I like a guy, and he likes me and has said as much, but I suspect he is hung up on a woman he is ‘good friends’ with. I don’t want to be second place to her. —Kristina
Here is the problem with “dating” or at least the kind of dating that is about two people vague-ing around their feelings, despite and while spending many hours in each other’s company in bar booths and beds and brunch spots: the contemporary practice of it imposes an idea of overwhelming and very serious intimacy on a situation that is at the very best ephemerally, fleetingly intimate.
Hooking up (providing both people are like, “Yes! This is what I want, and ‘this’ includes a non-obligation to one another that extends to next-day texting or really just being in touch at all ever again, called it stamped it no erasies”) is more honest than early-days dating, I think, because at least the terms are (should be) clear. At least what you’re doing together and why is understood, and at least the discovery and exploration of a new person comes without this whole socially constructed and socially abided shit-ton of expectations that kind of suck for everyone.
Basically: getting with a stranger and deciding you know them and the varietals of their life just because you have rad sex and, what, like six sweet convos is the greatest trick the collective dating consciousness ever pulled. I don’t mean don’t do it. I don’t mean there aren’t really good reasons that dating has changed to be like this—the raw indignities of parsing direct-messages and all of that Facebook-tracking and even on-or-offline app-profile negotiations are better than signing up to marry someone after three best-behaviour dates and dad-approval, right?—but, just maybe, it takes approximately ten times longer to know someone than we want it to, than is convenient, than is convincing when you just want your own permission to have all kinds of sex and sleep over and get comfortable and tell your friends and actually trust someone.
Your problem is, like, the most acute version of the problem of “dating:” you’re in it enough to know that you like each other—Which is fun! And feels so good, and the positive anxiety makes you buy soooo many absurd new clothes and listen to soooo much bad music!—but are without any idea of whether or not he likes someone else (maybe he doesn’t even know), or not. If “Boy Disease” is when a guy panics shortly after getting close to a girl and disappears, this dark, cruel thing where someone (attention: anyone, women too) goes all-in with someone even though they’re already emotionally occupied by a third party who is, for any number of sticky reasons, unavailable to them, and who ghosts around the relationship the whole time, just hanging out and grabbing ginger ales from the fridge (ghosts love ginger ale) should be called something kicky, too. Maybe “Double Bookers.” Yeah, I like that.
That doesn’t mean don’t do it—the cost of entry into “love” is usually going to be some period of gray-ish unknown (unless you are super-lucky to slide into one of those totally effortless relationships where the rightness of it all happens smooth and silent and orange-purple pretty like a sunrise). It does mean that it’s hard to ever actually know what the person-you-like’s deal is, or what their expectations are, of if they’re the kind of guy to have loving, close, even romantic but non-sexual, truly platonic relationships with other women (some definitely can) or not (yeah, some can’t). The perils of “talking about it” are extra-extra here, because a new girlfriend pop-quizzing a new boyfriend about the details of his feelings and histories with the women he knows or knew is just deadly jealous-seeming, kind of correctly unattractive, impossible. Coming at it cool and arrow-direct, once—“I have this feeling that you might have feelings for X. If you do, it’s OK, but I need to know”—is better than insinuating twice. (To maintain your own sanity and some chill, never treat her shittily or look her up or casually insult her.) After that, if you believe him and his behaviour that it’s all you, baby, and you are still at least an eight or nine out of ten on him, generally, then forget it.
Everyone you’re going to date is going to think that someone they know is interesting and attractive; you’re also going to have our own history and your own evolving narrative of who is cute and fun to hang out with, who you’ve considered. The point of a relationship is the decision to let that just be… because no matter what, it will be.
More great advice from Kate Carraway:
Is My Sensitive Boyfriend Just Not All That Deep?
How Can I Make My Boyfriend Initiate Sex More?
We Had the Perfect Date and Then I Never Saw Him Again…
Help! My Boyfriend and I Are From Different Worlds
Help! My Friend Has Become a Selfie-Obsessed Monster
Help! My Girlfriend Is Always on a Diet
Help! My Boyfriend Is Better Looking Than Me
I’m So Tired of Hearing About My Friends’ Boring Babies.
I Have Proof My Friend’s BF Is Cheating. Do I Tell Her?
My Best Friend’s Life Is Perfect. Can I Tell Her to Stop Complaining Already?
How Young Is Too Young?
Is Long Distance a Dealbreaker?
When Do I Need to Disclose My Dismal $$$ Sitch?
How Can I Curb My Tinder-Rejection Sads?
When Should My Guy & I Talk “Numbers”?
Can We Be FWB When He Wants More?
Is It Ever OK to Date a Friend’s Ex?
How Do I Get Over a Guy?
Why Aren’t I More Obsessed With My BF?
Should I Propose to My Guy?