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Unsure about thus relationship cycle
January 21, 2014 10:04 AM   Subscribe

I'm caught in a casual, hot and cold relationship with a person I fell in love with years ago. I can't tell anymore what is normal relationship behavior. I'm a female in my 20's, involved with a person in his 40's. We have similar sensibilities and get along great but then he goes cold. He always let's me decide if I want to stay or not. Everytime I leave, I end up coming back because I miss him and I'm greeted with enthusiasm. He's a sweetheart and never acted aggressively towards me which leaves me confused. 'Cause he'll go out of his way to help me with anything I need and once I get comfortable and thankful, he grows cold. He never saw us as "dating" even though we were plus the issues of him getting over an ex. I can be a bit of a people pleaser at times but I always abide by the rule of if you don't want to be with someone and they have strong feelings for you, you cease contact. He doesn't do this and I'm confused. I feel like a puppet. I don't know what's going on in his head. I don't even know if it's abusive or not. I have been in an abusive relationship and this doesn't mirror it so I'm having a tough time processing what's going on. Please help.
posted by InterestedInKnowing to Human Relations (17 answers total)
 
The nicest thing you say about him in this question is that he's not abusive. That should tell you something.

I always abide by the rule of if you don't want to be with someone and they have strong feelings for you, you cease contact. He doesn't do this and I'm confused.

Why wouldn't you apply the flip side of this? If you do want to be with someone and they don't have strong feelings for you, why wouldn't you cease contact? You're not getting what you want or what you need from this guy. You're just getting strung along.

Somewhere in this world, there's someone who is fantastic for you on a lot of levels, and whose positive qualities are many and specific, not just vague platitudes like "he's a sweetheart," or that he isn't abusive. But you're not going to meet that person as long as you're on this guy's hook. Tell him to take a damn hike.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 10:10 AM on January 21 [6 favorites]


Unless there is more to the story I am not hearing what sounds like abuse to me. This is being in a relationship with someone who could take it or leave it. He likely has affection for you and enjoys your attention. I understand the rule that you cited but wouldn't it be simpler if you took responsibility for your own happiness and ceased contact yourself instead of needing someone else to do it for you?
posted by InkaLomax at 10:11 AM on January 21 [3 favorites]


A lot going on here.

I'm a female in my 20's, involved with a person in his 40's.

Already this is a bit out of the ordinary and the power imbalance requires extra vigilance.

He's a sweetheart and never acted aggressively towards me which leaves me confused.

He's certainly plenty passive aggressive.

He never saw us as "dating" even though we were plus the issues of him getting over an ex.

If someone says "we aren't dating," take them at their word. You were a rebound for him.

He doesn't do this and I'm confused.

Probably because he doesn't care.

I feel like a puppet. I don't know what's going on in his head. I don't even know if it's abusive or not. I have been in an abusive relationship and this doesn't mirror it so I'm having a tough time processing what's going on. Please help.

Abusive men generally really care. That's why they get controlling. I mean, not that they care about you but they definitely care about keeping you around for their image/ego/the sex/whatever. Indifferent men simply don't care enough to be abusive and controlling in the same way. Instead they let you use up all your energy on them and fail to notice or care that you're hurting.
posted by quincunx at 10:12 AM on January 21 [16 favorites]


You need to sit down with him and talk about your relationship. What do you want from him?

Side note: I knew a guy once who happily strung a woman along for sex who he did not love, but who was in love with him. He insisted that he was not behaving badly because he was always honest about not wanting anything from her, but she kept coming back hoping that maybe this time would be the time that he'd decide he really loved her. If that sounds at all familiar, please realize that your guy may string you along for as long as you're willing to keep playing this game.
posted by cabingirl at 10:12 AM on January 21 [3 favorites]


once I get comfortable and thankful, he grows cold.

He never saw us as "dating"


Your instincts are right to question this behavior. This is not normal behavior behavior in a healthy relationship. Trust your instincts, and stick with no contact.

You deserve to date someone who is consistently warm and helpful and kind, and who enthusiastically wants to date you.
posted by nicodine at 10:13 AM on January 21 [1 favorite]


I always abide by the rule of if you don't want to be with someone and they have strong feelings for you, you cease contact. He doesn't do this and I'm confused.

This assumes that a) he is a decent person and b) he would react like you. Neither are likely, from what it sounds like. Sounds like you're going to have to be the one to take initiative to cut this thing off, because he is getting whatever it is he wants and has no incentive to do it himself.

From one people-pleaser to another, think about how YOU feel about it. Not how he or anyone else feels. Because you clearly aren't getting what you want or need… why bother? He has shown you over and over that nothing will change. I'm sorry to say that it really won't. And you deserve more than someone hand-wringing over whether to be with you.
posted by anad487 at 10:14 AM on January 21 [1 favorite]


A relationship doesn't have to be abusive for it not to work.

I'm dating a guy right now that is kind of like the guy you describe - very hot and cold - and I'm pretty sure I'm just going to break it off. Like I told my therapist: he's not abusive, but that's a pretty low bar. I too am an abuse survivor and it's hard.

If you feel like a puppet with your significant other there's something wrong. It's not you.

At best he isn't crazy about you. At worst he's a selfish jerk. Either way, you don't feel good.

I hope you can find the strength to be alone because it's better than being in this cycle. I'm sorry.
posted by sockermom at 10:16 AM on January 21 [2 favorites]


I don't know what's going on in his head.

The only person you'll ever have that sort of access to is yourself. And, if you're anything like everyone else, even that isn't guaranteed. So it doesn't matter what he thinks, just what he says and does.

He says you are not dating, in the formal on-the-road-to-be-a-couple sense, I assume. You disagree, but this is one of those things that can only be decided by one person in the negative: either one of you can declare you are not dating, but you have to agree to be dating. So regardless of how it feels for you and what it seems like, it's not the case. He says you are not dating, so don't treat this poorly-defined relationship as you would an actual dating-relationship.

He's clearly keeping you at arm's length. Why? It doesn't matter, unless you're going to try to make him want you which, honestly, is a huge waste of time when I can almost assure you there are people whom you do not have to convince to want to date you. It's a shitty dynamic when you have to prove to someone you're worthy.

You don't sound happy with this arrangement and he sounds quite comfortable with it, so he's got no impetus to change. So, it's up to you to decide what happens next. He's not going to 'leave' you because, from how you explain it, there's nothing for him to leave. He just waits for you to show up.
posted by griphus at 10:19 AM on January 21 [2 favorites]


This is not abuse, and he is not (and has never been) dating you. He's convenience fucking you. He doesn't want a relationship, he wants someone to have casual sex with.

If you can handle that, then fine. However it does not seem like you can, so you should bid him farewell instead of trying to "make" him want to date you.
posted by elizardbits at 10:29 AM on January 21 [3 favorites]


Everytime I leave, I end up coming back because I miss him and I'm greeted with enthusiasm.

^^ THIS is the abusive cycle. No he's not hitting you, but it's the withdraw/pain/reward that you are addicted to. Normal relationships don't have that.

LEAVE.

Sweetheart, please leave. I promise you it does not get any warmer, there is no secret code to unlock his consistency of love. You're worth so much more.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 10:32 AM on January 21 [4 favorites]


Nthing what elizardbits said. He may care about you and have genuine affection for you, but he doesn't want a relationship. He already told you that when he said he doesn't see you as "dating." You shouldn't be expecting "normal relationship behavior" because you're not in one.
posted by Wordwoman at 10:38 AM on January 21 [1 favorite]


As an older guy who dated a much young woman--29 years younger--there may be a bit of fear in thinking of a relationship with a big age difference. In my case, we got over the fears and have been married now 30 years.
posted by Postroad at 10:41 AM on January 21


It is not abusive, from what you describe here.

It's also not very nice. But, you're the one who keeps putting yourself in this situation so for all he knows, you're okay with it.

You want to be dating him, he says he is not dating you. But he is happy to derive all the benefits of dating when they are offered. To you these are detriments, because you want some minimal level of commitment and he is basically saying "we're screwing, but I don't care about you/I'm here today and gone tomorrow". I don't think highly of people who engage in this kind of thing, but it is not abusive. It is, however, making you unhappy.

You know how people say actions speak louder than words? Well, saying "I love you" or "we're not dating" is performative, it is an action. The action of saying "we're not dating" is in contradiction to whatever caring things he does when you are put in front of them. A contradiction is a mixed message, when you get a mixed message, pay attention to the part of the message you don't want to hear.

Dump him and hang out for someone çaring who will date you and have no qualms about admitting that he is doing so.
posted by tel3path at 10:42 AM on January 21 [3 favorites]


For casual sex, it is customary to be enthusiastic before the rendezvous but not to be "clingy" once the encounter is over.
posted by 99percentfake at 11:34 AM on January 21 [3 favorites]


He already said you are not dating, what more is there to say? You are good-enough-for-now/sex. That's it. You are fooling yourself thinking there is any more to it.
He knows you get emotionally involved and does not seem to care or want that, hence the coldness. Be compassionate to yourself and leave!
posted by Neekee at 4:21 PM on January 21


I don't know that this is 'indifferent,' even, and I'm not seeing 'abusive.' He has been clear -- not dating -- and seems to be behaving reasonably appropriately for the situation (see 99percentfake's answer). Honestly, the red-flaggiest part of this for me is the idea that He never saw us as "dating" even though we were. If he was on here asking about you, we'd all be typing 'She's nuts if she's willing to ignore that and pretend you're 'dating' anyway! Run!'

The 'friends with benefits' racket can be tricky to navigate and (I feel) the whole deal is unpalatable without lots of good communication and the friends part of it being well-entrenched...

I agree that it would be nice if he had cut things off on determining that you were much more invested than he was, but if you want things to end, you can do it yourself, quite easily. Having a lover is not a bad thing, unless you don't want one -- and it doesn't sound like you do.
posted by kmennie at 7:07 PM on January 21


It's pretty clear he's using you for sex. You're not happy, so end it.
posted by ravioli at 6:04 PM on January 22


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