Why affectionate, then evasive?
August 6, 2010 4:26 AM   Subscribe

Why is my friend warm and affectionate in person, but very evasive when it comes to keeping in touch? How do I get over this?

I am an American female, and have a guy friend I made while studying abroad. We got along great and used to spend hours and hours, several times a week, just talking about anything and everything, including personal stuff. He's a popular, warm, and outgoing guy, and I deeloped a crush on him. He said he did not return the feelings, and I became very conflicted about maintaining the friendship, but he seemed adamant about staying friends, and continued being as close and friendly as possible. He would initiate contact just as often as I would, and we always hung out alone, talking and talking.

I went back to America, and we kept in touch frequently, talking twice a week, for hours and hours. We did this for several months, and then he started to become unavailable, usually not responding to messages and calls. I sent him an email telling him I was coming back to his country to work for the summer, and he told me he never got it. It was hard to get in touch with him after that and I felt really frustrated, as I thought he'd be excited to see me- he often talked about me coming to his country again. I finally got in touch with him after he sent me messages when I joined a social networking site, and he expressed excitement at coming to see me at the airport when I had a layover in his city. We sent several excited messages back and forth, and when I got to the airport, he came to meet me and we talked non-stop for the 4 hours I was in the airport.

My job was in another city, relatively far from the city where he met me. I was working in the city where we both went to school, and he told me he'd be there the next week to go to the graduation ceremony, because his girlfriend was graduating. I waited for him to contact me, but finally messaged him when he didn't, and he met me. We had a great talk as usual, and then went to hang out with another classmate (another guy, and American). Upon seeing me, that guy hugged me. Later, he left the room, and my good friend (non-American) said to me, "I noticed [other classmate] hugged you when he saw you. I want to give you a hug too." I said okay, and he gave me a big hug, then told me I should initiate it next time. He told me he wanted to give me a hug in the airport, but didn't want to embarassas me. Hugs between people who aren't dating, or even hugs in public, are rare in his country.

He walked me back to my room, and told me he'd give me a call before he left and we could go out again before he returned to his city. So I waited for him to call, except that he never did until right before he was leaving, and I didn't have time to say goodbye (i got the message at like 11 pm).

After he returned to his city, I hardly heard from him at all. I called him once, he didn't answer, then later sent me a text message asking me what was up. I wrote back, "just saying hi", and he never replied.

Later, I went to his city for work, for a few days, and he met me at my hotel one night. He hugged me upon seeing me, and then we went for a walk, and talked and talked as usual. He was extremely attentive and warm. He said he was lucky to spend time with me. He hugged me when he left, too, and expressed interest in seeing me again if there was time. However later he said he didn't have time.

I got back to the city where I was working, and he proved to be hard to reach- never intitively calling me and sometimes not responding to my messages. I asked him for some advice about a guy I had started dating, from this country, and we talked on the phone for over an hour. He was very attentive and gave me great advice, and listened carefully. However, it was so hard to reach him. I called him and sent a message, and no answer. Finally I called him again, and he said he never got the other call or message, and seemed surprised.

A week or so later, I sent him a text message- no response. A day or two after that, I called him- no answer. A couple days later I sent a text asking him if he got my call/message- he wrote, "I didn't get them! Not either one!" (this is translated from his language).

It seems pretty clear to me that he is being evasive- possibly not completely consciously, but evasive nonetheless. I really don't want to have a friendship with someone where I have to make all the initiative. The thing is, he really meant a lot to me, and when we talk/spend time together, he is so attentive and warm, and everything seems perfect. We never run out of things to talk about, and seem so close and affectionate. We talk about personal topics and give each other advice. But these days, when we are apart, he seems to make NO effort at keeping in touch, and I feel fed up and confused my his behavior. I actually want to stop calling him, but I can't seem to! (I have inadvertantly memorized his cell phone number).

I'd really like some advice about why his actions are so confusing, and also how I can stop contacting him. It really makes me crazy. It also makes me very sad, when I think about all those conversations we had with excitement about being able to see one another again. When I left his country, we weren't sure when we'd see each other again and he wrote a few emails to me expressing sadness and regret.

Maybe he has just moved on from the friendship, emotionally?

Thank you in advance!
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (27 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
He's clearly got a girlfriend, or two. Perhaps it's best for YOU to move on emotionally.
posted by taff at 4:35 AM on August 6, 2010 [7 favorites]

Ask him.
posted by fire&wings at 4:54 AM on August 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

It sounds like he's conflicted. He likes you, but he doesn't feel he ought to see you. My guess is he has a girlfriend or wife.
posted by musofire at 5:16 AM on August 6, 2010 [2 favorites]

He's just not that into you.
posted by Grither at 5:17 AM on August 6, 2010 [2 favorites]

Don't just try to put him out of your mind, look for a replacement. I'm sure someone that shares his personal skillset AND will call you back is only a conversation away.
posted by WhiteWhale at 5:21 AM on August 6, 2010

How to stop contacting him? Block or filter his email and remove his number from your phone. Put a rubber band on your wrist and when you think of calling, snap it.

Trying to guess at his state of mind is fruitless. What is important is that whatever is going on with him, once you are out of sight, you are out of mind. So it is in your best interest to slowly withdraw and let this fade away and find someone who is worth the time - particularly because it is clear that your attraction to him still undergirds your interactions with him and may make it tough to find a romantic relationship when you're still hung up.

Some people are just awful about keeping in touch and you have to accept that. Because of the crush, just accepting that seems like it would do more harm - to you - than good.
posted by canine epigram at 5:29 AM on August 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

Concentrate less on him, and more on you. You still have a crush on this guy, stop torturing yourself.
posted by smoke at 5:40 AM on August 6, 2010

It sound like he's better at face-to-face communication than calling, e-mailing, writing and isn't very good about checking his e-mails and messages. I'm like that too. It's not personal. I'm sure he "doesn't get" (forgets to check) other people's messages too.

You're starting drift apart bit now that you're not living in the same city. That's normal in friendships. And it's exacerbated if one of them isn't good at staying in touch.

how I can stop contacting him

You don't have to stop contacting him. Send him an e-mail every so often. Realize that he probably won't write back as often as you'd like or think he should. But if he's not particularly good at staying in touch, you'll need to make the extra effort to do that.

From your description, it doesn't sound like he's moved on from the friendship, more like he's disorganized in certain ways, and you're noticing that more now that you're relying on long distance communication.

One other thing: You mentioned that you had a crush on him, and it wasn't reciprocated, though you became good friends. I suspect you might be having more an emotional reaction to this than you would with somebody you'd never had a crush on. If it was somebody else would you just think 'so-and-so isn't good at returning her calls' - slightly annoying but not a big deal? This kind of thing can take a long time to fade.
posted by nangar at 5:42 AM on August 6, 2010 [2 favorites]

I'm an American woman, so this may not be his style, but if someone texts me, then calls me, and then texts or calls me 'to check and see' if I got the first two texts and calls, I will be annoyed.

What am I supposed to say that won't hurt your feelings? Yes, I got your messages but I'm dealing with other stuff right now. I'm sorry I'm not available to chat as much as I'd like to be, but I keep my phone time a little limited in favor of the in person stuff.

I'm not saying my attitude about this is nice, or fair, but I back away from people who contact me (lots) more than I contact them, even if we get along great in person.
posted by bilabial at 6:05 AM on August 6, 2010 [15 favorites]

When two people hit it off, it's a common pattern for one person to be a little more enthusiastic than the other, so the enthusiastic person keeps calling and emailing, and then the other person is like "whoa this is a little excessive" and backs off a little bit, and the enthusiastic person presses harder, all "hey you still there? You still like me right? RIGHT?" and the other person starts having serious second thoughts. This can happen even when the other person started out totally enthusiastic.

Keep in mind that your "just saying hi" is "just looking for confirmation that you still like me" - so every time you feel tempted to call or send him an email or text, think of something that you can do yourself that will make you feel just as good, and go do that instead.
posted by Metroid Baby at 6:34 AM on August 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

I'm an American woman, so this may not be his style, but if someone texts me, then calls me, and then texts or calls me 'to check and see' if I got the first two texts and calls, I will be annoyed.

Yes. If he is an avoidant-type person (raises hand), your calling to check and see if he got the messages/calls could be creating a mild anxiety around the communication, so now when he gets them he might be putting them out of his mind. I'm like this whenever I feel like a response is expected and is being 'time-stamped' by the other person. Logically, you'd think that I would respond more quickly but it has an opposite effect.

I've also been in your shoes too, and like others have said, your having a crush on him is causing you to put more weight on this then you would if he was just a friend to you. There's nothing else you can do but try to move on emotionally, which is tough. :-( In that case, it's probably better if you talk to him less. If he were calling you all the time but not interested romantically then it would be even harder on you.
posted by cottonswab at 6:41 AM on August 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

He's somewhat into you, but feels conflicted because he's involved with someone else. I'd imagine he's going to see you as a friend, or talks to you as a friend, but when conversations become too involved or a physical meet-up seems too familiar in a possibly romantic way, he feels uncomfortable and backs off.

In other words, he likes you, but due to either his feelings or his circumstances, he does not want to pursue anything romantic and the context of your interaction is making him uncomfortable.
posted by mikeh at 6:43 AM on August 6, 2010 [2 favorites]

Some people, myself included, just don't enjoy keeping in touch over email, text, or telephone. It's not that we don't care or don't like the other person, or that we have a desire to not communicate, it's just that we don't particularly enjoy initiating or maintaining contact in those ways. For us it feels like work and a chore doing those things, where it is not when it's face-to-face in person.
posted by Rhomboid at 6:45 AM on August 6, 2010 [5 favorites]

There are two things here- you have a crush on him and you are probably not even a faint blip on his radar.

There seems to be an expectation on your part (beyond friendship) at every interaction that is fueling your agony. You also mention he has a girlfriend and that you wanted to keep distance but he insisted you stay friends. Well, he certainly isn't your idea of a friend. You can call/text him as often as you do any of your other moderately close friends. If he doesn't respond, try to remind yourself that you didn't want this in the first place, so whatever.

The problem is that we just can't make people do things we'd like to, in any relationship. And I am not sure explaining this to him explicitly will help either. You just have to pick each other's unspoken cues and work with it but be a better friend to yourself than you are being to him because clearly no one is taking care of what you want and how you feel.

Another thing you could try is just let yourself be sad and frustrated. Give yourself permission to feel heartsick as long as you want (unless you are clinically depressed or such!). Think about it as much as you want, all day long for weeks on end. You will get tired of it.

Email in profile if you want to talk more about this.
posted by xm at 6:58 AM on August 6, 2010

Oh and, life happens. Not all your friends are going to always have the time to keep in touch as often as you would like for all your lives.
posted by xm at 6:59 AM on August 6, 2010

Talking about hugging is kind of odd, to me, and I've traveled and had friends from all over the world. My guess is that if you were to suggest something more with the hugs he's asked for, he'd make the move to get sexy with you. But since he's in a relationship, he's not gonna be the initiator (bad guy). He keeps popping up, so to speak, because he's taking your temperature -- are you going to give him the sexual go-ahead this time? You sound hyper-focused on every interaction and its meaning/frequency/tone -- you might consider shutting it all down, for your own sake. He's simply not reciprocating your interest in a way that works for you and never will. That's not a strong foundation for a relationship of any sort.
posted by thinkpiece at 7:01 AM on August 6, 2010 [3 favorites]

There could be cultural differences at play, or it could be a simple case of you care about him more than he cares about you.

In any case, he has a girlfriend and you seem to be putting "more than friendly" vibes out there. He's picking up on that and responding selectively - he seems to be on the fence between not interested now and possibly interested later.

If you want to remain friends with this guy, you need recognize that the level on which this will work will be as friends. You know you get along in person, and you know he doesn't respond to emails/txts/whatever. So, limit the energy you spend on the relationship to "Do you want to get coffee?" when you're in the same city. You might find that he starts contacting you more if you back off - he might feel conflicted or a bit smothered by the attention you're giving him now and might be more likely to initiate contact if you give him more space.

If you're really interested in this guy, for your own sake, you need to take it down a notch and acknowledge to yourself that it's not an option. He's not available. You're only going to make yourself more and more unhappy if you keep trying to force a stronger connection where #1) there isn't the same attraction on his part and #2) he's already involved with someone else.

This sounds kind of counter-intuitive that you need to really acknowledge the attraction in order to get over it, but it's true. If you pretend like you're not really into him, you're not moving past it, you're just letting it fester. Don't do that. Don't push yourself to move on faster than you're ready to, but do allow yourself to feel what you're feeling and just let it be - and know that there's nothing you can do about it. You can't change it and you can't be with him right now. It's just how it is. If you allow yourself to just feel without thinking about it, it will eventually fade. You will develop interest in someone else eventually. But... if you keep thinking about what might be, you'll keep yourself in this cycle for an indefinite period of time and you already can see that this is not what you want.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 7:07 AM on August 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

How do you say "flake" in his language?

His actions are so confusing because he's a flake. For some people, out of sight means out of mind and he probably doesn't think about you at all when you two aren't together. If that's not the type of friendship you want from him, just stop contacting him. Delete his email address, block his texts and IMs, if you find yourself dialing his number, hang up and go take a walk or work on your hobbies instead. Find something or someone else to expend your energy upon; these obsessive feelings will pass.
posted by LuckySeven~ at 7:32 AM on August 6, 2010

I don't actually know what's up with him. I guess you could ask. I'll just talk about what I know because I don't know this person.

When it comes to someone who contacts me all the time to talk on the phone or hang out but I don't really have more time to give them:

1. You call and text so much I know that you haven't forgotten about me, and I know how you're doing so I don't need to check up on you to make sure all is well or get news
2. If you have something significant to announce, celebrate, or mourn, or you need advice I know I will hear about it and I will rearrange things to give you the time that you need as soon as I can
3. If you do things like ask for advice you don't need, create emergencies, or dramatize your life for attention, I will start to assume that you don't give a shit about my good-faith attempts to prioritize my time
4. If, indeed, you constantly need more from me than I'm able and willing to provide, I will not martyr myself or half-ass it. Instead I will tell you that I can't give you what you need so that you can go find it elsewhere.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 7:53 AM on August 6, 2010

I wouldn't take it personally, I very much doubt it was intentional or that your friend feels any less warmly towards you. Some people are just awful at maintaining contact with the friends they don't see every day - out of sight, out of mind. When I lived in Japan, I made a few friends who I became incredibly close to. And when we returned to our respective countries to finish our degrees, some of them have been very good at maintaining contact, and others have just let communication drop.

Like my friend Andrew. We were incredibly close when together, but he was terrible at keeping contact with me when we parted ways. I managed to visit him while I was in his home country a few years ago. While we were together again, it was just like old times, and when I left our communication returned to zero. Perhaps I will see him again some day, perhaps not. And that's ok, there will be more people like him in my life, and I look forward to the experience of knowing them too.

Yes it makes me a little sad to lose contact with a dear friend, but there's something to be savored in the bittersweetness of the nature of our friendship, realizing that we'll probably just be fond memories to eachother forever more. Never forgotten though, you don't forget the good times so easily. Take solace in this, and it will be easier to let go.
posted by lizbunny at 8:00 AM on August 6, 2010

Good points have been made above, but I'll still add my two cents.

Firstly, you should consider the possibility that he has been hiding this relationship with you from his girlfriend, for whatever reasons I won't hazard to guess at. I know personally I wouldn't be a big fan of my significant other having hours-long talks alone with someone else at their hotels, and walks, etc. (but that's just me). I think this could explain quite a bit of the lack of response or initiation.

Secondly, as someone else pointed it, it could be that he isn't into the frequent telephone/electronic communication. What makes it worse is when you follow up with more texts and calls to find out if he got the first ones. In my last relationship this annoyed the heck out of me - I shouldn't feel obligated to respond to every message in a time you think is appropriate.

That deals with the past. Let's look toward the future.

Always remember you can't control anyone else's actions - only yours. Don't you think you're entitled to a more fulfilling friendship/relationship than this one? Someone who wants to talk and be with you as much as you do? I think that's someting we all deserve.

Chalk up this one as a loss, stop contacting him for your own sake, hurt, and move on. You WILL find someone else and have a fulfilling relationship.

I wish you the best!
posted by althanis at 8:05 AM on August 6, 2010 [2 favorites]

Firstly, you should consider the possibility that he has been hiding this relationship with you from his girlfriend,

Yeah, that was my thought as well. He's got a girlfriend but he's got this fun flirty foreign woman on the side in a sort of more-than-friends limbo, and his girlfriend wouldn't be too excited about your relationship (even if it's not a physically intimate one). Or maybe the gf knows about you but he's downplayed thing so she doesn't know the extent of what goes on (hugs, super long talks, etc).

Ultimately it seems like you're all tangled up in your crush but don't get any of the benefits. I suspect if you did move things to a physical level he wouldn't say no, but you still wouldn't end up being his girlfriend.
posted by 6550 at 9:25 AM on August 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

thinkpiece has it.

This isn't cultural or anything. He has a girlfriend and you blithely breeze past that fact in your question.

His having a girlfriend explains away everyone one of your concerns.

He's stringing you along (even if you are doing everything possible to help him out there.)

You're not foolish. This happens to everyone, I promise.

Still. Collect yourself, gather up your self-respect, and continue on with your amazing life!

This guy isn't worth it. The hint is he doesn't respond when you want/need him. Accept this and move on gracefully:)
posted by jbenben at 10:07 AM on August 6, 2010

My guess -- and it is a guess -- is that he enjoys your company, and knows you have a crush on him, so he's keeping you on the back burner in case he's ever lonely and without a relationship.

My other guess is that he enjoys your company, and knows you have a crush on him, so he's trying to keep your relationship in a place where he can enjoy your company without feeding your crush.

I suppose it ultimately comes down to which of those seems correct to you. The better way, of course, would be to just ask him. "After you said you didn't reciprocate my crush, you said you wanted to keep on being friends. I was willing to give it a shot, but your behavior since then has been consistently inconsistent -- sometimes you're attentive and warm, and sometimes you ignore me and blow me off. What's going on in that head of yours?"
posted by davejay at 10:39 AM on August 6, 2010 [2 favorites]

I think this may not even have anything to do with the crush and whether it is or is not a problem. I think some people just suck at staying in touch with long-distance friends, and I know, because I am one of those people. I'm not proud of it, but I am not very good at staying current with my friends who live across town, let alone in another country. It's not that I don't love them and wouldn't be there in a heartbeat if they needed me, but I get sucked into my day, and don't necessarily respond to the text message that says, "Hey! How r u?"

To emphasize - it DOES NOT mean that I love the distant people any less than the near ones, and I think if this guy was that adamant about staying friends, he cares what happens to you. I do think that people expect a lot of others in the text messaging era, and that it isn't always realistic to expect someone to make someone who lives that far away a part of someone's daily life.

The point is, I suggest you leave it be for now. Don't overwhelm him with texts, messages, whatnot. Wait awhile, then text, call, or email him when something truly special happens, or when it's someone's birthday, holiday, or whatever. It's not a rejection of you. It's a rejection of "anyone can reach me 24/7! This sucks!"
posted by deep thought sunstar at 6:52 PM on August 6, 2010

*on non-preview, what lizbunny said.*
posted by deep thought sunstar at 6:53 PM on August 6, 2010

You're not someplace in Latin America, are you?

I'm getting a feeling that men and women being *only* friends isn't so common where he's from? I think he likes you, may or may not be attracted to you, doesn't know how to be a guy friend, and he's got a girlfriend. For many men I know, being my friend seems to include the possibility of something, even though nothing happens - and if they get a girlfriend, they tend to only see her (and drop off the face of the earth).

Also, text messages get lost occasionally where I live, and so automatically becomes an excuse that no one can really debate.

He's NOT going to be the attentive, in-touch guy friend that you want, ever. Never. Just accept him they way he is, contact him occasionally when you are coming into town, or thinking about him, and don't expect to receive a prompt response. Enjoy his company when you see him. That's all.
posted by Locochona at 9:10 AM on August 7, 2010

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