I’m trying to stop being the pursuer

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Dear Meredith,

I've been single for a little over a year now. That year was a pointed effort not to date and to break my unhealthy patterns of serial monogamy and attachment issues.

For the first time in my adult life, I was able to define myself outside of a relationship, and it was liberating. I feel like I know myself better than ever, and now I know what I want, need, and deserve in a future partner. I finally feel ready to date again, despite the pandemic. I've been on some wonderful dates with great people, but can never seem to get past the second or third date. I should note that I've never played by the rules when it comes to dating. I insist on splitting the bill. If I like a person and want to spend more time with them, I may sleep with them on the first date. I'm usually the one who likes to set and plan dates, to be the pursuer rather than the pursued. I do this so I'm not the one waiting around for a text, stewing in anxiety, risking getting my feelings hurt. My mother says this habit makes me seem too eager, too available — that this tactic isn't working.

While she acknowledges that this is the 21st century and rules have changed, her advice is to let these men pursue me. So, how do I let men pursue me without letting the anxiety consume me? How do I protect my feelings and navigate my own insecurities while trying this new approach? Maybe what I'm really asking is this: how do I build myself to be more resilient when dealing with potential rejection in dating?

- Trying Something New

The issue here isn't about splitting checks, sex, or showing your interest. If some men don't like your behavior, they're not for you.

But I don't love the idea that you go into active pursuit mode to protect yourself. It's not about gender roles or a rule that says women have to sit around and feign disinterest; it's more that you're not giving yourself time to consider whether you really like these people. If you're always jumping to the next step, are you paying attention to what's happening in front of you?

My advice is to think about it that way. After a date, maybe give yourself a moment – a few days – to consider how it went and whether you're eager for another. Things are slow all over right now. There's no need to rush next interactions. Part of learning about a person is figuring out what effort they'll make, how they follow up after a nice night. There shouldn't be game playing here; again, this isn't about being passive as a performance. It's about giving something time to grow instead of saying, "What’s next!" the second something goes well.

The thing is, even if a slower pace begins to feel natural, you'll still get some rejection. There's no way around that. I can only say that sometimes when we feel that sting from someone, we forget that maybe we didn't think of them as match either. If you lose someone after two or three dates, it's disappointing, but all it tells you is that the person wasn't what you want in a partner because they stopped showing up.

Also, disappointment is OK. The sting of rejection is necessary. Sometimes processing the bad stuff makes it more possible to enjoy the good.

– Meredith

Readers? Is this about letting men pursue? Is it about slowing down, in general?