How do you express displeasure early on?
January 19, 2009 10:34 AM   Subscribe

So, new guy. Contact between dates has been solely by email, and has been sporadic enough that it's driving me crazy. I'm not looking for a clingy relationship, but I can't deal with guessing whether or not he wants to see me again. I don't want to go out with him if the current situation would be come the status quo. How do I indicate displeasure that's it taking him 3 days to respond to email, and my desire that he act more excited about seeing me again, if in fact he feels that way?

I'm trying to figure out a way that is straight-forward and communicates self-respect along the lines of "if you're not excited about me, I don't want to waste my time" in a way that doesn't seem needy and neurotic.

Or am i just being needy and neurotic to think that his behavior shows a worrisome lack of interest? Should I just tamp down that voice in my head and wait it out?

We've been on a couple of dates, and he seems to be into it and happy to be there. The dates have been dinner and drinks afterward, with fun involved conversation and (I think) mutual attraction and sexual chemistry. I ended up sleeping over at his place after one of the dates, and we hooked up, but didn't have sex.
posted by mercredi to Human Relations (28 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
You're being a little neurotic, in that if he didn't want to see you, he probably wouldn't. Three day responses can be annoying, but I know plenty of people who just aren't good about responding quickly to email.

As for "being excited" goes, obviously I'm not your guy, but I often restrain my enthusiasm a bit early on in order to not seem creepy/overinvolved. Or maybe, from his perspective, he is being enthusiastic, either because you and he have very different standards about such things, or because he just doesn't "do" excitement-by-email. A good friend of mine always sounds incredibly apathetic on the phone, no matter how hard he tries; his girlfriend could call him and say "Hey, could you meet me for a threesome with another girl who is, like me, dressed as Princess Leia in the gold bikini?" and he'd say "oh, yeah, sure" in exactly the same tone of voice as if you'd asked him to pick up the dry cleaning. Not that this is your guy at all, but just as an example of people simply being 'bad' at using a particular medium to communicate, and that leading to misunderstandings about interest.

Why not say something like "Hey, I like being in touch with you, but email takes FOREVER, could I get your number?" It also clearly indicates YOUR interest, and people tend to feel more comfortable expressing interest when they're getting it unambiguously from the other party.
posted by Tomorrowful at 10:48 AM on January 19, 2009 [2 favorites]

I'm trying to figure out a way that is straight-forward and communicates self-respect along the lines of "if you're not excited about me, I don't want to waste my time" in a way that doesn't seem needy and neurotic.

I don't think it's the least bit needy or neurotic to simply say exactly that.

"Tamping down" your voice and failing to communicate what it is you're looking for, however, isn't good for either of you.
posted by aladfar at 10:49 AM on January 19, 2009

How did the two of you get to emailing instead of calling each other? Do you have his number? Does he have yours? Even if you are both fans of the written word it seems that sexy texting would be much more efficient.
posted by abirae at 10:51 AM on January 19, 2009

"hey, I don't really check my e-mail that often, and anyway, I've never been into online romance, so here's my number: xxx-xxxx. Next time you have some free time call me and we'll set something up. Looking forward to hear from you."

If he respond with an e-mail that isn't an invitation to a date or face-to-face meeting, don't reply.
posted by bluejayk at 10:53 AM on January 19, 2009 [1 favorite]

I don't want to waste my time

So don't. Go out and live your life and get your mind off this guy. It's not like you're in a monogamous relationship. If he wants to see you he'll let you know, if not, you have a full life. Win-win.
posted by desjardins at 11:04 AM on January 19, 2009 [12 favorites]

If you have an expectation of receiving a certain amount of attention at the start of a relationship, and he is not meeting it, and you consider this amount of attention a deal breaker, than date someone else. It's not that hard.

It sounds like you're looking for a guy who is as passionate about the early relationship as you get to be. You want quick attention. Some guys are into that. Some guys aren't. Some girls are into that. Some girls aren't. You can stop playing games with yourself and believe that there is a silver phrase to magically turns this guy into the passionate attention giving fool you want him to and, instead, focus on what you want and be honest with him. If you want attention, say so. Be brunt. Say "I find your slow communication with me problematic" and see how he responds. If his answers don't match what you want, why settle for less than what you want? Since you want attention, find a person out there who will give you that attention.

Your question strikes me as one of frustration but illustrates a lack of teeth on your part. You want him to be excited about you? You can't change him but you can change the relationship you are in. Guts, not magic phrases and hocus pocuses, is what you should be aiming for right now.
posted by Stynxno at 11:05 AM on January 19, 2009 [4 favorites]

So you want him to act more excited than he really is so that it makes you feel better? How will this help anything?

I think your next AskMe will be "My boyfriend acts excited, but I don't know whether it's real."
posted by rokusan at 11:22 AM on January 19, 2009 [7 favorites]

Do you have his number? Ask for it. Call him.
posted by cmgonzalez at 11:31 AM on January 19, 2009

Tomorrowful: ...often restrain my enthusiasm a bit early on in order to not seem creepy/overinvolved

That's one side, yes. Over time, some of us sublimate the teenage crush-and-no-response experience, which left us alone in the dark with big sad puppy eyes, into some wisdom. Such as: puppy eyes are just not the thing that makes us come across even slightly hottish. So either we actively devise alternative 'strategies', or we just learn and become calmer about dating.

Now the other side: I once dated a girl, like, for two days or so, who quickly developed a most subtle routine of Waiting For Signs. It came across like the faintest echo of an impatiently tapping foot, with smiles all around the front door. I do not think that you are like that (what do I know), I just want to say that this attitude radically put me off, not so much because I wasn't into true commitment, but because the whole thing promised more of the same kind of non-straightforward interaction.

In order to avoid being not straightforward, you could perhaps try to re-formulate your "displeasure" into something more positive and, at the same time, just be open about your "desires". He'll like it.
posted by Namlit at 11:33 AM on January 19, 2009 [2 favorites]

I would recommend: "I'm attracted to you but I don't think things would work out between us. It's been a fun several dates. See ya."

Or if you really want to give him a try, "I really like you. I think this is going pretty well. Let's try to keep in touch a bit more between dates. Call me wednesday night just to chat?"

Or perhaps the more roundabout, "It was a fun date. When do you think we can go out next? A week and a half? That's a while. Can I call you a couple times between then? I really enjoy talking to you."
posted by gauchodaspampas at 11:34 AM on January 19, 2009 [2 favorites]

Or am i just being needy and neurotic to think that his behavior shows a worrisome lack of interest?

Not at all.

You're being needy and neurotic to want clarity and understanding without just asking for it.

But really, it's been a couple of dates. What exactly do you expect at this point? If the email thing bothers you then take some advice from someone up-thread and drop him a note. "Going to be tough for me to check my email consistently over the next few days but I'd like to see you again. Give me a call if you're free. 555-1212."

If you have expectations, state them. If you have questions, ask them. Or don't, but if you choose to have a relationship like that from the start don't be upset when you still have that kind of relationship in a year. Or are in a series of relationships like that. You get what you give.
posted by phearlez at 11:34 AM on January 19, 2009 [2 favorites]

You've shown a lot of interest in him, but you're not happy with his response (or lack thereof). So you can either

a) not bring it up, quietly swallow the hurt inside, and maybe it will go away someday
b) dump him, and look for someone else who appreciates you more
or c) sit him down and have a "where is this going?" talk.

If you choose (c), make sure he walks away with the understanding that if he is indeed interested in you, then he needs to demonstrate it, by returning your emails in a timely manner, for example.
posted by metastability at 11:36 AM on January 19, 2009


So, manipulating this guy into acting (or even faking) more interest in you, is going to make you feel better?

Stopping defining yourself by your relationships with men!

No guy is going to be excited over a needy, emotionally immature and insecure woman, unless he get's off on the realization that he will be able to completely control your emotions with a simple phone call...
posted by wfrgms at 11:36 AM on January 19, 2009

Response by poster: Thanks, internets. ;) Seriously. I needed a little of both the "suck it up" and the "but you're not insane" advice.

I have his phone number and he has mine -- If I haven't heard from him in another day or so, I'll just give him a call. In the meantime, I'll keep listing to Beyonce's "Single Ladies."

More advice always welcome. . .
posted by mercredi at 11:41 AM on January 19, 2009

If he didn't have your number, but wanted to call you, he would ask for your number and call you. You say he does have your number, so if he wanted to call you, he would. I really have never heard of success with asking a guy to call you. Will you really feel good if/when he does call you, wondering if it was only because you asked him to?

There are tons of reasons why he is not calling you more. It could be that he is "laid-back" or doesn't need constant communication or whatever else previous people have said. Or it could be that he isn't that excited about the relationship. Do you really want to have to convince him to be excited about it?

Regarding being "needy," you need what you need. Your need for more communication is what it is; it's completely within the realm of normal needs. You have a right to have your needs met in your relationships. That isn't needy. However, trying to get your needs met by a guy who is not capable/desirous of meeting those needs, for whatever reason, is where you get into needy territory. He will feel that, while he is giving all his is willing/able to give, you still need more. He'll hate that. You'll hate that.

I'm going to suggest a test, although other people will probably call it game-playing. But I don't think it's game-playing because it's not about behavior-manipulation, but rather behavior-evaluation: Try giving less to the relationship than he does. If it takes him three days to respond to an e-mail, you wait four days. If he isn't calling you, don't call him (or ask him to call you, shudder). Then see what he does.

If he is fine with this reduced amount of contact, then to me that's a pretty good indicator that the amount/frequency of contact in your relationship will only diminish over time. If that is the case, then you need to ACCEPT THIS. This is his behavior. If you can live with it, live with it without resenting him or trying to think of ways to get him to do more. If you can't live with it, then you know what to do....
posted by thebazilist at 12:27 PM on January 19, 2009

I'm not looking for a clingy relationship

Are you sure?
posted by plexi at 12:32 PM on January 19, 2009 [2 favorites]

He may have been advised that this is how men are supposed to behave -- that if they indicate more excitement and interest, women will respond by discounting them. I have in fact observed on one occasion more careful distancing/remoteness based not on a lack of interest, but rather precisely because the man thought showing more interest would mess up something important, for which efficiency was not as important.

I am not defending this conduct, simply attempting to explain it.

Still, I think the appropriate response is to assume that nothing is likely to come of it, and to plan accordingly. I think your failure to bother yourself about it and to refrain from contacting it also shows self-respect, but you be the judge of that.
posted by Clyde Mnestra at 12:40 PM on January 19, 2009

It always comes back to this. If a guy is into you, he'll pursue. Hard.

Three days to respond is a little ridiculous.

So I'd sweat him by not being available if you want to try things but in my experience it rarely works out.

There are plenty of guys who'd dig you and be all over you and it sounds like that's what you want. So go forth, young padawan, and seek out a more fulfilling relationship. It sucks to get jerked around.

I don't think you're being neurotic, you're just trying to get your needs met. I could never play the dating game either so ..... go date someone that suits you better! :)
posted by HolyWood at 1:07 PM on January 19, 2009 [4 favorites]

I'd break it off... being single for a little bit longer is a cakewalk compared to all the uncertainty of those types of relationships. I've been there, several times, and it is just too emotionally draining. The times that I have hung on, I always came to regret it.

It always comes back to this. If a guy is into you, he'll pursue. Hard. HolyWood has that so right.
posted by kaudio at 2:02 PM on January 19, 2009 [1 favorite]

I dated a guy who was like this. We talked about it, and basically what it came down to is that he was really into me, but he's both introverted and busy. He had a ton going on in his life (work, hobbies, etc.) and also needed a lot of alone time. He wanted to be with me, wanted to build a relationship, but also didn't want a relationship that would cut him off from the rest of his life or prevent him from being alone when he wanted to be. So the way he dealt with it was to make plans with me when he wanted to be with me and live his own life the rest of the time.

Once I understood what was going on, I realized that I kind of liked things that way. I too am both busy and introverted, so that worked for me. I realized that I had to let go of the idea that my relationship would be like relationships in romantic comedies, or even like many of my friends' relationships, with constant contact. I let him know that I'd like to be able to see him when I wanted to, not just when he wanted to, and he made some effort to return my messages more quickly, but mostly, things stayed the same, and I got very comfortable with it. I knew that just because he wasn't thinking about me all the time or contacting me every time he thought of me, that didn't mean that I wasn't important to him. It's just not the way his mind works.

We broke up for reasons totally unrelated to this initial issue, and now, I sort of look for the same type of relationship. I want to not feel as though I have to talk to someone when I don't want to, and that I can have them in my life, fully in my life, without having to be with them all the time or change my non-relationship self.

I'm not saying that this is definitely where he's coming from. To find out, you really need to ask him. But if it is where he's coming from, you need to either accept and embrace it or let him go. You will make yourself crazy if you're an always-in-touch type and he's a I'll-call-you-when-I-call-you type. So you need to figure out what he wants, then see if that's what you want too.
posted by decathecting at 2:58 PM on January 19, 2009 [1 favorite]

It always comes back to this. If a guy is into you, he'll pursue. Hard.

HolyWood has that so right.

Nope. It's fine if you want to impose this filter on your relationships and dating, so that you only get intense men. That's absolutely your choice, and it might be a good recipe for your happiness. But if you do it, know that you will be choosing to exclude all the other kinds of men in the world, including those who may be absolutely as committed to a relationship with you, but at a different intensity, and a different speed, with a preference for a kind of contact that's simply less round-the-clock than yours. Never forget: He's Just Not That Into You was written by a comedian. Not a relationships expert.
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 2:59 PM on January 19, 2009 [5 favorites]

Nah, in the early days of courtship, an awesome dude will always pursue hard. So if you let him know that it bothers you and he continues, how do you think he'll react to your needs in the future?

This is mostly in response to game warden - it's not a "he's just not that into you" thing, it's the fact that YOU have a need to be pursued diligently and it is important enough to you that you brought it up here at MeFi.

I'm the same way, for me it's an indication of how much he is willing to commit to a relationship at the moment.

Watch for the signs - if he starts to get distant and starts to budget your together time... best take your heart and bid farewell.
posted by HolyWood at 3:09 PM on January 19, 2009 [2 favorites]

Nah, in the early days of courtship, an awesome dude will always pursue hard.

OK, fair enough, you have your own definition of "awesome dude", and I'm certainly not suggesting that you throw it out if it works for you. If the OP shares your opinion, I'd say the same for her. But since there are plenty of guys who can be really enthusiastic about a relationship without expressing it in the way you happen to demand - see decathecting's post above, much better than mine - I think it's fair to point that out. The OP may prefer to choose to dial back her demand for displays of excitement and frequent phone calls, depending on what else she sees in the guy.
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 3:14 PM on January 19, 2009

Response by poster: This has really clarified for me that I just need to say something, I think. Because, I am fine with this level of communication if I had a little reassurance that the frequency was just his deal, and not sending a message about interest.

I actually like the "we have our own lives" sort of relationship -- I think I'd go crazy in a relationship right now where we hung out most nights. I just need some reassurance that he's not completely ambivalent about me.
posted by mercredi at 3:35 PM on January 19, 2009 [1 favorite]

Three days is SO not a long time between contacts, especially if you've only been on a couple of dates. Really, just relax and let things unfold. I've been the person that you're being right now, and have done what you're about to do. It did not go well. Why are you all invested in this relationship at this point anyway? Just sit back, relax, and let the dude figure out if he likes you or not, and vice versa. I don't understand your rush. Again, if this had been six months, that's one thing -- but a couple of dates? Why the hurry?
posted by hapax_legomenon at 1:11 AM on January 20, 2009

I second the advice to take the opportunity to just be busy. Hang out with your friends, clean your house, teach yourself to cook, start eating well and exercising regularly. Your mood will benefit hugely and you won't even notice how frequently or infrequently your boyfriend calls. In fact, you may realize that he's not good enough for you.

You'll freak him out if you put this much pressure on the relationship this early.
posted by big open mouth at 7:51 AM on January 20, 2009 [1 favorite]

There's a way to make all of these answers fit together. Don't have a big drawn out "you're not taking care of me" discussion, because it's awfully early in the relationship.

Do, however, simply say "I want to talk to you more. Call me Tuesday?" or some such. Yes, he'll be calling because you said so, the first time. But then he also realizes you're ok with him calling more. If he keeps it up, then he was just not sure about your response. If he falls off again, then it's time to move on to someone whose style fits your needs.
posted by nat at 5:45 PM on January 20, 2009 [1 favorite]

You've been on two dates, for god's sake. Maybe more, but you haven't even had sex. Relax. If you are lonely, make plans with friends. If you're sweating whether he likes you or not to the point where you can't focus because your phone isn't ringing... this is really not healthy.

I will never understand why women put themselves through hell trying to find their inherent self-worth in what a near-stranger thinks of them, especially a romantic partner.

YOUR happiness should not depend on whether guy X calls you 20 times a day or never again. I know, I know, you want to know if he likes you the way you like him, and you don't want to wonder what he's thinking or if he's going to call you again.

Just be honest, but don't be psycho when you have this conversation with him. Don't be passive-aggressive. You'd hate that too, wouldn't you?

Some people communicate by email, some by phone, some by text, some are busy as hell. Don't base his interest in you on a set number of emails or phone calls; he may be unable to communicate the same way you do based on a number of unknown variables. Maybe he hates email because he gets 300 of them a day; ask him what his preferred method of communication is and... seriously, please try and date other people while you're at it if you can. But just figure out how to communicate with him first. If he blows you off, accept it and move on.

I know you know this already, but remember: don't put all your eggs in one basket; don't put all your happiness and confidence in the hands of another. Don't put him in complete control of a budding relationship; interest must be mutual. It's your choice too, you know.

You may find out after X number of dates/calls that he's a jerk or terrible in bed or something else that'll make you feel weird for wasting so much time and energy worrying about this now. Don't build him up too much in your head too quickly.
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 7:15 PM on January 20, 2009 [1 favorite]

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