All I ask is an email, damn it!
April 19, 2012 5:11 PM   Subscribe

For those of you who don't contact your SO every day - and for those of you who got used to a SO who goes radio silent: Help! I'd love some perspective.

I've been dating a guy for two months now who seems very into me when we're together but just doesn't contact me so much when we're apart. We go a day and a half with no contact sometimes. (Those of you who think, "What?!? What's the problem?" when you read that - I want to hear from you!) We see each other every five days or so (usually together for a couple of days straight), but almost no weekday hanging out. If I text, he texts back, but sometimes he just doesn't answer my emails.

Apart from this, he's great. I have a fun time with him. I've met his sisters, friends, parents. But for some reason, no matter how hard I try, I can't squash my discomfort over the incommunicado periods. I've mentioned it to him (maybe not very articulately but I've mentioned it twice now) and he seems to hear me but I'm getting the feeling it's just the way he rolls and I can't expect him to change. (Ha. Surprise!)

So, I'm figuring out if I can live with it. I WANT to be able to live with it, but the periods of silence make me feel unliked, and uncertain of his feelings. I know that's irrational (I mean, 24-36 hours! I go that long without talking to my bestie!). But nobody else I know (and nobody I've dated) operates the way he does. This is a bewildering first for me.

I'm hoping maybe the awesome people of AskMeFi who've encountered this (or who ARE this way) can help me understand an alternate reasoning to his behavior than "He's just not into you," which I admit is ringing through my brain though it makes no sense in any other aspect of his behavior.

Possibly relevant details - we're long out of college, and I have tons going on in my life: this insecurity isn't a product of me forgoing all my hobbies and friends, I promise!
posted by mylittlepoppet to Human Relations (50 answers total) 27 users marked this as a favorite
I'm not really sure I understand your question. Going 36 hours without talking to someone is the same as going 12 hours without talking to them, except you do it three times in a row and probably sleep during some of it. There's nothing magical that happens after 12 or 24 or 36 hours where the other person forgets about you or stops liking you. If you have fun together and he's integrating you into his social life, that's a sign that he likes you. However, you need to decide whether this is something you can live with. Because he knows how you feel about it, and he's not changing, so it's likely that it will always be this way with him. If it's going to make you crazy forever, it may be a sign that this just isn't the right relationship for the two of you.
posted by decathecting at 5:14 PM on April 19, 2012 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: Perhaps giving a precise timeframe was a bad call. Let me reframe it: "If your SO does not contact you as often as you like, how did you come to grips with this?" Or, "If you do not feel the need to speak to the person you're dating on a daily basis, does this or does this not reflect your level of interest?"

Or maybe the question is just stupid, and further proof of my temporary insanity. Actually, that seems entirely possible. ~Sigh.~
posted by mylittlepoppet at 5:19 PM on April 19, 2012

You're not stupid or insane. You just want a certain thing from your relationship, and the person you're dating doesn't want the same thing. It could reflect his level of interest, but given the information you've presented, I would say that it most likely does not reflect his level of interest as much as it reflects his communication style and personality.

So the options are: 1) you change to need less communication in order to feel secure, 2) he changes to give you communication even when he doesn't always want to, 3) it continues to be an issue that drives you both crazy, or 4) you break up. It sounds as though he's rejected 2, and I think you should reject 3 to avoid making everyone miserable. So your choice is between 1 and 4, and you need to figure out whether 1 is possible for you.
posted by decathecting at 5:26 PM on April 19, 2012 [6 favorites]

When I'm travelling, and when we were in a long-distance relationship, we frequently go/went a few days without talking. I'm one of those people who are all, "huh? what's the problem?". But the key is that we are BOTH like that, so it doesn't bug either of us. It sounds like you need someone who feels the same way about contact as you do.
posted by lollusc at 5:27 PM on April 19, 2012

If you do not feel the need to speak to the person you're dating on a daily basis, does this or does this not reflect your level of interest?

I don't feel this need. I am very interested in the person I am dating.
posted by grouse at 5:29 PM on April 19, 2012 [8 favorites]

So you're seeing someone for two months, every five days or so? So, at best, you've seen him 10 to 15 or so times? I don't think there's anything out of the ordinary in you contact each other every couple of days or so.

But really, this is the kind of thing that if you feel uncomfortable about, you just need to talk to him about it. If I were him, I'd have no inkling that talking to someone I had been out with 10-15 times (or two months, however you want to measure it) that talking every few days was causing my new friend concern. So... tell him!
posted by modernnomad at 5:32 PM on April 19, 2012

I'm this kind of person. Here's my take on it:

The good: "I trust you, I assume you trust me, we're both adults with independent lives. One of us will call the other and we'll have a great time."
If your beau reaches out to you roughly as often as you reach out to him, you're golden if you can accept it.

The bad: "I'm up to my eyeballs right now. Things are slipping through the cracks left and right and unfortunately you're one of those things. I swear it wasn't intentional, and I'll make it up to you as soon as I can."
You're good if this is a once-in-a-while thing AND he he comes through on making it up to you.

The ugly: "Eh. I really can't be bothered."
If you're doing all the reaching out, yeah, this probably isn't going to change any time soon.

Back when I was young and infatuation was a BURNING THING I might call every day. That pretty much mellowed as I grew older and, I suspect, my hormones settled down a bit.
posted by lekvar at 5:33 PM on April 19, 2012 [2 favorites]

He's into you, he introduced you to so many important people in his life. He just has a different communication style than you. This is a reflection of his personality rather than how much he likes/dislikes you.

I deal with this myself by giving the person space, but checking in on them once on a while.

You can try to contact them a few times a week before seeing each other. You can send him a text message on your way home after the weekend. But, realize that a lack of response doesn't mean he doesn't care for you. He probably appreciated the text message but wants his privacy and alone time.

Nothing wrong with that just as long as you are getting what you want from the relationship too.
posted by livinglearning at 5:35 PM on April 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

My girlfriend is currently tied up with a whole lot of life stuff. It was all anticipated and she warned me ahead of time that we might not be able to hang out as much as we have been. I told her that I completely understood and that I would appreciate short "hey, miss you!" texts so we can avoid the whole radio silence thing.

The key here is communication. We were both upfront about what we want / need and we are better off because of it. Those short texts are enough for me and my girlfriend is more than willing to accomodate that. There's nothing necessarily wrong with wanting daily contact with your partner. Check in with them to see what they want.
posted by Diskeater at 5:36 PM on April 19, 2012

Those of you who think, "What?!? What's the problem?" when you read that - I want to hear from you!

As one of these people, I'm just not a phone-talker. At all. Even with my parents who I love so very, very much. We talk maybe 10 minutes once a week (although they're the same way, so it works out fine). I talk to my friends maybe once a month if they live far away...if that. (Luckily, they know and love me anyhow.)

For me, two months of dating doesn't seem suuuuuper-long; I would probably text someone I'd been seeing this long every other day or so, maybe post something to their Facebook or Twitter, and chat every 4-7 days. I think the big thing for me at least (so grain of salt) is that I only feel like talking if I think I have something super interesting to say. While I am happy to listen to my friends natter on about whatever they want to talk about, I'm not going to reach out to do the same; I'm going to wait until I have something substantial to report.
posted by smirkette at 5:36 PM on April 19, 2012 [3 favorites]

I’m frequently separated from my wife and we don’t talk everyday. I used to only call her every few days until she let me know she was feeling disconnected (started acting crazy). Now I usually call once a day or two, but it’s usually a one minute "what are doing, nothing, talk to you later" call, maybe 10 minutes a week in total, and she usually acts like "why are you calling me so much?". Ah, marriage.

I know other married couples who are the opposite, it’s almost impossible to have a conversation with one of my friends when he’s in town because his wife calls him every 20 minutes for a 10 minute conversation from across the country. This doesn’t seem to bother him at all. Everyone is different. I don’t think it at all has anything to do with love or interest level.

You're dating, not even engaged much less married, I don’t think that level of communication sounds weird at all. You might have an incompatibility in this area, you just have to decide how important it is. There are compromises that can be made, but demanding that someone change what their comfortable with to soothe your irrational fears or OCD is not usually going to work out. I don’t mean that as an insult at all, I’m saying that’s how it can come across to the other party.
posted by bongo_x at 5:39 PM on April 19, 2012 [2 favorites]

My husband was like this when we first started dating. It drove me wild. He's a uni-tasker and has the good fortune to be able to concentrate on what he's doing for long stretches of time. This means that a couple of days could pass without contact simply because he was absorbed in work. He also didn't like to talk if he wasn't feeling tip-top, being unwilling to have a conversation in which he be grousing about work or tired.

The upside to this kind of personality is that when he was with me, he was totally focused on me--turned off his phone and email, etc. for 24-48 hours.

I squashed my urge to say "hey, I need more contact than this," because I thought, I can't make someone want to talk to me more frequently. This gradually changed as our relationship progressed (around the six-month mark)and we became more enmeshed in each other's daily lives. Now we spend every freaking minute together.
posted by Ollie at 5:41 PM on April 19, 2012 [5 favorites]

I'm an infrequent communicator. It's a combination of 1) being independent and just not thinking to check in because I'm absorbed with xyz and 2) not wanting to waste the other person's time with random boring clutter that might make them tired of hearing from me. So I save up and only contact if I have something reasonably interesting.

Maybe he's just trying to spare you what he considers boring humdrum details beneath your interest.
posted by griselda at 5:42 PM on April 19, 2012 [5 favorites]

I think I *am* you, so I'm not certain how helpful this will be, but over my last few relationships I've had to accept that I need a certain level of that kind of attention. I dated someone for a couple of years who would go incommunicado for several days at a time, both early on and later in the relationship.

While I eventually came to the point where I expected it, I ultimately realized that I couldn't handle it. I found myself wanting someone who was going to communicate both when he wanted to and when I wanted to. Give and take, etc.
posted by myohmy at 5:51 PM on April 19, 2012

Where I was going is that he's unlikely to change this, so it's really a question of whether you are able to adapt to his communication style. If not, you're not the only one.
posted by myohmy at 5:52 PM on April 19, 2012

For what it's worth, I'd only contact someone every 36-48 hours if I were really really into them. That would be an intense level of communication for me.

If he's initiating communication reliably and being solid about plans, I'd relax. If you're doing all the work to make contact, I'd back off a bit and let him take the initiative to contact you at least part of the time. Otherwise you may accidently train him to think that communication initiation is your domain, and thus not bother with his end. As the relationship progresses he will learn more about you (your comfort level and interests), and you may get more pings from him that are targeted in nature. He may not send you a half dozen random funny jokes, but a single specific funny joke about your favorite animal, for instance, because it's more special to you.
posted by griselda at 6:05 PM on April 19, 2012

If I text, he texts back, but sometimes he just doesn't answer my emails.

I think texting is the way to go here if you want increased frequency of contact and he's not inclined toward lengthier calls/emails at this stage. I would tell him explicitly that it would make you really happy if he'd send you some quick texts during the week, just to say "hi" or "Looking forward to Friday" or "beautiful day, isn't it?", just a quick call-and-response, not as a prelude to a long text-based exchange.

Two months in, I'd imagine he'd be excited to know that something so simple would make someone he's interested in really happy... as long as you really mean it that you just want a him-initiated blip in of the radio silence, you don't actually care what the content is.

(Personally, I think that not answering your emails is kind of rude, and I'd be worried that it signals a lack of awareness or consideration of your feelings. That's different than whether he's interested in you, which seems to be what you're looking for evidence of. He could definitely be interested in you, and you may be able to find more of compromise with regard to communication frequency, but that doesn't mean he's a great partner for you. You know?)
posted by argonauta at 6:06 PM on April 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

Have you actually said "I would like to talk, text, or email with you every day, because that's what I like to do when I'm dating somebody? How do you feel about that?" or similar?

Mr. Sidhedevil and I had a bit of a bumpy time of this in the first couple of years of our courtship and marriage (particularly because I traveled a lot on business in those days). He eventually said "I would like to talk with you on the phone every day unless it is absolutely impracticable" and we have pretty much talked on the phone every day we've been apart since then, except when I was in Easter Island or somewhere else that the phone service was ridiculously expensive.

I didn't forget to call him for days on end because I had "lost interest" or anything; I was just wrapped up in whatever I was doing. Perhaps your guy is the same.
posted by Sidhedevil at 6:06 PM on April 19, 2012 [4 favorites]

Even now, I rarely respond to my husband's emails when we're apart, because I am not so much with the email. Apparently (via bellow from the other room) that's okay but he's not crazy about it.
posted by Sidhedevil at 6:08 PM on April 19, 2012 [2 favorites]

Well, I don't feel the need to talk every single day, mostly because my days are duller than shit (went to work, nothing happened, went to gym, went home, watched TV) and I don't feel the burning need to chat with someone when I have nothing to offer or say that's any new from the last time I talked to them. That may be why he's not talking. Also, some folks are just not into "just to say hi" calls. But I'm like this about phone calls, not everything else. He probably hasn't stopped liking you in 2 days, he just had nothing to say to keep you interested!

But optimally speaking, if this really bothers you, you probably need to be with someone who needs more frequent contact. Otherwise you're settling and feeling unhappy and rejected all the time, even if he doesn't mean for you to feel that way. Or you get to demand that he make more "just to say hi" calls, I don't know how well that will go over.

(I say this having spent the last decade and a half in constant negotiation over "how many phone calls a week" with my mother, who really really really really needs more contact or she goes crazy. She's not totally happy because I don't call daily, I'm not thrilled with calling twice a week when half of those calls is me having no news at all to say, but that's what we've negotiated over the years.)
posted by jenfullmoon at 6:08 PM on April 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'm also like "what's the problem?", though of course I could muster empathy based on periods when I've wanted more contact. I do live with my SO and hence see him a lot more often, but this is still what it's like when one of us goes out of town. So if you want to hear what it feels like not to care, it's just like "he's over there, I'm over here, and I'm sure we'll catch up soon." Or like, "I'll call him when things slow up enough over here." So my "reasoning" such as it is, is like "huh, I guess it HAS been a little while" or "I'm sure we'll catch up soon." I'm often either absorbed by work or the family I'm visiting.

I have had SOs where we talked a lot more, but I got used to this and am not bothered by it, maybe because I just don't question that he's there (in a deeper sense than just "he exists" -- "he'd be there for me," maybe) nor that he'd be equally interested in talking to me whenever I feel like calling him. Have you tried just calling this dude whenever you feel like talking to him? Do you know he's not willing to adjust your direction on this?

I did come into this relationship with an expectation more like yours, so you may just naturally get used to it. One question to consider might be "does this bug you because (a) you want conversation, or (b) because you think it means he's not into you?" I would've thought it'd be fairly easy to get over (b) but harder to get over (a). But I personally would've answered (a), and still, it stopped bothering me as our relationship got more solid.
posted by salvia at 6:11 PM on April 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

Two months of dating is not very long. Sometimes people (especially those who've been single for a while) need to ease into the 'constant contact' thing with the person they are dating. It can feel suffocating. Give him time to adjust to the idea of being accountable to you on a daily basis. (I personally think that two months is way too soon to feel accountable to someone on a daily basis, but that could just be me.)
posted by Kololo at 6:12 PM on April 19, 2012 [3 favorites]

help me understand an alternate reasoning to his behavior than "He's just not into you"

I think I've established that I'm embarrassingly schmoopy crazy in love with my husband even after our bajillion years of marriage, so maybe your guy is just a weird person like me who doesn't really like to talk on the phone or send email unless he has something particular to say because he is lost in his thoughts.*

You know how you can find out? Asking.

*For your sake, I hope the thoughts your guy is lost in are not as stupid as the thoughts I have been lost in lately, like pondering whether I know enough actors and have access to enough 18th century court dresses to make a short film of Ye Chevalier d'Eon's Dragge Race.
posted by Sidhedevil at 6:18 PM on April 19, 2012

Know specifically what you want and go after it.

Does it bother you that he doesn't initiate communication or that you don't talk every day? If it's only the latter, just take matters into your own hands and call him. Being in touch is important to you, so make the effort to be in touch. not everything in a relationship has to be split 50 50.

If you want him to initiate, make it easier for him to know when. "hit me up when you get home?" "call me after work tomorrow?" or say what you want out of the conversation. Sometimes people need a paint-by-numbers road to success.

Both things have worked for me. Also, when I found myself wanting to be in touch for no particular reason (as in, if I called I wouldn't have anything to report, or anything to ask), I fill the time by doing something worth talking about. It can be as simple as web research on something interesting, but it fills time and gives me a compelling excuse to call if I still need to after an hour.

Of course, if the truth turns out to be him needing quiet from you for a few days, it may just be a poor match.
posted by itesser at 6:21 PM on April 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

Perhaps consider adjusting your communication methods? I've been dating my SO for five months and, by now, we talk nearly every day. But the vast majority of our between-hanging-out communication is gchat and email. There are days when we don't talk, though, and it's pretty common for our daily communication to be very brief.

Also, a lot of those communications are initiated by something like 'hey, I read this article I thought you'd like,' or 'hey, what did so-and-so think of such-and-such?' My SO doesn't really just message or email me to see how I'm doing - I'm probably doing more or less the same I was when I last saw her. If something happened, I'd tell her. All of this applies to my daily communication with her, too.

Another thing: I could probably count on one hand the number of full-on phone conversations we've had. I do not like talking on the phone, and told her this early on. If she called me regularly just shoot the breeze, honestly, I'd get annoyed. Texting is similar - I tend to think of it as something you do make plans or work out logistics when you're meeting up with someone. I don't have text-message conversations with people, and I don't want to. A friend of mine is always on-guard for a random text from his SO, in case he takes too long to respond and she gets upset. Don't be like that (not that you are).

Anyway, if this guy wasn't into you he wouldn't be introducing you to his friends and parents. A lot of people are not phone people, and a lot of people are not into poring over the minutiae of their daily existence. So, my advice is: utilize lower-level methods of communication, and make it about something other than 'what's up?'
posted by breakin' the law at 6:27 PM on April 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

I really really love my partner, and I have difficulty remembering to contact him every few days when we're apart. I try, and I've got a bit better because it bothers him, but since fundamentally frequent contact doesn't matter to me I keep forgetting and blipping off-radar.

So, if it's really important to you, be aware that it doesn't say anything about how he feels, and change may be slow.
posted by pickingupsticks at 6:29 PM on April 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

This sounds like it's just a difference in communication styles. I often don't reply to emails if there wasn't anything pressing to reply to - it's just that it winds up feeling like this weird obligation where the whole thing just kind of goes on. And some people just don't feel the need to be in touch every day. It sounds like his standards for that are not where yours are. That ain't a crime, but - here it comes - you need to communicate about it.

Tell him that it bugs you, acknowledge that it's not something he's necessarily doing wrong but just sort of how you work in relationship, and ask him if maybe there's some sort of middle ground here.

I think it'll go okay because honestly, if you've met his parents then yeah, I feel safe saying he's into this relationship.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 6:32 PM on April 19, 2012

Response by poster: I really can't express how much I appreciate every single answer here. It's so weird to be in this position, where I have full confidence that I'm an awesome lady to date, yet I feel this weird insecurity kicking in when rationally I know it shouldn't. The brain is weird! I feel a bit as though I'm fighting myself (and this annoying anxious tendency I never suspected I had) for the possible prize: the chance to get to know this person better. All your answers are really valuable in that regard, because they give me scripts with which to talk back to the nattering chipmunk in my head that seems to want to find a reason to doubt this guy. In other words, all of your replies are best answers in my book. :)
posted by mylittlepoppet at 6:53 PM on April 19, 2012

Is it that you find yourself wondering when/if he will call again? That's a confidence problem (either in yourself, or in the relationship). Is it that you find yourself wanting to talk to him, or miss talking to him and he's not calling? If so—call him! Or is it that you are concerned you like him more than he does, because you apparently want to talk to him more?

Also I am horrible horrible horrible about returning casual social emails. I just don't do "hey what's up nothing much you guess what I ate for lunch" emails well. I find myself waiting for something noteworthy to say in response and then ultimately forgetting about it altogether. So, there are people like us who have that problem. Not personal.
posted by dixiecupdrinking at 7:11 PM on April 19, 2012

For me, because I adore my boyfriend, and we enjoy frequent contact, we do have some contact every day - even if it's just a quick text. Conversely, the guys I talked to a couple of times a week were the guys I was not as serious about or didn't fill as many needs for me. There was also, once, a guy that I was really into, who would only sporadically return my texts or calls ex, who I dumped because I could not make myself be "okay" with it and how it made me feel. There's, of course, more to the story, but I guess my point is that if I email my boyfriend and he doesn't respond until the next day, it doesn't bother me because I feel absolutely secure in our relationship and with him. Clearly, I didn't have this experience with other guys. So... Irrational? No. Incompatible? Perhaps. It's all different strokes for different folks, really, so I think you should talk this one out directly.
posted by sm1tten at 7:19 PM on April 19, 2012

I am late to answer but opinions, I have them!

I think that the need for contact (and the reciprocal need for time apart) is waaay up there on the list of important compatibilities, and if you poke around the AskMe archives you will find a million billion questions about whether one person is needy/obsessive or the other person is cold/afraid of intimacy based on a mismatch of contact-need. I don't believe there is any difference so great that it's a universal dealbreaker, but figuring out whether you've got a significant incompatibility to work around is really important. From what you've said, it's there and it's big - you are questioning whether your needs are unreasonable, you feel insecure, you're worried about being too demanding, it's making you pretty unhappy. That signals a fundamental difference. Nothing wrong with difference. But as a team you will need to figure out how to compromise, or this is going to be an ongoing problem.

(Full disclosure: I had two different years-long relationships founder partly because of this particular incompatibility, and I attribute some of my marriage's success to the fact that we basically can't get enough of each other's presence. But I also know that there are couples with a mismatch who do work this one out just fine.)
posted by gingerest at 7:21 PM on April 19, 2012 [2 favorites]

I empathize with you. It took a while for me to get used to my boyfriend contacting me somewhat less frequently than I'd like. A couple years out, I would say I have just come to understand it's part of his personality not to get back to people that quickly--he communicates with me more than with anyone else, but it's still not every day.

One thing that has helped me is making plans. If I know that, say, we are going to a friend's party next weekend, or to a concert next month, when my irrational self thinks, "Why isn't he writing to me?" my rational self can counter with all the future things we're going to do together.
posted by mlle valentine at 7:21 PM on April 19, 2012

I don't like talking on the phone and I don't text unless there is an emergency. Just not my style. To me it fels like a waste of time unless i have big news. We are married and lucky for me my SO puts up with my weirdness and knows I love her. When she is away for work she likes to Skype every night and it drives me crazy. We have kids now though, so I make them talk and it all works out.
posted by Cuke at 7:48 PM on April 19, 2012

I'm not a big telephone person. My significant other kind of sucks at telephone conversations. He also wasn't a big fan of writing long or regular e-mails, even though I like writing. I didn't have texting on my phone plan for the first 4 years of our relationship. So most of our communication between dates was just about setting up the next date. But one thing that struck me early on was that if he said he'd call, he actually did. That was so nice, given the flaky dudes I dated before him. Does your guy call you when he says he will? Or if you're calling him after you say you will, does he sound like he expected your call, or did he forget about it and sound surprised?

We moved in together after two years of dating in which we didn't communicate daily, and we never had anything stored at each other's apartments beyond a toothbrush. Our friends thought we were insane. But he's just better at in person communication, and moving in with him was awesome because we didn't have to talk on the phone anymore - I'd go home, and there he was! So if all goes well between the two of you, perhaps this current pattern of radio silence can be just a temporary period of your relationship.
posted by Maarika at 8:16 PM on April 19, 2012

when you have an insatiable curiousity about another person, i understand that you want to spend more time with them to not only to get to know them even better but to bond. even though i'm like your boyfriend naturally, i get like you when i have a crush on someone, in that i want to spend lots of time with that person or get some acknowledgement from them during the times that we're apart.

however, think about it like this. even if you can contribute to a conversation excellently during these moments you want to talk to him, he probably can't because whatever he does, he focuses and commits on that one thing. someone expressed frustration that he doesn't respond to e-mails but i think he doesn't do that because he doesn't want to write an e-mail for the sake of writing an e-mail. he wants there to be some interesting content in there. however, i do think it's promising that he realizes you do want some contact and to give you immediate gratification, he texts you.

do you send him long e-mails that would make him feel like he has to think about it first before he writes a reply? i'm not blaming you, i tend to provoke deep conversations myself but honestly, it's fair that people, especially while they're in the process of doing something else, would get overwhelmed by it. cause for me, since i have your boyfriend's inclination for solitiude, when i get a message, it's not that i just have to write back to it. i have to get into the state of mind of "i'm using this site", then "i'm going to talk to this person", and "i'm going to talk to this person."

so when he has these periods of silences, think of it in terms of sleep. when you sleep, your mind organizes itself and prioritizes aspects of your life. you know what happens when people are sleep-deprived. if your boyfriend couldn't have his time by himself, he would be emotionally impaired until given the time for restoration. i'm not saying that these periods have to be in complete isolation from you but do think about what kind of level contact you want with him and then CLEARLY and directly communicate that to him without getting upset about it.

you feeling "unliked" and "uncertain" of his feelings probably stem from the fact that during these periods, he doesn't really initiate contact with you, so my suggestion is that when you communicate with him to ask if he could initiate a simple opening text message at least once a day.

and then as for you feeling"unliked" and "uncertain", remember that when people are away from you, they're NOT pulling away. to me, pulling away is very deliberate but this guy sounds like me, that he just naturally favors solitude as a way to get collected, creative, and in tune with himself. all of that is about HIM and not about YOU.

honestly, i am the type to sign on facebook and then sign off immediately because i know if i stay on for 10-20 minutes, people will message me, and it's not like i don't like them or enjoy their conversations, but i just can't force myself into insincerity where i am not in the proper mindset to talk to them. do you know why i'm like this? because when i'm sincere, i am the funniest and understanding person someone can talk to but when i'm not, i feel tired and uninteresting and dry. again, in all of that, i know that's all about ME and NOT my friends and i would hate if they thought they were "unliked" or had to be "uncertain" about my feelings for them.

and trust me, the fact that you met his family is HUGE. i know someone has become a part of my inner circle if they meet my family. honestly, if he didn't think seriously of the relationship, you wouldn't have met them.

and oh, i just remembered that you said this silence happens on the weekends. sometimes, the weekends are the only time i get to reflect on my week and just do my own thing (even if i'm not really doing anything). honestly, i hate introversion-extroversion typing more than anyone else in the world but this is just a classic introverted thing to do and if you're not introverted or in the same manner of his, it can be hard to understand. i hardly ever make plans for the weekend because it's so hard for me to get time to myself and i just can't give it up or i am as bad as the most sleep deprived person.

sorry for the verbosity but i really feel like you sound great for your boyfriend and that he obviously is great to you and i think that this diversity in contact styles can be worked with!
posted by thischarmingirl at 8:36 PM on April 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

I really think this issue boils down to what your idea of dating is, and where you're at in life.

-- for some people, dating someone exclusively becomes sort of a mini-marriage, with sex, extraordinary intimacy, and a kind of surrender to each other as soulmates. It is a sort of "total relationship." It's not marriage because it doesn't involve a life commitment, but it has many of the features of marriage, even if there's no cohabitation. In this context, it would be very weird to go a few days without speaking. In fact, it might be weird to speak/text only a few times. You could call this "Intimate Dating."

-- for other people, dating someone exclusively is a much more limited relationship. You go on dates. There may be big parts of your past that your GF/BF doesn't know about, because it's just never come up. ("Oh, did I not tell you I was married for ten years?") Days go by without speaking to each other. You could call this "Arm's Length Dating."

Which one of these types of relationship you're in may depend on a number of factors. If you live in a huge city, you have a ton of friends, and have a lot of work responsibilities and/or hobbies, you may be more prone to be in an arm's length dating situation.

If, like me, you live in a sort of cultural wasteland and don't have a lot of social activity outside of work, you may be more likely to be in an intimate dating relationship. For example, my girlfriend IS my social life. Sound boring? It's not. We have a great time. We text constantly. We only hang out a couple of nights a week though because our jobs leave us really drained.

I really do not think a relationship where one partner wants intimate dating, and the other wants arm's length dating, can work, unless one partner just surrenders their expectations, and I think that is basically giving up something important that makes you happy, and life is too short for that.

These two types of dating are totally different worlds.
posted by jayder at 8:39 PM on April 19, 2012 [8 favorites]

I agree with Jayder except with the caveat that it can depend on specific context and the length of the relationship as much as anything else. I am very arms-length in the earlier stages of dating (and for me, this can last quite a while) and very much more involved/intimate once I feel more established or secure. For a relationship that's only existed for two months, I would probably run for the hills if the person was contacting meultiple times a day - not because I'm not interested in them, but because my natural levels of intimacy-progression just don't go that fast.
posted by celtalitha at 9:33 PM on April 19, 2012 [2 favorites]

As a relationship becomes more 'serious' it may be appropriate to teach your partner what you want from him to feel happy and secure, and vice versa. One of my first girlfriends wanted more daily contact and intimacy than I was giving, or really knew how to give. So she just showed me what she wanted. She called it "gentleman" school. As we settled in together I really enjoyed the daily intimacy, and missed it when it wasn't there. This helped me with future relationships as well. Maybe he just isn't experienced in giving you the amount and kind of attention you want; but I wouldn't assume he only wants arms-length dating and isn't willing to adjust more to you. At some point, tell him how you feel and what you want from him, and give him a chance to give it to you authentically.
posted by Golden Eternity at 10:01 PM on April 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

He may just not be as much of a communicator as you in general. Like, if he only checks his email every couple of days, and you have yours in the background all day. Or if he usually checks his email on his phone but doesn't really enjoy writing on his phone, he might be less likely to respond unless there's something specific he needs to reply to.

Knowing this can help you understand that it's not about you.
posted by Lady Li at 11:13 PM on April 19, 2012

Oof, I totally know what you mean. The funny thing is that since dating a guy like this, I've actually become kind of like him-- I text "on a whim" much less frequently and sometimes flat out forget to check in. For me it's been that I've started to become more "in the moment," and emails and texts move too fast for me to be able to switch back and forth between focii.

I think you should definitely talk to him once in clear terms, because this is the kind of thing that people sometimes do change. But if he's really bad at it, no need to sabotage the relationship unless you're sure it's too psychically disturbing. In my experience it's not a dealbreaker. (I do also get the "wow, we haven't talked in a day" thing sometimes and will call him-- that works way better for us than text or email.)
posted by stoneandstar at 11:21 PM on April 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

I am an infrequent communicator. I talk to my very best friends maybe once per month by phone, and slightly more frequently via email/gchat. Family gets a 10-20 minute phone call once every week to 10 days. Not because I don't love them, but because I'm just kinda scatterbrained about these things.

My SO is just like me, buy maybe slightly worse than I am about staying in touch with people. We communicate with each other more consistently than we do with anyone else, and that would be paltry by most standards; we only text if we must, gchat a little throughout the day, and talk on the phone maybe once every 2-3 weeks ("I'm downstairs, buzz me up," and other 15 second communications of necessity don't count.). I don't think we've emailed each other on purpose since our early online dating days. We see each other every weekend, so every 4-5 days like you and your partner. We're grand and madly in love.

Some of us just don't need that much contact. Others are good with contact in specific forms (text, chat, easy/quick response methods) but not others (like emails or phone calls which may be full of banalities or, worse, complicated emotions and ideas requiring long, careful responses). If you need a certain level of engagement, though, you should talk to him clearly to get an idea why he's unresponsive, and gauge whether he's open to becoming more communicative for your sake. You may have to seriously consider if and how you will be okay with what he's willing to offer.

He's showing lots of other signs of being happy with and serious about you, though. I'd say not to squash the discomfort, but sit with it so you can pin down why this particular sign is the one you're hung up on and address that, whether it's a fear of imbalance in the relationship, trust issues, or just a new phenomenon for you.
posted by OompaLoompa at 11:51 PM on April 19, 2012

I thought his communication style sounded totally normal, and was going to state that and get out.

Then I read your update and this popped out at me: "I feel a bit as though I'm fighting myself (and this annoying anxious tendency I never suspected I had) for the possible prize: the chance to get to know this person better."

Emphasis, mine.

Hey! Is there something about the way he communicates or interacts with you that feels all, "carrot and the stick"?

What you are feeling could/maybe/dunno be a by-product of his style of interacting, like things he says or doesn't say, which keep you guessing? Best to assume it's not something intentional, but if this is the case, it IS damn annoying.

Feeling that way is no prize! And in truth, he's lucky for the opportunity to get to know you.

My little tip? Remember you are worth getting to know, and you control who does and who does not get to know you. Subtly shift you focus back onto yourself. If you catch yourself wondering about him, automatically think about something "you-centered" that's pleasant - a compliment or thank you for hard work you recently received, an upcoming lunch with a good friend, a fun exchange with someone on the check-out line in the grocery store earlier that day, those fab shoes you are going to buy tomorrow - ANYTHING that makes you smile and appreciate your own life.

Hope that helps:)
posted by jbenben at 12:52 AM on April 20, 2012 [6 favorites]

For me, daily contact is something I think of as belonging in a marriage-type relationship. If I found myself wanting to talk to a two-month-relationship person EVERY DAY I'd deliberately back it off because that's waaaay too quick for me to be that deeply involved.
posted by emilyw at 5:50 AM on April 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

My guy was away this week, and we only spoke on the phone once. But we did send each other occasional quick emails. The most important thing is to tell this guy what you need - maybe he's bad at email and phone, but could should you a quick text? And then do your best to contact him on a reasonable time-frame by that mode, too. Picture texts can be a great way to connect (even quotidian things like, "look at this grilled cheese I just made, isn't it amazing?).

Communicate your needs. If he can't come up with a way to help meet them, then you need to reevaluate.
posted by ldthomps at 6:55 AM on April 20, 2012

I think he just is a busy person from the sounds of it. If he still communicates with you (although not as often as you might like) then I would be fine with that. I was talking to one of my male friends a while back and he just doesn't see the point of daily communication (especially early on in the relationship) as there would be nothing to talk about when you do actually see each other :-)

I think time apart in this way is healthy really, and some guys are just not phone people! Most guys I know call/txt when they have a purpose to do so, rather than doing it for the sake of contact...I think checking in with the OH comes at a later stage than a few months in...

Just give him space, and live your life doing what makes you happy! He will call if he wants to :-)
posted by Soundgirl at 7:30 AM on April 20, 2012

My wife and I are a lot less schmoopy than many couples, and a lot less than I was used to from previous relationships. I realized: it's much better to want a little more of someone than to want a little less of someone! The former can quickly lead to mild irritation and contempt. I really think it's a blessing.
posted by ftm at 7:34 AM on April 20, 2012 [2 favorites]

I dated a guy like this a few years ago and struggled with it a lot. My first (and to that point, only) serious relationship prior to him involved a ton of communication; we texted or chatted online all day.

I never got used to not hearing from the new guy everyday. I dealt with it better over time, yes, but it never felt right or okay for me. It is okay to want contact every day. Your boyfriend's needs sound different than yours in this regard. The fact that he doesn't contact you daily likely has absolutely nothing to do with his interest level in you. But regardless of that, daily contact is something that you desire in a relationship, and that's okay.

So what you need to think about is if it will be okay that he will never be the kind of guy to send you a cute text every morning or e-mail you something funny that he read online or even just reach out to say hello. I tried to compromise with my non-communicator, but ultimately, it was a need that I felt was important enough to me that it contributed to the end of our dating. I'm now dating a man who keeps in contact regularly and never makes me feel bad about sending him a cute text or e-mail. We have similar needs in that regard, and it feels a lot better for me.
posted by anotheraccount at 8:26 AM on April 20, 2012 [4 favorites]

I have some experience with this, the kind of experience you want to hear. You need to tell your guy that you expect to hear from him every day, even if he has nothing to say, because it makes you feel cared for. He will likely tell you that he cares for you, but he typically doesn't see the need for that level of constant contact, but for you he's willing to try. Then, he'll try but sometimes fail, because he isn't in the habit, and you'll have to remind him sometimes, and trust that if he's usually trying, that it is okay.

But! If you feel like you have to nag him to get it, or if he seems to resent having to do it, then perhaps you're not as compatible as you'd like to be. That doesn't have to be a deal-breaker, but it can be. Just figure out if it is something you need in a relationship, and if it is (or even if it is just a nice-to-have), ask for it, and see how it goes.
posted by davejay at 9:09 PM on April 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

If I text, he texts back, but sometimes he just doesn't answer my emails.

How long are your emails? The problem with email-as-a-conversation for me is that I feel pressured to respond to every point brought up in the email. I don't always have strong feelings about every point brought up, despite the fact that I enjoyed reading the email in general. This results in awkward replies such as:

"Dear so-and-so,

Haha that x class sounds crazy!

Such a shame about y. Hopefully something else will turn up.

Glad to hear z's presentation went well.

xx lovedbymarylane"

This is unnatural and frustrating and feels less like a fun conversation and more like an obligation to the sender. Sometimes I put off replying for ages, and sometimes I'm tempted not to bother. I am so much more comfortable with talking face to face, on the phone, over instant messaging or (short) texts, where you can take each point of conversation to its natural conclusion.

Short emails however are the bomb. Lots of back and forth. No need to 'compose' anything. You can't really chat or banter over long, multi-subject emails.
posted by lovedbymarylane at 3:18 AM on April 21, 2012

Response by poster: Update about a month later, for posterity's sake: things are fantastic. I communicated my needs, he listened and empathized and expressed regret that his actions had unwittingly caused me anxiety, and now we communicate on a daily basis. Thanks, AskMefi, for telling me it was okay to recognize my needs as legitimate -- and to speak up about them!
posted by mylittlepoppet at 9:08 PM on May 15, 2012 [3 favorites]

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