I blew it with an awesome guy—how not to do this again?
June 15, 2011 10:17 AM   Subscribe

I think I may have just blown the opportunity to build a relationship with someone really awesome. Help me to not repeat this in the future.

I am a 25-year-old female. I have been single for a year and a half, after getting out of a three-year relationship. I recently met someone who I found to be incredibly awesome, and it seemed as if we were headed in the relationship direction. Cut to a few weeks later, I am fairly certain I have unintentionally scared him away.

As per the friends I've talked to, the "scaring away" has happened due to me wanting to communicate more than is typical for the beginning of a relationship. Things that I don't feel to be excessive apparently are. For instance, I get annoyed when I don't get responses to texts—I don't care if it happens immediately, but when I haven't heard anything for two full days, I get frustrated. Furthermore, I have wanted to spend more time with him than is "appropriate" for the start of a new relationship. My excitement over having found someone that I've clicked with seems to have come off as me being clingy and smothering. Which, of course, was absolutely not my goal. I have also not exhibited that I have my own life particularly well, it seems (though I do, I swear!) and he has exhibited that he has his own life very, very well—he is almost always busy doing things with people if he's not at work.

I am working on accepting that things with this guy probably aren't going to happen. "Fixing" this situation isn't my question.

So, MeFi: How do I not repeat this pattern the next time I meet someone I really like? My past LTRs have begun incredibly naturally—I meet someone, a week later we end up kissing, a week after that we're hanging out almost every day, and a few weeks after that we've decided we're actually dating. Clearly this is not the way things work in "the real world." I'm not really sure what's normal.

Please help!

Anon because I'm a little ashamed to be this inept when it comes to dating, and IRL people know my MeFi screen name.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (54 answers total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
That's how almost all my relationships have gone, too. Some people are just like that, some people aren't. You'll find out pretty quickly if the person you want to date is like that, though.
posted by empath at 10:21 AM on June 15, 2011 [4 favorites]

I like to get all the potential "scaring away" stuff out of the way early, because it saves so much time. If the person is still around after all that, they're a keeper.

"Oh, you're still here after I told you about my fetish for ponytails and bubblegum? Well then check out the disgusting mutant big toe that I have on one foot... what, still here? Hm, I see you are going to be hard to get rid of, young lady. Great news."

Seriously, push it. Getting rid of the chaff early is a great timesaver.
posted by rokusan at 10:27 AM on June 15, 2011 [76 favorites]

Minimize texting, it's a poor substitute for communication. And no everyone shares the faux urgency of it.

Be aware of how the other person is feeling, some relationships spark off right away, some take time to build.

For this reason be mindful that "how it worked int he pat" is not "how it always works".

While you don't have to (and shouldn't) play games, oftentimes holding a little back makes you more interesting.

Slow down, ask question, don't be the sole instigator of activities. If you show non-overwhelming, but non-ambiguous interest it will be returned if they are also interested.
posted by edgeways at 10:29 AM on June 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

I don't want to sound like a dumb cliche, but it sounds like maybe he was just not that into you.

You say that your previous LTRs have happened naturally with mutual attraction and (seemingly) mutual goals (i.e., to spend time together, make out all the time, communicate equally) and then they turned into relationships. These dudes *were* into you.

In my opinion and experience, if this dude was into you he would want to reply to texts quickly, spend all the time with you, and would be excited to see you. It is okay to want these things. It's only considered smothering if the dude doesn't want to text/hangout/spend time, i.e., if he's not that into you.

You are (probably) doing nothing wrong.
posted by Flamingo at 10:29 AM on June 15, 2011 [54 favorites]

There are people out there who'll feel the same way you do about communication styles. What you describe doesn't sound excessive - it just sounds like too much for that particular person.
posted by biochemist at 10:29 AM on June 15, 2011

That is how it's always worked in the "Real World" for me. The people I've forced myself not to be "clingy" around, for fear of scaring them off, always ended up being incompatible with me. Provided that you aren't behaving like a stalker, enthusiasm toward the right guys won't drive them away, it'll only further attract them.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 10:29 AM on June 15, 2011 [17 favorites]

There's no need to try to shape your personality or your relationship style based on one relationship that didn't work out.

Some people simply aren't compatible, and that's okay. Men are all different and they like different things. You will find a man who is compatible with you.

I wasn't there and maybe you camped on his porch with coffee every morning or did something equally smothering, but from what you're telling me, this is an overreaction based on dubious stereotypes of women as clingy and smothering.
posted by the young rope-rider at 10:31 AM on June 15, 2011 [12 favorites]

I do exactly the same thing (with exactly the same results). I would love to have someone (happily) say to me "it looks like it's going to be hard to get rid of you, young(ish) lady!". But like all the commenters above seem to be saying, hopefully the enthusiasm will be eventually reciprocated by the right (or at least a compatible) person. Crossing fingers for both of us!
posted by bquarters at 10:34 AM on June 15, 2011

I have wanted to spend more time with him than is "appropriate" for the start of a new relationship. My excitement over having found someone that I've clicked with seems to have come off as me being clingy and smothering.

When you meet the right person, you won't have this problem.

In my last relationship, our first date ended with him saying, "I'd like to see you again." Then I said, "Okay sure... when?" To which he answered, "How about tomorrow?" And then he kissed me! And we saw each other the next evening -- and the one after that, and the one after that.

Now, I don't think this is the way it should be for everyone, but when you truly connect with someone, the right answers should all be fairly apparent, and even surprising answers will sound great.

You may have clicked in some ways -- but these other ways that you didn't click in are the ones that wound up exposing your inherent incompatibility.

Also, it's totally reasonable to expect replies to texts within two days -- but also, text messages are like the lowest form of communication, they are by practically inconsequential and easily ignored/missed. Just call. Set the precedent early on that you are a real, exciting new person -- not just one more blip of text among the hundreds or thousands they deal with every day.
posted by hermitosis at 10:36 AM on June 15, 2011 [7 favorites]

The problem here is not really you. Just because the guy was "awesome" (he does not sound all that awesome to me) doesn't mean he was awesome FOR YOU. And if you make yourself be a way that you are not at the beginning of a relationship, it will come back to bite you in the ass eventually.

Never start a relationship with dishonesty. If you can't be yourself with someone, then they don't like you. They may like fake you, but that's not a successful relationship.
posted by Lyn Never at 10:38 AM on June 15, 2011 [4 favorites]

When I met mr. crankylex, I had recently come out of a very dramatic relationship, and I wasn't really looking for something long term. So I basically did this huge info-dump of all the reasons I was not a good choice for long term dating at that time. I think I may have even called it "Reasons Why You Should Run Away." Unbeknownst to me, this forthrightness was actually refreshing and intriguing to him, and now we are married.

So my advice is to let your freak flag fly, and eventually someone's going to be into it.
posted by crankylex at 10:39 AM on June 15, 2011 [17 favorites]

nthing what others have said. There's nothing wrong with you or how you communicate. I'd also be annoyed if someone didn't respond to a text within two days, by the way.

You'll find someone - this person just wasn't it.
posted by guster4lovers at 10:40 AM on June 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

To begin with your example, some people, even in this time and age, don't like texting at all. What's needed at the beginning of such an exchange (like: when you're interested in someone "awesome") is a sensible assessment of their preferred ways of communication. Then you can think of adjusting yourself to that style.
But no matter how, or how thoroughly you adjust, in a special situation (right?) like this one, you definitely shouldn't listen to your "frustration" patterns regarding your own usual modes of communication. What you feel when you don't get messages in what you think is "in time" is really not at all his problem, nor should it be. (One can even straightforwardly ask about that type of thing.)
After that: I found it useful to respond at the most at the frequency I received messages from the other side, occasionally less, but content-wise always in a kind spirit. Worked great for me.
posted by Namlit at 10:41 AM on June 15, 2011

Agreeing that when you find the right person, this will not be an issue. And yeah, cut the texting too--it is a recipe for disaster--the potential for miscommunication and misinterpretation is too great when you are trying to get to know someone and the situation is inherently prone to miscommunication and misinterpretation. I get depressed when I think that texting may really become the only way we talk to each other. (Call me crazy but I want to hear someone's voice!)
posted by lovableiago at 10:51 AM on June 15, 2011

Naturally clingy people should be with naturally clingy people. People who need some space should pick those who want space. Though I don't think this guy was that into you in the first place if he was acting like that at the beginning of a relationship.

Though frankly, I think being annoyed with no response for any kind of contact (text or anything else) after 2 days is totally justifiable. And him getting in a snit for you calling him on it is not the world's best sign for him either
posted by jenfullmoon at 10:56 AM on June 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

I disagree a little with everyone.

I've had this problem, too. I've almost always wanted to move more quickly than the people I've dated, and, as a result, scared some people off. I'm sure those men weren't for me, but the truth is, /I/ was disturbed by my own behavior. I didn't like that I always wanted more, and I wasn't even sure in some cases what it was that I wanted. If you are coming off as truly "clingy," this may be your problem, too.

I used to take my mind off it by FORCING myself NOT to think about the relationship, but that doesn't really work, because I'd honestly remain agitated even if my conscious thoughts were not about the dating situation. It wasn't until I began to really investigate my "clingy" tendencies that I began to let them go and change behavior that was a problem for me. This has honestly made me happier and probably much more capable of being an honest partner to someone.

I've been doing my changes through reading and therapy. It's really been a healthy enterprise for me, so if this rings a bell with you at all, maybe try those things. You can MeMail if you want to talk, of course...

Alternately, he may just have not been interested.

But I guess it doesn't matter how he felt. You sound like you have a problem with how you acted, so you're instinct to use it as an opportunity is very admirable.
posted by amodelcitizen at 10:58 AM on June 15, 2011 [14 favorites]

I have also not exhibited that I have my own life particularly well, it seems (though I do, I swear!) and he has exhibited that he has his own life very, very well—he is almost always busy doing things with people if he's not at work.

this is key. that you made it a point to clarify that you have your own life may be indicative of the fact that you let it slide some for the sake of being with him? (i'm just postulating here and things may be different than i am assuming.) where i read into it and seeing things off balance is that perhaps he won't drop plans to be with you more often, whereas you would do it for him. there has to be an even balance of this, one person cannot come across as more eager than the other person, else it stops being eager/exciting and starts reeking of desperation.
posted by cristinacristinacristina at 11:02 AM on June 15, 2011 [2 favorites]

"when I haven't heard anything for two full days, I get frustrated. "

Tough toenails. I think the smart money is to always wait for a response. What's worse, being frustrated because they aren't responding as quickly as you like, or being frustrated because the relationship has dissipated? I'm not saying that it's your fault, and maybe he was just the wrong dude for your personality, but if you want to do something about "blowing it," playing it just a little bit cooler is going to involve learning how not to be so compulsive in your followups.
posted by rhizome at 11:03 AM on June 15, 2011 [2 favorites]

I think that amodelcitizen makes some strong points--it's not "playing hard to get" that's attractive, it's having a full life in which you're actively engaged and participating. He's got that, and you like that, right? So, rather than worrying about how you're coming off, maybe participating in those other activities will keep you busy and happy and your fingers away from the keys.
posted by Ideefixe at 11:05 AM on June 15, 2011 [5 favorites]

So, MeFi: How do I not repeat this pattern the next time I meet someone I really like? My past LTRs have begun incredibly naturally—I meet someone, a week later we end up kissing, a week after that we're hanging out almost every day, and a few weeks after that we've decided we're actually dating. Clearly this is not the way things work in "the real world." I'm not really sure what's normal.

I'll go ahead and be the Judas here and tell you what you're doing wrong. What you're doing wrong is expecting all relationships to play out the exact same way.

It's great and awesome to meet someone rad and immediately fall into a groove with them. It can also be great and awesome to meet someone rad and slowly build up a relationship over time. One way is not better than the other, and the fact that you were more wanting to hang out all the time, and he was more "ohman, I got plans" does NOT mean that that dude wouldn't have been an awesome match for you. Some people need more time than others to get to the point where they are willing to want to spend crazy amounts of time with the other person.

WHAT TO DO IN THE FUTURE: Breathe, and relax. Dude has plans already? That is not the end of the world, and it's not even a sign that he's not that into you. It's a sign that he's got a lot going on in his life. That's not a bad thing. Breathe, relax. If you actually have a busy and full life, then rad. Go have your busy full life when he is off having his.
posted by 23skidoo at 11:06 AM on June 15, 2011 [13 favorites]

you have NOTHING to be ashamed of.

being yourself and having something not work out does not equate to your having done something wrong. it just means that the pairing may not have been right. you say that you have successfully started relationships before, so it doesn't seem to me that how you interacted with this person was over-the-top/outside of "general norms" (i'm not a huge fan of norms, though). just different from what he wanted. and if we all ended up with everyone who should interest in us or who we were interested in, without any further analysis of compatibility - well, that would make for good television but not a good life, necessarily.
posted by anya32 at 11:23 AM on June 15, 2011

Read Why Men Love Bitches. It's a must for potential smotherers like you and me. The guys I've met since my ex dumped me (which I think was related to clinginess) have been crazy about me. Incidentally, I've been acting totally nonchalant about things now, like the book explains. You gotta take her advice with a grain of salt, but it's a must-read for any woman who falls hard and fast.
posted by sunnychef88 at 11:30 AM on June 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

Hi, data point from an introvert who needs alone time to stay on an even keel: it IS possible for someone to be very interested in you, yet not want to spend every second with you. Personally, I can handle all the text messages in the world, but I need to avoid the insta-merger or I go c-r-a-z-y. Meaning, I'll stay in close contact, even if I need to spend Wednesday night staring at the wall.

I think that you're probably picking up on some other sign of his lack of interest, and that's what's got you down here. Don't worry about it, you'll meet someone you feel comfortable with, who can make you feel secure even if he's off doing other stuff.
posted by yarly at 11:30 AM on June 15, 2011 [3 favorites]

P.S. The advice offered in the book is most valuable for how a woman should approach relationships initially. There's nothing fake about getting to know a guy gradually and revealing your awesome personality over time!
posted by sunnychef88 at 11:33 AM on June 15, 2011

Another vote for being yourself. If you want to change yourself, go ahead, but it seems less like you 'scared him away' than that you wanted different things at that time. If you feel like you want to work on your expectations as far as returned texts independent of this incident, then explore that, but maybe the right person for you is one who shares your beliefs regarding prompt replies. Nothing wrong with laying back a little at the start of a relationship, but I believe in doing so only if you want to, not because you think it's expected or 'normal' or anything else.
posted by troywestfield at 11:43 AM on June 15, 2011

I don't know, I think stifling yourself from the start could lead to disasterous results later. Be yourself, and if that means communicating on levels where you're comfortable then so be it (this is assuming you're texting a few times a day, wanting to hang out on weekends, "just saying hello" emails, etc.).

If he can't handle it, then he can't handle you.

FWIW, I'm 31 and a single female, just out of an 8 month relationship a few months ago where looking back, I realized how much tip-toeing around things I had been doing out of fear of "scaring him off". I realized that if I had just been myself from the get-go, then the relationship still would have ended, but you know what? I wouldn't have lost 8 months of my life. It probably would have been more like, 3 months of my life.

I'm taking the approach of being my full-throttle self right now, and if they can't handle it, then they're not for me. I'm hopeful that I'll find the right one eventually, and I'm hopeful that when I do, they will sure as hell know who I am and love me for it.

In the meantime, get used to being in your own skin! Have fun! Learn cool stuff! Connect with your friends and family and love the people in your life who love you back!
posted by floweredfish at 11:47 AM on June 15, 2011 [5 favorites]

I'd also like to say, having your own interests to engage in is very important and good advice. I've filled up my life with tons of interesting hobbies, travels, etc. The truth is, though, that I was still unhappy even while doing and having enough interests and ambitions for about five people. If you can't really enjoy your full life, though, there isn't a point in having one. I was not really happy at most points. So I would suggest getting to the bottom of any problems first, and building on that.
posted by amodelcitizen at 11:47 AM on June 15, 2011

I'm going to be a dissident here and go against everything MeFites believe in.

Here's my advice: play games.

If, in the first month, you see the guy only once a week, an in the second month twice a week, and three times a week in the third month, and so on, then both of you have something to look forward to. The right guy will, at least, not be put off by this. The more you like each other, the more exciting it's likely to be.

If you have to wait two days for a reply to a text, assuming the text clearly required a reply (because if a text doesn't have any hook and seems to be mere chatter, not everyone will see a reason to reply) pay attention to the unresponsiveness, but don't call him on it. Chiding him about not texting you won't make him more eager to text you. Give him a chance to contact you. You should also be minimising the time you spend on the phone and emailing so that, in order to talk to you as much as he wants, he actually has to spend time with you.

Try *not* spilling your guts right away. Keep it light at first and gradually reveal more as you go along. Don't misrepresent anything, but do gracefully gloss over your Issues until you've had time to get closer. The right guy will not be put off if you fail to show him a stool sample before the first date.

As for getting a life - the right guy will not be put off if you're not ready to go out on five minutes' notice but you are free on either Tuesday or Thursday this week. It will free him up to enjoy his underwater basket weaving league and fill his mind with enchanting thoughts of you.

I realise the expected standard is that you will approach him first to "grab" lunch somewhere (as if he sandwiches are thundering past like bulls at Pamplona), hit the sack on or before the first date, and exhaustively analyse you childhood issues over pad Thai. That anything less than following your impulses is a sign of that dread dysfunction "drama", and that healthy relationships are "boring". Well, I don't entirely agree with that. I think that anticipation is more seductive ("drama") and that the slight tension of not having the beloved's immediate and total availability is more romantic ("drama").

Come join the dark side. We have cookies.
posted by tel3path at 11:48 AM on June 15, 2011 [17 favorites]

I'd say to repeat it.

My reasoning:
Be true to thyself. In doing this you need to not hide your personality, and not change your nature to make yourself more in line with how others think you should be. Furthermore, you might have toned it down a bit now, but then just gotten annoyed as hell at him later for other things along the lines of not responding to a text for two days. You will eventually run into someone that is as excited about you as you are about them. My real suggestion is to find someone who is more of a lifelong friend than anything else.
posted by zombieApoc at 11:52 AM on June 15, 2011

You don't need to change anything. When you find the person who is most compatible to you, then it will just work. Be yourself and act the way you want to act.

e.g. My wife and I met one day and have never had a day apart--ever--since then and it's been over six years. This wouldn't work with many people, but it works with her/us, so I knew it was going to work out.
posted by TinWhistle at 12:05 PM on June 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

If it's the right person, there is NOTHING you can possibly do to scare them away.
posted by als129 at 12:24 PM on June 15, 2011 [2 favorites]

I'm a guy, and I am the clingy one. It wasn't terrible in one prior relationship, but looking back, I think it would have done me good to diversify my company. I ignored friends for my then-girlfriend.

And then I met my wife-to-be, and we clung (and still cling) to each-other. We click in practically every way. The past relationships didn't last for a reason.

But for future relationships, romantic and otherwise, you can talk to people about what you expect from texting. Find some way and time to ask the other person how often the reply to text messages, so you know what to expect, and tell them that you like to reply to all messages (or questions, or whatnot).
posted by filthy light thief at 12:50 PM on June 15, 2011

Things that I don't feel to be excessive apparently are. For instance, I get annoyed when I don't get responses to texts—I don't care if it happens immediately, but when I haven't heard anything for two full days, I get frustrated.

These things are matters of preference. There is no law. You are allowed to want to date people who will answer text questions in an amount of time you prefer. Now if you wanted an answer back in 5 minutes every time, well, you are limiting yourself to a small field. But if you ask a question requiring an answer, 2 days would be too long for me either. And I think there will be enough guys out there who will generally respond quicker than that so that the total pool of guys you will date will be big enough.

As for the rest of it, you know, some people seem really great and are really great, but are not for you. This isn't a thing where you are "good enough" or anything. Its a question of finding someone who you click with on the things you want to click with people on.
posted by Ironmouth at 1:09 PM on June 15, 2011 [2 favorites]

Your post doesn't specify very well exactly how much you contacted him or wanted to spend time. If you were only dating for a few weeks, then calling/texting every day wanting to hang out might put me off. I don't believe in playing hard to get, but the beginning of dating is kind of this dance where you find the medium of how often each person wants to communicate/get together, and then decide if that works for you or not. This means you might call the other person once, wait a few days, and call them again, but I personally wouldn't contact someone more than twice unless I'd heard back from them first. If they can't be bothered to get in touch for a whole week, then I (personally) would assume they were not that into me.

As for the texting - some people, like myself, just don't check their phone very often. I try to look at mine once a day, but I just don't use it very much, and it would definitely put me off if someone who wasn't even officially my SO was nagging me about checking my texts more.
posted by nakedmolerats at 1:13 PM on June 15, 2011

If you really want to trick men who are inclined to like icy, insincere bitch-types, by all means change your behavior.
But I submit that you're better off continuing to get out there until you find someone who likes, you know, you.
Try this: add Likes me to your list of criteria for potential mates. And keep looking.
posted by willpie at 1:20 PM on June 15, 2011 [4 favorites]

I like chocolate, yet despite the quiddity and undoubted sincerity of chocolate, I don't want to eat chocolate 24/7.
posted by tel3path at 1:46 PM on June 15, 2011 [2 favorites]

If it's the right person, there is NOTHING you can possibly do to scare them away.

Please don't believe this. Things aren't like the movies; everything isn't magic. When we are starting to get to know someone, we only have limited information. Stuff we think is endearing could be off-putting without context. My soon-to-wife and I didn't get along for several years after we first met. Either of us could have easily severed the kind-of-friends-but-only-because-of-circumstance we had forever and never had the chance to fall in love.
posted by spaltavian at 2:21 PM on June 15, 2011 [9 favorites]

IF your full-throttle personality means you need to be with him every waking moment, I think that's more throttle than full-throttle. IF your true self is clingy and anxious and you freak out if he goes to the john alone, you might want to re-calibrate that.
posted by Ideefixe at 2:33 PM on June 15, 2011

Awesome doesn't mean awesome for you. You need a certain amount & style of communication* in a relationship and this guy demonstrably didn't meet your needs. That doesn't mean you're inept at dating, you scared him away or that there's a single right way things work in the real world. It just means you were incompatible.

Only you know whether your level of enthusiasm comes from an unhealthy place of neediness or from new relationship joy. If the rest of your life is working, then trust that - for the right person - your excitement is all part of your charm.

Good luck!

(*I'd feel TOTALLY ignored if it took somebody two days to return my text, so I hear you.)
posted by Space Kitty at 3:38 PM on June 15, 2011 [2 favorites]

What tel3path and spaltavian said. Presenting yourself in the best light is done in all kinds of situations - job interviews, weddings, your facebook... any encounter involving other people in which you'll be making an impression. Don't you want to give yourself the best shot at getting to know a prospective partner? On dating for months rather than weeks if you guys have good vibes going? Don't let anyone tell you that first impressions aren't important. People come into and out of our lives all of the time. Some of them will want to stick around to see what you're about...

The truth about who you are always comes out - it's not like you'd be changing your values or moral compass or passions or your fundamental view of humanity by tweaking your dating techniques. People work on their appearances all the time to emphasize their best features, and smooth out the lumps and bumps by getting in shape. Shouldn't you work on cultivating your inner strength and confidence as well when it comes to dating? You can learn how to communicate more clearly your inner beauty in order to attract a man deserving of a woman as amazing as you are. You can't effect positive change in your life by resting on your laurels and expecting everything to fall into place.

If you sense that you have some growing to do, trust your gut. I'm guessing you wouldn't have asked this question if you thought you were totally fine in this arena. Your last relationship was with someone who didn't mind dropping everything to spend a ton of time with you in the beginning stages of your relationship. Why did you two break up? It's something to reflect upon. Just realize that a man who you're totally crazy about and insanely attracted to right away might not be the best guy for you. He might not be the right person for you, even though it feels so right while your head is fogged up with all those happy emotions and brain chemicals.

Your SO should bring out the best in you. My ex indulged my constant text messaging and desire to hang out all the time. By not saying no to me, or ever asking for space, he brought out my impulsiveness, my lack of self-control, and my tendency to depend emotionally on someone too soon--before they've earned my trust. He was cool with me giving up my own social life and not pursuing my passions outside of the relationship for that period of time we dated. If that doesn't sound familiar to you at all, you might not have an issue you need to seriously work on. Although if you're frustrated by a guy you've known for a few weeks not being available for a couple of days, you might want to figure out why that is.

Sure, you can just wait for the right person to come along. I'd be wary though of a man who would constantly cater to my whims right off the bat. If you feel you know yourself pretty well at this point in your life, then perhaps you want to be with a man who is comfortable with texting often, and wants you to set most of the boundaries. That's totally fine!

It can be pretty cool though to take things slowly and build anticipation. Revealing yourself gradually to a man can show him that you value yourself highly. You're not open to just any Joe Schmo having access to your private thoughts and spending time with you. You subtly communicate through an independent, chill, semi-reserved way of approaching a relationship that your happiness is not dependent on any man. You're showing the guy you won't give him more "credit" than he earns through his actions towards you. When you don't put a man on a pedestal, he'll realize that he must win your affection and earn your trust by treating you with respect over the course of your developing romance.

Once your actions reflect how awesome you feel you are, the right guy will feel lucky to be getting to know you, and wouldn't want to pass that up! More importantly, you'll free up mental space that you previously spent worrying about the relationship. As an experiment, you might want to try not texting (except when necessity dictates it) for the first months you're dating someone. It could help you to be a bit more relaxed about things.

There are many people who are right for you in this world. Be the type of person you wish to attract. Good luck!
posted by sunnychef88 at 4:40 PM on June 15, 2011 [6 favorites]

Just to let you know where I'm coming from: I would probably not be a good fit with tel3path or sunnychef88, because I find the kind of sales-pitch approach that they recommend to be completely repulsive. If somebody finds a need to stage little dramas in order to make it clear that I should treat them with respect, I experience that as disrespectful to me; I prefer to hang out with adults, who I generally define as people for whom an initial expectation of mutual respect is an unstated given.

With that out of the way: it's been my experience that electronics and emotional communication are a very poor fit. Especially in the early stages of a relationship where the people involved are still feeling out each other's boundaries, phone calls cause trouble, emails cause even more trouble, and text causes more trouble than both the others combined. I have made a point of completely ignoring Facebook so I have no direct experience of how badly that works; I'd expect it to come somewhere between emails and texts.

With phone calls, it's an attention thing. Phone calls cause trouble because they come with an inbuilt initial mismatch between the amount of attention the caller is paying to the called and vice versa. When you phone somebody, they are the first thing on your mind and you're all set to talk to them, but your call will generally be interrupting the attention they're paying to someone or something else; it takes a while to get in sync and that's a wide window of opportunity for emotional misunderstandings to arise.

Email simply doesn't convey emotion well. It falls into a kind of uncanny valley: emails are irritating if not brief and to the point, but the brevity of a good email doesn't allow for much emotional nuance.

Texts are the worst of all because (a) they interrupt attention every bit as much as phone calls do and (b) they convey emotion even less effectively than email. Countless relationships have crashed and burned on the rocks of SMS.

The absolute best form of communication in the early stages of a relationship is face to face. And when you can't do face to face, write letters.
posted by flabdablet at 5:52 PM on June 15, 2011 [4 favorites]

Echoing the folks who say that, based on the relatively little info that you gave us, this seems to be a case of incompatibility rather than you scaring him away. And I'm going to disagree with the folks who absolutely loathe texting. Deciding whether or not you want to text is a personal preference. I've become tremendously closer to men through text messages. It's how my best relationship truly developed, and it was only our good way of communicating because we were apart so often, and it worked just fine for us.

I dated a guy last fall who was not a regular communicator. He was happy with hanging out once a week (even after we were in a relationship) and would not respond to texts for two or three days at a time, if at all. That was his thing. That's what he felt comfortable with. It was NOT what I felt comfortable with. And I came to realize that it didn't mean that either of us were too demanding or were crazy, we just had very different needs for communication. The right guy for me likes my cute little daily texts. He wasn't the right guy.

So I think that based on what you've said here, this just wasn't the right guy for you. The right guy for you will - to an extent that is not overwhelming, i.e. camping out on his doorstep daily - love your daily texts.
posted by anotheraccount at 5:57 PM on June 15, 2011

For instance, I get annoyed when I don't get responses to texts—I don't care if it happens immediately, but when I haven't heard anything for two full days, I get frustrated.

What did you say in the texts? Personally, I hate having conversations over text message, in part because I my phone doesn't have a key board. If your text is "Want to get drinks some time in the next few days?" then that deserves a response, but if it's just "Hey, what's up?" then it could be seen as just a sign of interest, a rhetorical question.

You can avoid being in that situation again by telling people you're interested in that you're interested in them.
posted by cupcake1337 at 6:24 PM on June 15, 2011

I've worked really hard not to be clingy and creepy. I pretty much set rules for myself. The 'three day rule' thing is one. I met someone who I liked, and I texted her once to ask her to go to the movies. She said no and I backed off.
Of course, none of this actually works, and I'm not in a relationship. But I met someone who was really attractive and constant texts before we were even dating was a turn-off. And a warning sign.

It's not about hiding your personality. It's about not coming across as over-eager and preserving a little mystery.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 6:42 PM on June 15, 2011 [4 favorites]

flabdablet is correct.

P.S. The advice offered in the book is most valuable for how a woman should approach relationships initially. There's nothing fake about getting to know a guy gradually and revealing your awesome personality over time!

That's pretty much the definition of fake if that isn't in that person's nature. That just leads to three month crash and burn romances instead of three week ones. That sort of behavior results in the other side of the relationship writing an ask.me that goes "what is up with this girl? when we are together we have great chemistry, but she seems to shut down just when things are getting really interesting, and then i don't hear from her for a week" or "what is up with this girl? she seemed so collected and laid back at first, but now she is smothering me."

1- Do what is natural for you.

2- Don't obsess. Don't start planning what color to paint the bedroom of the house you'll buy after you get married and have a kid. That is a fun distraction, but letting it get out of hand puts a sort of cloud over your interactions. You start to thinking "don't screw up, don't mess up my plans" and the other person is thinking "wow, second dates are awesome".
posted by gjc at 6:55 PM on June 15, 2011

That's pretty much the definition of fake if that isn't in that person's nature.

If it's in your nature to be impulsive, clingy, chronically late, distractable, too trusting and to fixate on potential dating partners to the point of them dominating your thoughts, where does that leave you? There are those who blame everyone else for their own unhappiness, and those who believe that positive change starts from within. There is nothing "fake" about reflecting upon your actions, without beating yourself up, in order to identify self-destructive behavioral patterns. And then working on changing your bad habits. It sure as heck beats being 40 and single after a string of failed relationships, wondering why the same problems seem to crop up with men.

I don't pretend to know the OP personally, so it's impossible to tell her whether it's all good in the hood and Mr. Right just hasn't come along yet, or whether she is actively sabotaging herself. However, the OP is explicitly asking "how to not repeat the pattern." The OP knows herself better than any of us know her, so sounds as if she's recognizing that there's room for improvement.

You can "sell" yourself without being disingenuous or causing drama. The book WMLB is specifically targeted to those overly nice women like myself and possibly the OP who aren't naturally adept at setting boundaries. Bending over backwards to please someone you've just met is an invitation to be walked on. Continuing to text a man when he doesn't respond in a timely fashion is accepting poor treatment, which projects a lack of self-respect in any relationship. Even a nice adult male can take advantage of a woman who doesn't communicate through her actions that certain behaviors are unacceptable and disrespectful. Men aren't mind readers. Maintaining a healthy distance and leading a full life while getting to know someone can be done with compassion and mutual respect. Being a diva has nothing to do with it.

There are of course men who are fine with dating women who act clingy and require constant validation. If you want to be with a man who accepts that in a woman, go ahead and "be yourself" - text a lot and be available to hang out every day with your dating partner. If you want to get to know a man who is too busy or unwilling to pander to that neediness, then it'd be wise to be more independent when approaching that relationship.
posted by sunnychef88 at 8:54 PM on June 15, 2011 [6 favorites]

If it's in your nature to be impulsive, clingy, chronically late, distractable, too trusting and to fixate on potential dating partners to the point of them dominating your thoughts, where does that leave you?

This is serious, serious projection. There are no details in the post that make it reasonable to characterize the OP as "impulsive, clingy, chronically late, distractable, too trusting and [fixating] on potential dating partners to the point of them dominating your thoughts". Take a step back and reread the question.

FWIW, OP, I agree with flabdablet and gjc. Be yourself. Be honest about what interests you, what excites you, and what you like. You can be yourself and not play some sort of cool, disinterested character that isn't really you without automatically falling into annoying and unhelpful clinginess. It's possible to express interest and enthusiasm and "wow, I really like you and being with you!" while still maintaining your integrity and self-respect and autonomy.

My husband and I met on a Thursday night in Seattle. Sunday afternoon I flew home to Oakland to break up with the guy I was living with at the time and start a long-distance relationship with the now-husband. We had no time for games or hiding how we felt or anything like that. Fifteen years later and a week away from our thirteenth wedding anniversary, it seems to still be working for us.

If you have to pretend not to be interested in somebody to get them to be interested in you, don't waste your time! As my mother used to say, "You deserve somebody who makes your heart sing when you look at them. And you deserve to know that their heart sings when they look at you."
posted by Lexica at 9:30 PM on June 15, 2011 [2 favorites]

If you meet an older guy, please understand that over-30's didn't grow up with texting like you did. People like me absolutely hate it.

Call me, no problem. Texting is an imposition on me to drop everything I'm doing and respond to you. It's annoying and unnatural, IMO.
posted by bardic at 10:49 PM on June 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

But if you're around 25 - 30 or younger, texting is perfectly natural. Constant texts or pointless late at night texts are either intrusive or cute, depending on how I feel about the person.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 10:55 PM on June 15, 2011

Ask the people who are telling you you scared him off. But also bear in mind that (a) the guy didn't have the courtesy/guts/dedication to tell you himself (did you see that AskMe where someone got 80 texts in 3 days and was trying to kindly tell the woman to cut back?), (b) instead he told a bunch of other people, (c) he put the blame on you not himself, (d) those people believed him rather than defending you.

So I'm not saying that they definitely have no point. You might get some helpful advice. But their behavior here suggests they might not truly be your allies and maybe not even a compassionate, nonjudgmental, "well in fairness to her...", fair-minded type of third party.
posted by salvia at 11:48 PM on June 15, 2011

Heh. I just had to explain to somebody with whom I had exchanged two messages, a grand total of less than 75 words, why I'd been nonresponsive for two consecutive stretches of time. (first case: engineer out to fix my Internet connection, second case: funeral). He said he was sorry for my loss but some people are so rude and disappear, and what did that say about me... So glad he let his true nature shine through so quickly and didn't try to stage any repulsive "drama" to keep my interest or respect my feelings or space or anything like that.

Another guy (four messages) iMed me when I thought I had IM turned off (it keeps turning itself back on somehow). I was working so didn't answer. Five minutes later I got an email complaining I hadn't replied to his IM. Again, so nice of him to reveal his true nature so fast. He is welcome to hate me for my repulsive phony dramatic game-playing, and I am going to feel free to avoid guys who hassle me before the first date. Even though it's a sign he's into me, or if not me, someone. People only act this desperate when they are.

I'm not saying the OP is this way, just making a vote for being phony and dramatic and stagey enough to consider the effect you're having on others.
posted by tel3path at 12:18 AM on June 16, 2011 [4 favorites]

I think that you should only start worrying about being too clingy if you've developed a pattern of scaring awesome guys off. Once is probably him not being too into you, five (or whatever) is probably a hint that you should reevaluate your approach.
posted by Xany at 4:14 AM on June 16, 2011

Mid 20s guy here, and I wouldn't be scared off someone I was into by behaviour like that.
Don't change on his account.
posted by twirlypen at 6:10 PM on June 16, 2011

"You can be yourself and not play some sort of cool, disinterested character that isn't really you without automatically falling into annoying and unhelpful clinginess. It's possible to express interest and enthusiasm and "wow, I really like you and being with you!" while still maintaining your integrity and self-respect and autonomy."

Really true! But for some of us, it's next to impossible not to fall into overly anxious thought patterns that disturb our entire lives and take away our autonomy, integrity, and self-respect. If that is the case, change is necessary to have healthy relationships.

The OP's problems may not run that deep and it may just be a case of some guy that wasn't right for her. He may have just lost interest because he met someone else or maybe her communication style did just turn him off even though she behaved totally okay. We can't really know. But it also may be that she is questioning how she felt and behaved because she is uncomfortable with parts of it, and if that is the case, then she may do well to listen to some of sunnychef88's advice.

I don't think anyone is suggesting that the OP be a different person. That would be disgusting. I think what people are suggesting is that the OP be the best version herself, which I think we should all strive for. There is nothing wrong with changing behavior patterns when you have a SERIOUS problem with them. If the OP reflects on all of this and finds she has no problem, that's awesome.

If you have a codependency problem, getting rid of it, I feel, is really about becoming MORE OF YOURSELF. When you are codependent, you hardly even have your own identity because you are so enmeshed with whoever else is around. Pretty much, their feelings are your feelings. When you can set boundaries, lead your own life, and find a healthy way of relating that you are comfortable with, you actually gain your own identity. These books that help lessen codependency are positive things when you can take the central message of them and leave behind the unappetizing marketing or silly writing.

Of course, this is totally based on my own point of view and my own painful history with these things, and, again, this may totally not be the OP's problem at all. The OP should take what she feels is helpful and leave the rest, of course.

But what I hope she understands is that it hardly matters how this guy feels. If SHE was uncomfortable, that's where she should start. With her OWN feelings. And I get the sense that she was uncomfortable, otherwise why would she bother with this question?
posted by amodelcitizen at 6:16 PM on June 16, 2011 [4 favorites]

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