We need to talk, just not sure about what
August 19, 2011 9:38 AM   Subscribe

Is this a case of relationship failure to launch or am I just clueless about the pace of a normal relationship?

I've been dating a guy for about four months. We are both in our 30s. We've seen each other almost every weekend since our first date. Normally we spend a good 24 hours together. We have great sex and good conversations about things like literature and films. We've never exchanged a harsh word and I find our time together to be very pleasant. We communicate daily, but very casually, through text.

But normally, by this time in past relationships, things were serious. I've even moved in with people by the four-month point. Of course, these relationships didn't last, and I really want something that does. But we have not changed our behavior toward each other since the first date. I'm not sure how and I'm afraid that any bids I might make to move the relationship forward will be rejected because he's not forthcoming about his emotions and I can't gauge how he's feeling or know where I stand. I want to get over this because I don't think his personality will ever change and I'm probably going to have to be the one to bring up emotional things. I just don't see him ever doing it. However, I don't want to appear clingy or impose on him or be presumptuous. He's the type of person who needs solitude.

I keep wondering why certain things haven't progressed. For example, I have not been invited to meet or hang out with him and any of his friends yet, even other couples. We only hang out when it's just the two of us. I have not been invited to meet his parents and they have come to town twice. The frequency of us getting together has not increased. In fact, lately it has decreased because he went on a business trip recently and when he came back had to start a position with longer hours and more responsibility, and I in turn am trying to establish myself in a new career and am working a lot. We both juggle our work, friends, and me-time. We have never had an argument to work through, and neither of us has had a crisis, and if we did, I'm not sure we'd feel comfortable turning to the other for help. We don't have deep conversations about our feelings. He has never said anything about how he feels about me, even "I really like you." He's never called me his girlfriend. In general, he's not that verbal.

I feel like he and I are stuck in this casual dating rut. I want to exchange confidences and rely on each other for support, but he will never let me help him with anything and I feel like asking him for help would be an imposition, like if I got in a car accident or something, I'm not sure I'd feel comfortable calling him. I have been holding back and acting as reserved as he does for fear of scaring him off.

Lately I've been feeling more insecure about the relationship but I don't feel comfortable bringing it up. I keep wondering why he hasn't said anything like, "I know I'm busy now but I'm looking forward to seeing more of you when things calm down." When he went on his business trip, which was a few weeks ago, he was gone a week and only texted me once about something really trivial. When he got back, he was more affectionate, but then the job change came along and he's been less so. We also both had relatives come and visit and our time together was pre-empted.

I don't want to rush or overwhelm him, but I just want to feel closer, and I want him to think of me when he needs someone to rely on, and vice versa. We're not integral to each other's lives right now, and I want to start working toward that without having a conversation that I fear would be awkward for both of us. I would like to build closeness in a way a nonverbal person would feel comfortable with. And he seems like he just wants things to be light and fun between us, and that I am a compartmentalized part of his life. But I don't want to "just date" forever. It makes me feel insecure about whether he really likes me. I end up worrying about whether I will hear from him every day, or whether we'll get together on a weekend, or whether he has met someone else.

So is this normal at this stage and could it still progress, or is it stalled? Am I just beanplating into oblivion or is this a personality clash that I should break up with him for?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (21 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
 
I don't think it's stalled, necessarily, I think you're exactly the relationship he wants. It seems like a "friends with benefits" situation from the outside, especially if you don't, after four months together, feel comfortable talking about your feelings to him.
posted by xingcat at 9:44 AM on August 19, 2011 [5 favorites]


neither of us has had a crisis, and if we did, I'm not sure we'd feel comfortable turning to the other for help

This really stood out for me. You're not in a relationship with this person, you're just having some friends with benefits without the friendship thing. It doesn't sound like he's interested in the kind of relationship you're interested in.
posted by crankylex at 9:50 AM on August 19, 2011


I keep wondering why he hasn't said anything like...

Stop wondering and ask. Something like, "Let's talk about moving this to the next level." If he doesn't want to, fine. Then you can figure out if you're happy with your FWB relationship, or if you want to move on.
posted by coolguymichael at 9:53 AM on August 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


My first suggestion was going to be for you to take the lead, invite him to meet YOUR friends, and YOUR parents, and see how he reacts, and if he follows and does the same.

But something tells me you've either already tried that, or that you don't feel it's right to do it - something's holding you back from forging ahead yourself.

Now that could be your own insecurity, or a perfectly normal perception that people do move at different paces. I've been with my honey for three years, and after four months I think I was only just ready for him to properly hang out with my friends. Folks do differ a lot with this.

But I think what sounds more likely is what xingcat has said - he's just looking for something different than what you are. He seems quite happy to coast along in this way; you're not. You could confront him about this, try and discuss it, but my thinking is that it might be time to accept this relationship for what it is - fun while it lasts - and start looking for something deeper.
posted by greenish at 9:53 AM on August 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I think this is on you too. And instead of this: Something like, "Let's talk about moving this to the next level" why not invite him to the specific kind of things you want to do? That'll give you clarity. Having a dinner with some pals? Invite him!

But also yeah: I've had these relationships. I had one of them for like 16 months once! Then I was like "what am I doing? This isn't what I was going for." (They can be quite nice though in other ways.)
posted by RJ Reynolds at 9:56 AM on August 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


In my experience, whenever I don't get introduced to my friends' boyfriends/girlfriends after months, it means that they aren't actually serious about them. That doesn't necessarily mean that's what's going on here, but the only way you're going to know (and have a mature, healthy relationship with this person) is to ask him.

You're risking not seeing him anymore if the discussion puts him off, but if he's not interested in becoming more serious about you, you don't want to be in the relationship right? The other possibility is that he is interested, but is unable to communicate in a mature way about the relationship and that's probably not what you want either. So having a discussion about it is win/win for you really.
posted by Kimberly at 9:59 AM on August 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think you need to be honest with yourself about what you want from a partner - sounds like you want someone who is more open with their emotions, that you don't have to guess what's going on.

Instead, you write:
he's not forthcoming about his emotions and I can't gauge how he's feeling or know where I stand. I want to get over this because I don't think his personality will ever change and I'm probably going to have to be the one to bring up emotional things. I just don't see him ever doing it. However, I don't want to appear clingy or impose on him or be presumptuous. He's the type of person who needs solitude.

Do not try to "get over" something you need in a relationship. Trying to ignore the fact that this may not be the relationship you truly want, just because it is the relationship you currently have, will only lead to unhappiness in the long run.

The only thing you can do to change things is to talk to him and see how he responds.
posted by canine epigram at 10:02 AM on August 19, 2011 [12 favorites]


Instead of just waiting for him to change, have you tried talking to him about this?
posted by John Cohen at 10:03 AM on August 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think the fact that he's never told you he really likes you or called you his girlfriend is really telling. I get that some guys aren't into that, but taken as a whole, with this as the cherry on top, I'm thinking "failure to launch" is about right & agree with the friends-with-benefits crowd. He isn't trying to incorporate you into his life. It's more like you're a relaxing getaway. When the plug is finally pulled, he'll be able to tell you truthfully that he never led you on about being your girlfriend or being in love with you.
posted by Ys at 10:04 AM on August 19, 2011 [6 favorites]


This is an interesting situation and it could really mean a couple of different things. On the one hand, it's possible that this guy just isn't all that interested in a committed relationship. His lack of communication could be interpreted as disinterest in anything beyond casual. BUT....not necessarily. On the flip side he may simply be waiting for you to "pop the question". By this I mean that he might not be saying anything about having a more serious relationship because he feels like this is something you'll say when you're ready. For many guys dating is totally casual, until...the girl says otherwise. It's just the way many guys are. As for not showing his emotions...he sounds like any other normal manly guy. In terms of meeting the family, some people take longer then others before they're ready to introduce an SO to the family. Although, I would say that if he hasn't taken you out to at least meet some of his friends, that could be a red flag. But if he's the loner type maybe he doesn't have many friends.

All this being said, if you're interested in a more serious relationship with this guy then it's up to you to bring it up in conversation. Don't be afraid to come off as being too needy or moving too fast. You're not asking him for marriage, you're asking him to be in a committed relationship. Just be nice about it, not pushy. Also tell him you'd love for him to meet your friends and family as well as meet his friends and family. 4 months is a long enough time to "date" before moving into a more serious relationship. If he's interested he'll respond well to the conversation. If he's not interested he'll let you know either verbally or in his actions...meaning if he totally stops calling and wanting to see you, something is up. I hope this helps. Good luck!
posted by ljs30 at 10:06 AM on August 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


neither of us has had a crisis, and if we did, I'm not sure we'd feel comfortable turning to the other for help

FWIW this indicated to me that while you are romantic partners, you are not friends. Personally, I do not get enmeshed in romantic relationships with people I'm not also friends or actively making friends with. So that feels weird to me but YMMV.

Unlike a couple of previous posters, though, I am not going to suggest you just move on. You said he's not very verbal. But you also seem to be assuming that the reason he hasn't said "I really like you" is because he doesn't. Those two things do not compute.

I would just be very honest with him. If you're prepared to walk - and it sounds like you are - there is no reason not to lay all of your cards out on the table. Tell him that while you enjoy being with him, you don't feel like this has really moved from just dating to being a relationship, and that's really what you want. If he doesn't, that's OK, but he needs to let you know where he is and where he sees this going, if anywhere.

In other words, be fair - give him a chance to meet your needs after you have very clearly expressed them. If he can't, fine, but after four months it seems like you must like him enough to at least see if it can work out.
posted by DarlingBri at 10:08 AM on August 19, 2011 [6 favorites]


Never met his friends and you wouldn't call on him for help and he doesn't call you his girlfriend or even say he looks forward to seeing you? I have had friends-with-benefits who gave me more consideration than that.

Maybe it doesn't mean anything, but I find it sort of telling that you say you have GREAT sex and GOOD conversations...
posted by showbiz_liz at 10:27 AM on August 19, 2011 [4 favorites]


I did this for 2 years. YEARS. The final straw was on two year unacknowledged anniversary- I basically said 'this is never going to change, right?'. And instead iof accepting the usual cagey answers, I finallyhad him admit (and admitted to myself) that there never really was a relationship other than 'hanging out' on the weekends. Everyone is going to tell you the same Maya Angelou advice 'when someone shows you who they are, believe them'. If you're fine with this relationship, great. If you expect it to 'evolve' into something else, I would say that's very unlikely. I wish I cut my losses after 4 months.
posted by bquarters at 10:37 AM on August 19, 2011 [3 favorites]


I was in a relationship like this for five years. We moved in together. He thought we should be getting married even though he never actually asked me. I think it was just the abstract notion that you eventually get married that motivated him there, not any special desire to be with me. He'd vaguely attempted to get married to his previous 2 girlfriends, too (getting the ring, but not actually asking her to marry him, or in the other case, getting the ring, waiting until she asked when he was planning on proposing and then never wanting to set a wedding date). We never discussed our feelings with each other, but I thought that was okay since he was so smart and I am pretty emotionally reticent. Still, I couldn't consider marrying someone that I had absolutely no emotional rapport with. I did not feel that I could rely on him if things got bad. We had great conversations about everything except our dead-end relationship. In the end, he broke up with me in a very childish fashion and told me it was because I never told him I loved him. (That part was true. It always seemed wrong to me to consider saying those words to him.)

The lesson I learned was that he was likely expecting me to do all the emotional heavy lifting in the relationship, and I was not suited to that. I wish I had realized sooner that there are desirable qualities in a mate beyond intellect. In retrospect, I was deeply unhappy and I regret having spent so much time in that rut, justifying it with the notion that he was more interested in ideas than emotions.

But, even if I had been the one to shove him into admitting his feelings for me, that wouldn't have made the relationship work. It makes such a huge difference to have someone who is not just enthusiastic about being with you in the moment, but excited to make a life with you in the future.

Rip off the band-aid now.
posted by Kitty Stardust at 10:50 AM on August 19, 2011 [11 favorites]


i'm sorry but reading your post made me cringe. this guy sounds like he doesn't care about you. maybe enough to have sex when its convenient for him. I'd break up with him immediately and move on. the time you invest stressing about this emotionally unavailable man should now be channeled into finding someone else. if he's nope open to talking about feelings, than its time to move on. it sounds like you wouldn't even have to have a break up conversation with him.
posted by dmbfan93 at 11:46 AM on August 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


What?

Hell this sounds like you just skipped the intermediate 10 years and are married, except that you are not yelling and are still having sex.

(Just kidding.) You've been FWB-zoned. Why change it if you are he?
posted by FauxScot at 11:54 AM on August 19, 2011


I'm pretty sure this has been posted to the blue before, but this situation reminds me of Baggage Reclaim. I think dmbfan93 just hit the nail on the head with "emotionally unavailable."
posted by fiercecupcake at 12:19 PM on August 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


I don't think you are in a position to just give up and move on especially since you haven't communicated with him about your needs. You might as well try that before you leave the relationship. It doesn't even have to be that hard. When he talks about his friends or things he has done with friends, why don't you pipe up and say, "That sounds like someone I'd like to meet" or "he would get along well my friends x, y, z. We really should plan a big group outing. Those would be easy ways of talking about opening up more of each other's lives. If he is standoffish or non-committal then I can see bolting but after just four months of adult life, I think you should at least try before jetting.
posted by mmascolino at 12:54 PM on August 19, 2011


I'm with dmbfan93 and fiercecupcake that this reads as emotionally unavailable to me. I went through a similar situation with a guy (twice, ugh), though it only went for two months or so each time. The first time nothing ever progressed - or when it did, things went backwards. I was completely mystified, until I tried bringing it up to him and his behavior regressed even further. He finally admitted to me that he simply was not ready for a relationship, no matter how much he tried. Second time was the same thing, though it got better for awhile and he actually had the brains not to lead me on again.

In my experience, when things are stalled, it's not because there's a simple solution or you haven't discussed it - it's because things aren't working. There's some sort of incompatibility there that is probably not able to be resolved. It's up to you if you want to bring it up with him and see if things change, but I think this might be how things are going to be for good: a FWB relationship on the weekends.
posted by anotheraccount at 1:47 PM on August 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


I agree with mmascolino. A lot seems unknown. You write about what he has not initiated, and about your fears of scaring him off, but you write almost nothing about what you've tried. (Maybe that wasn't worth describing?) Without that, I don't know enough to write him off yet. Reading your question made me feel a little like you were disempowering yourself by waiting for him to take the initiative, so I think it'd be worth it for you to worry less about what he wants and be more active about what you want.

It sounds like you want to start taking action, and I think you're right to try. Asking for what you need has little downside, and leaving now seems preemptive. He may be open to doing more of what you want and need, while not being naturally driven to make that happen himself, or while suffering from the same kind of fears that you are.

So. Appendix A below lists your expressed needs, by theme. Your needs are all completely reasonable. You might simply start suggesting ideas from your list. "Hey, want to hang out on Wednesday this week?" "Hey, I've never heard much about how you feel about X." "Would you like to come to this party that my friend is throwing?" "I have to clean out the fish tank this weekend -- want to help?" (If he's non-verbal, getting him to help you might be an easy way to feel closer.)

Appendix B contains the fears you expressed. There's a fear of scaring him off, which might be your instincts telling you something real, particularly since your past relationships have been closer. But some might be your own stuff: did you grow up in Guess culture where people who ask for things are Needy, Clingy, Imposing, and Just Plain Bad? If so, it might be worth starting to work to get past this idea. I feel like you're afraid of falling into this negative imaginary boogeyman stereotype and being rejected for it. You might give yourself more credit for being able to find the happy middle ground where you ask for what you need in appropriate ways. Everyone has needs, and being straightforward about what they are is the most responsible way to deal with them. (For one thing, saying "let's do ___" keeps prevents the natural escalation to "OMG why aren't we doing ___? Are we doomed as a couple?"). On the other hand, if you have a great history of asking for your own needs, but happen to know he will perceive requests as clingy and imposing, then yeah, dtmfa and gtfo.

The fact that he himself is reserved does not necessarily mean that he would reject your requests for closeness. Sometimes opposites attract. He may like you because he senses your warmth and interest in emotional connection. He may have been taught to be reserved himself but to help others, react to their emotions, and wait for them to invite him in. In short, he may be waiting for you. Either way, being rejected isn't that bad. This anxiety you're in is probably worse.

I do agree that if he isn't verbal, a conversation might be harder for him, but what the hell, you'd have to learn eventually to deepen the relationship, right? I'd focus on what you want and what you fear, not on why he hasn't done X. I'd keep your portion fairly short and gentle, and be as specific as possible, then I'd end it with a clear question or request. I think you'd do well, as you express yourself well here and show plenty of concern for him.

---
Appendix A. Here are the needs you expressed: spending time together (for the frequency of getting together to increase over time, to know that he looks forward to seeing more of you when things calm down), emotional conversations (to have deep conversations about your feelings, to exchange confidences, to feel closer), security (to hear how he feels about you, to be called his girlfriend, to not feel insecure about whether he really likes you, not to worry about whether you will hear from him or whether you'll get together on a weekend or whether he has met someone else), mutual help and reliance (to feel comfortable turning to the other for help, to rely on each other for support, to know that asking for help would not be an imposition, for him to think of you when he needs someone to rely on and vice versa -- this is a big one; it appeared in several different places), social integration (to be invited to meet or hang out with him and any of his friends, to be invited to meet his parents), and a sense of progress or trajectory (to start working toward being integral to each other's lives, not to "just date" forever).

Appendix B. Here are the fears you expressed: "I'm afraid that any bids I might make to move the relationship forward will be rejected because he's not forthcoming about his emotions and I can't gauge how he's feeling or know where I stand; I don't want to appear clingy or impose on him or be presumptuous; I feel like asking him for help would be an imposition; I have been holding back and acting as reserved as he does for fear of scaring him off; I've been feeling more insecure about the relationship; but I don't feel comfortable bringing it up. I keep wondering why he hasn't; I don't want to rush or overwhelm him; having a conversation that I fear would be awkward for both of us; that I am a compartmentalized part of his life; insecure about whether he really likes me."

The themes and/or underlying thought patterns here might include: 1) the idea that if he himself hasn't initiated something, he definitely doesn't want it himself, and therefore you're bound to be rejected 2) being afraid of appearing clingy or imposing and thereby 3) overwhelming him or scaring him off. As mentioned above, just because he's not asking for something doesn't mean he doesn't want it or wouldn't be open to trying it.

posted by salvia at 8:07 PM on August 19, 2011 [5 favorites]


The problem with figuring out relationships is that every one will be different because every person is different. This could simply be a case where you need to talk directly to him about where the relationship is and where you want it to go, and find out if he's on the same page.

Nobody enjoys taking the risk of having "the relationship talk" but without it, how can you know what his thoughts on the matter are? He might just be happy to have you when he wants you, including sex when he wants it. And maybe that's all he wants. Maybe, for him, that's enough.

...or, maybe, he wants more and is nervous about these things too.

Don't tiptoe around the conversation, as that just enables him to avoid it if he wants to. Sit down. Have the talk. Find out where you stand.
posted by 2oh1 at 11:48 AM on August 20, 2011


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