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Conventional Wisdom: Ask a Lawyer

I got out of a three-year relationship about two years ago. I have since dated half of LA. I'm getting wary of dating. Rarely have I been on a date where both of us liked the other — either I get interested or the guy does — and rejecting someone is about as much fun as being rejected.

I am starting to see a pattern: the guys will come on strong and chase me until I resist and when I kind of seem to get interested, the guys just vanish. Whether I tell them I'm interested or not interested — they vanish. I'm at a point where I'm too scared of going on dates for fear I'm going to scare people away. What do I do?

— Almost Too Scared to Date

To hear what a lawyer has to say,


Dear Too Scared,

Your situation is all-too-common among both sexes in the dysfunctional modern dating pool.  Though I'm happily married now, I can confirm from very recent experience in the land of lovelorn singlehood that this dynamic/syndrome you are describing likely has less to do with your particular approach and more with your commitment to the idea of DATING with a capital "D."  

There's something about the whole ritual, with all of its attendant expectations and conventions that seems to encourage a "chase is better than the catch" mentality among those who abide strictly by its tired protocols.  More importantly, my experience with serial DATERS is that they often tend to be looking for the next best thing as a matter of course. They're just DATING with an idle hope that maybe it will just click with someone.  But a DATE, in my experience, is a pretty lousy forum for actually getting to know someone and to see if you have actual compatibility, mutual attraction and chemistry. 

My main piece of advice, therefore, would be to modify your expectations about what it is that you're doing, and to try to look for Mr. Right with a changed modality.  If you are looking for a DATE, you are ultimately hoping to find someone to offer you love, companionship, nooky and sexual fulfillment, support, trust, entertainment, and everything else that comes along with finding someone awesome to share the world with, but much later and down the line, after you have made sure that he meets the sniff test and that you enjoy being with him.  These are all things you can explore with guys in different social contexts that aren't so freighted with expectations, insecurity, performance anxiety, and all-around awkwardness as with the dreaded DATE. 

So the approach, which is a tired cliché of the syndicated advice columnist for a reason:  get involved with a group of people who share your interest in something (music, arts, book group, hiking club, discussion forum, team sport).  Join an organized activity of like-minded people.  And start hanging out with this group more and more (assuming they're not a bunch of weirdos and misfits that you don't enjoy spending time with). 

See if there isn't someone in this broader group that you start to establish a friendship or rapport with (or who you find yourself attracted to, or scoping, or who seems to be attracted to or scoping you).  And try as much as possible to avoid thinking of this person as a potential DATE, but rather, as a potential COMPANION (we'll leave it ambiguous for now). 

Next, see if you can start to modulate your contact with this potential COMPANION.  Maybe you invite him to some other group activity that you participate in.  Maybe a party, or a BBQ, or whatever.  Seth Rogen's character in Superbad might suggest inviting him to a pumpkin patch, but you get the idea. 

You're ramping up towards an outing that we might typically call a DATE, but while you're at it, you're gathering all sorts of intel about this fellow, his likes, his dislikes, if he listens to cool music or butt rock like Nickelback and Hinder, whether he's more country or more rock and roll, if he's funny without trying to be (DATES are a notoriously embarrassing forum for us guys to try too hard to be funny, and enduring a DATE can often feel like watching some stand-up also-ran on Comedy Central).

Finally, if you are still interested in this COMPANION-cum-DATE, you'll identify an opportunity for just you and he to go do something together.  If you can find something in the context of your initial meeting (say you are in that hiking club, then you suggest heading out to somewhere cool for a walk).  You are making that DATE move, but in that context, it may feel a little less DATEY.

Significantly, you have already been around this person enough that, if he is interested, you don't need to use the awkward format of the DATE to find out stuff about the guy.  You already found out all that stuff at the pumpkin patch.  And if he has come along on the hike and made it through the preliminaries, one assumes, you may just find yourself a little more in sync, and less wary of one another.  Because a DATE automatically has low expectations. 

An ambiguous outing that feels less like a DATE and more like two people who are starting to enjoy spending time together?  It's a space that you're likely to be much more comfortable with, and, just maybe, is less likely to generate that weird "catch me if you can" vibe that seems so endemic to DATING.

Best of luck in any case, 
A lawyer

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Join The Conversation
dikke-kus dikke-kus 8 years
Its interesting to see this professionals take on the subject. Its' nice to see the comments too. I don't think dating and breakups can be so easily defined. Many things are going on that aren't showing up in open conversations during dinners and movies. I think sometimes men and women are looking for something and they don't give you the hidden agendas. They are blind to what they see, they are deaf to what they hear, and they are dumb to their own actions. When they begin understand another person becoming more receptive they suddenly have to think twice about what they are asking and what they are doing. Things can come to a screeching halt. Not really because you gave in to some chase, but because you simply gave them an answer they weren't prepared for.
sparkles61785 sparkles61785 8 years
Jocupcake, aren't you from the Real World? If you are not a previous cast member, you look strikingly like the one I'm thinking about.
noodlemaine noodlemaine 8 years
I also appreciate this feature. It's pretty interesting. And I agree with this guy's advice! Hope the person takes it to heart and doesn't dismiss it because the person who gave it is a lawyer.
dm8bri dm8bri 8 years
Very good advice letter. It's length proves that lawyers like to talk! ;)
jocupcake jocupcake 8 years
Agreed... dating is awkward. I met lots of guys who I ended up going out with just by hanging out with them as a friend first. Also, the lawyer said nooky! That is awesome.
Gdeeaz Gdeeaz 8 years
I like conventional wisdom, i wish Tres could post more then one a week.
tlsgirl tlsgirl 8 years
Hehehe, Butt Rock.
Love-and-Sex Love-and-Sex 8 years
Stay tuned, chouette! Next week's will not have to do with dating! We answer the questions that come in...
Chouette4u Chouette4u 8 years
I like this feature, but I wish that the questions asked were a bit more diverse. I think 3/4 of these so far have been some variation of the "oh, I got dumped/he lost interest, how do I cope/find someone new" problem.
SeaAre86 SeaAre86 8 years
I agree with Smacks. For the TLDR crowd, who would probably miss the link.. it might be best to move it or say more before the jump. Also, I am a little saddened by the negative comments.. I really enjoy this feature!
SeaAre86 SeaAre86 8 years
Who really is an expert on love and dating? Seriously. There is no general approach that works for everyone.. it's totally a hit or miss. I love this feature, and so far have seen wonderful advice given (in my opinion). Each piece of advice is unique and probably looks at these questions more open mindedly than someone who sits here and reads questions like this all day.
Love-and-Sex Love-and-Sex 8 years
I always add a link at the end Smacks83, but perhaps I should say more! Thanks!
Smacks83 Smacks83 8 years
I like this option on Tres Sugar. Tres, maybe you should put a short little info bit before each conventional wisdom (like the one in your comment) so that people unfamiliar with it understand the concept? Just a thought. One the flip side, those are some judgemental comments from people who don't know the concept. Stuff on Tres (for the most part) should be taken with a wink and a smile.
dreejay dreejay 8 years
This is a pretty cool feature! I'll have to read it fully later, I just got out of a law exam so I've reached my quota of legal talk for the day! :)
Love-and-Sex Love-and-Sex 8 years
No, you're not supposed to take it more seriously, but hopefully you don't take it less seriously! The point of conventional wisdom is to get advice from a variety of nonprofessional advice-givers to get a fresh angle on advice. So far, we've gotten advice from a feminist, a film professor and a gay man.
kimmieb124 kimmieb124 8 years
I agree with anonymous. Are we supposed to take this advice more seriously because a lawyer said it? A lawyer is an expert on the law, not on relationships or dating. The advice may make sense, but being a lawyer does not qualify a person to give dating advice.
TidalWave TidalWave 8 years
I was thinking just about the same thing as the advice given. Try to meet people more through friends/activities so you already know if you click at all before actually dating. This also allows the person to develop feelings for you (as a friend or whathaveyou) before dating so he might be less likely (and would have a more difficult time) to vanish. Try going to friend's parties not to seek out a date, but just to have fun. Relax and just go with the mindset that you want to have fun with friends and meet some cool people. Not, that you're looking for the man of your life. You can also try volunteering or using sites like to meet people who have your common interests.
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