Dear Diary, I can't tell if Johnny likes me anymore..
October 27, 2009 9:56 PM   Subscribe

Dating filter: How do you broach the “What are we doing?” question without striking fear into the hearts of all involved? Also, what do you do afterward?

Boy and I have been casually “dating” for three months or so. We’ve known one another for a little less than a year. Yes, we are physically intimate. No, we have not met the parents. No, we do not speak in the future tense. We spend time together. We both seek one another out.

I’m not trying to rush him to the altar or any such. I am also certain that if or when I approach the altar, he will not be the one standing next to me. I am pretty sure he feels the same way.

I oscillate between whether or not this is okay with me. Part of me is fine since I’m not in a great position to run around in the daisies and proclaim love. I like him. We are maintaining. It’s convenient. The other part of me is hurt because I cannot shake the feeling that I could be anyone to him. He could be biding his time with anyone. Quite simply, I feel I am a placeholder. I am fairly certain I like him more than he likes me. This hurts as well.

Boy is reserved and a bit of a loner. He’s nice and polite. He's a gentleman. In relationships, I’m not sentimental or overly affectionate but something – a compliment, a gesture to let me know I'm someone to him – would be nice.

I’m terrible at ending things. I’m even worse at sticking to endings unless explosions or small wars occur. So far, I haven’t ended things with him because a) I don’t have a concrete idea of how he feels, b) I’m afraid of feeling terrible over losing him as opposed to quietly stagnating with him, and c) I can never stick to my guns and I’m afraid I’ll just be weak.

How do I ask him where he is at in our dating thing without striking the fear of God in his heart? Or both of our hearts, really. I don’t exactly know what I want but this situation has been making me unhappy. It has been manifesting itself quietly and whether or not I can take much more of this, I have no idea. I feel like asking him could be the catalyst leading to a change. I know it’s terrible to ask him a question so his answer can give me my own, but I don’t know what else to do.

If we do continue dating, how do I communicate to him that I don’t even know if he finds my personality, my conversation, my appearance, my anything at all attractive? I don’t want to fish for compliments, just validation that I’m someone to him. Not some random stranger he plucked from the sidewalk.

I don’t want to make the mistake of sounding typical or demanding. I’d just like to feel wanted.

How do I ask him where he thinks this is going? Have you ever been in a dating relationship where neither people were falling head over heels? If so, how did it work out? If I decide to continue on with this, how do I express my hurt over feeling replaceable to him?

Thanks so much.
posted by fiasco to Human Relations (13 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Yeah, I've been there. It lasted two and a half years, which in retrospect was two years and four months too long. If you're just wanting somebody to be with, tell him that. Just be sure that's how you really feel (and from the tone of your post, I tend to think that it's not). If you're wanting more, you're within your rights to ask for it; just stick to your guns and walk away if you're not getting what you need. It took me much too long to get to that point and I learned a hard lesson from it.
posted by youcancallmeal at 10:01 PM on October 27, 2009

how do I communicate to him that I don’t even know if he finds my personality, my conversation, my appearance, my anything at all attractive?

You mention this once. Just once. Because if he doesn't find the equipment to do this on his own somehow, then you're always going to have to drag it out of him, or you'll always wonder if he's just telling you what he thinks you want to hear. If he can't love unselfishly, then you are always going to have to subsist on the barest of minimum.

Honestly, if you can't tell, I get really impatient with these types. They think that they can just go through the motions and still get credit for holding up their end of a relationship. If you're already thinking there is no long-term potential, then

Go ahead and talk to him about it, once, as casually but as honestly as possible. If the fear of God is struck into his heart, well that's just what happens sometimes when you're in a relationship, so he better get used to it. Hopefully you will pick up on the vital details that inform your next move, regardless if it's a move that you'll enjoy making.

I’m terrible at ending things. I’m even worse at sticking to endings unless explosions or small wars occur.

This is a cop-out. You are giving yourself permission in advance to make choices that you know are bad, such as sticking around when you oughtn't or unconsciously resorting to warfare in a desperate bid for finality.

Invent a character who looks like you, who feels like you, but who doesn't have these particular hang-ups. When the time comes to act, play that character. Because it is you, really, and because life is too short and too hard on its own to go on making mistakes that you know are mistakes.
posted by hermitosis at 10:17 PM on October 27, 2009 [22 favorites]

I can never stick to my guns and I’m afraid I’ll just be weak.

You've identified the core issue here. There are a couple things you can do, the first of which is hunker down and muster up the courage to express these feelings to Mr. dude. If that's not possible for you then you can try to strengthen your resolve somehow. To me that would mean writing a letter that I bring with me for our next face time. It could also mean telling a friend how you're feeling and having them come along (not having them talk to the guy, but just standing there watching).

I'd respect the first one more but that's just me. You could also sit and let this fester until you lash out, which is what you sound like you're getting close to.

You also have to realize that just because you want to feel wanted doesn't mean he's obligated to want you.
posted by RawrGulMuffins at 10:39 PM on October 27, 2009


I am also certain that if or when I approach the altar, he will not be the one standing next to me. I am pretty sure he feels the same way.

Plus this:

If we do continue dating...

Equals ... a zombie relationship.

It's dead, but it's still walking around, making noise.

It's already over but you don't want to admit it to yourself. Start with that.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 10:48 PM on October 27, 2009 [7 favorites]

The quick way to resolve this is to meet him somewhere for coffee or drinks and tell him that you don't want to see him anymore because you're not attracted to him. Ding dong done. Note that this has little to no regard for your counterpart's feelings. But it is quick.

A harder way is to come up with something of a speech that details how it's not him, it's you, you hope you can still be friends, yadda yadda. And deliver said speech over coffee or drinks. Takes longer, more planning, probably more considerate. The good thing about having a spiel to give is that you can practice the spiel, which may put you more at ease when you're telling the guy that it's over.

The path of least resistance is to continue coasting along until someone gets hurt rather drastically. Requires no effort from either of you, but you're cruisin' for a bruisin' heartwise.

This relationship in its current form is pretty much done - you admit as much when you say that neither of you really see yourself with the other at the altar and that he's rather inconsiderate of you (see: fishing for compliments.)
posted by squorch at 11:09 PM on October 27, 2009 [1 favorite]

You are probably feeling insecure, like a placeholder without real meaning to him, because that is exactly how you see him in your own life.

It doesn't make you a bad person, but given your level of anxiety over being underappreciated, and the fact that you probably feel exactly towards him how you fear he feels towards you, it would be best to end this.
posted by shownomercy at 11:11 PM on October 27, 2009

I think he likes you - the fact that he is usually a bit of a loner and yet seeks you out is probably kind of a big deal to him. The way you describe it, it all sounds very... orderly. This might feel like indifference to you, but maybe to him it's a sign of how well you two fit together.

If this is the kind of person he is, I'd be surprised if he was just biding his time with you. Also, if you asked -- in an orderly, composed way -- about how he was feeling about things, I'd be very surprised if that would scare him off.
posted by AlsoMike at 12:00 AM on October 28, 2009 [2 favorites]

It sounds like ideally, you would be in a more serious relationship with this guy than you are, but you've convinced yourself you don't really want him either because as you say you know you like him more than he likes you. I've totally been there and it sucks.

You're not asking for anything unreasonable--to be appreciated and validated--and you should be getting that from any relationship, even a casual one (otherwise, what's the point?). You don't feel like you can even talk to him about it for fear of rocking the boat. This relationship makes you, in your own words, unhappy.

Yes, talk to him about it so you don't have regrets, tell him you're unhappy and what you want from him. Maybe things are not as they seem. But if he gets all freaked out about it...well, eff him and move on.
posted by janerica at 12:12 AM on October 28, 2009

Let's back up a bit. You're already thinking about how to break up with him -- but you don't even know for sure whether you NEED to. I mean, how do you know that his being reserved isn't because he's freaking out about how awesome you are and he's panicked that he's going to blow it, and this is how he's handling HIS dilemma?

I got like this a lot -- I'd fret about what someone else thought, and dither about "how do I ask him oh my god how do I bring this up but what if he says this bad thing and I don't like it then what do I do..." and my therapist had a good point. If I complained that if I asked so-and-so something and he said such-and-such, she just said, "well, look at it this way -- if he does say thus-and-such, you'll have INFORMATION. Right now, you just have SPECULATION. Information is always good." It calmed me down.

This doesn't mean that I calmed down enough to be totally relaxed when I had these difficult conversations, mind - these kinds of things aren't fun. Everyone gets a little hinky about them. But they're VITALLY important. I kept putting off a "let's talk about 'us' conversation" with my ex for a while -- the only reason that I even brought it up was becasue it felt kind of weird that we didn't talk about "us". And I finally had one -- and I found that while I was very convinced about wanting to continue the relationship, he was....less convinced. (And then a month later I also found out he was even less convinced than he claimed he was, but that's a different story...) If I'd not had that conversation, I would have gone along thinking everything was fine, and he would have gone along waiting to break up with me, and I would have been completely floored when he finally did break up with me. This way I at least had some inkling.

Mind you, this is NOT to say that all "where are we" conversations definitely mean "one of you thinks one way and the other thinks the other way and you're going to break up". You could end up finding you're both on exactly the same page, in which case, it'll be a short conversation:

"So, I really dig you, but I still want to take things slow."
"I feel exactly the same way."
"...Huh. uh, okay, great! Wanna see a movie?"

So - how do you have these conversations? You've mentioned that a lot of what is triggering this is how you're feeling about how he treats you. Start there: "I feel like [x] when you do [y] because [z]." Right now, you're assuming the way he treats you is because he's not into you -- but you don't know that for certain. If you come right out of the gate with "well, I can tell you think I'm just a 'miss right now'", then he may be all, "what the fuck? Don't tell me what I think!" But if you say, "I feel like a little bit of an afterthought when you do blah blah blah, because it makes me feel blah blah blah -- can we talk about that?" Then he has the chance to explain what he REALLY feels rather than trying to defend himself. He could indeed say "...huh. Yeah, I guess that is how I feel about where we are," or he could say, "oh, shit, I had no idea that's how it was coming across -- no, I really dig you, sorry I was acting that way."

And as for "what do I do after"? That depends on how the conversation goes, and you actually have information rather than speculation. If he says "I had no idea that's what you thought, that's why I am this way," then you can decide whether YOU can handle that. If he says "I had no idea, let me start working on changing that," then great. If he says "I guess I really do feel that way," then you decide what you want to do based on that. In any case, what you do after depends on the information you get -- but getting that information is important.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:47 AM on October 28, 2009 [5 favorites]

If you're not into him, what difference does it make whether or not he's into you?
posted by spilon at 8:31 AM on October 28, 2009 [1 favorite]

I'm in a similar situation with my boyfriend of nine months. It doesn't get easier; you just start caring less.
posted by timoni at 3:17 PM on October 28, 2009

I am also certain that if or when I approach the altar, he will not be the one standing next to me. I am pretty sure he feels the same way.

Unless you're in it just for casual sex, why are you persisting with any kind of long-term relationship if that's how you feel?
posted by madman at 10:16 PM on October 28, 2009 [1 favorite]

This is as much your fault as it is his - as much as we wish other people were psychic, they're not. You have ask for what you want, first.

Fishing for compliments is okay! You can ask him things, like "How do I look today? Do you like my eyes? What´s your favorite part of my body?" etc. Be flirty and confident. When he gives you an answer, say something like, "I love knowing what you think!"

Ask for what you want, and express your appreciation for receiving it. If that doesn't improve things, then you would have to be more direct "It´s really important for me to hear how you feel/think... "

I think just the fact that he seeks you out and you have been seeing each other for 3 months means he does like you, otherwise he just would have drifted away.

You can't control whether he freaks out or not. REALLY. You are not going to "win" him by being "good". If you do bring things up, and he does freak out and leave, GREAT!!! You just saved yourself a bunch of trouble. He might not freak out. He might tell you some interesting things that he doesn't share so easily and wouldn't have been able to express to you two months ago.

I disagree with the people who think there is no reason to continue seeing him - I think this is an excellent context to learn to ask for what you want and to learn to take better care of yourself in a relationship! As things stand, you don´t have much to lose, right?

You sound insecure, and I think that is the biggest problem here. You´re preparing yourself for a break-up, because you are too scared to risk yourself by asking for what you want. Don´t worry about whether he is the one you will marry - just focus on learning, and creating positive experiences. That way when you do meet The One, you'll be ready!
posted by Locochona at 8:24 PM on November 7, 2009 [2 favorites]

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