You Need Help: I Don’t Get Excited To See My Girlfriend

Q:

So I recently met this girl online and it turns out she goes to my college. We quickly hit it off. She’s smart, curious, good-looking, kind and clearly likes me, and the relationship is going great… But something feels wrong.

I don’t feel any particular profound excitement about seeing her. A previous relationship turned toxic precisely because of this intense mutual obsession, and at first I thought this sense of neutrality and peace was a good sign: after all, that’d mean that the relationship isn’t codependent. And as I previously mentioned, she’s lovely. Even if it turned out I didn’t like her that way, I’d still want her as a friend.

I feel guilty about being so confused and not being able to decide if I like her or not. I’m worried that I’m leading her on.

I’m not sure if I want this relationship. I feel like there should be something more. Something intense. Something passionate. But maybe that’s just an idealistic fantasy and I shouldn’t throw away a chance at a stable, healthy relationship.

Should I break up with her? And if so, how do I go about it?

A:

I’d love to hear opinions from other folks, but to me, this doesn’t necessarily flag as a problem! And in fact, you could be having a very authentic experience of intimacy and starting to see someone. Because a lot of times, those big big feelings of intense excitement when we’re first starting to see someone are a little bit of a brain trick. New Relationship Energy doesn’t always provide us with an accurate view and feeling of how we feel about a new person we’re trying to see.

Especially if you have a history of obsession that turned toxic, the more chill feeling you have toward this new girl could actually be your brain’s way of telling you you’re into her! You’re protecting yourself from going down a similar path of fixation. You allude to this in your letter, but then you also undercut yourself with those feelings of guilt. But from everything you’re telling me, I don’t get the impression that you’re leading anyone on here. Do you lie about your level of passion to her? Do you inflate your feelings? If so, then that would be a problem.

Maybe instead of focusing on what isn’t present in the relationship, it would be good to focus on what is. So, you’re maybe not feeling passion. Are there other positive feelings you’re experiencing though? You say even if things didn’t work out that you’d still want to be her friend. Why? No really, think of those reasons. Maybe even write them down. It would be helpful to visualize what you do like about the relationship and about her. You call her good looking, so I can assume there is a level of attraction there. Attraction doesn’t always have to feel intense.

Is anything about the relationship actively making you feel bad or unfulfilled or not like yourself? Those would definitely be things to pay attention to. But if you’re only “feeling wrong” because you have an expectation of passion that isn’t quite happening here, maybe it’s time to rethink things. It’s easy to put passion on a pedestal. But passion does not always equal a healthy relationship, as I’m sure you know! And I think the same can be said for the reverse; intense passion doesn’t need to be present from the onset of a relationship in order for it to be meaningful.

Passion can also be cultivated. Again, going back to this idea of protection, it’s possible you’re not in a place to be passionately obsessed with anyone right now because of your previous relationship. This doesn’t necessarily mean you’re not ready to date! It is entirely possible that the passion between you and this girl could grow, that you could become more excited by her over time. I think we tend to think of “passion” in a relationship as something that dwindles, but that’s not necessarily always the case! It can grow! Especially for folks who maybe have some walls up when it comes to intimacy. I’ve actually written about the lack of an INSTANT spark at the beginning of a relationship before, and the tl;dr is that it doesn’t always necessarily matter!

Keep in mind that if it turns out she wants to be with someone who exhibits more passion toward her, she has her own agency here, too, and she can choose to end the relationship if you aren’t giving what she wants.

I think it is normal and fine for there to be some hesitation in the early stages of a relationship. You’re still getting to know each other. You’re still trying to define the relationship, which I don’t mean in the traditional sense of “are we girlfriends now” but in the more granular sense of how you fit into each other’s lives. You don’t have to be 100% certain about someone right away. If it starts to feel like she’s committing more seriously and you’re still holding back, then maybe reevaluate where you’re at and consider ending the relationship. But for now, don’t feel guilty for these feelings, especially if you’re being emotionally honest in your interactions.


You can chime in with your advice in the comments and submit your own questions any time.

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Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya

Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya is the managing editor of Autostraddle and a lesbian writer of essays, short stories, and pop culture criticism living in Orlando. She is the assistant managing editor of TriQuarterly, and her short stories appear or are forthcoming in McSweeney's Quarterly Concern, Joyland, Catapult, The Offing, and more. Some of her pop culture writing can be found at The A.V. Club, Vulture, The Cut, and others. You can follow her on Twitter or Instagram and learn more about her work on her website.

Kayla has written 810 articles for us.

8 Comments

  1. Counterpoint: I had these same feelings in my last relationship (we were together for 15 months and just broke up in January). Initially I was missing those crazy obsessed passionate feelings but told myself this was what a more stable & mature relationship should feel like. It was a slower burn, and there were so many things I liked/loved about her, and I was very attracted to her. But as time went on I/we eventually realized something was missing that was never going to happen, a deeper connection neither of us could make happen no matter how hard we tried. It was confusing because so much worked with us, but this big barrier was in the way and not going anywhere. In the end you have to listen to your instincts. But I don’t think there’s harm in trying to make it work for a while, either.

  2. Completely different take here: I think there’s a difference between passionate obsession that can become a problem and normal new relationship excitement.

    I have often been in this position, where I like someone and enjoy their company and can’t tell if my feelings are deeper than that. And what I have learned about myself (you might be different!) is that if I don’t know for sure I feel romantic, then I don’t feel romantic and never will and I should be honest about that. This has happened to me multiple times, and I’ve occasionally hurt people because I spent too long waiting to see if my feelings would grow.

    For me, I know it’s romantic when I feel a sense of excitement and possibility about a future with this person. I know it’s romantic when I feel a sense of delight when this person does something that’s very in character for them. I know it’s romantic when, if this person shares something they’ve written/drawn/otherwise created, I immediately want to look at it. That’s not obsession or passion, just a baseline level of enthusiasm for a person that’s necessary for me to call my feelings romantic.

    You might be someone whose feelings can grow over time, of course. But I’m not, and I’ve had to learn the hard way to let go of my initial hopes for a new relationship and stop dating someone if actually my feelings are just friendly.

    • 100%. Knowing that an all-consuming intensity can signal something unhealthy does not mean that healthy relationships just aren’t exciting, but I think that faulty logic makes its way into a lot of situations where people are actually feeling ambivalence that means they’re not really into someone. (It certainly has for me, and it has taken some living to be able to know and trust my signals that something is missing even when, if I could choose, I would be all in. I love how specific your understanding is about what that looks like for you, dev.) It is very possible to both really actively like someone and have your relationship not be a codependent mess! Sure, passion can grow, but not feeling a baseline enthusiasm about someone you’re newly seeing is really not a good sign.

      LW, this is what dating is about. It’s not at all wrong or unusual to see someone for a while and learn that you’re not compatible for a continued romantic relationship, even if they seem great on paper/in theory or you initially thought they’d be a great fit. It’s truly okay to just say, hey, I’ve had such a good time getting to know you but I’m not feeling the things I need to be feeling. (And FWIW I think it’s better to do it sooner- staying in something like this can be a setup for, yes, ultimately really hurting someone else, and also hurting yourself. Prolonged confusion, wondering what’s wrong with you that you’re not more into this great person, etc. is a shitty experience.)

      • Just echoing what the above commenters said. I was in a similar relationship where I felt complete ambivalence toward the person at every stage of our relationship. At first, I was misreading my ambivalence as “healthy” and “mature” since I too can let Really Big Feelings (TM) cloud my judgment. However, as hihello said, healthy doesn’t have to mean boring. When I was dating this girl, I thought my passion would grow once I gave it enough time. Once she asked me to be her girlfriend. Once she said “I love you”. Once we had been dating for a calendar year…you get the idea. And the feelings just, never came. No matter what arbitrary milestone we met, I felt the same ambivalence toward her as I did before we started dating. And actually, as time time went on, I started to get really annoyed by her. I would be annoyed by the way she ate, how she dressed, even when she would pet her cat (it was bad I know). I liked things about her, but I just didn’t like her. I’ve learned that I am not a “grow” into my feelings type of person, so if I don’t feel *something* initially, then it probably isn’t going to happen at any point in the future.

        That said, Kayla’s advice is good. My mom is an example of the opposite of me. She had no feelings or initial attraction to her now fiancee when they first started dating and several years later they are getting married. She definitely grew into her feelings once she started to get to know her fiancee. So, I agree with Kayla that you don’t have to be 100% about this girl right away. You might be the “grow into feelings” sort of person or you might not. Really only time will tell, but don’t feel like you have to drag something out in the hopes that your feelings might grow because that won’t be fun for either of you (ask me how I know).

  3. One additional aspect I’m curious about is if LW feels excitement about other things in their life. Sometimes we’re just having a hard time feeling excited about most things due to The State of the World TM and/or mental health stuff. So, then that would be the thing to address rather than the relationship specifically.

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