Saturday, May 14, 2011

Dating Ambiguity

One of the benefits of having a lot of experience in the dating field is that the ambiguity that often comes isn't much of a surprise. Of course, that still doesn't make it easy. You're out with someone, having a good time, but have no idea where things are going. There's a connection of some kind between you, but is it one of friendship? Just a nice acquaintance? Or is it something more? These kinds of questions can go on for awhile, as you get to know another person. And sometimes it doesn't matter what your initial intentions were around the relationship. Things can change, and what once was a nice friendship can become a lifelong partnership. Or the other way around. Or something else entirely.

Perhaps this is why people are so into those "lightning bolt" relationships. You know, the ones that start out on fire, full of passion and attraction, but which 90% of the time go down in flames. The heat seems like love at first sight, and all the cravings we have to be loved, have intimate attention, and sex get satisfied, usually to an extreme in the short term. Because of this, red flags are missed, as well as what my friend Jake calls "pink flags," those subtle things that may or may not be trouble points in a long term relationship.

I have had a few of these lightning bolt experiences. None of them lasted more than a month or two, precisely because they were too much about heat, and not enough about the rest of what goes into a good relationship.

But the opposite situations, where things start off cool - where you get along well, enjoy each others' company, but no clear direction has been established, can be just as challenging in different ways.

About three and a half months ago, I met a woman who I got along with really well. We met for coffee, had a long, enjoyable conversation on a wide variety of topics. We shared a lot of common interests and values, two positive signs. There was a lot of eye contact and attention paying, two more positive signs. And at the end, we agree to see each other again.

Now, one thing that did raise a pink flag was the combination of her schedule (working almost full time plus in school full time for another degree) and the fact that she had just moved, and made some other changes in her life that were, in part, tied to a past relationship. But that relationship had been done a good year by then, and I didn't get the feeling that she was still hung up about it.

Anyway, we went on another date a week later, and it was almost a replica of the first. Really enjoyable, but the whole thing looked and felt similar. The hug at the end was, in hindsight, a sign that she was indecisive or uninterested. It was a bit too quick, and kind of awkward on her end. Certainly that could have been about how she relates with people, only opening up physically with people she's close to, but it's something I have experienced before that became a sign of things to come.

We exchanged e-mails for a week and a half after this, and then met up for a third time. By this time, she had a pile of schoolwork coming due, and although we spent a good chuck of an afternoon together, she was kind of distracted with how much she had to do and also how busy she had become. And yet, other than the reservedness around touching, she still seemed to be interested in being with me, and chose to delay working on homework to keep talking with me an extra hour and a half.

Turns out, that was the last time I saw her. We had planned to check our schedules to see what would work to get together again, and a few days later, I received an e-mail saying that she had overextended herself, needed to focus on schoolwork until the semester finished (in three weeks), but that she still wanted to try chatting in the meantime. I wrote back and offered to do so, although it felt like what I have come to call a "slow fade" - where someone who isn't sure what they think, or doesn't have a strong enough interest in the other slowly fades from the situation.

Well, perhaps that awareness influenced what happened next. Which was nothing. I didn't hear from her at all, and after three or four days, had let go and moved on.

And then a few days ago, more than a month after I last heard from her, I get a group e-mail from her asking for support on a bicycle race she's doing to support MS research. There were probably a hundred people listed on the e-mail - her whole e-mail list I'd imagine. I laughed. Laughed out loud. And then I thought, I wonder how many other guys were on the list that she had dated and whose addresses she'd forgotten to delete?

Makes you want to go clear out your e-mail listings, doesn't it?


  1. I'm in that situation right now. I met a girl last week that came on really strongly, and I got the impression she really liked me. A week later we met for the second time and we went on a lunchdate together. At the end of the lunchdate, I asked her if she wanted to have dinner with me some time, and she said yes, but we didn't agree on a date. Today I met her for the third time. Now she invited me to join her with dinner, but she invited a friend as well. Ambiguous.

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