With regards to Dan and Amy’s backstory …

With regards to Dan and Amy’s backstory I feel like dan stealth dated her for a bit before actually dating her because 3 dates shouldn’t leave so much subtext between two people. Dan probably ended up developing feelings for once and panicked and broke up with Amy. Amy being Amy’s feelings were sincere and she probably never understood how Dan was until after the break up. She probably took it a bit personally. Dan’s feelings probably led to him never really getting over her.

Dear anon – I feel a bit bad, because I’m about to disagree with one of your points at some length – apologies in advance.

I love that ‘stealth-dating’ is a phrase people are repeating back to me.  That said, I tend to think you’re right, and that something of that nature occurred.  We’ve already seen Dan do something similar with Amy in the course of the show – think of how much time they were spending together in season 4 / early season 5.  They worked together, had meals together, socialised outside of working hours… there are happily married couples who don’t see each other that often.  In addition, Amy’s bitterness, and Dan’s…emotional investment in her are obvious very early on in the show (the way he reacts to her potential pregnancy in season one speaks to his caring about her in some way even then).  

What I have wondered, with the way the show has (vaguely) implied an Ohio connection is whether they met when Amy was in university.  I don’t think they dated then, for a whole host of reasons, but some other kind of connection seems possible.  Like, maybe she volunteered on a
campaign Dan was working on – and became friendly with him…which would make him
starting a romantic relationship with her purely for career gain later on a much worse
betrayal.

(This would also give a plausible reason for Amy’s parents to be familiar with Dan – they’re much more likely to have met him if it was a long-standing relationship than if they went out three times).

I could easily see Amy having a crush on him and thinking whatever friendship they had was sincere, and so naturally resuming it when their paths crossed in DC – which would make the shock of his using her so much worse.  

Because I agree – I don’t think she had any idea what Dan was like.  I think he basically swept her off her feet, or something very close to it, and, because he genuinely liked her, Amy didn’t have any inkling of what was coming.  (And of course she took it personally, anon – that’s normal when someone dumps you!)

But I do not believe, for one second, that Dan was frightened of his feelings for Amy and ended the relationship as a result.  In fact, that interpretation seems wildly out of character to me – and I think it makes Dan far too sympathetic.

On the most basic level – why would Dan be frightened of his feelings in this scenario?  It’s not as though he’d have any reason to think his feelings weren’t returned – as starry-eyed as Amy has been with him (albeit only occasionally) in the show, when she’s had every reason to have her guard up, I think it’s a safe bet that it was obvious to everyone, including Dan, that she adored him.

We’ve also not seen any tendency in Dan to be scared of intense emotion.  When he wants to express himself emotionally he’s very good at it – he just mostly doesn’t have intense emotions, so it doesn’t happen very often.  

I would say Dan finds his feelings for Amy inconvenient more than anything else – he has to take care not to hurt her feelings, and he has to make an effort to get her to see him, and he has to act like a semi-decent human being from time to time… it’s all so much work.  He can’t just do whatever or whoever the hell he wants, because he has this other person who he has to consider all the time, or she’ll go running off and ignore him.

I am confident that Dan used Amy in exactly the same way he used every other women, and probably dumped her in similarly brutal fashion.  That he liked her wouldn’t really have entered into his calculations at all – Dan has a very cost-benefit approach to relationships, and I don’t think Amy is an exception to that.  (Or, if she is, the exception is that, over time, he’s starting to value the benefits of her relationship with her more than he did previously – his way of assessing the relationship hasn’t changed, just his perception of what the benefits are).

What seems plausible to me is that, because Dan clearly liked Amy, he may have kept the relationship going past the point when he actually needed to.  This is something I tried to allude to when I wrote the chapter in Behind the Scenes on their back-story – Dan gets what he needs from Amy about midway through, but keeps things going because he likes her and wants to sleep with her… which makes things much more emotionally confusing for Amy when he turns around and dumps her minutes after making kissy faces at her over pancakes.  It’s the kind of gut-punch anyone would find distressing, not to mention disorienting.

I agree that he hasn’t ‘gotten over’ her, in that I think he’s had a soft spot for her ever since they dated that he hasn’t had for anyone else.  Never forget that dialogue with Mike in Nicknames:

Dan: I was deliberately late for work because I wanted her to believe that she was more important to me than my job.
Mike: She fall for that?
Dan: I doubt it.  But it’s the thought that counts.  She appreciates the gesture of me trying to trick her into believing that.

I find that stretch of dialogue incredibly revealing – Dan thinks the way he behaves is normal (it’s hard not to think this is a self-protecting delusion mind you).  And I think knowing that unlike (supposedly) all the other women he’d dated, Amy did have feelings for him, and did genuinely care about him, had an effect on Dan without his necessarily realising it himself.  

That’s where that otherwise inexplicable burst of protectiveness in 2.02 probably comes from – he doesn’t want Amy to freak about his knowing she had feelings for him, because deep, deep down (in a place Dan doesn’t ever look at too closely) he likes that she did. 

Amy may desperately try to hide that vulnerability, but it’s the very thing that draws Dan to her, over and over and over.  He’s such a despicable human being, that someone having positive feelings for him is an almost unique experience.  (Amy is no picnic herself, mind you, but she’s no where near his level).