[disc/adv] How to want a person

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Post by nearly_takuan on Thu Apr 23, 2015 2:49 am

Through most of the day I've been daemonizing my own answer to the "why do you want a relationship" thread, and in particular a thought I had while writing it that I've also had before and...well, the thought is: of all the ways I can think of to describe what I'm looking for, there aren't any that point to anything that would be specific to a person, or any kind of person. Like I'm basically saying anyone will do. Well, maybe they would, at that. That's the thing; I don't know. (And that makes it hard to, among other things, deploy targeted flattery, in my OLD profile/messages or in smallish social settings.)

I mean, it's not like I'm at a loss for things to filter on; there're parts of my current lifestyle I won't give up (e.g. pursuing education), and there're parts of myself I can't abolish even if I wanted to (e.g. agnostic atheism, moderate-to-severe asexuality), and it's fairly obvious that I should be looking for people with similar ideas/goals around that relationship (e.g. raising a child). So high school dropouts, Christians, and no-kids-not-ever types aren't a good bet, even though I have nothing against 'em generally. I mean, it's even possible I'd get along fine with a partner in one or more of those categories; it's just somehow even less likely than finding such a person otherwise.

Rather, I have trouble describing what I'm looking/hoping for in positive terms. How would I describe the traits a hypothetical partner would have, beyond "is willing to go on a date with me"?

One of the additional consequences to having spent appreciable amounts of time with very few "available" women is that I can count on one hand the number of people I even think I might have had significant "squishes" on, and I can't think of much that they generally had in common. Pampered white girl, chronically broke woman with primarily indigenous-Mexican ancestry. Giddy painter, engineering professional. Quiet poet, ...the only appropriate word is tita.

...Anyway. Anyone feel like sharing their experience(s) trying to figure out who they were looking for?
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Post by The Wisp on Thu Apr 23, 2015 3:15 am

Maybe you just need to have some dating experiences to know?

I can relate to having trouble knowing what I want out of a partner in more specific terms. I mean, obviously I want them to be sexually attractive and to be a good person who I feel good being around and treats me well, but it's hard to know what positive traits I'd want beyond that, or what specific ones I might need to experience those general things I want.

Obviously, the positive things one wants won't be too specific. Some people have types, but even they seem to experience attractions to exceptions not uncommonly.

I think ultimately one needs experiences (positive or negative) clarify what positive or negative traits they want. Until you experience the presence or lack of those traits, then you won't know what will or won't cause/ruin your squishy feelings.

So, as for myself, I don't have experiences so I don't know.
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Post by Werel on Thu Apr 23, 2015 3:16 am

Three questions and some useless personal thoughts:

1) Is availability usually a prerequisite for squishing on somebody? Might indicate that a lot of your attraction style is based in your logic brain, rather than your Unpredictable Inconvenient Emotions brain. You could use that to your advantage if you have a clear idea of what you want from a relationship; if you met someone who was available, educated, and interested in having kids, do you think you could sort of "relax into" (don't know a better way to put it) a desire for them, regardless of whether that squish feeling were immediately present?

2) Aside from personal characteristics of these women, which sound pretty different, were there commonalities in the way they made you feel, or the way you interacted with them? Might be you're looking for a specific dynamic with a wide range of people, rather than a wide range of dynamics with a specific type of person.

3) Imagine, hypothetically, that a number of your female acquaintances asked you on dates. Who would you be most likely to say yes to (barring, in this thought experiment, their current availability)? Interrogate your levels of enthusiasm in responding to each, and see if anything turns up.

My attraction style is based heavily in my Unpredictable Inconvenient Emotions brain, so I never needed to "figure out" who I was attracted to, per se; it was clear from pretty early on that I had a weakness for the class clown with a sharp mind, sassy tongue, and some dark hidden pain (and adjacent types). Don't think my experience is too applicable to your case, but it does support the idea that people vary wildly in their experiences of attraction.

(Freaking loving the idea of you with some 6' Waianae tita, though. Laughing)

edit: I think Wisp is also onto something with the idea of "what ruins a squish," which could be a useful indicator even in the absence of romantic experience. Has that happened before? What ruined it?
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Post by eselle28 on Thu Apr 23, 2015 3:42 am

I would suggest starting with the things you already know and extrapolating on them a bit. It's important for you to pursue education. Do you want a partner who does the same thing (and if so, formally or would informally be fine)? One who's encouraging of your professional ambition? One who values knowledge for its own sake? One who's understanding if working and going to school at the same time means you can't always give her as much attention? Likewise, you want to raise a child. What kind of parent would you want to be? Do you think you should seek out any traits in a co-parent that are either similar to your own, for agreement's sake, or opposite of yours, because you think it might be best if they're balanced out? "Good mother" is a very strongly loaded term, but there are multiple ways of being a good mother, and it might be worthwhile to think about what kind of person could be a good partner in the sort of family you are thinking about making.

As far as your squishes go, it sounds like they vary widely in terms of demographics, which is fine. You may want to think about whether they share any character or personality traits. If they don't, then I'd suggest focusing on the ones of them and also on platonic friends who you've gotten along well with and could spend large amounts of time with while still feeling mostly good about yourself, them, and the relationship. This doesn't necessarily help with predicting romantic attraction, but I know I identified some traits I do and do not want in a romantic partner by thinking about friendship relationships, especially that with a male friend who I get along well with as a person but wouldn't be interested in a romantic relationship with. Your relationship with Roommate might be particularly helpful as a guide, since it sounds like you're both introverts and also that you manage to live together fairly happily despite you having seen and acknowledged some of his flaws. I also think looking at negative traits can help, but I think it's sometimes harder to identify positive ones and so focused mostly on those.

Also, as an aside, it's impossible for me to read the term "daemonizing" withing thinking of about Philip Pullman's books and Pantalaimon in particular. I had no idea it was used in another context.


Last edited by eselle28 on Thu Apr 23, 2015 1:24 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Post by nearly_takuan on Thu Apr 23, 2015 5:02 am

Not useless, so cut that out. Razz

Werel wrote:1) Is availability usually a prerequisite for squishing on somebody? Might indicate that a lot of your attraction style is based in your logic brain, rather than your Unpredictable Inconvenient Emotions brain. You could use that to your advantage if you have a clear idea of what you want from a relationship; if you met someone who was available, educated, and interested in having kids, do you think you could sort of "relax into" (don't know a better way to put it) a desire for them, regardless of whether that squish feeling were immediately present?

Actually...yeah, so far, if I know someone's already in a monogamous relationship, it's been pretty easy to just let go of (or never even have) any ideas about partner-ing. Dunno if that necessarily indicates I could "turn it on" as easily as it turns off, but...eh, like Wisp said, there's a lot I still don't know and don't think I can know about how it all works for me at this point.

Werel wrote:2) Aside from personal characteristics of these women, which sound pretty different, were there commonalities in the way they made you feel, or the way you interacted with them? Might be you're looking for a specific dynamic with a wide range of people, rather than a wide range of dynamics with a specific type of person.

Seems likely. But I don't really have a clear way of describing that, other than they were/are all fundamentally good people, fun to be around, and so forth, but then I've had plenty of those kinds of interactions with people I don't recall ever having romantic interest or intentions toward. (Maybe it's that plus the toggle from "1)" though?)

Werel wrote:3) Imagine, hypothetically, that a number of your female acquaintances asked you on dates. Who would you be most likely to say yes to (barring, in this thought experiment, their current availability)? Interrogate your levels of enthusiasm in responding to each, and see if anything turns up.

Impulse response is "anything that moves" but that's a current-mindset thing, not an accurate reflection of how I would really react. "Surprised and extremely confused" probably is accurate, but is still unhelpful because of course the important bit is what comes after that.

...Next thought is that this already feels kind of "dirty". To make the thought-experiment work, I'm sort of mentally generating a "harem" populated by the women I spend the most time around. Didn't take long to sort the list, but I'm not sure whether my post-hoc attempt to reverse-engineer the results are a proper reflection of my sorting algorithm or just the bizarre rationalizing habits of a brain that assumes its decisions are rational.

Awkward: most of what I've actually come up with so far is unfortunately a bit too personal/biographical to publish online without consent from each person in the considered set. Hm. :/

In broad strokes, though, the "winner" is someone I'd call a self-righteous outspoken Social Justice type. Kind of surprised me but makes some sense. I don't always agree but I do always approve. Easy to feel flattered if she feels similarly about my beliefs. Also easy to trust that she knows what she wants and will ask for it. Anxious about living up to expectations, but honored to be the one being held to them, even as a probationary thing.

Thanks for the leads!




eselle28 wrote:I would suggest starting with the things you already know and extrapolating on them a bit. It's important for you to pursue education. Do you want a partner who does the same thing (and if so, formally or would informally be fine)? One who's encouraging of your professional ambition? One who values knowledge for it's own sake? One who's understanding if working and going to school at the same time means you can't always give her as much attention? Likewise, you want to raise a child. What kind of parent would you want to be? Do you think you should seek out any traits in a co-parent that are either similar to your own, for agreement's sake, or opposite of yours, because you think it might be best if they're balanced out? "Good mother" is a very strongly loaded term, but there are multiple ways of being a good mother, and it might be worthwhile to think about what kind of person could be a good partner in the sort of family you are thinking about making.
Helpful questions. I think what I value is an interest in and/or respect for the hard and soft sciences, and a willingness to grow one's understanding of the natural world and to change one's mind as new information is gained. Conversely, I find it stressful and mentally taxing to interact with someone whose (temporary) attitude is one of frustration or despair on the subject of mathematics. I tend to assume that at least some of those traits correlate with formal education, but it isn't necessarily the case that they do.

I don't really have professional ambitions, but I guess I'd want a partner to be understanding about my sense of responsibility toward my employer, just as I would want my employer to be understanding about my responsibilities to my hypothetical family. That seems like it's probably the sort of trait that belongs to a person who also has a steady professional career.

Also haven't really done much planning or thinking ahead about what I'd want the structure(s) around parenthood to look like. Any additional schooling for me would have to happen before that or else never, though; trying to balance school and a career and a household would stretch me too thin if we had a kid. I'd want us to be close, and in some ways that is the entire point for me, but I don't want either of us to end up hovering like my mom does. Dinners together on most nights. ("All" is ideal, but also...optimistic.) Active participation in school programs (provided parent involvement is welcomed by the actual teachers and faculty, not just being co-opted by irresponsible administration as a way to temporarily not spend hire req funds on a qualified educator or information specialist to fill a role).

eselle28 wrote:As far as your squishes go, it sounds like they vary widely in terms of demographics, which is fine. You may want to think about whether they share any character or personality traits. If they don't, then I'd suggest focusing on the ones of them and also on platonic friends who you've gotten along well with and could spend large amounts of time with while still feeling mostly good about yourself, them, and the relationship. This doesn't necessarily help with predicting romantic attraction, but I know I identified some traits I do and do not want in a romantic partner by thinking about friendship relationships. I also think looking at negative traits can help, but I think it's sometimes harder to identify positive ones and so focused mostly on those.
Agreed; a conclusion along the lines of that last sentence was most of what prompted this thread in the first place. I know more about what I don't (think I) want than what I am looking for. Hm....
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Post by Enail on Thu Apr 23, 2015 1:06 pm

Adding on to Eselle's thought about friendship, do you ever have a "click" with people platonically, a friend-crush? Or are you more of a methodical, gradual, friender where your chances of becoming friends with someone are largely based on compatibility in fairly definable traits & interests? And similarly with squishes, were they more a fast-click or something that developed gradually?

If you're the former, things that give a friend-type click might be a good place to start keeping an eye out for potential squishability or more general wanting-ness. If the latter, it probably makes more sense to focus on more practical aspects of what traits would work well with enjoying their company and sharing a life.
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Post by eselle28 on Thu Apr 23, 2015 2:49 pm

So, I'm just going to point out that it actually does sound like you have an idea of who you might be looking for. From what you've said, she's a person whose ideals you respect even if you don't always agree with them and who feels the same way about yours, who has a pretty good idea what she wants and can communicate effectively about it, who values learning, is reasonably literate in several disciplines and particularly mathematics, and who's looking forward to a close and nurturing but not really a Pygmalion type relationship with her children.

I generally think about people's expectations on a scale of "uh, I don't know a single person who could live up to that" to "that's so vague I don't even know who to suggest." For you, I could suggest three or maybe four women out of several dozen I know reasonably well, adjusting for things like age and location. Without applying judgment to any of the levels of selectivity, I will say that what you're looking for sounds like it's narrowing in on about the average number of people to me. I think where you might be running into frustrations with the anyone stuff is that almost everything you seek in a partner seems like it would require a bit of getting to know each other to discover. That part's hard, and as someone who also values a few non-obvious traits, I can sympathize.

If you're looking for compliments, I suspect that the sort of woman who is compatible with you might be pretty flattered by, "I love that we can talk about both [subject x] and [subject y] together," or "That's brilliant. I love how you think," or "It's so awesome to be able to talk about [mathy thing] with someone who gets it," or "It's so cool you know so much about [subject you find interesting but don't specialize in]. I'd love to learn more about that." This is contrary to the advice that you should tell smart women they're pretty and pretty women they're smart. I've often found that smart women aren't very frequently appreciated for being smart, particularly by smart men. And, yeah, those are compliments that can all lean platonic as well. So tell her she's pretty too, especially if she's put some work her appearance on a given day, and tell her what you enjoy about her personality and I think you'll be pretty good on the verbal appreciation scale.
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Post by nearly_takuan on Tue Apr 28, 2015 2:33 am

eselle28 wrote:So, I'm just going to point out that it actually does sound like you have an idea of who you might be looking for. From what you've said, she's a person whose ideals you respect even if you don't always agree with them and who feels the same way about yours, who has a pretty good idea what she wants and can communicate effectively about it, who values learning, is reasonably literate in several disciplines and particularly mathematics, and who's looking forward to a close and nurturing but not really a Pygmalion type relationship with her children.

Well, when you put it that way.... Razz

I guess what I'm having a hard time with is describing/articulating (even to myself) what it means to be a "person whose ideals I respect"; not sure to what extent it matters what those ideals are, or to what extent it matters how they are demonstrated. I have no way of knowing what sorts of personality types or side-hobbies or political views or whatever would correlate positively with the sorts of people who are more likely than the rest to "respect" my views on things, if such even exist. I would say I don't think it's mathematical inclinations I'm looking for so much as just not making lots of weird assumptions about the discipline* (though given how many weird assumptions about maths are just part of common U.S. culture, maybe it would be mostly just mathematicians in that set**).

Which I guess is just another way of saying...

eselle28 wrote:I generally think about people's expectations on a scale of "uh, I don't know a single person who could live up to that" to "that's so vague I don't even know who to suggest." For you, I could suggest three or maybe four women out of several dozen I know reasonably well, adjusting for things like age and location. Without applying judgment to any of the levels of selectivity, I will say that what you're looking for sounds like it's narrowing in on about the average number of people to me. I think where you might be running into frustrations with the anyone stuff is that almost everything you seek in a partner seems like it would require a bit of getting to know each other to discover. That part's hard, and as someone who also values a few non-obvious traits, I can sympathize.

Which makes sense; I was thinking of the frustration and the having trouble describing who or why or how I might be interested as totally different things, but maybe they do come from similar places.

eselle28 wrote:If you're looking for compliments, I suspect that the sort of woman who is compatible with you might be pretty flattered by, "I love that we can talk about both [subject x] and [subject y] together," or "That's brilliant. I love how you think," or "It's so awesome to be able to talk about [mathy thing] with someone who gets it," or "It's so cool you know so much about [subject you find interesting but don't specialize in]. I'd love to learn more about that." This is contrary to the advice that you should tell smart women they're pretty and pretty women they're smart. I've often found that smart women aren't very frequently appreciated for being smart, particularly by smart men. And, yeah, those are compliments that can all lean platonic as well. So tell her she's pretty too, especially if she's put some work her appearance on a given day, and tell her what you enjoy about her personality and I think you'll be pretty good on the verbal appreciation scale.

Left to my own devices I'd probably have almost considered but then discarded a few of those. I worry statements like "it's so awesome to be able to talk about [thing] with someone who gets it" will sound snobby or self-important or even directly condescending to the other person. I'd feel a lot more comfortable saying something like "it's so cool that you know so much about [subject I don't specialize in]", though; that's a good one!




(*A distressing portion of people I've spoken to about my studies and/or profession have reacted with some variant of: "I hated having to learn so much useless math in school"; "I never could get my brain to work that way"; "jeeperth, mithter, you're really thmart!". And then, finding no similarly easy-to-reach cultural stereotype to describe how their chosen field of study is definitely awesome too, I have to just mutter whatever lame thing I think up on the spot while pondering why it is that people fear what they do not understand, humankind's inhumanity to humankind, and how ludicrously over-privileged I find the caste I've pigeonholed myself into, relative to many that take no less time, money, effort, or innate talent to enter.)
(**I somewhat enjoy using mathy language to describe things mundane and abstract, but wouldn't be devastated if I had to learn to do without. Might be something I have to choose in advance about how I present myself, though. :/ )
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