Not two days later, Tall Guy sent me a message online. It was thoughtful and loaded with my personal aphrodisiac—puns. Plus, his photos were drool-worthy. I knew that I wanted to try to slow down my dating process, to get to know someone before jumping into bed with them. So rather than meeting at a candle-lit bar, I suggested meeting for a day date in Central Park. And it was great. We walked around for hours, took a long sun nap, and walked over to watch the aforementioned softball game. Half an hour after we slipped our arms around each other, he leaned in for our first kiss—soft, slow, epic... hot. An hour later, we were rolling around on the grass making out. But by 8 p.m., I was on my way to a friend's birthday party, sober and solo, with another date with Tall Guy on the books for three days later.
Our next date can only be described as magical. "I really like you," he said, as we made out outside my front door. "I've never liked making out with someone this much." (We agreed it felt too soon for him to come in.) He asked when I wanted to see him again and in a fluster I turned the question around on him. "Always," he said, mussing his hair. It was endearing and not nearly as much of a line as it sounds like in print.
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From there, we started texting and emailing often, and hanging out every couple days. As much as I told myself to give it time—that I'd been here before—I found myself gushing to my friends about him. In a moment of weakness, I showed one of them a photo and relished her response. "Hot!"
And you all see where this is going right? Category #3. After about three weeks of things going great, I noticed that, all of a sudden, I was initiating most of the communication with Tall Guy. It had gone from him pursuing me to me sending the first text and suggesting plans for the weekend. He would always respond, but I felt something was off. Was he dodging making another date with me? Finally, after a week of detached behavior, he explained what was up. "I do really like you," he said. "I just don't think we're very compatible."
The Dater X of six months ago would have been crushed. I would've made a plan with my female friends where I could cry and talk about how totally lame men are. I would've asked myself, "Why are guys so gaga about me in the beginning and then lose interest? What am I doing wrong?" I would've beaten myself up about it and made melodramatic statements like, "I can't take this rejection anymore."
But taking that break has allowed me to reframe how I see the fizzling out of what had seemed like a potentially great thing. Now, I'm looking at dating as a big matching game. I'm a green zebra, and since there are hundreds of tiles in play, I'm bound to turn over a lot of red koala bears and yellow crocodiles before I find another green zebra. And there's nothing wrong with that! You can't win every time. I'm recognizing that the fizzling isn't about being rejected as much as it's about two people just not being a match. Is it disappointing? Obviously. But I can take the disappointment as many times as I need to until I find the person who wants to be with me just as much as I want to be with him. The person who things are just easy with. I'm getting that starts and stops are just an inevitable part of the process.
A few insights I want to take with me from this:
- When someone makes a grand statement about how they're feeling, I should only take it as what they're feeling in the moment and not as a promise of a future.
- I do want to continue to take sex off the table until I feel like I know where I stand with someone and where they stand with me. As in, we've had a conversation about it.
- Because I am an intense person who tends to focus all my attention on one person and feels let down if it doesn't work, maybe it would be a good idea to try dating multiple people at a time. I can do that since I'm not sleeping with anyone, right?
- It's good to be excited about someone. But by sharing that excitement with every friend I have, I'm putting a lot of pressure on myself for it to work out. Maybe some things I should keep to myself?
- But the biggest lesson: when I feel someone start to pull away, I can't put on the Vulcan death grip. I should back up myself and trust that, if they want it to happen, they will make it happen. The clinging just makes me feel icky and needy. And it probably makes them think the same of me.
And with that I say: Next!
By Dater X for The Frisky