Dear Bad4: What’s Progress?

I’m not a dating guru. If I knew so much about dating, I’d probably be married by now.

Which is not to say that married people know lots about dating. Some of them seem to just fall into it accidentally. Going out with three people and getting married does not, actually, qualify you to give dating advice. Then again, neither does going out 100 times and never getting past the first “where do we stand” conversation. In fact, the only person I’d trust to give me dating advice is someone who’s been married multiple times. And obviously, they’re doing something wrong too.

Still, we all need dating advice at times, and really, who else is there to turn to except our fellow daters? So I’m going to crowdsource this one. Here’s the question – tell me your answers. I’ll save mine for whenever I get the chance to write it.

Dear Bad4,

I just broke up with a guy I really liked. In a long, late-night conversation he said he wasn’t sure where he stood in life and where he wanted to go and he just didn’t think we were making progress. What does that mean? Because all the guys I break up with say the same thing. We go out for months and then they say that we’re just not making progress. What kind of progress are we supposed to be making when we can’t progress to second base?


Golden Gal


14 thoughts on “Dear Bad4: What’s Progress?

  1. i think what you’re saying about married people giving dating advice is very true. i went out with more than 70 guys before i met my husband, and the only information i really feel i have about “what works”, to this day, is what worked in that one, very specific case with two very specific people – and even that doesn’t always work 😛

    sooooo with that disclaimer, the “progress” line to me sounds like one of two things: 1) guys don’t feel they’re connecting on a real level with her or getting to know her beyond a point 2) this one hurts – they can’t get past the “no reason to break up with her so might as well keep dating” zone, which i think we’ve all been in, but which after awhile becomes the reason for the breakup anyway.

    why? who knows. guys are weird.

    then again, it sounds like she was doing the breaking up here. did she sense him pulling away and detach preemptively?

    one of the things i noticed myself doing toward the end which was probably self-defeating was treating almost every guy exactly the same at the same point in time. i think i thought if i felt like i was following a procedure, then it wouldn’t feel so much like a personal failing if it didn’t work out – just a scientific experiment that did not obtain the desired results. i think this backfired because guys sensed i was both withholding my true self and not looking too closely at theirs, but i was also on plenty of dates with guys who were clearly doing the same thing – one guy managed to breeze through a walking tour of a charming little neighborhood, take me to a music club and back home again without once stopping to look me in the eye or, you know, refer to me by name.

    the only advice i could give is, i think the way “forward” is often putting yourself on the line – which sucks. but if you are willing to be vulnerable and a little more open about yourself, it may help the other person feel more connected to you or more trusted by you. maybe that is “progress.” and yeah, while you’re vulnerable, some guy may take it exactly the wrong way and make you feel terrible about yourself. but i think it’s probably worth trying anyway.

  2. Golden Gal: I think guys are full of— ahem.

    This phrase, “Not making progress,” must be the current go-to for dudes, like “It’s not you, it’s me.” The statement itself is meaningless.

    Maybe he doesn’t want to get married yet, but places the blame equally on you. If he is such a mess that he doesn’t know where he stands in life (or so he claims), and can’t even give you a coherent reason for breaking up, he sounds like a dud.

    When it comes to a relationship, he has to be as gung-ho as you. Thankfully, one doesn’t need all the guys to be like that; only one, a specific one, which, as I am told, we shall find one day. Although it is that “one day” bit that gets to me.

  3. It (often) means that, after months of dating, they expect to feel some kind of powerful attraction. They want to feel in love/lust, have you always in their thoughts, smile at the mention of your name…

    You might think that it’s enough to enjoy each other’s company, having long interesting discussions, go on interesting dates, agree on all the important issues, and just generally work really well together – that intense devotion thing will develop _after_ marriage. For a guy, though, “not making any progress”, (often) means “she’s a really good friend, and we have a great time, but why would I _marry_ her?”

  4. Without more info, nobody can give real advice. But if this person has had the same experience a few times, maybe there something to it. Do you share real secrets with any friends or family? Did you tell this guy anything about yourself that you’d be embarrassed if he repeated? Did you get to the point where you told him how you felt about him, what you liked about him? If not, maybe you were two people stuck in a “OK, nice person, not enuf reason to end it” relationship for a while. If you don’t feel very sad now, you probably didn’t let yourself get attached. I think you need to think about this more, and perhaps go to a shrink for some ideas, good ones can really help good people!

  5. When I read some of these comments, I realize how sad the situation really is. Until girls stop blaming men for all their problems and learn how to HELP him and GUIDE the relationship, the current trend of singles will continue to skyrocket. Very sad.

  6. Hey all,

    Just a couple of thoughts:

    1) Is this something that’s male-specific? “We’re not making progress” is something that could go both ways. There are countless times where the girl is the one to make this comment to a guy, and calls an end to the relationship because she doesn’t feel that THEY are making progress. I don’t understand why people look at things so one-dimensionally.

    2) Being an arbiter on a relationship’s progress can be quite difficult for anyone. There are TWO people to to every relationship, each moving at their own speed, each with their own expectations, each with their own understanding of what it means to be part of a relationship. Many time’s the guy/girl could be much further “ahead” than her date. When it comes to the extraordinarily unique and terrifying decision of committing to a long-term relationship, EVERYONE’S A ROOKIE. Can you imagine if friendships entailed the same thing? Can you imagine if a friendship required a commitment from both parties? How long did it take you to know that so-and-so was someone you wanted to be a part of life? How long did it take you to put her/him on speed-dial? You can never specifically identify when that “turning-point” was. It would almost be unnatural to assume that a friendship could be created at a specific point in time.

    Dating doesn’t allow for the same leeway. There has to be a constant assessment of where everyone stands. The underlying question after every date is “where does that leave us?” Ultimately, there is a point where everyone has to commit and declare that “I am ready.” It is this constant analysis of the “relationship” and its growth that possibly inhibits that growth. I think that it is important to recognize that this is one of life’s hardest decisions and EVERY PERSON (no exceptions) is ill-equipped at making it. It is unfortunate, but truthfully it’s almost predictable. I’m sure there are many many people married today who had the same thoughts at some point in their relationship, but overcame that with mutual understanding of how hard this decision really is to make.

    A Guy in Shidduchim

  7. When someone says something to you that can mean 100 different things, you must stop and ask them to tell you what they mean. This applies to dating, marriage, business or anything.

    He says: “We’re not making progress.”

    You ask one or more of the following:

    — “Mmm. Can you help me understand what you mean? It can mean lots of things and I don’t want to assume I understand until I’m sure.”

    — “Where do you feel we should be by now, but we’re not, that leave you feeling that we’re not making progress?”

    — “What’s happening, or not happening that leads you to feel that way?”

    Here’s something I’ve learned from almost 13 years of marriage: You and your spouse will often have a hard time articulating what’s bother you immediately. You must take the time to really try to understand what the other MEANS – and not just what they SAY.


  8. Women comment on their experience dating men, and men comment on their experience dating women, because they don’t know from personal experience what it’s like the other way around (at least in a heterosexual context). No need for people to get offended when someone of gender A says “People of gender B do ___ in dating”. It doesn’t mean people of gender A don’t do that to, it just means the person of gender A wouldn’t know if they do that.

  9. Without reading the other comments, here are my thoughts. Don’t know whether they apply or not.

    Are the guys you are dating not really aware of themselves or their goals? It sounds like they ar not clear on what they want out of life, themselves, or their relationship. If they are not clear as to what they want but you are, then don’t date them. Date someone who is as clear and motivated as you are to get married.

  10. Its code for ‘I don’t want to tell you why because I’m afraid of insulting you/making you feel bad.’ Would you rather the guy tell you ‘I’ve realized you have a really obnoxious personality and I would go crazy being married to you?”

  11. JWed Gal: Look – All I’m trying to present is a fair way at looking at life. Men say dumb things, so do women. Men say insensitive things, so do women. Men can have commitment issues, so can women. Men can be shallow, so can women. The list goes on…. we are all human and we all make mistakes. No one is perfect. I also only have the perspective of a guy, but I understand intuitively that anything I see done by a woman, can easily be equalled by a man. It’s just common sense. I don’t think our individual vantage points and perceptions limit us (the guy/or the girl) from understanding basic human nature.

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