Am I Getting To Know Someone Or Am I Leading Them On?

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Picking up where we left off with “Am I Self-Sabotaging Romance?” I am now anxious about how one actually dates people without leading them on, or letting them down. (Simple answer is that these are natural side effects of dating, no?) All throughout our childhood and adolescence we spend time worrying about whether or not other people like us. Now, not only am I still convinced that everyone else thinks I am The Most Annoying Person Ever and hates having to socialise with me, but I’ve also developed anxiety about whether or not *I* like other people. Will it never end?!

People are very confused about what to do in this scenario: you go on a date, a blind date or a Tinder date, you’re meeting for the first time, naturally, you’re then not sure how you feel about someone even after the first date, but you’re still curious so you meet them again and date for a bit just to see, but at what point should you have decided there is an explicit romantic interest now attached to that dating? Or worse, what if you go on dating them but you’re always just never really sure? At what point does getting to know them turn into leading them on? Where’s the line?!

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For some reason I’m terrified of someone thinking I’ve led them on, which is very NOT Carrie Bradshaw of me. I’m so afraid of it that I’m quite sure it’s one of the reasons I avoid dating. That being said, on the first and only Tinder date I went on, both of us said goodbye at the end of the night, not vocalizing that we didn’t want to see each other again but just under a mutual understanding, we went our separate ways, and as far as I know, no one’s feelings were hurt (except I’ll admit I was pretty underwhelmed by it all). Development: I have now been on a single other Tinder date, and it did not end with this mutual understanding, and I don’t know what I’m supposed to do from here.
I’ve talked to a few friends about it, and some of them totally understand, and others completely do not. They don’t see being honest and truthful about your feelings as a bad thing — and while I get that, what happens when you’re not sure about your feelings for a very long time? The simple answer would be to assume that so long as you’re not doing things that make it SEEM like you’re really into someone, i.e. romantic things, you’re in the clear for leading them on.

However… this doesn’t seem to always work when it comes to men. Even from a few days chatting with someone on Tinder I’ve had men ask me over and over again why I stopped responding, as if the fact that I’ve responded before means that I must be interested and must continue to respond (even if we’ve never met!) regardless of whether or not I’m interested. Is the polite thing to do to tell them: “hey, we’ve been chatting for awhile and it turns out I don’t really care for you” ????? A. That sounds way harsh. B. I don’t want to then explain WHY I don’t care for them! And I totally understand why they would want an explanation, but also…. it’s Tinder… that’s far too much work for a few days chat.
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So here’s my question for you: is it perfectly okay to go out with someone a few times, go for drinks or go dancing and have a nice time, but then decide you’re not interested? (I know the answer to this is YES but also something deep-rooted in me needs your validation). Also. If anyone would like to enlighten someone who has not dated someone in a very long time as to how you’re supposed to know if you’re interested without spending awhile getting to know someone and then having to say “well, now that I know you, turns out, I’m not attracted to it,” pls, advise away. Maybe that’s a blog post for another day?
I think the real problem is that I’m never sure whether or not I’m really interested. Too many people have told me “I’ll just know” and I’ve been in the relationship where “I just knew” and now I don’t know anything (literally. anything. in all walks of life). I’m afraid I’ll hurt someone’s feelings and I’m even more afraid that I’ll hurt my own feelings, and I’m most afraid that I will live a life of uncertainty about my feelings.

Having recently (ahem, last night) gone on yet another Tinder date, I can honestly say, thinking “channel your inner Carrie Bradshaw, channel your inner Carrie Bradshaw, channel your inner Carrie Bradshaw” the entire bus ride over will give you the confidence you’re looking for, but you’ll also maybe end up being just as mean as she was on dates. There’s no winning.

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