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March 21, 2012 3:14 AM   Subscribe

It's all in my head, I think. Questions about signals I thought were being sent by a woman I have strong feelings for. (..a little long)

For a long time I have had this female friend, and for a good majority of this time I was in a long term relationship with another woman. That relationship has since ended (three years ago). For the past three years I have hung out with my female friend several times (she lives out of the area), we talk frequently though. There have been times we from my perspective that we have been flirting back and forth and body language seemed to confirm this, lots of playful physical touching etc. These times though always seem to be at awkward settings, like large group Christmas parties, or other events were things cannot progress further. For some reason the talking seems to subside after these meetings, she seems to pull back. Then for what appears to be no reason what so ever, she starts texting me, or calling more more again about 6 months later. During these times I would often offer to drive to were she lived to come visit, for an afternoon or whatever just to hangout. She would often say yes, then cancel at the last moment. This went on for prob the first two years after my breakup with my ex. In fact in two years, I only went to visit her once, because all the other times she canceled the visit. Then last year, I was talking to her, and mentioned that I was going to this party and she insisted that she really wanted to go, she did, drove the couple hours from where she lives to go and basically spent the whole time attached me. Unfortunately by this time I had given up on making something happen with her because of her hot and cold cycles. Well by the end of the evening we were laughing having a great time and just hanging out, flirting, getting physically close everything seemed great. She repeatedly told me how much she missed me, and wanted to me to come visit her and stay for a weekend.... So I thought, well maybe she means it. So the party ended, she had to go home (legit reasons) and I had work. Well needless to say the cycle repeated, she got distant again, didn't respond to my messages on FB, or texting very often and when she did respond there was never any acknowledgement that there had been a long gap. I was very confused again. A few months go by, she was in town again and we hung out with a group of friend, and after some drinking and a pack of smokes, most of them had left and the rest were passed out. She and I were just on the back porch sitting up against each other looking at the stars doing out best to be as cliche and B movie and possible. The whole eyes looking at each others mouths thing was starting to happen, and this exact moment our mutual friend decides to have an existential breakdown and comes crashing through the deck door drunk as f* and ... you get the idea.

Another missed opportunity. So a couple month ago, I went and visited her again, we both got hammered. I blacked out, completely. The last thing I remember I was kissing her. We both woke up in her bed fully clothed. Initially neither of us had any idea what happened. We were hanging out in her kitchen and she turned red and started asking my if I remembered anything crazy form the night before. I sad no at first, I really didn't. After a couple hours, It came to me and we both were smiling, and acting like a couple of high-school kids (we're in our late 20's). She confirmed that what I had remembered was what she remembered. So we kept talking and trying to remember what all took place, but no luck. Needless to say I was making attempts to move physically close to her casually during conversation, to see if she take a step in mine. Just trying to gauge things. I joking asked if she pushed me away or hit me when I kissed her, she smiled and said no..... however every time I moved close to her, she backed off. Skipping a bunch of more awkward detail, that is essentially a repeat of what I just typed. I was driving home later that day, I called her on my way home and told her that I've always had feelings for her and that's why I kissed her, not because I was drunk. I wanted to tell her that in person but her awkwardness was throwing me off. She responded with..."I don't want to sound like I'm not listening ... but um and don't take this the wrong way ..I just found out my dog is dying and I am very upset". No sh*. Conversation raps up with her. Several hours later, its all over FB, he dog is in fact dead and she is in fact very upset. Me and her have spoken since then, but nothing on the subject of my feelings or hers if there are any.

I guess I'm posting this because I'm just curious what other people would think about this. I'm basically done, the ball is in her court right? I feel that either, I have imagined all that I thought I saw as signals from her, or she did make them but for whatever reason it's just not happening and I have no idea why.
posted by Guyatoffice to Human Relations (23 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
Just ask her out on a date already. If she says no (and doesn't suggest an alternative) you have your answer.
posted by pharm at 3:38 AM on March 21, 2012 [3 favorites]


I think you should let this go. Too much drama. I'd move on.
posted by jonathanstrange at 3:39 AM on March 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


(Perhaps in a couple of weeks after the dog thing is past and gone.)
posted by pharm at 3:40 AM on March 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


Life happens. Doesn't sound like it has that much to do with you, as much as her life is unfolding for her as it is for everyone else.

If you were to chat with people, I'd imagine you hear many versions of this story. "Small" stimuli (death of a loved pet) can cause complete life re-evaluations and changes. Especially in your late 20s.

And the stilumi don't always have to be negative. In my mid-20s, a vegan friend introduced me to water fasting and fiber cleansing. After the first three day fast, I quit drinking for a year, went vegetarian, and decided to do a 500 mile cycle ride. There was no 'intention' behind it; each little change led to another little change. Over time, those build up. In that process, I had been dating a few women casually and simply broke it off with all of them. I was on my own path for a while, and our previous interactions just didn't fit any longer.

Out of the few, one chased me up and asked a question similar to yours. "I thought we had a really good thing going. Did I do something wrong?" I explained, and she got it. She wanted to know the same thing, that she hadn't mistaken the signals. And she hadn't. The signals were there. An experience occurred. And then I was on a different path.

Point being, I wouldn't take it personally. Things change, and life happens.
posted by nickrussell at 3:43 AM on March 21, 2012


(stilumi = stimuli)
posted by nickrussell at 3:46 AM on March 21, 2012


Well, it seems like either a) you are attracted to each other, or b) you're attracted to her, and she's attracted to you when she's been drinking, or in a certain mood.

Call her in a couple of weeks and tell her you want to take her on a for-real official date (using concrete language like that), and if she would like that, too, how does the weekend of the Nth sound?

She'll either say it sounds perfectly lovely, and it's on, or she'll say it's not a good time, and if she doesn't come back to you with an alternative time in a week or two, assume she's not into it, and go ahead and forget about pursuing this any further. If she agrees to the date and yet another reason for it not happening comes up from her side, go ahead and forget about pursuing this any further. Basically, anything but agreement and actual follow-through: go ahead and forget about pursuing this any further.

But, really, she may be Bad With Time, like I am. I don't have problems being on time for things, but I'm very oblivious about time passing. Someone will tell me we haven't talked in six months, and it seems to me that we just talked last month. Who knows. She seemed like she was trying to be especially gracious to you even in the midst of being worried out of her mind about her dog, so along with the other signals, it seems possibly promising... and, obviously, living two hours apart certainly puts a crimp in the spontaneous aspect of the relationship, which is usually part of what moves things right along.

Maybe she's been thinking that you are feeling much more casual about things than you really do. Once you've made it clear that you want to go out on a real, romantic date for serious, whatever ends up happening next should clear up your confusion.
posted by taz at 4:16 AM on March 21, 2012 [4 favorites]


Send a condolence card. Don't mention anything other than your sympathy for her loss. Give it some time.
posted by horsemuth at 4:22 AM on March 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


If this had all been going on for three weeks instead of three years, I'd say send her a sympathy card about the dog, wait a few weeks and then ask her out on a date using the word "date".

I would have friend-dumped somebody who cancelled on me that many times. I guess what you want to hear is that she's terrified by her overwhelming feelings for you, and that could even actually be the case, but it doesn't matter. I think she's been leading you on and jerking you around for THREE. YEARS.

THREE. YEARS.

YOU DON'T HAVE TIME FOR THIS.

I think you should send her a sympathy card about the dog, then stop contacting her and hide her on Facebook. If she asks to see you, say you're too busy, and go back to no contact. If she asks why you're not giving her attention any more, say you don't think the friendship is healthy for either of you, and go back to no contact.

The alternative is that you send her a sympathy card about the dog, wait a decent interval, ask her out on a date, and she gives you just enough to keep you on a string for ANOTHER three years.

PEOPLE WHO STRING YOU ALONG DO NOT EVER HAVE ANYTHING TO GIVE.

IF THEY DID, THEY WOULDN'T NEED TO STRING YOU ALONG.
posted by tel3path at 4:28 AM on March 21, 2012 [19 favorites]


Sounds like WAY more trouble than it's worth. And I'll echo tel3path above - 3 years?!?! Seriously, if something was gonna happen it most definitely would have happened by now. Think of how this has all progressed to this point with her hot and cold behaviour and then imagine being in a committed relationship with someone like that. Man, I get a headache just thinking about it.

Remain friends, but walk away from any romantic attachment you have to her.
posted by fso at 5:05 AM on March 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


Her inconsistency has been remarkably consistent over the last three years. She is telling you "I am and will continue to be inconsistent in my feelings and behaviour towards you". I would speculate she has minor feelings for you but not enough to warrant a relationship, and she likes the attention and flattery of having you around and is unwilling to slam the door. But people do not say maybe or act inconsistent towards something if they want it; a maybe is a no.
posted by PercussivePaul at 5:15 AM on March 21, 2012 [6 favorites]


Gun to my head, I'd guess this suggestion by taz:
or b) you're attracted to her, and she's attracted to you when she's been drinking, or in a certain mood
Everyone is right that you can unambiguously ask her on a date and take her response as a "clear" answer. But will you? What if she gets back to you with the same mixed signals she's been giving you? She'd love to, but then something comes up and she cancels, and maybe you guys eventually go on a date, and she has a great time, but there's more of the same... and another year from now you've been on a couple dates and maybe made out but you're still chasing after her and still have no idea where you stand.

So, I'm with tel3path and her all caps: you don't have time to be strung along like this. The reason your crush is acting like this could be (i) she has mixed feelings about you; (ii) she likes you a little; (iii) she doesn't like you but doesn't have the guts to say no; (iv) she likes you but has something else going on. No matter which of those it is, it means that she isn't going to give you what you want. If she were, she already would have.
posted by J. Wilson at 6:01 AM on March 21, 2012


Are you pretty sure she doesn't have someone else, back home? Because the whole "gets distant every time she goes home" thing really seems red-flag-ish.

I really don't think you should pursue this.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 6:24 AM on March 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


I had this same kind of back and forth (I'm a woman, he was a man) for about 6 months with someone. Hot and cold, call me to "hang out" then ignore me for weeks.. I finally just asked him if he was into it. He said he wasn't, apologized for any mixed messages he'd given me, and I moved on with my life. It hurt like a bitch, but it was so great to know where I stood.

Stop wasting your time wondering (until an appropriate amount of time has passed with her dog's passing), and ask her out on a date. Be very specific as suggested above.
posted by getawaysticks at 6:24 AM on March 21, 2012


It sounds like you're both hammered a lot when these little moments happen, and then she feels awkward about it afterwards and avoids you. When I acted this way (which is, in retrospect, a shitty way to act) it was because I liked flirting and thought about hooking up, but knew the person was into me more romantically and I wanted to discourage that. Hang out sober and then see how things are.

But after all this time, if nothing's really happened, then I think you should just move on. Three years of drama and flakiness isn't exactly how you want to start a relationship.
posted by juliplease at 6:26 AM on March 21, 2012


Dude, this sucks but basically: if she was into you, she would not have blown you off all of those times, and would have followed up on the dog conversation. She's not into you, and she's also not treating you fairly.
posted by DarlingBri at 6:31 AM on March 21, 2012


i think she's in a relationship with someone else.
posted by divinitys.mortal.flesh at 6:34 AM on March 21, 2012


I can't imagine she's going to shift from this behavior (hot-and-cold, on-and-then-off the map, not talking for long stretches) to a good partner (clear about interests and expectations, good communicator, reliable and totally into you).

Either she's not that into you or she's got big issues. I think you're better off dating someone else.
posted by bunderful at 6:56 AM on March 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


Oh, I think lots of us have experienced this (if not three years of this). So I say this from a place of understanding, and I say having dealt with more than one person who was, in retrospect, clearly trying to represent Great Britain in the Mixed Signals Olympic Team: you need to stop letting this take up space in your head.

This the thing about mixed signals. They have a fiendish tendency to present themselves as a puzzle we just need to find the solution to. Why would she be kissing you, if she's not interested? Why would she be cancelling the trips to see you, if she is interested? But why would she make the trips in the first place if she's not? But then why wouldn't she respond to your declaration of feelings if she is? And on, and on, for days and months and years. Like so many of us, you're hardwired to think that somewhere in there is the real situation, and you just need to work out what it is.

But this is the other thing about mixed signals: they are the real situation. The mixed signals are not a smokescreen hiding the reality you need to respond to - they are the reality you need to respond to. There's no point trying to translate them to something else, be that 'not interested' or 'totally interested' (and in my experience, trying to do this is what turns the situation really crazymaking). They are what they are. She's giving you mixed signals, she's been doing it for three years, she's not going to change.

Nor does it matter, really, why she's giving you these mixed signals. Maybe she's an unpleasant person, maybe she's great but just messed up in this specific area for whatever reason, maybe she's fine and you're fine but there's just something about the dynamic between you that is producing this reaction. Whatever it is, though, it's not something you can singlehandedly resolve.

So, yes, the ball's in her court. But if I were you, I wouldn't continue the game if she halfheartedly swats it back at some point in the future (as she probably will). Unless she's willing to metaphorically pick up the ball, walk over to you, say "Sorry for the confusion, but the game is tennis, to five sets - is that okay with you?", I think you should forget about getting anything more from her than this.
posted by Catseye at 7:36 AM on March 21, 2012 [11 favorites]


First, think of her needs in the moment, and offer whatever condolences and what-have-you that you would normally offer when someone's dog passes away. I mean, you would with anyone else, right? Be a nice person for a bit.

Then, let the whole thing go, and start spending time with other people for a while. Perhaps ask someone else out. If after a few months you still feel like you'd like to go on a date with her, then just out and out ask her, and hopefully you've established sufficient other friendships that you won't feel lonely when she rejects you. Going through that process, however, will allow you to put this behind you once and for all.
posted by davejay at 7:50 AM on March 21, 2012


It's all in my head, I think.

Yes, it is. It's been in your head and you've kept it there instead of communicating with this girl about what you want and what she wants. Everyone is saying she's hot/cold and sending mixed messages. From my perspective, you're the one sending mixed messages, and if every once in a while she sends out some signals and tries again, and you remain passive, keep thinking about it, and don't communicate or act, then this is all about you, not her.


There have been times we from my perspective that we have been flirting back and forth and body language seemed to confirm this, lots of playful physical touching etc.

She's sending signals and you're not taking action.


For some reason the talking seems to subside after these meetings, she seems to pull back.

You remain passive, as though you have no agency here. What do you do, what action do you take?


Then for what appears to be no reason what so ever, she starts texting me, or calling more more again about 6 months later.

And she tries again. You are confused and rather than ask her about it, you keep inside your own head and decide why she does/doesn't do things, try to guess at her feelings instead of acting on yours, etc.


During these times I would often offer to drive to were she lived to come visit, for an afternoon or whatever just to hangout. She would often say yes, then cancel at the last moment. This went on for prob the first two years after my breakup with my ex. In fact in two years, I only went to visit her once, because all the other times she canceled the visit.

I would venture to guess based on what you've written here, that the offers you made were couched in disclaimers (e.g., "I can come see you if you want, but you're probably busy, but hey I'm free if you want, just let me know!") Are you sure she was actually canceling visits, or did you never really firm the plans up to begin with?


Unfortunately by this time I had given up on making something happen with her because of her hot and cold cycles.

OK, you've made a decision! Poor reasoning maybe, but your own choice, and your own actions.


Well by the end of the evening we were laughing having a great time and just hanging out, flirting, getting physically close everything seemed great. She repeatedly told me how much she missed me, and wanted to me to come visit her and stay for a weekend....

Wait, you say you had given up, but yet you hadn't. Mixed messages. And from her language, it's clear she's trying again.


So I thought, well maybe she means it.

Did you ask her? Did you tell her what you wanted?


Well needless to say the cycle repeated, she got distant again, didn't respond to my messages on FB, or texting very often and when she did respond there was never any acknowledgement that there had been a long gap. I was very confused again.

Again acting as though you have no agency here, you are just going along with her whims, not knowing what's motivating her but not asking either.


The whole eyes looking at each others mouths thing was starting to happen,

Passive voice. These things don't just happen. You make them happen, or she makes them happen, or they don't happen.


Another missed opportunity.

Passive voice. You had opportunity, you didn't take it. You didn't say "aw, bad timing drunk friend, I was about to kiss the girl! Girl, I've been wanting to kiss you for a long time, let's go on a proper date so we don't get interrupted by drunk friends!"


Needless to say I was making attempts to move physically close to her casually during conversation, to see if she take a step in mine. Just trying to gauge things.

This sounds like the little-kid stretch-and-reach to put your arm around her in the movie theater. Why try to gauge things? You're looking for a safe time to make a move when success is guaranteed. Success is never guaranteed. Take a chance on being rejected, or leave this poor girl alone.


however every time I moved close to her, she backed off.

She already put herself out there by bringing up the prior night, coaxing you to admit having kissed her. She's done all the work here. You're doing a dance around the kitchen hoping she will just fall into your arms without you having to risk anything, and that's not fair to her.


I was driving home later that day, I called her on my way home and told her that I've always had feelings for her and that's why I kissed her, not because I was drunk. I wanted to tell her that in person but her awkwardness was throwing me off.

You should have told her in person. You're blaming her for your refusal to take action. Not fair.


She responded with..."I don't want to sound like I'm not listening ... but um and don't take this the wrong way ..I just found out my dog is dying and I am very upset". No sh*. Conversation raps up with her.

Perfect opportunity to turn around and be with her to help out (or at least to offer to). But you're not interested in her, or her dog, or the real things that happen in real life. You're still in your own head. So the conversation ends.


Several hours later, its all over FB, he dog is in fact dead and she is in fact very upset. Me and her have spoken since then, but nothing on the subject of my feelings or hers if there are any.

Not acting. Have you offered condolences about the dog? Have you offered to take her out to cheer her up? Have you said "I really care about you and want to make something happen here?"


I'm basically done, the ball is in her court right?

No, the ball is right in front of you, where it's been all along. You just have to be willing to pick it up. You might not make the shot, but you can always take another, and another, and another. In the end the only chance you have of winning the game is actually playing. Stop watching and hoping that other people will score for you.
posted by headnsouth at 7:56 AM on March 21, 2012 [5 favorites]


A guy I met at a Metafilter meet up saw my Metafilter comment that my cat had died, and wrote me expressing sympathy. Now we are married.
posted by onlyconnect at 9:12 AM on March 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


There's a good way and a bad way to handle these situations.

The bad way is to let it drag on for months or years, gaining weight in your mind, having a major impact on the quality of your life, and likely locking you out of looking for relationships elsewhere.

The good way is to ask her. Not feel her out obliquely, not try to find out what her answer would be without having to actually risk asking her, and not spending years wondering and obsessing.

The good way takes courage, and if she says no it might hurt like hell for a while, but then you'll be done with it. And maybe the answer will be yes, in which case you got there without beating around the bush for three years first.

I've done it both ways, and the good way is infinitely better for everyone.

But now that you're where you are, it's important to bring proper closure to this, at least for yourself and probably for her too. Whatever else she is, she's a friend. Don't leave this with an elephant-in-the-room that can never be talked about.

Some points that are useful for many potentially-difficult conversations:

- Take responsibility for how things have gone, and how they went in the last conversation. e.g. "I'm sorry I was a dork last time we talked, I think maybe I put you in an awkward position." Or: "I've been an idiot to be carrying on like this for years... You're important to me and I'd like to clear the air".

- If you are not sure what someone meant then you are not sure what they meant. It's ok to ask them. Do it with good grace, that's all. It's mostly not a great idea to ask the internet what someone meant instead of asking the person themselves.

- Even if the internet happens to be right, you will be left with doubts, and your relationship with that person will be left in a messed up state. Also on some level you will know that you chickened out. And what you don't need here is one more time that you chickened out. Take a deep breath, find your courage, clear the air with this person. Whatever happens, being courageous here will be a big win for you.

- Treat them as a grown up, and be a grown up yourself. Don't treat them like it is beyond their capacity to cope with a difficult conversation, and don't act like it is beyond your capacity to deal with the situation if they have to tell you no. It's all too easy for us to start acting like a teenager with a crush, and that tends to bring out the other person's inner teenager as well, and that doesn't go well. Conversely the more you act with maturity and grace, the more space you give them to respond in kind.
posted by philipy at 10:13 AM on March 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


Here's the thing: attraction is rarely binary, and maybe especially for women. What that means is that there may be a few outliers, but the vast majority of people in the middle are not set to "yes" or "no" upon meeting you and afterwards never change their mind about whether or not they are attracted to you. Most people are sort of attracted to you, but not desperately, and it could go up or down depending on a lot of things- your actions AND circumstance.

This sounds like a genuine combination of your passivity and bad circumstance working together to keep her attraction very low. As circumstances have changed, she's seemed to go up and down- but the other factor is your attitude. If you were really motivated to make something happen, it might spark an effect where your enthusiasm lets her blossom and then things might have gotten started.

I don't know if it's too late. A lot of times in life, random circumstance can wreck best laid plans. But what you had didn't sound like a plan at all. Neither one of you seemed interested enough to actually pursue anything. It's clear that this is the last remaining factor, so you're going to either have to put yourself on the line and be that person who cares a little more, or let this one go.
posted by quincunx at 10:20 AM on March 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


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