to pay your way or drive you home. Number 1 was usually for just plain jerks who thought if they bought you dinner you owed them sex, but number 2 could easily apply to simply not feeling it and wanting to leave early, without being stuck sharing a ride with someone you’re just not feeling it with.

        Also applies to group activities. Basically, even if someone is treating me, if I can’t afford it, myself, I don’t do it. Exceptions to this only-accept-a-treat-I-can-afford-myself rule are: Family I love and already know I’m going to want to hang out with, and ummmmmm…. Yeah, nobody else has reached that level with me, which is probably why I’m still single. I’ll know I’m ready to marry a man when it reaches the point that I can accept a treat from him, regardless of whether I can afford it, or not, or whether or not I can make my own way home.

        I also gave up a relationship that was on a fast-track for marriage, because although I knew he was a fantastic guy, he just wasn’t right for me and I just didn’t feel it. After a three hour date, I was just so ready to Go. Home. Not a good basis for marriage, no matter how many good qualities the guy has or how few bad ones he has. I wished him well, and stepped out of his life.

        The sad thing is that it is so frequently a massive revelation to women, in particular, to realize that simply “Because I don’t want to” is a good enough reason not to date/marry/commit to another person. We have been culturally programmed for a very long time that we can only turn down a proper proposal if we have a proper excuse, and that we owe it to a man to give him a chance, even if we already know he has a deal-breaker trait. And that really stinks. A lot of horrible relationships could be avoided if more people simply allowed themselves to say, “Sorry, not feeling it, but good luck with the next date!” and leaving without shame, guilt, or reprisals.

    • Kitty said:

      This!!!

      Many times in my era of internet dating, I made myself keep going out with various men in the hope that I would eventually develop feelings and/or pantsfeelings, thinking that I wasn’t giving it enough time to develop. But it was just tiring and awkward and I felt bad for “leading them on” when I really felt nothing physical for them at all.

      This was compounded by the confusion of gradually figuring out that maybe I am asexual or greysexual or Demisexual, and rarely feeling that strong attraction to anyone.

      • toniprufrock said:

        Urgh I second that – it’s such hard work and you just end up hating yourself.

      • Amtep said:

        The Scylla and Charybdis of “give him a chance” vs “leading him on”. I think it’s no accident that there’s almost no space between those. It’s part of Women Cannot Win.

        • La Catarina said:

          Remember how Scylla and Charybdis would smash together. Prob that’s the poor LW stuck in between, or you or me!!

      • M Dubz said:

        I recently read somewhere the advice that “That right person is out there waiting for you, but you have to be willing to dump literally everyone else.” I don’t always know about finding that right person (or people), but certainly being willing to dump Everyone Else is super useful.

        • TootsNYC said:

          There are only so many date-available nights and weekends in your life. And only so much spare energy and time to direct toward your romantic life.

          Every one of them you spend with someone you isn’t a happy fit about is a night/weekend/hour that is unavailable to devote toward encountering someone who is.

        • Working Hypothesis said:

          The original lime is not literally true for polyamorous people, of course. But being comfortable with dumping people you don’t actually feel like dating is still as useful for us as for anybody else.

          • Working Hypothesis said:

            Line. I have no idea what a true lime is, aside from sour and juicy. 🙂

  3. Snow said:

    I’m not saying this relationship is for sure doomed, but if you met him a month ago and you are already feeling “extremely angry and panicked,” this internet stranger says this guy is probably not the right one for you. Dating is nerve-wracking, but if things are going well, like the Captain said, you should hopefully be feeling much more “yay! sparkles!” than the negatives. You do not have to stay in a situation that is making you uncomfortable, even if the relationship looks good on paper!

  4. dr_silverware said:

    At a baseline, this guy is able to tip you really easily into feeling angry and panicked, and is doing those same things over and over. Maybe he can’t help it, in which case he’s really not right for you at this time. Maybe he could help it but he’s not understanding you right, in which case he’s really, really not right for you at this time.

    A month isn’t very long, and if these bad feelings are strong enough to break through the rush of good feelings that will come at the beginning of a relationship, I think that’s a sign to step back.

  5. bad at screen names said:

    “I told him his nervousness was making me feel uncomfortable and I wanted him to relax. He responded that it didn’t matter because I must like him since I’m hanging out with him.”

    I feel like he’s saying that because you haven’t kicked him to the curb yet your issue can’t be valid. That’s not how this works – that’s like me telling my boss he can’t give me any negative feedback or correction because he hasn’t fired me yet.

    • Lizards80 said:

      Yes to bad at screen names’s comment.

      What is his logic here? Your concern has to reach an apocalyptic level before it’s worthy of being addressed? Your frustration/disgust/outrage have to be at the point where you want to quit seeing him, before it’s important enough to be considered? He will only address utter deal breakers, and only when you’re about to throw down an ultimatum?

      That says a lot about safety, and course corrections, and the ability to work through things as a couple.

      I have noticed that my own traumas make me more sensitive to red (or yellow) flags, but also more likely to second guess myself on them for longer before I act.

      Your body is already telling you how you feel about this person. My personal philosophy is nothing: no person, no circumstance (that you have control over) is worth sacrificing your peace. Nothing.

      • cheesemistress said:

        Yes yes yes. And if we follow the thread of “must like him since I’m hanging out with him” and “concern has to reach an apocalyptic level before it’s worthy of being addressed,” that suggests that if/when you DO try to end it, he may think you’re just beginning to negotiate and may refuse to be broken up with as hard as he can.

        • EvieG said:

          This is how I broke up with someone twice without getting back together in the middle! Super nice guy and I was very explicit about breaking up, but he just… didn’t get it the first time. He kept negotiating and I had to be so very very blunt. =.= No fun for anyone.

      • Thanksforallthefish said:

        Yes! I dated a guy for too long like this. Any time I tried to bring up any single complaint or frustration in our relationship his response was either laughter and saying “that’s not a real issue” or “this is who I am, if you don’t like it maybe we should break up” that deflection, gaslighting, escalation pattern slowly destroyed my sense of self and left me a miserable puddle of trying to “not care” about anything annoying he did.

        • GreenDoor said:

          I dated this guy, too. But what guys like this fail to realize – and what we all need to remember – is that dating isn’t a court of law. you don’t have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt and show marked exhibits of evidence to “prove” that what the other person is doing is objectionable.

          • Ixolite said:

            Yes! That. You don’t have to be “in the right” or something to ask that a behavior be changed. The behavior doesn’t have to be objectively bad or universally condemned in polite society to be bothersome.

            It can just be a thing you don’t like or that makes you feel bad.

            As others have stated in this thread, it doesn’t mean that the person is then obligated to change. Sometimes the change isn’t even possible. But at the very least, the issue has to be acknowledged in order for the people involved to find out if they’re heading towards an incompatibility wall.

          • This is so liberating to learn. Thank you.

          • TootsNYC said:

            And, it can just be that you aren’t particularly happy when you’re around them.

            A relationship is supposed to add to your life. Otherwise…it’s a waste of everybody’s time.

    • Sarabeth said:

      Right? He could have said, “well, I’m sorry to hear that, but I can’t just be less nervous – it doesn’t work like that.” He’s totally within his rights to say that he can’t (or doesn’t want to) make the change that you are requesting. But he doesn’t get to tell you that it’s not a problem *for you.* Only you get to decide that.

      • BigDogLittleCat said:

        Perfectly stated.

    • allreb said:

      Yes, this – it also seems to me like a “take me or leave me” type attitude. Like he’s decided he’s not going to change, so if you have an issue with how he acts, you’ll have to dump him. So…if it were me, I’d probably dump him.

    • tarma said:

      It’s that issue (plus the staring plus the “doesn’t matter” comment) that makes me question the “interested in learning more about me” bit. He doesn’t seem to be interested in ‘learning’ anything. You tell him something makes you uncomfortable/you’d like a more relaxed dating feeling/you’d like him to put in some effort too, he says ‘cool’ and continues doing whatever he wants? Um, not cool. Very, very not cool.

    • Yes. “It doesn’t matter that I’m making you uncomfortable because reasons” = pass.

    • crooked bird said:

      EXACTLY what I was going to say.

      Also, if the only criticism he’ll take seriously is dumping, you’re probably bound to have to dump him sooner or later. Sooner sounds a lot less stressful.

      • grr said:

        Like, “sorry, but I can’t just makevmyself suddenly untraumatized, not without a time machine” would have been an understandable take, and I totally get the frustration of mentally ill people being told again and agan to just try being Not mentally ill -it’s all just anattitude! Smile! Maybe try yoga! But his attitude is still wrong -it’s as ifhewere projecting on you all this accumulated pressure. And not carinf about what others feel us not excusabe.

  6. GG said:

    I once fell out of touch with a long-time friend because we were fine online but when we met irl he was just too touchy-feely for my taste. Some might say I missed a chance because years on I am still very single and viewed as un-dateable. But I’m okay with letting it go. It just didn’t feel right.

    Dating’s not a zero-sum game where you take what you can get. Nor is being single something to avoid at all costs. If something is not right for you that is all the reason you need.

    • Replying to this comment because oh my goodness. Facebook keeps reminding me constantly lately of my ~Three Day Boyfriend~, who was once my ~Two + Years Very Good and Close Mostly Online Friend~. Things went south for us once we tried to date and he was just too touchy-feely for my own personal taste! I’m very much in the same boat as you, GG, but can say that giving it a shot didn’t make the tiniest bit of difference for me and my long-time friend, so yeah… sometimes things just don’t feel right! And that’s okay! It can suck, but it can also, simultaneously, be okay!

      • GG said:

        Oh yeah, totally. There were other factors at play but the main point I guess is that you don’t have to force yourself to do something just because it’s the default. It’s really nice that you and your friend worked things out and went to a relationship that worked! It goes to show there is more to heaven and earth than someone else’s dating rules.

  7. gmez said:

    I don’t know your or his histories, so hard to say much in detail, but these are huge red flags for control/abuse later in the relationship. If you’re already being expected to help assuage his insecurities, that’s just going to escalate. He’s not going to suddenly get invested in your wellbeing if he’s already not paying attention now, when he’s more likely to be putting on a good front/winning you over vs. later when there’s an assumption that you’re committed and there’s deeper emotional investment.

    Saying you’re a “nice guy” is not the same as actually being a nice guy.

    • I couldn’t agree more with this comment, and I felt the same way when I read this letter.

    • Yeah, the dismissiveness and assuming your feelings/intentions set off warning klaxons for me. It’s not going to get better, so if you want to leave, LW, you can, and know that you made a good decision.

    • Violet said:

      So totally this. His response of “It doesn’t matter” to _anything_ you say you feel about anything? How dare he? How dare anyone tell anyone else what they feel doesn’t matter? And, whether it’s consciously intentional or not, it’s effectively screening/grooming for someone who will allow him to continue to dismiss their feelings, etc. He literally said to you it doesn’t matter how you feel because, how he feels. This is dangerous and not fixable. I think your anger is totally appropriate and called for and please listen to it. How you feel matters. Don’t you dismiss your own feelings.

  8. solecism said:

    This does sound uncomfortable and like tiring emotional labor, plus the exhaustion of your gut sending you signals that your brain isn’t sure about. The Captain is right that those signals from your gut are the central concern.

    It’s okay to express your needs firmly and directly, neither confrontational or apologetic. For example, “please stop staring at me during our dates” and “you need to use your words if you want something–I can’t read your mind.”

    Also, please don’t fall into the trap of thinking this is your one romantic chance so you have to keep trying or make it work or something. It’s okay to pass and hope for the next opportunity (or continue enjoying your single life spending time with friends and family and any other loved ones).

  9. SFC17 said:

    A+ to all of the Captain’s excellent advice.

    Aside:
    “I once dumped a very nice man after a week for ending every text to me with a sadface emoji. Was he evil? No. Do I wish him well in life? Indubitably! Did interacting with him feel like a lot of work? Yes. 😦”

    I …. would read this short story.

    • 5 Leaf Clover said:

      I think we just did

      • SFC17 said:

        I want the sender’s perspective! What are you doing that you end every text to a potential romantic partner with a sadface emoji? What makes that seem like a good idea?

        • It sounds like the guy I went on one date with who, when we’d scheduled a second date and then I Found Some Shit Out and called to break the date and tell him not to contact me again, said, after a considering pause, “But I’m falling in love with you…?” And I was like “WORST ATTEMPT AT A GUILT TRIP EVER, STALKER-MAN” and hung up.

          • M Dubz said:

            Did you say that… ? Please tell me you really said that.

        • Onomatopoeia said:

          I have definitely had more than one guy start telling me about his Sad Feelings in a way that felt hopeful of a relationship. Like, if I would slide easily into the Pacifier role, then he would know that I would be The Perfect Girlfriend For Him, and it would take on the littlest of nudges to move me into the Girlfriend role from there because Pacifier and Girlfriend are practically the same thing amirite?

          I fell for it with the first guy and we lived together for eighteen miserable months. With subsequent guys, I have always just let those invitations lie on the ground like a dead duck. Most don’t get the hint. The room has to get super full of dead ducks before Sad Dude starts to notice the awkward smell.

          • vanadiumoxide said:

            +1 for dead duck imagery 🙂

            (Side note: autocorrect, I genuinely appreciate your willingness to learn, but just this once I really did mean duck.)

        • A friend of mine dated a guy we called “the apologetic carpenter” because all of his post-date follow-up texts were “sorry I was so boring tonight” or similar. (Also he was a carpenter.) The first couple texts just seemed like standard early-dating nervousness, but when he kept doing it, it became clear that he was going to need a lot of emotional energy from her, and she broke it off.

    • OMJ said:

      I can’t stop thinking about Sadface Emoji Man. Was he just that sad? Were some of the sad faces ironic? Was he trying to establish some kind of sadface nickname for himself and therefore using them as a signature? Did he hear somewhere that emojis were helpful so he just picked one and stuck with it? WHAT WAS WITH THE SADFACES?

      Like, I’ve known people to use winky-faces after every text because they think that’s the only way to signal they’re being flirtatious or whatever. But sad faces? Whyyyy?

      • Raptor said:

        I’m a reformed sad face user. I haven’t done it in a while, but for a bit there…

        My dog is just too beautiful (sad face)

        I want ice cream (sad face)

        I nearly fought a guy over a harmonica on the light rail (sad face)

        I literally do not know why I was doing that, but I have stopped, I promise.

        • …I want to hear about this harmonica!

          • Raptor said:

            Oh this is going to be such a tangent. I really should have said almost fought a guy over a speaker, Harmonica Guy was hilarious and still has me occasionally cracking up nearly 5 months later.

            I am extremely anti-noise on the light rail. Any sort of intentional noise-making irritates me. Playing music on speakers is bad, singing along is so much worse. It literally doesn’t even matter if they’re a wonderful singer, I want my quiet time to look at stupid stuff on my phone.

            So, I’m about three minutes from my stop, and I see a middle aged man in casual business wear pull a harmonica out of his bag. I instantly feel annoyed, before even knowing how good or bad he is, because I only want silence. But I was happy that I would only have to tolerate it for three minutes.

            Before he even put it up to his mouth, he stared at the harmonica for a good 15 seconds. Then he slowly brought it up to his lips. He blew softly, making a fweeee noise. He honestly appeared like a person who had never even seen a harmonica before, let alone purchased one and decided to play it in public. I, as a small child, having only ever seen harmonicas played on TV, played something closer to harmonica the very first time I got my hands on one.

            Irregularly, every 10-20 seconds until I got off the train, he would just play FWEEEE. ( break ) FWAWWWW (break) FWEEEEEEE (break) FWAWWWWWW

            I was sitting there, practicing my poker face, because after every single FWEE or FWAWW I just wanted to crack up laughing. And then I saw the face of the guy standing behind Harmonica Man, and wanted to laugh even harder. He was a younger Business Bro in a more expensive-looking suit, and he WAS SO MAD. He started at like a 6, with an ugly snarl directed at the back of Harmonica Man’s head. He ended at like a 15 (yes, out of 10), with flared nostrils, cords in his neck standing out, clenched fists. Every FWEE or FWAWWW, Angry Man’s eyes twitched and became more murder-y.

            I was literally contemplating riding to the next stop after mine just to see what happened, but I could tell Angry Man was getting off at my stop and Harmonica Man was not, so I wouldn’t be missing anything.

            I always make Facebook posts about the truly strange things I see working downtown and taking public transit, and so my Mother In Law made me reenact Harmonica Man for her when she visited.

          • walkingwhilefemale said:

            Replying to Raptor below since nesting is out.

            This whole story is great and you should feel great.

      • MsM said:

        I wonder if the universe demanded some kind of karmic balance for those people who end every sentence with “lol” whether it’s funny or not.

        • slythwolf said:

          I used to be the person who ended every sentence with “XD” whether it was funny or not.

      • yikes bad image said:

        It lets the reader know that the text should be interpreted as having a charmingly faux-pouty voice. Think like, Eeyore, but sexually attractive, and will smile if you do.

        • Jessica said:

          Are you trying to say that you don’t think Eeyore is sexually attractive? Weird.

    • Oranges said:

      I once had a class with a guy who was cute and seemed nice and I would have considered going out with him… but then we were chatting over IM and I got up to go to the bathroom. I was gone from my screen for about five minutes and he sends me “You there?” “You left me! Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah :(”

      I noped so hard out of getting to know him any more after that. Goddamn, man, who thinks crying like a baby is sexy or even cute??

      • greenegret said:

        You know who thinks this is cute? The dude over on Ask a Manager today who is trying to turn his workplace mentor into his mommy, who is then required to baby him and take care of him and maybe even allow him to move in with her.

  10. Belle said:

    Hi LW, sorry you’re dealing with this. I would like to just highlight the fact that you and this chap have been in touch for a month. A. Month. A month is too soon to be dealing with anything that looks remotely like emotional labour. If you are bringing up things that are upsetting you or rubbing you the wrong way, and four weeks in he is shrugging these things off and dismissing what you’re saying, it’s a fairly solid indicator that that’s just how he’ll be with you, and he seems to be leaning on his ‘awkwardness’ as an excuse for not changing his behaviour.

    You can think someone is lovely and amazing and recognise that you aren’t going to have a good relationship with them. In your letter you mention that you feel that finding dudes who will be interested in listening to you is uncommon. I’m super sorry you feel that way and I think when we feel that way, that often means that we try to cling to relationships that we would drop otherwise. I’ve totally been there, but I promise there are plenty of cute guys who’ll love learning about you and will make a point of trying to behave in a way that makes you feel awesome and happy like a decent normal person. They might not all drop out of the woodwork at once you let this guy go, and you may have to deal with some awful dates and missfires before someone awesome comes along but it will happen. I’m not saying don’t give Captains option B a solid shot, but I do think that you should make yourself a time limit to see clear consistent change, (Sometimes people will change when they think their relationship is on the line and then revert back after a while) because it can be so easy to accept things that make us uncomfortable if we (wrongly) assume we’re not going to get anything better.

    Best of luck to you LW! 🙂

    • SamKD said:

      +1 so hard to all of this. Also…trust your gut, LW.

      • In this instance, the LW doesn’t have to trust her gut in defiance of other warning systems. (Unless by “gut” you mean “responses which aren’t the direct product of conscious consideration”.)

        She doesn’t have much fun with this man. She doesn’t like him much. That’s enough.

        • SamKD said:

          Oh totally that’s enough. But by “gut” I do mean “not direct proof of conscious consideration.” In reading it seemed to me (could be wildly off-base of course) that LW was questioning the rationality/validity of her anger response and I wanted to suggest that whether it seemed to be coming from anywhere “logical” or not, the anger should be acknowledged and appreciated. Even if there weren’t other specific warnings that would be enough to say “nah….time to move on.”

          One of the things I’ve learned over time is that if I override my “ew…no thanks” feelings about someone because there’s no -reason- to feel that way I invariably eventually wish I’d paid attention to/acted on those very feelings a lot sooner.

    • TO_Ont said:

      “I’ve totally been there, but I promise there are plenty of cute guys who’ll love learning about you and will make a point of trying to behave in a way that makes you feel awesome and happy like a decent normal person.”

      To be honest I don’t think this is something anyone can ever promise. Some people do die single (actually a vast number if yoo include all the happily partnered people who are predeceased), some people never do meet someone who is interested in them. It can be frustrating hearing the same ‘promises’ for decades on end.

      It’s not worth spending time with someone you don’t enjoy being with, though. Life is too short for that.

      • Belle said:

        I literally hit published and regretted saying that bc I 100% agree with you. BUT statistically speaking there are many wayyy better options than the douchenozzle LW is currently dealing with, better to love your life without someone draining you than clinging to a relationship because we’ve been told that’s how to be happy. But yeah, totally agree that I worded that poorly.

        • Like I always say, dying alone with cats isn’t a tragedy, it’s a solid end of life plan.

          • Nanani said:

            This + jrrrr3333333333333

            (my cat agrees)

          • Frankly, with or without Mr. Right For Me, I intend to die with cats.

        • I’m forty-six years old and never even been kissed, and I still would rather be single than be stuck with a person who doesn’t want to learn about me or behave in a way that makes me feel awesome and happy. Yes, I want to marry. No, I don’t want to marry the wrong man.

          When/if I do find Mr. Right For Me, he’ll mean so much more, because I waited for him, rather than just grab onto the first opportunity to come along, despite warning bells that he was Mr. Right For Someone Else. I could have been married. Twice. At least. I chose singlehood and hope for the future, instead, and I do not regret that choice one bit, even during a lonely phase.

          And if I never find Mr. Right For Me before I die, I’m still glad, because by not putting all my hopes in the “married with children, no matter what” basket, I have found SO MUCH JOY! There are a lot of baskets in this life that I would not have even seen, let alone embraced, had it not been for choosing hope for the future, rather than holding onto the wrong man, just because he was there.

          A bird in the hand may be worth two in the bush, but what if you just really want beef? Life is too short to hold onto birds you don’t want.

          Also, holding onto Mr. Right For Someone Else hurts three people: you, him, and Someone Else. Setting him loose does everyone a big favor, even if it hurts, in the moment.

      • TootsNYC said:

        This is true–no one can promise you will meet someone who cares about you, and that you care about.

        But if you stay with someone who makes you feel frustrated, you will NEVER meet someone who is interested in learning about you.

        And, life is indeed too short to spend those precious days, evenings, hours, thoughts, on someone you don’t enjoy.

        A good friend, a pet, a charity cause, a long shower–all of those are a far better use of your time, energy and attention.

  11. atgomez said:

    These are huge red flags in my opinion. I don’t know your experience or your history (or his), but it sounds like he’s already using his insecurities as a way to ignore/manipulate your boundaries. In my experience, that type of dynamic only escalates into controlling, manipulative behavior. I would expect that, should you continue, you’ll find that he gets to be jealous and you’ll be expected to assuage his concerns by changing *your behavior* rather than him dealing with *his insecurities* and that your world will correspondingly get smaller.

    Admittedly, I know that I’m coming from my own trauma/bias here, but you’re not a “nice guy” if you say you are. You’re a nice guy if you are actually nice… and this behavior doesn’t seem to be very nice to me.

    • Yeah, this seems another case of “when someone shows you who they are, believe them.”

      or “Nice is different than good.”

      • Anon, Goodnight said:

        Isn’t it nice to know a lot! And a little bit…not.

        • M Dubz said:

          +1000 points for you and sister coyote.

    • Couldn’t have said it better myself. Another is that if you have to say you’re not trying being mean on a regular basis, you’re being mean.

  12. lunchcoma said:

    I have mixed feelings about the conversation about nervousness. His response was odd, but there aren’t many good responses to a request to be less nervous and to relax. Those are emotional states rather than behaviors, and even the manifestations of them are fairly difficult to control. I think it’s reasonable not to enjoy being around a very nervous person, but realistically speaking, that might not be something they can change.

    Beyond that, I think the Captain laid out two good strategies. I’d add that while it generally doesn’t make people’s list of desired traits in a partner, “enjoyable to be around” is usually the unspoken item at the top of the list. There are a lot more workarounds to someone not getting along splendidly with your friends than there are to finding their company uncomfortable or even angering. If you’re having negative emotions so early, I think that might be a sign that whatever other good qualities this guy has, he’s not someone you have a romantic future with.

    • slfisher said:

      Yeah, frankly I’d have trouble with a new partner who told me that my nervousness was making them uncomfortable and to relax. *Telling* someone to relax hardly ever works and is typically counterproductive.

      That’s not to say you’re a bad person, LW, just another indication that, as was mentioned elsewhere, you guys might not be compatible together.

      • TO_Ont said:

        Yes, if someone noticed I was tense and their reaction was to tell me to stop feeling uncomfortable because I was making them uncomfortable, I’d be the one deleting their number.

        It doesn’t sound like they’re making each other happy and bringing out the best in each other. The good thing about that is it means it matters even less if either, both, or neither are somehow ‘at fault’.

        It’s not working, end.

      • BigDogLittleCat said:

        I agree with everything you’ve said.
        For LW’s sake, I would add that although telling someone to relax is not a good move, telling someone that their comfort doesn’t matter is a *bad* move.

      • Emma9 said:

        Yeah, that’s a ‘don’t think about an elephant!’ sort of issue, there. I’ve had guys say things like ‘I can tell you’re nervous’ or ‘you’re pretty shy, aren’t you’…but not in a tone of complaint, more like they’re pleased I’m seemingly intimidated/cowed by them. Gaaahh.

        Really, in general I don’t like it when someone else tries to inform me about my own personality or emotional state.

        But in this case, his response being that your discomfort ‘doesn’t matter’ is even more telling.

  13. Woman Writer said:

    How DARE he! I am so offended on your behalf. I’ll tell you what doesn’t matter my dear. What doesn’t matter is how awkward and nervous he is. For whatever reason, you are not a happier person for having been around him – that is what does matter. That is the entire point. Anyone who tells you that your feelings don’t matter is someone begging to be left out of your life. And we excuse them, and forgive them, and dance around them, and allow them, and put up with them and they escalate until finally they go too far and we get shed of them. Save your specialness for someone worthy of it and let this bundle of ouch cube strangeness pass you by.

    • “Anyone who tells you that your feelings don’t matter is someone begging to be left out of your life.”

      Quoted for Truth.

  14. 5 Leaf Clover said:

    I GUESS I know some people who have had an awkward first date and still found real and lasting love with that person. I don’t know anyone who has dated someone for a month and had it be this difficult and uncomfortable where that has worked out long term. You don’t owe this person anything, and I don’t like how he’s putting it all on you: by saying “I’m awkward” he’s basically making you the mean one if you walk away, when in fact either party can walk away from dating at any time for any reason.

    • randomcheeses said:

      Right? He’s ‘bravely’ admitting to a flaw but not actually doing anything to improve it. LW, being awkward doesn’t give him a free pass to dismiss your emotions.

      • lunchcoma said:

        I don’t agree with this. Awkwardness isn’t a trait that everyone enjoys, but it’s not a morally wrong thing that harms others. I don’t think the guy has an obligation to improve in that respect if he doesn’t want to or think he can, and it doesn’t seem like he’s promised any improvement. That doesn’t mean the LW should keep dating him, of course! I think she shouldn’t, and I don’t think I’d want to either. But I do think that people are within their rights to take a “take it or leave it” stance when it comes to requests to change significant parts of their personalities.

        • hbc said:

          I dunno, if your version of awkward is staring at people, I would posit that you have a moral obligation to work on that so you don’t continuously creep people out. Or if you’ve worked at it and you’ve cut back from 3 minute unbroken stare to 1 minute and it ain’t getting better, you can do better than “I’m awkward, and your discomfort doesn’t matter.” I don’t think there’s a human on this earth who wouldn’t prefer, “Sorry about the staring, I’m awkward and can’t really control it. If it makes you uncomfortable, this probably isn’t going to work out, and I totally understand.”

          • lunchcoma said:

            I think that would be a reasonable response to a complaint by a partner about staring. The discussion they actually had was described as, “I told him his nervousness was making me feel uncomfortable and I wanted him to relax.” That’s not a constructive way to have a discussion about particular behaviors, and it frames the issue as requesting that he stop being uncomfortable so that she can be more comfortable. His reaction to it wasn’t a good one, either, but I can’t picture many situations in which that conversation would have resulted in anything productive.

            It’s up to the LW to decide if she likes this guy enough to want to date him (it really sounds like she doesn’t). The guy can go on his awkward way, either not dating or dating someone else who’s okay with his behavior. That’s sort of what month-long relationships are for, not these discussions where people try to talk each other out of their emotions or ask people they don’t know very well to change for them.

        • Typhoid Mary said:

          sure, but saying “I’m not willing to work on behavior that makes you uncomfortable” and then CALLING it “Awkwardness” is kind of shitty. I actually see very little awkwardness from this guy and a lot more willful skeeziness.

          • lunchcoma said:

            He wasn’t asked to change his behavior. He was asked to relax and be less nervous. Those are emotions, and they’re as valid as the LW’s discomfort with those emotions.

            I’m not really seeing the willful skeeziness. He’s staring, he’s not moving as fast as the LW normally expects her relationships to, and he talks too much about being awkward. That sounds annoying, but not sexually inappropriate or boundary-pushing.

          • JenniferP said:

            We don’t have to decide what his behaviors really meant, esp. when so much is unclear. Is the Letter Writer happy, comfortable, great, excited? That is the question.

          • grr said:

            “Stop being traumatized, it’s annoying” is an useless thing to say, in the best case. Breaking off is legitimate, and this particular dude has unrelated bad qualities, but there is no need to imagine that the guy is maliciously choosing to be more nervous/ fearful/stressed (having a shittier time) just so he can annoy others. This is not how mental illness works, and if given the choice, noone would be stupid enough to choose anxiety – ergo people being anxious are not freely choosing to be so just because. And you can ask any autistic person about how “easy” it is to recalibrate your amount of eye contact… A consequence of my own past abuse that I say sorry too often, and well-meaning friends sometimes tell me to say less sorry, which is such a trap- what am I supposed to do , say sorry for saying sorry? Reprogram my brain in five minutes, in a way years of therapy failed to do? Anybody is entitled to not be my friend or date for reasons like saying sorry too often, but they can perfectly well avoid me without repeating unrealistic, ableist bullshit. (Imagine the analogous approach to sex: Sweetie, I know you have been raped, but stop being twitchy, it annoys me and ruins the mood)

      • Amy said:

        I don’t think awkwardness is necessarily a ‘flaw’ that one should be compelled to improve. It’s a characteristic, that’s all. It’s not generally hurting anyone. Some people aren’t bothered by it at all, some hate it, some even find it endearing. It’s a polarizing characteristic in some ways, but that doesn’t make it intrinsically bad.

        (If we’re using ‘awkward’ as a euphemism for ‘boundary stomping jerk’, that’s a different story. But lots of awkward people aren’t doing anything harmful, they’re just operating a little off of social norms.)

        • It’s not the awkwardness (however that manifests) that reads wrong to me. It’s the comment that awkwardness can’t really be a problem if she’s still hanging around.

          • Amy said:

            Oh yeah, his dismissiveness of her feelings is a problem. But there’s a little grain of truth at the core of it, namely that she ultimately has to decide whether she can live with some awkwardness and decide to break things off if she can’t. She can probably reasonably ask him to change specific behaviors (e.g. staring during dates), but it sounds like awkwardness is a fairly prominent characteristic of his, and it’s not reasonable to expect people to change major characteristics of their personality for us after a couple dates.

            In short, I think the actual solution here is that she needs to break up with him, not that he should try to change.

          • Amy said:

            Addendum to response: That was badly phrased. He shouldn’t have to try and change in major and unrealistic ways. He should try to change in ways that are reasonable, e.g. planning some dates.

          • @Amy, a behavior may not have reached Deal Breaker status (yet) and still be not ok.

            The statement that nothing short of a deal breaker is worth discussion (let alone change) is very iffy.

    • Mr. Bells thought our first date was so awkward that I hated him and so he kept trying to give me the opportunity to nope out of our planned second date. I was just super nervous because I reeeaaalllly liked him and I dealt with it by not making eye contact and mumbling into my napkin at dinner.

      It will be 15 years this December so I guess we figured it out eventually 😉

    • M Dubz said:

      I had about a month of awkward dates with my now boyfriend. But it was because we had been friends for over a year and were both quite legitimately confused about whether what we were doing was dating or not, and then the transition from friendship to couple was quite slow and bumpy. But I always had FUN. It was just confusing fun for a while.

    • Sometimes, very rarely, when two people “put their best feet forward,” and “hide their flaws,” and “pretend to be perfect” on the first several dates, and feel awkward about it all, but push through because reasons, and then, they finally show their real selves, flaws and all (perhaps in an attempt to end the awkward horrible relationship by driving the other person away), and that’s when they realize that they actually ARE compatible, because the fake selves didn’t match, but the real selves really did.

      It’s rare, and definitely not something to pin your hopes on. If you’re still uncomfortable with each other after a month, END IT.

  15. Clarry said:

    Have you even seen where he lives outside the city? At the very least, do that. There’s a wealth of information to be had from seeing his living space, seeing how nervous and awkward he is on his own home turf, seeing how he interacts with his friends, deciding how you get along with his friends, noticing what he does with his time when he’s not in the city with you. Naturally you could skip to breaking it off after a short time. No one would fault you for that, but you do say he has positive qualities that interest you. Find out more.

    • My two cents said:

      I do wonder if part of his reason for spending time in the LW’s part of town is that he doesn’t have friends (which is apparently true of many people, so this isn’t a red flag, but it would be relevant info to his social skills) or there is something awkward about his home situation.

      I didn’t really date until I was over 30 years old, as I just wasn’t interested, and I’m sure that I was awkward for a lot of the people that I met for a date. I was probably moving too slow, and saying weird things, and probably too emotionally attached too early for some – it was likely what teenagers experience except that I wasn’t interested in dating back then and I didn’t make my mistakes when everyone else was 🙂 Yet I went on more dates and gained experience, and now I know better.

      I once dated a guy who didn’t want to bring me anywhere near his home or people. I didn’t push it, but something was off about the relationship, and when he finally invited me over to his place I learned that he was living in a separated area within his parents’ home. He was weird about it, and explained that his parents were aging so he was helping to care for them. I was fine with it but it helped me identify the problem – we ended up splitting up because he seemed to think that I would be weird about it, and I found the whole situation to be a lot of work. He couldn’t get comfortable around me, and apologised for a lot of things, and as a result I didn’t think that I was the right person for him (we met online – most of his other relationships were within his social circle so I’m guessing that he expected that I (a random person from online) would have expectations which he didn’t feel that he could meet).

      All that to say that I agree with Clarry, that if you want to continue dating then it might be good to suggest the next one happen in his neighbourhood.

        • Emma9 said:

          +1 this. If LW is in the city, it might be that they don’t have independent transportation, so a date in the suburbs might have to mean Guy picking them up, whereupon for the remainder of the date they would be semi-reliant on his good graces to actually get back home.

          (Only started driving late in life in an area that was *not* transit-friendly, so I might be projecting based on a few unpleasant past experiences.)

      • Clarry said:

        Living with aging parents! That is so benign!– or it can be. In a situation where everyone gets along, it could be downright sweet. Whenever I hear about a man who never brings his girlfriend home (not saying this is LW’s situation), my mind jumps to someone living with his wife or girlfriend and pretending she doesn’t exist.

        Back to the LW– This isn’t a question you asked, but the right response to someone uninvited grinding against you while dancing is immediately jumping back, glaring, maybe saying something along the lines of “WHAT THE HELL!”, and then backing away. Variations include throwing a drink in the offender’s face.

        • Whenever I hear about a man who never brings his girlfriend home (not saying this is LW’s situation), my mind jumps to someone living with his wife or girlfriend and pretending she doesn’t exist.

          Well. Yeah. That’s what I tend to assume.

          When I have actually been interested in dating someone, I expected to see their home very soon.

      • Skada said:

        This, and if he’s not keen on having you into his area, that’s a yellow flag (caution) to find out why.

        The last guy I dated had a fling with would only want to do stuff in either my part of town or in a nice part that was closer to my part of town. Propose something near where he lived and he’d slam the brakes hard. I figured out after a while (and piecing together clues he’d dropped) that he lived in a rundown, crappy apartment (not a sin, we all have budgets) but more to the point, his house was a shithole mess that needed a strong dose of Unfuck Your Habitat and perhaps a solid month without any weed to get the smell out. Both of those are hard dealbreakers for me.

        You don’t even need to go to his home to start finding these things out, and it’s not necessarily a major warning. But it’s a caution, and something to pay attention to as context for other important things. Things like, “is this person pleasant for me to be around” and “do I actually like you?”

  16. Just Plain Neddy said:

    A theme I’ve seen a lot, when a guy has poor social skills, is that women can feel obliged to take on the emotional labour of improving them. The trouble is that this drains the woman and usually doesn’t do much for the guy. I’m autistic and used to have absolutely terrible social skills. I’m not saying that this guy is also autistic; just that that’s my situation. I’m also a woman which has perhaps made others less inclined to try to teach me, but when they have it hasn’t worked. The thing that has made a difference is being left to screw up over and over, lose friends, mess up romantic prospects, and then sit down and go through the process of working out what I did wrong. I can talk that through with others, of course, but the action and the consequences are mine. This guy sounds like he doesn’t have great social skills, but he’s made it pretty clear that as long as LW is still interested he thinks they’re good enough. LW cannot improve them. If she breaks things off he may be spurred to work on them himself. Or not. There are no guarantees. But, LW, don’t expect them to develop them in the course of a relationship. All the work done on it will be yours.

    • GG said:

      +1 to this, and also, there is a lot of cultural BS around single people being somehow ‘less than’ people in a romantic couple (seriously, even my insurance company has latched onto the ‘coupled people tend to be healthier’ shtick to justify not lowering my premiums). It affects all genders, I think. There does seem to be an emphasis on *women* doing the work, putting themselves forward (but not too forward), making a relationship happen, and then making that relationship work. From the LW’s writing, I’m getting the feeling they’re worried that if they don’t make this one-month relationship work, they’re not going to get another chance. Which doesn’t have to be the case, and really, is it better to stay in a relationship that makes you unhappy than to focus on your friendships… or your relationship with yourself?

  17. “it’s also okay to hold out for someone whose brand of weird intersects comfortably with your own.”

    SO MUCH THIS.

    I hereby admit to being “the weird one” but my family, in-laws, and co-workers know that when they need this particular type of out-of-the-box thinking, I am happy to help!

    I have dated and worked with people who have their own weird, or people who made it through decades of life and somehow stayed perfectly normal (is that even normal? are they weird for being normal?) and I can attest that non-compatible weirdness can be really hard to deal with. Whereas compatible weirdness is like fireworks on a cloudy night! You get reflected light shows! It’s wonderful!

    • TL;DR

      Did this guy basically “My awkwardness/weirdness is all important and your little foibles are your problem” ?

      This is not the guy who will support your through life. Or even through an argument with your boss.

    • Someone whose weirdness complements mine is the dream, tbh.

  18. I would choose option A here, LW. You are being very kind to this living embodiment of a red flag, but you *don’t have to be kind*. You gave him a shot and he took that shot and is using it to creep you out. NOPE OH SO MUCH NOPE especially to the *staring* and the *passivity* and the *whining about his trauma*.

    Ughhhhhhh this is making my skin crawl.

  19. darthtrina said:

    If the process of writing the letter didn’t help you see why you feel angry and panicked and an idea of how you might change that, I would lean towards, “nope, just doesn’t feel right, don’t have to put my finger on it, it’s not working.” As captain says, try throwing yourself into other people and activities that light you up. If you find those are all much more appealing than he is, you have an answer.

  20. EH said:

    Yyyyyyeah, I find this part puts my back up and makes me want to leave little clouds behind me as I run away:

    You told him his actions were making you uncomfortable and asked him to stop, and he said “it didn’t matter.”

    HE SAID YOUR COMFORT DIDN’T MATTER.

    To me, that is a huge red flag, and it brings up a lot of stuff from a past relationship of mine that was really toxic. LW, you deserve to date people who think your comfort is important.

    • RabbitRabbit said:

      Yup. This is not good, either in the thought process or the explanation. His response to your request to fix something is essentially ‘you haven’t dumped me over it, so it can’t be that bad’ and therefore ‘not gonna stop doing it!’

    • johann7 said:

      “You told him his actions were making you uncomfortable and asked him to stop, and he said ‘it didn’t matter.'”

      She didn’t say anything about his actions making her uncomfortable, according to the letter, she said his <presumed emotional state was making her uncomfortable and asked him to change it.

    • johann7 said:

      So, my read of this letter was apparently largely opposite almost everybody else. CA’s advice is solid, and it applies whether my read is accurate or not. You don’t sound happy in this relationship, LW, so you should end it – figuring out if we’re compatible with somebody is the function of dating, and you two aren’t compatible.

      My unreliable narration detectors are going off like a Geiger counter at Fukushima; the letter makes me very, very uncomfortable with LW’s behavior, so I’m going to focus on that. If my read is accurate (and I could be completely wrong, though I suggest others flip the genders and re-read, because LW sounds to me like a gender-flipped version of every sexually entitled dude ever, right down to the resentment over being responsible for making dates happen without getting any touch), LW is the one at risk of being an abusive jerk, and she ought to address that before dating others.

      I am a woman who met a guy online a month ago.

      So you’ve been dating in person for a week or three, yes?

      He… shows interest in learning more about me (sadly uncommon!)

      Because I live in the city and he doesn’t, I have planned all our dates, so I don’t feel like I’m learning what he likes to do.

      Is his learning about you entirely a function of the fact that you have planned the dates, or does it, perhaps, involve conversation where he makes a point of asking you questions about yourself? Is there some reason you can’t use the same method – words – to solicit information about what he likes? What does planning dates have to do with figuring out what he likes to do?

      Stepping back for a minute, what does living in the city have to do with planning dates? CA touches on this when suggesting you let him plan something, though my read is not that you don’t like planning all the dates but that you’re on it or just doing it without allowing for him to do so. There are activites in which human beings can engage that don’t require one to be located in a city center! More shockingly, this interconnected web of computer networks (to which I know he has access because y’all met on a dating website) allows one to access information about activities in remote locations – a city in which one does not reside, for example.

      Your stated reason for planning all of your dates is not the real reason; if HE is saying this, scrap my unkind read of your actions and statements and run, because he’s already gaslighting you. If you’re offering the reason, you’re lying to us and possibly yourself about why you plan all the dates; I’d advise exploring the real reason (perhaps a need for always controlling your environment?).

      Physically, he is moving much slower than I would prefer. He stares at me a lot when we are together and it makes me feel uncomfortable, like he is waiting to kiss me instead of enjoying time hanging out together.

      The Captain read this as him staring at you like a predator; because of the juxtaposition, I read it as emphasizing “waiting”, as in you’re upset that you’re interpreting his looks as intentional restraint (which it may or may not be – you cannot read minds any more than he can), with “enjoying time hanging out together” euphemistically referring to sexual activity you desire but are not getting, noted in the previous sentence. Have YOU asked him if you can kiss him? If not, try exercising agency instead of waiting for other people to read your mind.

      We already had a talk about where things are going, and I told him his nervousness was making me feel uncomfortable and I wanted him to relax.

      If he initiated this, run; however, based on the framing, I suspect you did. Expecting someone to be able to tell you where a relationship is going after a few weeks, when at least one of you doesn’t even have a good sense of what interests the other person, is absurd (hence tbe “run” if he did it). As is asking another person to feel a certain way (relaxed) – we generally don’t have willful control of our emotional states.

      He responded that it didn’t matter because I must like him since I’m hanging out with him.

      If this is a representative paraphrase, I’m with CA that this is fucked up; however I don’t trust your narration to be accurate (for reasons noted and several yet to come), and this could easily be you ascribing motivation he never actually expressed, like with the description of him staring.

      He also said he hasn’t gotten this far with a date in a long time, and he has “reasons” for being so awkward.

      I find it very presumptuous that he assumes his “reasons” or trauma are worse than mine.

      Does he, or are you projecting? In light of your frustration with the slow physical relationship, I read this as you dismissing his (possible?) trauma and (possible?) responses to it because YOUR trauma hasn’t made you not want physical intimacy soon in a relationship. That’s also really fucked up – the fact that you want something doesn’t obligate other people to be comfortable with it.

      The real problem is that all this talk about being awkward makes me feel extremely angry and panicked.

      What? Someone’s self-description makes you angry and panicked? I could see why if that self-description were “Nazi” or “murderer”, but “awkward”? Possibly some therapy could help unpack that?

      I am also angry that he won’t be patient and give the relationship a chance to unfold.

      This also reads as projection: YOU are unhappy with things; he sounds much more patient here. And anger – versus, say, disappointment – at someone else’s level of involvement/investment suggests that you have an extreme sense of entitlement, especially combined with your desire that he willfully modify his emotional state.

      I feel like he is I am already emotionally committed, and that he doesn’t want I don’t want him to “screw it up.” It’s I’m putting a lot of pressure on me him.

      I fixed the projection for you.

      And, finally, the “I am really a nice guy” act sends up a big red flag for me.

      This is literally the first time you’ve mentioned any such thing. More projection, or omitted details?

      Why am I so angry? How can I make him stop? Is our relationship doomed?

      I don’t know (I strongly suggest therapy to help you sort everything out), you can’t (and it sounds more like you want him to start something rather than stop), and yes, you should break up with him and do some work on yourself before trying to date again.

      • apricity said:

        I feel like your response is unnecessarily antagonistic towards the LW.

        Just for example, if I plan a date to an art gallery rather than for an afternoon hike, that does tell my partner something about me – not least that I have an interest in making plans and the ability to execute them.
        I also think it’s a stretch to go from “he stares at me all the time and that makes me uncomfortable” to “the only problem is that you feel his staring is getting in the way of more physical contact”. I don’t think the LW comes off as “a gender-flipped sexually entitled” person and I don’t think that’s the root of their relationship issues.

        Finally “you need therapy for all this projection you’re doing” is getting uncomfortably close to armchair diagnosis.

        • toniprufrock said:

          Seconded, I don’t much like this dr.Phil diagnosis of the LW and this whole ‘projection’ argument is at best making a chicken out of a feather and at worst being genuinely vile.

        • Thirded. Especially saying that LW is at risk of being an abusive jerk and the whole “projecting” thing.

      • Kate Monster said:

        While I agree with Apricity that your response is unnecessarily antagonistic, Johann7, I had a take fairly similar to yours.

        (Opposite take on the “in the city” thing, though. I’m picturing a metropolis where it’s common to not have a car. In the first month of dating, he probably shouldn’t ask LW to spend more than an hour out of her way on public transit (if it reaches where he is) to meet him, nor should he require her to take a 1/2 hour plus ride in his car. If he’s choosing to list his dating profile in the metropolis, it’s natural for most of their early dates to be there. However, he should also be able to suggest/set up dates in the city. (E.g., “What’s a park that you like? I’ll bring a picnic for us!” or “I found this restaurant near the neighborhood we walked through before! Let’s go there!”))

        The part that stood out to me the most: “The real problem is that all this talk about being awkward makes me feel extremely angry and panicked. I find it very presumptuous that he assumes his “reasons” or trauma are worse than mine. That’s not how trauma works.”

        I completely agree that trauma is not a competition, but I kind of get the sense that LW might be reading into it (“He admits to being awkward/nervous, while I have to keep burying my trauma and pretending to be normal”). Or it might be OK if he’s merely assuming that LW is “normal” and is self-conscious about and centered on his own “reasons”/trauma, that might be work-through-able if it’s only at the beginning. But if he’s actually comparing circumstances directly, he seems like a walking red flag. (Best case scenario of that is if he says, “Oh, whatever problems you have, don’t worry, it doesn’t matter, I’ve been through worse myself,” but I’d agree it’s presumptuous and off-putting.)

        The anger and panic is something I’m really curious about, LW, especially because women are often trained not to be angry. (They also are not allowed to admit to being angry if they recognize it.) Johann7’s reading, about entitlement, could be a plausible story; LW, if you’re strong enough to own being angry, hopefully you can also get perspective on whether you’re actually pressuring him.

        LW, you’re identifying the anger and panic as feeling triggered, which makes me hope you’ve figured out a plan for dealing with being triggered (e.g. you’ve been to therapy about related issues, or you’ve otherwise found what works for you). Or, if the anger is rare for you, it is probably a good thing you’re listening to it; it might be a warning that this is not the right situation for you, or that you need to think/feel through this in a safe place.

        LW, good luck!

        • TO_Ont said:

          Good comment!

          To me it reads as if they’re both stressed out, and like they have conflicting stress reactions which are each stressing the other out more and more.

          Like, if he can see her anger and impatience, it’s probably making him more and more nervous and stressed, and we know that she describes his nervousness making her frustrated and annoyed.

          I’ve been on both sides of this cycle at one time or another… Mostly the first but sometimes the second too.

          If they both can somehow relax they might get out of the cycle, but it doesn’t sound like an auspicious beginning for a relationship. Maybe if it’s 95% really good and they are mostly really enjoying themselves?

          But it’s not like a work relationship where you need to make yourselves work together and where ‘OK’ is the goal… This is supposed to be fun.

          • TO_Ont said:

            BTW, the times when I was in a cycle like this with someone and got out of it successfully, humour helped a lot.

        • apricity said:

          I understood the situation to be something like:
          LW – “this isn’t working for me”
          BF – “It must be working for you because you’re still here” (how dismissive) “anyway I have secret reasons for being awkward, which I will mention frequently but not elaborate on but you just have to accept it on good faith while I don’t accept you in good faith”.

          So “angry and panicked” at someone telling her that she just has to put up with something that makes her uncomfortable is, I think, a reasonable response that has been aggravated a bit by her past. I think that going into “angry because entitled” is a stretch past a simpler explanation.

        • Emmers said:

          I think this is a much better way to express the very valid concerns Johann7 had.

      • Megan_NJ said:

        This was my reading of the letter also.

        LW seems to contradict herself with … too slow/not physical & the just hanging out/relax/give it a chance to unfold. I couldn’t make the jump from there to Angry & Panic.

        I also agreed with someone near the top of the comments, that this might be a situation of differing attachment styles …. emotion first or physical first.

        He is too emotionally committed, but there has already been a friends meeting? Planning all the dates, but there hasn’t been a Netflix & Chill yet? Presumptuous, but his niceness is an act? It felt like a lot of contradictions.

        *** Even if the Anonymous Jury of Internet Commenters were to read your letter and decide “Well, he doesn’t sound that bad, are you sure the problem isn’t you?” (unlikely, but you never know), *** … …. It can be two things? He sounds like kind of a mope, she sounds kind of high strung, & they sound kind of wrong together in general. No one is wrong, just wrong for each other.

        *** hold out for someone whose brand of weird intersects comfortably with your own. *** … Agree!

      • Avi77 said:

        This was 100% my read as well. Glad I’m not the only one who saw LW as pushy and acting sexually entitled to getting some action despite his/her date’s nervousness or awkwardness.

      • JenniferP said:

        I’ve been thinking about this comment for a few days, because even if you turned out to be right, where is your prize for that? Where is your prize for “I fixed the projection for you” and your other snarky, unkind assumptions? Other posters have expressed similar concerns without the “I’m smarter than you about what happened in your own life” tone that your post had.

        Please run future comments, if any, through the “Is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary?” filter.

  21. To me it’s that he keeps repeating how awkward he feels that feels most off — it sounds like he is repeatedly requesting that you take care of his awkward feelings and there is no room for yours. That jumps out at me because something similar plagued me during my 20s — if I managed to project confidence and ease in a social situation, despite being a simmering bundle of nerves, nervous people would try to glom onto me and expect me to carry them through the situation somehow, even if they knew I was already at my limit of what I could deal with. It’s frustrating.

    One way to look at it is that he has been very clear that he requires a lot of handholding for his “awkwardness”. If that level of caretaking doesn’t sound like something you are overwhelmingly thrilled to do, I’d say what you want and what he wants are not compatible at this point.

  22. mccreadie67 said:

    To be brutally honest, I didn’t quite understand the exact nature of the LW’s problem based on what I read (which I did do a couple of times). It seems that she is unhappy that this new fella is not making any moves, instead just staring in a way that makes her uncomfortable. He seems to believe that they ARE moving forward sufficiently (given his assertion that he “hasn’t gone this far” in a long time), which I guess is the source of my confusion. Throwing in the possible mutual traumas and I’m a bit head-shaky. But the one thing I do get out of this is that the LW does not feel good about things, she’s expressed her worries and upsets, and he doesn’t seem to be very responsive. Which to me seems to be a good indication to slow it way down. Dating someone new should cause good tingly feelings, not nervous tingly feelings.

    • I read it as LW thinks the man is sexy but isn’t sure she likes him. She feels he wants her to fill his girlfriend shaped hole immediately.

  23. thecheapshot said:

    Story time because apparently that’s how I comment:

    LW, I did a lot of dating at the end of last year and the beginning of this year and a lot of it was terrible and a lot of it was hilarious.

    Partway through, I met a guy who I clicked with straightaway and he was incredibly hot. I was instantly attracted to him and on our first date we had those amazing moments where he was super into loads of stuff I like and he was chill and funny and I was blown away. Like super yay I’ve found the new guy.

    We went on another couple of dates and hung out and things got physical. And again it was all good. But there was just something… off. My spidey sense tingled but I couldn’t put my finger on what it was. I mean, there was that time he kissed me while I was talking which is super hot in the movies but kind of weird and dismissive in real life. There was the fact that I could never predict what he was gonna say and that really put me on edge.

    TMI warning!

    And then we were having adult time and I asked him to go down on me and he replied that I was too hairy. And it threw me into this weird panic spiral and I burst into tears. And his reaction was to start yelling at me for being too superficial and not being over my ex enough to have a relationship. I got up, got dressed, walked out the door and deleted his number.

    Did I mess up a chance to have a relationship with an awesome guy by being weird and overreacting? Maaaaaybe? Did I avoid the same reaction from him over the MANY MANY triggers I have? Abso-fucking-lutely.

    If you’re already feeling like your traumas come second to his comfort after a month? It will only get worse, I promise you.

    • vanadiumoxide said:

      This guy does not sound the MOST awesome from what you described, anyway! (He called you too hairy and then called YOU superficial? No thank you.)

    • vanadiumoxide said:

      He called you too hairy and then he called YOU superficial? No thank you.

      • vanadiumoxide said:

        oh no, I didn’t mean to post twice–Captain feel free to remove one if you like; sorry about that!

      • RabbitRabbit said:

        That’s worth saying twice!

        • greenegret said:

          + 10000!

          • GG said:

            +10000000000000000000000000000 and also, I doubt the guy in question had shaved himself until he was as smooth as a boiled carrot, so fuck all that noise.

            Also, if his first response when someone starts crying is to yell at them, he would not make a good partner. Just sayin’.

    • Woman Writer said:

      I am so proud of you for walking out! You cried, and were humiliated (which he intended I’m reasonably certain) but did you curl up in a little obedient ball? NO you did not! I would have loved to see the look on his (stupid entitled) face. I admire you and know you will find someone worthwhile. Gathering up the tattering shreds of your dignity and leaving is one thing when you are pulled together, when you have been treated like this it requires an almost superhuman effort. (Wonder Woman – is that you?) Can you hear me applauding and cheering? I am not a sex therapist or Dr. Ruth but am qualified to speak by my horrible sexual adventures and I can say it has been my truth (and I can only speak to mine) that when you have to ask the clueless selfish to go down, it never works out well. Unless they are virgins, I wouldn’t know about that. (Guys worth keeping know to do it!) Anyway, good for you, you are a star! Triggers smiggers, he was a waste and you done GOOD!

      • lunchcoma said:

        Do I see a troll under the bridge?

        • Woman Writer said:

          What?

        • JenniferP said:

          Think you’re alone on this one.

      • …………….

        What.

    • BigDogLittleCat said:

      “Did I mess up a chance to have a relationship with an awesome guy by being weird and overreacting?”
      No. The answer is: No.

    • Argh

      Argh

      You’re superficial?

      Oh my Invisible Pink Unicorn.

  24. TO_Ont said:

    The whole point of dating people is to find people you actively enjoy being with. Not tolerate, not ‘can deal with’, not even just ‘believe this is a good person’, but people who make you happier when you’re with them, and who you actively _want_ to see.

  25. Don't Shoot the Messenger said:

    “…I told him his nervousness was making me feel uncomfortable and I wanted him to relax. He responded that it didn’t matter…”

    NOPE NOPE NOPE NOPE NOPE

    Your feelings DO MATTER. They matter A LOT.

    This dude has shown you who he is. Believe him. And show him out of your life.

    • Thanksforallthefish said:

      YES! He may not be able to relax in this time and this place and this situation…that’s ok…his response should then be “That makes sense, sorry it’s overwhelming you like that, I get nervous because [time, place, situation] maybe we could try changing x, y, z?” Because he knows what triggers his awkward better than you…so he’s the one armed with the knowledge to come up with another plan.

      For me…coffee dates are the worst like CA has said before. I’m good at chatting but you’re stuck in a noisy place consuming caffeine to up the anxiety and you have to sit in a tiny chair and hear each other over the random noises of the space….if I’m ever going on first dates again in the future I will 100% try and offer activities that we can both do that allow me to relax and focus into the thing we’re doing. I can offer that…I can suggest going to a lego-building class or kite-flying tutorial. He is offering nothing. He has decided you will do 100% of the emotional labor.

      • WinterGiggles said:

        I am a big fan of walks in the park for meeting people from internet dating sites, if that’s an option for you. Walking is soothing, and it makes silences feel natural & companionable rather than awkwardly sitting facing each other struggling to come up with something to say. For various degrees of bad dates, a good park also presents topics of conversation (“Oh look at that puppy/garden/bridge/etc”) and multiple points that you can turn off to end the encounter. And if it really sucks, at least you got a little outdoor exercise in.

        • My favorite first date is an amusement park (or something similar), that involves two things: Long waits in line and fun activities after the waits. The long waits give you lots of time to talk, and the fun activities give you stuff to talk about, even if you have absolutely nothing in common.

          Also, I don’t like “Dinner and a movie” for early dates, but “movie and a dinner” is great, because you can chat about the movie, even if you have nothing else in common.

          I think the advantage to coffee dates is that they are short and public. But you know, there are other short and public options, and a walk in the park or a Build-a-bear or any other short and public activity can be very good. Just make sure you have plenty of opportunities to actually talk to each other.

    • Plum said:

      But… I read his response as a panicked blurt, not a considered deliberate rejection.

      • TO_Ont said:

        Yes, it’s hard to interpret just from the description.

  26. lisakoby said:

    The work:fun ratio is off and it looks this is causing you too much stress and hassle. Bail, because this doesn’t seem worth it.

  27. Jake said:

    Ooof, this whole letter is giving me the heebie jeebies. I think this dude is bad news. Probably (maybe? hopefully?) not, like, violent-and-scary bad news. But definitely makes-all-his-feels-your-problem bad news. The staring thing alone would be enough to drive me away. Combine it with weird hints about his awkwardness (dude doesn’t have to talk about his past if he doesn’t want to, but then he should let it lie), not making any activity/date suggestions, moving really slowly physically, and telling you _your feelings don’t matter?!?_ and I am wanting desperately to loan you my nope rocket to nope your way out of there and into the sun. This dude is already making you do all the work, and he is making a lot of it for you.

    It’s early days in this relationship. That means dude is probably still putting his best foot forward. This is likely as easy to deal with as he is going to get. Fixing him is not your job. You do not have a responsibility to prove to him that you’re cool with his awkwardness or trauma or whatever by sticking around.

    • I got the heebie jeebies too. I’m feeling like the subtext to “but I have REASONS” could be “because I am a serial killer, and I haven’t decided how to add your ears to my trophy room yet.” That’s probably a LOT more extreme than what’s really going on. But if a good-looking, “nice” guy is making you feel angry and triggered and completely ignoring your request that he not stare at you like a were-cat, then maybe….run??????

      • Jake said:

        I was thinking more along the lines of… well, if you’re not familiar with the “incel” community on reddit, there’s no need to inflict that on yourself, but basically a bunch of dudes who can’t get laid and have decided it’s all women’s fault. The description of this dude is hauntingly evocative of those dudes and their beliefs about women and themselves and relationships.

        • BigDogLittleCat said:

          The guys who say “women are [stupid/bad/stuck up/ungrateful/all kinds of bad things] because they won’t date me, and don’t see that I am Nice Guy when I tell them they are [stupid/bad/stuck up/ungrateful/all kinds of bad things] because they won’t date me even though I am a Nice Guy, and they should date me because I am a Nice Guy, even though women are [stupid/bad/stuck up/ungrateful/all kinds of bad things].”
          Yeah, those guys.

          • slfisher said:

            And then when a girl does express interest, tell her that she isn’t attractive or not his type or whatever.

          • BigDogLittleCat said:

            @ slfisher: bingo. Funny how these guys are miraculously attracted only to women who look like a magazine cover. They’ll ignore a hundred great women in the room to be pissed off that the Angelina Jolie is with the Brad Pitt and not him.

        • Reddit just banned the incels. So I don’t even know if you could find it anymore, thank goodness.

          • BigDogLittleCat said:

            I’m sure they’ll pop up somewhere, under some equally pathetic pity party “cute” name.

        • tiredbutch said:

          exactly what I thought when I read this letter. Run.

    • Stayce said:

      “Dude is probably putting his best foot forward. This is likely as easy to deal with as it will ever get.”

      +10,000. I sure learned this one the hard way. I spent way too much time justifying and overlooking my negative feelings on first dates because I thought I was being nitpicky and I should give them a chance. Honestly? Some of those dudes were good dudes but even so, the things I could identify as being low-key offputting from the start generally ended up signifying big incompatibilities later on.

  28. Zara Thustra said:

    I’m not sliding straight to the CA comments default of “this person is DEFINITELY an abuser!” To me this guy legitimately sounds more clueless/awkward than manipulative/predatory. It also sounds like LW’s powerful reaction may be rooted as much in her personal quirks and history. And that’s *completely valid.* A romantic interest doesn’t have to be Darth Vader or Gift-of-Fear worthy to not be right for you. Feeling uncomfortable with someone doesn’t have to be a flashing red alert sign of abuse to be a perfectly good reason to not proceed any further. It sounds like your brand of awkward and his just don’t mesh. It’s okay to walk away; it’s also okay to be more explicit about what you want and need from him if you two are going to keep dating. I think we worry so much about being fair when, sometimes, there’s no “justice” in what we find attractive or what makes us fall in love. You’re not being unfair to this guy if you’re pretty sure he’s not for you.

    • Thanksforallthefish said:

      I agree. Also though I think CA and the Awkward commentariat have really helped me understand that the “clueless/awkward” song and dance IS manipulation after a point because the person who does the same thing repeatedly benefits from the pattern. Even when they don’t consciously recognize it…they continually choose to make the other person do the work by not working to understand their-self or take a step toward a better pattern.
      I have been doing a lot of work on myself and I’m coming to identify these destructive patterns of learned-helplessness that manifest in not picking what food to eat and not initiating hard conversations and not starting to clean the house means the other person has to always initiate the undesired topics.

      • I had kind of a weird thought about “awkward”:

        It’s kind of like a show vs. tell situation in writing. If someone tells you they’re clueless/awkward, they’re probably (not definitely, but probably) trying to manipulate you. If they show you they’re awkward, though, they’re probably (not definitely, but probably) ok.

        • Yes. Social skills are a skill that can be learned (to widely varying degrees of competence, not every can be Clooney!).

          I have known awkward people who aren’t the most talented, but they still use what skills and understanding they have to the best of their ability. They’re generally fairly easy people to interact with: you just think, oh they need some time to get their thoughts together or they hate making eye contact and work from there. It’s like listening to someone at karaoke who is terrible at singing but doing their best at performance – right place, right time, right attitude! If you make allowances for quality of voice, you will end up having a great karaoke night.

          There are also people who are awkward and use that as an excuse and/or fault that cannot be altered in any way. That’s a bit more like someone terrible at singing getting up and doing an uninvited song during a wedding – making allowances for the voice doesn’t excuse the rest and you’re probably not going to enjoy the performance anyways.

          When someone says, “Hey, I’m not comfortable with you staring at me” even if you have terrible social skills and stare a lot with no bad intentions, the appropriate response is, “Oh, I’m sorry. I will try not to stare at you so much.” It’s not, “I’m awkward and that’s just the way I am, even if it makes you uncomfortable.”

        • Skada said:

          I agree, with a caveat that it depends ( on the context and situation.

          Example: at work, on phone calls where people can’t see my facial expressions. I’ve learned to ask people, “I’m asking you this seriously and I’m not trying to set you up — I legitimately do not know. Can you explain XXX?”

          I’ve also learned to say when I’m just not getting something, “Look, I just don’t understand XXX. Can we try Another Method?”

          What happens next is the key point: when whoever I’m talking to tells me to do YYY to resolve XXX, I do it *and I report back to them.* No ifs, ands, or buts…if something doesn’t work I tell them that too, but I make a point to do just what they say.

          Compare this to a person who uses the “Can you explain XXX?” in a way that is a trap, or the endless merry-go-round of “I don’t understand YYY,” until eventually you and your teammates are so frustrated that you just do it yourself.

          Same thing with clueless/awkward. If someone acknowledges at an appropriate time and place that yes, I have trouble reading social cues, you fill them in, and they toe your line EXACTLY (to the letter and the spirit) it’s very different than the situation LW describes.

          • There’s also a difference between “I’m doing X because I’m awkward and I can’t change” and “I’m doing X because I have trouble reading social cues but now I have better information.”

        • sistercoyote, I love this show vs. tell idea. I also think there’s some kind of permanent-versus-momentary aspect to it — awkwardness as an all-excusing personality quality, as opposed to awkwardness as a description of certain actions. Someone who says “oh god, yeah, that thing I did was really awkward” is acknowledging that they could have done a different thing, even if they’re not necessarily sure they’ll do it any better next time; someone who says “I’m just an awkward person so that’s what happens” might actually be committed to not doing it any better, ever.

          • Wait, I just realized that my comment could look really judgmental of, like, everyone here who identifies as awkward! I’m sorry! I think there’s another distinction there that I missed, between acknowledging your personality qualities (awesome and self-aware) and actually using them as excuses (not awesome).

        • Zara Thustra said:

          I can’t totally cosign — I’ve known plenty of genuinely awkward people who would tell AND show you their awkward truth. But I would say that anyone who tells you and *doesn’t* show you is making excuses for themselves at best, manipulative at worst.

    • Yeah.

      I once sort of dated (We never went on a one-on-one official date, but gravitated towards each other at any group activities we both attended) a guy once, and he had a lot going for him. However, he moved faster than I was comfortable (I had some trauma of my own), and at one point, he grabbed me, unexpectedly, and I screamed! Flashback to my trauma, freaking out, scream.

      He backed away, and never talked to me again. Looking back, I think that was actually a respectful way to deal with me. He didn’t really know what my deal was, but it was clear that we were not compatible, at least not at that time, and rather than saying, “But whyyyyyy?” or demanding an explanation or that I give him a chance, or whatever, he just backed away, and let me deal with my own issues. I could have sought him out and continued the relationship, but at the time, I realized that I just couldn’t do that, and I didn’t do that, and we never hung out again, and I am OK with that. Maybe we’d be right for each other, if we met now. Maybe not. The point is, we were not compatible *then*.

      I didn’t have to prove that he was a villain, and that my real fear actually applied to him, in particular. He didn’t try to prove that he was really a Nice Guy. Just, “Well, this isn’t working right now. Next!”

      All break-ups should be so easy.

  29. Solo said:

    FWIW, I initially read “He responded that it didn’t matter because I must like him since I’m hanging out with him.” as “he was dealing with big emotions related to perceived rejection and verbally reassured himself in the moment,” but I totally get other commenters’ read that he was saying that LW’s concern was irrelevant.

    “Feeling angry and triggered” is a good reason to stop dating someone, LW. It doesn’t matter whether it is because the other person did something out of intent, or negligence, or a perfectly innocent behavior that just happens to trigger you. I dated a very lovely man for a little over a month. We had very good sex. After one particularly good night of sex, I had nightmares related to prior trauma. After that, every interaction I had with him was tinged with those nightmares. It was no one’s* fault, but I couldn’t continue having either a sexual or romantic relationship with him. I broke it off with him directly, face-to-face, in my home, because I felt safe with him in doing so. He was surprised and clearly hurt, but he was also able to adjust and focus his attention on a new relationship with a different partner.

    You deserve good love. You especially deserve someone who does not make you feel as if your trauma is minimized or made invisible.

    * actually it was the fault of my past abusers

    • Yeah, I could see that. Like he was thinking, “Well so there’s a bit of an issue, but hey, we’re still seeing each other a month in, so that must be a good sign, right?” But…..yeah. Not a great response.

  30. Jerry Howard said:

    This sounds like a guy I was friends with back in high school & college. He was funny, charming, and weird in a way that made people like him. But he would constantly complain that no girl would want to date him, and behave as though every problem in his life was anyone’s fault but his own. Eventually, the part of our social circle that didn’t feel like riding a sad train to whine town with a one-man show of “My life is terrible, but it’s not my fault, you guys all have it so good” at the end stopped showing up. I hung on a bit longer out of a blend of nostalgia and pity, but when he started in on “Feminism made me a Gamergater”, I called it quits. I can’t teach someone in their 30’s who doesn’t want to learn how to grow up and be a human being.

    • BigDogLittleCat said:

      Funny how the guy who constantly complains that no girl would want to date him never seems to figure out that telling women they don’t want to date him is a good way to make sure that they don’t want to date him.

  31. doodleoo said:

    He is definitely of the opinion that your feelings are your problem and his feelings are also your problem. The constant stating of how awkward he is strikes me as a way to offload responsibility – hey, he *told* you he was awkward and you stuck around, now you have no right to complain about anything he does.

    And that “it doesn’t matter because you like me enough to stay” thing! That reveals SUCH a skewed understanding of relationships. In his head, if he performs adequately, he will be rewarded with A Girlfriend. The prize is the same for a distinction and a bare pass, so there’s no sense in making more effort than necessary. I have to be honest, this is giving me the shivers. He…doesn’t care what you think or feel. He’s not thinking about you as a person, he’s not worried about how you experience the relationship. He just wants you to keep providing the Girlfriend Service. That’s all kinds of awful.

    Nothing’s perfect, but the first month of a good relationship should be pretty much all fun, with perhaps a side order of nervousness and a sprinkle of awkward. It shouldn’t be this difficult.

  32. Dear LW,

    You said you rarely find men who listen to you. This man is one of the non-listeners.

    His response to your discomfort is telling.

    The Captain was safe offering up option B because we all know he won’t plan and he’ll try to guilt trip you about his lack of planning (because he’s so niiiiiiiice).

    I think this man is way too much work. A month in you should be giggly and happy (or however fun stuff takes you). You shouldn’t be frustrated and angry.

    I vote drop him.

    Jedi hugs if you want them

  33. GreenDoor said:

    “He has his “reasons” for being awkward.”:

    If you continue to date this guy, I really feel that you need to flush out what those reasons are. Does he have a bona fide health concern that causes it? If so, you may decide to give him some compassion and keep things going. But if “I’m just awkward” means “I just want to behave the way I want and you need to put up with it.” Um, no.

    He doesn’t owe you all the personal, play-by-play details this early on, of course, but just a simple, “I want you know that I have X condition which sometimes means I behave Y way.” Or “Please forgive me if I do X. It’s because of Y. I’m treating it/working on it but I wanted you to know” The fact that this guy brushes you off, rather than giving you even a minimal explanation for his “awkwardness” is suspicious.

    • HarleyM said:

      There is a *lot* of space between suffering from a DSM disorder and willfully making people uncomfortable. I’m awkward, and while I may or may not be on the spectrum, I certainly haven’t been diagnosed. Is there a reason for It? Sure, insofar as there is a reason for everything, but I can’t tie it to anything specific. An awkward father? Childhood shyness and a lack of social experiences in my youth? Bullying that created coping mechanisms? I’m not sure, and early awkwardness likely led to a lot of experiences that served to exacerbate the awkwardness. Regardless, I’m not in a position to flush the reasons out with anyone other than a qualified mental professional.

      I’m also not in a position to give advance warnings about specific behaviour. My awkwardness typically manifests when I don’t know the “right” way to behave, rather than from refusing to behave that way. Sometimes I’m aware of the potential for awkwardness in advance, sometimes I realize it as soon as I have behaved inappropriately, and sometimes I don’t realize it until it is pointed out to me. In all three cases, I certainly don’t *want* to be awkward, I just am. I’ve learned to avoid some behaviors, but the wonderful, terrible thing about life is that while patterns may repeat, specific experiences tend not to, meaning that every day can present fresh new ways to unwillingly and unwittingly make others uncomfortable. And unfortunately yes, people in my life do have to put up with it (or, frequently, choose not to be in my life) – because, like it or not, diagnosable or not, for better or (almost certainly) worse, it’s part of who I am.

      I’m not special. The socially awkward aren’t wilfully awkward, we are just awkward. When awkward moments happen, we often feel them as much as everyone else in the room, and even (especially) when we don’t, we feel the after-effects of causing that awkwardness. Think of an awkward encounter with a coworker or acquaintance. Then, imagine that fully half of your social interactions are like that… with worry that your awkwardness will manifest during the other half sprinkled in for good measure. Suggesting compassion isn’t warranted without a diagnosable condition is ridiculous.

      Which isn’t to say that LW should stay with this guy. She shouldn’t, for all the reasons the Captain and everyone else has said, most importantly that dating the right person should be fun, not work. But not because being inexplicably awkward is suspicious – it isn’t.

      • GreenDoor said:

        I agree, HarlyM, but only to a point. With this guy, the LW says that he stares to the point of making her uncomfortable. That is a specific, repeated act that he is chalking up to “awkwardness.” I think she could reasonably expect for him to either explain why he does it (if it’s a legitimately uncontrollable thing) or to knock it of.

        • TO_Ont said:

          Yes, staring is a specific behaviour you can absolutely ask someone to change.

          OTOH, “your nervousness is making me uncomfortable, you need to ‘just relax'” is not actually a reasonable or usually possible request. The specific ways someone expresses their emotion in your presence is sometimes something you can ask them to change, and sometimes something they can do, but an emotion itself is not really something you can command people not to have.

          You can certainly choose to remove yourself from the proximity of people who make you uncomfortable for any reason, though.

        • HarleyM said:

          I agree – if she has specifically asked him to stop staring, then general awkwardness isn’t a good excuse for continuing to stare. It’s not clear from the letter that he knows that he is staring, though; some people have a lot of trouble finding the line between looking at a person and staring at a person, and it isn’t clear that LW has informed him that he is crossing that line.

          • Another fine example of “Communication Is Good.”

      • I have a Thing. Actually, I have a few. In my experience, most people have Things. These Things are psychological, but are not necessarily diagnosable. They’re just Things. We have them. Sometimes, we deal with them, and sometimes we don’t.

        Wise people are aware of their Things, and admit to the Things, and if they can’t treat the Things, they at least find work-arounds for the Things. “Please don’t make me mail a package. I have a Thing about mailing packages.” Rational? Not likely, but real, for sure. So, you make sure that you don’t mail packages in that relationship, and everything else is just fine, right?

        It’s OK to have Things, even several Things, and it’s OK to admit to them, and it’s OK to *not explain* them. Not, “I have X because of Y,” just “I think you should know, I squeeze the toothpaste tube in the middle, always have and always will. So, if that bothers you, get your own toothpaste tube, and I’ll put mine where you can’t see it.” See? Workaround, and no explanation about personal reasons and trauma and diagnoses, and all that jazz are required.

        This is how people with Things adult. They don’t say, “I have reasons that I won’t tell you, and you just have to accept my Thing, without finding any work-around that works for you, and your feelings/response to my Thing doesn’t matter.”

        Another way that people with Things adult: “I didn’t know that would trigger a Thing, because sometimes, my Things are unpredictable. I’m sorry that caused a problem. Let’s brainstorm to see if we can think of a way to avoid this in future, or at least mitigate the issue when it unpredictably crops up again. Maybe a code word to alert me to nip it in the bud, when it first begins, before it becomes a Giant Awkward Moment.”

        It’s not that people aren’t allowed to have Things, even undiagnosed and/or untreatable Things. It’s that adults are supposed to take responsibility and TRY not to let their Things adversely affect others.

        HarleyM, I’m betting that you adult pretty well, and that you do what you can to mitigate the problems, or at least apologize for them. You don’t just dump your Things on others and say, “Yeah, it’s my issue, but it’s your problem.” LW’s guy does, and so she shouldn’t stay with him.

      • Solestria said:

        +1 to all of this. I am almost certainly am Aspie (undiagnosed because it’s hard and expensive to find someone who knows how to diagnose a woman on the spectrum since we present differently), and I have a lot of social awkwardness because I don’t know what the right responses are. I’ve discussed this enough with people in my life that I’m aware I usually feel that awkwardness more than the people around me often do.

        This dude is making his awkwardness LW’s problem in a way that requires she does all the emotional labor around reassuring him, which is a huge problem. The specific behaviors that make her uncomfortable could be addressed; his making his awkwardness explicitly her job to deal with is a much bigger issue that he seems pretty unlikely to do the work of fixing.

  34. Kitty said:

    Honestly, if this guy is expecting you to do all the emotional (and physical planning) labour for this relationship thus early, what is he going to be like long term?

  35. B said:

    LW I can’t tell from your letter if you are overall enjoying yourself but find a few things annoying or if you are finding things very annoying but think you should be enjoying it. This matters a lot; I can see anyone saying something that’ll look bad once and a while (such as apparently totally dismissing your request to relax) but it depends if they come around, and really what YOUR feelings are. If you are enjoying things I see no dealbreakers, though certainly stuff to work on. If you are not enjoying things well, that’s a dealbreaker itself and doesn’t matter how many checkboxes someone fills, if you don’t like them it’s not worth trying to force it. Captain’s advice seems excellent as usual.
    I’m a little confused by some of the references to feeling angry and triggered and I’m not sure if you’re asking yourself if you’re overreacting or something; if so I think that depends on a) is this something that repeatedly happens with lots of people or just this one person? b) are you seeing a therapist for whatever it is? Maybe ask them? c) Again, only really matters if you are overall enjoying yourself despite it; if not then why force it whether or not it’s “fair”

  36. WindyCityLady said:

    Ohhhhhhh my gosh, LW. I’m so sorry. I just got out of a thing like this and it was awful. He was nice, but like, clingy and passive in a way that was just a giant banana slug crushing me with its limp, stupid, needy weight.

    My most most annoying part of it was how touchy and kissy he repeatedly was at times I knew he could tell that I was not into it. At first I wasn’t sure if he could tell that I was putting up with it (no idea why I really did put up with it other than the deeply socially programmed “don’t be a b****” stuff)… but when it came out that he actually KNEW I didn’t feel the same way but kept doing it anyway, oh, my wrath and confusion hath no end. I’m thinking you have a similar situation with the “you know I don’t like it why do you do it, oh, you just want to real bad? no”.

    • Thanksforallthefish said:

      “He was nice, but like, clingy and passive in a way that was just a giant banana slug crushing me with its limp, stupid, needy weight.” Perfect. Just perfect imagery.

  37. sporks said:

    Reading all of this with great interest. I (female, het) am dating and after years of unintentional celibacy, an assault and a few relationships with mean dudes, I’m finally starting to date okay ones. The last guy was the first not-treating-me-poorly dude and I called things off with him for a few things he did/said regularly that triggered me.

    I just invited a new guy back to my place on the 2nd date (we live in different towns, and continuing the conversation/date after hiking and dinner seemed like a good idea, as did maybe a make-out). He’s nice; I felt safe. But when he got to my place I could not bring myself to kiss him. I felt totally awkward and couldn’t say why except to start to stutter and try to talk and space out a bit and then say I’m very awkward and apologized a lot and said I’m trying to be in the moment on dates and not do anything I don’t want to do. I ended up saying yes to trading massage but there was no kissing and he spent the night in my guest room.

    He was kind about it all but if I were him I might feel frustrated or rejected. I did a LOT of apologizing about my awkwardness. I still feel caught between “my body says no” and “I’m still learning my own intuition and it’s fine because he says it’s all good” and “I’m still learning my own intuition which is cool but I can’t be putting dudes through long awkward monologues about my trying to have boundaries.” I feel too emotionally demanding and at the same time unable to learn without trying to put myself out there. I read all these comments about LW’s date’s emotional manipulation and think about how I too said I had my reasons for being awkward.

    It of course would do no good to tell me to just relax; that would make it worse. But this guy would have been within his rights to say, look, you seem really uncomfortable; I’m uncomfortable in that vibe; so maybe we should just not hang out. I get that my discomfort is my responsibility to know and act upon; I get too that stuffing it down to make a date go smooth is not healthy. I do find it infuriating to think that not being able to manage discomfort that is (maybe? who knows?) residue from assaulty experiences is something that healthy people can and should walk from. I’m kind of terrified of someone walking away because I’m too fucked up — though the reality is, probably many good someones didn’t even come within dating range because I am fucked up.

    I think if someone were to tell me that my discomfort in itself was making them step back, I’d have to accept that and keep working on myself so that fun >>>> discomfort can be had by everyone in relationship with me! Thanks LW for the food for thought.

    • trycycle said:

      hey, i’m in an almost identical situation in my life, and it makes me feel so much better to know i’m not the only one going through this right now. i’m just telling myself like: if sporks can do it, so can you. thanks for the comment, genuinely.

    • Kate Monster said:

      Jedi hugs, Sporks!

      Thanks for sharing this, and it sounds like you acted with integrity: you did what you needed to do to take care of yourself, and you were candid with your date.

      While reading the letter, I got a read that the date might be more like you, and that the reaction to being told to relax was more a self-protective reaction rather than an attempt at emotional manipulation. Further, I think that owning one’s awkwardness / admitting that awkwardness exists in a situation can be a good segue into addressing the elephant in the room. So, don’t worry about admitting that you’re awkward, unless you’re using it to dump all the emotional labor on the other person or as a get-out-of-jail-free card.

      I’ve had quite a bit of growth around this, too. When I would be in a new situation, especially if I felt nervous or uncertain, or basically any other emotion, I would have a defensive blocking reaction/habit. I’d abruptly disengage, possibly justifying it with whatever words came to mind, usually intellectualizing it so I would sound rational/comfort myself, even if it is the opposite of resolving the problem. (Example: first boyfriend asked permission to do something further while making out. Me, nervous inside, outwardly scoffing: “That sounds very Oedipal!”)

      FWIW, I’ve (mostly) learned to suppress the knee-jerk defensive block, or at least quickly realize/acknowledge I blocked. Then, I might invoke awkwardness and follow up with either honesty or candor.
      1. Honesty, directness, & communication version: “Hold on, I’m feeling awkward about this. Since there’s already awkwardness here, I’m just going to bring this up directly! Are you OK with me sharing about X right now / Are you OK with talking about X for a moment?”

      2. Candor version (acting with integrity and treating the person with respect, but not owing all the details): “Hold on, I’m feeling awkward about this. … Yep, a moment later I’m still feeling really awkward when thinking about doing X right now. I’m not certain why/I don’t have the wherewithal to talk with you about it right now / I don’t want to get into it, but I need to [take a break to get a drink of water / think this over / ask for a rain check / do some self-care]. I realize this might feel abrupt or surprising, but this is what I need right now.”

      tl;dr: Sporks, I admire the way you handled the situation you described. If you happen to run into someone who ends a relationship because they mis-read you or they have needs that conflict with your current needs, then that particular person is not the right person to date right now. I wish you all the best!

  38. Emily said:

    I don’t know if you’ve been in a relationship where you ignored your own red flags, emotional reactions, and gut feelings at the beginning, but in my experience it doesn’t ever blossom into the healthy/fun/supportive/romantic relationship you need to sustain a life together. In fact, these are the relationships whose endings made me realize how awesome it is to not be in a relationship, partly because in each case, those flaws I had ignored ended up weighing me down so much that I felt lighter than air when I finally cut those losers off.

    I hope you don’t see this guy again. Honestly now that I’m in my DGAF thirties I would have ghosted him hours ago, blocked his number, eaten some toast, played with my cat, thought about my cool friends, and forgotten his last name without even realizing it because that’s how little I’d care. I can’t tell you how amazing it feels, but it feels better than amazing.

    Here’s the secret to reducing your likelihood of landing with a bad date/partner: the goal of dating is not to discover reasons TO date them. You are looking for reasons to NOT date them. You are coming up with a clear list of rules that will make entering a relationship worth giving up your life-affirming, much-enjoyed singlehood. (Wait, what?)

    Here’s the other secret: you have to figure out what a GD badass beautiful goddess woman you are just by yourself. You have to realize so deep in your bones your own value. You HAVE to learn how to trust yourself. If you do that, then your capacity for bullshit gets so low that you won’t even be able to stand to be in the room with a guy who makes you feel uncomfortable because you’ll just get nauseous and you’ll know that’s your body’s signal and since you’ll trust your body you’ll get TF OUT.

    It sounds like you don’t know how awesome you are. I can tell just by your letter what a kind and empathetic person you are. It sounds like you don’t trust your body yet. I promise that if you learn how awesome you are and to trust yourself before seeking a relationship, the one that finally meets your standards will be waaaaay more fun than the one you’re describing.

    If the dude isn’t more awesome than being single, drop the dude. And If you can get yourself to the place where being single is awesome, then you will only end up dating more than awesome dudes.

    • TootsNYC said:

      toast rocks

  39. I vote option A. Entering a relationship with him seams like it will be very one sided.

  40. Raptor said:

    This guy is oh so much work. And he will probably only be more work if you continue dating him.

    My hubs is one of the most awkward people I know, and he was a delight to date. Weird and out of the box, but fun and sweet. (He’s also still weird, still out of the box, and still fun and sweet.)

    It just seems like, even if you’re dating someone awkward, you should be having a good time. And if you’re not, it’s time to stop.

  41. EllenS said:

    LW, you don’t sound like you’re having fun. The dates you describe sound dreadful.

    Dating, especially the early stages, is supposed to feel good. If you’ve been on a couple of dates and didn’t enjoy it, stop.

    Interactions that make you feel annoyed, triggered, nervous, exhausted, tense, etc on the first couple of dates don’t generally get better over time.

    People aren’t shoes you have to break in. Dates are not hazing rituals you have to endure to get promoted to the “good part.”

    If there’s no good part up front, move on. Maybe this guy is a perfectly fine pen pal. Some people are better at a distance.

  42. Modern Culture said:

    LW’s situation is reminding me of an awful date. I had met the guy at an ACLU party and thought he was nice and an easy manner, so I said “yes” when he asked for my number. He picked me up, we went for pizza, and he spent most of 2 hours talking about serial killers–I shit you not. He had memorized the grocery receipt found on the body of a kidnapped local woman. When I got home I told him I had a migraine to keep him out of the apartment. Needless to say I declined subsequent dates and was terrified for several weeks. Listen to your gut if you’re feeling panicked!

    • BigDogLittleCat said:

      Holy shit. Like, what in the actual fuck? YIKES.

      That beats the time I met this great looking guy at a club: intelligent, funny, easy to talk to, well dressed, great manners, respectful without being ostentatious, good dancer, total swoon-worthy. I gave him my number, of course, but before I’d gotten home the alarm bells in my gut were so loud I’d already decided nope. All I could say against him was he was so fit Hollywood’s picture of a Mafia scion it was ridiculous. I knew it was a totally stupid reason to not go out with an otherwise great guy, but when the gut says no, it’s no.

      And the next week the Sunday Times magazine had an article about the son of our local Mafia don….
      Yeah, I listen to my gut.

  43. zaracat said:

    I agree with the advice not to date someone if you’re not comfortable with them and not able to negotiate that by using your words. And it does sound a bit as if the burden is on the LW to manage the awkwardness of the relationship, that she is expected to do the majority of the emotional labour.

    Over and above all of that though, it concerns me that while LW expresses a desire/expectation for patience from her date in terms of the pace of the relationship developing (“I am also angry that he won’t be patient and give the relationship a chance to unfold”), she doesn’t seem as willing to give her date the same privilege and expresses some frustration at the pace being slower than what she would like (“physically, he is moving much slower than I would prefer”).

    It’s hard to pin down whether I’m reading the situation correctly because the language used to describe these different aspects of the relationship (physical vs emotional, her preferences vs his) is subtly different, but if this isn’t just my imagination then it is something which LW needs to take a serious look at and address. Both partners get an equal say in how quickly things move (which in practice mean moving at the pace of the “slower” person), and no one aspect of a relationship is more important than another in this respect.

    • toniprufrock said:

      I think out of the letter I agree that this is the one thing the LW might need to be reflective about. Not everyone has the same pace so pinning down what’s good for her vs what’s good for her Date is an important compromise.

      For me, if a guy tried to kiss me on a second date I wouldn’t feel comfortable at all, so I shouldn’t date those guys!
      So this is another reason to walk away if this is important to you, Lw

      • HarleyM said:

        If kissing on the second date makes you uncomfortable, you shouldn’t kiss on the second date. That said, there probably aren’t many adults who are still uncomfortable with a kiss goodnight after one, let alone two, great dates. If you do go on a great date or two, and an otherwise awesome man tries to kiss you, consider explaining that you like him, but like to take things very slow physically, and ask that he let you be the one to make the first move in the mouth hugging department. In fact, think about explaining this before he ever has a chance to kiss you.

        If he is a jerk about it, cut him off (like you were planning to do anyway). Otherwise, consider that an otherwise awesome man who typically moves faster physically, but who is willing to move more slowly out of respect for your boundaries, might be exactly who you should date.

        • toniprufrock said:

          Aye true, everyone is different and communication is key, as hard as that is.
          (I admit I fail at that, personally)
          For me i’m still at the “hello total stranger who I’m not attracted to” stage by date 2. Date 1 is literally meeting a rando. Date 2 is getting to figure out if you actually like them.

          I’m just praying that someone turns up who requires me into the ‘normal’ habit of things where I’d actually WANT this total stranger physically anywhere near me. In the end as the outlier I know I’d be the one who has to take the lead in either making compromises or explaining the boundaries at least at first until we both understand one another. And that’s not easy.

          So, referring back to the LW, it’s hard! There’s always going to be communication issues and different style s of dating, but if you’re getting a proper bad gut reaction that is actively making you angry it’s not worth it.

          • toniprufrock said:

            *who I response to enthusiastically enough to nudge me into ‘normal’* I mean. (Not ‘requires’)

          • TO_Ont said:

            It’s not as unusual as that, I think. It’s more that a) it’s ‘expected’ in certain circles so everyone, both men and women, tends to do it semi-automatically for fear of losing the chance with people, and b) the really big one – most people who are not ‘jump right into things and then get to know each other later’ people don’t use dating environments where that’s the norm (online and clubs, for example).

            I know so so so many people who met through school, or friends, or a job, or a hobby in common. They already knew each other for a while before they realised they wanted to date. Those are still incredibly common ways of meeting partners, the most common as far as I can see around me.

            It’s just that if those aren’t working for you for one reason or another (finished school, your hobbies are full of married people, etc) you may find you have to go to environments where the focus is more explicitly dating, and those tend to be contain more people who like getting off with people they just met, as well as more people who could go either way but don’t mind.

  44. Ali said:

    LW, there’s obviously a lot of backstory here, but the bottom line is, do you feel excited about seeing this guy again? Or is it just feeling like too much hard work? A month isn’t long; if you are feeling this uncomfortable now (for whatever reason) it is probably time to call it day. ‘Nice’ is not the same as ‘Right for you’.

  45. MJ said:

    I feel like the challenge of falling in love with someone who’s really compatible with you is seeing clearly enough to spot the incompatibilities. Because it’s great and awesome and feels so perfect and we tend to psychologically inflate the desirable qualities of someone we’re interested in.

    So the fact that you’re seeing all these incompatibilities so early in the game is probably a good indicator that there are WAY more of them lurking in the wings to come out and bite you later.

    In other words: you’re dating, and often this is the best it’s ever gonna get. Are you okay with it getting worse?

  46. thathat said:

    “He responded that it didn’t matter because I must like him since I’m hanging out with him.”

    That SLAMMED on the brakes for me.

    At that point, the rest of the letter could’ve been talking about how he woke you up with a breakfast of mascarpone and strawberries on toast accompanied by fresh creamery butter, and I’d still be back at that sentence.

    That’s a dude what tried to Rules Lawyer you out of your own feelings.

    And he *will* do it again. Any time any aspect of the relationship makes you uncomfortable and you say that to him, you can lay odds on getting some variant of “it must not be that bad, since you’re still here” in response.

  47. kible said:

    It’s only the first month! it’s ok to sever! Also it’s ok to break it off with someone who isn’t a totally bad person – sometimes, (and probably most often in relationships) two totally good people don’t mesh. that’s fine!

  48. NaoNao said:

    I often tell friends that in general, relationships don’t “come out of the tailspin” as they go along. Most people are on their very *best* behavior in the first few weeks/months. They’re showing you their *best* side. If you don’t like their best side, (or their best side is quite frankly kind of jerky) uh oh.

    Relationships can mature and become more comfortable, loving, and intimate. But they rarely become more *enjoyable in general* if they weren’t already that way in the beginning.

    “I hated him at first” or “Our first few dates were just awful” or “he made me this weird kind of generalized angry” is not the beginning of a love story, no matter what pop culture tries to tell you.

    There’s slight doubts (“don’t love that haircut” or “ooh, not thrilled with that one joke that hit me wrong”) and then they’re GET IT AWAY GET IT AWAY GET IT AWAY.

    I think many people rightly want to give things a chance to settle and get easier, get closer, and get more comfortable.
    But you don’t have to “give it a chance” to get enjoyable.

    • SamKD said:

      I very much agree with this.

    • I once knew a guy (note – NOT dated), and we were thrown together quite a lot because we were on a church committee together. For some reason I never could put my finger on, we just rubbed each other the wrong way. He got angry with me, I got angry with him, and we would then say/do things about that anger that just made it worse.

      I told my friends, “If this were a romance novel, we’d be married within six weeks.” But it was not a romance novel. It was real life, and we just kept rubbing each other wrong, until I moved away. Sometimes, personalities just really, truly clash. And that’s OK.

      Fortunately, I did not try to turn it into a romance novel, thinking that since it fit the pattern of a novel, then we must be soul mates. I didn’t waste my time trying to make it work, or trying to pursue him, or fantasizing about making it work and finding the true hero beneath his annoying surface. I just avoided him, and was happier for it.

      Nowadays, when I read romance novels that start with hate-at-first-sight, I tend to give it the side-eye. Sure, there are some that really make it work (Pride and Prejudice, Forever!!!), but mostly, it just makes me think, “Sure, you’re all in romantic hormone bliss NOW, but the sequel will be all about your acrimonious divorce.”

  49. Lurker in the light said:

    I’d like to recommend Dr. Nerdlove’s article “socially awkward isn’t an excuse.” It makes a good distinction between people who are actually socially awkward, who can and do respond to feedback/coaching because we want to understand how to be less awkward, and creepers who use “social awkwardness” to push boundaries.

    • TO_Ont said:

      It isn’t an excuse for harrassment or insulting people or ignoring boundaries or any other kind of acting badly towards others, no.

      But most of the time it isn’t really something that needs to be ‘excused’. Just not being as charming/suave/quick witted etc is not in and of itself a thing that causes people harm and needs to be apologised for.

      • TO_Ont said:

        And it’s OK if someone just rubs you the wrong way or irritates you or slightly bores you. You don’t need to come up with ‘good reasons’ why their behaviour or personality are ‘bad’. You can just not massively like them.

      • Megan_NJ said:

        Speaking of Charming … I listened to an interview with the Gift of Fear guy & he said on people who are charming … When did you notice you were being Charmed.

        I think of it all the time now, to notice the sales pitch. Notice they are trying to persuade you of something.

        • IMO, some people are Charming, and some people are Adorable. Charming is something you turn off and on, and usually involves selling you something. Adorable is just something you ARE. It is often confused with Charming, because adorable people tend to charm people, merely by existing in their general vicinity, but they’re not being adorable AT you.

          A good way to tell the difference is to see if they are “charming” to everyone they interact with, or just the ones who can give them something they want. Are they “charming” to the waitstaff? To beggars on the street? To strangers on the subway? To small children and animals? To old people who need assistance? Or are they only “charming” to particular people? If they are almost always “charming,” but occasionally turn it off, is it for a specific reason, such as “That guy behaved badly, and I really don’t like him, and I am going to actively be un-charming to him” or “That person is beneath me and not worth the effort of charming”? Motive matters there.

          It can, of course, take time to figure it out, because you need to see them in a variety of situations, with a variety of people. But eventually, you’ll be able to tell if it’s Charm or Adorable.

    • TO_Ont said:

      It isn’t an excuse for harrassment or insulting people or ignoring boundaries or any other kind of acting badly towards others, no.

      And you can just find people irritating or slightly boring or whatever without having to prove there’s something ‘bad’ about their behaviour. Or just not massively like them.

  50. Raven said:

    The only emotions you mention are “angry and panicked” and you mention that it’s unusual for guys to show interest in getting to know you. Uncommon or not, is after a month he’s already making you angry and panicked plus disregarding your emotions when you bring it up that you don’t like something… Time to move on. It’s been a month, and from your letter all he makes you feel is uncomfortable.

    And that’s ok! Just because he’s a decent human being doesn’t mean it’s a foregone conclusion that you have to date him!

  51. I just want to reiterate or underline that you do not need a *good* reason to stop dating someone. The only reason you need is that you want to date them less than you want to not date them.

    I broke up with a very nice couple because they kept their house too cold for my comfort in winter. They were lovely people, if we’d lived close enough that evening dates weren’t always overnight dates I might still be seeing them, but ultimately, I wanted to see them less than I wanted to sleep in my heated waterbed alone.

    It’s ok to break up with someone just because you don’t want to date them anymore.

    • This sounds like classic incompatibility that just can’t be “fixed.” I mean, they have just as much right to physical comfort as you, and if they heated the place up warm enough for you, they’d be boiling.

      Behavior can often be fixed (by the people engaging in the behavior, not the person who doesn’t like the behavior), but physical traits… Sometimes you just have to say, “Close, but no cigar.” However, you can take from that relationship a template of things you DID like, and love, and look for that, in the future, with someone whose physical needs more closely match your own.

  52. Tattie said:

    The comment about it not mattering if you were uncomfortable… that’s not good. Let’s draw up a flowchart.

    Does he not *care* about your feelings, or is he just emotionally immature enough that he didn’t realise that he should have considered them?

    If the latter, is he actively striving to get better at this (“I’m awkward and trying to improve”), or is he satisfied with making you do all his emotional labour for you (“I’m awkward so you’ll have to learn to put up with me doing or saying things that hurt you”)?

    If the former, do you have the *patience* for this?

    Even if you do, are you actually enjoying yourself in this relationship?

    I’m not presuming to know the answers to these questions, but I will observe that there are a large number of arrows pointing to “Gently Extract Yourself From This Awkward Fellow Already”.

    • the815 said:

      **or is he satisfied with making you do all his emotional labour for you (“I’m awkward so you’ll have to learn to put up with me doing or saying things that hurt you”)?**

      I remember dating a guy* who said that because he was a recovering alcoholic it messed with his formative years and so he had the maturity level of a 16-year-old. It’s like – okay, but what concrete things are you doing to improve this, and why is this MY problem? Why does you having less to offer mean that I deserve less?

      *OMG, he was THE WORST EVER – SO angry, belittling, gaslighting – I could go on and on. I won’t, but suffice it to say, he was the guy who made me go, “Am I really SO embarrassed to be single that I’ll tolerate this absolute piece of garbage just to say I’m not? I will NEVER, EVER be embarrassed to be single again. Because single means not putting up with that, at least.” I don’t think the LW’s dude sounds as bad as all that, but I agree with others that “it doesn’t matter because” is a dumpable offense. And I also feel like the LW is just kind of quietly tolerating him out of fear of being single. Just a guess, but how many other reasons could there be?

      • “who said that because he was a recovering alcoholic it messed with his formative years and so he had the maturity level of a 16-year-old.”

        That’s when you tell him, “Well, call me when you have the maturity level of a 25-year-old.” He may be a good guy for you, eventually, but not then.

        However, if he uses that as an excuse to STAY at the maturity level of a 16-year-old, then he got the math wrong, and it’s more like 6-year-old. And should definitely be avoided, permanently, because by the time he reaches “adult,” you’ll be “elder.”

  53. indiemusicfan said:

    The best thing to do is to try to talk with this date one on one. Try to tell him your concerns about compatibility, and see if you can agree. Maybe he doesn’t realize he’s making you feel one way or another, and when he realizes, he will be able to adapt more. The same may be true of you for him too. A good relationship will certainly involve working out compromises that work for both of you. Try the direct, honest, 1-1, polite approach. If that isn’t working, then you may have to consider ending the relationship. Maybe trying to stay friends- that would be up to both of you.

  54. J said:

    You: behavior x makes me uncomfortable. Him: doesn’t matter bc I’m getting what I want and your feelings and comfort don’t matter… Because that is exactly what he’s saying. He’s not even trying to hide his incredible self absorption. Maybe he’s a serial killer, maybe he’s just an incredibly awkward guy, but he told you that your feelings do not matter. I’m sorry but having trouble with why you are pursuing this. There are so many fish in the sea. Listen to your gut when was it ever wrong???

  55. Pibble said:

    “makes me feel uncomfortable”, “I am also angry”, “putting a lot of pressure on me”, “a big red flag”. That’s what matters. In the context of this relationship, it doesn’t matter why you are so angry. That is something you can explore on your own. You can’t make him stop, only he can. Is the relationship doomed? If you don’t like big red flags about which you feel uncomfortable, angry, and pressured popping up in the first few weeks of knowing someone, then I hope so.

    I’d option A with wheels on, but I am not you nor the arbiter of anything. If you go Option B, stop doing or putting up with anything that makes you uncomfortable, and see if you like what happens. If the actions that bother you turn out to be an early-relationship bump that smooths out, all to the good. If not, Option A awaits.

  56. Yup. Early stages are for peacing out while you still can.

  57. I think any time a person you are dating consistently makes you feel uncomfortable, it is time to re-evaluate things. Happiness should be prority number one. Go where the happiness is for you.

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