Here's the Thing: You Don't Have to Want Commitment
I have made an acquaintance of a bartender who works by my house. We've always gotten along really well, and I think she's beautiful. I fantasize about asking her out sometimes, but I had been refusing to do so, as I don't cross that line with someone whose job it is to interact with me. However, she recently made it very clear that she is interested in me. There had been some hints before, and I'd hung out with the bar staff after close once, but now she's basically like "Hey! You're cute! I'm being very clear about this!" I told her I thought so too, and now, if I do nothing, it will be apparent to her that I'm turning her down. I like her, she likes me. Great, right?
I am recently single and very determinedly not looking. I strongly want to be alone. I don't want the emotional labor, the monogamy, or the accountability of a relationship. I would be fine with a very part-time non-exclusive relationship, but I'm bad at them. I'm fairly slow to have sex for the first time. I'm a mushy, romantic person. I like to cuddle with a girl, stare into her eyes, cook for her, and have intense conversations. All my relationships have been this way. Now, I'd love to do this stuff with this girl. I think about it a lot. It just doesn't seem like it has a good ending. I could do it two or three times a week, but who else would want that? Even worse, if we get into that too-familiar situation where we can't resist being around each other, I'm afraid we'll fall into a monogamous relationship, and that would make me extremely unhappy. I just hate the idea, and it gives me a complex, as you can read. Relationships are fine for some, but I'm one of those people for whom they have always been the slow death of love, and I really don't want to see or talk to someone that much.
I'm at a loss for what to do. Can I pretend we never had that conversation and stall for time until she finds someone else? That seems like a dick move. Do I just stop going to the bar? I know that would hurt her feelings. Do I invite her to hang out with me, only to say "I like you too, but let's not bother?" I can't stand to lie and say I don't have feelings for her. Or do I tell her all of this, and invite her into this hellish world that exists in my mind, only to have her say "dude, I just wanted to fuck, what's your problem?
MR KRABS BLUR MEME!!!
WHAT THE WHAT, MY FRIEND? Yay for you and the sexy bartender, that’s nice and all, but I don’t think whether or not y’all suck & fuck ever is the real issue at hand. I think the issue is your self-conception, regardless of what happens with this person. Because you start explaining yourself with, “I strongly want to be alone. I don't want the emotional labor, the monogamy, or the accountability of a relationship.” AND THEN YOUR SNEAKY LIL ASS SAID, “ I like to cuddle with a girl, stare into her eyes, cook for her, and have intense conversations.” Which like… a lot of that is emotional care, if not labor. Honestly, when I read through your letter, what it seems like you’re really against/freaked out by is monogamy, and maybe somewhat by commitment. That’s fine!!!! That is fairly normal! I myself think monogamy is about 50% hogwash and 50% the best option available. Monogamy is…not great. It fails a lot. It gets boring. Tons of people, like you, cannot get onboard with it. There are plenty of partners willing to engage in forms of nonmanogamy and/or poly relationships.
Because it does sound like you want to do a lot of the trappings of relationships. You like staring into people’s eyes for fuck’s sake which is like the epitome of an In A Relationship action. If you try to stare into a one-night-stand’s eyes that’s fucking weird. And, sure, you can cuddle and cook for a sex buddy, but things start to get squidgy real fast.
Maybe you can’t give someone seven nights a week—that’s fine!— but your bartender tendre isn’t asking you for that. No one is asking you for that! Yet. It almost seems like you suffer from the (common) delusion that all women are going to want longterm, committed, monogamous relationships the moment someone else’s genitals touch their own. WHICH IS NOT TRUE, PAL. We want to be treated with respect and honesty. That’s it. Breathe. Set boundaries up front. Tell people what you’re up for. But also know that if you’re only ok with super casual, one-day-a-week shit, there’s a chance that your partner can’t get to the place where they want to do hyper-romantic shit with you. That’s part of the trade-off. You don’t get to eat your cake and have it, too.
So if you require BOTH and only BOTH things— non monogamy, a couple nights a week, no labels, AND romantic dates, intense conversations, grand gestures— and nothing else will do, then yes, you should probably take yourself out of the dating game for a while. Your requirements are too damn high and your flexibility is too damn low.
But I think there’s a lot of middle ground you’re skipping over. There is a lot that isn’t committed and monotonous and traditional. There are TONS of people having fun, sexy, non-monogamous relationships and all of those relationships look different from one another, too. There isn’t a finite number relationship models you’re choosing from, instead, you’re building a relationship with another person from the ground up according to your guys wants and needs.
Don’t get me wrong, you know yourself better than I do, and if you feel like you cannot offer a good relationship to someone now— or ever— that’s ok. It’s ok to say, “I am not cut out for this.” But it’s also ok to say to someone, “Here’s what I can give, it might not be conventional and it might not be enough, but it’s what I can give.” And then let them decide if they’re into that or not. It doesn't have to be one conversation one time—in fact, it can’t possibly be. It will be a constant, years-long conversation and renegotiation between the two of you (like all relationships are). But you don’t have to remove yourself from dating and sex and love entirely because you aren’t a specific ideal that you decided was the only valuable version of a Dating Partner.
As for the bartender, to answer your questions one by one:
Can I pretend we never had that conversation and stall for time until she finds someone else? NO. !!!! NO you cannot. Not if you want to be a kind person.
Do I just stop going to the bar? NO. Grow up and handle your shit.
Do I invite her to hang out with me, only to say "I like you too, but let's not bother?" NO! What? WHY ARE THESE YOUR OPTIONS?
Or do I tell her all of this, and invite her into this hellish world that exists in my mind, only to have her say "dude, I just wanted to fuck, what's your problem?" YES…. well, kind of. You don’t have to give her this massive rundown and spell out all of your traumas chronologically just to explain what you want and why. You can…shockingly… just be an open, honest person. Start simple, “Hey, I’m super into you, too, but I’m not in a great place right now for anything serious. I’d love to have fun with you and go out sometime, but I just want to give you a heads up beforehand so that we’re on the same page. If you’re not into that, that’s cool, too, I understand.
It’s not easy, but it is simple.