Auntie SparkNotes: Should I Be Holding Out For Butterflies and True Love?
Recently, my crush asked me out to Homecoming. At first, I was super excited (who wouldn't be?) but now I've started having some doubts about how much I actually like him. We aren't dating, but we have gone on a date or two to get to know each other better, and I like him well enough. However, I don't get that butterfly feeling when I talk to him. We seem really compatible, and I feel comfortable around him- but seeing him isn't the highlight of my day. When I'm with him I have a good time, but it's never the sort of overjoyed feeling that I've been told I'm supposed to have. I haven't dated much in the past, so my only really references on how things are supposed to be come from either people who ended up married, or fiction. It's been suggested to me that perhaps I like the idea of having a boyfriend more than the boy himself…but at this point I'm just so confused, I don't know what to do. How can I tell if I like him or just the idea of him? Is it normal not to be head-over-heels? Or does that mean that something's wrong? I know that things will never be as perfect as books and movies say it will, but is it possible to come close? Is that what I should be waiting for?
Well, yes. Yes, it should. In fact, if a swarm of butterflies riding on a candy cascade of rainbow hearts doesn't erupt straight from your thoracic cavity every single time you see, talk to, or even think about your crush, then I'm sorry, but you're doing it wrong.
...Oh, wait, my bad. I got the rules of dating conflated with the plot of the movie ALIEN. Y'know, like you do.
And the short answer to this question, Sparkler, is that you're normal, and you're fine. There is no "should" in dating. There are only the experiences that you find valuable, enjoyable, and worthwhile—and you're the only person who can decide which experiences those might be.
The longer answer, however, is that you're normal, you're fine, and for the love of everything, please stop overthinking this. You're dating this guy; you haven't been sold to him permanently in exchange for a goat and a few bags of rice. And if it turns out that he's not for you—whether it's because you don't love him, don't feel in love with him, or don't even like him once you've gotten to know him better—then guess what? You can stop dating him.
And that's totally okay.
Because, and I wish I could plaster this on a billboard somewhere in letters three stories high, you're not going to miss the boat on your One Twoo Wuv just because you've dated, hooked up with, or fallen for someone who doesn't ultimately turn out to be right for you. A relationship isn't a waste of time just because it doesn't lead to love and marriage. On the contrary, knowing what it's like when a romance doesn't work, for whatever reason, can be the thing that helps you ultimately find one that does.
Which is something that any number of married couples will happily attest to (feel free to ask some; they'll tell you), but which is also a truth acknowledged even by those perfect Hollywood romances you're so hoping to emulate. Take The Notebook—a movie I detest with the blazing heat of a thousand suns, but which is universally considered to be a seriously swoon-worthy portrait of a Love That Was Meant To Be, so let's go with it. Even in that movie, which is the schlockiest sapfest ever to ooze across the silver screen, have you ever noticed that the leading lady has to be practically married to James Marsden before she realizes she prefers the other guy? And with good reason! Without that experience—without having felt, firsthand, the very real difference between a suitable match and a passionate one—she would never have gone back to Ryan Gosling, and that kiss in the rain would never have happened.
JUST THINK ABOUT THAT FOR A MINUTE, YOU GUYS.
And with that in mind, here's an idea: if you don't like the way you feel when you're around this guy, that's a good reason to stop hanging out with him. If you're not having fun, then that, too, is a good reason to seek fun elsewhere. But if you're happy, engaged, and enjoying your time together—and the only thing holding you back is the fact that your innards don't liquefy in the manner of a Nicholas Sparks heroine every time you're in the same room—then give yourself permission to continue enjoying it until you aren't anymore... or until some guy in a newsboy cap interrupts one of your dates and threatens suicide-by-ferris-wheel if you don't go out with him, because that's a completely healthy approach to relationships and not at all the kind of creepy harassment that merits a call to the police.