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22 September 2010

How do I keep my confidence when I'm getting mixed signals? I met a girl on a social community web site (not focused on dating) and we went on a few dates.[More:]

In total there were three dates and they all felt really difficult to schedule. She hasn't ever been available on the days I suggested originally, and since she isn't always prompt in replying to e-mails, this means we meet later than I had hoped to. We did have two good dates and I enjoyed hanging out with her.

Then she told me she was going to Spain for a couple of weeks but wanted to see me first. Our third date fizzled a bit, she seemed really nervous and cut things off pretty early. I didn't really feel like contacting her after that, but she e-mailed me several days later saying she had a great time and was looking forward to seeing me when she got back from Spain.

To recap, she agreed to meet me twelve days after I initially asked. Then our next dates were two weeks and then six days apart. I feel like my expectations are maybe unreasonable, and this isn't so bad. On the other hand, three dates of only 2-3 hours each in a five-week period isn't really much to build a connection on, and I would be unhappy if this pace continued (OK, I'm already unhappy). She's had reasons in the form of schedule conflicts when wanting to meet later, although if she were a little more proactive about scheduling time with me, our meetings wouldn't have been so far apart. If nothing else, she doesn't seem to feel the same sort of urgency that I do.

Most significantly, I feel like she fits a pattern of uninterested or flaky people in my life and especially in my dating life, and I have become quite sensitive to it. When I make my interest clearly known once or twice and the other person doesn't really match it I am now pretty ready to bail, to avoid unfortunate and embarrassing situations where I am chasing after someone who isn't really interested in me at all. But now I get annoyed when it even seems like this is the case.

One explanation is that she isn't that into me. Another is that she is a little inexperienced and cautious. I actually think this is the explanation, but it's getting hard to hang onto that. I just feel filled by doubt and waiting another week for her to come back (and God knows how long to meet up after that) is really wearing on me. But rationally I'm pretty sure she is going to contact me again. How can I make these feelings go away and just accept whatever fate brings?

The other problem is that when I meet with her I am worried that my doubts are going to form a self-fulfilling prophecy. My confidence is really sapped and it's going to be difficult to be comfortable or flirty or initiate making out given that. Is this doomed? Is there a way I can forget about the doubts? Should I?
Imagine this as a song and dance musical number: Read a book! Go to a library or bookstore and browse for something you might not normally read. Serious is okay, but don't be afraid of silly/trashy stuff. There's a finite set of books you will read in your life. Time to add one book to that.

Without tying that to a specific recommendation, I think the book that most dramatically snapped me out of the mental rut I was in was The Fourth Bear. Happiest mental reset button push evah. But that was specific to me, at a specific time. I'm not touting it as a panacea, or Great Work or nothin'.
posted by fleacircus 22 September | 05:33
What IS your rush, exactly? I think you need to figure out why you need to pin this person down, and what exactly would be enough for you. She's already told you that she's looking forward to seeing you again. She's had scheduling conflicts but ultimately DID go on three dates with you. People don't do that stuff unless they like you - she would have dropped you after the first date if that were the case.

I like a LOT of contact in my romantic relationships, but what I began to realize was that there was no amount of contact that would definitively reassure me that yes! this person really does like me! look, I am likable! I had to believe that completely apart from whatever they did or said.

If I were you, I'd date other people until I was comfortable being exclusive with her. Don't hang all your hopes on her. If she says, I'd really rather we only date each other, well there's your sign.
posted by desjardins 22 September | 08:39
Is this doomed? Is there a way I can forget about the doubts? Should I?

Honestly, I think it is doomed, so I think your doubts are reasonable. I'm not sure if it's possible to just make feelings go away (if it is, I hope someone will give me the recipe). If she doesn't have time for the early dates, she's not going to have time for a real, time-intensive relationship. I would do as desjardins says and put some more eggs in your dating basket. As for this girl, I'd write her off and let her make the next move after she gets back from Spain. If she never does, well, there's your answer.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero 22 September | 09:01
Just focus on yourself. That's what I'm doing. You just need to be a better catch. Or, more accurately, realize your strengths and how good a catch they make you.

Life's too short to chase someone.
posted by Eideteker 22 September | 09:28
In your shoes, I might tell her: "hey, I really like seeing you, but your schedule seems pretty full and unpredictable. When you returns from Spain, you should contact me, so you can suit your crazy schedule." Then --- and this is the hard part --- assume that she's not going to call, and move on.

That way, you aren't stuck making dates that she re-arranges, you aren't hanging around waiting for a call, and if she does call and ask you out, you know she likes you enough to make a move once things settle down. (It does, however, have the painful possibility of allowing the uncertainty to drag out. If you'd rather close the door on this relationship, this is not the way to go.)

If you're not interested in allowing her to help set the pace, then this may not be the person for you. If she's not interested enough to make a move, you may not be the person for her --- at least at the moment. With lots of exciting or challenging changes going on in her life, it's possible that no one is the person for her right now, so try not to take it personally if that's how it works out.
posted by Elsa 22 September | 10:19
What Elsa said. Exactly. Let her know that the ball is in her court. Don't act let down or any way but confident that she will call when she can get together. And if you don't feel confident about that, 'fake it til you make it.' Move on, and don't look back. If she calls one day it will be a pleasant surprise. Good luck.
posted by toastedbeagle 22 September | 10:30
Don't act let down or any way but confident that she will call when she can get together.

Oh, I didn't think to say that, but yes: confident! Not mopey or sad or guilt-inducing, just frank and cheerful: you like spending time with her, she doesn't seem to have that time at the moment, but you'd love to hear from her when she does, because you're so awesome that you understand that busy people are interesting people.
posted by Elsa 22 September | 10:39
I've always thought Milan Kundera got it right . . . he said, I think in The Book of Laughter and Forgetting, that every relationship operates according to a contract that is set right at the start. For example,in that book the "contract" is that the male protagonist is unfaithful, and the female protagonist suffers and waits.

I think you have unfortunately gotten involved in a "contract" that this woman will be hard to schedule with, not fully engaged, and leaving you feeling uncertain.

I agree with people who suggest you just let her know that you'll leave it to her to set up future get togethers, but I'd also suggest you keep looking, for someone who is easy to get together with, quick to engage, and otherwise a comfortable fit.
posted by bearwife 22 September | 12:30
but I'd also suggest you keep looking, for someone who is easy to get together with, quick to engage, and otherwise a comfortable fit.

Just to be clear: this is also what I suggested and what toastedbeagle suggested: not that you put the ball in her court and then wait around for her to follow up, but that you A) cheerfully and confidently put the ball in her court and B) move on, look into dating other people.

If, when her days settle down a bit, she calls eager to see you (and you're free), then YAY! If not, that's okay, because you're not waiting around for her.
posted by Elsa 22 September | 13:07
Actually, now that I think about it, Kundera said it in The Unbearable Lightness of Being, about Tomas and Terese.
posted by bearwife 22 September | 13:20
Everyone else's answers have made mine sound weird! If I may try to explain a little better... You're overthinking things and it sounds like it's starting to push people away from you. The thing you're trying to do, to think your way out of it, doesn't really work in my experience. It's just more grist for the mill. What next, overthinking the fact that you are overthink things? No... you have to break off in a different direction, not just try to run faster.

And so I wanted to give you advice for something concrete you should just go do right now that I've found to be effective. Forget this chick (for the moment), and go read a book. I fear it might have sounded like a weak recommendation from someone who didn't read your question and has no experience being where you are, but that's not the case.
posted by fleacircus 22 September | 17:21
fleacircus, your answer makes perfect sense (to me, anyhow). If I'm reading you right, you're saying: enjoy yourself, enjoy being yourself, remember why you enjoy yourself, and stop thinkthinkthinking about this potential partner's reaction to you. That's good dating advice just about anytime!
posted by Elsa 22 September | 17:25
The exception that proves the rule: || Exit strategies