Long Term Relationship Advice
November 28, 2009 10:51 PM   Subscribe

Long Term Relationship Advice

My boyfriend and I have been going out nearly 10 months. We have our ups and downs, not too many downs. We get along really well as we were good friends before dating but i still find that i learn new things about him all the time. Not really good or bad things, just things that make me realize how normal he is. (Not perfect like he seemed at the beginning, and not a a** like he seemed for a little while after that). Still, I wonder if he ever takes a step back and thinks about the relationship as a whole, like I do. I'm a deep thinker, and im also insightful of why other people act and say what they do. I dont really talk about these things with him, so I dont know if he does think about things deeply or not.
I brought this up because I got kinda upset with him tonight, and it made me think of something even bigger. But anyways, I got a bit upset with him because I've been with family and friends for the past few days, and so has he. i've been pretty busy, but I still make an effort to talk to him at night or in the morning, just to say hi or whatever. I'll text him (yeah i know texting is lame, dont give me hell about it), and he'll kinda give me a quick response, like he has something he wants to get back to, and then the conversations pretty much over. That's how it's been the past couple of days. I'm just really not used to it being like that, because generally we see each other almost every day. I tried talking about it with him tonight, saying that i feel dumb whenever im the only one trying to talk. I told him Im not mad, and that i want him to go enjoy his break, but that i just felt dumb because he would hardly respond to me. I tried to say what i meant so that he would understand that im not mad, which is what brought me to thinking if he thought in that way.
Then, he said to me, like it was no big deal,"Well maybe i didnt wanna talk?" He made it sound like it was completely normal, and maybe it is, i dont know, but i hate how he assumes that i completely and totally understand him. I try to spell things out for him when im upset because i know he doesn't completely understand me when im like that, though he thinks he knows me inside out. Of course, when he said he didn't feel like talking, i said without thinking,"Well text me when you feel like talking then." It felt dumb, having this debate over text message.
He's the kind of person who just goes with things mostly. I havent been able to be like that because of deadlines, alot of stress, etc. He has deadlines too but he just seems to take things like that so much better than i do.
I guess im asking a number of things right now. Do guys who are in long term relationships ever really step back and think of their relationship as a whole, or do they mostly just go with things? Is it normal for a guy to simply not want to talk? Why does my boyfriend just "assume" that i understand things without even telling me? (iffy) And one last: What should I do about the fact that I told him,"Text me when you feel like talking then"? I know I overthink things, I am OCD and keep it nearly all to myself, but what if he...doesn't? Should i just text him, or wait until he texts me? Im not very good at being upset with people, i hate anticipation...help?
posted by xopaigexo to Human Relations (19 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I can't speak for all guys; I'm not sure questions which attempt to uncover generalizations are terribly helpful. That said, I was once in a long-distance relationship where my girlfriend expect that we would talk on the phone before going to bed every night. I did not like that arrangement because, yes, sometimes I simply didn't feel like talking. There were a lot of other problems in this relationship, and I wound up breaking it off eventually. But I would certainly have been happier if she were comfortable with not talking every night.

On the flipside, you're right - you can't be expected to be a mindreader. It's neither "fair" not appropriate for your boyfriend to keep you guessing as to how he's feeling. The thing is, it can be difficult to say to someone you're in a relationship with, "I don't feel like talking." It can sound cold and distant. And even if there's no deeper reason for not wanting to talk, saying something like that can make your partner worry that there is something else going on. So I can see how your bf might feel that not saying anything is his best option.

What to do? Well, when you see each other in person, it probably would be good to talk about this. You said at the outset that despite being busy, you "still make an effort to talk to him at night or in the morning, just to say hi or whatever." You probably ought to ask yourself why you make that effort, and what it means to you - and try to understand from him why he apparently doesn't feel the same way. It may just be that he doesn't like talking on the phone. It may be that he's home with people he hasn't seen in a while and wants to maximize very limited time. It could be several reasons. But you guys seem to have different priorities when it comes to talking on the phone, and it's important to understand where you differ and why.

As for your last text to him, he may feel backed into a corner, wanting to talk to you but worried you'll be angry if he calls. Do you feel an apology might be appropriate? Or do you feel like the onus really now is on him to reach out to you? If I were in your shoes, my own personal instinct would be to try to be concilliatory and to get us back to a place where hurt feelings were salved & we'd feel comfortable discussing our feelings forthrightly. If you feel wronged or slighted, though, I wouldn't want to push you into that plan of action, since it may lead you to feeling more resentful further down the line that you had to bury your feelings. But if that's the situation, then your choices are a lot fewer.
posted by Conrad Cornelius o'Donald o'Dell at 11:14 PM on November 28, 2009 [1 favorite]

You're asking rather vague questions about guys in general that may or may not apply to your boyfriend specifically. The answers to these, if they could be answered, wouldn't tell you what you need to know about him.

I think "Text me when you feel like talking" is a perfectly reasonable response. A relationship is a two-way street and it's impossible to maintain if he is not willing to communicate. I don't blame you for being upset with him about that.

But you need to communicate too. Just be honest with him about this. Tell him that you need him to talk to you. Tell him that you want to know if he ever steps back and thinks about the relationship as a whole. Tell him that you're OCD and you overthink things but you want to understand his perspective. Naturally it would be best to have this conversation in person.

Why does my boyfriend just "assume" that i understand things without even telling me?

Ask him. That's really all it takes.
posted by Lobster Garden at 11:16 PM on November 28, 2009

Is it normal for a guy to simply not want to talk?

Sometimes. It sounds from your similar previous question that your boyfriend in particular sometimes just wants some time to himself. Plus, it's the holiday, maybe he is busy with family things and preoccupied with his deadlines.

Why does my boyfriend just "assume" that i understand things without even telling me?

Everyone does this. You are assuming that he should be more like you (thinking about your relationship in the same way, wanting to talk the same amount, etc); he may be assuming that you are more like him and so that you automatically understand things the way he does. There is no simple fix for this - this is what you have to deal with in an ongoing way to have a relationship with anyone.

It sounds to me like you're letting this relationship eat up a lot of your idle psychological energy. Worrying and wondering does not help anything -- in fact, it can suffocate a relationship that could otherwise be a very nice part of your life. The solution is to find other outlets for your energy, other things to be invested in and thinking about, so that you can reduce the amount of unproductive worrying and wondering that you do about the relationship.

In other words, do not worry about when you can next talk to him/text him. Think of something fun or interesting to do in the mean time, so that when you talk to him next you can say "oh hey, guess what I did over the weekend?" etc.
posted by LobsterMitten at 11:24 PM on November 28, 2009 [6 favorites]

Do guys who are in long term relationships ever really step back and think of their relationship as a whole, or do they mostly just go with things? Is it normal for a guy to simply not want to talk?
Depends on the person. Some are very analytical, others are not. You'll need to ask him if he's one of those people. Your relationship isn't OMG!DOOMED if he's not; it just means you both have some learning to do in terms of communication styles. Tell him when you have a problem you need to talk through it with someone. It may take some time for him to figure out how to talk about the relationship like you want and for you to figure out when it's time to stop talking, but you can get there.

Why does my boyfriend just "assume" that i understand things without even telling me?
You don't mention your ages, or whether this is the first serious relationship for either of you. I stumbled into this problem hard when I first started dating my boyfriend and it took some time to find an answer. This may sound flippant, but I really don't mean it to be: he may not realize you think differently than he does. How would he know, if the only experience he's ever had is with his own head? How was he supposed to know that you were looking for a long conversation when you texted him and not a simple check-in? His fault for not being diplomatic in his response, maybe, and it's your fault for reading too much into it.

You've entered the relationship phase where the puppy love has worn off and you're realizing you two are different people. It's totally normal and nothing to freak out over. I think the most important thing during this time is communication, which you admit is lacking. You're both assuming things about what the other one wants and that's really not going to work out. It's cute and romantic when he just knows what you want without you saying anything (and vice versa), but it's not realistic. Ask him what he wants, tell him what you want, and compromise as necessary.

What should I do about the fact that I told him,"Text me when you feel like talking then"?
Tell him you overreacted and you're sorry. Holidays are stressful and perhaps got the better of both of you. If you think the conflict escalated to a high level call and tell him this, otherwise a text is fine. Don't dwell on it and don't let it simmer. The longer you let this sit the bigger a deal it will become.
posted by lilac girl at 11:33 PM on November 28, 2009

Here's something that works for my boyfriend and I. For what it's worth, I think we're a lot like you and your boyfriend; I'm more introverted than he is but also much more easily stressed out, and my first instinct when I'm stressed is to get comfort from people I'm close to. Ie. him and my close friends (and since I'm an introvert, I have much fewer people to talk to!)

What we've established very, very early on is that we're both clear to say to the other "Hey, I'm gonna take a me-night today" (or x day) and there won't be any hurt feelings from that. Both of us have said to always speak up when we feel like we need some time to ourselves. This way, we both have a clear understanding that 'not feeling like talking' is nothing against the other person, we just need some time to ourselves!

I agree with you that we can't expect our SOs to mind-read, and spelling out issues is a good thing. But, just to give an example, I'm the token worrier of my relationship, and sometimes I bring up Issues that my boyfriend didn't even realize were things worth worrying about...but sometimes, it really isn't worth worrying about. One thing I've personally realized is that even if me and my SO have similar frequencies (once a day, once every other day, whatever) of 'talking' (texting, IMing, whatever), it really isn't fair to expect him to mind-read and text me precisely when I want him to text me. I might be feeling lonely one day while he's busily studying for an exam and thus has no energy at the moment to spare to think about me. But, give him a few hours and when he has a breather, he might just phone me!! ...except then I might be occupied cleaning my room or something. Unless you two have pegged down a schedule to talk, then I think stepping back a little bit from this will help.

As for assuming, we all assume. We view the world through the frame of reference constructed by our own wants and experiences. Your boyfriend is assuming you don't always need/want to talk all the time, because that's what he thinks. You're assuming that he should intuitively understand why you're a little hurt/upset at him. Part of being in a relationship is to adapt to the other's views and adjust our own frame of reference for the other's sake. Following that...generalizations about 'guys do this/that' probably won't help.

The next time you see him, just gently bring this up. Tell him you'd really appreciate it if he just sends a quick text here and there even when he's busy. And compromise from there.
posted by Hakaisha at 11:34 PM on November 28, 2009 [4 favorites]

It honestly doesn't matter what most guys think, or do, or assume.

What's important is that you clearly feel a need to communicate fairly explicitly about where you're at, what you're feeling, and what you need.

So, tell him that for you to be happier in the relationship, you need him to communicate fairly explicitly about where he's at, what he's feeling, and what he needs. And for him to listen when you do the same. This isn't because that's 'normal', or because that's the right way to be, but because that's what you need. Which is fine. You've got to let him know though. It doesn't need to be an ultimatum or some list of demands, just a few words- 'I know I get anxious and overthink things, but it would really help me relax and feel better if you could try to explain what you're feeling a bit more, and be clear when you need to have time to yourself/whatever'.

Honestly, he probably isn't even aware that there's an issue. The only way he'll be able to help out here is if you tell him what you need.
posted by twirlypen at 12:08 AM on November 29, 2009 [4 favorites]

1. I still make an effort to talk to him at night or in the morning . . . and he'll kinda give me a quick response, like he has something he wants to get back to, and then the conversations pretty much over . . . I'm just really not used to it being like that . . i feel dumb whenever im the only one trying to talk.

This is 100% normal and valid.

Is it normal for a guy to simply not want to talk?

Yes, for some guys. For other guys, it's a sign that they're not that into you.

It's completely fine for you to want someone who wants to talk to you every day. It just means this guy might not be the right guy for you, if that's really important to you.

2. Why does my boyfriend just "assume" that i understand things without even telling me?

I don't know, but that is something he can change, if he works on it. If he doesn't want to change, and it really bothers you, then, again, he might not be the right guy for you.

3. What should I do about the fact that I told him,"Text me when you feel like talking then"?

I think that's a perfectly fine thing to say. It doesn't necessarily mean he'll contact you any more than he does now, though. In that case, see #1 above.

P.S. Part of the problem may be that he just doesn't like texting. You might want to try a different method of communication, first.
posted by Ashley801 at 12:50 AM on November 29, 2009

In my experience, if he was chatty before and then stopped initiating, I would initiate more. Not that I was realizing this in any situation, but looking back (oh, old journals, what a wealth of incriminating evidence), I can see the pattern.

I have a guy friend who keeps advising me to back off from the guys I like most, which I now realize is the point of the adage about desperation being a stinky perfume.

So, give it a few days with no initiating on your part. Give him the opportunity to come to you, to be proactive rather than reactive.

Maybe he won't call, but if he does call, you'll know he has something to say.
posted by bilabial at 4:34 AM on November 29, 2009

Oh. Also, grab a copy of Deborah Tannen's book about communicating in relationships. I can't remember what it's called, and hunting up books on the iPhone is a pain.

The basic tenet of the book is: if you have different communication styles, more talking can't solve the problem until one or both parties realize these differences and make changes. She offers some great insight into that process.
posted by bilabial at 4:39 AM on November 29, 2009 [1 favorite]

I would find it very off-putting to be with someone that demanded we talk (text) only on their schedule. You have no idea if he was in the middle of a conversation, a book or a task when you interrupted him. The fact that he responded at all should be seen as something positive by you. Maybe you should switch to email or lower your expectations About always being the focus of his attention. You have only been together ten months, even if it had been longer trying to control what he does at a family holiday is not healthy. Nor is your assumptions about all guys, men are individuals too and you would probably understand your boyfriend better if you recognized that.
posted by saucysault at 5:37 AM on November 29, 2009

I have to say that I think you are over analyzing the situation. I think your boyfriend is busy with his family and friends, and may be a little preoccupied. This doesn't mean that he doesn't love you, he's just busy.

There's the old saying "Absence makes the heart grow fonder." Give the guy some time to miss you.

If you guys get back from the break and he's still acting remote, then maybe you can look the situation over.
posted by TooFewShoes at 6:06 AM on November 29, 2009

Nthing that generalities about most guys or typical relationships are not going to help. What you're dealing with is extremely common. Do you feel better now? No, you do not. You have particular issues with a particular relationship and a particular guy that you must deal with particularly.

We can only speculate about what might've been going through the BF's head when he didn't want an extensive conversation. Maybe interrupting his family time to text you feels rude to him? Maybe he sees it as a sort of remote PDA, and feels conspicuous? Maybe your need to frequently touch base suggests an insecurity that he doesn't like to see in you, or a distrust in him that he finds offensive? Maybe he's uncomfortable with emotionally charged phone conversations and prefers to be able to see and/or touch you? Maybe he doesn't like aimless chatting for the sake of chatting, and expects an explicit reason to talk? We can't know. All of these reasons, and others I haven't thought of, are perfectly legitimate, but the internet doesn't know which ones apply in your situation.

I know; you tried to talk with him and he wasn't interested. He didn't explain his own feelings n any depth, and he didn't respond to your disclosure that you felt dumb. Realize that the conversation you wanted to have was for your benefit, not his. He was not inclined to think about and/or explain why he didn't want to chat just then, and you can't make him crave the sort of contact that you crave. You got kinda upset with him tonight because you weren't getting your needs met on your schedule. It's natural to be frustrated by that, and there's nothing wrong with wanting to talk for your own comfort -- but you are simply not entitled to that sort of contact whenever you happen to want it. If the relationship is worth maintaining then he'll be willing to work on these things with you some of the time, but it's not going to be on a schedule of your choosing, and you need to have a plan B for those (probably frequent) times times when he's just not up for it. This will be true with any relationship with anyone. Not even a professional therapist is going to be on call for you 24/7. Taking care of yourself is a surprisingly big part of being in a healthy relationship.
posted by jon1270 at 6:10 AM on November 29, 2009 [1 favorite]

seriously? you don't EVER just not feel like talking?
posted by swbarrett at 7:17 AM on November 29, 2009

Jon1270 said what I was trying to get at. The Tannen book touches on this. You view conversations (I'd bet) as evidence of closeness and connection. He (likely) views conversations as about facts. I'm guessing he doesn't feel it's worthwhile to share that Aunt Sally farted loudly during Uncle Beepy's boring grace, because you don't know these people so this information doesn't seem relevant to him.

But. I give you a lot of credit for identifying that you have a communication problem, rather than a trust problem. You can learn to think about conversations in more ways than you currently do, and as Jon1270 says, that will take you a looooong way in many future relationships, just being aware that your needs cannot be identical to those of others around you 100% of the time. Compromise is key.

(as a note, while Tannen has Bern really great for me because I'm a Sociologist/Anthropologist, the skills for applying this knowledge have come from my work with Dialectical Behavior Therapy in a group setting. I got into the program for trauma resolution, but the skills are useful for everyone. The program was actually designed for patients with Borderline Personality Disorder, but nobody in my group has that. Just trauma.)
posted by bilabial at 7:21 AM on November 29, 2009 [1 favorite]

It's one thing if he just didn't feel like talking at that moment, but if he NEVER feels like talking, I can see how that is off-putting.
You sound a lot like me when I was younger (okay, and sometimes now, too), and I totally get how annoying it is to wait for someone to text you because you're feeling a little rejected by the fact that he said he didn't feel like talking, and hasn't been as eager to be in contact with you as you with him.
What I would do is wait for him to text you. When you are both back together in person, talk to him and say, "I really enjoy talking to you, and I'm sorry that it bothers me when you don't stay in contact. If you are going to be too busy to stay in touch with me, just let me know that and I'll back off." or something like that.
posted by ishotjr at 8:29 AM on November 29, 2009

I'm a deep thinker, and im also insightful of why other people act and say what they do.

Something to think about: it's very common for people who are extremely introspective to mistakenly characterize other people's actions on the basis of an assumption that those people, too, are extremely introspective. If they're not (and most people aren't), the conclusions you're drawing may be less insightful than you think.
posted by Sidhedevil at 1:36 PM on November 29, 2009

Based on this question and your last question, you seem to get very upset when your boyfriend doesn't want to spend time together and you do, or doesn't want to talk when you want to talk.

You are two different people. You asked him why he didn't text you, and he told you. He didn't feel like talking. For someone who is "insightful of why other people act and say what they do," you don't seem to accept that your boyfriend means what he says, is busy with his family just as you are with yours, and chooses to focus on one at a time. Your relationship should be based on both of your needs, not yours alone.

The fact that you are better at multi-tasking than he is, or more considerate than he is, or a better communicator than he is may be frustrating to you, and if it bothers you enough that you feel the need to come to AskMe, than you need to be very clear about what you want and expect from him in that regard when the two of your are apart. It's unfair of you, however, to expect him to know what you want like a mind-reader, or to expect him to spend every waking moment at your beck and call.

And though it is sweet of you to be so conscientious about keeping in touch, a healthy relationship also accepts time apart with good grace. Unless he has a habit of regularly ignoring you, he should be able to tell you, "Hey, I don't feel like talking right now," without you going off in a huff.
posted by misha at 2:53 PM on November 29, 2009

Should i just text him, or wait until he texts me?

Do you want to get in touch with him? If so, then text him. If not, you can wait. Life is too short to play weird relationship games.

Also, there are all sorts of boys out there, and they really all behave in their own way.
posted by chunking express at 12:47 PM on November 30, 2009

You, my dear, are a planner. Your boyfriend is not. He's good at going with the flow, you want details. You hate anticipation, he is probably stressed by needing to Decide Everything Right This Second. I'm a planner too, and my partner is not. I'm happiest when things are under control, and he's happiest when things are flexible. Neither of us is right or wrong, we're just quirky in different ways and we need to learn how to express ourselves in ways that reassure each other.

It also sounds like you find comfort in love when it is expressed through Time Spent Together, which is why you want to hear from him every day. If you don't receive that time from him, it feels like he is shutting you out. Perhaps that is not what he intends, but perhaps it's what you would intend if you did that, so that's how you interpret it.

Still, I wonder if he ever takes a step back and thinks about the relationship as a whole, like I do.

Maybe not, and I would gently suggest that this doesn't necessarily indicate that he doesn't value the relationship. As a planner, I often analyse my relationship to make sure potential bad things can't happen to it. It's how I tend to it, because I care for it. As a go-with-the-flow-er, my partner doesn't analyse it unless he perceives that something is wrong with it right now. The fact that he isn't taking a step back to reassess may in fact be an indication that he is happy and comfortable with your relationship.

I have personally found the Myers Briggs Personality Indicator and descriptions of the main 4 differences in outlooks (e.g. planning vs. go-with-the-flow) to be incredibly helpful in understanding these differences. You might too.
posted by heatherann at 6:44 PM on November 30, 2009

« Older NYC Digital Printers willing to do small issue...   |   Be alone for the next six month, or...? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.