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Have you ever told one of your guy friends that he’s totally crazy for not asking out your attractive, funny, single friend? No? Well, it happens to me all the time. I’m single, one of our mutual friends is single, and everybody wants to know: Why don’t you go out with her? She’s pretty, she’s smart, she’s fun, and she’s SINGLE; what more do you want?

Great question.

I bring this to your attention because, more often than not, my female friends think I’m a crazy commitment-phobe for not being into a woman who is truly wonderful. I get it: Your friend is awesome, and you apparently think I’m an OK guy, so why shouldn’t we get together? This may not be something that is entirely unique to the male experience, in which case I hope you can empathize with this very frustrating aspect of dating. But if you’re wondering what the guys are thinking, allow me to (try to) explain.

We Can’t Manufacture Attraction

Attraction is a funny thing. Sometimes it seems to come and go for no apparent reason. Sometimes I’m attracted to women for reasons I can’t explain, and there are other women I’m not attracted to even though on paper they’re wonderful. Believe me, if I could figure it out, I would. The problem is, you can’t manufacture it, even if you tried.

Here’s the thing: Sometimes, even when my friends think that I’d be a fool not to go out with her, I’d just rather not go out with her. And to complicate it further, sometimes I agree that I’m a fool in this case. Sometimes I know I probably should be into a girl, and I’m just not.

I’m sure women experience this, too. I know you do; you’ve told me. Have you ever had a friend ask you about a date from last weekend or a guy you met at a party the night before and have to tell them that you just weren’t feeling it? ’Course you have—in fact, this situation probably comes up more than regaling your friends about a guy you are super-excited about. That’s what makes meeting someone special so, well, special. Guys experience the same thing. That doesn’t make us crazy. It makes us normal.

Women Are People, Not Asparagus

I think there is something to be said about making a conscious effort of trying to like good women, even if they don’t immediately catch your eye. As my buddy Al says, sometimes “it’s good to force yourself to try to like something that’s objectively good,” such as doing a certain form of exercise or eating a healthy meal, even if neither of those things is attractive to you initially.

Where the analogy falls short, of course, is that your running shoes and asparagus don’t have feelings to be hurt or hearts to be broken. As Al says, “When you realize you can’t do it anymore, you screw someone else over.” I think we can all agree it’s not fair to do that to someone.

True and mutual attraction is rare and sacred, and more often than not, despite everything else aligning, it just isn’t there. But we date anyway. Because one day . . . it will come. If I truly think I could develop feelings for a great girl I’m not immediately over the moon for, I’ll go for it, but usually, I just leave it alone. I know I wouldn’t want someone dating me “just because.”

There’s Something at Stake

I’ve gone out with women from Tinder, Bumble, etc., without knowing much about them, and many of them turn out to be a no-go after even one date. Wouldn’t I be better off going out with a woman I get along with already, someone I know to be a good person and with whom I have similar values?

Think about it: If I go out with a woman I’ve never met before, I can be free to move on if I don’t see a future in it. But if it’s somebody I know I’ll see at the next party, it complicates things.

This isn’t about glorifying a lack of commitment, by any means. There’s something good about casually dating; that is, to feel free to go on one date at a time without feeling the need to commit to anything further. As Verily writer Meg McDonnell has described, this kind of dating allows you the freedom to evaluate someone in a low-pressure situation while also getting comfortable in your own skin and with the dating process. But that’s not always possible with someone you’re friends with, especially if you have mutual friends. Like it or not, it means more to go out on a date, even a first date, for better or for worse.

It’s not that I absolutely won’t go out with a woman with whom I’m already acquainted. But I prefer to make absolutely sure that I see it as something that can very likely progress beyond a date or two. This means that I’m not as likely to casually date that friend of yours to whom we both agree I’m a fool not to be attracted.

I’d Be a Fool . . . to Disregard Compatibility

It was a cold, dark Minnesota morning, and my buddies had convinced me to get out of bed and meet up for a hot breakfast at a diner downtown before work. The loud, obnoxious (and married) buddy of mine, Jimmy, was talking about how shocking it was that Betsy is still single and what an outrage it was that our other buddy Griffin hadn’t made a move yet. I explained how they practically grew up together. It would be like hitting on his sister. Jimmy guffawed at this: “What an idiot.” But he wasn’t done. “What about YOU, Huss? What’s YOUR excuse?”

To be perfectly honest, I’m not sure I had one, except that I just wasn’t all that into her. And that’s not because she wasn’t a smart, beautiful, good woman, either. I knew that my other buddy Anders was into her. Anders wasn’t exactly at liberty to pursue a relationship with her at the time, but I had a funny feeling that he was going to go hard after Betsy as soon as he had the chance. And as it turned out, I was right, and Anders and Betsy were married not two years after that breakfast.

Did Anders see something in Betsy that I didn’t? Maybe. Do we look for different things in a woman? Probably. Were they a better fit together? Definitely. Sure, there are certain personality traits, temperaments, love languages, etc., that make people more compatible. But there are all sorts of things that aren’t quite as obvious that affect how attracted we are to somebody, including our upbringing, past relationships, and overall dating experience (or lack thereof).

It’s not always entirely clear to me how compatibility works, and I’m not sure I’ll ever totally understand it. Kind of like dating in general. But you know what? I’m still out there trying.

So, yeah, I do appreciate setups and little nudges from my friends. But sometimes, I’m just not going to be into a wonderfully fabulous woman. Sometimes I know why, and other times I can’t necessarily put my finger it. It it weird? Yeah. Frustrating at times? Sure. But does that make me a “fool” for not going after her? Nah. It just means that love’s a mystery sometimes. And if anybody out there figures it out, let me know.

Photo Credit: Rachel Haslam Photography