Dear Captain Awkward,
So… Not sure if this fits under relationship advice or under the “how to be a regular human being and not a lizard person” category. I’ve been seeing this guy for the last 10 months. He is great, but I’m the first person he’s actually gone out with since ending a long, traumatic and when we met he said he wasn’t looking for commitment. I was fine with it, but then we kept seeing each other and I started falling hard and wanting more – to actually be able to look forward to things and not just treat every encounter as “oh, this could or could not have happened, what random happenstance”.
The thing is, although he’s said he’s in love with me and wants to try being with me, he’s still unable to make plans. If he says “see you saturday”, that doesn’t mean we will definitely see each other saturday, but rather that when he said it it sounded like it might be a nice idea. Come saturday, though, he might decide to go do something else entirely and fall off the grid whilst I’m waiting to hear from him. As someone who has a limited amount of energy for social interaction and a few anxiety issues, I treat planning as something serious. If someone says “see you saturday”, I expect to hear from them saturday. Now, I realised he comes from a different perspective and it’s better to check things on the actual date and not count on them as solid plans, but it still wears on me a bit.
It’s like..Though I know plans could change at any moment, things happen, feelings change, life is unpredictable… And if he changed his mind I would try not to hold him against it… I still feel like I need a plan? Even if it’s not ironclad, just knowing that right now there is a more likely outcome or a desired outcome would make me feel more secure? Does that make sense?
Also, he’s seemed a bit distant lately (still texts almost every day, actually came to see me and brought medicine and food over because I have a cold – but left after sex saying he needed to go home and we MIGHT see each other later… or, you know, not) and I’m not sure if it’s just my insecurity or indicative or something a bit more worrisome. Anyway, my point is: despite thinking of several reasons to work around it (“the distance is all in my head” and “who needs plans anyway”) I keep feeling a bit neglected and anxious. I’m thinking of ending things, not because I want to – I love the guy and he seems to care for me back – but because I think I handle being lonely better when I’m alone and it might be less stressful.
I’ve tried talking to him about it, but he says he’s like this in general, not just with me and there is no point in treating plans as solid because the future is such a changeable thing. So, how do I make peace with being in the moment and stop worrying bout unreasonable things? If there is no ironclad future, how do you stop yourself from having expectations? And how to manage a schedule with someone who doesn’t believe in plans?
“There is no point in treating plans as solid because the future is such a changeable thing.”
Forgive me for the Oncoming GIF Storm, but these are an accurate representation of what happened to my face when I read your dude’s reasoning behind never making reliable plans with you.
Life is unpredictable. Anything could happen. And yet? It is possible to decide in advance what will happen Saturday by saying “Saturday, I’d like to see you.” “Me too. How does 4pm sound?” “4pm is good. Meet you at the usual place?” “Yes, see you then.” And then you go to that place at that time and you do that thing you said you’d do.
OMG THAT WAS SO HARD RIGHT
WHAT A TOTAL BUZZKILL TO KNOW IN ADVANCE THAT A FUN THING WITH SOMEONE YOU LOVE IS HAPPENING AT A DEFINITE TIME IN THE FUTURE
WHAT KIND OF FUNSUCKING HARPY ARE YOU ANYWAY
I BET YOU EVEN PEEK AT RESTAURANT MENUS IN ADVANCE TO FIGURE OUT WHAT YOU MIGHT WANT TO ORDER, LIKE SOME BRAINWASHED PRISONER OF THE MACHINE
And here you are, asking for how to empty yourself of expectations and make peace with someone who has said, point blank, “I might love you but seeing me means leaving your schedule completely open for when I happen to want to drop by.” Do you have an adult human boyfriend, or do you have a human-shaped stray cat who keeps coming around to be fed on off days when he’s not hanging out with his other neighborhood families? Is this one of those rom-coms where an uptight businesswoman needs some puerile bro to teach her to “relax”?
Since you like him a lot, if you’re not quite ready to dump him, here’s what I suggest as a first step to regaining some control. Plan out your week. Make plans with your friends. Make plans with yourself for the things you want to do. Block out a regular time in your week for him if you want. Ask him to commit to the plans he makes with you by adding a definite time and a place (not just “this weekend” or “Saturday.”) Maybe add in some activities that require reservations and advance tickets into your routine. And then, start using the word “No.” Use it a lot.
“Hey babe maybe see you Saturday.”
“Sure, there is a concert I’d like to see that night. Want to come with me?”
“Aw babe I don’t know if I can plan that in advance.”
“Well, I’d like you to come and I’d like to get tickets tomorrow. Can you meet me at 7:00 at the venue?”
“Babe you know schedules aren’t really my thing, I’ll have to see where the universe takes me.”
“Do you want to hang out Saturday or not. You are the actual one who mentioned that day.”
“I might be here, I might be in Timbuktu. You know me, babe.”
“Well, I’ll be at the concert. Let’s plan to get together another time.”
Then go to the concert with someone else in your life, and when he inevitably calls you at 11:00 pm to see if he can “just come over” and “rub your back” say “No, busy” or don’t even pick up the phone. You’re busy. If that sounds like a lot of work, well, it is. He only gets to be fun spontaneous dude if you do the work of accommodating him and tamping down all your anxious and annoyed feelings. If you’re tired of it, and it sounds like you are, set him free. There are sweet, sexy dudes who use the calendar app on their phones out there.
I’m going to try to stop making fun of him for a second and say, sincerely, that I do not think someone who is so cavalier about plans is going to be compatible with you long-term. He is not being vague, he is telling you exactly how he approaches this and what you can expect. You have already asked him to be more considerate and gotten a clear answer of “No can do, babe.” You have different approaches to socializing and planning your time, and your anxiety when you wait around for him is going to turn into anger pretty soon if it hasn’t already. If living with total serendipity was making you happy, you’d be happy.
Furthermore, you are more than allowed to have expectations and plans in your relationships. If advance planning is important to you, then it is by definition important. Whatever you do, please stop painting yourself as “unreasonable”(“How do I stop worrying about unreasonable things?“). It really bothers me on your behalf to see you minimizing your own needs in your letter. Shrinking your desires down to nothing is not and never will be the price of good love.
P.S. In my rush to mock his entire attitude and being, I missed addressing this bit:
“Also, he’s seemed a bit distant lately (still texts almost every day, actually came to see me and brought medicine and food over because I have a cold – but left after sex saying he needed to go home and we MIGHT see each other later… or, you know, not) and I’m not sure if it’s just my insecurity or indicative or something a bit more worrisome.”
This the behavior of a dude who is keeping his schedule open because he’s keeping all of his options to see and sleep with other people open. If you have not had the “are we exclusively dating each other” talk, assume that you aren’t and take appropriate evasive/healthcare action.