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?
Triggered by Awkward Guy
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.