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Your last post (#232) really struck a chord with me. I’m in a somewhat similar situation, but with several important differences. This e-mail is probably going to contain too many details, but as my main question is about the applicability of “people who like you will act like they like you,” I think those details matter.
I met I really tremendously awesome lady about six months ago. Everything was really perfect; I was convinced we were falling in love. But we didn’t talk about it. It didn’t seem to me that we needed to, because absolutely everything felt perfectly reciprocal for five of those six months. Oh, we had a few oblique conversations about how neither of us thought of what we were doing as “just having sex,” and we made an explicit agreement not to sleep with other people, and we expressed how much we like each other a lot, but we never used our words to have a conversation about where we wanted things to go, and never quite got to the big “L” word or anything. As I said, that all actually felt perfectly natural; I didn’t feel the least bit insecure that she liked me as much as I liked her, and I think he felt the same. So it just didn’t seem necessary.
But about a month ago, that changed. She had a friend in from out of town, and spent all her free time with him that weekend and didn’t make any time for me. She also got slower at returning my texts. I was a little unhappy about this, but I didn’t think it meant anything at the time; we’re both pretty flexible about letting the other person do things without us. Then I realized we’d gone a week without sleeping over, which was unusual. I pointed that out. I expressed a couple of times that I missed her and asked her when she could hang out, and kept getting “I’m really busy right now, maybe on Xday.” So Xday would come around and I’d ask if she wanted to hang out, and would get the same kind of answer. She was maybe leaving town on Friday, for the weekend, and I finally got “I am too busy this week, but if I’m still here Friday night maybe I’ll have time then.” Friday came and went and I did not even get a message from her one way or the other. I should not that my responses to these texts were typically of the “I know you’re busy, that’s fine. I miss you!” variety. Unusually, I wasn’t getting similar sentiments expressed back. I did also express at one point that not seeing her was starting to make me anxious. Saturday morning I texted her and she seemed annoyed that I wanted her attention.
So I decided it was time to admit something was wrong. Now, one reason this girl is awesome is that she is legitimately busy. She is going to school full time, and it was the last month of the semester. She is also working part time at a law firm, and the work there was piling up because her co-worker was dropping the ball, and she also volunteers one day a week at an elementary school. So I don’t think she was making excuses when she said she didn’t have time to hang out. However, I also felt as though she had stopped acting like she even wanted to spend time with me if she could. Now, at this point I also thought that I should cut her some slack, that I was probably interpreting her behavior in light of past relationships with people who are not her, and that she was probably just stressed out and everything was fine. Nevertheless, I had to acknowledge the reality of my anxiety about the situation, too. And I thought to myself, self, just because you wouldn’t have been able to have a constructive conversation about this with your ex doesn’t mean you can’t have a constructive conversation with awesome new girl, who after all is smarter and more mature and actually seems to care about you! So I asked her on Sunday if she could make time to talk to me when she got back. That got ignored for several hours, and finally I got a “Yes, but I might be too busy tonight,” text. I expressed a strong desire to talk ASAP, but it turned out she was too busy. My next attempt to schedule a time (two days later) was met with a very annoyed response about her being busy and my being resentful and I was getting on her nerves. My response to that was to tell her I understood that dealing with my feelings was causing her extra stress right now and that I would drop it for now but that I hoped we could still have a constructive conversation and find a way not to ruin the very good thing we’d been doing.
So the talk never happened. A week later (with no contact in between) I thought it was time to assume that she just didn’t really value our relationship, but I didn’t want to assume, so I tried just asking that–whether she still wanted to talk, or whether I should assume that she was happy to just let what we had fade into the background. After no response to that for nearly a full day, I blew up and sent her a series of angry texts.
A couple days later she told me that she did want to talk, but still not for a week or two, because she was still too busy. Well, I’ve been away visiting family, and now it’s about time. Her finals are nearly over, and I’ll be back in town today. I’m writing this because now I’m very anxious; I no longer know how I think that talk should go. Before, it was just going to be, “Hey, we don’t seem to be on the same page about what we need from each other, can we figure out what that is, which I suspect is that you need to not worry about making time for me for a couple weeks and I need to know that at the end of that couple of weeks you still want to be with me.” Now I don’t know what to do, because it’s too late to have that conversation.
We really had a great thing, and I think I still think it’s worth moving past this if we can. But I have no idea if she even wants that, and in fact it seems to me, on the “people who like you will act like they like you” principle, that she probably just doesn’t really like me anymore. In fact, the way I see it, she has de facto ended the relationship already (though I’m still keeping the “don’t sleep with other people” promise, for now). But I guess I just don’t want to assume that it can’t work out, because I was invested enough in this that as long as this isn’t going to become a pattern, if it was just a mistake that we can learn from, then I want to learn from it and keep growing closer. But I realize that can only work if she is invested in that outcome, too.
Am I being a sucker for not just deciding on my own that I shouldn’t be treated this way and ending it myself? Does the “PWLYWALTLY” principle apply here, and I should infer that she doesn’t like me, or does 5 months of really great relationship history entail provide sufficient counter-evidence that in fact she might still like me? I think my biggest fear is that she will not apologize for her behavior and will instead just insist that she was busy and I was being unreasonable and demanding and I will take her back anyway. I know that would be a mistake. But I guess my problem is this: how do you deal with a rough patch at this early point in a promising relationship?
Sorry for the Length
Dear Sorry for the Length:
I’m sorry, I think this relationship is done.
Right here is where it died forever:
“So the talk never happened. A week later (with no contact in between) I thought it was time to assume that she just didn’t really value our relationship, but I didn’t want to assume, so I tried just asking that–whether she still wanted to talk, or whether I should assume that she was happy to just let what we had fade into the background. After no response to that for nearly a full day, I blew up and sent her a series of angry texts.“
Though it was already sick and coughing up the mouth blood when she faded away from contact with you.
One text that says “I know you’re busy, that’s fine, would love to see you when you get time!” is fine. You’re communicating feelings.
Repeated texts like that, when you’re getting no answer or non-committal answers (No “I miss you too!”) are badgering. She GOT your earlier text/call/email. If she’s not responding, it’s because she can’t or doesn’t want to (this second).
1) really busy (with stuff she needs to be doing or would rather be doing than hang out with you),
2) some serious stuff came up in her personal/family/work life that she has to deal with, and you’re not inside the circle of trust for that kind of thing, or
3) something started up with that dude who visited that weekend and she’s trying to figure it out (while also keeping the possibility of you in the background).
Could be a combination of all three. Also, keep in mind, that we avoid people who make us feel guilty.
No response or a very slow response IS a kind of response. It can mean “I am too busy to get back to you right now.” It can mean “I forgot to charge my phone last night and it’s been off all this time.” It can mean “Jesus, stop texting me already, I said I’d call you when I had time!” There’s this expectation that because we CAN communicate instantly that we SHOULD respond instantly, but I think that’s pretty unreasonable.
You’re smart to default to the “People who like you will act like they like you” rule. She’s not acting like she likes you, or, she’s not acting like she likes you as much as you obviously like her. She’s not using her words to explain what’s going on and/or reassure you, and I can understand why that made you upset and anxious.
You’re not stupid for noticing when things changed in your relationship and looking for signs of reciprocity. Someone who withdraws and becomes slower to return texts and stops making plans IS withdrawing! But you’re a little bit of a score-keeper, I think. “It’s been X days since she last texted me.” “I said ‘I miss you’ and she didn’t.” “She said ‘maybe Friday’, so that means we’re hanging out Friday so I’ll keep that day open and be mad if we don’t get together.” “I said I needed to talk and she didn’t get back to me for almost a day! (ANGRY TEXTS).”
Those angry texts would kill it completely for me, I’m sorry to say, even if I did mostly like you.
Over the summer I made very tentative plans to go out with someone from a dating site. It was a busy week for me, and I said something like “I’ll call or text you over the weekend and we’ll make a plan.” And then the weekend went by in a blur of busy and I didn’t get to it.
At the stroke of 9:00 am on Monday, I got a text: “You didn’t call… :(“
And this is the sound of my vagina snapping shut forever where this guy was concerned.
You know why I didn’t call? Some combination of having other stuff going on and not thinking about him really at all. You know why I was now reluctant to ever call? Because he, a 40-year-old man, pounced on me the second he could with a fucking stupid sadface and “YOU PROMISED!”
I did text him back and said “Sorry, busy weekend, still want to set something up?” and got back “Well, other people are busy too and need to make plans for the week” and I texted back “Okay, look, I can tell this thing isn’t going to work out, so I think I will pass. Good luck” and I got back a barrage of angry texts that made frequent use of the words “Rude, lying bitch.” If this dude was keeping score already and acting entitled to my attention and angry when he didn’t get enough of it before we even met? And I was not thinking about him at all and not treating plans with him like a priority? There is no way in hell we would be well-matched.
To get back to your questions: “Does 5 months of really great relationship history entail provide sufficient counter-evidence that in fact she might still like me?”
Sorry, no, that’s not how it works. You can’t date the past, you have to live in the present.
“I think my biggest fear is that she will not apologize for her behavior and will instead just insist that she was busy and I was being unreasonable and demanding and I will take her back anyway. I know that would be a mistake.”
I think her biggest fear might be that when she doesn’t give you exactly what you want when you want it, you turn into Angry Score-Keeping Guy, and she might find that actually scary at this point. There’s some apologizing to be done on both sides here, but I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for it to happen, so you’re right. It would be a mistake.
Withdraw completely. Do not send her any more texts or communications of any kind. If she comes to you at some point with an explanation, listen, and then say “Thanks for telling me, it was weird and hard to know that you weren’t talking to me but also not telling me what was going on. I’m sorry I reacted so angrily.” Then mourn for what you had for a little while, and go about your life.
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