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.
384 thoughts on “#745: Are plans really important?”
“Yet plan we must. The process of planning may be more important than the plans that emerge. The planning occasion requires managers to schedule ‘thinking time’. Managers must think about what has happened, what is happening, and what might happen. Managers must set goals and get agreement. The goals must be communicated to everyone. Progress towards the goals must be measured. Corrective actions must be taken when the goals are not being achieved. Thus planning turns out to be an intrinsic part of good management”.
“do you have a human-shaped stray cat”
This makes me laugh so hard. Sorry, LW, I think you have one of these.
Me too! That line was hilarious. And I agree. He sure sounds like a human-shaped cat.
Me three. Which is fine if that’s the kind of relationship you want, but it doesn’t sound like that’s what LW wants. And somehow I don’t get the feeling that this stray cat is looking to be collared and belled.
He’s Six Dinner Sid
Six Dinner Sid is exactly what came to mind as I read this! (and I imagine it did for all other UK readers who were kids in the 90s)
LW, there is no shame at all in being one of life’s ‘planners’ – it doesn’t make you uptight, needy or all those other words that people throw around when they’re trying to make you uncomfortable about your preferences. You’re not asking for completely regimented, hour-by-hour plans of what you’ll be doing together, you’re asking him to show you some basic respect as a fellow adult and someone he presumably cares about. (Although, I’m sorry, but he doesn’t come across well to me). And as I’m sure others have mentioned, presumably this chap can get himself to work and doctor’s appointments on time?
I think the cat would be cuter and more reliable.
But then I live with cats who get antsy when they don’t their three hours of petting per day.
This is my feeling too, but all of my kitties have, shall we say, an anxious attachment style.
I had a long, incredibly painful, off-and-on relationship with that kind of guy. I am a laid-back, spontaneous, calendar-adverse type. But it was still very important to me that I got to see him Saturday if I was looking forward to Saturday because he had requested plans with me on Saturday. Rescheduling due to work or emergencies or what-have-you is fine with me. Forgetting we had a date or ignoring my text about our date because um, his phone died? This hurt every time. It hurt to feel the guy I looked forward to seeing for days would rather do something else.
And yeah. This turned out to be much more an issue of womanizing all over town, than of the unpredictable nature of the universe.
The guy in question loved his cat. She was a stray cat who wandered into his house. He adored her. She was allowed to go outside. One day he called to tell me that while working in the yard, he chatted with his neighbor. The cat walked over and the neighbor said, “come here, Lulu.” My ex said, “Lulu? That’s my cat, Astro.” The cat “belonged” to both of them. They both believed themselves to be in a committed relationship with the cat, both fed her, both changed litter, both took her to the vet.
I wish you could have heard the wounded tone in my ex’s voice, telling me this story. He could not even handle getting two-timed by his cat, and he called me, the woman he cheated on for years. No sense of humor about it when I told him, “Maybe if you had raised your cat in a household that valued love and commitment…”
” wish you could have heard the wounded tone in my ex’s voice, telling me this story. He could not even handle getting two-timed by his cat, and he called me, the woman he cheated on for years. No sense of humor about it when I told him, “Maybe if you had raised your cat in a household that valued love and commitment…””
I am a terrible person because imagining his expression makes me laugh like a loon.
I’m hearing bees, and the message they’re butt-waggling to each other is, “This dude is seeing other people.”
It is indeed.
The buzzy (and related) message I’m hearing is “I’m keeping my schedule open in case someone/something better comes along, but if it doesn’t, I guess you’ll suffice.” LW, don’t settle for being his Plan B (or C or D or…).
Indeed! A classic case of “you are low on my priority list.” This is not respectful of your wants and needs LW in any way, shape, or form.
I see we are listening to the same bee symphony. I got really good at naming that tune after my second college boyfriend. He liked hanging out with me, but only if he was tired of playing Halo, and his friends were busy, and he didn’t have to clean the apartment or do his laundry, and there wasn’t anything happening on campus he cared about.
The funny-in-hindsight part was where I got fed up with waiting around after three weeks of this, and went out and had fun with friends. He got all emo about that, but without changing one note of the bee symphony. Then he went on at great length about how he “didn’t want to be the only person I was close to” in the mortifying breakup letter he slipped under my door. Because of course that is what you do when you have spent two months lamenting that your backup plan isn’t putting you first enough. :’D
LW, learn from my mistake. Feel free to put yourself, and people who actually show you that they value you/your time, first. Life is far too short to spend waiting around on someone. Especially someone who doesn’t see how great you are.
Or at the very least it’s “COMMITMENT IS SCARY! Even tiny ordinary commitments like NORMAL PLANNING THINGS that people do every day!” Which is, y’know, not promising on the relationship front.
Yes! How does he deal with work and meetings, if “this is how he is”?
How does he see a doctor, or catch a plane? Does he just show up at the airport and go wherever the next one is leaving for? CAN’T PLAN, THE FUTURE IS TOO UNCERTAIN.
I wondered that, too. Does he hold down a job?
See, I am also hearing bees, but different ones. My bees are singing “show me that yoy care for me and are willing to sacrifice more for me than i am for you.” It’s the most blatant power struggle.
Incidentally, the guy who pulled this exact manoeuvre on me is the one i now refer to as “abusive ex-douchebag”. So: bees.
The one who pulled it on me is the one I now refer to as “the ex who wasn’t as divorced as he said he was.”
Those are, indeed, the bees I’m hearing as well.
Yeah. At best, dude wants to keep his options open. At worst, he’s testing LW to see how much control she gives him over her world.
My money says both!
I had those bees with my ex. He wanted me to be available when he was, to do what he wanted. I broke the “Saturday, maybe” pattern by saying “Sure! Think of something you want to do, and let me know by Friday.” If he didn’t let me know, I did my own thing. I also suggested stuff a lot – and if he shot it down, or cancelled on the day I’d give him an opportunity to suggest something else. If all he had was a sulky “I don’t know”, I’d let him know that I was in an active mood for the day/had stuff to do, and if he wanted to just chill then we could do it that evening etc. He dragged his feet a lot wrt that – he’d drop by unannounced, or early, or late. I was in college at the time and not letting him stay over on school nights would result in a big sulk. But he wanted to be with me and I did an okay job protecting those boundaries (and sacrificing others to keep the peace) that we could be okay with making plans for months at a time before something happened that slid our progress in that area back.
He definitely wanted to push my boundaries and he needed my time/focus as a symbol of my commitment to him… I feel like I’m the bad person now that I type that out (He just wanted to be with me! He just wanted some attention!~), but it was very one-sided and very unfullfilling for me. I think, if people are motivated enough to stay together, a people can work to get their ways of communicating/committing to plans/spending time together to work. But, in my case, this pattern of him needing so much and being so willing to make me feel bad and uncomfortable so long as he got the emotional validation from me, bled over into so much of our lives that it got pretty toxic. LW, since this guy isn’t willing to do basic stuff like let you know when he’s cancelling your vague plans (you mention him deciding to do something else and then falling off the grid), then it’s not looking too promising.
He just wanted to be with me! He just wanted some attention
In no way do you sound like the bad person and these things he “just” wants are not, independently, good qualities. He “just” wants to be with you but on his terms alone & he doesn’t want to go farther than that…. he doesn’t want to be with you AND build a life with you. “Just” wanting to be with you means nothing at all beyond this afternoon. Also we normally say someone “just wants attention” to excuse them for being super-annoying in a needy and aggressive way. So no, you don’t sound like a bad person for not liking those aspects of his personality.
“He just wanted to be with me! He just wanted some attention!”
you know who in my life wants this out of me?
my 3 year old.
I have an ex like this as well. It made me anxious and freaked out and I too kept trying to want less, to be more cool, to search for scraps of love in the ashes of ruined hopes. He went to jail for reasons unrelated to me (but definitely related to why he would not love me harder) & now he is forever in my past, only dredged up occasionally so I can serenely ponder the bullet I dodged.
“to search for scraps of love in the ashes of ruined hopes.” You said it absolutely beautifully.
The guy who used to pull that on me is now referred to as wanker John.
LW your words are painful to read, I remember too many friday/saturday evenings of having shaved my legs, put on make up, made some nice food in the house, and discounting parts of my evening step by step
oh it is too late now to go to X
(some time later) oh Y is closed now
(even later) darn, Z is finished too
ah well he will still be here…and eventually getting a text, about midnight, sorry won’t be there, had to do an extra run down to Cork (he would have known about that for hours)
it hurts so fucking much to be that low on someone’s list of priorities, every moment you spent waiting could be a moment you spend having fun with a sweet lovely man, who would walk over hot coals to spend just an hour more with you.
LW don’t keep holding the door open for someone if they have already shown you that they don’t want to walk through, because while you hold that one door open, you are keeping all of the rest firmly shut
That’s possible, but I think it’s just as likely they’re saying exactly what the guy himself is saying: “I’m really flakey, and committing to anything makes me uncomfortable, and I’m not willing to even try to overcome this for your sake” … and in that case, he’s still being a selfish pain in the arse and unless he shapes up very promptly, he isn’t relationship material right now.
My brother is somewhat like this. It’s terribly annoying and I wouldn’t put up with it in a partner. Of course, also, my brother CAN pull it together and make plans — even be very reliable! — when he really needs to, and I’m guessing LW’s boyfriend can too —he presumably manages to go to work, for example? As long as LW isn’t enough of a priority for him to push past his anxiety about making plans, he shouldn’t be a priority to her either.
I’m hearing bees, and the message they’re butt-waggling to each other is, “This dude is seeing other people.
Yes this. Also, too, a chorus of that familiar old Captain Awkward refrain: “He just can’t [read: won’t] make plans WITH YOU”
I have dated this person. Do they by any chance say things like “You need to learn to be more flexible” and “You would be happier id you were less uptight”?
It sounds so reasonable in the moment, and it so-so-so isn’t.
(By the way, this person proposed to me by email from a different country and then when I tried to be gentle and respectful told me I was giving up the great romance of my life and also that nobody would like any of my creative work because I am unromantic and have no heart. Nope.)
I have dated this person, too! My person dumped me unceremoniously because I wasn’t chill enough, then reappeared 5 years later when he grew up a bit (maybe) and realized that I’m terrifyingly amazing. Too bad for him, by that point I was in the midst of moving across the country with my equally terrifyingly amazing boyfriend who has never once had a problem committing to plans or me or life.
Also, it occurs to me that my “I don’t believe in plans” dude was also Darth Vader boyfriend. I suspect that I am not alone in this overlap — I wonder if LW’s manfriend is also Darth Vader.
Since he seems to indicate, and has made her feel, that her need for plans is unreasonable, I smell some Darth potential
Yep, the darkness is strong in this one
Darth Vader survivor here. In my impetuous youth chained myself to a very intelligent, needy, volatile, and controlling man. For a decade He decided when and where we did anything including by not deciding to go or suddenly deciding when, where and how we spend all our time at the last minute. exhausting…and there was no way to not comply, it seemed, you just have to roll with sudden unexpected plans, people, or go place you really didn’t want to. After 4 years he tossed in his job and I was paying all the bills, while he oh so conveniently just exercised daily, played piano, or hung out with his friends. At that time I would work 50 to 60 hours a week to avoid going home. Home was full of the harping, stinging, the nothing is ever good enough bees. Meanwhile doing all the housework as well as supporting us. One day made the exit plan. When he went out for 20 minutes had a neighbour help me pack and hide 2 boxes of my most important stuff and a suitcase. And left. He returned in a rage and immediately changed the locks. Even though I had paid the rent for the next 2 months had not access to the apartment and had forgotten to take photo albums. It took a judge’s order to have him return ANY photos. And those where a few of the worst, my best pictures he kept or destroyed. Lost a lot of clothes, books, and furniture. Didn’t care, just had to get away. I showed up 3 months later and surprized him so he opened the door, darted in and went to take MY OWN MASTERS DEGREE off the wall. He fought me, saying that “IT WOULD BE MUCH SAFER THERE WITH HIM!!!!” I yelled NOOOO!!! and grabbed it and ran. Refused all contact from then. That was 20 years ago.
Whoa, trying to keep your diploma is grade A vermin.
You know, that diploma story would make a very funny scene in a movie but it’s horrifying that it happened in your actual life.
Thinking about that period still fills me with both anxiety about the time under his control and relief that I got away from him. Moved across country to not see Darth Vader ever again. Heard from my brother that Darth Vader’s shrink told him that his behaviour was bad and that he should not think he lived in the Middle Ages to behave in such a manner. That admission is the closest I have got to a glimmer of satisfaction that perhaps he could realize that his behaviour is what destroyed our relationship.
I am so happy for you that you were able to get away!! It must have taken a deep reserve of courage.
Yuuuup. I’m yet another person who once had a human-shaped stray cat Darth Vader ex (does he even count as an ex if he never quite agreed to call himself my boyfriend, even though he very pointedly let everyone assume that when he did deign to take me out?).
I remember one Sunday when two of my best friends invited me to see a movie we’d been planning to all see together, and I said I couldn’t make it because Sunday was his one day off a week, and therefore he MIGHT decide to spend some of it with me, so I had to keep it open. Since my friends and I had decided a long while ago that we were going to see the movie together, they didn’t go at all that day because they wanted to wait for me to come, and were very disappointed. I felt awful for making them cancel their plans, but still sat around moping all Sunday in my house… and of course he never did come or even respond to my texts that day. I still feel bad for choosing someone who didn’t prioritize me over my best friends who actually did change their plans for me.
I was so sucked in by this Darth that I regret to say I didn’t dump him; I waited moon-eyed until he eventually just stopped ever dropping by at all… but I am well and truly over him now and am so, so glad to be done with him! When he was actually with me I felt WONDERFUL, but let me say, that refusal to make plans with me – basically his refusal to commit to spending time with me because what if there was something BETTER that came up?! – was the WORST, and it really aggravated my anxiety, contributed to me treating my own friends badly as I said above, and really did a number on my self esteem.
Good Wolf, I think your Darth may have been my Darth’s secret clone. There was many a day/night where I hung around waiting to see if he wanted to spend his time off with me, because he was allergic to ever actually making plans. In fact, he eventually convinced me to downgrade our relationship from “dating” to what I came to call Not Technically Dating (because he liked to remind me on a daily basis, ostensibly as a joke, that we weren’t “technically” dating). Not Technically Dating looked an awful lot like dating, except that it supposedly made him feel less guilty about going out with his friends instead of spending time with me. Because that made him feel like a bad boyfriend. Of course, he also didn’t want to make plans, because what if we made plans and then he wanted to go out?
(Incidentally, this was all apparently my fault for not going out more or having more friends, because it’s inconceivable that someone should prefer to spend their evenings alone, at home, with a book or a game. As a dutiful boyfriend, he had sacrifice himself to save me from my own inevitable boredom and loneliness by keeping me company.)
In any case, the whole situation eventually become so tiresome and ridiculous that I just stopped caring. This was when I discovered that the upside of Not Technically Dating was that when I told him I was done, I wasn’t “technically” breaking up with him, so there was no need to feel guilty. I gave him exactly what he wanted — he now no longer needs to worry about spending time with me at all.
My Darth also guilted me about not having more friends. Then when I made more friends he guilted me about spending too much time with them, or made them out to be bad people (see below)…I could never do anything right.
I wasn’t “technically” breaking up with him
Well, I laughed.
Ooh yes – see also the other trick, where they tell you that they wish you were more fun and went out more, but if you decide you do want to come with them to a thing with their friends they get all cagey and reluctant and/or pick a fight and ruin everyone’s going out mood or otherwise make sure you don’t actually go (or if you do go they make everything so weird and horrible you never want to do it again). Because then it’s hard for them to flirt with other ladies. See also the part where they hate all of your friends that you actually spend time with and talk them down until you see them less. So you know – why don’t you have more friends and go out more? Says the man who’s crushed you into a small isolated lump who feels like she can’t go out any more. When I met you you were more fun! Says every Darth Vader ever.
This is a reply to Anisoptera, but for some reason I can’t get it in the right place.
Your comment actually made me a little breathless. I’d never made that connection with the Dreadful University Boyfriend. I had totally blamed myself for not being more sociable. It was just a strange coincidence that I had no problem socialising after we broke up.
I am reeling.
I had a Darth who pulled that kind of shit once.
Then one time I was telling him about a day (when he had already blown me off) when I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to make plans with Friend A, so I held off on seeing what Friends B and C were up to just in case A called me back. And he had the nerve to criticize A (and me) for this! With no self-awareness that he had done the exact same thing on several occasions (including, essentially, just a few hours before A did–except A wasn’t my boyfriend and probably didn’t even know I planned on calling!)
Darths can be utterly mind-boggling.
The first paragraph about being kept waiting for plans that may or may not materialize just gave me a flashback to my Darth Father. And in retrospect I have the icky creepy feeling of having been the Other Woman to my step-mother, and now I have to go bleach my whole neurological system.
I have dated this person…several times. Not the same dude, but dudes who were just chronically unable to do one or more of the following:
1. Make plans (I am a big planner! I like doing things that require tickets or that are time-sensitive! But that shit is exhausting after a while and when it’s all or nearly all one sided it twigs my anxiety and makes me think that I am just somehow coercing someone into doing stuff they don’t like)
2. Arrive in even a remotely timely manner for said plans (Best/worst: the guy who told me that I should just tell him to be places 30-45 minutes before I planned to arrive because that is literally how late he was for things at all times)
3. Not act sulky and resentful about plans (If we are dating but making plans makes you uncontrollably anxious how are we going to see each other?)
I have no idea what was up with these guys and I actually suspect it was different things for different dudes.
Cats are way more reliable, creatures of habit as they are.
RUN AWAY, LW. RUN AWAY
I used to date this guy. I broke it of after he yelled at me after he visited my town and I questioned why he hadn’t told me about the visit. His reasoning was the same; why plan things when the future is unpredictable.
I think the advice is spot on, it’s what I did for two months before I finally had enough. That might be the result for you as well, but he might also turn around and start making plans. His reaction to what you do will be very telling!
This guy is also so familiar to me.
It was at a time when I wasn’t looking to be very committed and never pursued the “are we exclusive” conversation myself. So for a while our mutual flakiness worked out. However, he was also a super amazing awesome dude who I totally fell for and definitely would have wanted to be with in a more serious fashion.
At that point though it was all just very clear that he could be both a super amazing awesome dude who really cared for me when we were together – and someone who was not going to commit or plan to anything. He had an easy job excuse for the ups and downs of his life, but still. And if you want to hear where this story can end up a year and a half down the road – he still pops up from time to time, totally happy to either see or talk to me, totally caring and affectionate, and 100% unreliable.
I continue to find it very hard that this is not a guy who really fits any Darth qualities, but has just always been very direct that commitment is not on the table. While I’m spared having to deal with this too often anymore as we’re no longer based in the same city, I also haven’t entirely removed him from my life. And my brain struggles to compute someone reaching out to me when they’re 100’s of miles away, talking about how much they miss me and want to see me, and yet there’s entirely no ability to plan meeting up.
Sounds like someone who wants to have his “Someone is paying attention to me!” cake and eat it too – but doesn’t care if you want a piece.
Yep. Like the ex of mine who followed up “I don’t think we should get back together right now” with “but I’d like it if you still met me after my evening job every week.” Meeting at his convenience seemed to be the extent of it. Fortunately I had recently spent time with an old friend who had reminded me what it feels like to have someone act like I mattered and was worth doing things for, and so I asked “what’s in this for me?”, found the answer was nothing, and walked away. Made it all the way back home without looking back, and felt so much better without him in my life. (Turned out there were even more reasons to be glad about that.)
Dear LW, you also deserve to consider what is in this relationship for you. It’s not selfish to want to be with someone who treats you as worthy of making plans with and doing things for, instead of wanting you to wait around all the time just in case he might decide to do something at the time. I love being impromptu, but this can also be compatible with various levels of planning.
Spot on, Captain. I am a serious planner, and I feel so much happier when my life is scheduled and organized. I suppose some would find me morbidly unspontaneous, but they don’t have to date me if that doesn’t work for them. I’m much better off making myself feel comfortable with how I run my life and find others for whom that’s no problem.
I feel this comic by the wonderful Robot-Hugs is relevant here (content note for explicit sexual references): http://www.robot-hugs.com/boring/
This is PERFECT
Yes! I like planning out my weekend on Wednesday, so I can look forward to Saturday lunch at that dim sum place we love or an exciting bookstore or a massage. I don’t want to decide on Saturday, because then I get overwhelmed by the stuff that has to get done and never get to the bookstore/drum circle/dinner. I like knowing in the morning that I have X thawing for dinner tonight.
Wanting to have some solid plans for the weekend is reasonable. What’s unreasonable is what this dude is doing–basically expecting you to keep your time free on the off-chance he’ll want to see you. Nope right out of that. And yes, he’ll say “Oh, I don’t expect you to do that” but his actions say otherwise.
The Captain’s advice is spot-on. I’d also suggest that if he doesn’t make plans with you AND you don’t have plans, that you don’t meet up with him. Not to train him. NOPE. To kind of train yourself. YOU make plans for yourself–with friends or solo–and you stick to them, even if it’s “I’m cleaning out the fridge today” or “I’m going to that cool little coffee shop and reading a book” or “I’m going to go to the park today” or “I’m going to do a yoga/workout DVD” or “I’m going to visit my parents/sibling/friends.” You get used to enjoying time by yourself. Set your phone on silent or if you can, set his number to ring on silent for the day. You may want to just block his number but I’m team harsh. YMMV.
Basically, get used to the idea that your schedule and your time is worthy of respect and that you are worthy of respect. He’s not treating you like this and it’s not on you to school him about it. It’s one thing to do stuff spontaneously, it’s another to just leave things up in the air until the universe nudges you together. What happens in these situations is that one person leaves their calendar open in the hopes that the other will deign to spend time with them. Don’t do this. You deserve better than that.
I was involved with a guy like that and what happened was I got sick of waiting around and made other plans for the weekend. And I got so irritated with him that when he called me last minute I said I was busy anyway. Because in a sense I was.Even if I had no plans on a given day (unusual but it did happen sometimes) I was busy watching Ren and Stimpy or busy doing house stuff that I didn’t have time to get to and if he couldn’t be bothered to treat me and my time with respect I couldn’t be bothered to rearrange my schedule to see him. Fuck that noise.
I know you like him and that he’s a breath of fresh air from what you had before but he’s also coming off as flaky and unreliable. Think about what this will be like in a couple of years. You have a big family thing to go to and he’s going to hem and haw until the last minute or just flake out completely–even though he “loves” you? Your birthday or a holiday or a special event? Think hard on that.
I second ALL of this and the captain’s advice. I am a lot like you LW. I can occasionally do spontaneous (for instance, Saturday one of my friends called me and asked if I would like to go to an old cemetery wuth her and daughter to read and do grave rubbings. I checked in with myself, found I had the energy told her yes and had an amazing time that was also relaxing with no pressure to do anything) but it’s when I have the energy to do it and it’s something that I would want to do even if planned out fully. Take care of yourself first and foremost LW.
The most energy-draining thing, FOR ME, though, (and YMMV) is when someone says “let’s hang out Saturday” and I want to see them so I say “okay!” and then it turns out that by “Saturday” they meant “after 8 PM” when I have blocked out a larger stretch of time to hang out with them, and have been anxiously waiting for their attention to turn to me, and then I am sad and tired before they even get to it, and they have no idea what happened because to them this was the plan all along.
It turns out I need my plans less vague than that.
I started just following up with people, “Do you want to aim for $time I am interested in doing something or $other time that is acceptable to me? Or another time? I am pretty open, but need to plan some errands.” I like to have an organized day by about 10 am because weekends are too precarious to waste on waiting.
Yep, this is a great approach to open ended things. On the day of or day before, follow up and try to pin down the plan. If the plan can’t be pinned down to your satisfaction, say something like, “ah ok, let’s leave it for another time, I have some other stuff going on.” If the other person is bummed, well, you gave them an opportunity to nail down a time and they refused.
Another thing I do with ppl like this is I only say sure to saturday when I’m feeling ok with being a bit open ended like that. Like if I’m planning on spending the day at home or running errands and I don’t actually care if that person calls or not. If I get invited to a party or something concrete, I’m often up front about it, “hey x whats the plan for saturday cause my buddy just invited me to y and I need to work out my schedule.”
Honestly, I think I’d be past that point by now. It’d be “See you Saturday!” and I would live my life and make my plans, including making plans for Saturday if that came up. I wouldn’t, at this point, be *deliberately* making plans for Saturday to *make* myself unavailable, but I would no longer be saving space for him. And if I heard from him later in the week? Oh, sorry, I’m busy, maybe next Saturday? and see what he says.
It had not previously occurred to me that it might be unusual to text the person the afternoon before and be like ‘My diary has your name written in it for tomorrow. AWESOMETIMES. When’s good?’
I am having trouble processing the idea of not knowing on the afternoon of the day you’re meeting someone whether you’re meeting them in the afternoon or in the evening.
Yeah. I think it’s extremely reasonable (nay, standard) behaviour to contact someone a day or several days ahead to say “So hey, we still on for Saturday? What time/where do you want to meet up?”
It doesn’t address the big-picture issues here, but it does at least mean you don’t have to spend Saturday waiting for him to contact you while going slowly up the wall with anxiety.
rydra_wong, yeah, no it totally doesn’t address the big-picture issues for the LW, because the most sensible solution there is to DTMFA. But I don’t think that’s necessarily quite cruelmistress’ situation.
@Anna Sthetic — yeah, I was thinking of the LW.
cruelmistress’s situation sounds more like it could be good faith miscommunication, is which case clarifying the details of the plan ahead of time should sort it out.
YES. The standard, for me, is to make plans and keep them. Spontaneous outings and meetups are a *bonus.* If I don’t have plans for within a reasonable time, I have good information. If I we have plans and they bail, good information. And if I know I won’t see them for two weeks but I will see them, I can quit worrying about it.
My time is valuable.
YES – they’re for people I’ve built relationships with, and whose trust has been mutually earned.
That’s exactly what I was trying to get across (but I’m very wordy so it’s not always there). That LW’s time is valuable and they shouldn’t feel like they have to wait for something that might or might not happen.
Geez, “spontaneous” is a pretty tight timeframe. Like blowing off cleaning the fridge because you heard on the radio that there’s something interesting going on at a park and heading there instead. Or skipping out on some big uptight thing where one’s presence is not important because both of you decide it’s more fun to eat hot dogs and walk on the beach barefooted.
Spontaneous IS NOT deciding you are going to be freewheeling a week from now.
All of it.
ALL OF IT!
Fuck that noise, indeed!
“Basically, get used to the idea that your schedule and your time is worthy of respect and that you are worthy of respect. He’s not treating you like this and it’s not on you to school him about it. It’s one thing to do stuff spontaneously, it’s another to just leave things up in the air until the universe nudges you together.”
This. You and the Captain are so very right.
Yeah, I dated a guy like that. Found out that he actually literally believed that while he was at a bar or party, I was just waiting for him–not doing anything else, just sitting in my apartment and waiting for his godlike presence to show up. Like he was God or Elvis and I was a pitiful supplicant. (It didn’t seem to occur to him that, as an introvert, I was happy reading or listening to music by myself, or even just existing all by myself.) LW, you don’t want this guy to smug round thinking like this. You do your own things in your own time on your own schedule according to your own plans.
Yes to this ^
LW, I strongly endorse saying no to his showing up some of the time. This is hard I know, because you really want to see him and you feel like you don’t see him enough or get enough enthusiasm from his as it is, but you need to reclaim your life from sitting around waiting for him to call and gettting sad when he doesn’t. Live your life. Make your plans. Don’t leave space for him especially unless he’s arranged something solid with you. Becuase you owe it to yourself to not sit around waiting for the phone to ring.
I’ve been there, I really have. I know how it sucks. But guess what? If this dude really does want to see you he’ll probably start making plans around your schedule if he finds dropping in whenever just doesn’t work. And if he doesn’t? Well you’ll like yourself and your life a lot better if you’re off doing things you like with people you like who are actually capable of committing to things. It sounds like you want more than what this guy is offering anyway, what with the part where he’s just turning up for dinner and sex and then leaving again, and you want an actual boyfriend.
Also try to avoid letting this guy gasslight you into thinking you’re uptight for wanting plans. Lots of entirely normal healthy people want plans in advance because adults have lives and schedules and stuff and aren’t usually just sitting around waiting for their lover to call on them, and the only way they get together regularly is by scheduling it in advance. This guy may not be consciously aware of it, but he’s asking you to sit around waiting for the phone to ring, and drop all your other stuff in order to be there when he calls. Either that or he’s really not very invested in your relationship and is entirely happy to only see you a couple hours a month when your schedules just happen to align. See also don’t let him compare you to his ex in order to get you to comply with his BS, for example by giving you the impression that he wants you to be a cool girl and not all uptight and controlling like his ex… where controlling and uptight means booking in to spend a day together a week ahead. It’s true that life does sometimes happen and plans have to be changed, but that should be the exception not the rule.
He’s dropping that “see you Saturday” for a reason. He’s setting you up to clear your Saturday for him, then he reserves the right to show up or not, even though you’ve turned down other plans to keep the day free. Start saying no. If there’s no clear plan from him, make other plans for that day, and then if he does call up say no if you’re doing something else and offer him an alternative time. Respect your own time, and he’ll do what he does, and then you can choose based on that if you can actually be with him.
Also this: “I handle being lonely better when I’m alone and it might be less stressful.” LW, I have found this to be true. If anything, I’m not lonely once I’m out of a relationship that was unsatisfying.
Yep, 100% this. For me it’s the difference between being alone (solid plans for introvert me time) and being lonely (in a state of alone while waiting for people who were supposed to join me). Waiting around for someone all Saturday–a Saturday that I could happily have spent by myself if that’s what I had planned–takes things from “alone” to “lonely,” and it is definitely more stressful. Be kind to yourself and value your own way of interacting with the world/others, LW.
This is so true for me! Thank you for putting this into words, because it’s something I’ve struggled to understand within myself. I’m very happy to spend time on my own, but waiting around for someone (or having someone cancel plans on me) makes the alone time unpleasant, because now I’m no longer alone by *choice.* I enjoy my personal time, but I hate feeling lonely or abandoned.
I majorly agree with this. I can hang out by myself listening to music and reading, doing random stuff online, watching movies, whatever, all day long, and be perfectly happy. But when I was with my Darth and waiting around for him to call/show up/give me a HINT as to what the fuck he wanted…well, then it became that much harder to focus, on ANYTHING. That much harder to have fun alone. And then I’d be looking around for anyone else to hang with because I had blocked off some time as “human contact time” and he had crapped out on me and I was sad.
I dated this guy too. When I was working 70 hours between two jobs to put myself thru school and support myself. I’d get some precious and rare free time and got a “maybe…you know I don’t like making plans in advance” and then ended up getting all dolled up just to sit and wait. And wait. For the knock on the door and the ring of the phone that never came. I did just what the captain suggested. I made my own plans. And if some guy wanted a piece of my precious free time, he’d have to keep up with me. The guy I married booked EVERY date in advance and not only did he book my time, he actually took five seconds to go online and come up with some ideas of things to do.
What struck me was when LW wrote this, “I think I handle being lonely better when I’m alone”.
LW – did you realize you wrote that? You ARE LONELY EVEN WITH HIM IN YOUR LIFE. What good is that doing you? How on earth can you call this companionship when you have to hinge all your free time on a “maybe”? You can’t even sit at home and watch a movie because that MIGHT be the time he calls you up. If this guy really loved you, he would book your time in advance. Why? So that no other fellow could have it. He’s keeping all his time free and unscheduled. Why? So that he can take the best offer that comes his way. Which, guess what, may not be you! Drop him like a hot potato. The lonely feelings won’t last long once your free time is back to being all yours to schedule up with people that can commit.
I second this comment 100%. Jill, you hit the nail on the head. “You ARE LONELY EVEN WITH HIM IN YOUR LIFE.”
Thirding it–it’s better to be alone by yourself than to be lonely with this guy in it.
My ex-friend used to do the same thing. “Let’s go out for food and drinks Saturday night!” “Ok, what time?” *no answer*
Two scenarios would unfold:
1) I’d be all dolled up and ready to go at 7pm assuming dinner then drinks, then hear nothing until 9:30-10pm when I got a drunk text “hey Rhythla, we’re all at the bar, where are you?!” Ugh I’m inhaling food right now because the kitchen is closed at the bar, and I’m starving and don’t want to drink on an empty stomach.
2) I’d be in the middle of cooking dinner when I get a text, “we’re going to X new place for dinner, we’re outside for you now!”
2a) I put all the dinner stuff in the fridge or threw it out if it couldn’t be saved, hastily get dressed, and rush out, upset about not having enough time to get ready and wasting food.
2b) I’d pass on dinner and explicitly tell them to let me know when they were done and ready for drinks, eat my own food, get dressed, then wait until 11pm before changing for bed and getting a drunk dial of “we miss yoooou!”
It’s incredibly frustrating. Even if we got things explicitly spelled out, she would inevitably be late or want to stay in or whatever. I stopped hanging out with her before I graduated and have not regretted it. It freed me up to spend time with people who actually showed up when they said they would to go do the things we planned to do.
I lived with a guy like that for a while, sort of. He commuted by train to work, and sometimes he’d work late. Which was fine; all I’d ask is, could you let me know when you’re going to work late so I can plan something on my own? And he rarely did. So it always worked out that either I’d be sitting at home alone and finally he’d come in at 9:30, or I’d make plans and just as I was about to leave he’d come home. Argh.
As it turns out, after we split, he was diagnosed with clinical depression and that may have been part of it, I dunno. And I certainly had my own faults in that relationship. But it really didn’t help.
My take on that sort of thing is a call or text saying that they have until X time to tell me their plans. After which I’m doing my own stuff.
(And really? It’s X – half hour)
Yeah. Being able to say “Didn’t hear back from you so I assumed it wasn’t on, have just made myself dinner and am sitting down to eat it. Oh well, sucks that I can’t join you, catch you another time!” is a wonderful thing.
Because a) you have dinner, and have not wasted your time waiting around, which in my experience makes it a lot easier to be genuinely relaxed about it. And b) if your friends actually value your presence and want to see you (but are good-faith kind-of-crappy planners), they will learn to let you know by X time.
Yes! Your (a) is what I always felt, but your (b) is such an excellent point
Oh dear. I was that guy when I was in grad school. For me it was partly the fact that research laughs at schedules (hahaha, no more aliquots! have to thaw some frozen stuff! dropped the gel on the floor! cells not ready to party!), partly the fact that when I get into Flow time is not a thing, and partly a mental conflict between wanting to please my partner by coming home in time for dinner (because he was sad eating alone) and being aware that as a grad student leaving lab before 7 = being a slacker.
At the end of the day, he was hangry and the risotto was burned because he was waiting for me to have dinner because manners, whereas I just fully expected that he would eat when he was hungry and save me some leftovers because logic.
Don’t cohabitation in grad school, is my advice.
I am better about a) planning (because experience) and b) communicating but it was a struggle.
Although in retrospect I also had serious issues with being in a committed Relationship at that time (see: grad school, spoons, conflicts) so probably that was a bigger part of my Darthishness than the above let’s on … bees in my bonnet??
I also had a friend who used to pull this shit constantly. We are friends no longer.
Oh God. I dated this guy too. I still remember getting all dolled up on my birthday and going over to his house to meet him for the date we’d ‘tentatively’ planned together, only to discover that he had flown to another country the day before, and neglected to tell me. That was a shitty birthday.
That is just plain crap. Im so sorry he ruined that birthday.
What a scumbag. I dated a guy who said he’d take me out to dinner for my birthday. I waited and waited and he showed up 4 hours late, because he’d stopped by his mom’s and blah blah. I broke up with his sorry ass after that. I hate to say your guy wins the Scumbag Birthday award, though.
The birthday stuff sucks, but it really does illuminate the behavior – it goes from annoying and inconsiderate to insulting real fast.
My husband is like this and it’s TERRIBLE for my anxiety. I love him and we’ve learned to give a little on both sides because we wanted to make it work, but, uh, even if your guy is on the complete up-and-up, LW, I can say it doesn’t get easier.
Only you can decide your life, but yeah, if you’re thinking “this would be less stressful on my own”, that might be your answer. Good luck.
Oh man, yes. One aspect of my anxiety is that I am not a spontaneous person. I always joke that I can plan ahead for spontaneity (“Let’s meet downtown at 1pm and walk around until something catches the eye.”) but it’s really true.
I have one friend who is a bit flaky and I love her a lot but when we were first friends we made plans and the plan was “Drinks with people we both know, then going to meet Mr CatieCan for dinner at 7.30pm.” and she didn’t even show up until 7.30pm and was really sad that I had to go and didn’t understand why I was annoyed. So now I invite her to everything but only hang out with her one on one if she is coming to my apartment, where I can read or clean or play with my dog regardless of how late she is.
My self-care basically requires reliability. I don’t mind if you’re late, say, within half an hour, but if you “forget” or keep it really vague then eventually you will end up on my Flake List and be relegated to invitations for group events only.
I hear you on the planned spontaneity thing. For me my biggest issues come from unmet expectations, so lower expectations leaves less room for tension to blossom. I can even handle (nearly) last minute plans, just don’t leave me hanging.
I have had this friend a few times. I fired one and have worked out a mutual understanding with the other.
With the friend I fired, it’s because she’d do the “Saturday!” thing and then when it came to nailing down things she’d never get back to me on Saturday, or we’d say Saturday at 5pm and then she wouldn’t show up until 8, even though we lived just a few blocks away. Eff that noise.
The other friend has learned to make plans, but she’s usually late. She’s been informed that lateness beyond 30 minutes means I get to consider our plans cancelled and go do other things.
It’s about respect. That’s what it boils down to. LW, your manfriend is telling you “I don’t respect you or your time enough to make plans.” Respect is huge for me, and if someone is going to repeatedly tell me that my time isn’t worth anything to them – and by extension I’m not worth anything to them, then I am going to MOVE ON to other people that will respect me AND my time.
Yup, my long-term dude is like this as well, and it drives me nuts. He agrees to some plans sometimes rarely, but he’s allergic to actual scheduling and it freaks him the fuck out to have to plan ahead.
You won’t change this, LW. If you don’t like it, leave now, because this is a lifestyle thing even if he’s not seeing other people or whatever.
And I think it’s important to understand that LW probably won’t change *hirself*.
That feeling of “gosh, maybe I’M the broken one, maybe I need to be more spontaneous…” Well, that may or may not be true, but in my experience that just did not happen, no matter how much wishing. I need planning because of my mental state, and whether that need is socially valid or not, it doesn’t seem to be going away. 🙂
Yup yup yup.
What the hell is this dude doing with his life that he feels so unable to make even the simplest advance plans? is he a high-powered trauma surgeon constantly on call and a slave to his pager? Is he in a gang and his life is controlled by some gang leader? Is he a rabidly competitive Uber driver? A drug dealer? A warewolf? Who knows! The point is… not only are you not unreasonable, LW, he’s gonna have a real hard time finding someone in the world to date seriously who doesn’t find his demands to be unreasonable. The ability to make and follow through on plans is a basic human skill. And yeah, sometimes they can feel constricting, and that sucks that he obviously feels so constricted by them, but the reality is that the alternative is to be completely unable to function as a human. If this dude is a person with a regularly scheduled job, do you seriously think he would give his boss the same lines he’s giving you? No, because making money is important enough that he’s gonna need to make planning to be at work a priority in his life.
He doesn’t just have a different lifestyle from you. The only way I can interpret this is that you are not a priority in his life. Because people, no matter how ~spontaneous~ and ~free~, are able to make plans to carry out activities that are important to them.
He doesn’t just have a different lifestyle from you. The only way I can interpret this is that you are not a priority in his life. Because people, no matter how ~spontaneous~ and ~free~, are able to make plans to carry out activities that are important to them.
I may be very forgetful, I often loose or ignore my phone, I miss messages, I take my time on certain things, and I have tendency of being late, not to mention I also like my space. I just wanna say, beyond anything concerning “lifestyle” or “personality”, to me, the guy still sounds like an utter jerk! He can be as free as he wants with HIS time, that doesn’t take away the fact that he is not at all concerned with the LW’s.
Everybody has expectations when it comes to relationships, and yes, they are rooted on emotions and you can’t logic emotions away. For all my defects, at least I know in theory (not in the dating game for now*) that part of being with someone is being able to respect their expectations.
This dude just doesn’t. Hope the LW manages the situation in a way that she can be with someone who actually respects her.
Oh yes. I am a flake and generally suck at punctuality (ok, some of that has to do with depression and having small children–I joke that no matter how much time I allow for getting ready to go out, there WILL be a last minute poo-splosion) and I am still giving this guy so much side eye right now.
You never know what the future will hold…so it is not unreasonable to say “I’d love to hang out with you next Saturday, but I’m not sure just when I’ll be available. Can I call you on Thursday and we’ll make some plans?”
The most flexible and spontaneous person in the world is capable of sending you a text message. “Hey, I’m in your neighborhood this afternoon, wanna hang out at 2:00?” “A crocodile just emerged from my toilet, so I’m not going to make it to that movie. Art museum tomorrow?”
AND any of this might still be incompatible with LW’s needs for more advance planning! LW gets to decide this relationship is not meeting hir needs and take steps to get those needs met.
Double-this. Having gone through a couple years crazy in love with and being super understanding of a guy who swore he was just that way as a person and oh so damaged from The Big Heartbreak In The Past, but then when he healed enough and she was available, ditched me for the woman he really had a thing for all along and is TOTALLY DIFFERENT with, which i get to watch unfold in our shared community. It’s been excruciating, humiliating, and Very Educational. The big lessons have been 1) i have to work out my own issues about not being valued/chosen/attractive enough/whatever in myself and not be looking for/needing a partner to prove my worth to me, because this hell is where that only leads, and 2) Never justify and make excuses for other people to treat you poorly. Trust your gut – not your “hope gut” with it’s “but maybe if only”s, but your reality gut.
It is very hard to give up hope while there is still the possibility that he’ll get with the program and realize how awesome you are to and for him etc etc. But if a guy is showing you he doesn’t value you, regardless of how much he says the words “i love you” and _sometimes_ acts very loving (enough to keep you hooked on the intermittent reinforcement and hope for More Someday If You Wait and are Very Very Good and Understanding and give him All The Space He Needs) – despite all that, if he’s not showing you consistently that you matter too and he values you, that your needs and preferences are valid and important to him too? Then the relationship is a dead man walking. You do not have the option to get him to feel any differently, value you more, anything you think he should do or want him to do. You have the option to get real about how you are genuinely feeling in this relationship and with how this person treats you – there is no should and there is no might. As totally hard as it is not to _need_ _someone_, as long as you feel like you _have to have_ someone’s love – a particular person or in general – you are not open to your reality gut’s information on whether this person is actually adding to your well-being and bringing a net gain in happiness into your life.
In closing: NO ONE HAS EVER COME TO VALUE A PERSON MORE BECAUSE THAT PERSON VALUED THEMSELVES LESS. Not ever, ever, ever. Never.
In closing: NO ONE HAS EVER COME TO VALUE A PERSON MORE BECAUSE THAT PERSON VALUED THEMSELVES LESS. Not ever, ever, ever. Never.
That needs to be a sampler. Or a tattoo.
I see you dated my ex.
LW, you can make yourself and your needs so small you can dance on the head of a pin and this guy is still going to insist you’re expecting too much. Give yourself the space to be alone and let yourself be alone. As somebody who was left by a guy like this, I promise it feels really good to suddenly feel like you have a *reason* to feel alone. Because, at least for me, once there’s a reason, I can make a plan. But when my plan before was, “See Darth and get some snuggles to feel better,” things were bad. Once that option was gone forever, I made plans like “Go buy a new book,” and “Take myself out on a self date,” that were MUCH more satisfying.
I love the distinction between hope gut and reality gut! Very useful.
I kind of suspect his “different lifestyle” is “I want to do whatever I want whenever I want and not feel obligated to consider the feelings or schedules of others”.
Yep. Some people are naturally more spontaneous than others, I think, and of course the future is unpredictable–if you make plans for Saturday at 7, and one of you gets into a car crash at 6.30, it’s not going to happen. But that’s not a typical week. And a person who really wants to be with you will listen when you say that you prefer to make plans in advance. If he calls at the last minute, and you’re not available, he will learn to make advance plans next time–if he ever wants to see you.
See also: people who claim to not like boundaries. It’s often motivated by selfishness.
This is really true, Anna.
I married a guy who is very spontaneous and hates making plans. I am a planner.
When we were first dating, I was very taken with him immediately but I didn’t want to rush things. I had to give myself many a stern talking to about that.
We went out on a couple of dates (our first date was a group thing arranged by a friend who thought we’d like each other) that he called to set up (this was 20 years ago, so I know the whole “guy calls first” thing is passe now), and I believe I called him to set something up for the third date. Follow through was great. The events went on as planned.
At this stage, we never made plans at the end of the dates about when or if we would see each other again. When we started having sex I did not assume we were exclusive and protected myself accordingly.
Then once or twice he called me Friday to see if we could go out Friday, and I already had plans and told him so. This was not manipulative; I did indeed already have plans and I had no intention of cancelling them so that I could see him at the last minute.
The result was that next time he wanted to see me, he called earlier and made sure we had a firm date. He knew I was busy and had a full life and if he wanted to see me, he’d better keep in touch and follow through.
The only time he was late after that when we were dating was when his car broke down. And he called to tell me what the problem was.
The behavior you are describing does not sound like the kind of guy my husband is. He is indeed very spontaneous and traditionally is late to family gatherings (on his side), etc. Hates to answer the phone, hates to plan things. He used to go on snow skiing trips with a group of his guy friends, and would pack the morning of the trip. They would occasionally cancel the trip the day they were supposed to leave because they felt the snow was inadequate. That would make me crazy!
In our own vacations, he rarely makes reservations and rarely even plans the route or the destination we would take. Sometimes this works out great (he seems to be very lucky — we got the last hotel room in Durango, CO, on Fourth of July weekend once!) and sometimes we end up in some weird place in a crappy moldy motel.
I also learned to make plans without him because he hates being pinned down. Then I just go to the concert or the weekend away or whatever. Sometimes the event is such that he can tag along at the last minute, and sometimes I go alone. I had to get used to making plans without him and this has continued throughout our marriage. It felt really weird to me in the early years, but it’s worked out.
Right now he is on a solo camping trip out West somewhere and he has no idea where he will be tomorrow night. He just knows he has to be at work on Monday. And he may drag in at ten Sunday night, or he may show up Friday afternoon. But he texts me every evening to tell me where he is.
What you are describing is way beyond anything I ever experienced with Mr. Spontaneous, my husband. I agree with the other posters that you should stop blocking out time for him if he won’t agree to a time and a day. If he wants to see you, he’ll change his behavior enough to keep you in his life. That’s what my husband did, even though my planning ahead nature was alien to him.
If he won’t do that, and if he makes plans and repeated stands you up, that’s a big message right there that he doesn’t see your time as valuable. My husband never stood me up, ever. And if he had to be late, he’d call.
But to this day he won’t make plans more than two or three days ahead. And if he’s blocked out a vacation from work, he doesn’t seem to even want to think about it until the day before. I just carry on without him as much as I need to. It’s weird, but we’ve mostly met halfway.
(The comment I just wrote is in moderation but I just wanted to say: crap, LW, I’m so sorry for assuming that your pronoun is “she.” I’m not sure why I did that but it was pretty weird and uncool of me.)
(Aaaaand this somehow got nested? I have no idea what is going on and I’m stopping now. Sorry.)
LW, I do suspect that this guy is not the guy for you long term. I realize you love him, and you may not be ready to decide to let him go. Just let this thought work in your brain for a little while: Why are you expected to change the way you are to be with him, and he is not expected to change the way he is for you?
No, you wouldn’t expect him to completely change for you. And yes, good partners do challenge us to be better versions of ourselves. And yes, for some of us, that can mean going with the flow more often. However, good partners sometimes also make accommodations for our quirks and personalities. Your dude could, for instance, say something like, “I would like to see you Saturday, and it will be in the evening, but I’m going to decide later what we’ll actually do, so can you be flexible about that?” Or your dude could say, “I’m really not sure yet what my plans will be on Saturday, so go ahead and plan what you want to do. If it’s an activity that I can join last minute, let me know, otherwise have fun.”
You are not being unreasonable for having needs and expectations in a relationship. If he can’t or won’t accommodate you at least some of the time, then this “relationship” is really just all about what he wants.
And, just because I’ve done this myself in the past, don’t confuse the sex for affection. He may have been thinking, “Ha, I got lucky tonight even when LW has a cold.” You sound like you’re taking that as, “I was sick and he came to see me, therefore he must really care about me.” That is more likely to be true when he demonstrates how much he cares about you all the time, not just on the days you have sex.
“Just let this thought work in your brain for a little while: Why are you expected to change the way you are to be with him, and he is not expected to change the way he is for you?”
YES. Signal boost for this line; that is such a great way to reframe it.
“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… ”
I’m sorry, but all the kudos for bringing you nice stuff when you’re sick? All counterbalanced by “And then he left as soon as we had had sex”. Because me, I find it difficult to enjoy sex when I’m sick enough to require medicine …
Yeah, that was my thought as well. Kleenex and orange juice as the excuse for booty call. Ugh.
Yep. I knew my now husband was a keeper the day he showed up when I had the flu, and I opened the door, said “I am so ill, can you run me a bath?” And he just did. He came over especially to make sure I could get clean, and drink something, and maybe food, and lie down. I think he changed my sheets. And then he checked if I wanted him to stay over. No sexytimes were expected.
He had already won me over by making me pancakes the day he first stayed over, but that’s another story. Men who cook are So Hot.
I had the same reaction to that bit of the letter. Just…no. All sweetness of bringing you things is erased by leaving after sex. I mean, I’ve been at that sick stage where I’m horny but still snotty and bed-ridden, so I’d like to give his motives the benefit of doubt, but he left right after? Nooooooooooooooooooo. So many bees.
For the sick relationship stories though: I got really sick (had to be hospitalized) about a month after starting to casually date The Wifely One. She only left my side to change clothes and bring me food, and read me books while I was drugged up. That is literally when I knew she was a keeper.
@Heather: The way you describe your husband reminds me of my own late husband. He’s done all of the same, right down to the pancakes. Once we started living together before we married, he cooked up a wonderful meal for us every day.
The downside is that I didn’t know how to feed myself once he passed on. I’ve since learned, and continue to use the box filled with recipes that he accumulated over the years.
my husband also does all the cooking. My older son who was 5 when we married only remembers that I made cheese pasta; according to his memory I have no cooking skills at all & I often think wryly to myself that I will starve when he passes (which will never happen of course because we are both immortal i’m sure of it). he doesn’t use recipes sooooooooooooo I think I’ll be out of luck!
Anyway I am sorry for your loss. A cookin’ spouse is such a luxury.
Ex and I were not good for each other in many ways, but when I was sick, he brought over medicine, food, and a muppet movie, which we watched while I floated in and out of awareness. There were no sexytimes, and no pressure for sexytimes, and there was no bailing when it became clear there would no sexytimes.
I am side-eyeing so hard that my temples hurt.
Omg, I’m so glad I’m not the only one who was thinking that. If I’m sick and you come over, it better be to make me hot drinks and empty my trash can full of gross used tissues, not to get laid (and especially not to get laid and then bail).
Yeah, I read that and my first thought was “he didn’t bring you stuff because you were sick, he brought you stuff because he wanted sex.”
It sounds A LOT like he’s using you to get sex/etc. when he feels like it, like he has you on tap. Your needs/wants are going unaddressed because you are not what he actually cares about. Listen to your anxiety–it’s telling you that this is not a person you can trust. If he was, he’d make an effort (or even just SAY he’ll make an effort) to make plans/help reduce that anxiety.
My Darth Vader ex husband did this exact thing. To this day remembering it creeps me out.
Yeup… That, right there.
Thank you, me too as well!!!! When I’m even barely sniffly, I don’t even really want sex or feel horny, but much less if sick enough to warrant someone stopping by with care items, HELL NO do I want anything close to sex. Cuddling, maybe.
This totally sounded the alarm in my head when I read it!!
He came over to have sex, and used the “medicine” as an excuse.
Hey, LW, just a heads up, the whole “lizard person” thing is actually an anti-Semitic conspiracy theory. I haven’t read the rest of the post yet I just wanted to let you know.
Aw, man, that’s a disappointment, because that was fun terminology before it became racist. Is reptilian imagery a historically anti-Semitic metaphor I never heard about?
I don’t believe so, no. However, David Icke, one of the most prominent believers of the lizard people stuff, is also pretty anti-semitic. I’m not familiar enough to know if the lizard people conspiracy theory is directly related to his anti-semitic stuff, or if they’re just fellow travelers, but either way kind of gross. Icke didn’t invent the lizard people idea (it’s been around since before he was born) but he’s definitely the biggest proponent of it by a long shot.
I think it’s that there’s greater-than-reasonable overlap between “prominent people who are Jewish”, “people who anti-Semites believe are part of a world-controlling Jewish Conspiracy”, and “people who conspiracy theorists believe are part of a world-controlling Lizard Conspiracy”.
Nope, it’s an actual conspiracy theory. Fun non-fiction read involving them: _Them: Adventures with Extremists_, by Jon Ronson. Non-fun read: anything involving the actual conspiracy, which says that most celebrities and leaders are actually secret shape-shifting lizard people and teh Jewz control the world’s money supply. It’s sad that these are actual people, who, I kid you not, will go frame-by-frame combing news broadcasts to find evidence of nicitating membranes/ third eyelids “blinking.” They’re usually either Holocaust deniers or people who believe the Holocaust was just “infighting” of Rothschild factions, nothing that decent humans should have been concerned about.
Excuse me, gotta go take a shower and listen to that notoriously Herpe-Semitic anthem “All the Single Ladies” for a bit. Guh.
I dunno, I think the larger issue is these people need serious psychiatric help if they think lizard people exist.
In this place where “seek therapy” is frequently given as useful advice (rather than passive-aggressive sniping which conflates mental illness with harmful wrongheadedness), could I humbly request that you… not?
Wow. I watched V when I was young. But I recognized it was fiction.
Dammit, I thought it was just amusing and a bit campy-sci-fi.
Bigots: Ruining it for everybody in all the ways all the time.
Ah, man, agreed. Holocaust deniers and their ilk are p. nasty sorts.
Really? I have never heard this before. Can you point to a website explaining? (I believe you, and I’ll drop it; I’m just fascinated by such oddities and things.)
Count me as one more person who’d never heard of this – I’d thought it a reference to the whole “lizard brain” thing. Thanks for pointing it out!
Same here. I’d heard of David Icke and his lizard-people obsession, but I did not know it had become linked with anti-semitism. Plus, I too thought the LW was referring to the much more mundane lizard-brain thing.
I mean, yeah, I’m sure a lot of the same people who believe in reptoids also believe in the Elders of Zion and the Gnomes of Zurich, but any correlation between “lizard person” and “Jews” is a stretch requiring considerable imagination to bridge.
There, next time do your own work instead of demanding others do it for you and then express your disbelief over racism. Actual Jewish people are saying it’s antisemitic, maybe listen??
I’m not new to this debate and have been following it for some years across the internet. But I don’t find the argument that lizard people is anti-semitic definitive and neither do a lot of the people in the thread you just cited.
So, perhaps it would be better to term “lizard people” problematic rather than racist.
AFAICT, the originator of the conspiracy both believes that there are lizard people who secretly control the world AND that there is a conspiracy of Jewish people who secretly control the media. I believe it’s been pretty well established that he doesn’t think that Jews are actually lizard people, but he is a raving anti-semite. So… it depends on your definition of “anti-semitic conspiracy”, I suppose. It’s certainly related and feeds off the same narrative.
I… oh wow, I had no idea that was an actual conspiracy theory. OH WOW.
*makes sure her vocabulary squarely reverts to ‘pod person’*
I once had a fellow behind me in the post office line who had no idea how to send a letter. Like, I had to explain that he had to write the address and put a stamp on it and, when he showed it to me, explain that he *didn’t even need to be in this line* and could go buy a stamp from the stamp machine (or an ATM or the grocery store). He spoke with the local accent and had every appearance of being From Here, but had apparently never sent mail before.
He was clearly either an extraterrestrial or a robot trying to infiltrate my city. So… yeah, I usually go with ‘secretly a robot’.
But maybe, head injury or serious illness or drug side effect, as one who finds herself suddenly struggling to remember how to do things after events that are a combo of all three.
At the time I thought very little of it and just explained how to send the letter (and was happy to have something to do other than ponder post office lines). I walked off and thought about it a little more and THEN got confused.
Quite possibly he was having some kind of memory issue. That, or online billpay has REALLY taken off and we do indeed now have college students who don’t know how to send letters, though. I can’t remember the last time I did it.
@Stellanor but unable to nest further:
Oh yes, I have seen so many college students who had never addressed or stamped an envelope that I no longer offer to mail final grades if they give me a SASE.
This goes in the same file as my son’s astonishment that vinyl records have music on BOTH SIDES!
Yeah, I have trouble addressing letters because of my autism. The assumption that people can just *do* things that seem simple is….disheartening. Especially on CA.
Huh. I’d never heard of any “lizard person” anti-Semitic conspiracy theories, and I’m Jewish. Learn something depressing and yet hilarious every day!
My first thought was the Silurians from Doctor Who, actually.
Ohh, this is a tough one for me. I’m somewhat torn about the level of mockery here, as someone who actually has a hard time making and keeping plans. Sometimes a day turns out to be one of the days where going outside is A Hard Thing, and often simply having commitments on the calendar triggers anxiety for me even if I do honestly like the people involved and want to do the thing. My own self-care means I try to undercommit when possible, and as much as some people in my life have been convinced it’s a referendum on my feelings about them, well.. turns out no amount of additional “this person will think I don’t care about them if I cancel plans” or “this social group already thinks I’m a flake” counteracts anxiety (quite the opposite in fact).
That being said, this does sound like an incompatibility, and good scripts for figuring out whether he’s capable of meeting LW halfway. I just cringe a little at our culture’s general willingness to conflate not being good at plans with not caring or not trying hard enough. (See also: if I am late to meet you it doesn’t actually mean I am a selfish jerk, and being told that my whole life has not helped.)
That being said, I do still manage to do things that require plans and even tickets. But I do it by being sympathetic to myself, and making those plans with people who are also sympathetic. For me, I’ve navigated similar situations in the past by talking about what exactly having plans means to them (and to me). What does a willingness to make and keep plans signify to LW? e.g. that they’re a priority in the other person’s life? Are there other ways that could be communicated, or does the LW need plans to feel safe? (That is also totally valid and some people do.)
I guess I really wish that we were able to conceptualize “some people are planners and some people are not and that is okay” without adding all this moral baggage where liking plans is more grown-up or makes you a better person. There are ways to be either sort of person considerately (or inconsiderately).
I am not mocking an inability or difficulty in making plans. I am mocking a refusal to make them based on total self-serving bullshit.
This is not “natural planners” vs. “people with legit executive function issues” thread. This is a “dude who has tricked his maybe fuckbuddy/maybe romantic partner into doing all of the emotional labor in the relationship by being TOO COOL for plans” thread, in a way that has the LW questioning the legitimacy of their needs. This is also a thread about romantic relationships and compatibility, not about friendships.
Some people are planners and some people are not and that is okay to a point, though relationships between people at the extremes will always have friction. Some people make peace with each other’s differences, and some people find that this difference cannot be surmounted even if there are legit reasons for everything. It sounds like maybe it is time for a forums discussion on that topic. Your Anxious, ADHD, Depressed blogger who has had trouble being on time and who has had to bail on many a social event in her life is not here for moderating that particular thread of discussion today.
Fair, I apologize for the misread and the derail. Like I said, it’s a topic that hits a lot of my own buttons (as do many of the replies already). I suppose that should’ve been a clue not to comment, but it was first thing in the morning; I’ll try to pay more attention to that feeling in the future. Thanks Cap’n 🙂
“I guess I really wish that we were able to conceptualize “some people are planners and some people are not and that is okay” without adding all this moral baggage where liking plans is more grown-up or makes you a better person.”
Hi Kat, you might find this article of interest. I was like “oh wow, that’s me!” http://everydayfeminism.com/2015/09/symptoms-executive-dysfunction/
But yeah, like the captain said, I really don’t think this applies to the LW’s friend because this is a pattern I’ve seen very often.
And LW, I’m sorry to be adding to the chorus because you did say you had mega strong feelings for this guy. But I’m getting a huuuuge vibe of “you’re not that important to me” overall, and guys like this who I’ve dated have, without exception, dumped me on a whim when I was least expecting it. That’s when I discovered I was waaaaay more emotionally invested in them than they were in me, and that’s a dangerous situation to be in.
Some people are saying he might be seeing other people. I wouldn’t want to male accusations at a guy I’ve never met, but his behaviour does remind me of a man I once dated for a few months. He wouldn’t make plans in advance, he was all about the “maybe” and the “we’ll see,” only in his case he was manipulative and deliberately holding those “maybes” over my head to keep me hooked. Like you, I used to block out time “just in case” and found myself missing out on MY life often for nothing. He also used to treat me to several days’ radio silence at a time, then berate me for all the missed calls and texts I’d been bothering him with.
Anyway, a couple of months after he dumped me (by way of a text message that read “I don’t think things are working out for us, do you?” followed by a refusal to engage in any further communications), I ran into him with a woman who mentioned they were about to move in together. I asked how long she’d been seeing him and she said “Four years.” (I did ask if she knew he’d been seeing me, but she just gave me a stony look. Who knows what she was thinking?)
I know this man is not your man, LW, but I have to tell you that if anyone ever treated me like that again I’d be out of there post haste.
Exactly! I am also what I like to call spontaneous, aka “I don’t like to plan ahead”. However, I have some friends who do like to plan, and so I know that if I want to see these friends then I have to make and keep plans with them. And I do. And I even initiate plans with them about half the time, because I know that is how the process works. And I know that when I text them last-minute, often they won’t be available. See, Non-planners get all this. That is 1 more reason why your BF is absolutely full of major bullshit.
Dating this guy sounds exhausting. Future is such a changable thing, hahaha. Is the concept of having to be in a specific place at a specific time really that foreign to him? Really? Hasn’t he ever had a job, gone to school or had a … idk .. a doctor appointment?
You’re not weird or “serious about planning” if you just expect to see people at the time they said they’d see you. You’re not worrying needlessly, you don’t need to chill out, you’re just fine! You seem very emphatetic and very sweet and I hope you wil stop trying to find the fault in you, and find someone who will understand the concept of time and space better than my 18-year-old nephew.
This is an excellent point. I’m sure he will plan for things he sees as important–job interviews, doctor appointments–and show up more or less when he said he would. Infer what you will from the fact that he doesn’t view seeing you as also important.
I wish you all the best, LW, and hope that you’ll keep cherishing your own lovely self and building your own lovely life. If he can get his shit together to come along, great, but either way you’ll have a lovely life. Hugs to you.
+1. Even absent the other warning behaviors (which are pretty well covered), the LW should consider the long term effect on the LW’s anxiety when plans are things like leases and timely bill payments and scheduling repairs. Right now it is social plans. If you are considering a long-term relationship, it may eventually be more serious plans that can mess up your life, or just your pleasant vacation. And being with someone who won’t do any planning for those bigger things-the LW may want to weigh the effects of that stress in considering the viability of this relationship too (I say as someone who really needs plans to control anxiety and does not consider this need unreasonable)
It sounds like he has never actually committed to being in a relationship. Not making any firm plans is one of the common ways of “keeping things casual”. I think he’s made it very clear he doesn’t want to be serious with LW.
This. Even if there weren’t douche signals being sent here, I think another signal being sent is that he doesnt want the level of commitment that the LW is now kinda interested in. So planning issues aside there’s another incompatibility at play.
LW your needs are legit. You shouldn’t have to force yourself to ignore your feelings to keep your relationship. I don’t see anything unreasonable about your feelings or behaviour in the letter.
It looks like one of two things could be happening here.
1. When you make plans, you’d like those plans to be Plan A and he always treats plans with you as Plan B. He’ll hang out with you if he can’t/doesn’t come up with his own Plan A, but makes no promises. It sounds like he’s happy with this arrangement and has no desire to change it. Could you be happy with this arrangement indefinitely? (I couldn’t).
2. He has a disability that makes his energy levels/spoons difficult to predict, so he avoids making plans because he doesn’t want you to set aside time in your schedule that he knows he might not be able to follow through on. I doub’t this is whats going on, but I’m including it because you mentioned that he has some trauma history. The reason I don’t think this is the situation, is that most people in this situation would tell you whats going on and be apologetic if they have to cancel plans. Also, when they cancel, its usually going to be to rest/save spoons – not to go hang out with other friends. You said that he might “decide to go do something else entirely”. To me, that sounds more like going out with different friends.
Either way, this dude is not being considerate of your feelings/needs, and it doesn’t sound like he has any intention of changing his behavior.
Well, that’s exactly what I needed to read write now.
Aw. Live your life with Joy.
I hate books like “The Rules” and think that they’re largely antiquated, retrograde sexist bullshit, but the one piece of advice that they weren’t completely bass-ackwards on was the idea of making actual, concrete, date plans and not just always agreeing to “hang out” at the last minute.
Now, the idea of refusing to accept a date if someone calls you after, say, Wednesday (which I think was one of their rules), is silly, and of course there’s nothing wrong with calling someone up that you’ve been seeing to see if they’re free to hang out when you didn’t have plans or being spontaneous, but the “I’m so spontaneous that I *refuse* to ever make plans”? is ridiculous. And if you tell someone that you’re going to see them on Saturday, then either see them on Saturday of have the common human decency to cancel on them with sufficient notice, even if the plans were tentative.
Unless you actually got hit by a bus. If you got hit by a bus, you may be forgiven for not showing up at the appointed hour. maybe.
While I agree that The Rules is antiquated if read literally, I chose to read the books with an eye toward the spirit behind each rule. It’s not really about refusing to accept a date after, say, Wednesday — but about teaching people how you expect to be treated, as a person deserving of courtesy and respect, not as an afterthought. By making yourself unavailable when Mr. Free Spirit wants to hang out at the last minute, you are teaching him that your time is valuable and that you think enough of yourself to not put your social life on hold for a date that may never transpire. This encourages him to plan ahead if he values spending time with you.
It’s a lot like dog training. Firm, consistent behavior that sets expectations and encourages Fido to live more harmoniously with his human.
I think it’s less that and more “establishing what you expect from the get go, so a person can decide if they are willing to pay that price of admission.” I expect people to be decent humans who can figure out complex things like “if I like this person and I want her to be happy and be with her, I am going to have to agree to things. If I can’t or don’t want to do that, I can choose to move on or see if she will negotiate with me for another option.” I am not a dog trainer, who has to set and enforce limits and expectations all the time for everything because I am the boss.
“By making yourself unavailable when Mr. Free Spirit wants to hang out at the last minute, you are teaching him that your time is valuable and that you think enough of yourself to not put your social life on hold for a date that may never transpire. This encourages him to plan ahead if he values spending time with you.”
I think this is a really important point. By allowing this to happen, you’re giving him permission to disrupt your schedule and take advantage of you. Even if he isn’t deliberately manipulative, he will have realised that he can use this to his advantage, which is exactly what he is doing.
Something I heard a few years ago is, “People treat you the way you teach them you’re willing to be treated.” I apologize for the victim-blaming tone of it, but there’s some truth to it, I believe.
I heard it from the woman (she was teaching a class) who said that when you first start up a relationship with a new person, *do not* tell them about all the terrible things that your previous partners have done, because you’re telling them how you’re willing to be treated.
I’m not so sure about that second piece of advice. For example, say at the beginning of a new relationship I mention that Old Partner used to always leave plans up in the air and just expect me to have nothing better to do than sit around hoping they might show up and want to hang out, and that it was super frustrating because I always felt like my time wasn’t valuable to them. If, instead of thinking “Artemis’ ex was kind of a jerk, and I now know that having concrete plans is important to her,” New Partner thought “Ah, Artemis has put up with that kind of behaviour from partners in the past, so she’ll probably put up with it again,” well, that is not someone I would want to continue dating, so it’s information I would want soon rather than later.
I just used the term “bass-ackwards” a few hours ago, so I just wanted to virtually high-five you for that.
For reasons to complex and boring to go into, I was going through old text messages the other day and I stumbled across a bunch of message strings from an era when I was with a guy like this. I had even started seeing this guy casually, just having a fling, no romance, so I brushed off his assholishness like it didn’t bother me. I cancelled so many plans with my actual friends so I could hang out with this waste of precious nutrients, gave up all my weekends, left fun parties, and on and on. And despite how much I didn’t love him and didn’t want to be with him forever, his rudeness still hurt. Because rudeness sucks, no matter who it comes from!
He was an asshole til the bitter end – he ended our several month fling by ceasing to respond to my texts, and then telling some mutual friends “I guess we’re not seeing each other anymore”. Too funny, dude, too funny.
Don’t let your awesome life slip away while you sit at home and wait for this guy to decide to spend time with you.
Derp, I deleted an important paragraph: it was interesting to contrast that experience with early text messages with my now-fiance. He is a little bit more loosy-goosy than me but the minute I said “hey, I’m a busy person and I need to know what time we’re hanging out along with the day” he started doing that. No fussing at all. When there were actual reasons that he couldn’t give me a firm time (work, project that might run long, etc) he told me that and I knew what to expect. Even early, before we were in love, before we were getting married, we did this because we are nice people and respected each other.
Hey, I love this comment for being high in levels of Truth, but please don’t use ableist words like derp. They’re mocking the sounds mentally disabled people make.
aw, shit, really? TIL.
Ugh, I would honestly not tolerate this type of behavior from a casual acquaintance, much less a significant other! In the kindest possible terms, this guy is wildly incompatible with you. One thing I learned in meeting my current partner is that there were all sorts of things I had been compromising on or just saying “Well, that’s how men are and I can’t blame them” with previous partners. Then I met my current partner and was like “Hey! Joy! Someone who loves me AND ALSO is magically able to respond to texts within a reasonable window and doesn’t suddenly disappear mysteriously without telling me! And who doesn’t act like it’s a giant chore to visit me in the hospital when I am sick!” When I put it that way, the things I had wanted and not gotten and endlessly compromised on in previous relationships were just not that huge/unreasonable of demands! And finding someone who naturally was into my level of communication/committment/relationship style was such a relief, because suddenly they weren’t “demands” but rather the natural course of our relationship. You deserve it, guys like this DO EXIST, and I would suggest unentangling yourself from this douchebag so you can find one of them.
I’m happily married to someone who likes to keep his options open for as long as humanly possible in any given situation so as to make The Best Possible Choices – we had a discussion the other night about some travel involving unwell family members, comma, mine, that was basically him saying “well, I want you to have the choice of doing X, Y, or Z if that’s what works and I want to be free to be there for you” and me saying “no, honey, look. As long as we don’t have a solid plan I have to carry a huge weight of unresolved possibility around and her condition is slow-moving but degenerating and there will be no new data unless the wheels come off completely and I just cannot, I need to make plans now while I’m not in the thick of it” .
And it took a couple of rounds, but we got there. Right, he said. You’re not like me. Okay, let’s nail this down.
Dear LW, can you even picture that scenario with your dude? I don’t think this is a likely scenario with your dude.
It’s not the fondness for doing things on the fly – it’s that he doesn’t respect that you’re not that way, and he doesn’t seem to respect that sometimes being spontaneous should mean he loses out gracefully, and he doesn’t seem to have a lot of concern for how to make this relationship work out for you – it’s all on you to work out how to be happy with him, because he isn’t open to compromise or changes.
If you want to give it a bit more time, I think the Captain’s advice is good – start doing the things you want and planning the things you want and need to do and see if he puts in the effort to see you or not. Maybe he’s young and not very sensible. Maybe he’s really into you and it has genuinely never occurred to him before that his eternal man-child schtick is anything but delightful. Maybe.
But if you do those things and in a month, or three, or six, you still spend a lot of time feeling like you’re just not a priority and could be doing other things with your life, set your manic pixie dream boy free to go screw up someone else’s schedule and entertain the wooing of those sweet sexy dudes who can keep a schedule.
Oh Marna, I’m so glad for your comment! You are absolutely right.
My partner is similar to your husband. We do a lot of “this is what works for me, what do you need?”-ing. Your “unresolved possibility” is just like.. taken straight from my head. Magic!
I wish the best for your unwell family members. Jedi hugs
“It’s not the fondness for doing things on the fly – it’s that he doesn’t respect that you’re not that way, and he doesn’t seem to respect that sometimes being spontaneous should mean he loses out gracefully, and he doesn’t seem to have a lot of concern for how to make this relationship work out for you – it’s all on you to work out how to be happy with him, because he isn’t open to compromise or changes. ”
I’m one of those “planned spontaneity” people and I’ve run into a lot of people who refuse to explain or compromise over their flakiness (I think it’s the micro-culture I’m living in, but anyway). If someone tells me that they work long, unpredictable hours? Sure, we’ll find a way to deal with that if we want to maintain the relationship. If someone tells me that they have variable spoons and sometimes don’t know if they have enough until the last minute? Sure, we’ll find a way to deal with that if we want to maintain the relationship. If major circumstances in their lives change? Sure, we’ll find a way to deal with that if we want to maintain the relationship. If the other person is not even interested in trying to meet you half-way, then is this really someone you even want to keep in your life?
I used the line, “I can’t plan for that, the future is unpredictable,” once – it was shortly before I left for college, and what I should have said was, “Dad, there’s no guarantee that I’ll be able to find a job that works around my class schedule, so making plans based on the assumption that I’ll have a job is irresponsible.” But my own inability to articulate what I meant during a stressful time notwithstanding, seeing some schmuck using the same words to avoid making Saturday plans with his maybe-girlfriend is pretty appalling. LW, your “boyfriend” is extremely immature at best (and maybe a whole lot worse). I think you’d be happier making your own plans and giving him the choice of get with the program or get left behind while you do your plans without him.
There you are being brave and trying to accommodate — a whirlwind? a cat? no, none of these. Trying to accommodate a man who told you what he is: he’s not interested in commitment, nor in monogamy, nor in accommodating or pleasing you. There’s a reasonable chance that he’s lying too. That is, he may be telling other women he’s seeing that he loves them.
The voice that tells you he’s withdrawing is correct. Remember, he said he can’t commit. Loving you doesn’t change that.
If you’re not ready to ditch him, don’t. Let him come over if that’s convenient. But stop carving out time for him. Allow yourself to book your time — even to go on dates if you’d like — exactly as is convenient for you. Try to avoid putting off fun things with other people that he might just like. Do them yourself or with friends and family.
Make plans that exclude him. Allow him to retreat to the periphery of your life. Don’t make space for him. You’ll be happier with a life full of Not-Him.
And Jedi Hugs if you want them
One big lesson I learned from dating Bastards was this: if he says something negative about himself in a way that clearly isn’t tied to his self-esteem or Jerkbrain, BELIEVE HIM. That is, if he says he’s no good at commitment or doesn’t want it, believe him. If he says “I’m a right bastard to women” (yes, one man said this and I naively brushed it off as a joke), believe him. When I was much younger, I totally used to buy into the whole “he’ll change once he falls for me” narrative. Yeah, don’t do that.
I was seeing a guy, and having a related issue – dates happened some of the time that I asked for them, and asking all the time was taking its toll. The other girl he was seeing (polyamory) said “that’s how he is”. And I went to him and said that I really needed a weekly standing date. And he signed on.
Later on, I was going round to his but feeling ignored/neglected. I took the time to recognise that I had deal breakers, and that I might ultimately have to break up with this man I loved dearly. I squared my shoulders, went round, and demanded that he tell me if he were happy with things and any issues he had. And he had none, and I told him I had some and needed some changes, and if he was genuinely happy then it wasn’t out of order for me to expect some compromise/adaptation.
Not the ideal approach – a bit of a “gotcha” conversation, but we had enough mutual respect and trust to smooth over that. And he adjusted, and things were better for both of us.
If this guy loves you and is a bee-free zone, it’s reasonable to expect him to have some interest in YOUR happiness and needs as well as his own.
One can’t predict the future. I don’t know if it’ll be sunny or rainy or, heck, snowing tomorrow. But I know I’m gonna travel across town to feed my friend’s cat, because that’s what a commitment is. And if this guy can’t make the commitment of “I will spend these 4 hours with you on a Saturday afternoon”, then that guy’s not worth investing any of your emotional wellbeing in.
“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.”
There’s commitment and then there’s committing to the basics of going out with someone. It seems like he’s conflating the two. He probably really doesn’t want commitment. But the easiest way to add:
+ get sex
+ be intimate with someone
+ not feel trapped in a relationship that could turn traumatic
= not do basic acts of commitment.
Where basic acts of commitment are: “we have scheduled this thing on Saturday, and I will be at this thing on Saturday.”
You don’t want to break up with this guy. But I think it’s time to have a relationship defining talk; it’s ten months in. Maybe don’t schedule it–he won’t show up–but initiate the talk anyway: “Hey, I wanted to ask you a couple things. I am nervous about starting this talk, but I’m not going to judge you for whatever you answer, this is my nervous face and not my judgy face.”
-are we exclusive
-what do you imagine when you say a relationship without commitment
-are you interested in growing this relationship into a committed relationship
And then you can say your things like,
-I really like you
-I (do/don’t) want to be exclusive
-however, I am a planner
-I want to have plans
-I will have plans, and I’ll tell you times that I’m free, and we can plan things
-let’s talk about how to have a relationship with the level of commitment that you want and with the level of respect for me that I want
And then you talk about it.
However, as you’ve noted…he hasn’t made accommodations for you. He may not be ready for the kind of relationship that is more than a couple weeks of sex times. That’s ok; that may not be the kind of relationship you want to have. But you gotta express what you NEED in a relationship to be happy without suppressing yourself into a two-dimensional person.
Let me also put this in context of taking care of him, since it may be an easier and more comfortable way of framing it–you seem like a Take Care Of People kind of person, which can make it really difficult to accept drawing boundaries around yourself. This is exactly the same stuff as the Captain is saying, but, like, an intermediate step from “I must take care of everyone over myself” to the preferred “I must take care of myself.”
My first relationship was with an older guy who had been in a five-or-so-year relationship before. He knew how to conduct a relationship. I sometimes give well-meaning but backhanded compliments; he said, “haha, wow, that was backhanded,” and I realized that it was, and apologized, and didn’t do it anymore, and it was all very painless. He said, “I want XYZ out of our relationship,” and I said, “gaahhh!”, and he said, “I said what I needed, and it’s ok for you to respond differently in whatever way you need, but this is what I need,” and I said, “I guess what I meant by that is I need time to process my emotions before I answer,” and he said, “okay! I’ll check back later,” and it was painless.
What I’m saying is, he enforced boundaries on the relationship and stated clearly what he wanted, and I learned from it, and I am WAY BETTER in relationships now than I was in that first relationship. You can be that person. By enforcing your boundaries, you are saying, “Hey, here I am, this is me, you are in a relationship with a me, I know what I want, and you also know what I want.” That’s being in a relationship with a 3D person.
It is an incredibly stable feeling to know you’re with someone who knows what they want and will tell you. It is an incredible gift, and it lets you imitate it and find that stable place in yourself.
If you can be that person for someone else? If you can say, “I care about you and I want to be with you, but x and y are what I need out of this relationship, and there is no subtext here,” then you are granting your gentleman caller a boon, and it’s goddamn good for you too.
Also: as the Captain said: this is MORE emotional labor. If this guy doesn’t respect you–and it sounds like he really doesn’t, no matter what fearful and sad things in his head are causing the disrespect–then you can say, “no.” “No, I don’t want to be in this relationship. I care about you, and I’d (like to be friends / stay in contact / talk to you again in six months) but this relationship is not for me. I want a relationship and you do not.”
That is also an incredibly caring thing to do for yourself and for the other person. Why make yourself stay in a relationship that makes you deeply unhappy? Why allow someone else to make you deeply unhappy? The caring thing for the other person is: why should you be in a relationship where you are making the other person unhappy? Like, you don’t want to hurt me, but you are, so I won’t let you any more.
Again…this is emotional labor for you. The framing as caring for the other person is kind of a cheat shortcut that I personally have used on the road to actually framing it as “I need to take care of myself so I refuse to do this extra emotional labor and I refuse to be terribly disrespected on a daily basis.”
“The caring thing for the other person is: why should you be in a relationship where you are making the other person unhappy? Like, you don’t want to hurt me, but you are, so I won’t let you any more.”
A little off topic but thanks for this. As the ‘bad-guy’ half of unreciprocated feelings in my first relationship I needed to hear this.
Someone who cares for you will often know if they are hurting you LW, and will feel like shit about it. If they do they should break up with you, simple as. This dude hasn’t done this, so easy either incredibly selfish or incredibly oblivious. Both are not ideal ad both would benefit from you two having THE TALK.
“there is no point in treating plans as solid because the future is such a changeable thing”
I wanted to note that he actually has this backwards; his future is such a changeable thing *because* he doesn’t treat plans as solid. Yes, the world is unpredictable and you might have to change plans last minute because you got attacked by a roaming pack of dire wolves and you need to visit your local wizard for a healing potion ASAP, but most of the time making plans makes the future a less changeable thing. Odds are that he doesn’t make plans because he’s hedging his bets, and someone who won’t go all in on an awesome person like you really isn’t worth your time.
LW, I met this guy too. He was great, but he was the first person I’d actually gone out with since ending a long, traumatic relationship, and when we met we both said said we weren’t looking for commitment. I was fine with it, but then we kept seeing each other and I started falling hard and wanting more. But we still said we “weren’t dating.” And after about 6 months he came to me and said he’d hooked up with an old girlfriend over the weekend and even though we hadn’t had the exclusivity talk, he felt terrible about it. And I said that hearing about it made me feel terrible too. So we agreed that we were exclusive and that we were really truly dating. After two year of long-distance exclusive dating with regularly scheduled weekend visits and nightly phone calls, we moved in together. And we have been happy for the last eight years and he treats me like I am his oxygen.
What I’m trying to say is that if this dude shared your feelings, he would not “want to try to be with you.” He would be with you. He would not fob you off with blamespeech and treat you like a fallback plan.
I hope you find equilibrium and peace. I feel like dumping him is the surest path to both, but only you can decide what’s right for you.
Reblogged this on The Monster's Ink and commented:
Oh, my dear. No. No no no no, the problem here is not with the LW. Dude is treating her carelessly, and she’s acting like she’s the one who needs to adjust. This is not responsible, adult behavior she’s describing on the part of her dude. This is incredibly inconsiderate, selfish behavior, and it should not be reinforced. “He’s like this in general”? So basically, he’s a selfish piece of shit with EVERYONE in his life, and so far no one has effectively told him to knock it off. “No point in treating plans as solid because the future is a changeable thing”? No. This is not an attitude that someone should bring to a grown-up relationship. If he says “see you Saturday,” then he should FUCKING SHOW UP ON SATURDAY. If he makes a habit of doing otherwise, then he’s telling you that you’re not important to him. No matter how many times he insists otherwise, this behavior is communication.
I agree wholeheartedly with the Captain’s advice. It sounds like he’s using the LW as backup plans, as in “Well, if nothing better comes along by Saturday, I’ll go see her.” And that, it should go without saying, is an Official Asshole move.
That said, there is another possible explanation, though I’d put the odds on it at roughly 2%. He may think it’s better to be seen as an asshole than to be seen as having mental health issues. If come Saturday, he doesn’t have the spoons to go do whatever the two of you have planned, he disappears giving the bullshit line of ‘the future is such a changeable thing,’ because the truth may not be something he can say out loud, even to you. It’s a combination of mental health stigma and toxic masculinity that leads to this line of thinking. The question is, when he cancels on you, what does he do instead? If it’s self-care type stuff, this may be what’s going on. (On the other hand, if he’s doing stuff with other people, and cancelled on you without even telling, then this definitely isn’t the case – and I’d be pissed that Mr. Can’t Plan is actually Mr. Can’t Plan With Me.)
IF this is what’s happening, AND you want to try to make it work (and I want to emphasize that it’s completely okay to end the relationship over this), you’ll still need to address the fact that he’s silently cancelling on you. The way I’ve handled it is by having a clearly nonsensical reason that’s a flag for, “Hey, I really need some alone time right about now,” and then when I’m out of that particular funk, trying to schedule something else later. “Sorry, there’s some pretty bad turbulence in the luminiferous aether, and I won’t be able to make it to X tonight.” Make it clear that cancelling isn’t a problem; cancelling without telling you is a huge problem.
Just remember that you’re under no obligation to fix his issues, and even if he agrees to tell you when he needs to back out, if his issues leads to too much instability in your plans, you don’t need to stick with him. After all, neither of you started out this relationship looking for commitment.
My feeling is that even if there is neurological stuff going on here, is it the LW’s job to diagnose that in their relationship partners so that they might pre-excuse their behaviors and pre-accommodate their needs at the expense of their own? I’ve known a lot of people with legit diagnoses who are also a) highly incompatible with me b) not good partners c) asssssssssssssshoooooooooooolllllllleeeesssssssss. I know a lot of good people with diagnoses read this space (and hello, write this space), but that instinct to say “Before you decide some behavior is unacceptable, realize that it could be x!” Well, what if it is both x and really unacceptable to you? You still get to set a boundary about what you will or won’t tolerate in your relationships. That’s why there is a site rule against diagnosing LWs or the people they write about (or commenters!) and focusing on behaviors instead.
My apologies. I saw bits of myself (and my own mental health issues and hangups) in the LW’s guy, and when I started writing, there weren’t any other ‘But what about X?’ comments. (If I had refreshed and seen them, I wouldn’t have joined that chorus.) I also tried (and failed) to say what you’re saying here, that even if it is X, that still doesn’t make it right.
No matter my reasons and intentions, I messed up with the diagnosing and with giving into the ‘What about the X!?’ reflex, and for that I’m sorry. I’ll keep an eye out for it in the future, both here and elsewhere.
I have those same issues, so, hey? We’re good, I’m just trying to stem the tide.
Gonna jump the ADHD bandwagon here.
Call me irresponsible, call me unreliable, but I am by no means a flake! Actually, and I’m speaking only from my own experience, having people boss me around actually works better for me than telling myself to start something at three, just to end up doing it at six (and this happened today!!!). When people who generally are a little inattentive get pressured, you’ll find that many get shit done!* That’s probably why I actually gravitate towards the high strung (ok, not to high strung, or we’d kill each other) but people with a little edge sorta do it for me. I get kick out of annoying them from time to time, and they like my energy when I get my mind on something.
What I’m saying is, there’s a light years distance between being a bit disorganized (or a lot) and lacking basic respect for your partner. I may be the type to look at my phone during a movie, but leave straight after having sex! Barring the people who have that as a part of their relationship, SCREW THAT DUDE!!!
*Dammit Panic Monster, I’m going I’m going! http://waitbutwhy.com/2013/10/why-procrastinators-procrastinate.html
This might be out of place, but my friends who have reasons to cancel sporadically (fibro, foot/leg pain, depression, anxiety, or, hey, even a demanding work schedule + exhaustion) COMMUNICATE about those reasons. If we’re making plans in advance, they let me know up front that the plan might not go through and when I can check back in to find out. That gives me enough reassurance that they care about me to soothe my own brainweasels.
Absolutely. And I’ve made this point until I’m blue in the face in certain disability communities. Some people get it. Others think I’m just a Big Meanie for legitimizing that it’s perfectly okay to decide that someone else’s behavior is simply unacceptable to me (and therefore a sound justification to not allow them into my world) where my boundaries are concerned. It doesn’t much matter to me *why* the person behaves as they do. An incompatibility is an incompatibility.
Of course, the folks who call me a Big Meanie reject people all the time for grating on their boundaries. Somehow, that’s all Different.
You know what really grinds my gears? The LW has stated that they have anxiety issues and that this aggravates them. Other commenters have also pointed out that this sort of behavior aggravates their anxiety. When people act like the dude is the one who may have the disability and completely ignore the fact that the LW *definitely* does, and that many other people affected by this behavior also have disabilities, it’s belittling and erasing as hell.
Yes, this is awesome.
My partner does exactly some of that shit for exactly those reasons. Zie is so invested in passing in order to reap all the privileges of zie’s other identities and avoid the stigma of mental illness. I sympathize, but zie is also sometimes just an asshole. And sometimes that effort to pass means passing the cost onto me. Not okay, and I went along with it for way too long. LW, don’t be me.
Ultimately, if zie cannot share important information about zie’s mental health and limitations and maintains this veil of secrecy, then we really aren’t being intimate, or rather I am and zie is not. The lack of reciprocity and the lack of communication are fundamental problems, and ultimately the perfectly legit reason doesn’t matter because the behaviors are what counts, not the intent.
It’s not my job to be a fucking mindreader. And if zie can’t be verbal in the moment, then we need to figure out some sort of signaling system that does work. I can’t do that by myself. Ultimately, the person with the problem needs to communicate the problem and the needs that are at the root of it. And then the two people need to figure out something that meets both their needs for less cost to both of them, not just one of them.
It’s not your job. I’m sorry that things are rough for you.
Thanks! Actually, they’re much better in most ways. What’s worse is sitting on that fence caught endlessly between hope and despair. We are both working at it! And doing better with the communiction! But it still might not be enough. Clearly, I am one of those remove-the-bandaid-agonizingly-slowly types. Moral of the story: don’t be me. A clean break is probably better for everyone.
You’re welcome. I’m glad things are better. If I understand you correctly, you and your SO will be sad if you can’t work out your issues, but you (and presumably zie) will be ok. If so, I congratulate you on standing up for your needs.
On a related note, while I mostly prefer to yank the bandaid off, sometimes that’s not how things work out.
I was crazy about a guy who treated me like crap, too. He would call me every day and talk for an hour or two, but if I wanted to actually plan something – well, he wasn’t ready for a relationship. But he could see the possibility of something serious with me, he said.
We talked and occasionally saw each other in person for a few months. He took me to meet his parents – turns out he was living in their basement, which I should have taken as a very bad sign. His mom said, “You’re the girl Our Evil ManChild has been talking about!”
But still – no actual dating.
It wasn’t until after we finally slept together that he accused me of tricking him into a level of intimacy he had not wanted. That was when it finally hit me that I had been a complete idiot. (Even though my friends had been telling me that if a man wants to be with you, he will make time for it. They were right.)
I learned a few years later that the entire time he had been telling me we had a future together that he had been dating the woman who is now his wife, driving 12 hours on a weekend to spend a night with her and then returning.
If someone wants to be with you, he will find a way to do it.
Word. I kept my options open for three years while I was dating a guy like this. Eventually I got sick of being let down every. single. time. and started going out with someone else.
I ran into Ex several years ago and he said something to me like, “I always really loved you, but the timing was never right.” I don’t think he realized how hilariously appropriate that summary was of our relationship.
Tangent: as someone also living with her family, the implication that it’s a red flag makes me uncomfortable, especially since there are many adults in similar situations these days, whether for health/financial/cultural reasons.
Having said that, I agree–if someone wants to be with you, they will find a way to do it. Early in my current relationship, my SO had three weekends booked solid, but instead of saying ‘well, see you sometime next month,’ we made plans to see each other during the workweek. It meant we didn’t get to spend as many hours together per date as we liked, but it really meant a lot that he was making time to see me regardless. Right now, we’ve fallen comfortably into a “see each other on weekends,” although that can be subject to change based on schedules and the like.
Yeah let’s not make vicious assumptions about someone based on where they live. Not in this economy (if ever!). believe me, they likely already feel like losers even if they have good reasons (sick parents, education, not wanting to throw money away on rent when a year or two at home could mean you can buy a house, recently exited a bad relationship, or just family or global cultural norms)
This guy had a job. This was also over 15 years ago, when living with your parents at the age of 39 would definitely raise eyebrows. 🙂
Hm. Posted this once and don’t know why it didn’t take.
Agree with you about living at home now. This was 16 years ago. He had a job and was 39 years old. That raised eyebrows back then.
Thanks for understanding. I assume this guy wasn’t from a culture where living with the family was the norm, since I had two aunts who did that until they were married (and in one case, not until she was 40 or so, about 20 years back). Either way, I’m glad you’re well shut of him, since you deserve someone who’s willing to share their time with you.
(I assume, also, that the job was well-paying enough that he could afford his own place!)
Yes. He owned rental property. (Rental property that he did not maintain, which was another reason not to have anything to do with him.)
Oops. Yes, his job paid well enough for him to live on his own and he had enough money to invest in rental property.
Ah, yes, that makes sense now. I’m also employed, but given no guarantee of stability, which is why I’m here saving money. Although I’m from a culture where living with family is the norm, I’d be living in my own place if I was in that guy’s situation.
Thanks for clarifying and for your understanding!
captain, babe, i have to admit the added petnames were a bit funny, because i personally use petnames ALL THE TIME. but i also think that “see you saturday” means i will see you saturday. and if i don’t see you saturday? we are in a fight, and somebody needs to apologize. or you can call and cancel! just say “i’m sorry, (see what i did there?) i can’t make it on saturday.”
lw, i hope that guy catches your cold. i am seconding everyone who says to stop making time for him, because if his ‘spontaneous’ way of life only works when you’re waiting around it will not work for you. who knows, maybe the timing will click sonetimes?
LW, one thing that really jumped out at me was that you are treating your own need – a need to have a plan of some sort in place – as being somehow inferior to your b/f’s, and I just wanted to say that the fact that he figured out cooler-sounding “logic” to support *his* need to never make any plans at all ever doesn’t mean that it now trumps yours. You each have a need, those needs are in direct competition, and how he negotiates that fact with you is going to tell you a lot about him. The fact that he’s minimizing your need in service of his own is not a particularly good thing. The fact that he’s not only doing that, he’s doing that by convincing you that his approach is “better” and you should just forget your silly need and be more like him is an even worse thing. If you want to keep seeing him, definitely follow the Captain’s smart advice, but also? It’s okay to stop seeing someone – even someone you really like or even love – if that person won’t even acknowledge, let alone meet, a need that is really important to you.
(Side note – I am an ultra-planner, my spouse is, well, the opposite of that, and it really is possible to reconcile those two approaches to life in a way that supports both partners’ needs. The key is that you have to want to figure out reasonable accommodations for each other together, and it doesn’t sound like this particular dude wants to do that with/for you.)
Oh, the ‘logic’ thing reminds me of a guy I used to date. He had this whole theory about being unable to commit because he was such a ‘free spirit’. After that I vowed not to date guys who need to invoke complex theories to get away with their bullshit.
ultra-planner engaged to free spirit here! Seconding this comment. Sometimes there are rough patches because I Love Calendar and Calendar Can Make Him Anxious but we both want to make the other person happy, so compromises get made and understandings are reached.
When for our anniversary last year he asked me if I wanted to make us a shared google calendar so that we could put important things (his work gigs, if I had a night out, etc – I don’t put the insane detail I do in my calendar “go to gym” “chores” etc. on his) into. Reader, I’m marrying him.
In all seriousness, I swooned at “shared google calendar”. Congrats!
I was willing to give the guy all the benefit of the doubt in the world, pretty much right up until I reached this line:
there is no point in treating plans as solid because the future is such a changeable thing
and went NOPE.
Having different approaches to things (e.g. the need to plan) is fine. Even a refusal to compromise on differing needs isn’t necessarily a bad thing, if done with honesty. But when someone starts giving reasons that are supposed to objectively prove why their personal preference is The One True Way and all other ways are wrong and bad, that is a massive red flag about the trustworthiness of the person in general.
I’d say someone is definitely being unreasonable in this relationship, but it’s not the LW.
“But when someone starts giving reasons that are supposed to objectively prove why their personal preference is The One True Way and all other ways are wrong and bad, that is a massive red flag about the trustworthiness of the person in general.”
THIS SUCH THIS
Is anyone else getting echoes of the dude who “logicked” at his girlfriend about how cleaning up broken glass on the kitchen floor was Giving Into The Man, and he was a Free Spirit Who Had Transcended Things Like Basic Personal Safety And Also Treating Other People Like They Matter.
#547, that was it.
Yes, this guy reminds me of that guy, too.
Yeah, after reading BeldamSansMerci’s comment above, I thought of that asshole almost immediately!
My Mom often tells stories of how my father was like this. He would not make plans and then just assume that they would go out on Saturday. And she did exactly what the captain suggested. She made other plans. (With other guys, also named Bob, shit was real.)
Eventually he learned to plan things in advance with her if he wanted her time.
I have learned about myself that sometimes making plans in advance fills me with this weird sense of not being in control of my time. WHAT IF I DON”T WANT TO PLAY D&D WHAT IF I WANT TO SURF THE INTERNET AIMLESSLY FOR HOURS. So I do have a natural sense of reluctance to make plans.
But what I’ve also learned, is if I don’t plan D&D/drinks/thing in advance I don’t get to do thing I really like. There is a cost to my search for freeedoooooomeeee.
So I guess what I’m saying is, you should make him pay that cost. It’s not fair that you are the one paying for his commitment/time management issues. Make yourself happy, you deserve it.
Hello. I am an autistic person who took what my parents said Very Seriously and thus took the Stranger Danger talk to mean I could be killed any time I left the house. I still legitimately think I could be killed at any second! Thanks, extreme literalism! I also have a general philosophy of “everything changes no matter what you can’t do anything about it”.
However, as someone who does legitimately think those things, I have absolutely no idea why that would mean I would then never make plans ever. That just doesn’t follow. I don’t bother to make long term plans, really, because who knows where I’ll be or what I’ll want in ten years, but next fucking Saturday? What’s the fucking harm in saying “hey we’ll do this thing at this time cool”? And if something comes up, WELL, there’s this little thing called “rescheduling” because wouldn’t you know making plans doesn’t mean They Can Never Change Ever! Jesus.
A phrase my family uses a lot: “In the beginning was the Plan. And lo, the Plan was changed.” Often in a sort of frustrated amusement.
I am a person who needs to have a Plan partly *because* things can change, and rejigging on the fly is easier, it turns out, when everyone was already on the same plan.
I so need this phrase. You don’t mind shared custody, right?
I actively endorse and encourage it!
Apologies if this is a double post. It seems to have been lost.
LW, I do suspect that this guy is not the guy for you long term. I realize you love him, and you may not be ready to decide to let him go. Just let this thought work in your brain for a little while: Why are you expected to change the way you are to be with him, and he is not expected to change the way he is for you?
No, you wouldn’t expect him to completely change for you. And yes, good partners do challenge us to be better versions of ourselves. And yes, for some of us, that can mean going with the flow more often. However, good partners sometimes also make accommodations for our quirks and personalities. Your dude could, for instance, say something like, “I would like to see you Saturday, and it will be in the evening, but I’m going to decide later what we’ll actually do, so can you be flexible about that?” Or your dude could say, “I’m really not sure yet what my plans will be on Saturday, so go ahead and plan what you want to do. If it’s an activity that I can join last minute, let me know, otherwise have fun.”
You are not being unreasonable for having needs and expectations in a relationship. If he can’t or won’t accommodate you at least some of the time, then this “relationship” is really just all about what he wants.
And, just because I’ve done this myself in the past, don’t confuse the sex for affection. He may have been thinking, “Ha, I got lucky tonight even when LW has a cold.” You sound like you’re taking that as, “I was sick and he came to see me, therefore he must really care about me.” That is more likely to be true when he demonstrates how much he cares about you all the time, not just on the days you have sex.
This doesn’t sound like a relationship. This sounds like a booty call.
Actually, the more I think about it, the more red flags the letter raises.
– HE says he’s like this to everybody – do you know any of his friends? Does he pull this stunt with them? I’m assuming no to one (or both) of these, as otherwise the LW’d have mentioned his friends saying that as well.
– I’m guessing all the plans are just the two of you; otherwise, you could still go and do things with the other people. That moves the silent cancelling from Asshole Behavior to Abusively Isolating Asshole Behavior. He’s not just cutting you off from himself, by making plans he’s got no intention of following through on, he’s preventing you from making plans with other people.
– Even in the depths of my depression, when I pulled silent no-show cancellations, I recognized it was a problem on my part. He’s trying to pass off his unreliability as YOUR problem, not his own.
– “Once is happenstance. Twice is coincidence. Three times is enemy action.” How many times has he pulled this no-show behavior with you?
I recommend running away, to the tune of “(Why Do You) Build Me Up Buttercup.”
Perhaps more tellingly, does he pull this stuff with work or school or other obligations where there are concrete penalties if he blows them off? If not, then hey, looks like he’s capable of committing to something in advance after all as long as it crosses a certain threshold of importance for him. If so…well, that’s not a really great sign for a long-term relationship.
I dated this guy too. I was crazy about him and we always had a great time when we were together, but it made our relationship weird, and it made me a basket case. Like we would spend a Friday night together and then he would leave the next morning and say hey, maybe we’ll get together later this weekend. And I would go to the pool that afternoon with my girlfriends and he’d be there hanging out with other people. So I would think, well, he needs to come over to ME, I’m not going to go over there to him and be clingy and desperate. So at one point I finally took the bull by the horns and went to him and said hey, I really like you, and I would like to give this thing a chance to see if we really have something here, if it’s just us seeing each other on a regular basis. And he looked at me for the longest minute of my life, and then said no. He felt like I always had a “wall” up. Yeah, I did. A wall because I never knew if I was going to be a priority at any given minute or included in his plans the next day. So it hurt like a mother at the time. But it set me free to find someone who made me a priority.
Hah, I have dealt with people like that. And I’m not good at plans at any stretch of the imagination (only recently started using a calendar) and like semispontaneous things, etc. And I’m poly. But the guy still seems like kind of a dick, mostly because he waves off the LW’s concerns. That is such a common and infuriating tactic – not even engaging with the other person’s concerns but spitting out some vague wise-sounding line that shuts down the conversation instead.
You have you know where you’re at. If you want to be on the top 5 list of priorities and he’s not willing to put you there, you need to move on.
What a man child. Barf. Tell him Bye, Felipe.
And there are so many ways for him to deal with wanting to be spontaneous while still respecting your needs: he could make plans in advance for different times, or invite you to his events, or decide on an outing once you’ve already met up. If he wants his schedule completely open, he can just say “I’m sorry, I don’t think this can work out” like an actual adult. This shitty limbo he’s generating is not the only way to deal with the situation.
I dated this guy. I was crazy about him and we always had a great time together, but it made things too weird. Like we might have a date Friday night, and he’d leave and say maybe he’d see me later that weekend. Then I’d go to the pool with my girlfriends on Saturday and he’d be there, hanging out with other people. And I didn’t want to seem clingy, so I would ignore him. I finally sat him down and told him that I really liked him and wanted us to date each other exclusively and give it a chance to see where things would go. He looked at me for the longest minute of my life, considering this, then told me no. He said he felt I always had a wall up. Yeah, I did, because I never knew when I would see him again or if he would show up somewhere with another girl. So it hurt like a mother, but it freed me up to let him go and find someone who put me first.
Here’s another summation of your situation:
You exist for this guy’s convenience, but he doesn’t exist for yours. Can you see the total lack of reciprocity there?
It hurts to care for someone who not only doesn’t meet your needs, but considers them inconceivable, impossible, unrealistic. You are being very reasonable and accommodating, at your own expense. It’s hurting you. Please stop, because you deserve better.
I feel this pain to some degree. My partner has been in a profound depression for years now. And I feel like I’ve spent half our relationship waiting for hir to wake up and for us to do things together. My attempts to hold zie accountable for standing me up, for failing to handle some responsibility that zie agreed to, or whatever have sometimes resulted in “you don’t understand disability” and “I will fail again, so stop trying to find solutions to prevent this from happening again” and “I can’t be fixed.” Not really much different from “the future is so changeable and therefore I cannot make plans.” Over this protracted length of time, the situation has made me very resentful and angry and frustrated, which doesn’t actually help me and certainly doesn’t help my partner cope.
I’ve now moved out and am working on taking care of myself. That means not waiting around in the hopes that zie can manage to get out of the house to see me today or otherwise making my happiness contingent on hir actions. We do have some regularly scheduled activities together during our separation, and we check in regularly to adjust the plans. And if we have a difficulty such that zie is not speaking to me for a few days, then I go ahead and do something for myself either alone or with friends. It’s brought us both to a healthier place overall. And yet, despite caring and good intentions, we may end up breaking up in the end because of an incompatibility that we’re both trying to work on but just may be too much.
This guy is being a jerk. An uncommunicative jerk who spends time with you when it’s to his benefit. He is not putting any effort into this relationship with you or consideration for you. You deserve better.
My current relationship started out as an “I can’t promise a commitment, I just got out of a tough situation” kind of dating-ish, not specifically romantic partnership. However, we decided that since I was unsure of what kind of relationship I wanted and would be comfortable with, we’d try things one way for a while and then check in after a month to see if we were still both happy with the arrangement or of something
*or if something needed to change. If you’re with someone who hasn’t promised any particular kind of commitment, LW, it’s okay to say “this isn’t working for me anymore” or “my needs aren’t getting met” or “we need to sit down and check in with each other to make sure this is still working for both of us.” That’s not an unusual thing to ask, and it sounds like this is a relationship where checking in about your needs and comfort is not the dude’s priority. Whether or not that involved his particular brand of total unwillingness to plan things, that would be a totally valid reason to change the dynamic of, or else end, the relationship.
Hey, this sounds like my life.
My boyfriend is allergic to planning. He’s not very social, and he doesn’t prioritize constantly keeping tabs on people. He wants to be able to assess whether he wants to do a thing on the day it’s happening and *then* make a decision. This results in him half the time bailing on social events because he really just doesn’t feel up to it that day or is having one of his I Want To Be Alone days.
I’m a spastic planner, because I get in these moods where if I’m looking forward to something and it disappears on me, I will lose my shit and be basically unable to do anything else because I’m too focused on the one thing I lost.
Somehow the two of us manage an existence together. I’m not entirely sure how, but it really boils down to telling him what I think is *really really important* and what I am okay with him flaking out on. He puts more spoons into the important things and leaves the others for spontaneous decisions. In the end, this results in the important shit getting done and the rest usually being a coin flip.
Granted, we’ve been together a long time. This dude, I dunno. In the best case, he’s just one of Those People who hate planning, and it’s a non-negotiable part of his existence, but he really really likes the LW and wishes she would stick around and be okay with him. There are plenty of worse cases. But these sorts of people are special snowflakes that are kind of hard to deal with, and the LW has no obligation to stick around, especially if Dude refuses to acknowledge that there are at least a few things in life too important to flake out on.
Mine is on the spectrum and we have a similar deal. It can be “I’m going to go do this thing, with or without you; would you like to come?” or “I’ll do this thing if you want to do it too, otherwise I’ll punt” or “This is a command performance; short of a broken leg, you need to be prepared to do this thing.” The latter are very limited — things like “My daughter is performing in a school production” and so on.
WAIT SO IS MINE.
Is this a spectrum thing?
OMG. Mine is also on the spectrum — is this a thing with that?
No idea. Not a spectrum expert, just a this-guy expert, if I do say so myself. (Seven-and-a-half years, so we’re doing ok.)
We recently did negotiate an expectation around planning that we hadn’t run into before: We were planning a two-week trip to Australia. We agreed that neither of us liked things to be too tightly scheduled. We agreed that we would spend some time together and some time apart, because there was a thing he wanted to do that I didn’t want to do, so I figured I’d go check out New Zealand during the 3-4 days he was doing the thing.
So my thought was, first weekend, get situated and used to the time change; first week, spend together; then do our separate things for 4-5 days, then I come back and we spend the final couple of days together.
And he thought that felt too scheduled. His thought was, we spend a couple of days together, then we spend the rest of the first week apart doing our separate things, and then we just leave the second week open and see what develops.
It took a couple of days of discussion on this. I explained that, to me, *that* felt “really scheduled”; that we were sticking all the stuff we *knew* we wanted to do in the first week, and nothing in the second week, and I envisioned a lot of that second week sitting around going, so what’d’you wanna do? Plus it felt like it was squishing the time I was going to get to go to New Zealand.
So he agreed to my suggestion, we had a lovely time, and so far as I know he didn’t feel like the trip ended up being too scheduled. And we learned how to take a major vacation together. (We’ve taken other trips together, but not a two-weeks-in-Australia kind of vacations.)
But see, *this is how it works* when you get a planner and a not-planner together. (Or any differences, really.) You each say what it is you want, and then you negotiate on the parts that aren’t the same. I suppose I could say it wasn’t much of a negotiation because it was “the way I wanted it” rather than some compromise between the two. On the other hand, we compromised on all sorts of smaller things during those two weeks.
My son is on the spectrum, and he is the opposite. If he doesn’t get 24 hours’ advance notice about a change to his normal routine, he gets very very cranky. Based on what his psychologist has told us, the need to plan things is more typical of someone on the spectrum than the need to keep everything wide open. YMMV.
It occurred to me when I was telling my partner about this that the real issue here is not planning but socialness; he can be social in small doses.
I have these friends who are stupid, crazy busy and it’s almost impossible to schedule with them. My choices are basically: insanely far in advance or literally the moment of. (I just don’t understand why they’d be busy what with their grad school + student teaching + thesis writing + five kids between the two of them??????) So usually I text and say “I’m doing Fun Thing, wanna come? If not, that’s cool, next time!” And sometimes they do and sometimes they don’t. But the thing is, when we do make plans, we keep them! Because we want to see each other, but life is literally truly getting in the way!
And see, I think that’s the difference between my friends and your dude. Because when my friends say “See you Saturday!” I know they’ll show up, barring Horrible Catastrophe Related To Super Business. They value our time together. They respect the value of my time.
Now me, I’m a pretty spontaneous person. I don’t do much planning, since, well, what with the depression, I never know if I CAN do things until the day of. So I call people day of, and if they can’t show up, that’s life. I don’t expect people to drop everything just because I deigned to notice them, because why would I?
I um…. I don’t think your guy actually likes you all that much. I think he likes the fact that you’re available, and he doesn’t want that to go away, so he acts super irresponsible as a way to make sure that you don’t fill your time with other things/people. Cause man, how convenient is that, right? Training someone to totally empty their schedule for you, so any time you decide to do something, you have someone guaranteed to be at your beck and call! Convenient for him, incredibly cruel to you.
Personally, I would trade him in for a boyfriend/FWB/sometimes-friend who is an actual Grown Up Adult who understand how plans work. I think you’ll really enjoy the feeling of having someone actually show up when they say they will. But if you’re not quite ready, the Captain has given you a lovely script for it.
But even with people (including myself in my former working all the time law firm associate life) who are super busy and have “all plans are tentative” because I just can’t predict that far in the future what this other obligation is going to look like, there are considerate ways to do things and this guy.
Back when I worked my crazy job, most of my friends worked similar jobs (go figure, most of us went to law school together). We all understood that plans could get canceled, but here’s the thing – we would still try to make somewhat concrete plans, and if one or more of us had to cancel because some last minute thing came up at work that required the team to pull an all-weekend all-nighter? We would have the courtesy to call or email our friends and let them know as soon as it happened. and we would apologize. We wouldn’t just…leave our friends sitting and wondering if we were going to show up because “the universe is unpredictable”.
You know what I did on my 30th birthday? I worked until midnight, and then my best friend, who worked across the street, took me out for a drink – because she decided that I wasn’t allowed to not have a drink on my birthday, so her plan, that she insisted on, was that she was going to work on stuff that she would have had to do on the weekend anyway until I got freed up, and then she was going to take me out, regardless of the time. that’s some stick-to-it-iveness.
(My birthday falls during one of the busiest times of year for my line of work – it had become a running joke amongst my friends and family how I have never celebrated my actual birthday since graduating from school. I mean, my parents should have known better than to have a child in the middle of corporate annual reporting season!)
If her like this in general that makes him a general jerk and not just a bad boyfriend. This whole no plans thing…I know some people are fine with that and yes sometimes things come up last minute but some of us have other things that need to be rearranged to make plans work out so either SHOW UP or let the other person know ASAP that you can’t so that they are no longer planning around something that isn’t going to happen.
IOW yes to the idea of making your own damn plans since he has told you he’s unreliable. Don’t plan around him. If he says “see you Saturday ” and something else comes up in the meantime, do the other thing. He’s not respecting your time or needs.
LW, the small amount of “planning” this guy DOES do sounds more exhausting than if he never said anything at all.
The way I’m reading your letter, he says “See you Saturday” and then you wait around all day Saturday to see if he’s actually going to show up. But you still don’t know when he’s going to show up, or what you might do on Saturday. Those are important things to know! “Let’s play pick-up soccer at 10 on Saturday morning and then go for brunch” is a lot different than “Let’s grab dinner Saturday evening and catch a movie afterwards”. Those activities occur at different times of day and require different preparation, and it’s COMPLETELY reasonable to want to have a plan beforehand (several days beforehand, even!) so that you can figure out how to prepare for the event and what the rest of your day is going to look like.
Currently, in order to MAYBE connect with him on Saturday, you’re setting the entire day aside and leaving everything up to his whim. That sounds really stressful! If you want to see him, you can’t plan anything else for that day. You might have anxiety around planning your meals (“Maybe I should wait to eat, in case he shows up and wants to eat together…”), running errands (“What if I take my car to the shop and he calls and wants to hang out?”), or interacting with other people (“I want to call my friend who I haven’t seen in a while for a good, hour-long chat, but what if Dude shows up halfway through our conversation and wants to hang out?”).
The current state of affairs sounds really anxiety-making. I think the Captain’s suggestion of re-taking control of your social calendar is a brilliant one. I think it will make you feel less anxious to have more control over how you spend your time. Dude can either get on board with that, or he can go his own way. If he chooses the latter, I think that is a much better outcome than the current situation.
If this guy is actually like this to everybody, then he’s like this at work, to his coworkers.
How do the “I can’t plan” guys make a living? Obviously showing up at work every day is an intolerable burden, delivering freelance work to deadline is an imposition, and filing their taxes is unthinkable.
They do the super important stuff required to have a sustainable life and nothing else. Showing up at work is something that drains their spoons, so they punt other things to make up for this. They hire others to do things like their taxes. Etc.
This. You do what you can with the spoons available, and you find ways to stretch your spoons when you can. And you don’t (well, shouldn’t) take on spoon-intensive things (like dating) when you know you can’t pay for it.
Or you should date in a way that conserves your spoons, and be really upfront about it. And not try to pretend it’s some great philosophical truth that nobody can plan three days in advance just because you know you might have to cancel and spend the day in jammies with cartoons.
Or… He’s not. Watch this closely. Reading this letter made me sad and anxious because it reminded me so strongly of my ex. He thought I was so uptight with all of my talk of plans! He couldn’t say really what he’d wanna do next month or next year or with our finances! (We were married). Why couldn’t I just loosen up? Inevitably, he dumped me and our small daughter. You know what? He was a machine at work, ran a huge project, micromanaged budgets and proposals and seven year project horizons. He just was not into making plans…. involving me.
Yes, this. My husband used to be kind of like this. Not about making plans, but about his inability to remember appointments, or ignorance about how to do basic household chores. I realized that at work, he was amazing at problem-solving, supervising, remembering meetings, etc. So I stopped babying him at home, and he stepped up.
LW, for some people, this guy would be excellent. Not everyone needs to make plans in advance, not everyone needs times and plans in the calendar to feel comfortable. There’s nothing wrong with people who function that way.
People who function that way might be wrong /for you/, however. You get to decide that. You get to ask for more time and attention and planning, even from people who do not normally remember that calendars can be used to make plans, not just tell the date. It’s doesn’t have to mean that this guy is a bad guy if he doesn’t make plans with you, it could be that he’s just bad /for you/.
That said, the fact that you asked and he still can’t commit to making plans might mean it’s time to think about getting out of this situation. The relationship is not making you happy, and that’s reason enough to be done with it.
So, my experience with this kind of thing is a little different, but I think I may have seen (or projected) a little of it in your email, so I’m going to speak to it anyway. Even if it just serves as a reminder to myself.
I had a super great boyfriend who I dated for two years and he was super great when we were together but we didn’t see each other nearly as often as I’d like. I was always the one initiating things because “I just saw you last week though?” which left me feeling like I was begging for scraps. And I contorted myself into all kinds of weird mental headspaces trying to make things work but in the end I felt like the neediest, clingiest, most unreasonable, “emotional”, “irrational” person IN THE WHOLE WORLD and I eventually broke things off. Because, you know, seeing your boyfriend of two years more than once a week is just RIDICULOUSLY NEEDY.
I caution you to be very honest with yourself about how much time/attention you need from a committed relationship, and how much Super Amazing But Maybe A Bit Distant guy is willing to give you, and if the maths doesn’t work out, then that is as logical a reason to break up as any I’ve heard. And it was really really hard to break up because we both really loved each other but we just did not fit. And that was when I learned the really sucky lesson that Disney lied, and that love doesn’t fix everything, and sometimes people want to fit and they just don’t.
Side note: the thing about “oh no you have a cold, let me take care of you and be nurturing” and then *poof* after sex kind of skeeved me out for some reason. Admittedly, may have just been the phrasing or something, but the fact that LW included it makes me think that maybe they were skeeved out also. Diseases =/= booty calls?
I’m actually the kind of person who doesn’t need to see my important people in person that often… and I recognise that, make sure my friends know it, and haven’t dated in over ten years. Because even I can recognise that that’s not going to work for most people in a relationship. It’s okay to be that kind of person, but you have to respect other people enough to either step up for what they consider important or abstain.
Ditto. “I just saw you last week” sounds like something I would say. If that’s not enough for you then there is NOTHING WRONG WITH YOU, you’re not ridiculously needy, it’s just an incompatibility.
I dated this guy too! Plans were sometimes concrete, sometimes changeable, and sometimes were apparently never plans in the first place. He was sunshine and rainbows when we were together, so why did I feel unloved and unappreciated? I did the same mental gymnastics about how I must be overreacting, and tried to change my priorities.
I don’t know how long it would have gone on before I realised the house was full of bees, but I met current partner after six months of bees and sent a drunk break up text to darth lite from current partner’s sofa. It could have ended a lot more elegantly, but it turned out for the best.
You can see if he’ll change, but early indications are that he won’t, and even aiming for change is a lot of work you by no means need to put into this relationship. I don’t think it’ll be worth it.
LW, like a lot of folks here, I dated this guy. His name was Dan. And a thing I realized is that the “I’ll see you Saturday, maybe” was a deliberate gambit on Dan’s part. Consciously or otherwise, he’d stumbled on a strategy that had a multi-leveled effect on my relationship with him.
1. It exhausted me and kept me off balance. I didn’t have the mental ability to do much else because I had a giant mental sink that was “Will I see him again?” that took up all my brain space. And I wasn’t suffering from anxiety. It sounds so much more exhausting from your letter than what I was going through, and that was bad enough.
2. Not having mental space to do other stuff made me lonely and kept me from forming friendships and other relationships which might have clued me into “Hey, this isn’t cool.”
3. Not that I could have made friends anyway — I was always keeping my schedule open in case he was willing to spend time with me.
4. Being alone and lonely made me pathetically eager to please him so that he’d *want* to spend his precious time.
When I finally got to the point where I said, “No more, we’re through,” it’s amazing how much time he suddenly had and wanted to spend with me. Which lead to a terrible cycle of me then saying, “But THIS time!” and then he’s drift away and then I’d break up and….
I wake up every day thankful that I am not in that situation any more. LW, I eventually married Sir B. Sir B loves plans and firm details and he makes me a priority and *always has.* I”m not something he will get to when he is in the mood for a little nookie and puppy-dog affection. I’m the person he wants to be around and he shows me that in every moment of every day. (FWIW, I want to be around him, too, and we make plans *together.*)
LW — I hope you find a guy as awesome as Sir B., who loves plans and loves you and loves to make plans with you.
My husband regards planning as a way to ruin a day, yet will not get things done in a day that isn’t planned. He has had to accept that planning is a part of things, and we’ve managed some work arounds where I’ll “plan” unscheduled time in the week. Someone who is unwilling to work with you even to compromise on this does not sound like someone who will ultimately fit well. Depending on people is important in life. That has a lot to do with how relationships strengthen and deepen. It sounds a lot like he’s making himself as undependable as possible, while still wanting that trait out of you.
I once contacted three people husband likes to game with, to point out an upcoming bank holiday that they might want to spend playing board games. (His plan-ahead period is way too short to catch these people, and I knew it). Those people did not make other plans, and when he called a couple of days before, to ask if they were free to game, they all were, as though by a miracle.
I confessed once he’d made his “spontaneous” plan. Next time, he booked them 4 months in advance.
Perhaps the LW was glossing over the details, but in my world, “See you Saturday” is *not* a plan. It is at best a letter of intent. My BFF and I do this all the time– “Pencil me in for the 23rd; we’ll do a Thing; details of Thing to be determined at a later date.” And then there is about an 80% to 90% probability that by the 19th or 20th one of us will have contacted the other to, in fact, determine the details. And then Thing happens. This works for us because a) we do in fact want to see each other, and b) we have built up a track record of follow-through, such that nobody is in danger of putting their lives on hold forever for nothing. If, however, we never do determine the details, and nobody shows up on Saturday, nobody has been rude, either. There was nothing *to* cancel.
To me, a plan looks like this: “Be at my place at quarter to ten; I will hand you coffee and a muffin and drive us to the station. We will take the 10:20 train downtown, and grab lunch either at the downtown station or the museum cafe. We will go see the Magritte exhibit, and I want to see as much of the Byzantine exhibit as I can before you get really bored, and then we will take the train home.” It includes times, locations, and sources of food. Cancelling something like that requires a reason, and as much notice as humanly possible.
Of course, none of this changes the Captain’s advice. Someone who has not developed the track record of following through does not deserve to have letter-of-intent level “plans” treated as if they were time-and-location plans.
I read “See you Saturday” as either a reminder of pre-existing plan, or a promise (yes, promise) that there will be a plan.
Maybe not a plan with timestamps and specific foods! Maybe just a plan with “whoever wakes up first will text the other and then we will decide what time to hit downtown, and maybe while out we will go for $timeappropriatemeal or maybe we won’t.”
Maybe not a plan that the speaker initiates, even! But one where the speaker is expected to initiate, and if they don’t get around to initiating contact because they are flooded by tigers, then they confirm that there is no plan by replying “Crap, sorry, I can’t, tigers up to my ears” when the speak-ee checks in with them.
But a plan. Because I wanted a plan, or I am happy that there is a plan.
I certainly don’t read it as “See you Saturday! –no, wait, I’m a free spirit who doesn’t do plans.”
“actually came to see me and brought medicine and food over because I have a cold – but left after sex”
I can’t say that I’ve ever known a caring person who brings a sick friend food and medicine, yet expects to get it on with them while they sniffle, cough, and keep reaching for the tissues. Hopefully oral sex wasn’t expected, as that can be tough with a stuffed up nose. What a guy.
That really jumped out at me too – does she mean that dude had SEX with her while sick?? cuz’ uh, that ain’t cool, that’s borderline taking advantage of someone who can’t fight back or say no while feeling like crap. Having sex with someone who is ill? That just smacks of predatory intentions to me.
My Darth Ex husband loooooved initiating sex while I was sick and it was probably one of the worse things about having sex with him. Which is a big deal because I’m still, five years after I divorced him, struggling with having sex in a healthy way. Anyway, it was bizarre and unpleasant–like, I’m running a fever and everything hurts and I would probably go to the emergency room if we had insurance, why are you trying to put your dick in me??? It was almost like a compulsion with him and it was hard convincing him not to. No one else I’ve had sex with has tried to do that. My current boy takes his cues from me, and usually all I want is to whine, have someone bring me food and sleep. Why would you try to sex up someone who was that unhappy?
Yeah I agree, the last paragraph really stuck out to me as well.
@Dizzy, I’m so sorry that happened to you. “It was hard convincing him not to” have sex is very, very bad, unacceptable behavior and I’m really angry on your behalf.
I am a planner. I keep a color-coded Google calendar that’s synced with my kids’ school and our church calendars, and I keep a list on the fridge of what we’re having for dinner every night. My husband, on the other hand, does not like to plan things until MAYBE the night before, but prefers the day-of, because who knows what might come up?
(Just yesterday I was writing out the weeks’ meals and he asked what I was doing. I replied, “Planning your death.” He said, “You WOULD plan that out.”)
(I’m kidding, I haven’t really planned out his death. Not in writing, anyway.)
But here’s the thing, LW: even though we’re rarely on the same page with regard to our plans for any given Saturday, I know with full certainty that if he has a free minute, he wants to spend it with ME. I am 100% sure that I am important to him. From your letter, LW, it doesn’t sound like you have that certainty from your boyfriend. You deserve to be with someone who thinks you’re important, and who places a high premium on spending time with you.
^^This. My boyfriend HAAAAATES planning. He spent a whole ton of time in grad school never having a free moment to himself and relishes in the nothingness of having a free weekend. I, on the other hand, spent years working jobs with unpredictable schedules and am so, so excited that I know I have weekends free and can plan things farther than a day out. And, like you, I definitely need to mentally prepare myself for evening/weekend activities or lack-thereof.
But the key thing that works is that we try to balance each other’s needs. I don’t pack every second of each weekend – I usually pick one, maybe 2 things that I want to do, check with him that he wants to do whatever activity too and we go from there. And he never makes me feel bad that I have to operate that way. As time’s gone on he’s gotten way better about not giving an evasive answer, which came after realizing I mean it when I say I’m okay with not doing something with him, I just need to KNOW so I can either find someone else to go or plan my time differently.
The thing that’s lacking with you non-boyfriend is the complete lack of respect for your needs. You’re allowed to have them! And someone who really cares about making it work would try to help you find a way to make differing needs exist symbiotically so it isn’t a drain on either of you. Or at least not trying to make you feel like you’re doing life wrong by thinking that making some plans is an important thing to do.
Are you me? Color-coded calendars are a delight to my planning soul.
My husband is likewise a non-planner, but we have compromised over the years. Sometimes he tells me that he needs a completely unscheduled/unplanned weekend. Sometimes I tell him that we Must Do The Garage Cleaning this weekend. We balance things out because we like each other and want the relationship to work.
I have dropped non-planner friends because they didn’t care to find a workable compromise. Doesn’t mean they were bad people, just that they were bad friends *for me*. Some relationships are like that, and it’s okay if this is a deal-breaker for you, LW.
I really WANT to be a colour-coded calendar person, because I think they’re awesome, but I’ve had to admit that I’m just not. Maybe once I find a job and have more things to reliably put in a calendar it will change – right now my solid commitments are so few that I don’t get to build up a habit of using a calendar.
I am married, have a busy child, and an active social life with a whole lot of other introverts (who need, like me, to make sure they aren’t over filling a month.) When I was younger and had no kid, I had less need of the color coding.
My calendar, right now, has dates on it as far out as a year and a half from now. But Thanksgiving is an open block because that is my husband’s family time. It’ll get filled in sometime in October when we formalize departure times. N since we drive, and its his family, I care less.
Plans are important.
Spontaneous stuff is great – a phone call of “Hey, I have some free time this afternoon, and I’d love to spend it with you if you have the time” is wonderful.
But plans are important because (when one actually makes good on them, at least) they show the other person that one can be trusted to follow through with what one says one will do. (And when one doesn’t make good on them, well, they show the other person that you can’t, so… Bees).
So there’s that.
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.
The Captain’s advice to make plans, and then use the word “No” a lot is excellent BUT… I would really, REALLY strongly recommend AGAINST buying tickets (plural) to a thing you want to attend with this dude. Like: He is exactly the kind of dude who will bail on you, no matter how much it costs you (time, money, energy, you name it). He is already doing this and “buy tickets in advance” is not how that’s gonna change.
On the other hand, if you buy YOURSELF an advanced ticket to [Awesome Event of Awesomeness], then “No” becomes “Sorry, babe, I’d love to hang with you, but I’ve been looking forward to [Awesome Event of Awesomeness] for weeks, and I’ve already got my tickets”.
Occasionally offering the compromise of “Sorry, babe, I’d love to hang with you, but I’ll be at [Inexpensive, Pay-At-The-Door, Awesome Event of Awesomeness] tonight. If you want to join me there, that’d be cool, but that’s where I’ll be”, you can go for it, though be prepared for him to never show. (Granted: Him not showing simply means is that you get to enjoy your awesome event regardless, since you were already planning to be there solo and/or with a group of friends, so hey).
Either way, he gets to learn that you’re not leaving your schedule completely open for him, *and also* that said schedule fills up weeks in advance, with stuff that’s so much cooler than him, so maybe he should get on that planning business if he wants to hang with you.
Admittedly, my guess is that if you fill your calendar up with exciting & stimulating social activities with awesome people who value your company enough to plan for it, (a) he’s going to decide that you’re “too much work” and just stop calling, but also (b) you’ll be too busy doing awesome things with those awesome, you-valuing people to really notice or care that some loser you used to know isn’t randomly coming around any more.
Fill up your calendar. Do things that you love and meet people who share your interests. Be terrifyingly awesome. (You already are).
I’m a regular-dates person: Thursday night, every week, it goes on my calendar as a repeating event, I can relax and lean on it and know it won’t move from under me. Stability and reliability are things I really value in a partner. I once dated someone who hates regular dates because it makes them feel like we’re getting together out of obligation rather than desire. Spontaneity is what helps them feel noticed and wanted and loved and actively chosen.
So we picked two nights a week as our maybe-date nights, to be blocked out on my calendar, and each week we would spontaneously, actively choose one of those two nights to get together. The other one would be me-time for me, which is a thing I needed more of anyway.
When people with very different philosophies or conflicting baggage are committed to each other, they find a way to make things work that suits them both. LW, I don’t get even a whiff of that from this dude; he’s making you do all the work and all the compromising and all the self-subsuming. Love yourself as much as you love this dude, and find someone better to spend your time with.
Never make someone a priority who makes you an option.
I also have a sneaky suspicion that if you treated him the same way he’s treating you (by, for instance, suddenly being unavailable when the stars finally align for him to drop by for a booty call) he wouldn’t go, “Oh, right! You’re a free hawk just like me,” but instead drop you like a hot rock. I am sorry to say, I think he’s taking you for granted. And I suggest trying the Captain’s script.
Never make someone a priority who makes you an option.
I haven’t dated this guy. I have, however, been friends with this guy, and his twin sister, and multiple members of his family who are all FILLED WITH EVIL BEES.
Sometimes the bees said “I’m keeping my options open in case something better comes along; maybe I’ll spend time with you (if it’s that or watching paint dry).” Sometimes the bees said “I forgot we’d made plans, so I stayed at home all day and ignored my phone/went out with other people and didn’t hear my phone.” Occasionally the bees got real honest and said, “Look, if you want to spend time with me you just have to deal with the fact that you are an option. (But I expect to be your priority.)”
And what I realized is that in their deepest core of themselves, their hearts sang a song that goes something like, “If you care about me, you’ll twist and tie yourself into knots so that your needs don’t ever inconvenience me, and you’ll accept that this is what my ‘affection’ looks like, because these things will happen on my terms or not at all, and I will sting you to death if you try to make me act like I actually care about you and your needs.”
He is filled with bees, LW. Maybe you want to be a beekeeper, and that’s fine if that’s what works for you. If that is the case, I recommend that you use the Captain’s scripts and suggestions as the bee suits you need to keep from being stung to death.
Either that or as soon as the LW stops being constantly available for him, he’ll decide that they are the true love of his life no really he’ll change…and then he will, for about two weeks, and once LW is hooked back in, he’ll start up the same behaviours. I’ve seen that play out where they *need* to be your top priority, but then as soon as they feel you are, will lose interest in maintaining it.
LW, if you were my child,* or somebody else I could boss around, I would tell you to stop sleeping with or talking to this man, because you need to learn that you and your wants and needs are valuable, and that can be a hard process for a young woman, especially one recently out of a traumatic relationship, and spending time with this man is not only not helping you learn to really value and take care of yourself, but in fact is teaching you the opposite.
Casual sex is wonderful. But you are not having casual sex. You are having very emotionally high-stakes sex with someone who, after 10 months, is not proving himself to be playing the same kind of poker. You are going to lose your shirt (read: heart), and worse yet, you are going to lose valuable time getting to know and love yourself.
I say this stuff because I feel like I know it, having had a lot of pretend-casual sex after a bad breakup. I was So Cool! Except inside I wasn’t cool at all, and it ended up hurting badly. Eventually I stopped being cool, and ended up in a relationship where I almost never feel insecure (almost never because come one, my insecurity is my oldest friend). But I could be wrong, of course.
*I don’t think you can actually boss children around like this, but I have none, so there you go.
Just going to briefly add my voice as someone who occasionally behaves in this flaky manner– I sometimes do this dance where I want to interact with a person, but I may or may not actually feel up to it when it gets to the arranged time (or the time I kind of said), and I feel terrible about it even though it’s often for a legitimate reason relating to my mental health or schedule or whatever.
But, LW, here’s the thing… I only act like this with people that I have EXTREMELY casual relationships with. As in, we see each other maybe once a year, or they’re semi-anonymous internet people. When I am forced to flake out on one of my best friends, or my family, I apologize and explain, AND take the lead on making alternate plans. I don’t claim that my behavior is perfect, but if someone is really important or close to me (like, for instance, a monogamous romantic partner of ten months(!!)), then I want to make sure they know how much I value our time together. Even if it’s sometimes hard for me to speak up or get out of the house.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that this goes back to one of the Captain’s principles: People who like you will act like they like you.
And people who value your time, and the time they spend with you, will act like they do.
LW, this guy does not sound like he values that time.
Yes, this. Just wanted to add that the only time I flake on people who really matter to me is in situations where my absence will not cause them any inconvenience.
For example, I would occasionally cancel plans to carpool with friends who were planning to attend Event X. They were planning to go anyway, so my absence doesn’t inconvenience them or deprive someone else of riding with them.
But the reason for my cancellation was not because I had a better offer. As my friends know, I have a sleep disorder. Sometimes I just can’t face a Big Event if I haven’t been able to sleep the night before. I make the same accommodations for any health problems my friends might have as well. However, I remain mindful of their limitations and don’t make the sort of plans with them that are incompatible with a last-minute cancellation.
So how do you develop new friendships? Asking because in my current micro-culture, there’s a lot of people like you and I don’t know how to deal with them (I’m one of the “spontaneity planners”).
Jumping on the “I dated this boy” bandwagon. Several times! Because there have been a lot of times in my life when I really wanted to just have an occasional fling with someone, and this kind of boy is good for that. Things this boy is probably not good for: being an actual boyfriend.
So, here’s a warning, LW: the best way to treat him as an option and not a priority in your life is to actually feel like he’s an option, and not one that, mixing my metaphors, you plan to exercise your right to buy on. If you stop prioritizing him he may come running back–sometimes people like this can’t bear a chill–but in most cases, trying to de-prioritize him in the hopes that he will realize how great you are is kind of like washing your car to make it rain poo. If you still want him as a booty call, treat him as one, but I think it highly unlikely that this guy is a serious romantic prospect, and you should probably plan on phasing him out of your life, for your own good.
(The skating after sex thing is a definite flag–if he skates after sex for no good reason, he’s trying to avoid giving the impression that the sex had meaning.)
One other thing LW.
Planning is important to you. That means it is important.
“…how do you stop yourself from having expectations?”
I recognize this sentiment so hard it brought tears to my eyes. The short answer is you can’t. The longer answer is you don’t even bother to try because you are a fully formed human being with needs, and boundaries, and the right to have those met and respected. Just as they are. Just as YOU are. He is a person who cannot meet your needs. And if you are somehow able to shrink your needs to accommodate him, he will find a way to make you shrink your needs even smaller. Do not make yourself smaller for him! Ask Polly has some epic, “Do not shrink yourself, being your glorious messy needy self” essays that would fit well here. You deserve more than his crumbs.
Out of all the comments, this one reeeeeally resonated with me–like so many posters, I have dated this person. And I tried to talk myself into being Cool Girl and shrink myself into the Chill Not-Girlfriend he wanted. And I twisted myself into this weeeeird headspace. And I went over to his house uninvited, knocked on his window, and he let me in and we talked and I tried to explain what was going in my head, and he told me I was beautiful and we had sex.
And a week later we were talking on the phone, and I couldn’t pin him down to hang out again. I asked him if he wanted to hang out again, and he said no, not really. And told me not to come by his house again or he’d call the police. Every day I contorted myself a little further, made myself a little smaller, but in the end I just could not be the teeny pretzel girl he wanted.
I couldn’t even say the words to break up; he got to deliver that final (emotional) wallop. But I immediately felt lighter when it happened. I mean, there were things I missed, but right away I felt better and clearer. I recognized myself again.
I suspect that LW, you will miss this guy, but I also suspect that you will feel a weight lifted when you go your separate ways and you aren’t waiting, trying not to look at the clock as the minutes drag by.
I’m sorry that happened to you, chocolatetort, but I’m glad you recognized that you were better off without him.
Aww thank you! That’s very kind of you. Looking back on it now I think of the whole relationship as a Very Valuable Lesson… that may have taken me a couple rounds to learn, but eventually I did. And I know I’m in a good relationship now because I feel wholly myself and let myself be Not Cool as needed. And current sweetie always made it clear that he valued our time together, even when we didn’t always agree on the details of timing.
IMMA JUST THROW THIS OUT HERE: what do you say when you are the close friend of someone in the LW’s situation and they complain to you about this situation again and again? In my friend’s case, That Guy has no respect for her schedule, refuses to make plans in advance, and frequently finds reason to bow out on the plans they have made with 24 hours’ notice or less, regardless of how important something might be to her. (She also doesn’t date because he takes up so much of her time. . . side-eye.)
I am personally at Jackass Eating Crackers level with That Guy, and think that whatever his good qualities might be, they’re totally outweighed by his inability to treat other people (coincidentally women!) with consideration. I sort of want to eat my cake and have it too — I want her to know that hey, if there’s anything really wrong or hurting you badly that has to do with That Guy, you can talk to me, BUT, I don’t want to hear about his day-to-day shitheelery.
So, what’s a good and gentle and kind wording for this? I can set boundaries, but I don’t have much skill for doing it nicely.
And, now, a question to which I know the answer: Is there any place or way to say, “Hey, That Guy seems to consistently treat you in a way where the costs of interacting with him seem to outweigh the benefits.” . . . I am pretty sure not, but if anyone has a brilliant and super non-judgy way to say that,
WHILE violently suppressing the urge to yell “YOU’RE FUCKING AWESOME AND YOU DESERVE SOMEONE WHO CAN SEND YOU A GODDAMN TEXT IF HE’S GOING TO BE AN HOUR LATE, ALSO, EVERY MINUTE YOU SPEND ON THIS DOUCHEBAG IS A MINUTE OF YOUR LIFE YOU’LL NEVER GET BACK,”
I try to do the “thoughtful questions that will hopefully lead my lovely friend to her own conclusions” thing. Questions like “How do you feel about that? What would you like to do about that? Is there anything I can do to help you with that (if I’m up for helping, admittedly sometimes I don’t have the spoons)? What do you think about the idea of you treating *him* the way he’s treating you?” etc. It doesn’t always work, but it can lay the foundation for one gentle come-to-deity chat along the lines of “That Guy seems to consistently treat you in a way where the costs of interacting with him seem to outweigh the benefits, and you are such a terrifyingly amazing person that it hurts my heart to watch someone put you in the kind of pain he seems to put you in.”
It’s so, so hard not to yell, but unless you and your friend have a relationship that could support the yelling (not going to lie, I have one friendship where strategic deployment of the WHAT ARE YOU DOING YOU DESERVE SO MUCH BETTER THAN THIS PLEASE NO MORE WITH THE DARTH VADER yell has played a pretty crucial role), I think it’s probably more important, assuming you want the friendship to continue, to come at the issue from a place of love and compassion, so that you can be a “soft place to land,” so to speak, when things finally do fall all the way apart in her relationship with That Guy.
“Huh. So what’re you going to do about that?”
Yup, exactly this. You need a different script. Because right now, the script is that your friend comes and dumps all her angryfeels on you and you get to be angry FOR HER and then she can go right back to her boyfriend, having offloaded the responsibility for Mad At Boyfriend onto you.
So, instead, noncommital things like “So what are you going to do about that?” or “Huh, that sounds like it’s not a lot of fun” let you take that emotional load and hand it right back.
Ironically, Guy is dumping the emotional labour of the relationship on Friend, and Friend is dumping it on Jane. All of this baggage needs to be sent back to its rightful owners.
How did I never figure that out? You are so right — you become the proxy dump for bad feelings, like a staging area for a relationship happening elsewhere. That is what feels so terrible about it! Thank you for the insight & strategies.
Try “hmmm that sounds irritating” + subject change. Like, don’t settle in for a lengthy discussion of his behavior.
Also try “Since you are dating him, I guess you get whatever scarce benefits are to be had. Reliving his shithead behavior by proxy without the SexLoveGlow really isn’t doing it for me.”
Sometimes you just gotta interrupt and cut it off when the cycling through is going to bug the shit out of you.
Captain, I love you (In a totally non-creepy internet stranger way). I have to learn how to screw up the courage for the interrupt.
The thought of interrupting people fills me with anxiety, as I was indoctrinated from childhood that interrupting people is 110% Rude and Terrible Behavior. However, reading the Captain’s repeated advice that interrupting is helpful and sometimes necessary helped give me courage, and now I interrupt with aplomb. So from where I’m sitting, you’re well on your way!
You might try: “what would you say to me if I were in your situation?”
Ooh I like this a lot.
this is my go-to as well.
Thank you guys for your advice! I may still have to practice in front of a mirror. -_-
Laziness and keeping you on the backburner. That’s a terrible way to treat someone. Saying, ” I love you” and doing “I love you” are two different things. He can always count on the old back up plan of you.
You don’t deserve that. You can’t say, “I’ll see you on Saturday” and then leave you hanging.
He is jerking you around, and I think you’d be happier calling it quits, but if you want to keep trying with this dude:
Assume all vague statements about plans are not plans. “I’ll see you Saturday” means “I’m having fun with you right now, and I feel happy about the idea of seeing you sometime in the future.” It doesn’t mean “keep your Saturday free.” Plan as if you were not going to see him on Saturday. If he calls you Saturday, and you were home doing laundry and getting together sounds fun, get together. If he calls you Saturday and you are out doing Awesome Thing with other people, too bad for him. Try offering some chances to see you at things you will enjoy doing without him: “I’m going to be at X from 2:00 to around 4:00 this Saturday, meet me there if you want.”
All that said: it sounds like you love this dude and worry that he will disappear permanently, and it also sounds like no matter what he says about his feelings for you, not only isn’t he willing to make any kind of big commitment to you, he isn’t willing to commit that he’ll probably still want to be in this relationship on Saturday. That sounds like an exhausting and upsetting situation to be in given your feelings for him, and I think you are right to be considering just walking away.
I really don’t have a lot to add that others haven’t said first. Except that it IS possible for two people with different approaches to plans to work things out–but only if both are willing to bend a bit.
My Terrifyingly Amazing Eldest Child is a planner. They have to be–between a full IB schedule and their own anxiety, even free time is planned (it’s written on the calendar as “No-Pants Day”.) They have special-ordered inserts for their day planner to keep track of every hour.
My approach to planning is more like “Well, I have to work tonight, and at some point before that, I may run out and get groceries.”
But it’s really not hard to write my work schedule on the calendar, and to let Eldest Child know about things like dr’s appointments in advance. An when plans are made that involve me, following through is the very least thing that I can do. And sometimes something comes up that sounds fun, and Eldest Child will decide to do that thing even though it wasn’t in their Grand Plan.
LW, if a thing is important to you, than it’s important, full stop. If this guy isn’t willing to acknowledge that, then he’s probably not in your Grand Plan.
…I find myself wondering how your free-as-the-wind dude manages such incredibly impossible scheduling commitments as…
Attending school or a regular class of any kind
Holding down literally any job
Being physically present for the birthday or other celebration of himself or a loved-one
Because all of the above? Requires planning in advance. Requires carving out space in your time where you *will* be at a place to do a thing. And sticking to it.
Because if he can manage to do those things, without having another adult physically manage the entirety of getting him there and back, then he is actually perfectly capable of handling making plans to see you at a specific time, rather than according to his whims. And if that’s the case, then what he’s really doing is telling you one of two things.
1 – I like having a partner hanging on and waiting at my beck and call. It feels flattering and ego-boosting and I don’t actually care about you enough as a person to care that you don’t like it that way.
2 – I like you, but only inasmuch as I’m willing to spend time with you if I have literally nothing else going on, and I’m not interested in prioritising time with you over any other random possibility that might crop up.
And in either case, LW, you deserve better.
(NB – There’s nothing wrong with a casual, flighty relationship where things happen just whenever. Me and the Mister had just such an arrangement for a while when we first got together. But the trick is, it was something we both wanted and were happy with. And when one of us wanted more, we looked into ways to make that happen. If one or the other hadn’t been willing to move forward, it would’ve run its course a few months in)
The whole “I’m afraid of commitment because bad relationship” scenario is so creepy and manipulative. It puts the LW in the position of accepting whatever the dude does because he’s been HURT IN THE PAST, and they don’t want to be like Previous Bad Partner (who for all we know, was Bad because they made unreasonable demands like “Hey, can you let me know if we’re on for this weekend?”) Aside from that, agreeing to meet someone in a certain place at a certain time is a basic level of courtesy that most of us extend even to people we don’t like all that much, never mind people we’re supposed to actually be dating.
If the LW really wants to have this guy in their life, the other possibility, aside from repeatedly asking him to make plans and being turned down, is to do what rich people did in the past – set aside one evening a week to be “at home,” and give him the option of coming over or not. “Hey Guy, I’m going to be hanging out at home and watching movies/catching up on housework/folding origami/whatever on Tuesday night. Stop by if you want.” If he shows up, great; if not, LW was going to be there anyway. If he wants to randomly blow in and disrupt things on some other evening, then oops, LW is busy. I still kind of think that’s making it too easy for him to continue being the way he is, but at least it puts some of the power back in LW’s hands (they pick which evening to be at home and how they’re going to spend it regardless of whether he shows or not).
I want to add something to all the advice people are giving to not stand around waiting for him to finally pay attention to you.
If he is truly just 100% a flake and really does love you, he will start making effort. He will. Because in some ways my father is like that. If I go over to visit and he’s playing video games or talking on the phone or whatever, if I stand around quiet and hopeful and waiting for him to finally ‘have time’ he will waste time all day while I stand there sadly feeling sorry for myself.
If I go “I see that you are busy. Maybe next time!” and walk away, in less than 10 minutes he will suddenly find that whatever he was doing was not that important after all and magically have made time for me. Because right now you have flat out told him that you are 100% ok with being treated how you’re treated. To quote normally very skeezy logic “Your mouth says you want him to plan things, your willingness to drop everything and revolve your life around him says you’re ok with him flaking.” And never mind that it feels like the ‘nice’ thing to do (and aren’t we all supposed to be nice to men, all the time? Doesn’t our purity of heart revolve around how much we’re willing to set ourselves on fire to keep others warm?)
At the very least, treat “I’ll see you Saturday” as the empty social phrase it obviously is to him. As a craft vendor, we have a joke “If I had a nickle for every ‘I’ll be back to buy this’ that never followed through, we’d never have to worry about making breakeven!” Because otherwise you get all hopeful and excited about a potential sale that in all likelihood is just their way of saying “I want to buy this, but I won’t/can’t and I don’t want to go on the long list of reasons why.” Sometimes they do come back, and it’s a pleasant surprise, but if I let myself get hopeful each time I’d have a horrible time.
“To quote normally very skeezy logic ‘Your mouth says you want him to plan things, your willingness to drop everything and revolve your life around him says you’re ok with him flaking.’ And never mind that it feels like the ‘nice’ thing to do (and aren’t we all supposed to be nice to men, all the time? Doesn’t our purity of heart revolve around how much we’re willing to set ourselves on fire to keep others warm?)”
So. Much. This.
I often talk about how glad I am that the internet as we know it wasn’t around when I was in college, lest I publish some terrible poetry or photos of me doing keg stands, but holy cow could I have used this letter, this advice, this approach to this kind of dude, I mean, human-shaped stray cat. It would have saved me a lot of scratched up furniture over the years.
I spent about two years of my life trying to arrange that life around someone like this. Where a plan was a possibility, a suggestion, not an actual plan as such, even when it involved arrangements as significant as transcontinental flights and hotel bookings (of course, those were up to me to sort out….)
And towards the end of that two years, I could pretty much guarantee that if I made a THE PLAN then whatever it was I had planned was practically guaranteed NOT to occur – not through emergency or necessity, but because something else more interesting came up. In my case, the distance didn’t help. Of course a spur of the moment thing with people who are actually right there is more interesting than being where one said one would be for one’s partner.
Of course *everyone* is flexible like that and takes life as it comes, and surely I was wholly in the wrong for being upset or offended that it wasn’t even “Something’s come up, Blue – can we reschedule” but just not showing up, or assuming that sending me a text from wherever they were to tell me that they’re having loads of fun and what do you mean we had plans, oh right, I didn’t realise they were important….
I will certainly fourth-or-somethingth the vote of “there is an apiary around here somewhere” and it doesn’t matter what exactly those bees are feeding on…. and the human-shaped stray cat comparison… yes, something like that as well.
I mean, I feel for this guy a little bit because I am a terrible person to plan things with and pretty much 100% of my plans are tentative. Some of this is because my work schedule can change at any moment, and the rest of it is because the river is my top priority, alongside work. It works out reasonably well–my kayaker friends include me in their plans, knowing that if it’s a weekend I’ll likely not be able to come due to work (and I’ll probably get a phone call or text the night before anyway), but that I’ll show up if I can. My non-kayaker friends know that if I make plans, so long as work doesn’t call and there isn’t massive amounts of rain, I’ll keep them, but both of those things could happen, so I never make plans with just one person, so they can still go do the thing they want to do, even if I don’t/can’t make it.
But like, even as terrible at planning things out as I am (like I literally decided I was going to Maine for 5 days a day before I left, and called the one friend I have their as I started the 10 hour drive to see if I could crash, and fully made sure he knew “no” was a completely understandable option to my asking to crash), I try to give people as much notice as possible, like “oh hey yeah I’ll probably have to work but on the off chance I don’t, yeah? I’ll let you know ASAP if I know for sure” or “yeah no, there’s rain in the forecast, so only if that doesn’t come”. Which drives some people (rightly, honestly) to be quite peeved with me a good portion of the time; but priorities, man. I know mine, and people don’t necessarily like where they fit in with them.
This dude is not even doing that, and that’s really terrible and you shouldn’t have to put up with that in a friend or romantic partner. Period. Honestly, this sort of behavior is putting me at odds with the weather man when there’s always a vague possibility of rain in the 5 day forecast to keep my hopes of kayaking alive, but they never come to fruition, and you absolutely deserve better than to be strung along like that by a person.
Yeah, I dated a surfer for a bit. And if he hadn’t been surfing for a while, and if the waves were suddenly good, and we didn’t have time-sensitive plans, sometimes he’d ask to push our plans a couple of hours or so. I was totally cool with that because it really seemed to help restore his spirit in some way, and he was generally happier after he’d gotten in a little time in the ocean (and, it’s generally kind of hard to schedule the ocean).
Of course… once things started going south in the relationship, he began acting like a total a-hole: unable to make or keep plans, unwilling to communicate, deliberately going silent on me *because* he knew that it would hurt me. Yeah… that DIDN’T work for me. Big difference between asking for a little flexibility and not caring at all about the person/people you’re inconveniencing/hurting.
and fully made sure he knew “no” was a completely understandable option to my asking to crash
This is the really critical thing, though — you recognize that spontaneity has a price, and you’re willing to pay that price yourself instead of impose it on others.
If, instead, half the time you told your pal, “I’ll be there Friday night,” and then didn’t show, and the other half the time you showed up with no warning assuming your friend would be happy to put you up and then pouted or shouted if he wasn’t — then you’d be expecting other people to bear the costs of your spontaneity.
That’s what the LW’s boyfriend is doing — not saying, “Babe, I don’t make plans, and I recognize that sometimes that means you’ll be busy when I’m in the mood to see you,” but saying, “Babe, I don’t make plans, so it’s up to you to keep your schedule open for me.”
First of all, I am one of those people with whom it can be difficult to nail down plans. But I am not very interested in human company. Often, I completely forget we had a conversation about getting together, because I forget just about everything anyone says. Other times, I get lost in my hermitage and barely feel like meeting up for people when the time comes (but I will do anyway, and be fine once I’m out).
I have a friend with whom we share an easy understanding that our plans are subject to change. In her case, we say, “how about Saturday?” and then one of us calls the other on Saturday *morning* (not afternoon, not evening) and we pick a time, or we beg off. That is with my casual-plans-friend.
With all other friends, we pick a day and a time and we stick to it unless something happens.
Now, my SO will often say to me, “want to do something this weekend?”. And I say, “Uh, sure.” And then we never do anything because I’m too busy watering plants or enjoying the internet. That said, if your man feels the same way about you that I do about my man…you need to GTFO of that relationship as fast as you can. I gave up on us a long time ago, and my interest is reflected quite clearly in my behavior.
Also, I was pretty annoyed to hear that he followed up meds and soup with sex & bye-bye. Maybe you initiated it, idk. But it sounds like he was exchanging a good deed for a little fun. He should be tucking you in when you’re sick. That is all.
You’re not “being insecure” and you’re not being needy or unreasonable. It’s not too much to ask. It’s not even a lot to ask. It’s common courtesy, and it’s simple respect for your time.
You know, the older I get, the more I gravitate to virtue ethics, because so often it’s not about what you do or even why you do it, but the way you conduct yourself as you go about your business.
Take honesty, for example. It’s not that planning out all your dates six weeks in advance, with a flowchart and a contingency plan, is good and texting someone at 11 PM to say “I’m bored, wanna meet at the bar?” is wrong, or vice versa. But if one of those things is really your style and the other is really not, masking that fact under pseudo-philosophical bullshit to manipulate someone into behaving in a way you’d prefer is, well, manipulative. Tell people your needs and/or preferences so they can take them into account, and let them decide if they’re okay with that.
Of course, in order to be comfortable with that, you have to have a certain measure of responsibility or stoicism. Part of being a decent person is accepting that choices have consequences and you may lose out on some things you want by embracing others – and that’s on you. If you never make plans and always go where the wind takes you, it’s pretty selfish to demand that the person trudging along on the ground has to meet you wherever you come down.
In my eyes, LW’s dude fails on both counts. Instead of saying what his deal is, he’s shaming her for being less “free-spirited”; instead of allowing for the fact that maybe she won’t always be around, he’s stringing her along so he never has to worry about being alone.
I wish I had time to read all the comments just now, but I don’t.
But I will share this, LW — I am like you. I need a plan. Occasionally, I’m up for a spontaneous night out (or in), but most of the time, I need to know that it’s coming to be ready for it. Friends, boyfriend, whatever. I need to know. When my current So and I got together, he’d just gotten out of something serious and I was starting to date again after a LONG time of not trying. We fumbled around with schedules for a while, and occasionally made half-ass plans we didn’t complete. But when I finally asked for something more concrete — not in terms of commitment, but just of schedule (we were still new!), he listened and tried. We did not get it right right away. It took some time for us to figure out how to mesh his (lack of) planning with my need for a plan, but the thing that made me stick around was that WE were TRYING. Not me. Both of us.
My part of it was to be clear about what I needed and to ask for it. It was also on me to be honest about what worked and what didn’t. His part was to figure out what he could do, what would work for him, and propose or try it. LW, it sounds like you’ve tried being clear about your needs and have been told that your needs are unreasonable. That’s not better than being alone, is it?
I don’t know what his deal is, and while I see boatloads of red flags, I won’t comment on his possible motives. But your needs are your needs and you deserve to have them validated.
I am reminded of two things:
He’s just not that into you.
Shake it off.
Unfortunately the first is fiction, and I don’t know anybody who can shake it off as easily as Taylor Swift.
LW’s description of her relationship reminds me of Sandra Bullock at the beginning of Love Potion Number 9, where there’s this guy she refers to as her boyfriend who only shows up for a late-night booty call.
Late to the discussion, and it’s almost certainly been covered, but BTDT.
LW, two words: run away.
He’s jerking you around. You don’t deserve that. And (trust me on this one): life is too short.
Different lifestyles are things like how far in advance a person would prefer to make plans, and how flexible they are on that, and things that really are out of a person’s control, or mostly out of their control (not everyone can afford to tell their boss no, they won’t be working this weekend). Refusing to acknowledge that “see you Saturday” means something different than “see you around” is not a lifestyle difference.
It doesn’t even matter whether he’s sincere about thinking that plans are impossible, rather than thinking that plans are for people who aren’t him, and you should be there when he calls. If you want to continue this relationship, it’s probably time for a conversation that starts with “Do you still want to try being with me? Good, so do I. This is what I need if we’re going to be together…” and that your needs include that use “see you Saturday” to mean “I had a good time and would like to see you again sometime in the next decade.”
PS Gotta go Yoda on “The thing is, although he’s said he’s in love with me and wants to try being with me” because, “Either do or do not. There is no Try” is maybe the pocket-sized advice we need.
Wow, I am so far from the only person who has dated some variant of this guy! My ex was a bit different; he would make regular plans and generally even kept them, albeit somewhat unreliably/late-ly, but he also totally said all those things about how life was unpredictable and you couldn’t really plan anything and isn’t everything better when you have no expectations and everything is a Wonderful Surprise? He complained a lot about how I wanted a regular time to see him and that was Just Too Much. He was always bugging me to be more relaxed and spontaneous and I was just too rigid and uptight because I preferred a schedule and concrete plans to Spontaneity and I should work on that. He was rarely willing to make any real actual substantive plans with me. For example, he wouldn’t go to my friend’s wedding with me because he might have something else to do that weekend. Or he might just feel like not traveling. (Yes, I told him it was important to me.) We “planned” to go camping and he never mentioned that his idea of camping was backcountry hiking and free-camping (no campsite) – something I hadn’t done in years, and would have needed totally different prep to make happen. So we didn’t go, although I always kind of felt he thought we should have anyway, and it was just me being a buzzkill again.
Definitely my ex was less extreme, but over time it added up to him just not really caring what I wanted all that much, and being pretty gaslight-y about it – he was willing to say no in some specific cases, but was never willing to clearly set expectations in general about what he was up for, and did a lot of shaming about how I should have fewer expectations and not need plans. Basically, that I should just be content with whatever crumbs of affection he was willing to drop me, and wanting him to want to spend time with me and to prioritize or schedule that was silly. I really liked the guy (OK honestly I was head over heels for him) but finally I realized I was unhappier with him in my life than I would be without him, and dumped him. Like you, I was lonelier than I would have been alone, when I was with him. I wish I’d taken better care of myself and said no sooner.
LW, your guy has been very upfront in his own way, more so than mine – he doesn’t do plans with you. Which brings me to another point: funny enough, my ex had other partners (I am/we were poly) who he tried the same kind of stuff on, but if they laid down the law and he liked them enough to deal with it, he’d knock off that crap. He wouldn’t do it for me, and he clearly just didn’t care enough for me to make an effort. Which, fuck that. I don’t know if you’re ready to dump this guy, but I hope you’ll at least give laying down the law a try like the Captain suggested. It’ll tell you a lot.
Oh wow, I am seconding the Captain’s note about health care so hard. LW, if you are currently sleeping with this person, I would strongly urge you to get tested for STIs as soon as you can. Something about the way he’s able to rationalize away his anti-schedule thing — a trait which would be a dealbreaker for most people, I would add — makes me feel like he’s a person who possibly makes excuses for himself in other areas of his life where he could be treating people with more consideration. Some people can always explain away their bad behaviour, and I can totally picture him telling himself something like “We never said we were mono, it’s not my fault if she expects that” or “We used to say we were mono but we didn’t talk about it in detail” or “I thought we meant emotionally monogamous” or “I’ve decided I’m not into monogamy, but I don’t think I need to explicitly tell her because of [reasons]” or something equally gross. (By the way, if your dude says anything resembling any of that, dump him immediately. The only ethical way to do nonmonogamy is with constant, clear, honest, open communication and negotiation, and if he’s slept with someone else and not told you about it, he’s not “poly” or “open” or whatever — he’s a complete asshole who’s putting your health at risk.)
I would encourage you to ask yourself honestly whether, if he slept with someone else, you think he would definitely tell you about it right away and be frank with you about what kind of health risks could result from your continuing to have sex with him. If you don’t feel sure of that, it’s time to break it off, as well as getting tested.
“The only ethical way to do nonmonogamy is with constant, clear, honest, open communication and negotiation, and if he’s slept with someone else and not told you about it, he’s not “poly” or “open” or whatever — he’s a complete asshole who’s putting your health at risk.”
This. I am so on-board with This.
Oh letter writer, are you me five years ago? I too had a human-shaped stray cat who I couldn’t stop feeding (until I got a real cat, who turned out to be far more affectionate than the human :).
The generous interpretation of what’s happening here is that your brains are on different wavelengths. There are two types of people in the world, the planning ones and the spontaneous ones, and it’s difficult for people at opposite ends of the spectrum to mesh well. I am a planner, and I feel your pain on this because there are a lot of spontaneous people in my life. To a certain extent, you can learn to make specific plans (5:00 on Saturday, at The Place), and text the day of to confirm, but you may also need to adjust your expectations that sometimes people don’t follow through. And give yourself permission to break plans for any reason or no reason at all with these people. But spontaneous people who care about you will learn to make and keep plans.
The harsher (and probably more realistic) explanation is that he is just not that into you. That was my stray cat. I was so into him that I accepted that for awhile, but it was a roller coaster of extreme highs and lows, and it is the reason the play counts are so high on my Johnny Cash and Dixie Chicks songs (I did not even like the Dixie Chicks. It was a dark time). It can be kind of fun in a nihilistic, always on the verge of tears sort of way, but I would not recommend it to anyone. (Oh, and yeah, he was seeing people on the side too)
It sounds like you are in the latter situation. If you are enjoying yourself most of the time and spending a fairly low amount of emotional energy on the situation, continue. But when you’re listening to “Get a Rhythm When You Get the Blues” on repeat when he cancels, it’s time to quit.
This scenario describes the role I played in so many relationships, even work ones involving credit for group projects and promotions. And it never had a happy ending. I had to work out why I sought out this position, defended it when it was challenged, and why it was my normal for so long. Man, has the community on this website (and others; longtime fan of Polly) helped me to shift my expectations once I was ready to.- Rah!
Oh LW, seeing you wonder if not being okay with this guy’s behaviour makes you a lizard person makes me want to give you a hug.
LW, given your friend’s imparted words of wisdom, I cannot help but wonder if his fantasy life involves spouting off to a rapturous audience whilst sitting under the shade of a bodhi tree. I bow to his enlightened self—so free from the shackles of this grand illusion we call “acting with intent” alias “planning”. Why, he alone sees the truth in all things. There is no spoon.
I agree, there is no point in making plans, let alone treating them as solid, when the future is so changeable. In fact, I think he should stop eating right now. After all, eating is the height of presumption–you assume you need food to help keep you alive for your immediate future “not-plans”, but we’ve all seen the Final Destination movies. No, best NOT to order the pizza from Dominos, a lot can happen in 30 minutes.
You know if this guy was just open and upfront about wanting optionality above all in his relationship with the LW that would be fine. Sad, but fine. It would be an unfortunate situation of two people with incompatible deal-breakers (kids vs. no kids, monogamy vs. alternate arrangements, alas, but so be it). But this faux “Buddha 2.0” shtick really sets my teeth on edge, particularly because it is such a perversion of the underlying philosophy.
A lot of people here have identified the LW’s-Soul-Crushing Self-Centered Jerkface aspect of this behavior. LW, I just want to point out that the shadow your boyfriend is casting in this letter is somewhat reminiscent of Isolating Reality-Warping Abuser. I hope I’m way off track, and I apologize if so. It seems likely that your boyfriend is a run-of-the-mill Self-Centered Horse (which is plenty enough reason to make some changes, as has been well covered already). But I wouldn’t feel right not pointing out that the shadow looks a lot like an Abuser Zebra, even though I’m not clear on whether he has any stripes.
“I’m the first person he’s actually gone out with since ending a long, traumatic [relationship?]”
Oh really? How convenient that he has such a nice excuse for why you should bend over backward to avoid “retraumatizing” him…
“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?”
You realize you are carefully justifying a thing that any reasonable person would treat as, if not the expected norm (but probably the expected norm), then at least a totally reasonable way to live your life. Right? Like… I wonder if this is a whiff of “boundaries are a negotiation that must be agreed to by everyone; every request, no matter how mundane or reasonable, must be excruciatingly justified and I’m still not going to comply if I don’t like it,” ickiness.
When you say you feel insecure, neglected, anxious. Did these feelings come into existence on their own? Or were they helped along by your dude telling you not to be so insecure (when he is giving you plenty of reason to feel insecure)?
When you ask how to stop worrying about “unreasonable things” like your totally reasonable desire to have some clue what your Saturday will look like. How did you decide you are being unreasonable? Because your [insert trained medical professional] suggested this is a symptom of pathological anxiety issues? Or because you were told you’re being unreasonable by a Mr. Please Be Available At My Every Whim (and by the way, surprise! guess you won’t have any time for your friends if you’re waiting around for me all the time, especially what with the limited energy for social interaction, what a convenient – erImeanunfortunate – coincidence)
Again. Apologies in advance if I’m completely loopy from sleep deprivation and completely misread the situation; I know that can be painful even coming from random strangers. And the fact that other people haven’t gone here, is suggesting to me that I’m way overinterpreting the sounds of the horse hooves. But my first take on this letter was “wow this dude is a manipulative soon-to-be-abusive louse who has spent ten months training the LW to believe hizzer needs should be completely eradicated (in favor of dude’s whims)”. So I wanted to point out the pattern I was seeing – even if your equine is clearly brown all over, Zebra Abuse Stripes can be a subtle thing to detect in other cases, and maybe the connections could be useful for a lurker.
You are not the only person to see that possibility.
Another possibility (not necessarily mutually exclusive) that occurred to me is: okay, the LW has anxiety issues, limited social spoons, and is worried about secretly being a lizard person rather than a “regular human”.
Speaking as someone with some similar issues (well, I’m now at a point where I pretty much flaunt my scales proudly) –it’s really easy to take your social cues from other people, and assume that how they’re behaving is probably what “normal” is and you’re probably just being weird or misunderstanding things for expecting anything different.
And that learned social survival skill (look at what other people’s social expectations seem to be for how people behave in this context and try to fit in with that — which is sometimes an appropriate strategy) can really mess you up when actually it’s the other person whose behaviour is bizarre or unreasonable. Or when there are issues of different and incompatible needs, and you need to assert your wants and expectations as reasonable and important too.
You don’t necessarily need someone abusive in the picture to end up going “So when you said ‘see you Saturday’ that didn’t mean anything at all? Oh, sorry, probably my fault for imagining words have meanings, I’m just weird. And I have this crazy anxiety that makes me want to have at least some rough plans in my life, that probably doesn’t even make any sense.” A lifetime of societal fuckery will do it to you just as well.
On the other hand, if you do have someone abusive around — or someone who may not be in that category but who isn’t going to object to someone who lets them set all the social norms and is happy to take advantage of that — things can get bad.
Also, regardless of whether this guy is doing this on purpose to the LW, the fact that the LW is doubting themself to this degree and trying this hard to get themself to not need a thing that they need…is a sign that this relationship is really harming them. He doesn’t have to be deliberately abusive to be a damaging person for the LW to be around.
You’re not the only one.
I have dated guys who were similarly flaky about plans. I loved them and it was hard to accept that I needed more than they gave and that the responsibility for my happiness was mine because these dudes were not going to be honest and give me the info I needed. The act of self esteem, of not chasing a reason from the dude and not justifying my reason for breaking it off; that took some practice. I had developed a pattern, each dude hurt me and I responded by trying to lower my expectations even more.
Then I met my fella. Now he is a picky Virgo an uberplanner. I am a free spirit. We are so different. But he cares enough to listen to me and respect my values even if he comes at planning from a different value. He would be horrified if the message he sent with his behaviour was ‘you don planning wrong’ or ‘you are last on my list.’ My fella cherishes me and I feel a deep peace of mind because his actions follow his words.
I can’t tell you how good this peace of mind is after dating so many shit birds who only wanted a quick fling. Knowing that we do not have to tip toe around or constantly talk about our relationship us freeing. Both he and I have active social lives but we make date nights a priority. When something matters to me, he takes note and does his best to show up and fully participate, no hitching or stalling.
In the two and a half years we have been together, I have got SO much done in terms of my career, creativity, finances and social life and it is because I no longer have to waste time and energy on a dude who isn’t respectful. I know what I need and I found a guy who enjoys being with me and meeting those needs.
Everyone deserves that kind of harmony. You are not a lizard person for wanting it.
Uncloaking to comment bc this hits way too close to home. LW, I was this person. A few years ago I had a really dear friend. She was amazing and it was a fairly intense in a good way friend relationship. I couldn’t keep plans tho, and here’s the thing she told me, that I didn’t heed, and wanted to pass on to you, right before she noped the fuck up out of my life:
“What you say to me when you don’t show up on time is that I mean less than. Less than tv, less than sleep, less than whatever reason you couldn’t make it to a goddamn coffee date. And I have zero space in my life for people who don’t value me, and my time, AT LEAST enough to keep to a plan.”
And it was true. I was a complete tool back then, and I just assumed that the rest of the world would somehow just accommodate my lack of interest in things like linear time. It always had, after all, and when it hadn’t, well, my head was too far up my ass to notice what I was losing.
She bounced and I was DEVASTATED. I did that thing, you know the thing where you send them very emo, emotionally manipulative emails about how you Just Need A Reason. *facepalm SO, SO HARD*
I would titpunch back then me, if I could, and if it would accomplish anything, which it wouldn’t.
He may love you. I loved my friend. But he definitely doesn’t love you enough to make room for you, to set aside space that’s yours. To, like, notice that you have needs, and to actively try to meet those. And yeah, that’s stray cat kinda love, which is nice for cats, but complete bullshit for most humans.
This seems long, but maybe it’ll help. I promise there are people out there who have room for you, and also do not suck massive goat balls. You deserve one (or more idk you do you) of those. ^.^
I wonder if your friend and I are the same person, because I have absolutely left relationships and friendships in the dust when I was flaked out on too many times.
It’s heartening that you learned from the experience though, in spite of all that heartache.
Friend breakups are the worst.
It doesn’t even matter if ‘plans are important’ or not. YOU are important, and this is seriously stressing you out, and he appears not to care or have any intention of pretending he does. Telling you you’re uptight and should completely change to work around his personal preference is, at very least, self-centered and one-sided.
How does this guy handle work schedules if he doesn’t want to cement plans for anytime in the future? “I’m not sure I can make it in for my Wednesday shift, who knows what the future will bring” will result in termination after not too long.
Also… Yeah this guy sounds like he’s totally playing the field. He doesn’t want to commit in case something he deems as “better” comes along (LW, I want to stress that if that is the case, he is wrong, don’t feel you are not good/fun/sexy/whatever enough, I’m sure you are!).
Well, this is timely.
I had a darth boyfriend of the nth degree about five years ago, spent three years messing around with guys who didn’t want me for more than sex, and I didn’t want them for more either. The last two have been spent on a dating hiatus, coming to grips with the fact that I have fairly deep seated commitment and trust issues in relationshipping.
About a month and a half ago, I met a guy who I thought things could actually work with, and I’ve been pretty dang honest with him from day one about why I am the way I am and what I can and cannot do. Future plans are really hard for me. I like having plans a few days/weeks out, but he casually referenced Halloween the other day and I felt that panicky tight feeling in the back of my throat that I always feel when serious commitment comes up. But I still like him. I even want him to be my boyfriend. He doesn’t want to be my boyfriend until I feel comfortable discussing things about a month out.
I was kinda hurt and angry at him (been a long time since I put myself out there like that and it sucked to hear a no.), but reading this helped me see things a bit more from his perspective.
Right now we’re muddling along at the status quo, but I’ve been doing what I do and going cold and shoving him away. I think it’s time to accept him at his word that he does want to be my boyfriend – just not yet, and that he’ll wait for me to catch up. I want to continue forward being honest with myself and him about when I’m ready for what.
One of two things will happen if you take the Captain’s advice about getting your own life re: plans with friends etc and not leaving your time empty just waiting for him to fill it. You’ll do a bunch of cool things, and he’ll start chasing you more because you’ll be doing so many great things. Great things = fun. Or this will fade because you have fun together but are fundamentally incompatible, and you’ll be too busy anyway to sit around waiting. But that’s ok.
You’ll find someone else that will want to plan cool things with you.
I am a planner, and an introvert, and extremely busy. If any of my friends want to hang out with me, they have to plan it AT LEAST a week in advance. When I was holding down 5 jobs, it was a month in advance, and that was a period that stretched for at least 5 years. I need that much time to shore up my social energy. I’m not a big dater, but when I dated, the gentlemen did this as well.
And guess what, I have lots of awesome friends, and they all planned their time in advance with me.
Just saying, LW, that your expectations (to me) are pretty low if you’re trying to plan less than a week in advance; people like me are out there, and all their loved ones will plan movie night a month in advance.
Wow. So many people have dated guys like this.
My own (now thankfully ex) Human Shaped Stray Cat would suggest plans that went like this:
He would email to say, “want to do something sunday afternoon” and I would say, “sure let me know when/what” (if I suggested an actual activity he would umm and ahh because he had to visit his parents in another town every weekend so the only time he had was later on sunday afternoons and he didn’t know what time he would be back and maybe this and maybe that blah blah)
He would then email me on Sunday at about 5pm (he would not EVER text or call my phone) to convey that he was “tired and I have to eat”
I would say, OK, why don’t you come over (no public transport on weekends where we lived + he had a car) at 7ish and we can do this thing at this coffee shop, or go here or go there.
He would be like, sure whatever I will be in touch.
He would eventually come over at 11pm when it was too late to go out + I was tired and he would want sex, he would then leave after about 15 minutes of really awkward pseudo cuddling where he kept looking at his watch and muttering about “work tomorrow.”
I felt like a fuck buddy except to be honest without the actual buddy part. He never introduced me to any of his friends, we never went anywhere that wasn’t a coffee shop where I insisted on going so it wasn’t just him coming round, banging me and leaving.
It was all disrespectful and I dumped him. For a while I wondered if he was actually married or seeing someone else, and I think he may have been doing the latter (this one time he mentioned going on a date with his neighbor but claimed it was “a while back”).
When you see the news stories about dudes with entire second families and think “How did they DO that?” your ex gives us a clue. Glad you are free!
Gut reaction: 10 months and he left after sex saying he might, or might not, see you later? Eff that dude.
The future is uncertain, but that doesn’t mean you can’t make plans. Sure, you might have to cancel if you get hit by a bus or a zombie outbreak starts in your neighbourhood, but that doesn’t mean you can’t make plans with the intention of implementing those plans provided you aren’t in hospital or something like that. To me “future too uncertain to make dinner date for Saturday” means “I’m hoping someone else will agree to be my date but if they don’t you’ll do” (at least if done all the time and without any explicit explanation like “my boss said I might have to go to LA” or “my Dad is in hospital right now I might need to dash there at any moment”)
I have a friend who makes plans on really short notice (like “anyone want to go to France next week” type short notice) and… well, I don’t make plans with him… I’m sure some people just *are* really short-notice people, and I’m sure it’s a fun way to be; but it’s not me, and I’m not going to plan my life around hoping that someone else spontaneously thinks of something fun to do.
I don’t know if anyone has said this yet, but a good friend of mine who once dated a guy EXACTLY LIKE THIS finally ended it with him because, and I quote, she was “tired of being his library book.” You are not a library book! If he’s not prioritizing you, no amount of caving to his “whimsical” (unreliable) plan-making is going to change him into a person who will prioritize you.
I just realized that this dude’s behavior reminds me a lot of the discussion everybody in the street band I’m in had at our recent meeting. We are a loosely organized volunteer collective of musicians, so we don’t all attend every rehearsal and gig. As a result, we need to check in with each other and make sure enough musicians from each section of the band are free before we accept a gig request. This means we need to plan gigs weeks in advance – if someone decides they want us at their party a week before it’s going to happen, we can’t be there, because it’s both difficult and inconsiderate to people’s existing schedules to try to pull together a group at such short notice.
In spite of this, some of our band members have accepted gig offers before confirming that we have a full band available. A commonly cited reason is that they feel awkward or guilty turning down a gig, or they worry they might not get called back by an organization or venue in future if they decline a request. A major topic at our meeting was the importance of saying no when the band isn’t free. So what if they don’t call back? We don’t do this for money, and we’re swamped with requests! One less gig isn’t terrible, it leaves us more time to make music for organizations that respect our planning needs!
LW, this dude isn’t respecting you and the time you need to comfortably plan out your days. He sounds like he’d be a terrible event organizer, and he’s definitely being a crappy boyfriend right now.
So, a balance to the “He must be Darth boyfriend who cannot change and so RUN”. My husband did not have a drivers licence when we met at a local community college. He got by because we have decent PT and he and his best friend (who did drive) went everywhere together. At that time, I started doing odd jobs for my future mother in law. When I’d go over there after class, I’d take him with me (he was living there at that point). Well, two times in a row, he flaked out and was like “Can we wait an hour or two?” Since I liked him, I said that was fine. It wasn’t. After the second time, I got pissed and told him off (like the next day). I believe I said things like “I am not your maid” and “I am not your chauffeur”. This was really difficult for me because I knew that he’s the kind of guy who can convince you that you are crazy. Either that or I knew that I’m the type of person to swallow that kind of thing whole (but still get a vibe that something isn’t right). Thankfully, he’s not the type to actually use his powers that way (but I didn’t know that at the time).
We started dating a few months later. And he has told me more than once, that the telling him off incident is what made him notice me (in a romantic way). He could tell I was nervous and it was not common for people to do that to him. It worked out for us. But a big reason why, is the precedent that incident created. One of the solid things in our marriage is our ability to communicate (not that miscommunications have happened).
Will it be the same with this guy. I dunno. Personally, I think there are other red flags. But still standing up to him may wake him up in a good way. At the very least, you’ll start to know where you stand with this guy. AND you get the benefit of practicing your ability to communicate what you need to a (potential) partner. Even if most of that communication is non-verbal (see: making plans and keeping them regardless of what he does).
“…actually came to see me and brought medicine and food over because I have a cold – but left after sex…”
I hope you gave him your cold.
Just another thought on the theme that it’s possible to be flakey and spontaneous without being selfish and neglectful, and that your guy needs to either learn that way or get lost pronto. I mentioned earlier that he reminds me a bit of my flakey brother. He also reminds me a bit of my commitment-phobic self. I largely avoided relationships for years, and when I found myself in one, even though it was what I wanted, I freaked the hell out and stayed that way for months. All my instincts began screaming that if I went on one more date, I would plainly have to marry the guy and it wouldn’t work out and we’d be unhappy FOREVER so I should plainly get some more space, lots and lots of space…
So I got therapy.
Even now, when I see my boyfriend on a Saturday and he says “let’s do something on Wednesday!” my instinct is to feel trapped.
So basically what we do is we agree Wednesday sounds good, but eh, we’re not committing to it right now. And my boyfriend goes home and I potter about by myself and then I go ahead and commit to it on Monday (or set a different date, if for some reason Wednesday won’t work). I get two days of ANYTHING COULD HAPPEN I AM FREE AS AIR, which is normally plenty to re-establish that I do in fact want to see my boyfriend. He gets plenty of notice that a plan is indeed happening. And nobody gets flaked out on, and we see a lot of each other.
It wasn’t hard to work out that I might have genuine needs for space and freedom, and also genuine anxieties, but I had to find ways to deal with them that weren’t “treat other people like disposable toys.”
Another person who finds this letter timely!
Beloved Human, with whom I live, is a highly scheduled introvert. I am a person who has a lot of solitary time– my work can be done in company with other people who are being quiet, but that’s not the same things as being social– and a flexible schedule.
I have caught myself canceling my own plans for work or play when BH is suddenly, unexpectedly available and wants to hang out. (This is, in the long run, not self-caring.) I have caught myself counting the hours on our shared calendar scheduled for “us time” and comparing them to the hours scheduled for BH’s social time with other people, and feeling intensely bad about the ratio.
BH is a little confused that I want to be able to look at the calendar and say, “Ah, okay, we’re having a meal together tomorrow,” but is gamely trying to put things on the calendar that would previously have been left off, because I’ve been realizing that it is important to me to feel that I am part of his plans, as he is part of mine. Because he believes me that if I say this is important to me, that means it’s important.
It’s okay to want what you want, LW, and to see a certain willingness to accommodate you as part of what’s necessary from a partner.
LW, it is totally normal for a relationship to settle into comfortable vagueness around some things. It’s normal for people in an established relationship who love each other and are committed to each other to have conversations like, “Let’s maybe do something on Saturday.” “Sure, whatever.” Or to putter off and play video games after sex.
That is not what is happening to you. The way you describe it, this person is not committed to you or your happiness, and he’s taking advantage of your desire to make the relationship work. You don’t have to bend yourself in knots to give him the relationship he wants. You get to have the relationship you want. I’m going to say that again, because it was a huge, huge, HUGE revelation for me when I finally figured it out.
YOU GET TO HAVE THE RELATIONSHIP YOU WANT.
That often takes negotiation, and “the relationship you want” doesn’t always end up looking like the checklist you make when you’re single, but if a relationship isn’t making you happy you get to say something about that. And if you’re with someone who just can’t make that happen, whether because they’re phenomenally selfish or just because you have incompatible wants, you’re not being selfish or unreasonable if you end it. There is no script you have to follow.
Here’s how ‘not being a planner’ works for me:
– I keep my gear in good condition. My camera batteries are charged, my spare SD card is in my bag, I have provisions and raincoat and hat at hand; I’m aware whether I need to fill up with petrol (round the corner), I have my NationalTrust etc membership card in my pocket.
– I have a mental checklist of things I’d like to do – this place on a rainy day, that one on a dry day, this one for autumn colour.
If I wake up, look out of the window an go ‘ooh, I fancy a day out’ then all the preparations are done and I can go at the drop of a hat.
If I wasn’t living with my partner, I’d want to see them. And I’m ok with hanging out and playing video games, or reading, or pottering around the house, or gardening, or running errands, or going out for a few hours, or going out all day. And sometimes we decide on the spur of the moment, and sometimes we go a way and change our minds (surprise downpour, anyone?)
But here’s the thing. For me, ‘plans’ means ‘we’ll do x’. Being adult means ‘we have to do y at some point, let’s do it sooner rather than later’. Going over to your partner’s house and hanging out – talking, playing video games, watching TV, reading in the same room, making food, playing board games, *whatever* floats your collective boats – does NOT sound like ‘plans’ to me. That’s just hanging out with someone you love. Plans are ‘I need to go home to do x’ (where x can be anything up to and including ‘get in me-time so I’m not exhausted at work tomorrow). The rest is… well, if he doesn’t enjoy your company (other than to have sex), what kind of boyfriend is he?
Not at all a Darth Vader BF, but a bit complicated: Some years ago, I had a rather similar problem with my bf. In his case, it was because he would visit Home Town for some days and then try to see as many friends as possible (and me) – and he’s rather bad at planning. Somehow, his other friends were always a bit complicated to make plans with, so several times this ended at “Well, I *might* see you Saturday if Bill doesn’t call me…” I felt neglected and as I was not as important as his friends, we talked about it, and he said that he didn’t want to not see his friends because of his relationship – I said something like “Well, at least see me as equal important as your friends”
It got a bit better after this, but it still was difficult – so I decided to not wait for him making last minute plans anymore, but plan my weeks as always. When he realized that I have a busy life and that it would not work to try to come to me last minute, things got better. We still have this problem (very seldom), but if it happens, it’s not my problem anymore.
All that stuff had another consequence: Now I’m really unflexible if it comes to changing plans with my bf, especially if it’s because of his bad-planning friends. Sorry, my time is important.
I had this same issue with an ex when we were dating long distance: he’d blow through town on a weekend, filling all of his time with plans to see friends and family (with me driving, natch), and the only time we spent alone was while sleeping. I understood his desire to see all his peeps, and it wasn’t like he ignored me, but I did frequently feel like a hotel/chauffeur. We finally had it out after the weekend I paid for his flight and then didn’t get to see him awake. The compromise we eventually reached was that his first meal when he got into town was mine and the rest of the weekend we could spend with groups. Among my friends, this issue has come up in every long distance relationship, but I think it’s pretty easy to work around too.
Oh, LW. I am sending all the Jedi hugs.
I have the veeeeeeeery dubious honour (?!ugh someone needs to design a joke trophy that is the ugliest fucking trophy that ever existed, plz) of being the LW from https://captainawkward.com/2014/02/06/547-is-it-my-anxiety-or-is-my-relationship-dodgy-spoiler-holy-fuckshit-its-the-dodgiest/ (OH GOD IT WAS THE DODGIEST. WAS IT EVER)
And can I just say, your letter is bringing up unpleasant memories of my ex and his inability/refusal/who-the-fuck-cares-why-it-didn’t-happen,-the-point-was-it-didn’t-happen schtick when it came to plan-making. About dinner. About dates. About holiday events. About pretty much everything other than what he wanted to do, which was just party and do drugs. And he even fucked around the people he partied with and did drugs with and frustrated them with his lack of reliability around plans, so GO FIGURE. Even people who were rolling were getting annoyed.
Here’s the thing: your boyfriend and my ex can go hang out on The Island of People Who Are Way Too Cool and Chill and Socially Liberated To Ever Make Plans.
They will never reach The Island, because reaching places requires planning.
Even if they did reach The Island, there would be no vacancies because they didn’t call ahead to make a booking.
They would end up camping on the beach without enough food or water.***
But they’ll MEAN to reach The Island. They will talk a really great game about how sleeping out under the stars on The Island is way better than anything else could ever have been. You just gotta believe, babe.
***Running out of food/water actually happened on a ‘desert island’ trip with my ex where it was his job to make sure food/water were sorted. YEP.
If we just stick with them, we’ll aaaaaaaaaall reach The Island. We will all have joi de vivre and be our most chilled-out, liberated selves. The coolest girlfriends ever. Things will be better. You will actually get a birthday present on your birthday (or a card maybe, or like, literally anything), not a ‘let’s go away for your birthday!’ “plan” that is never actually planned and never eventuates.
Except, nup. I just ended up totally exhausted. It took me a year to recover. I finally got my joy back and it’s fucking amazing, but that whiny man-child totally wiped out my energy levels for ages.
I just want to reiterate that this is NOT a problem of your faith or love. You are plenty faithful and loving. God, read my excruciating letter to the Captain and see how much faith and love (AND SELF-DELUSION. AND COGNITIVE DISSONANCE. AND ‘I know things are a mess but can you just tell me things are OK?’ PATHETIC BARGAINING) went into it. It’s just that faith and love, especially faith in someone who is unreliable and knows they’re unreliable and doesn’t change in even a nodding way when someone they care about points out it’s a problem for them, isn’t going to make things better. The power of your belief and love can’t will a holiday into existence, or a meeting time and place into existence. Or it can, for a while. But you absorb all the cost of the emotional and communicative effort. You absorb a cost in terms of sucking your own emotions and expectations back inside yourself in order to stay ‘reasonable’ and ‘rational’. You always feel like you want too much, you’re too pushy, and you need to keep a check on that……………..
………… Yeah, or you can just go hang out with awesome people. Where you are like “shall we check out this show?” or “I am feeling down and would love a coffee” or “lunch plz?” and they enthusiastically come back to you or at the very least are CLEAR with you so that you know whether you are coming or going. Literally, you know whether you are coming to X with them or going to Y with someone else. You can make plans with other people. There’s a reason why this is filed under “manners”. Keeping someone hanging eternally so you can see if better ‘plans’ (THE P WORD OH GOD) shake out is a jerk move. Bonus if it’s an intimate partner and you can somehow make them feel that planning is uncool and too demanding.
Please go read through my excruciating letter and the Captain’s uber-compassionate and smart response, if you’ve not already.
In the meantime, you are awesome and I think you should plan a self-care day or a friend-date with someone who will enthusiastically, lovingly respond to your request to hang. Because you are awesome.
PS My ex used to call me ‘babe’ (it is my LEAST FAVOURITE TERM OF ENDEARMENT and I told him this and asked him if he just liked calling whatever girl he was with ‘babe’ and he confirmed this and then kept calling me it, FYI. You can imagine how super special and listened-to I felt) so I totally heard the Captain’s imaginary script from the LW’s boyfriend in my ex’s voice. Spot. On. You kill it, Cap.
Also, planning is awesome. I want to defend it for a sec because I think it gets a reputation as being really unsexy, and I get that spontaneity can be sexy and that people who are like “are we sure about this? Did we bring sun screen? What about bus tickets?” can seem irritating at times and that all the THINKING that goes on can feel like a drag. I do get it.
And I honestly do believe and get that going with the flow — sometimes or all the time, as much as it works for you — can be really great too.
But a big part of my job is event management and without planning – specific planning with long lead-times, where you sit down and think everything through and come up with contingencies and have back-up phone numbers and ask people questions that are so detail-orientated that it feels pushy or silly until you realise that it just caught an oversight – my job Would Not Work. Which means our organisation’s events would not work. Which means a leg of our organisation’s communications would not work. Which means we maybe wouldn’t get funded, or would have decreased funding, or not meet our funding agreements. Etc. etc.
Relationships do take planning and work. Not to such a detail-oriented degree, but a rough idea of who wants what when. Seeing if your relationship styles and communication styles line up. Not just romances — we saw a letter recently about a child-free friend planning on making interactions work for friends with children. Notice the link between ‘planning’ and ‘caring’. I don’t think it’s a coincidence.
I know some people struggle with planning for various reasons, and my comments definitely don’t refer to people who try and have issues with planning. My comments are for those who don’t try at all, because they know someone else will.
There a range of levels of planning-ness a person can have. There are people who are totally chilled-out and eschew all planning. People who aren’t naturally great at it and try really hard (me). People who plan like it’s going out of style. People who are like “I’ll plan the bare minimum and go with the flow for the rest”. It’s all good. I think the question is: does the current level of planning/not-planning work for you and the people around you? If it works for you and NOT the people around you, there’s a problem. If it works for you and NOT the people around you and you don’t care about that, not even a jot, then ‘lack of planning’ starts to look like a sign of ‘selfish laziness’ or ‘immaturity’ in my mind.
A post “Yes”ing the hell out of planning.
My Darth was also a super liberated, life is to be lived in the exact moment we are in and never before or after type. After a yearish of mourning the loss of this Great Love (ugh, smack me), I met a lovely man. We made plans to see each other, we confirmed them the day of and decided where to go. The next time we saw each other, I texted him and said “I had fun, I’d like to see you again, and sooner rather than later.” Do you know what I got back? “Me, too! Here’s my schedule for the next week, let me know which day is best for you.” I looked at his schedule, looked at mine, and picked a day. Again, we confirmed plans day of and then met up that night.
There was one point where both of our schedules were so full of moving parts that we spent 2 weeks trying to schedule time together before saying “Screw it!” and just grabbing a quick lunch together.
Having him be so open about his schedule and communicative when it was changing was the most relaxing feeling. I knew he wanted to see me, but we were both busy people and his job is demanding. But when it changed, he was always very clear a) that he was sad about the change and b) that he would find another day that would work, since he knew my schedule constraints.
My friends joke about it, but him sending me his schedule was honestly one of the most pragmatically romantic things anybody has ever done.
I’m so glad you’re out of it! I really worried about you.
So glad to hear you’re out of that relationship.
Adding to the chorus of “Glad you’re out of there.”
Giving you a million high fives for getting the hell out of that relationship!
The dude is totally gas lighting you about your legitimate needs. Also, the hallmark of an experienced manipulator is getting you to first feel sorry for him, because, you know, he had that traumatic break up and the poor widdle boy can’t handle anything serious right now. You are a booty call, my friend. One that he has enjoyed for 10 months, but you’re not quite GF material for him. Run away from this piece of shit. You will love again, I promise.
I re-read the OP and noticed that it didn’t indicate the gender of the LW, yet many of us (myself included) are assuming LW is a woman. While it’s certainly possible that LW is a man, “waiting by the phone” is somewhat of a gendered issue and I couldn’t help but get a whiff of sexist bullshit.
Maybe that’s a derail, but it’s just an observation.
This guy does not want a partner. He wants a toy that he can get out of a drawer when he’s got nothing else to do. Sorry, LW, but he’s treating you like a thing, not a person.
I like to have everything planned because if I don’t plan things and write everything down and have a nice neat schedule, I tend to forget that I have things to do or just kind of sit there and get confused. I am the type of person that needs something or someone telling me ‘do this thing at this time’ in order to get anywhere and be comfortable.
Whether or not that is for you is up to you, however there is one thing to keep in mind here – what he’s doing may work for him, but it is no longer a good way for things to go because it doesn’t work for YOU. Something that doesn’t work for one person in a relationship means that compromise and effort need to be put into making everyone happy, the load should not be entirely on your shoulders to keep things copacetic. He is making you an option, not a priority, and that is a giant red flag. If you aren’t important in his life, why should he be important in yours?
Also, can I just say the whole ‘showing up with medicine and then having sex and leaving right after’ thing made me want to kick my computer and scream in rage? That is such a manipulative, gross and terrible thing to do to someone. If my roommate gets sick, I try to bring him soup and tea and make sure his cat is fed and his sheets washed and try to keep everything comfortable because being sick really freaking sucks and it usually means you’re in a lot of pain and not up to the things you usually are. That he would expect to get sex from you and then just up and leave is downright disgusting and I’d want to punch the guy.
Honestly, he sounds kind of like my ex on that front – I have heart problems among many other health issues, and had an attack (not quite a heart attack but similar? They weren’t able to pin down exactly what it was, as I have multiple issues and it could have been any one of them or multiple) and while he drove me to the hospital – mostly because I couldn’t breathe and his mother was there with us and told him to take me to the ER – he simply left me at the door to the ER (didn’t even help me out of the car) and drove off because he wanted to go to a party with his brother. He didn’t even come to check on me later when I was still in the hospital. It was this and a conversation I heard him having with one of his brothers (I was not eavesdropping, I was helping clean up the table after a family dinner with his folks and one of the platters was too heavy for me, I went to ask him for his help and caught the snippet of conversation) in which he detailed how he was trying to get me to be more the way he wanted (including him wanting to get me to gain weight because he wanted me to have a larger chest, ect.) including changing my behavior and lifestyle to match more what he wanted – those were the final flags after a history of him being very violent, manipulative and sometimes downright terrifying that made me finally decide enough was enough.
Someone who is not willing to treat you like an important part of their lives doesn’t deserve to be important in yours.
Are you dating my ex? No, seriously, does he live on the “Gold Coast” of Connecticut and does his name start with J? Because this sounds so, so familiar (sadly, it is probably more a case of Douchebag Bros Everywhere Gonna Douchebag than that we’ve both had the coincidental misfortune to run into the same dude).
I will give you the same advice my therapist has been telling me, which has actually put me at peace with telling my ex to GTFO of my life.
1) There is nothing wrong with you for wanting/needing your romantic partner to be as excited and invested in the relationship as you are. There is nothing wrong with, after 10 months of dating, expecting to be able to make PLANS with the person who supposedly LOVES YOU more than a couple ours in advance or after quiet hours. It is ok to expect to be your romantic partners’ priority.
1a) Um, I may still have a little residual pissed off-ed-ness to my ex. Most definitely not yelling at you, dear LW! Carry on.
1b) Your wants/needs sound pretty in line with the societal norm (at least in the U.S. where I am, sorry for the assumption). Do not let him gaslight you into thinking you are clingy, needy, old-fashioned, irrational, uncommon, etc for wanting to plan dates and dinners and weekends.
2) On the other side, it is ok that he doesn’t want to be in a tied-down, let’s-make-plans relationship.
2a) Weird, but ok.
2b) Especially at his age. (Wait, I’m projecting my baggage again!). 😉
3) While both of these viewpoints are valid and ok, it does mean that you two are not compatible with each other. This probably doesn’t end with you suddenly becoming ok with spur-of-the-moment dating, or with him suddenly investing in a DayTimer and inking (not pencilling) you in 4 nights a week.
3a) I hate this part, and if I could wave a magic wand and change his mind for you, I would.
But most importantly by far:
4) You deserve to be someone’s priority, not just an option, if that is what you want in a relationship.
Imma say it again all-caps yelling style:
HE DOES NOT DESERVE TO BE YOUR PRIORITY IF HE ONLY CONSIDERS YOU AN OPTION. (Yelling done in part as a reminder to my own damn self)
Jedi hugs, LW.
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?
LW, just in case you would like a little extra reassurance after the many many comments saying this is totally normal and reasonable and understandable, this is *totally normal and reasonable and understandable*! So utterly normal. I don’t have anxiety issues and being treated like that would absolutely twist me up. You are not uncool, you do not appear to need to learn how to chill, you are not asking for anything remotely imposing.
You are worth making plans for! If your guy really likes you then knowing he’s going to see you on saturday is a delightful bonus, not some terrible imposition that deprives him of all the other things he could have been doing on saturday instead.
As someone who has anxiety related to planning, IT IS OK TO WANT AT LEAST A LITTLE BIT OF A PLAN! I promise! It is possible to slowly move back from the edge of wanting to know every detail as far in advance as possible (though I still often prefer it this way), but it requires the other person to be willing to pull back from there edge a bit as well. If you are this frustrated with the lack of planning, it’s not worth it! Abort! My partner’s whole family is like this, and he was also like this but was very willing to meet me halfway once he understood how frustrated and stressed out the lack of planning made me. It only works if the other half is willing to compromise. As for his family? I don’t vacation with them. Like, ever. Their type of vacation would NOT be a vacation for me, and it is ok for me to make this decision with people I don’t have to interact with more than two times a year. But something like that won’t work with someone you hope to share your life with. You will not be happy, you will always be stressed out, and it’s ok to accept this as part of yourself (and not as a problem with yourself) and make decisions about your life accordingly.
” IT IS OK TO WANT AT LEAST A LITTLE BIT OF A PLAN!”
Amen! WHAT we do can be spontaneous and made up spot and left in the lap of the Gods etc etc. WHEN we do it needs to be at least fixed enough that we’re all in the same place at the same time…
More than ok to want plans! There are some seriously badass planners who use these talents to pull off some awesome stuff. All hail planning.
I’m adding this quite late in the commenting, but there’s something that’s coalesced from reading through the others.
LW, I think the planning vs. spontaneity issue is a blind. It’s a distraction from how he’s treating you, because it’s gotten you blaming your need to plan for how you feel. Even if you were a spontaneous person, the sort who would love to make their own choices based on whatever they felt like doing at the time, you’d likely still have a problem with this guy — because he isn’t allowing you the options to choose from, the basic material from which spontaneity can arise. It sounds more like he’s leveraged that you’re not spontaneous, because it stops you from blowing him off when he’s leaving you hanging. He has you stalled because you need a plan and he’s denying you one (while paying lip service to the illusion of one). But his take on the wonders of spontaneity isn’t one he’s actually letting you have either. He’s getting to have the positive side of spontaneity — lots of choices! do whatever I want right now! — while dumping the negative side of spontaneity on you, expecting you to roll with the changes that he is making, but not getting to do what you feel like doing. Of course it’s so much easier for him to extol the wonders of being spontaneous, when he’s twisted it like that.
Ignoring the spontaneous vs. planning issue, what I see is that he gets to make all the choices about your relationship and you don’t get to be part of any, because his “spontaneity” is taking those choices away from you. And that’s a completely shitty way to treat someone, irrespective of their interest in planning.
Make your plans without him, or even be spontaneous without him — key is to take your choices back, even if he won’t let being with him be one of them.
Agree with Captain 100%! There are so many possible scenarios or reasons but it really sounds like he’s not right FOR YOU and that is enough.
One story about my “caring” DarthVader Ex who was staying with me after a horrible bout of influenza had just finally left my system.
-Maybe a trigger warning for body issues and bad partner sex?-
He really wanted to have sex with me that night because he loved how my hip-bones jutted out of my flat stomach (I just lost 10 lbs in one week so this was a new look). I said no and I didn’t feel up for it and i felt weak and still rather dehydrated and he raised such a sad mopey face I gave in. That was, I’m pretty sure, the worst sex of my life.
Irrespective of the reason (keeping options open, sleeping around, a total inability to take care of one’s own shit as an agentic person – as others have noted, things like jobs and concerts and movies and vacations almost always require planning in our society, and my flipping CAT is capable of planning his day in order to be waiting at the door demanding food when I get home from work every day), the message this dude is sending is, “I am unwilling to prioritize our relationship and your time is less important to me than my ability to completely avoid any sort of commitments.” This is not a good basis for a relationship, this kind of behavior is hard to change, and it’s indicative overall of a rather solipsistic/narcissistic worldview (I’m not attempting a formal psychological diagnosis, just classifying behaviors) in which the person cannot or will not recognize that zir behavior actually impacts other people and ze must thus take those likely impacts into account when choosing how to behave. My high school girlfriend was like this to an even more extreme degree – she would actually agree to plans at set times and then break them (instead of simply refusing to make plans). The worst instance was the day we were planning to take a day trip to a nearby large city (for which I had taken off of work and my mom had rearranged her schedule so I could use her car for the day) and she simply didn’t answer her phone until that evening because she had decided to stay up until 4am the previous night drinking and making out with a dude from the band she had gone to see play that night, and she didn’t see anything wrong with her behavior until her dad asked her why she wasn’t out of town for the day as planned and responded to her explanation with something along the lines of, “WTF are you doing? This is not an okay way to treat people, especially people who care about you and about whom you supposedly care.” Now, not every relationship with this kind of dynamic is as dysfunctional as mine was (very, very unhealthy for everyone involved), but in my experience it’s basically impossible to deal with this sort of thing long-term in anything closer than a friendly acquaintanceship (I’ve had a few friends who had similar behavior patterns, and they were eventually downgraded to acquaintances, not even as a conscious decision on my part but as an inevitable function of the behavior itself). Basically by definition, people who won’t account and make accommodations for your needs, including scheduling, just don’t care about you that much.
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