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Author Topic: Very conflicted about this potential relationship
Atonement
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A little over 2 weeks ago, I was introduced to a guy by mutual friends.

He’s been great. We can talk for hours, we share many mutual interests, and he doesn’t have and “dealbreakers” so far. We have similar life views and opinions. And all signs point to the fact that I should continue it.

The only problem is, I’m not sure that I should.

The thing is, I really, really like being single. Maybe more than I like the idea of being in a relationship. But at the same time, I don’t want to pass up something that seems to have potential, you know?

I know I’m happy single, but everywhere I go society, friends and family insist on telling me that I’m really not. And all these external messages are making me second-guess myself.

The thing is, I love talking to him, and I think he is attractive. But so far, I haven’t felt any of romantic or physical attraction.

Now, one thing to realize is we haven’t touched each other. Like, not even to shake hands. And I don’t know if there’s a chance I’ll feel something then, or if it’s not there, it’s not there.

I just feel so conflicted. I don’t want to break things off “just in case”, but every day it seems like I’m in deeper and deeper. I also feel really guilty about wanting to break it off. My mother keeps pointing out that he’s done nothing wrong, and that’s true. And I really like him as a person, and don’t want to hurt his feelings, or make him feel like I’ve led him on. I also feel like I would never be able to face the friends that set us up ever again.

I’m having a really hard time, because I do like him, and he’s great for me on paper. But I can’t shake the feeling that either he’s not the one, or I really am meant to be single, or something. I love talking to him, but whenever it crosses over into romantic territory, I clam up.

So far he’s already tried to make plans for valentines day (a holiday that I hate, and that gives me major anxiety) and tentatively invited me to a mutual friend’s party. I feel like at this rate I’m going to be his girlfriend any day now, and I’m not really sure I want that. And I’m getting seriously scared.

I really, really need help sorting out my feeling and figuring out what I want before things go to far and I make a decision, one way or the other, that I’m not comfortable with.

Thoughts?

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Heather
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It is good to see you!

I am hearing you present this as what sounds like either you are single or you are in a serious or committed relationship with this guy. What I am not hearing is thinking about other options besides those two, like, for instance, still seeing this guy but still being single. We can date, after all, without making commitments to anything more than spending time we enjoy with someone. In other words, we can see people and still be single. What do you think about all the other possibilities here, especially since it sounds like you do want to spend time with this person?

You talk about being his girlfriend like that is a thing that happens to you, rather than a set of agreements a person makes. Why do you think that is?

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
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Atonement
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Good to see you too, Heather! I'm getting a lighter schedule within the next couple weeks, so hopefully I will be able to spend more time on the boards, and not just when I'm having a problem.

You made some really good points. I guess my problem is, I have a very all or nothing personality when it comes to these things. And I see things as in we either end things now or stay together for the rest of our lives.

I know this way of thinking is very far from realistic. I have a tendency to forget that you can "opt out" at any point, probably because I know that the further things go, the more guilty I'd feel about breaking them off.

I've always been told to trust my instincts, and usually I have very good instincts. But in the particularly area of dating, it's becoming very clear that I have such bad anxiety, that I can't tell my instincts apart from my nerves. With all other guys, I've had a good reason to back up these feelings, but this guy literally seems ideal for me.

I just really with it wasn't so unbelievably hard for me. My mother literally nearly broke up with her boyfriend last monday, got his initials tattooed on herself tuesday, cheated on him saturday and doesn't regret a thing. I can't even plan a date with someone without thinking of all the impacts it could have on the rest of my life.

You're right about me thinking about becoming someone's girlfriend as something that happens to you. I guess I'm sort of viewing it as something that, when it comes up, you either continue or you don't...

I just really want to sort through this anxiety so I can trust my instincts again...

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Sam W
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Hi atonement,

Just want to say that, speaking as a frequent member of the all or nothing school of thought, I totally sympathize with what you're going through. One thing I've found helpful, when my brain starts going the "either this will never happen or it must happen forever" direction is to try and shift my thinking to "I will try this, see how it goes, and then proceed from there. If it doesn't work, I am not a failure, it just wasn't a good fit." It doesn't always work, but it can at least force a break in the all or nothing thought pattern.

That last part can be really helpful when dealing with relationships. Seeing it as an experiment at the beginning, rather than a binding commitment, might help you feel less like there's a risk of getting stuck in something.

Have you talked to the guy in question about what's going on? It seems like he cares about you, so maybe you two could work out a level of intimacy/commitment that makes you both comfortable

[ 01-30-2014, 11:43 AM: Message edited by: Sam W ]

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Letmebeanon
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Hey, I'm not sure how I could help. I just wanted to say that your situation is pretty familiar.

For one, I have some degree of that all or nothing mentality. For background, I'm able to like people of any gender just as much (or close to it) but I'm particularly drawn to girls and enjoy the thought of being with one most. Early on in my relationship with my boyfriend, I had this worry. I'd never been with a girl before. I was like "what if I never end up with a girl because of this relationship" and it freaked me out. My parents had to talk to me, saying dating someone isn't the same as getting married. I still kind of worry about that. I can't shake the feeling that I want to be with a girl, that maybe that's what I should be pursuing instead of being here.

Another anxiety I've had since the beginning is worry that I'll "string him along", keeping him in a relationship that won't work and deepening his feelings until I'm forced to back out.

I have bad enough anxiety that very often I can't tell apart anxiety and intuition. It gets so bad that I err on the side of anxiety, since it usually is, but that leaves me vulnerable. I'm in a relationship right now. I'm usually chased by some sort of anxiety. This has included one that maybe I shouldn't be in a relationship right now. At the time our relationship started, I didn't feel like being "in a relationship" but paradoxically, at the same time, I felt I wanted to be with him.

Not that I always have that feeling - I sort of go in and out of awareness of my attraction and liking toward him, since I have a hard time being aware of that feeling and I have anxiety surrounding it. I don't think it's a variation in actual level of attraction (aside from it being affected by anxiety to some degree). A lot of things including my behavior seem to strongly point toward me liking him.

I don't have a ton of experience with this, but I do know my anxiety is difficult for both of us in my relationship. I haven't solved it, or reduced it nearly enough. But I think it may be a good idea to learn more about how anxiety works and methods to reduce it. Anxiety can really reduce relationship quality.

Finally, don't let anyone tell you you can't be a happy single. People don't look at young children and think they can't be happy since most of them are single. I've been single and content to be single for most of my life.

Hope that helped. Or at least that it was good to hear from someone in a similar place.

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Heather
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It'd be great to see you here more, Atonement. [Smile]

How about starting with something like this: sit down and work on a list of all the different ways you could keep seeing this person. Of ALL the options, not just none or forever-and-ever-commitment. I would say to keep going, thinking of as many options and possibilities as you can, including those you know you don't want or think might be silly or not something he'd want. Just get them all down somewhere so you can at least start with a tangible way of seeing that there are WAY more than two options, even within those two options!

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
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Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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Atonement
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Thanks, everyone!!!

There was a lot of great input, and it felt really good to hear from someone who understood how I've been feeling rather than be perplexed as to what was wrong with me.

My two big things that I'm uncomfortable about are

a) putting a label on it

b) celebrating Valentine's day

I did manage to feed to one of our mutual friends that I am hugely uncomfortable with valentine's day in the hopes that she will let him know that any celebration needs to be kept very, very low key. Hopefully that will help so I don't have to feel quite so nervous about that.'

As for the other thing, I do have an issue. I feel like by putting him off as far as defining things, it might look like I'm flat out rejecting him. But I'm really not ready to be a "girlfriend" or start attending things as a couple. But I feel like if I tell him that, I'll sound like I'm turning him down.

And, no, I haven't talked to him about how I feel. To be honest, I've kind of been focusing on fun conversation and "getting to know you", but kind of keeping low key with anything that references any potential relationship in the future.

And in any case, how do you talk about that level of stuff with someone you've only known for a couple weeks, without sounding like a total flake?

Any tips for keeping that anxiety at bay? I'm usually not an anxious person, so when I do have it, I feel particularly helpless. And it's scary.

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Letmebeanon
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Glad that helped. Anyway, I'm not sure what to do about the anxiety. I do know there are reliable resources online. This was linked by the counselling page for my college http://www.anxietycoach.com/. I've browsed it a little but haven't actively used the advice. There's still a little stuff about breathing and such though it's directed at people with anxiety disorders. Also, there's Mindfulness practice (techniques, ways of being that increase awareness of the world around you and your thoughts and physical and emotional feelings). This can include meditation. This at least seems to help while I'm doing it, though it's hard to tell whether it helps outside of that or not. It's actually becoming a popular therapist's treatment for anxiety. Berkeley actually has a page spreading the practice http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/topic/mindfulness.

Also, here's one thing suggesting the "feeling" you get may not be intuition. You said

"I can’t shake the feeling that either he’s not the one, or I really am meant to be single, or something"
The lack of precision to those thoughts, and that end bit "or something" make me wonder if it's your brain attaching thoughts to relationship anxiety, not just the other way around.

That said, while it might be good to do what you can to reduce anxiety, my situation is not the same as yours. I have strong anxiety issues in general, not just about relationships. I wouldn't know how our symptoms compare. Not to mention, this is my first relationship and aside from this I haven't gone beyond a second date, hence why I said I don't have much experience with this stuff. The inexperience doesn't exactly help me. (I wouldn't know if you're in a similar situation, but maybe you're not).So, if you seeing this guy went anywhere, anxiety might not affect you to the same degree it has me. So while reducing anxiety could be good for you, I wouldn't fear being in the same boat as me. Heck, in spite of my anxiety my relationship has given me happiness (though I understand that you're not looking for a relationship per se). Good luck to you!

[ 01-31-2014, 05:27 AM: Message edited by: Letmebeanon ]

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Redskies
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Atonement, a few thoughts about those two things you said you're uncomfortable about.

Valentine's Day: it's ok if you're not into it. You're certainly not the only one. You said what you Don't want; I think it might be helpful for you to identify what you Do want. Maybe that's not to recognise or mark the day at all, or maybe it's a pot plant and a "Happy Valentine's Day" and then continuing as if it were any other day, or...? Then, some time when you're with this guy, you can just bring up Valentine's Day and say something like "huh, lots of adverts up about Valentine's Day, as usual. I'm not super-comfortable with it myself. I think my ideal/what I'd be into at this point in my life would be something like [state what you want]." That way, you're communicating where you're at and what you want, but without asking anything of him or assuming anything about the connection between you. He can also say what he thinks about the day. If he wants to do something with the day, you've given him the info he needs, and if not, it's just more getting-to-know-you conversation.

Labels: you know, at just a couple of weeks, any kind of labels would scare and bother me too. Per communicating something of how you feel about that, I think it might help again to focus on what you Do want and what you Do feel, rather than what you don't. Someone communicating a bunch of nots, as legitimate as they might be, does send signals of not-keenness. For example, if you like spending time with this guy and you'd like to know him better, but you're not currently comfortable with defining it or with any labels, then the whole of that would be the thing to communicate. Probably obviously, Heather's suggestion should help heaps with opening up different possibilities to you and figuring out what you want.

Finding out a bit of what the other person thinks and needs about relating to another person and relationship labels is part of the getting-to-know-you process. It sounds like it's still fairly early in that process for the two of you, so perhaps you both just haven't got to it yet. When you both do talk about it, it doesn't have to be about what you two are or might be to each other; it can be each of you both sharing what you generally think and want for your own self and where you're currently at in your life.

[ 01-31-2014, 08:03 AM: Message edited by: Redskies ]

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The kyriarchy usually assumes that I am the kind of woman of whom it would approve. I have a peculiar kind of fun showing it just how much I am not.

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Atonement
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You know, today the anxiety had really leveled off. But I still feel bad about all this.

Overall, I feel like this guy is great for me on paper, but the actual reality of it is causing me more stress that positive feelings. And Im starting to think I should trust my instincts.

Here's my plan for now:

I'm thinking when I talk to him tonight, I should be honest and tell him that when I met him, I really isn't in a place where I was looking for a relationship, and even though I really do like him, I'm still not sure I want one.

That way,

a) he knows where I'm at. The pressure to pretend like i'm falling in love or something is off me, and I can freely examine my feelings

and

b) If i don't feel better after a while, and I do choose to end it, he will be forewarned and it won't come as a total shock. Just seems like a nicer thing to do.

Is there anything else I need to say, to ensure that things are open and honest, and that they can be ended as tactfully as possible if I choose to do so (which, at this point, I am at least 75% sure I want to)

Thoughts???

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Heather
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Can you tell me why you think you feel bad?

Usually, feelings like that in this kind of situation says that someone thinks they owe someone something they are not giving them. If that sounds like you, any sense of what you think you owe him and why?

(Also, a tip: it might help to maybe start qualifying the word relationship with whatever kind of relationship you are actually talking about. For instance, an ongoing booty call is a relationship, but so is a marriage. And even though the word relationship can describe both those things, those are obviously very different kinds of relationships.)

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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zeitvogel
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I only have one thought to offer [Smile] And that is that "figuring things out" is a legitimate state for a relationship to be in, and not unusual, especially if you haven't been dating for long. Isn't dating in fact the process of figuring out what you want from each other? (Unless you figure out that dating is what you want, which is ok too [Smile] )

He might also still be figuring things out. That he's making plans for Valentine doesn't say much; it's a Social Pressure Deadline for him too, and he might be afraid of disappointing you if he doesn't make big plans. The only way to find out is honest talk, which is your plan, so it all seems excellent to me [Smile]

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Heather
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I really like what zeitvogel added here. Especially if you consider that he might not have the same no-relationship or Giant Girlfriend Committed To Me Pronto and Evermore framework you've had in your head in his own. [Smile]

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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Atonement
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I guess I feel bad because he really seems to like me, and probably assumes that I'm just as in this as he is.

Also, there's the fact that apparently my old friends are REALLY excited about this, and I'm sorry to let them down. But at the end of the day, this isn't about them.

And I think i've figured it out: this guy would be a perfect match for 16 year old me, but that's just not me anymore. And I feel like pursuing a relationship with him might drag me back as far as my own personal growth goes. Our mutual friends haven't had much contact with me since I moved 2 years ago, so they might not realize where I've changed.

And to be honest, after a certain point in the communication, he started revealing some details about himself that he held back before. Not anything major, but enough to make me question how good of a math we are.

The more I think about this, the less I want this to happen. The idea of touching him, even to just hold hands, is starting to repel me. There's a text that's been sitting in my phone for a while that I haven't responded too because I really just want it all to go away. I just have the overwhelming feeling that I CAN'T force myself to do this

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Heather
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It sounds to me like you're making an awful lot of assumptions about this person.

My vote? No more assuming, and a lot more talking. With him.

But of course, if you have come around to the feeling you are actually repelled by this person, not just not interested in certain things with them, obviously it doesn't make much sense to evaluate more here. I don't know where those feelings are coming from, but pretty much no relationship we can have with someone is going to be doable if we feel repelled or repulsed by them. Even with our platonic friends, we tend to have some physical contact with them, after all. And feelings of repulsion are pretty big negative feelings: interactions of any kind with someone we feel that way about are not going to tend to be positive for us or that other person.

That given, sounds to me like it's time to just let him know that you don't want to keep dating. Thank you very much for the time spent he gave, you wish him the best and it was good to spend time with him, but you're feeling clearly continuing to date isn't for you. That's it, seriously no biggie. You can do this.

And, IMO, that is the kind of thing we do owe a person, at least a brief social exit from something we're exiting with them, or not continuing. Doesn't need to be a big deal, because two weeks of dating is NOT a big deal, it's just two weeks of just barely getting to know each other and see how things go (and he might not think it was a big deal, either: like I said before, you are putting a ton of weight on this, but that doesn't mean he was). This isn't breaking off a marriage, it's just saying you don't want to further pursue an interaction you explored a little.

Moving forward, for yourself, it sounds like even dating right now might not be so great for you until you can first figure out how to do it without putting SO MUCH pressure on yourself, and figure out how to really see and experience it as just getting to know someone gradually to see what kind of relationship, if any, over time, you might want to pursue with them. Of course, you'd have to want to do even that, so if you don't, by all means, dating isn't required of anyone, just like sexual or romantic relationships aren't. They're all just options.

[ 01-31-2014, 07:33 PM: Message edited by: Heather ]

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
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Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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Atonement
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Well, repelled may be a strong word.

I still like him as a person, but the idea of touching him bothers me. and although I objectively think he's attractive, I'm not attracted to him. There are also tentative plans to see each other a week from now, and I am starting to dread them to the point where I want to end things prior to that so I don't have to go.

I definitely don't feel like I even want to be in a relationship now. There's so many aspects of my like that I'm perfectly happy with, and goals I'm working towards that don't include another person.

And, even if I did want one, I really think I do need to work through some things before I'm ready for one in the distant future, if ever.

The thing is, I'm ok with where I am. But my mother says that she thinks it's not normal for someone my age to be so put off by the idea of relationships, which bothers me.

And another thing? You know how it's always mentioned here that sexuality is fluid? Is it possible for someone to transition from heterosexual to asexual for certain points in their lives? Because while I still sometimes enjoy erotic books/movies/imagery, I have absolutely no desire to have any kind of sex with any person now.

Am I being exaggerating, or is it possible that I could be in an asexual part of my life?

[ 01-31-2014, 07:40 PM: Message edited by: Atonement ]

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Heather
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So call now and cancel the plans, gal! It's just plans you are cancelling. Obviously, all of this is very hard for you, I understand that, but I think in a lot of ways, this is like that band-aid you just gotta pull right off, and the longer you take doing it, the more it hurts.

I think the more you analyze this and talk about it with others and make it bigger in your head rather than just calling the guy and saying, "Sorry, not interested, and need to cancel our plans. Best of luck to you!" the harder and harder something that actually isn't that heavy, in the grand scheme of things, is going to get.

I am heading off for the weekend now, so can't start a new discussion, but I also think that right now, talking about asexuality might be a distraction, you know?

Not saying anything about if that is or is not an identity that resonates with you, since that's for you to say anyway, not me, just that when you have made clear you're struggling with taking care of this time-sensitive issue already, and probably looking to put it off with anything you can, taking part in a likely distraction from taking an action you obviously need to isn't something I feel good about doing.

But if you like, when I'm back Monday, I'd be happy to talk with you about both the fact that there are just times people don't want to be in sexual interactions with people, people of all identities and orientations, and about what people who use the term asexuality tend to mean, and if that might feel like something that suits you.

Make that call, seriously. Just get it done. You can do it, and will almost certainly feel a ton better when you just do it.

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
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Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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Atonement
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Hello, everyone!

I know Heather's got the weekend off, but maybe one of you that I'm talking to already can help.

I went over to my best friend's house, talked it over with her, and felt solidly sure that I was doing the right thing. I came home, went to be, and woke up feeling different.

Like, what if this is just a cop out because I'm afraid of change? I still think that everything I've said before is legitimate, but now I'm going back to the "what if I'm passing up my shot at something good" thing.

I know this is probably just than mental effect where right before you end things all the good stuff comes rushing back and makes you have second thoughts.

Maybe I'm thinking this over too much. But it's still early morning, so I can't exactly call and break it off now.

I'm probably going to just stick to the original plan, tell him about my doubts, and then take it from there. Like, not tell him I never want to speak to him again or anything, but just that I'm uncomfortable with where things are going.

And I think you're right about the asexuality thing. I really don't think I am, just that I've temporarily shut down.

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Atonement
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Ok, I told him about how I was unsure of the whole relationship idea, and he took it really well.

I'm proud of myself. I finally managed to handle myself in a honest, mature and adult like manner rather than falling into my old habits like making excuses or backing out with no warning at the last minute.

Even though this isn't likely to result in a relationship, I think it is a stepping stone for knowing my feelings and expressing them properly.

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zeitvogel
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Way to go! [Smile]
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