DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: My question is about forming lasting relationships rather than any initial problems meeting girls.
I was seeing this girl recently and initially things went really well – I felt there was a lot of chemistry and compatibility and we got physical very quickly. We had sex a couple of times and it seemed great at the time, and we both said that we had serious feelings for each other (though I said it first). We met up a few more times and she kept giving reasons why that night she didn’t want to get physically intimate. My friends told me not to worry but I felt something was amiss.
Finally, she came over to watch a movie and told me that, while she really liked me as a person and as a friend, she was finding it hard to be interested in me sexually.
This also happened to a girl I was dating for about three months last year – after a really happy initial period when we were always together and having lots of sex, she said she started to just view me as a friend. How can I keep women interested in me romantically past the initial hooking up phase?
DEAR PETITE MORTE: One of the first things I tell people who have recurring issues in their relationships is that they need to start looking for commonalities. The more you can pin down what all of those relationships had in common, the easier it is to dial in on where things are going wrong.
The tricky thing is that sometimes the only thing all those relationships may have in common is, well, you. Now this can sound a lot like “oh, I’m an awful person and should clearly never be allowed to date”, but more often than not, what’s going on is that you have a recurring pattern of behaviors that end up causing issues for you.
The key is to not mistake the symptoms for the source. In this case, it can SEEM like sex is the cause; after all, it’s only after the relationships turn sexual that women start deciding that no, they’re not that into you in the first place. It’s a pretty easy place to lay blame; sex can be a significant step in relationships and thus provides a fairly handy before/after moment. It’s also almost comedically easy to say something like “have you considered that maybe you’re just a bad lay” — especially if someone is actively avoiding physical intimacy with you. But while that makes for a pithy joke, it’s not necessarily helpful… or even accurate. While it’s possible that you and they aren’t connecting physically and that they’re just not enjoying sex with you, that’s not the ONLY possibility. It could well be that sex isn’t the actual issue, so much as the behavior or attitudes surrounding it, and how they intersect with the people you’re dating.
An example of this could arise if you have a tendency to date the same “type” of woman — that is, women who have particular cultural or social values or beliefs in common. If you’re dating people who normally aren’t quick to sleep with someone or who feel more comfortable getting sexual in a committed relationship, for example, the rate that the relationship progressed could make them feel uncomfortable or cause them to reconsider whether they’re actually compatible with you. Another issue could well be that the KIND of sex that you want or need isn’t the kind of sex THEY need. If your interests, desires, libidos and desired frequency don’t mesh well (or well enough), your partners could well decide that they’d much rather find someone they do mesh with.
But here’s one thing that leaped out at me: “We had sex a couple of times and it seemed great at the time, and we both said that we had serious feelings for each other (though I said it first).” This strikes me as being key, especially since both of the relationships you mention end before you even get out of the honeymoon period. The first relationship, especially, sounds like you were barely together for a couple of weeks before you started copping to having caught feels. That, I suspect, is the problem. It sounds to me like you fell victim to one of the classic dating blunders — the most famous of which is never date someone who lists American Psycho as their favorite movie — but only slimly less well known is this: never mistake the giddiness of a new relationship for love.
I think you got caught up in the excitement and the thrills and the new relationship energy (for suitably early definitions of “relationship”) and you lost your head. You got twitterpated, you rounded up infatuation to “love” or something close to it and… well, I suspect that this may have freaked out your partner. She may have said “me too” in the moment but in the cold light of the morning after, I suspect there was a “oooooh crap” moment or two for her.
At that point, it’s not surprising that she might start to dial things back; if the sex wasn’t great for her and it seemed like you were getting way more into her than she was into you… well, I’m not surprised she was stomping the brakes before finally cutting things off entirely.
But even if the sex was good — and it seems like it was at least good enough in your second relationship — it could well be that you were moving further and faster than she may have been comfortable with. Even in the early honeymoon stages, it’s easy to have too much togetherness and schmoopy-ness. That’s a good way to burn out a burgeoning relationship before it can even start… leading to a “let’s just be friends” denouement.
I suspect the problem is less the sex and more the speed, the enthusiasm and the leaping to “we have serious feelings”; it’s just that they all happen so close together that it seems like the sex is the trigger, rather than a side-effect. I think you would do well to start slowing your roll with the women you date. You can feel all the excitement and awesomeness you want… but don’t let that excitement convince you that what you’re feeling is more than just infatuation and the thrill of the new. Give new relationships time to breathe and develop before you start making grand declarations as to what they are. I suspect that once you start to tap the brakes and just give things time to cook on their own, you’ll have far fewer moments of relationships falling apart, even as they seem to just be revving up.
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