I'm staring at the phone, waiting for your text...
October 29, 2009 8:10 PM   Subscribe

In need of human distractions. Help me stop taking it out (mentally) on my boyfriend and other friends.

Both my boyfriend and I are early 20s college students. He just started (he worked a good job for a few years) whereas I entered directly from high school. We are in different schools, different cities, and different programs, but not long distance (we see each other about once a week).

Our relationship is generally good. I'm more anxious/planning and he's more spontaneous/nonchalant/relaxed, but nothing even remotely dealbreaking (we've never even had an argument). I have a heavier courseload than he does, in part because he has fewer classes, and in part because of my higher year level.

The standard reply to 'how to not be clingy' is pretty universally "get hobbies/more friends/etc." I think I do have a pretty healthy set of hobbies and friends, although he does have more. He's more of an extrovert with some introvert tendencies, whereas I'm much more of an introvert that still is capable of socializing once in a while. We both game/read/do sports/go out, individually and together. I also used to write for fun; still do sometimes, but nowadays, most of my time is taken up by academics.

It really just comes down to me missing human interaction and...wanting to be missed more, and I suppose he's the easiest 'target'. (I do better with a handful of close friends than a huge social circle, but I admit that lends to fewer people available to give me attention.) So frequently I'd be buried in, say, a mountain of lab reports and wish I could get a text message or something from him (or anyone, but again, he's the easiest target) more frequently. Don't get me wrong, he always responds when I do send something, but since he's got a much bigger social circle/library of video games/what have you to distract him when his mind wanders, it makes sense that now that the honeymoon stage is over, I'm not always at the forefront of his mind, and I don't want to always be the one sending random texts all day.

I don't think it's really a matter of 'get more hobbies'/'make new friends', because usually these things happen during times when they're unfeasible. E.g. I'm home sick this week and studying for exams, and while I here cramming formulae down my throat my mind wanders to "Argh, wish [boyfriend] or [best friend] or SOMEONE'd send me a text to distract me from the canonical ensemble" or something. It's a bit more severe this week because I'm home sick and thus craving some attention, but this still applies to normal situations.

I think this is all on my end. I'm usually pretty easygoing and not clingy; I guess this is one of the ways I react to stress. But it kinda bothers me, and I feel like I'm edging towards the clingy "can't go a day without speaking to SO", which is not what I want to be.

So, advice, hive mind?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (12 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Unless I'm missing something, this one seems easy: "Hey babe, I'd love it if you text'd me throughout the day. It makes me feel closer to you when we can't see each other every day."

Or some variation on that.
posted by too bad you're not me at 8:24 PM on October 29, 2009 [3 favorites]

I agree with too bad you're not me, and also you might tell some of your friends that texts throughout the day are welcome.
posted by orange swan at 8:33 PM on October 29, 2009

How long have you and your boyfriend been dating?

I ask because my girlfriend and I have been together 5 years, and now live 1.5 hrs apart and only see each other on weekends (and not all of them at that). I want to talk to her every day if I can, and unless one of us is unusually busy we try to talk (or IM, or whatever) at least that often. I don't at all think that being a "can't go a day without speaking to SO" person is bad, especially when you replace "can't" with "don't want to".

I think this is something where too bad you're not me has the best possible option. But be prepared that it'll take some time or reminding. He's made it clear that he's not the constant contact type of person, that's just not what he's about. You can let him know that you're the type of person who needs a little more attention, and hopefully he'll adjust the small amount and meet you in the middle.

But it only happens if you communicate.
posted by dnesan at 9:07 PM on October 29, 2009

In need of human distractions.

It sounds to me like you just need to relax. Are you really filling your time with work, busy diversions and a steady rotation of human contact? What are you avoiding?

he always responds when I do send something,

This is a good boyfriend. Don't push your luck by making it into a "thing".
posted by hermitosis at 10:07 PM on October 29, 2009

He might just be trying not to interrupt you. I study by distance so I spend a lot of time alone at home while my bf is on campus. I had to tell him I liked to get texts from him throughout the day. He was a bit unsure because he was afraid of imposing on my study time but he has gotten a bit more confident as time goes by that I will tell him if I can't talk. And now he texts me in between his classes which is really nice.
posted by lwb at 2:42 AM on October 30, 2009

The secret is not to ask, but to compliment when he does things you like. So when he texts you, text him back with: "I just wanted to let you know that I love your texts. I get all warm and fuzzy and my load is lightened just when I see your name on the message list."

You'll get more texts.
posted by Ironmouth at 3:03 AM on October 30, 2009 [6 favorites]

I have been in a similar situation as you are: introvert, has a small circle of close friends which means that there are less people who keep in contact with me, loves conversation/ contact with the right person, feels lonely from time to time, hence take it out on boyfriend by being extra clingy, demanding he should contact me more etc.

Basically, it would be nice if he did send you more texts or contact you more, and you can ask nicely by communicating with him, but if he can't remember to do the constant contact thing, then he can't. This in of itself doesn't mean he's an unsuitable boyfriend, because the problem comes from you wanting to be missed and hence using him as a means to for you to feel wanted. As you have pointed out, you would like texts from anyone and not, in particular, him.

And same goes with your friends. You can't expect people to be your remedy for loneliness or stress, although it's entirely justifiable you feel this way.

So my advice would be to contact your parents more (if you're close to them). They always like phone calls/ texts/ constant contact, and if you're extra-clingy and neurotic, they love trying to solve your life problems, if your parents are anything like mine. Chances are they're probably hoping you would call them more often.
posted by moiraine at 7:22 AM on October 30, 2009 [2 favorites]

Hey, I'm married, been with my husband for five years, and he still doesn't keep in contact as much as I'd like when he's away. Yet he'll come back and tell me how much he missed me. It just doesn't really occur to him to call me/text me unless he has something specific to tell me.

I guess this is one of the ways I react to stress.

Then you need to be direct with him, because everyone responds a little differently to stress. My husband's M.O. is to sequester himself from all human contact, and he just doesn't intuitively get that I want to be close to him when I'm freaking out. I have to tell him I NEED TO BE CLOSE TO YOU BECAUSE I AM STRESSED OUT, because, again, it just doesn't occur to him. Since he's really super-awesome, as soon as I tell him that, he snuggles with me and all is well again.

I think part of clinginess is because you fight it, you tell yourself you shouldn't need [contact], and you second guess yourself, and you spiral into this cycle of anxiety. It can be stopped with a direct "hey, I need you to do X for me" and if he refuses a reasonable request, he's a jerk and DTMFA.
posted by desjardins at 7:49 AM on October 30, 2009

I wouldn't worry about being "too clingy." I've been with my partner for over 16 years, and I live with him, and if we don't get to IM several times during the day, I get lonely and I miss him. I'm not especially clingy; I like and need time alone, too. But I'm at home full-time with kids, and IM-ing with him and occasionally with friends makes a big difference in how isolated I feel--I don't notice so much when we ARE doing it, but a day or two without that bit of outside contact, and I really notice it.

So I'm going to second too bad you're not me and suggest you just mention this to your boyfriend and possibly your friends. It's really not that big a deal, you shouldn't feel bad for wanting the contact, and with texting it's easy to be in touch without having to set aside a chunk of time for a phone call, or interrupting the other things people have going on.
posted by not that girl at 8:20 AM on October 30, 2009

Try spending more time monitoring friends' Facebook updates, Twittering, and compulsively reading Metafilter. Responding to any of those three can give you a "human interaction" kick and help you learn about peoples' lives better than a quick "love you, honey!" text message. I don't think it's unreasonable to want those messages, but do realize that it's your fix you're trying to get and that you actually are slightly imposing on others to get it if they aren't doing it spontaneously. They might learn to love it, but if they don't you will need to figure out another outlet, like the aforementioned three.
posted by lorrer at 11:52 AM on October 30, 2009

Along the same lines as what lorrer wrote...it occurs to me that you may not be giving as much as you would like to get in return. By that I mean, all relationships are a 2-way street. Sometimes I get on Facebook and am disappointed that I have no new activity...but then I realize that I haven’t posted any comments or written on anyone’s wall recently, and it makes sense. If you don’t randomly text your friends/boyfriend on a regular basis, they won’t do the same for you. For example, I have a couple friends who I rarely text but email regularly. When I think of contacting these friends, it just doesn’t occur to me to text them (I’ll email instead). And I have some friends who I contact 2-3 times a week; I have others who I contact 2-3 times a year. And vice versa. These are the patterns we have established with each other; anything outside those patterns feels abnormal. So if you want more texts/emails/whatever, maybe you have to set some new patterns in your relationships. Be proactive.
posted by yawper at 12:47 PM on October 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

I was just randomly browsing today when I came across this blog post: What to do instead of Calling Your Boyfriend…Again. Quite a good read, actually. Reminds that we're not alone and actually pretty normal. I especially like the part where the post author said, "Men, on the other hand, do not like talking on the phone as much. So no more two-hour phone convos, ladies! In fact, try and keep the convos with your boyfriend under 20 minutes or less, and he will be calling you all the time, because he knows it will be a no-pressure, no-drama experience."
posted by moiraine at 7:37 AM on November 8, 2009

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