Long distance relationship - he's fantastic when we're together, but "off" when we're apart.. what's up?
November 10, 2008 8:27 AM   Subscribe

4-month long distance "relationship" - he's fantastic when we're together, but "off" when we're apart.. what's up?

First, thanks for reading - I've really enjoyed this forum and while I appreciate the honest (sometimes blunt) feedback, pls. be respectful when answering.

Anyway, I've been involved with a guy who lives 2 hrs. away. We first started out as dating, then went back to friends, and after some initial bumps in the road, we're dating again. It's been for a total about 4 months of "hanging out" - pretty much every wknd. Everything seems to be going well, as we just spent this past long wknd at his place - cooking, going out for a jog/golfing, watching movies, attended a pool match he was in, long political talks and intimate time together. (I did see him at work this past wk) He treats me out often (I do put in my effort to pay too), has driven out to see me, mutually agree to do things we both enjoy, etc. Our times together have always been great as he would text me how he enjoyed his time and looks forward/starts making plans for the next.

But.. I feel something is "off" whenever we're not together. Granted, the distance sucks and there's not much we can do until possibly after the new year - I may move closer to his area since I've been wanting to move to his city for years[even before I met him]. When we initially we're talking in person about the move last wk, he brought up the idea for me to possibly move in with him until I can find a job and housing (which I agreed with). Well, when I brought up the idea again yesterday, he seemed hesitant and was like, "Well, we'll have to see" and was backtracking somewhat.

There are other weird things too - I guess he doesn't have a lot of friends - so when he doesn't hang out with the guys, he hangs out with his ex-girlfriends. I've let this fly, thinking it's harmless - yet he mentioned to me the other day that he didn't tell them about me. He's British, so I don't know if there's a cultural difference with ex's? (prob. not?) but I *don't* keep in contact with most of my ex's and those that I do - I hardly talk to them. He even mentioned to me last night that he was going to see one of his ex-friends possibly today.

Sometimes I get the feeling that he's just trying to inadvertently push buttons or test me like that book, "Men who love bitches" and either I'll have to ignore or call him on it? (pls. don't give me the lecture about self-help books) I've had ex b/f's who were worse than him and dumped them, but with him - I feel like everything is so great and wonderful when we are together. Yet when we are not, it just seems strange. He does call me everyday and we have fun talking, but I feel like our convos. always have to be "light, airy, positive".. can't talk about the deeper things. He doesn't want to stay connected on places like Facebook, AIM or Yahoo Msgr. Then the other day, I logged onto match.com b/c I received several email notices.. [I was only curious, but would seriously close my acct. if he asks to be exclusive] and I saw that he was on.. just a few days ago.

I'm trying to remain calm and rational about everything, altho. now I feel like I should be more guarded now since we've been intimate. Never did the "where are we talk," nor asked him about exclusivity.. (yet). One of my friends did mention that he may be emotionally unavailable and is why he can't seem to emotionally connect. Can men relate to this? What do you guys think and/or how should I respond? Thank you for reading.
posted by freshsprout to Human Relations (25 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I'll try to keep this "respectful" though, I'll admit, it's a request that sort of rankles me--mefites are blunt, yes, and this is a bad place to go if you don't want 100% honest advice.

It's unclear from your post if you guys have stated that you're dating again--a formal agreement--or not, but it seems obvious from his behavior that he's looking elsewhere. While it's fine to hang out with exes, it's not fine to not tell them about your romantic relationships and I'd be seriously suspicious of his relationships with these women and, likewise, his unwillingness to interact on facebook, where others could see it.

Additionally, claiming that he's "testing" you by being jerky is really just making excuses for his bad behavior. Hold him accountable for his words--what if he's not testing you, but this is really who he is?

I know it's hard--it sounds like you care about him--but some of your needs, like having deeper, more meaningful discussions, aren't being met, in addition to all of this. I think the best thing for you would be to move on, or at least to do your best to date other people in addition to this guy. Honestly, if he's rescinding offers to cohabit his place, I'd be pessimistic about the future of the relationship, anyway.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:49 AM on November 10, 2008 [4 favorites]

Is this the same guy who broke up with you after you wouldn't have sex with him, and then broke up with you for a second time, telling you he's not attracted to you? I don't mean to sound harsh, but you both are in your thirties; you are way too old to be playing these types of games. Having stated that, I suspect that no-one here will be able to tell you what is going on through his mind. You are both adults and apparently while you consider intimacy (and moving in) a big step, he may not feel the same way--you should be able to ask him what is going on in his mind (and if he dumps you again, like the last time you brought up commitment, you've got your answer right there).

As far as feeling "off" when you're apart is concerned, it seems to me that most of that is you feeling rather insecure in this relationship when he's not right beside you. I can't blame you for that, considering this is a guy who actually broke up with you in the past and nothing's keeping him from doing it again, but in my long-distance experience these feelings are only due to the fact that you don't have some sort of spoken or unspoken commitment to each other should go away once you've been together longer.
posted by halogen at 8:53 AM on November 10, 2008 [2 favorites]

[I was only curious, but would seriously close my acct. if he asks to be exclusive]

Missed this. You guys aren't exclusive and he's dating other people, which he has every right to do. This is why he's only present when he's physically present. I strongly suspect that you're more emotionally involved than he is, and he's the only one who can tell you if that will change in the reasonable future. But really, try dating around yourself more. I think it would be so totally healthy for you.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:56 AM on November 10, 2008 [3 favorites]

Do you know for a fact that he is seeing you exclusively? No, of course you don't. His behavior doesn't immediately mean that you're just his weekend booty, but that could be one scenario.

The other option could be a combination of apprehension, and fear on his part toward the speed at which the relationship seems to be moving. Four months, for many guys, is a short amount of time to already be discussing moving in together (even though in your case it's been phrased as a short term deal.)

Here's the deal: guys get just as enthusiastic about relationships as women do, but sometimes those feelings are tempered by commitment worries. Further, if his exes are more than just friends, he is probably realizing that if you move closer, then he will be forced to either date you exclusively, drop you all together, or deepen his lies.

Generally I feel that if you reach a point in your relationship where your worries and uncertainty are forcing "where are we talk" that it's the sign of a poor relationship - but in this case, given the distance and the high level of trust and commitment required to advance the relationship (it requires you to move, after all) I think this is the perfect time to have "the talk."

Good luck.
posted by wfrgms at 8:56 AM on November 10, 2008 [2 favorites]

Echoing Halogen here... you say this has been going on for four months, and that this guy is British, which would cover your past two AskMe questions.

Why are you still bothering with this guy?
posted by Nattie at 8:59 AM on November 10, 2008 [1 favorite]

He broke up with me once - after not sleeping with him initially. But I was bad and.. left out some details.. in that last post (which were pretty intimate) which led to why he broke up with me. That was my fault and I believe, has not been an issue since.
posted by freshsprout at 9:00 AM on November 10, 2008

I agree that you need to have "the talk." It sounds very much like he is seeing, or trying to see, other women. This is not necessarily a horrible thing, but if you want an exclusive relationship (and it sounds like you do) then it's just fair to both of you to be honest with him about this.
posted by lunasol at 9:04 AM on November 10, 2008 [1 favorite]

As gently as possible, dear petitioner, it sounds to me like you're his booty call. Nobody wants their booty call to move in and be all real and have needs. It's easy to say things he thinks you want to hear, like, oh yes, it would be theoretically lovely if you moved in, because that keeps you sweet and amenable to being his booty call. Actually moving in threatens that.
posted by headspace at 9:07 AM on November 10, 2008 [1 favorite]

I think he's keeping all his options open and telling you things about his exes, etc to let you know that he is keeping his options open so that no de facto relationship is formed at this point. He may have had a romantic moment when he asked you to move in with him, but he obviously changed his mind and regressed back to want to have you, but not be tied down by you. Honestly, this is the time in a relationship when you sit him down and ask him where he stands and then decide if you can live with whatever answer he gives you.
posted by whoaali at 9:11 AM on November 10, 2008 [3 favorites]

He is not as into you as you are into him. Also it's looking increasingly likely that after "road-testing" the relationship, he is keen to keep it exactly on this footing. So if you want more, say so. But be prepared that this is all he has to give you.
posted by Wilder at 9:36 AM on November 10, 2008

you're going to keep making excuses for him. this won't be any different than the last 2 times. the only thing you can do to figure out what he's thinking is to ask him...not 2 weeks later when you've had time to stew about it, but when an issue occurs. "i still hang out with my ex girlfriends and they don't know about you" should have been met directly with "that's not ok". the fact that you didn't, and that even before you wrote that detail, you excused his bad behavior (he doesn't have many friends) doesn't make me think you're trying to find a solution.

also - from reading this post i assumed you were 19-21. i can't believe you're 30. stop reading so many self help books. don't watch shows like oprah and sex in the city and expand your dating circle so you can stop putting so many eggs in this basket.

i'm really struggling to figure out why you'd give any guy the time of day who told you he wasn't attracted to you, told you he wanted to keep his options open, and will spend time on match.com but won't even send you an aim message (ps - stop cyber stalking him, it's creepy - and when you invent the chance to do so - don't read his email)
posted by nadawi at 9:43 AM on November 10, 2008 [6 favorites]

Never did the "where are we talk," nor asked him about exclusivity.. (yet).

Than it's time to do that now. It's a new day; it's time for change; and really, trying to second guess where he's coming from and what's going on is never going to work as well as just asking him flat out. Four months is a good point to have this conversation particularly if you're really thinking about moving to his city. Don't do it on the phone or by email, either - carve out some time when you're physically together and have this talk.
posted by mygothlaundry at 9:55 AM on November 10, 2008 [1 favorite]

To give you a male perspective, here is a story of my own. 6 years ago I met a great girl, started going out with her, and things moved very quickly. We started talking about the future and what our lives would be like together within only a few weeks. We had a whirlwind romance and I thought everything was wonderful. Then a few months in, I suddenly got scared - I hadn't experienced that degree of commitment before, and as it dawned on me what it meant, I freaked out. It ended in an argument which concluded with us splitting up.

It's not identical to your situation, I know, but I can see it from your boyfriend's perspective. A nice girl's come along, you have fun together, you start talking about where things go next - and yes in the heat of the moment it's fine to talk about moving in together. After all it's just talk, right? It's not a promise or a legally binding signature. But then he replays the conversation in the cold light of day and gets scared. Hence the inconsistent behaviour. Personally, my sense is that I don't think he's still seeing other women or interested in doing so. The exes are probably a red herring. It may well just be that he hasn't retained the level of friendship with them to start having detailed conversations about new relationships - they're part of his social circle, but not best friends. He might not be comfortable talking with them about relationship issues, so it's easier just to leave it a non-subject. True, he logged into Match.com - but so did you.

In short I suspect what he is bothered about is the speed at which he perceives the relationship developing; but he likes you sufficiently that he's confused about it and fudging the issue, rather than just running away.

(NB I am not necessarily condoning any of this, just trying to give you an alternative perspective).

But... at present you are helping him to fudge the issue. By keeping conversation off weighty topics and being noncommital about comments on moving in together etc, he is neutralising his fears about the level of commitment. If he doesn't talk about it, it's all very easy to pretend that things are cruising along nicely without suddenly getting scared by thoughts of settling down.

The long and the short of it is that you need to be honest with him about what you want. From this post and your previous two it sounds like you are trying to second-guess him, or fit him into some sort of schematic you've found in books about relationships. I am not dismissing what those books might teach you, but they are no substitute for being open and honest about what you want from the relationship. If he gets scared, he gets scared - but at least you know where you are then.

And it may not go badly either. The girl in my story at the start is now my wife - because thankfully after we split up we ended up having that open and honest conversation, and were able to start again. I have since changed a lot, emotionally, from how I have portrayed myself 6 years ago - but having been there, and having been freaked out by it all at the time, I can see where your boyfriend might be coming from.

So as others have said far more succinctly, you need to talk to him.
posted by greycap at 10:02 AM on November 10, 2008 [2 favorites]

He's seeing other people and taking advantage of you. You can try having "the talk," but you and your self-respect would be better off if you just DTMFA.
posted by BobbyVan at 10:09 AM on November 10, 2008

Here's something I learned:

In asking for advice online, in what's going on in a relationship, there are two things you can ask yourself.

a) Why has communication broken down such that I can't ask my partner this?
b) Am I asking online because I'm afraid if I told my best friends and loved ones, they'd disapprove, and if so, why am I tolerating this?

That being said, from the looks of it your gentleman enjoys playing happy couple on the weekends, and in the mean time, is cheerfully trawling for other options. When he's with you his has fantasies of making the love high last all week, when you're apart, he's looking beyond you into other options. Him suggesting moving in is as honest an ambition as the claim “I’ll love you forever” would be at this stage in the relationship. He feels safe saying it because he doesn’t have to put his money where his mouth is.

Your self effacing behaviour, begging metafilter to be gentle, while rewriting past events like the dumping-over-sex thing, to make you responsible for what appears to be him acting like a cad, comes across like someone desperately arguing with reality to get the answer they want to hear instead of the truth, in this case that it's potentially possible your guy is a dud, and you're smart enough to know that so it's causing you immense emotional distress as your logical brain won't shut up, no matter what the love hormones tell you.

Since he's not exclusive, why are you acting exclusive? You're seriously considering moving in with someone who hasn't agreed to monogamy yet. While you could be one of those special, awesome people who can rock the poly method, you don’t sound like you communicate enough to do this. Your guilty behavior about checking match.com, as if it wasn’t your right in a non exclusive relationship, tells me you’ve either been duped into a one down position, or you’re under the impression that if only you act “perfect” everything will be okay. Do not do this. You don’t have to be a self deprecating bastion of chaste loyalty if you’re otherwise getting screwed.
posted by Phalene at 10:23 AM on November 10, 2008 [10 favorites]

[A couple comments removed. Let's keep it civil, folks; Metatalk is thataway, if necessary.]
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:31 AM on November 10, 2008

perhaps, for starters, you could take your own advice
I would never move for even a boyfriend that I've known for a few months.

after that - maybe look at the disparity of how you feel about this relationship, since an hour before you posted this thread you said my "friend" and I have since gotten back together (this after hanging out as friends for a while.. but now we're dating again). We did have to work through some problems (still am..) but it's been so worth it. maybe i'm wrong, but from the reading of this question, it doesn't sound "so worth it"
posted by nadawi at 10:54 AM on November 10, 2008

Sounds like he's one of those people that compartmentalize their lives, likes his freedom/privacyl, that's all. It's not like you're dating exclusively, you're just in another box to the other things he gets on with. The problem here lies in that you want something more, and he's not in the same space. I'd dial it back a bit, find something else to obsess over. If it's meant to happen, it will. If you start pushing, forward is not the direction he'll be taking.

Not that I take my own advice in these situations. To be honest, DTMFA is a better choice - find someone you can share equal ground on and doesn't make you pick over the details like this. You're worth it!

BTW - not to be picky, but 2 hours is not a long distance relationship.
posted by saturnine at 11:03 AM on November 10, 2008 [1 favorite]

Yeah, I have no idea why are you still dating this fellow. Maybe something is lost when you try and write our your relationship in a couple Ask.Mefi posts. There are lots of men out there, many of which will probably provide you with a relationship with less drama -- if that is in fact what you want.
posted by chunking express at 11:08 AM on November 10, 2008

After reading your previous questions, DTMFA. You're wasting your time. This guy is not really into you and there's nothing you can do about it.
posted by desjardins at 12:15 PM on November 10, 2008 [3 favorites]

it is hard, you know.

it is hard to look at someone and think, i spent time and energy and loved them.

it is even harder to consider that they don't feel the same about you.

so you look for signs, any sign, something you can hold onto. you look because you don't want to feel foolish, you don't want to be rejected, you don't want to think you were wrong.

and you weren't wrong. taking a chance on love isn't wrong.

but then there is a limit. and you are there now. and you know you are there. you just are praying that someone else will be able to look at your relationship and tell you that you should hang on just a little longer, or have some magic insight you haven't found.

it's like visiting tarot card readers until one gives you the reading that you want.

good luck.
posted by micawber at 12:38 PM on November 10, 2008 [9 favorites]

To follow up: I didn't really check up on your background with this guy. I'll modify my response slightly.

He wants to have sex with you. He may even like having you around. He certainly likes the fact that he has so screwed with your head that you don't even know which way is up.

Look, this "relationship" has dragged on too far with too many false starts.

You should cut your losses and walk away. There are lots of other guys out there who would like to date you, be exclusive with you, and not cause all this silly drama.

Considering your past though, it doesn't sound like you're capable of walking away, of letting this one go, and finding someone better... so, use protection, have as much fun as possible, make him buy you things, and stock up on Kleenex, because you're setting yourself up for lots of tears on this one...

Everyone of us is that "dumb girl" or "dumb guy" who get's walked all over from time to time - maybe this is your time, or maybe you can get your senses together and not be his door mat.
posted by wfrgms at 2:26 PM on November 10, 2008 [5 favorites]

Haven't read your previous questions, but will just add this from personal experience on the cultural point. If he's a recent arrival, put it this way: rightly or wrongly, dating when you're an average British guy in America is different to dating when you're an average British guy in Britain. New vistas open up. You realize a) that dating several people is culturally more acceptable and b) that for the first time in your life there might actually be several people who want to date you. This is of course excellent, but it is also be a shock to the system, and make people a bit screwy in how they conduct their emotional dealings and/or make them jump into this new state of affairs with too much relish. Add to this the fact that we're way less good at initiating the "where is this relationship going?" talk, and it's a recipe for confusion that can probably only be addressed by you initiating The Talk, and soon, and requiring clear answers.

Don't use these cultural things to excuse his behavior though - I agree with the posters above mainly.
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 2:35 PM on November 10, 2008

Echoing everyone else that he's really not as serious about this as you are. Just how it is. Also, if you act suspicious or jealous, it's not going to make him want to be around you MORE. He might be hesitant about you moving in for any number of reasons, but were I dating someone and the idea of living together came up and the response was a nervous "Uh, we'll see..." I would take it off the table immediately and cool the relationship down about ten notches.

It sounds like this relationship is pretty cool already, you might do yourself some good to consider that your energies would seriously be best spent elsewhere.

And just to weigh in on this one: don't know if there's a cultural difference with ex's? (prob. not?)

I think there actually might be. My European ex was good friends with his previous girlfriends. REALLY good friends. His long-term ex is now his best friend. I would be exception to this rule, and I'm the only American he's been involved with. (Of course, the circumstances were also completely different, so the cultural difference probably only counts for maybe like, 5% of the fact that we're not pals.) My current partner is also European and also good friends with his European ex, but none of his American exgirlfriends.

Just throwing that in there. From my totally amateur observations it seems that relationships over across the pond just aren't taken as DEATHLY SERIOUSLY as they are over here. I blame the self-help book industry. And all those "women's" magazines. Good lord, they're awful. If you notice, the British versions of the same magazines are much more "empowering" and much less full of self-doubt and aggravation. Not that they're necessarily GOOD reading, but they're not quite as toxically horrible. Even if you don't READ that nonsense, it has totally seeped into American culture. It's EVERYWHERE.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 3:00 PM on November 10, 2008

freshsprout, I see you have disabled your account, so you may not be reading this. If you are, though, I'm sorry that the answers in this thread seem to have caused you to leave MetaFilter. Although there was some hostility in a few answers, the advice above is generally very sensible, I think, even though it may not be the answer you wanted to hear. Whether or not you take the advice, I hope things work out okay for you. And do consider coming back to MeFi at some point.
posted by greycap at 6:00 AM on November 11, 2008 [1 favorite]

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