Edited to Add: Guys, the first time you comment here (or if you’re using a new identity), WordPress automatically sends it to moderation, which is why we’re not overrun with MRAs and other jerkbags. If you don’t see your comment show up right away, it’s either because I’m busy doing other stuff and not watching the moderation queue, or I deleted it because it was annoying. In either case, don’t resend!
Re-Edited to Add: Comments on this thread are now CLOSED FOREVER as of 4:20 pm CDT on Thursday, April 26. I can’t prevent you from commenting without turning off all the comments on the whole site, but I will send anyone who comments further on this thread to permanent moderation.
Re-Re Edited To Add: COMMENTS ARE REALLY FUCKING CLOSED. I deleted all of the uncivil stuff from yesterday and comments that have come in since. But I don’t have time to monitor the thread and make sure it stays civil, so we’re done here. Next person to comment on this thread is banned.
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.
COMMENTS ARE NOW CLOSED. NO MORE COMMENTING ON THIS THREAD.
93 thoughts on “#234: Reciprocity & Space”
Look, a lot of us have been THAT guy; the one who doesn’t get why they didn’t get a response to their totally non-demanding, reasonably text… And then becomes demanding and unreasonable. I know I have.
It’s hard and I know I suck as a human and am being a dick.
At the end of the day, you want to be near people who make you feel like you can be a better person. That guy who brings out the stalker in you because HE’S SO GODDAMN PERFECT? That girl whose SMILE IS LIKE RAINBOWS? They don’t make you into the coolest, happiest version of yourself and so as awesome as they are and as much as you like them, you cannot dedicate your life to them.
She’s made her position pretty clear, LW. As hard as it is, you need to be near someone who makes you feel like an awesome person.
Good points! I’ve definitely done my time as Anxiety Emailer in a relationship. Turns out…it was a bad relationship.
Also, you reminded me – “Deserving” some kind of explanation and closure doesn’t mean you always get what you need. Sometimes you’ve got to make closure for yourself.
YES! I finally learned, at the tender age of 41, that if a relationship (at any phase/level: pre-first-date or after six years) is giving you oogy stomach-knots, then something is wrong. I also agree with the Captain that the age of instant communications has made people (on both ends of the communication device) feel a lot of unnecessary things (anxiety, guilt, pressure, despondence) just because of the inorganic timing disconnect of not-in-person communication. That said I also agree with the Captain that this died a while back, I think as soon as that first week of not sleeping over happened. Once away from New and Shiny she might have reassessed things without all those fun Pants Distractions. I know I’ve done the same!
Take heart, LW. ‘Tis best you find a partner who does like you the way you like them.
“if a relationship (at any phase/level: pre-first-date or after six years) is giving you oogy stomach-knots, then something is wrong.”
thank you thank you thank you thank you
The worst thing about being Anxiety Emailer for me is that I can feel myself making the situation worse and worse, but I can’t stop myself. I end up leaving a portrait of my vulnerability in their inbox. I’m sure it’s not pretty.
I love this so much. I just want to paint hearts and flowers and frolicking puppies around it and frame it and repeat it to myself every night before bed.
Ah, the angry texts. I’m lucky in that I was at the receiving end of them a few times and so promised to myself that I would never send any myself. Although like rscotland, I have to admit that I’ve acted a little entitled to my SO’s attention in the past, and that’s a thing I always try to work on.
But even in cases where you’re legitimately being shafted or jerked around (and not in the good way), your best bet is to just erase their number from your phone and move on with your life. Sending angry texts will accomplish nothing. It sure as hell won’t get them back. It may be cathartic, but you can achieve a similar level of catharsis by opening up Word and typing a nice long letter to them about what a HORRIBLE EVIL PIECE OF SHIT they are. And then never sending it.
I’m a fan of the “carthartic letter in a self-addressed envelope” method. If you can spare money for a stamp, actually sticking the thing in a mailbox (even if it’s not going where you’d really like to send it) is very satisfying.
Although I get what the captain is saying, and I agree with it in principle, I thing perhaps this was a little Harvey on the LW.
It’s probably my own bias speaking for me here but what LW is describing would send me into fits and anxiety and I, while generally.levelheaded and relatively chill, would probably end up devolving into some irrational behavior myself. In fact, something quite similar to this did happen to me quite recently, but we were able to get through it with alittle patience and words usage.
My vagina snaps shut when guys are pushy and needy during the first stages of dating as well (dear God does it ever), but after give months I don’t think it unreasonable for the letter writer to seek some explanation.(any explanation) for a complete 180 in a relationship that he th ought was going really well. Nobody is entitled to anyone’s time or attention,.but I think that there is some care that should be taken for people we date, and being upset at being dropped so suddenly doesn’t necessarily make LW Needy Entitled Guy.
In the end, though, my advice is the same. Toss this one back. Waiting around for someone to pay attention to you when they clearly aren’t interested in doing so is the quickest path to madness, as I’m sure you’re now quite familiar with, LW
Ahh, sorry for all the typos. touchscreen keyboards suck. Harvey=harsh, by the by.
And there was me thinking it was a Suits reference.
I was thinking Cockney rhyming slang myself (Harvey… Dent? Rent? Harvey Kietel?…).
I agree, and I think people who date you and then just start avoiding you instead of saying “I don’t want to see you anymore” are being cowardly and assholish, but I lost a lot of sympathy for the LW when he said the thing about the angry texts he sent. Not sure anyone can really claim the moral high ground in this situation.
But still. A month of basically no contact? I would have lost my cool too. I don’t think relationships are all about maintaining the moral high ground. People aren’t perfect, and I don’t think people should always have to be perfectly calm and collected in order for it to be acknowledged that someone treated them badly, as it sounds like this girl did.
I don’t think it’s fair to say she treated him badly. I wanted to say that at first–I have a lot of knee jerk sympathy for this guy–but rereading the letter, I don’t think that’s actually the case.
It wasn’t really a month of no contact. It was a week of not sleeping over, then a bunch of texts from the LW, then more texts and more texts. There was contact but not the kind the LW wanted or liked and it was during a time his ex said was very busy for her. He wanted TO TALK ABOUT THESE IMPORTANT ISSUES by week two and she finally just got pissed off. She might very well have been blowing him off but it’s also possible that at first, she was just insanely busy–but that by the end of the second week of this stuff, she was done. And I’m saying this as someone who has a lot of sympathy for the LW. I’ve been there, we’ve all been there, but he’s got to learn to calm himself and give the other person some breathing room.
Well, one person’s angry texts can be another’s calm and collected response. For me it would mean something along the lines of “Look, I’m beginning to resent this behaviour and would like an explanation as to why you’re treating me like this”. If on the other hand he called her a lying bitch like the Captain’s would-be date, obviously that’s inexcusable.
Thats a fair point. I was thinking angry texts along the lines of “Wtf you drop of the face of the planet for a month with no explanation blah blah blah”. Not great, but name calling would be absolutely inexcusable.
Yes. Sending texts every couple of days with an “I miss you” is quite clingy behaviour. It also smacks of emotional blackmail (“I miss you, therefore if you do not agree to meet with me I will go die in a hole, and if you don’t say it back you are a horrible person also”), but that’s probably not how you meant it. (I’m oversensitive to this stuff because of reasons)
The way to deal with someone who is not replying to you, or not saying much when they do, is usually to pull back. This woman doesn’t seem the type to not initiate because of social awkwardness, and even if she doesn’t initiate because she’s busy you’re not doing yourself any favours by badgering her. Probably not much use in this case, since the distance has tested the relationship and found it wanting, but please keep it in mind in future?
Also, I think you should probably delete her number if/when it’s over. I can just feel an embarrassing slew of drunk texts coming on and you don’t really want that.
“Emotional blackmail” was exactly the phrase for which I was groping in my comment below. Yes.
Sending texts every couple of days with an “I miss you” is definitely too clingy for ME, but I was always under the impression that I was rather conservative and introverted in this regard, and that many people would feel that not texting several times a day was odd.
Well in my opinion it’s entirely relative. If you and your SO are accustomed to talking every day, and then a day goes by where you don’t hear from them, it’s not unreasonable to take notice. Of course, if your first assumption is “OH GAWD THEY DON’T LOVE ME ANYMORE” you need to back up and breathe deeply a bit.
For my part, if I ever go longer than usual without communicating with my SO, I always apologize and tell them why, in advance if possible. I don’t demand an apology from them if they do the same, of course, because that’s assholish. In fact I have tended to be clingy in the past and that’s the biggest character flaw I’m working on right now. (Even at this very moment, I would normally have heard from my girlfriend by now, and I haven’t, and most of me is perfectly okay with that, but there’s still a voice in the back of my head saying, ‘WHY ISN’T SHE TEXTING ME WHAT IF SHE DOESN’T WANT TO TALK TO ME EVER AGAIN?!'”)
It’s not just you, I would react spectacularly poorly to frequent ‘I miss you’ texts. If someone repeatedly asks for my attention when I’m insanely busy, I feel like they’re saying their need for attention is more important than my need to get everything done and sleep occasionally. Of course, if you’re feeling that overwhelmed it would be both smarter and kinder to use your words and tell your boyfriend that you’re feeling completely overwhelmed and won’t be able to return messages until exams are over on .
@Bev “The way to deal with someone who is not replying to you, or not saying much when they do, is usually to pull back.”
I agree completely. It’s really hard to do, and after five months it’s completely reasonable for the LW to want an explanation, but no amount of hounding that woman is ever going to get him one.
For all my harping on the texts, though, I don’t think they’re what killed the relationship. I think it died when the now-ex stopped showing any interest in spending time with the LW. The texts certainly didn’t help, but the LW didn’t single-handedly kill that relationship just by being clingy.
“I miss you” texts depend on the people in the relationship and what they’re comfortable with. Everyone’s got their level of talking. But when you suddenly break the pattern that has been established for months, that’s a red flag alert.
Seriously, after five months of dating and she pulls a fade? That is not just “I’m super busy.” If she still cared about him, she’d at least have time to say a quick hi here and there and not effing disappear like they’d only had one date and she hated it. That shit is not cool. Yes, he shouldn’t have angry texted and he’s learned for next time, but I have yet to hear of any exceptions to “someone does a sudden fade = take the hint, I’m passively breaking up with you.” Once they’re not interested in talking to you any more and make up lame excuses, it’s over. Especially if you have to throw a shit fit to get them to say they’re over you, or whatever the hell happened here.
Hello. I am the exception to this. I basically didn’t contact a guy for three weeks, not because I was intentionally breaking up with him, but because I was very busy and very distracted. Of course, I realised at that point that if I wasn’t making time for him, it was probably over. And then didn’t break up with him until I had a new boyfriend, which was the bit that was Not Cool. I was 18 and wanted to keep the sexytimes and also felt guilty because he was a lot more into me than I was into him.
So yeah, she may not be doing it on purpose. She may actually be super busy and the non-contact is a symptom of her not being in love as opposed to the assumed passive-agressive way to break it off. We do know that there are actual passive-agressive and agressive things coming from his end, though, and his behaviour is the only thing he can control.
Yeah, sorry to say, but I think this relationship was over long before the angry texts. You hit the nail on the head with “people who like you will act like they like you.”
“I am too busy right now, maybe on Xday” is not an explanation. Especially when it happens multiple times. People who want to spend time with you will do what they can to make the time, and if they really can’t, they will volunteer an explanation. You will not hear “maybe Xday” from them, you will hear a firm plan, or at the very least, “Let’s tentatively plan for Xday but I may have to cancel because [explanation] may come up.” She didn’t do any of that. She didn’t give you any indication that she was actually interested in spending time with you.
Now I’m not saying she had some obligation to want to spend time with you, that’s totally up to her (although certainly, after 5 months of dating, using her words about it would have been courteous; I agree with the commenter who said this is very different from someone you’ve messaged three times on an online dating site). And I don’t advocate keeping score, either, (even though I’m definitely guilty of it myself), but when the scoreboard is flashing giant blinking lights in front of your face, there’s no sense ignoring it.
Please avoid trying to rack your brain for the one thing you did wrong that ruined this otherwise perfect relationship (it’s not the angry texts, the relationship was already over by then, though they were certainly counter-productive and unfortunate, and it would be good if you can channel your anger in a way that doesn’t involve blowing up at another person). It is almost certain that it had more to do with her than with you — whether she really just was too busy and couldn’t deal with being in a relationship anymore, or “fell out of love,” or had confused feelings about the other guy, or some other reason. If you can internalize that the explanation wasn’t you, then it really starts not to matter what the explanation is.
Sorry if this comment was harsh. I guess I have strong feelings about this today.
You might want to back up and re-read the LW’s entry. Let me quote a key bit:
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,
Me, personally? I look unfavorably upon people who want to try and start a relationship without expressly using their words.
The LW is convinced that this woman has fallen in love with him, even though she’s never said it and he’s never said it. It is rather crucial to remember that the LW might be an “unreliable narrator” of events, and that his sense of “5 months of really great relationship history” might not, in fact, mirror this woman’s experience, emotions, or perceptions.
In fact, the LW at several points talks about feeling insecure and feeling anxious. The language used also communicates a strong sense of entitlement by the LW. It’s not enough that she reply to his texts, she needs to do it quickly! The LW feels entitled to see her each weekend, even if an out-of-town friend is visiting. If the LW doesn’t get to sleep with her for a week, no matter how busy her schedule is between school, work, volunteering, and her other friends, he feels slighted.
This woman has a busy, busy schedule, between classes, work, volunteering, and one would hope maintaining contact with her other friends, plus any family, as well as dating. The LW knew this from the start, but gets put out when at the end of the term she’s too busy for dating for a few weeks.
Re-read the letter, and pay attention to the chronology:
*one month ago, she spends a weekend with an out-of-town friend. LW gets butthurt. Three whole days without her attentions!
*Three weeks ago, LW realizes he hasn’t slept with this woman for a whole week! He proceeds to freak out even more.
*Two weeks ago he sends angry, ranting texts demanding answers!
It took two weeks for the LW to go from “convinced we were falling in love” to “should I assume that she was happy to just let what we had fade into the background?”
It’s taken my three tries to write a response that was this nice to the LW. Because, really? Even using his own words, taking him at face value, he sounds like a mess who should not be dating anyone right now.
I disagree with your implicit premise that it should take more than two weeks of the other person avoiding contact to conclude that the other person is or has ended the relationship. In a normal dating relationship that’s been going on for five months, 2 weeks is a long time to without speaking or seeing one another.
I think “life is really busy right now” or similar, when there was never any explicit statement of how much of a relationship this really was in the first place, is a plenty valid explanation. Having been in this woman’s shoes before, it’s easy to need some space because life is busy and stuff comes up and then find the idea of talking to this person less and less appealing because they get more and more entitled and aggravated and angry and demanding.
There was a commitment to exclusivity. I agree that it’s ambiguous from the letter whether they considered themselves to be in a couple, but I still think that after five months, the kind thing to do is to let the person know if you’ve reevaluated the relationship. It’s possible that it happened as you describe, Britt, but if LW is telling everything, I don’t see the “entitled” behavior that would have caused this person to cut off most contact for two weeks.
Yay, lack of nesting. There really are circumstances in which people might be busy for weeks and not have time to see someone or re-evaluate relationships. It is dissertation season right now. And when someone goes “are you not busy now? how about now? now?”, that’s the kind of thing that would make me not contact people even if I liked them.
What’s important to recognise is that they are both being unreasonable. Her, for blowing him off, and him, for badgering. Though you can tell which one I’m more sympathetic to.
Just wanted to chime in because I’m feeling rather sorry for the LW right now: not only did he get dumped in an indirect and inconsiderate manner, but strangers on the internet are badgering him for his “entitled” behaviour because he was upset and confused when the person he had been dating on an exclusive basis for a series of months dropped out of his life with no warning. I agree with mistressdalyn and Anon21 and also see no basis in the letter for RodeoBob’s interpretation: LW was reasonable (although admittedly giving off unfortunately pathetic and desperate vibes, which he might want to learn to check in the future…?), however he should now definitely accept that It Is So Very Over and let go – preferably without any further contact with this girl.
I think what the woman did was put our letter writer in a “holding pattern, ” which I think we can all agree is something of a relationship foul (yellow card: holding). If LW could have done anything differently, maybe it would have been being super-articulate about needing relationship attention? Maybe we just need something in a relationship that says “I don’t know if I want to seriously date you?” or “I’m thinking of breaking up with you?” because most of us aren’t cool enough to deal using our words in such a situation?
Really, I’m thinking the “holding pattern” behavior is like someone putting Ani Difranco’s “You Had Time” on a mixed tape: Sign of imminent relationship doom.
It’s very possible she didn’t want to break up with him at first, therefore not necessitating a “legitimate” breakup. But then he wanted and wanted and wanted while she was already apparently overwhelmed.
What I noticed lacking in the letter was concern for her. He points out how busy she is, but it seems none of his texts or calls were focused on her. I’ve been (you may have guessed) in her role, and when I’m already under a pile of Life Stuff, I break when I get *another* request for socializing or someone needing attention.
But a supportive text like: “I’m sorry you’re having a hard time. Wanna talk about it? Anything I can do?” Etc…
It can make all the difference.
I disagree with your implicit premise that it should take more than two weeks of the other person avoiding contact
Re-read the letter, but this time, remember that the LW is an unrelaible narrator. Or, better yet, let’s read it out-of-written-order, but with the relevant bits in order…
The other person in this case is a college student, working part-time under stress, volunteering one day a week, and the two weeks in question were at the end of the semester! Let’s imagine this from the other person’s perspective:
It’s the last month of the term; projects and papers are due, finals are coming up. On top of a full classload, your job is also getting a lot more stressful, taking more time and energy. You’ve just spent a weekend with a friend from out-of-town, who you probably haven’t seen in a long time and won’t see again for a while, and you’ve got probably a solid month of non-stop school and business work ahead of you.
This is the time the person you’ve been seeing picks to get needy and sending text messages every day. They get whiney because you text them back at the end of your shift instead of dropping everything in the middle of your shift to text them back. When you do text him back, after working a full shift and working on end-of-semester projects, you’re just too tired to add anything cute like a smiley face or a clever quip, and you definitely don’t have the energy for a conversation then. You’re pulling increasingly long days between work, school, and volunteering, and the guy you were dating is hurt because you’re not also making time to sleep over with him, never mind if you have the attention or interest (or energy) for sex right now. He keeps saying “I know you’re busy, that’s fine”, but he also keeps texting you, asking for dates or wanting to talk, so apparently it’s not “fine” that you’re busy working your ass off at work and school, you need to also be giving him 110% as well!
Sure, you have paper due that’s worth a large chunk of your grade, and presentations to prepare for, plus finals to study for, and responsibilities to the elementary school kids you’re volunteering with, but this guy (who, by the way, has never said “I love you”, or asked for anything more long term than “don’t sleep with anyone else, OK?”) suddenly needs daily validation from you. And after two weeks of this, he blows his stack! Because you obviously don’t have enough on your plate now, right?
I did also express at one point that not seeing her was starting to make me anxious.
… I had to acknowledge the reality of my anxiety about the situation
…I understood that dealing with my feelings was causing her extra stress right now.
LW has some anxiety issues around this relationship. Who, do you suppose, should be responsible for managing the LW’s anxiety? Who should have the primary duty of managing the LW’s anxiety? Yes, the woman in this story could have relieved his anxiety with better communication, but is managing the LW’s anxiety her duty?
“I’m feeling insecure and scared, and you need to do something about it!” <- entitlement!
Not to mention, the LW knew how busy this woman would be. He knew it from the start, and she told him that her part-time job was getting busier and busier. Yet the LW not only thinks he has a right to her time and attention, but he actually escalates his demands for attention & time in the middle of this busy month he knew about!
Bob, you really seem to be engaging this letter as an exercise in how you can draw the worst conclusions about the LW. I doubt he handled it ideally, but I don’t think an ideal response can be expected when a person you’ve been dating exclusively for five months suddenly stops speaking to or seeing you, and answers other communication only sporadically. That’s hurtful behavior, and for anyone who cares about their romantic partner it’s likely to induce a lot of anxiety.
I honestly do not believe that this woman was literally so busy over a period of 336 hours that she could not take the time to call or meet him and let him know… something. Either that she was still in it, but needed to not see him for X time so she could finish out the semester, or that she was re-evaluating and needed space. Was he “entitled” to her time and attention? I don’t think he could have gone to court over the slow fadeout, if that’s what you mean, but basic kindness and consideration dictates that when you’ve been seeing a person for several months, you don’t just stop talking to and seeing them without explanation. Even if you’re busy. Even if you’re not feeling it right now. A person whom you like enough to keep around for five months has earned some kind of explanation or warning about a prolonged period of non-contact and/or a breakup.
Hey Anon, Hey Bob, Hey EVERYONE ON THIS THREAD:
Please stop performing the relationship autopsy here. It’s not a good look on any of us.
A couple of principles at work:
1 – No one owes anyone anything. Not explanations, not politeness, not attention. That goes for the LW and that goes for the Ex in question and that goes for all of us in this thread. “Owing” and “Earning” and “Deserving” are not good relationship dynamics in these parts. Explanations, politeness, and attention are nice to have, but they aren’t things you get by performing properly. Sometimes you just don’t get what you want.
2 – It would have been nice if something else had happened. Something else didn’t happen. LW didn’t get the relationship he wanted, Ex didn’t get the space she wanted, blarg. It’s sad, but no one – NO ONE – is The Big Evil Bad Person here.
3 – Sometimes we all act kinda shitty, and getting called on being shitty sucks. Cap’s being harsh on LW, but LW was being a little shitty to his Ex, who admittedly was being a little shitty to LW. Being a little shitty in one relationship doesn’t mean you are doomed to be forever alone and forever shitty. DOOD. If that was true, I wouldn’t be married.
No one owes anything to anyone.
It’s nicer when people are nice.
Sometimes, we’re not as nice as we should be, but we’ll learn and get better.
Steering away from relationship autopsy (really and truly–I don’t mean this next part to be interpreted in reference to the LW’s situation, because I do not think it fully applies here):
I just take issue with your 1, commander logic. People who enter into relationships do owe each other certain kinds of social support in the weak sense that we can say that they’re wrong not to give it or to shut it off without explanation. Obviously, those obligations grow over time; a single date may create no obligation whatosever, whereas a romantic relationship of many years’ standing (whether formally solemnized or not) usually entails a commitment to be emotionally available, in frequent communication, etc.
Again, this stuff is not enforceable–you don’t get Relationship Damages if your partner violates express or implied commitments. But this idea that no one owes anyone anything seems to have as a correlate that no one should trust anyone. I shouldn’t trust that I will hear from my (long-distance) girlfriend of four years most days, and that if she has to be out of touch for a week because she’s busy at work, she will tell me that before it happens. People who live together shouldn’t trust that their partner will come home at night. I think it is reasonable to say that if one person suddenly decides to change the terms or expected rhythms of an established relationship for a good, bad, or indifferent reason, they should use their words to explain that change to their partner.
I agree that the Captain’s response seems a little harsh here. It’s totally true that you can’t date the past, but if after 5 months, someone started blowing me off totally I’d get pissed and want an explanation. I agree that things were done long before this month-of-silence elapsed, and that the Angry Texts probably buried things for good, but blowing someone off as a way to break up is truly shitty, and it’s not crazy for the LW to not instantly get this or that he was angry when he did get it. I mean, if after one date a person blows you off, you move on. After 5 months, it probably takes longer to get the point – you don’t want to assume that things are over, maybe the person really is busy. But when it finally gets through – don’t you get to be angry? Why is it bad (other than that it probably did end things for good because things were already mostly over) that LW got angry? Deserving an explanation doesn’t guarantee that you get one, but you do have control over your own expressions, so why don’t you get to be angry/express feelings? Why is that scary? I mean, I’m assuming he didn’t threaten her – so aside from the fact that it wasn’t productive, why not be angry? She acted badly, in my view. It’s all well and good to realize that your anger won’t change the other person’s feelings, but that shouldn’t mean you aren’t allowed to get angry, right?
I think it’s really important that he has the right to be angry and that he expresses his anger, but there’s no reason he needs to express it toward her.
If I weren’t withdrawing already, I would have started to withdraw at the message asking “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.” Maybe it’s just me, because I was raised in passive-aggressiveland, but that would be the kiss of death even before the rage!texts.
I think we need to draw a nice thick line between sympathy for the LW’s angry texts and the assertion that it’s somehow wrong to call him on it. Yes, yes, we’ve all wanted to send some angry texts, or perhaps a nice cold, steely Email. Probably we’ve done it ourselves both with and without the intent to hurt. I certainly have! I’d even defend some of them, although I know now that Angry Text Time is my attempt to regain control in a situation by making my conversant feel as bad as I do.
That doesn’t change the fact that hurtful messages are pretty much going to kill conversation dead. We send angry texts when we feel entitled to more attention, but sending them sends the counterproductive message that it’s not safe to invest more in us. I fail to see how that’s harsh. Just because we all have done it and because the people we love sometimes forgive us for it doesn’t mean that it’s above criticism.
The angry texts might have been the nail in the coffin, but the relationship was dead already.
I have a relationship that is going that way, I fear. Our communication styles aren’t meshing, and I keep wondering if I said what I remember saying, because he keeps not hearing or acting like he’s not hearing what I think that I am saying. I almost think he prefers the phone over text based communication partly so that there isn’t a record, and he can keep the rosy image in his head of how things are (not!) going. I keep saying that I need X from him to feel connected…and X doesn’t happen…so….
Maybe I am guilty of a long fade? But, I keep hoping that this time he will actually hear what I am saying. I don’t really want to break it off, but, I am not getting what I need to continue at that level of intimacy.
I have a sweetie who prefers email to phone partly because it does give us a record (and partly because that way they can stop and think and make sure they’re saying what they mean). I haven’t even felt the need to pull it out and say “But you told me X!” and neither has my partner, but I have occasionally found it useful to go back and see what we’d been talking about, or “I know my partner said something about X, what was it?” or the like.
That’s partly about the nature of memory. The flip side of “if we do it on the phone I/they can live in rosy memory” is “this improves my chances of being close to what my partner actually said” (and has a side order of “and I can see that they really did say that, I’m not just dreaming it because it would be nice”).
Oh LW, honey. I have been you. Met a nice boy, things were going well, all naturally progressing with no words! I was also really committed to being the Cool Girlfriend and so when (after 5 months) he started blowing me off on weekends, spending more time with my friends than me, and spending the time we WERE together watching TV, I got a bit nervous. But like, things were going so well, and we didn’t need to talk about it because we were Cool. So I didn’t push it, sent those totally benign no-pressure-just-communicating!-but-really-where-are-you?-texts, and basically sat at home not making plans JUST IN CASE it was this weekend that he would be free/available/interested.
Then suddenly I realised that being so passive aggressive and needy for a 5 month relationship was actually sort of Not Cool Girlfriend at all? And that if I was acting this way it actually meant I wasn’t really getting what I needed. And that I really actually valued direct communication a whole lot, and I wasn’t really honestly being myself insisting that the whole wordless-natural-progression thing was working for me.
And regarding angry texts? When Not-Cool-Boyfriend finally broke up me after another month of me fretting, I wrote a big long list of all the things he had done that I considered were “wrong” in the breakup/fade out process and made him sit down and listen to me tell them to him. Srsly. BUT I WAS ACTUALLY A REALLY COOL GIRLFRIEND I’M SURE?
You are not getting what you need here. I think you think you are being more reasonable than maybe you are (or at least, than you are coming across TO HER). You are in love with the idea that she COULD give you what you need – but she isn’t. She either does not have the time, or the inclination to give you what you need, so I think it’s time to let this one go and take the lessons with you for the next awesome lady you meet. I’m sorry. ❤
this letter kinda bothered me enough write a comment after months of just reading. i don’t mean to be too harsh with the LW, but it seems like maybe he projected a lot of his feelings onto her, ie. he talks about how great everything was to start with but that’s his perception & could cloud his thinking. he sort of explained that he never used “the big L word” because there was no need, because HE “was convinced [they] were falling in love.” but it seems like she wanted to back out or slow things down.
i also think his assumption that things were almost perfect or going really well may have made it difficult for him to perceive if she wanted out. 5 months isn’t that long, the first few months are often getting to know each other time & hormones/new relationship energy can make it easy to feel there’s more going on there or that it’s more mutual than it really is. often around the 4-5 month point the excitement has worn off enough for the other person to really evaluate what they want, while the person in the LW’s position is too invested in how awesome she/the relationship is to read the cues, take the hints or hear what she’s saying.
i’m not trying to imply that he should have read her mind or know that she wanted out if she didn’t actually say it, but the other thing to keep in mind is, maybe she was trying to make her feelings known but because it seems the LW was pretty convinced that things were close to perfect he either didn’t hear or didn’t want to hear or otherwise wasn’t receptive. we don’t know. but maybe she felt a bit intimidated to tell him outright, which can easily happen when the other person feels really strongly, or maybe she had some hints that he would get angry at an outright rejection or not take an “it’s time for me to move on” statement seriously so she decided it was safer to stop seeing him & not tell him when they were in the same physical location.
i was in a similar situation to the LW’s friend a while ago, we’d been seeing each other for a few months with some gaps for travel, work, other commitments etc. i rounded it down to 3 months, he rounded it up to 6 months. during that time neither of us said we loved each other & although we had both agreed we wouldn’t fuck anyone else without talking to each other first, there was no commitment beyond that. so i took his words at face value & thought we were having fun casually fucking each other. after a few months the fun started to wear off & although i still liked him, my desire to keep seeing him was getting weaker. i brought it up a few times but he was so convinced things were going really well & that we could work on whatever was making me unhappy, & that because he really wanted it that should be enough to make me keep trying, etc etc, that he didn’t seem to take in that i was over it. i actually felt i’d done everything i could at that point & i didn’t know how/it wasn’t my responsibility to MAKE him understand that i was moving on, plus i’d had a few hints in the past that there was a good chance he’d get angry about it, so i just pulled back.
around the same time i was busy for a few weeks & couldn’t see him & the stream of texts & emails started. beginning with fairly polite “i miss you, when can we catch up?” to nearly every day passag “are you free today?” “what about now?” “what about now?” & ending with the most horrid, 2000 word email where he actually said “what’s wrong with me? isn’t my cock big enough for you? don’t i give good enough head?” etc etc, all under the guise of “it’s ok to tell me, i just want an honest answer!” after that i cut off all communication with him, but it took him a while to get it.
ps – writing this comment has made me realize how difficult it is to give advice & be helpful to strangers over the internet, new respect for the writers & commenters! it’s really hard to not project your own experiences onto the LW’s situation & i’m not trying to imply that what happened to me applies here, it’s just good to think about the fact that what he may have thought was a reasonable demand for an explanation may have come across as intimidating & not fun to her, or that his perception that the relationship was almost perfect may have made it hard for her to be upfront about her feelings.
Your PS is so true and reminds me that it’s also possible that even if LW himself wasn’t giving off those vibes, she’s been in a situation like that in the past. LW himself notes how difficult it can be to shake off the feelings and expectations of past relationships. We all come with baggage.
When I started seeing a guy a few years back, I was in an awful position with a family member’s illness that was eating up a lot of my time and energy. I was super, super busy, and there was a heck of a lot of this guy saying ‘Want to do something on X day?’ and me being all ‘No, sorry, I can’t.’
There ends the similarity to the LW’s situation. Because when I said I couldn’t make it to the dates he was proposing, I made it explicitly clear that I was going through a family crisis, and made sure that he knew when my next ‘night off’ would be. I really liked him, and I wanted to make sure he understood I was not just trying to politely blow him off. I believe I may have actually said, ‘I am not trying to politely blow you off, I can’t make X evening, but I could do something on Y evening.’
The captain speaketh the truth. People who like you will act like they like you.
So you like to go fishing, and you got this brand new fishing lure and you’re trying it out one morning, and wow! right away you catch a great fish without too much trouble! So you cast again and lo and behold you catch another fish, this one even bigger, this is the best lure you’ve used in a while! Might as well not use any other one! So you wind up catching few more fish that morning, but by midday things are tapering off and by noon you’re all of a sudden not catching a thing. It can’t be the lure’s fault since it was working fine earlier, so you wait a little bit and try again, but no luck this time either. You get a little frustrated and send it out as far as you can hoping that will help, and you start to reel it i and feel something on the line. It’s tugging really hard so it must be huge! you keep reeling in, but now it feels like you’re not making any headway, and maybe it’s stuck on something. So you try tugging on it this way and hat, trying to dislodge it. You end up spending an hour or so just yanking on it trying to get it free. You wouldn’t bother if it wasn’t such an awesome lure! So you keep on pulling on it, trying to get it to come loose, hour after hour after hour…
Cut it off! Cut off the lure!
Isn’t this letter basically the plot of 500 Days of Summer? Boy Meets Girl, Boy And Girl Have A Thing That’s Fun But Doesn’t Have Labels, Guy Assumes Facts Not in Evidence, Girl Withdraws, Boy Freaks the Fuck Out.
Nah, I remember 500 Days of Summer being more of a Boy and Girl Have A Thing That’s Fun But Is Explicitly Labeled Just-For-Fun, Boy Thinks It Is Unfair After Girl Turns Out To Have Meant What She Said.
See, this is why I’m worried when I see it on my very clingy friend’s DVD shelf.
Yeah, it’s got a lot going for it as a movie — I’d say the direction and acting pull it away from the script a little and towards a genuinely moving “sometimes life is painful and it’s nobody’s fault” movie, which is an admirable and unusual feat. But the “actually it is all her fault” interpretation is still there for the taking, ridiculous though it is.
Is the relationship done? Yeah. I don’t get the level of negativity that’s directed toward LW’s responses, though. Even if LW was wrong, and she wasn’t feeling it as much as he was, they were a couple. She owed him a breakup rather than a slow fade.
On the other hand, if she was just busy, would it have taken that much more time out of her day to add an “I miss you too” to one of her texts?
A barrage of angry texts may not have been the most rational, adult response, but it was at the least no worse than the avoidance dance his girlfriend was doing.
FWIW, I’m the type who tends to disappear when things get busy. I know how frustrating it is when people badger me to reappear. But lacking the girlfriend’s side of the story, her behavior seems a little sketchy to me.
Can we just agree that no-one owes anyone else an expression of sentiment? It would get rid of one of the worst sitcom plots, for one thing.
So, I completely agree that nobody owes anyone any expression of sentiments, and normally in this situation I’d advise to take the slow fade as de-facto break up.
One thing, though – they agreed to be exclusive. So what do you do about that? Try to get her to talk and reassert boundaries? She didn’t have the time. Tell her via text message “yeah, we’re not exclusive anymore”? If she is just busy, that sounds kind of… cold. As for deciding unilaterally and not even saying anything about that to her, we can agree that’s not Good Relationship Behaviour, yes?
I think the best course of action would have been for the LW to come to terms with his needs, give them to her all parceled – “I need to talk a minimum of X times a Y, and for this no-contact period to last no more than Z. If you cannot give me this, I’m afraid I can’t be happy in this relationship” – and then act according to her response. She says she can’t give him that or says she will and then doesn’t? Break up.
It seems some of the commenters here say that a message like this would have soured them immediately off a relationship. I can’t help but feel that in this case, the immediate relationship-death would have been a good thing. I can’t speak for anyone else, but I need (some degree of) certainty in my relationships. If my partner needs a degree of freedom that clashes with this need, then probably we’re best off without each other.
But why would stating needs clearly and precisely concisely sour someone off a relationship? it might provide a clear indication that this is not the right relationship, since you can’t answer those needs – but IME, it’s the best thing to do.
Actually, I’ve had the “I need to talk to you twice a week, see you once a week, and not go more than 4 days without hearing from you” talks in the past, and they’ve usually worked extremely well – either in establishing parameters that make everyone happy, or in making it very clear that I ain’t going to be getting my needs answered here (or conversely, that my needs are not something the guy can supply/feel comfortable with), at which point we stop wasting each other’s time.
It’s hard to know, of course, but I’ve been in his shoes and said, you know, and I quote from the above – “I did also express at one point that not seeing her was starting to make me anxious.” – and that I needed to talk about this kind of how-often how-much stuff in a less fuzzy way. And of course not getting a firm response made me a hundred million times more anxious, at which point I would like to self-respectingly say I realize I wouldn’t get those needs met and left but it actually took me a while longer.
I have to disagree– I think that it is worse to push your presence on someone than to pull away from them. For one thing, the former can be frightening, especially if they don’t know you terribly well (5 months is not knowing someone terribly well).
But this also isn’t really about who is worse, is it? He asked if the relationship is over, and that’s the one thing on which every commenter in this thread seems to agree.
Hey guys, hey captain!
I’ve been (kinda) on both ends of this story, and am at the moment, so I felt I should chip my two penn’oth in.
I feel sorry for the LW, because it hurts to have someone you like, and who think likes you, appear to arbitrarily de-value you. He’s made it clear (prooobably too clear) that he feels bad, that he wants contact, but will settle for knowing what the deal is, and is being denied both those things. His girl has no obligation to do either, but it would be better if she did.
On the other hand, being pestered is no fun at all, and feeling pestered… it only happens when your feelings for each other are different, if only in scale. LW is doing a lot of passive agressive, manipulative behaviour here, and it’s really hard to respond honestly to someone who’s already decided how you feel and that you are the villain with no reasons.
Is there a respectful, good way to negotiate a relationship where one side wants answers/talking and the other wants to be left alone?
Anyway, this one is dead, and I’m sorry it hurts, but it’s dead and is beginning to stink.
I suspect the answer (easier said than done) is Using One’s Words. For her, that would look like being honest with him that she’s not feeling it, and for him, that would look like actually stating his needs in a concrete form, rather than sending a guilt-trippy “so I guess you just don’t care about me and all that we had” (paraphrase) message followed by angry ones.
I would also like to reiterate that five months isn’t a long time. It doesn’t mean important things can’t begin in that time, but they’re just that– beginnings.
Sympathies, LW. I have been known to freak out at lack of contact, myself. I would like to introduce a Useful Phrase. The Useful Phrase is “Are we cool?”
This phrase probably wouldn’t have saved your relationship, so please believe I’m not trying to tell you what you should have done — it sounds like a really tough place to be in, and I’m sorry you had to go through that. Still, you might find it useful to have it on hand if you’re like me and suffer from occasional unjustified freak-outs. It’s low-key enough that you don’t need a huge reason to say it, which means you don’t have to keep score in order to decide whether things are bad enough to pull it out.
You can say it after that first week of no contact, if you’re already feeling insecure. You say “We haven’t spoken in a while. Are we cool? I’m guessing we probably are but I wanted to check.”
In a functioning relationship the reply might go like this:
“What? Yes. Of course. I’ve just been really busy lately, and I probably will be for the next little while, sorry. Is that ok?”
The rules of “Are we cool?” say that you have to accept people’s answers. So if they say everything’s fine, and they don’t sound angry or cagey about it, then you believe them. Sometimes it’s nice just to have that reassurance, or so I find.
I have been known to pull that one out once or twice with my boyfriend at what he might be able to call ‘random’. Usually he’s completely unaware that there would be any reason for me to have worries in the first place. I find it works much better than something heavy like “Do you still love me?” and of course it’s worlds better than “Why aren’t you calling/spending time/smiling/whatever?” or the potential emotional blackmail in “I’m really sad that you’re not … whatever.” So I commend this phrase to the attention of the Awkwardsphere.
I’m sure it’s possible to abuse “Are we cool?” but it’s a lot less loaded to begin with, so at least that helps.
Another Useful Phrase is “Where are you at?”
As in, “I feel like things are going well and I would like to commit to XYZ, but I don’t know if you want / can / have time to. Where are you at on this?”
Oh, yes, I remember that one! You’re right, it’s the same idea — low-key, and gives the other person an opportunity to say what’s going on from their perspective.
I kind of love you right now. YES to all of this; Mr.Firpa and I use it a lot.
Speaking of striking chords; I think Gotye’s covered this topic very well in his Somebody That I Used To Know.
Well worth 4 minutes of your life methinks. 🙂
PS @Mathew Swank –
Perhaps the most poetic sentence I’ve read all week.
I’m wondering if there’s a happy medium between “angry texts” and pulling back yourself. I’m really not a fan of relationships being a contest of Whoever Cares the Least, Wins and while you’re never entitled to someone’s time and attention, you may need those things to feel happy and secure in a relationship, and that’s not unreasonable, especially if you have been dating for a while. If I had to keep a lid on my emotions all the time You can argue that texting won’t save the relationship, but really, nothing can at the point someone decides to break up via slow fade anyway. I just think that often people rationalize acting poorly because they think if it bothered anyone, the other party would speak up. The quintessential example is noisy neighbours. Maybe you’re a fan of the aforementioned “contest” model of relationships, but if you convey indifference to a slow fader, they think that you actually didn’t care and that this is a decent way to conduct breakups. So I think slow faders (from real relationships, not three internet dates) should be told that acting that way is Not Cool so they don’t do it again. Angry texts that are threatening and angry aren’t good of course, as they just make people feel afraid or defensive, and it would make slow faders more disinclined to use their words like a grown-up. “Lying bitch” is out. “Please take me back” is also out, that isn’t the goal here. I wonder if there was some way to get across “I am a real person with feelings, this is/was a real relationship, and this is not the way decent, adult people deal with those things. It is needlessly hurtful and anxiety-provoking.” Maybe Slow Faders won’t absorb this from their dump-ees because it’s fraught, but I think it’s too easy to hand wave “that was probably hurtful” from one of their own friends because they don’t know for certain the other person was hurt.
Would that I had an edit button. Read that as if “If I had to keep a lid on my emotions all the time” weren’t there. I purposely tried to keep myself out of that 😛
I don’t think it’s fair to tar her as a Slow Fader, full stop, forever and ever amen. We haven’t heard from her, and we have only one side of the story. There is plenty in that email (for just one example, assuming that they’re falling in love but not checking in with her on it but yeah, he’s pretty sure because that’s how HE feels) that hints at reasons she might not feel safe being more direct with him. I’m not the only commenter who picked up on red flags related to possible control issues and issues of self-sufficiency.
I’m not saying it’s good behavior on her part, but it may have been what she perceived as the least bad course of action rather than evidence of some deep-rooted personality flaw.
You’re right that we don’t have her side. If LW is scary and abusive, withdrawing communication this way would be acceptable. If LW is merely bad at stating his needs, and overly insecure, well…
I can see both views here and LW, I want to hug you and then smack you upside the head. I’ve been blown off by a boyfriend after being with him for five months and it sucked. I don’t blame you for feeling hurt and anxious, but I think the “can we talk now? How about NOW?” didn’t help. Especially after a scant week! That’s way too much. (I’m assuming it’s a week because you said you’d realized it had been a week since you’d slept over.) So. . .that would be off putting to me. I’d get shitty if I was busy for a week or two and got barraged with texts.
So, LW, I would advise you to let this go. She might be a great lady in many ways, but she’s obviously not into this anymore. You’re not a jerk for being hopeful or for being hurt and sad and disappointed. But I think you need to move on. I don’t think this is something that can be worked out.
I’m with the Captain here. I understand the sympathy for both parties, but it’s the LW who asked for advice, not the girl. If she had written and said “I was seeing this guy and we agreed to make it exclusive and after five months I wasn’t sure I was feeling it so I kind of avoided the dude for a bit, and then he freaked out — what should I do?” then I think the Captain would probably have told the girl to use her words because slow fades are rude. But it’s the LW who asked for advice, and the fact that the girl was being rude doesn’t mean that he should have reacted as he did.
LW, it sounds like you were mostly on the right track mentally, with “people who like you will act like they like you,” but that you (understandably) didn’t like the answer that led you to — this girl isn’t into you enough/at all anymore — so you ignored the sensible voice in your head in favor of trying to prove that she actually *did* like you. But the whole point of PWLYWALTLY is that you shouldn’t need to chase down proof that the other person likes you. If you try to set up a date and she says she’s swamped and will let you know when she’s free, asking eight more times in an effort to get her to meet up so that you have reassurance that she still wants to see you is not really letting her actions show you how she feels, you know?
It’s totally fine, especially after a five-month relationship that was exclusive, to expect that the other person will tell you when things are over instead of just slow fading you out. But responding to a drop-off in contact by sending a million texts/emails/calls is neither productive nor particularly nice. If she’s actually just busy, you are likely going to send her running for the hills. Even if you don’t piss her off, you don’t want to set up a dynamic where she deals with being busy by being distant and rude and then you badger her for weeks until she has time for you again.
I think the best course of action when contact dropped way off was: (1) after she said she was too busy once or twice, telling her that you understand and you’ll wait for her to suggest a time to meet up and then actually doing that, and (2) if you didn’t hear from her for two weeks or more, an email or call saying that you wanted to check in because you hadn’t heard from her in a while and weren’t sure where she was at as far as continuing an exclusive relationship. I include (2) *only* because you’d agreed to be exclusive, and I think in that case you should make an effort to let the person know if you’re thinking that things are over and that restriction no longer applies. If she got back to you in response to (2) and said she still wanted to see each other, that would be a good time to let her know that if you’re going to keep dating you need her not to drop off the map for weeks at a time. But if you didn’t get a response to (2) within a week or so, then it’s time to assume things are over and move on without any angry texting or dramatic break up emails.
And that, I think, is the root of why people reacted so negatively to the LW. Regardless of how rude the girl was being, he sounds seriously unwilling or unable to understand — much less respect — her boundaries. I don’t understand how, after you go through weeks of not seeing each other and her blowing you off and you responding with even more requests to see each other and her sending “very annoyed responses” about you getting on her nerves and THEN you sending a barage of angry texts, that you then ask someone for advice at navigating a “rough patch at [an] early point in a promising relationship.” This is not a promising relationship anymore. This is not a “rough patch.” She was rude, for whatever reason. You then reacted very badly and in a way that suggests that in the future, you will not respect boundaries she sets about her time or about needing space (and the fact that you were annoyed that she had a friend in town for a weekend and didn’t “make any time for you” during that 2-3 day period just reinforces that conclusion). LW, you were fully entitled to walk away from her rudeness. You were not entitled to anything else. I would exercise your walking-away option and work on listening to the PWLYWALTLY voice in your head next time around.
“not really letting her actions show you how she feels” Argh yes! I have to remember that one. It can be so difficult to Be Cool sometimes.
I think this explains my initial reaction of oh, poor LW, but also, you’re not coming back from those angry texts no matter what was going on.
If I’m busy, and someone is all “when can we hang out?” and I don’t get back to them right away, and then the next time I check my phone there are more messages? “I miss you, let’s hang out soon?” And then the next time I check my phone there are MORE messages? And I’m trying to juggle multiple expectations (as Rodeo Bob said – the busy time of the semester + work = BUSY)? The person isn’t really giving me a chance to respond. I agree that it’s rude to just fade away from a 5-month thing, but after the 3rd or 4th “I miss you!” where I haven’t responded the words I would use are:
“I am sorry, I am really busy right now and can’t even think about making plans to see you. I’ll let you know when I am free. It would make me happy to know that you were just doing stuff with other friends and not waiting around for me.”
I don’t have access to the ex-girlfriend (she’s definitely the ex) and the LW can’t control what she’ll do, he can only control how he behaves.
Also, I’ve totally been in the shoes of wanting to make plans with someone and saying “Okay, maybe X day” because I want to please them, but really, I shouldn’t have committed to that because when the day comes I have other shit going on or just need a break from dealing with people.
And if I got one or two more “But I miss you? CAN WE TALK I NEED TO TALK?” texts after that? It’s not going to make me want to talk to you. It’s going to make me feel crowded and angry.
And if we go to the angry texts after all of that? U R DUMPED 4-EVER NAO.
I wish, for the record, that the ex-girlfriend had been clearer about what was going on. But as we’ve said on this site a lot, a non-response IS A KIND OF RESPONSE. It’s almost never the response you’re looking for? But nothing sends the message “I don’t want to talk to you right now” more clearly than not talking to you right now.
OK, I can’t tar her as a slow fader or him as an entitled asshole, but I do think he needs to chill. My knee jerk reaction is actually sympathy for the LW (for once) as I’ve been in his emotional shoes–it’s no fun when someone you’ve been dating steadily and exclusively dissapears on you. But it stops there for me, because I wasn’t on my dropper after a week of not returning my one call. After a month of no contact whatsoever, I wrote him off as a spineless asshole. I don’t think she’s quite in the same category.
Reading the letter shows quite clearly that he was after her after one week to hang out. Not: “hey you around to hang out?””sorry, busy.” “that’s cool, hope ur good, let me know if you have time and want to”. It was “omg can you hang out now? well, when??” And a couple of days later “omg can you hang out now?? well, when???” And then OMG I MISS YOU and “she’s not reciprocating my feelings” and OMG WE NEED TO TALK CAN WE TALK NOW? HOW ABOUT NOW? HOW ABOUT NOW??
She might have been genuinely busy and clueless, not passive-aggressively breaking up with him. (And then the barrage started and then she might have slowly backed away). He was obviously anxious and thrown by the change–I don’t fault him for those feelings. Unfortunately, he reacted badly to this. I don’t think he’s a bad guy, but I do think he needs to learn some more constructive ways to deal with his anxiety.
And no. There’s no working this one out.
Yes yes yes, this. And re: the middle paragraph, in particular, I wanted to float this idea (just to sort of put it out into the universe, not as advice on this particular relationship, since, yeah, this one’s done-zo): if you already know that someone is super-busy (full-time student, employee, volunteer, probably juggling other balls), I think probably texting that person frequently with “omg i miss you when can we hang out??” is going to come across as maybe kind of thoughtless/insensitive at best? So, might I suggest an alternative? You could offer to make a Starbucks/other coffee/pizza/sandwich run, or make them/take them out to dinner, or something like that: it’s specific and time-limited in a way that “hanging out” is not, so someone who’s really busy might think, “I don’t have time for nebulous hanging out, but I can carve out a half hour for some pizza!” Or, speaking for myself, I’ve had the kind of semester where there have been mornings where if someone wanted to stop by my office and drop off a bagel and a coffee and a kiss, and then leave me to my grading or whatever? I’d have been over the moon.
This is not to say, of course, that you should stuff your own feelings and needs down just because your SO is busy, and of course I’m not justifying the slow fade (though… I have to admit I’m on Team Five Months Is Not All That Long In The Grand Scheme Of Things). I just agree that using your words is good, and I would extend that to the idea that using your words to ask for and offer specific things is also good.
Oho, I thought WordPress ate this one! Figures that in my first comment here I’d manage to much things up. You win this round, WordPress… (and apologies for the double-post!)
Yes yes yes, this! And I had a thought brewing that’s relevant to the second paragraph, in particular. It’s not advice for this particular situation, since I agree with all those who’ve said that this relationship is done-zo, but I thought I might sort of put it out into the universe just as a general thought. If you know someone you care about a lot is super-busy, then maybe “omg i miss you when can we hang out??” is not all that helpful? I’m an introvert, and while when I was younger I definitely found myself on the LW’s side of the needy vs. distant dynamic, these days if I were as busy as it sounds like the LW’s ladyfriend is, a text like that would feel to me like just one more demand on my time, and therefore feel rather insensitive or thoughtless, you know? But an alternative occurred to me, and like I said, I just thought I’d throw it out there: maybe instead of repeated requests to “hang out” and/or “talk,” someone in this kind of position could make more specific suggestions, offering to take the person out to dinner, or make them dinner, or even just make a Starbucks/pizza/sandwich run. It’s a specific time-frame, so a person might think, “hey, okay, I can carve out a half-hour for pizza,” versus trying to fit in a nebulous period of “hanging out.” And speaking for myself, I’ve had the kind of semester where if my SO said, “hey, I know you’ve got all those papers to grade, so what if I make a run for coffee and bagels?” and then dropped same off with a kiss and a smile and let me get back to work? I’d be over the moon.
Now, obviously I’m not saying one should tamp down one’s own needs and desires just because one’s SO is super-busy. I’m not trying to excuse the slow fade, either–I’m on Team Five Months Is Not Really That Long In The Grand Scheme Of Things, but I’m definitely a fan of using one’s words, and “I’m really just not feeling it anymore” is way better and kinder than “I’m busy,” of course. But I think the People Who Like You Will Act Like They Like You dynamic goes both ways, and one way to show a person you like them would be to be considerate of their needs, too. Just a thought, and YMMV and all that, of course. 🙂
I’m the same way when I’m stressed out and overscheduled. “When can we hang out?” = stressful demand on my time because I have to come up with the plan. “Can I make you dinner tonight?” = thoughtful, helpful.
I have nothing valuable to add but I would like to say that Pwlywaltly is clearly a picturesque village in Wales, a hilly but beautiful day’s bike ride from Llareggub.
LW: Goid luck in getting over it soon and with as much dignity intact as possible. Delete her number, it’s probably all the closure you’ll get.
I enjoy deleting the number of someone who drops off the map like that. Because then if they text me two months later, I can respond, with complete honesty, “Who is this?” And then they get to reap the rewards of dropping off the map without saying anything.
Maybe a touch passive-aggressive, but a damn sight better than badgering.
I’m a deleter. Since I like to fret over things, it gives me less frettin’-ammo. I gave you a few opportunities and some time? It was not taken? Okay, bye!
More of a response to everyone else than to LW:
I have a master’s degree in passive-aggressive communication, so I have a lot of sympathy for LW. He made some dick moves, no question, but that does not automatically make him a dick. The ex-girlfriend (I think we can safely call her that) may, or may not, have been executing a slow fade, which is also kind of passive aggressive. We don’t know, because she never said! We– and LW– don’t know what level of commitment she considered the relationship to be at, or if something happened on her end, or if she was legitimately busy, so a lot of us are projecting our experiences on the ex-girlfriend’s side of things.
The point is, we don’t know. And neither does LW. This is just a big ol’ poster child for Why We Should Use Our Words Early And Often.
I have been on both sides of this. It is really, really easy to be a dick if you are not good at using your words, or if you are invested in the idea of being that cool person who doesn’t NEED to know things, or whatever reason you think you have for not expressing what is going on. The point is, LW needed to know things, missed all the early opportunities to find out about these things under the pretense of We Don’t Need To Talk And I Can Just Assume Awesomeness, ended up in a situation where that style of non-communication didn’t cut it anymore because all the assumptions sucked, and then took up residence in Needy Dickville where all the words are bad, all the feelings are hurt, and all the texts are passive-aggressive.
It’s entirely possible LW might have had a good relationship with this girl if they had both been on Team Open Communication early on, but it’s also entirely possible– actually, I think more likely– that the relationship might have died earlier, with fewer feelings hurt, because it turned out that there was a mismatch in terms of what they needed from each other. It’s also possible that because communication wasn’t established early on, this kind of ending was guaranteed from the beginning: somebody would go into stealth mode, somebody would get anxious, and BOOM. BAD TEXTS.
LW: you’re never going to know what happened, and if you’re anything like me, that will bug the hell out of you, but figure out a way to let go of it. Learn from the experience. Embrace the awkward low-key conversations early on in your future relationships so that you can avoid this kind of bewildering, frustrating experience that turns you into a passive-aggressive jerk in spite of wanting to be cool about things. You can do it. You’ll be okay.
I posted this in a comment elsewhere, but I’ll repeat it here.
Re-read the letter.
1.) The ex-girlfriend was finishing a semester at college with a full courseload. LW knew this.
2.) The ex-girlfriend was working part-time, and had told the LW that work was becoming more difficult/stressful.
3.) The ex-girlfriend volunteers one day a week with elementary school kids. LW knew this as well.
So, in the last month of the semester while working an increasingly difficult part-time job on top of end-of-semester projects/papers/presentations/studying-for-finals and honoring comittments to elementary school children, the ex-girlfriend has less time and energy to give to her relationship in the short term. It is in this setting that the LW suddenly demands attention and validation.
At the time when the ex-girlfriend has the least time, energy, or attention, the LW (who, remember, has never said “I love you”, or asked for anything past sexual exclusivity) thinks he is entitled to the same level of immediate response and consistent accessability no matter how busy or stressed his girlfriend (now ex-) is.
I actually assumed that she was a graduate student (mostly because she’s working in a law firm), which makes it all even worse.
Your point still isn’t the one correct way to view this situation. Sexual exclusivity is a big thing to a lot of people, and it was *two* people who weren’t using their words in this relationship to define things.
We’re all agreed that the LW was being a bit passive aggressive, but it is not unreasonable to expect contact over a week or a month even at a busy time. I’m the worst person in the world at keeping contact, I wouldn’t freak out if I didn’t hear from someone in a week or get a reply back at all, because I wouldn’t even remember. However I understand that most people aren’t like that, and so in a relationship I make an effort however busy I am and however unnatural it feels, to keep a minimum of contact up.
Most people require a response, they require to feel that they’re being heard. If she’d texted back at the beginning with an explanation, cutting it off or clearly setting out that for whatever reason she had to change the parameters of their relationship there wouldn’t be a problem here. Constantly text-dodging for weeks, and being passive-aggressive isn’t the correct way to handle a relationship no matter how busy you are.
Pestering her with texts wasn’t the right thing to do, but neither was dodging those texts and hoping that he would read her mind from a distance.
Look, I completely understand what you’re talking about, and you’re right. The ex-girlfriend was busy. Very, very busy.
I am pretty sure that this makes no difference whatsoever in a situation in which a poorly-communicating but actively boinking couple suddenly gets to the point where they aren’t seeing each other and no longer boinking, because that will probably be the stage at which one of them, lacking any knowledge of what the other one is up to, suddenly gets anxious and vaguely realizes that they don’t know jack shit about what’s going on. Then the anxious person ends up in the situation of suddenly wanting to communicate something that hasn’t ever been communicated before, in a situation where it is the very least welcome thing ever because the other person is busy and (still) uncommunicative, and every single thing the anxious person does just makes things worse, and worse, and worse, and it just makes the anxious person feel worse, and worse, and worse.
It’s not wrong to need things. It IS wrong to not talk about them, and expect to get them anyway because they look like they’re covered, and then, when they suddenly don’t get covered anymore, passive-aggressively hint at vaguely-understood needs with text after text after text, and then finally to gear up for a dramatic Talk– and then have a texty temper tantrum when the Talk doesn’t materialize, because don’t they know this is HARD? That’s wrong not only because of what it does to the other person– as I think you’ve extensively covered– but also wrong because it doesn’t help the person who’s doing the anxious passive-aggressive needy texting in the first place. And, as a fellow passive-aggressive needy dick who’s still working on using my words, I was hoping to get this more toward a place that would actually help the person who wrote in.
LW is anxious. The word appears a LOT in the letter. LW has a history with communication being a problem in past relationships. LW demonstrated a lot of patterns I recognize– a big one being LW’s attempt to substitute detailed record-keeping on the unspoken signals (what CA aptly called “score-keeping”) for actual communication. I know that kind of substitution well, and it doesn’t do the job. It’s unsatisfactory. It will never be reassuring in the way you need. You still don’t end up knowing anything about what the other person is thinking, and what you think you know is all based on assumptions that can be easily shaken when new evidence arises. It is scary as hell to be vulnerable and talk about what you need, and I’m glad for LW that the ghost of ex-girlfriends past was not a deterrent in LW’s (belated) attempt to suit up and deal with this like an adult– the problem is, mostly, that it was ill-timed. That’s the sort of thing that needs to be discussed early on, not as a demand, not under pressure, not looking down the barrel of a failing relationship when one party is really busy and the other one is freaking the righteous hell out. Those are way too many strikes against any talk to get success out of it.
I can see where this letter can trigger some major flashbacks for any of us who’ve been through this on the ex-girlfriend’s side of things, because LW didn’t, when writing, apparently realize that the problem WASN’T all on the ex-girlfriend’s side, and, yeah, that would piss me off, too. CA covered that part of it pretty well, I thought, and if she missed anything I’m sure that your extensive explanations afterward have covered whatever was missing. I just figured that it would be good to say, “Dude, I know where you are coming from, I have been anxious and dumb in this way, too, and I am here to gently break it to you that you are going to have to handle this differently in the future but if you do? it will BE OKAY.” I feel like it might help.
I feel bad for LW as well. The Inexplicable/Sudden Disappearance is friggin’ painful as hell. You don’t get an answer to *why* it just happened, you just get the rug pulled out from under you.
COMMENTS ON THIS POST ARE CLOSED.
I can’t actually turn them off without turning off/deleting comments on the whole site.
No more comments in this thread, from anyone, for any reason. Thanks.
Comments are closed.