2005 July 21


I don't like it, but I don't know what to do about it. I find myself losing all optimism that I will ever find myself a woman I admire who wants me in return. I need advice, encouragement, moral support, a swift kick, I don't know what.

It's been a draining month. At the start of the month, I thought I was doing well. There was D, who I found terribly interesting and attractive. We'd had two dates that I thought had gone very very well. It seemed like there was actually a chance that a relationship could really go somewhere with this girl. There was also M, who I'd been flirting with. It seemed like the possibility of something maybe not serious, but fun and morale-boosting. I was starting to think that maybe I'd finally got myself to a place where I could have women in my life again.

D went incommunicado for a week or two. She reappeared with explanations of how busy she'd been, but without any suggestion that we should meet again, and I got the familiar sinking feeling. Then M cancelled a date at the last minute with no particular excuse other than "she's overbooked", and because I was out all day I didn't get the message until an hour and a half before we were to meet. Goddammit, despite my best efforts to control expectations, I'd gotten my hopes up again. I was looking forward to that dinner. I called her back to confirm that I'd gotten the cancellation and it's okay to reschedule; got voicemail and left a message asking her to call me back. I sent e-mail also. I haven't heard boo from her since.

The next day I got a message from D asking me to call her. After some small talk, she told me she hopes we can still be friends, but she's just not romantically interested in me.

Just like that I was right back where I've been for three years now.

I had a week or two of depression and self-pity and then general crankiness at the bitch of life. Why could I not find women who would give me a chance? What the hell did they want, anyway, and why couldn't they see that there's no such thing as a perfect guy? But there was a nagging little voice spoiling that sad narrative. Back in January I'd met H and she'd been quite taken with me, and I'd broken it off -- why, exactly?

Fuck, how much do I want to go in to here? As far as I know she doesn't read this, but it's not really hard to find. I'm sure I've hurt her enough already. She doesn't need to read me puzzling out loud about why exactly I might have felt no chemistry.

The point is, I had to admit I had been probably just as unfair with H as I was ranting that D had been with me. So I emailed her to say hi, been a while, what are you up to. And ended up almost immediately with a date.

She met me with a kiss and I was feeling lonely and needy and cranky and determined to prove that I could give her a better chance than the women I really wanted were giving me. And it was so so good to actually feel wanted for a change, I shut off the responsible part of my brain and we spent the evening making out.

And the next day I felt no urge to see her again; in fact, my brain started making excuses for why I didn't have to talk to her right away. That was Friday, and I still haven't talked to her. I don't know what I'd say. I like her, but I just don't want to date her.

I told myself I was going to give her more of a chance than this. I was noble. My rational brain was going to overrule the lack of infatuation, and give real friendship and love a chance to grow. But my gut just does not want her, and apparently it gets the last vote after all. I feel like a jerk, and now I have to admit I'm probably no different from those women who have told me they just weren't interested in me.

It's funny how having to turn someone down has in some ways left me more messed up than getting dumped. Rejection is a more intense pain, but at least it's familiar. I know what to do with it.

So where does this leave me? Weirdly resigned. I feel like I've lost one of my last comforting illusions about this whole dating business. It was already hard enough after three years of mostly-rejection to believe I was actually going to find someone who wanted me. You learn from experience, yes? And all of my recent experience is of striking out. And now it seems even less plausible, as I am forced to admit how fussy my gut can be.

Short of an arranged marriage, the guy is required to take the initiative in starting a relationship. There's no point in pretending otherwise; I have never turned down a girl who's asked me out because in 34 years it has never happened. Taking the initiative is tiring and emotionally expensive; you have to risk rejection and that still hurts every time. And right now I can't seem to muster the leap of faith that says it's worthwhile making the effort.

It's so frustrating. I watch married friends and new parents and am so envious. I want to have a wife. I want to be a father -- I'm sure I'd be a good one. I want my parents to have grandkids. And I'm getting old enough that I have to start facing up to the idea that it might really never happen. And it really won't unless I can find some way out of this rut.

I hope this all isn't a grand exercise in self-pity. I hate whiners; I hate to admit to problems I can't handle on my own; I hate really to draw attention to myself. But I'm having a miserable year and I need to get it out somehow. I'm too good at keeping a brave face on things in person, even with friends. It's really probably not the right way to handle my problems.

So what do I do?


This post sounds soooo very familiar. Replace some of the numbers and letters and almost all of it applies to my life as well. Being picky and following intuition is critical (feeling like you're settling for someone isn't fair to either person), but it is gets really frustrating when you're not interested in the people who are interested in you and the people you're interested in aren't interested back.

As a coworker of mine recently advised me, actively looking for a relationship is an inherently low-yield matter of statistics. If only 10% of the people you meet pass even the most basic of tests and if only 20% of those people are willing to go on a date and if in 40% of those cases you're not interested and in 40% of those cases they're not interested and in only 30% of the resulting cases does it turn into a relationship, you need lots of exhausting, draining, and frustrating opportunities before you even get any yield that provides a useful feeling of hope. On the other hand, you could just be lucky and match on the first person who comes through. One approach is to try online or speed dating to increase the number of samples. Said coworker friend went on over 60 dates before meeting the person he married, but then he was determined and is scarily pragmatic.

The other approach is to just be patient and not actively look/angst and hope that the Universe will cause things to work out ok in the end. Women will often say that guys who are not actively looking are much more attractive than those who are actively looking. I've had the most success meeting people through networks of friends and at parties. Only once every few years do I find someone who feels like a truly compatable match, and then they are usually not interested in return or the timing works out such that they start dating someone else before it goes anywhere. More often than not, I seem to end up with lots of wonderful friendships, even if some of them still have minor background angst on my part.

I don't know if there is any useful advice I can give other than to be patient, follow your intuition, continue to treat people well, and don't give up hope. It's got to turn out ok in the end, right

Posted by: avacon on July 21, 2005 03:19 AM

Damn. This is the second post of this ilk that has materialized on my friends' list overnight. That sucks. :( Sorry things are sucking.

Posted by: Andromeda on July 21, 2005 05:35 AM

The trick with inherently low yield matters of statistics is to figure out how not to feel like you've been kicked in the gut every time one doesn't pan out. Despite constantly reminding myself of this, I don't seem to be very good at it. I think it's what has foiled most of my attempts to get pragmatic and sift through large numbers of women -- it just gets me down and I lose the morale to continue.

Trying not to be defeatist here.

Posted by: colin on July 21, 2005 06:08 AM

Women will often say that guys who are not actively looking are much more attractive than those who are actively looking.

I've been told this. For me, it is the least useful piece of advice ever. (No, scratch that: the least useful piece of advice is, "the best pickup line is 'hi'." Yeah, well, what do I say *after* that, punk?) The problem is that if I stopped actively looking, I would end up doing mostly solitary or male-dominated activities, and would hardly meet any women at all. So I could be "more attractive" to a sample of nobody.

I think it has to get back to the Tao of Steve. You can't stop looking, but you have to get good at *pretending* you're not looking.

Anyway, thanks for the comment. Maybe we should do some kind of mutual-support thing. It might suck less to strike out at cocktail
hours if I wasn't going alone.

Posted by: colin on July 21, 2005 06:25 AM

I have many friends (mostly young men) who are in this situation, and I was in it myself for many, many years (after a life of really very little dating of any kind, my first real relationship with a woman happened when I was in my late twenties and I ended up marrying her-- this is contrary to every piece of advice you'll hear about How To Date, but it seems to have worked so far).

But I've never been sure whether I can give anyone good advice on this subject, because the way it ended still seems like a stroke of luck. But I have a feeling that it feels that way for everybody, because of the tyranny of those low-yield statistics.

Anyway, I think that when I was actively looking, I gave off an aura of anxious desperation that scared women. You mention that the feeling that you're settling isn't good for a relationship-- but even when I pined after the sort of women who had to swat at clouds of pushy men wherever they went, there was *still* the feeling somewhere in my head that I was doing this not entirely because I liked this particular woman, but because I wanted to change into somebody who was not a solitary loser. And that any sufficiently desirable woman who acted nice to me could be my last big chance. I had the idea that if I went to long without any experience, anyone I did end up dating would see me as the Creepy Old Virgin, so the window would have closed.

I seemed to get the sort of grand-mal crush that made me act completely insane about once every five years, with smaller crushes in between, and there was always this creepy undercurrent of expecting a personal transformative experience.

What eventually happened was that I had a really bad one of these, and of course it didn't work out, and it flattened me so terribly that I really didn't want to think about dating for a few years after that. I was exactly where you are right now. I basically gave up.

I did some nonthreatening Explicitly Not A Date hanging out with female friends (my brain was calibrated such that I didn't get bad crushes on women who I knew were unavailable). And after a few years, I came to the crucial realization that if I never had a girlfriend in my life, I might be lonely but *nobody else would care*. That only dumb people, kids and hack standup comics really cared about whether you were the Creepy Old Virgin. And the corollary was that there was no rapidly closing window of opportunity; I really did have my whole life to meet somebody.

I believe that that realization actually made me much more attractive, and I met my wife shortly thereafter without really doing much to pursue her. I remember being baffled by how easy it seemed.

Posted by: Matt McIrvin on July 21, 2005 08:47 AM

Dating sucks. At least that's what I have determined. There really seems to be such a small Venn overlap between those who are interested and those I'm interested in. I used to keep a list of "perfect" guys in San Francisco. Perfect, that is, except for one fatal flaw: one had just met the love of his life, another wasn't interested in me, another couldn't get over his ex. I went about three years in San Fran without finding anyone and it definitely sucked.

Hmm. This has turned out to be more of a kvetch and less of a supportive comment. All I can say is you need to put yourself out there in such a way that it doesn't drain all of your energy. I find that staying at home is convenient but yields low numbers of potentials, going on a million internet dates has high potential but is massively emotionally draining (when you go on date after date with people who either aren't interested or aren't interesting), and that going to every single party of every friend that ever existed is just the right level of comfort + new people + not terribly draining. Try to find something that is similarly high reward for low drainage. (Boy, that sounded awful!)

Anyway, I wish you luck. I'll glare enviously with you at all of our married friends. *glare glare*

Posted by: fanw on July 21, 2005 09:04 AM

Mutual kvetching is in fact as welcome as most forms of support.

Posted by: colin on July 21, 2005 09:59 AM

Women will often say that guys who are not actively looking are much more attractive than those who are actively looking.

I completely agree that this is some of the most useless advice ever, for most of the reasons you mentioned. *sigh*

Posted by: avacon on July 21, 2005 11:46 AM

Ah yes. I'm married, and the inevitable joy, fulfillment, and security that I constantly experience from it, is, as I'm sure you know truly overwhelming. :P

Now that I've got the obnoxious comment out of the way, I can offer this: You can be "not looking" if you do friendship then dating instead of dating then friendship. Get to know a person who seems cool and get to know them. By then, a fair bit of the initial filtering is already taken care of. And to a certain extent, you're "not looking" that way, since the primary thing is pursuing the friendship.

God only knows if this is any better an idea than any other strategy. It certainly depends more heavily on networking rather than just meeting people. I really don't know.
I got lucky. I have to remind myself of that every now and then. I certainly don't have any good answer.

I hope you and fanw have better luck in the future.

Posted by: The Amazing Squirrelboy on July 21, 2005 12:36 PM

I've been there. From '96 to '99 I was in a total relationship drought. The first of those years I was in Scotland and the culture and temporariness were insurmountable. The next two I was in Boston and meeting people -- and just not clicking anywhere. It hurt a lot; solving the problem (whatever it was) became my #1 personal to-do list item.

I think part of my trouble was impaired motivation due to prior crazy-relationship damage. I wasn't experiencing attraction-signals because they had gotten me into seriously poorly-chosen relationships twice in the past. At some point in those two years I did some work with Judith Swack et. al. around "emotional vampires" and may have gotten rid of whatever was pulling me into relationships with them. I honestly don't know whether that's what made Brandi and I possible, but I'm quite clear that I'm out of the crazy-relationship mode now. (I did flirt with a new crazy-relationship in '01 and punted it in record time. Go me.)

Here's my pragmatic suggestion. You're frustrated that your current approach to the matter isn't getting you where you want to be. I'm guessing you've refined and troubleshot your approach to the point where you're frustrated that *that* process isn't getting you there either. So go do something that changes your brain in good ways and then approach the matter again when you come out.

The best and most relevant thing I know of would be the Human Awareness Institute, level 1 workshop "The Miracle of Love". Brandi did it years before we met, and I did it after we met on her recommendation. It was the best personal-growth type thing I've ever attended. I found HAI to be totally trustworthy -- in particular they have more advanced workshops for which the level 1 is a pre-req, but I wasn't pressured to take them. I've considered going back and interning with them -- I feel I'd really fit in.

I can't say a lot about the content without ruining it. It's all about creating the space inside oneself for love -- the reality of it rather than the concept. It's a very experiential event, and very effective at bringing up and starting to dissolve whatever's in the way.

In my case I learned a lot about what makes me attractive, how I tend to keep it damped down, and where to go in myself to let it out again.

There's an intro evening this Sunday from 6-8:30pm in Framingham -- I really encourage you to go check it out. (I was going to say I'd go with you, but I'm on call. :-( ) The next level 1 is August 12th-14th at a beautiful retreat in Plainfield.

Oh, and I found attendees at the HAI events to be very high-caliber interesting humans, many of them looking for new relationships. So you might meet someone, too. :-)


Posted by: Matt Ryan on July 22, 2005 11:41 AM

You sound like me. A nice guy. Always at the top of the 'friend' list. You can refine yourself and break the cycle of friend-itis.

Start here http://www.fastseduction.com/guide/ but throw away anything you find does not match your personality.

In summary:
- meet new people.
- don't get hung up on one person.
- start with the goal of enjoying yourself.
- practice, practice, practice.

Good luck

Posted by: rw on August 4, 2005 09:38 AM
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