What is the best choice for this relationship?
September 9, 2012 8:56 AM   Subscribe

Should I tell the person I've dated that his time is up?

32 year old female here. I've been dating someone on and off for 11 months. He has been skittish and unsure that whole time about whether he wants to have a relationship with me. He spent probably half of that time figuring out things with his ex, semi-seriously dating at least one other person, and casually dating/sleeping-with a few others. None of this crossed any major ethical lines that I know of. He has regularly come knocking and said he misses me and likes me, but he hasn't had consistent follow through in this becoming a relationship.

One hesitation he brought up was that he did not have giddy feelings of infatuation with me as he had with his ex, and his strong feelings of love are/were intermittent. The last time we spoke and he said he liked me was ~3 weeks ago. The last time he became wishy washy and said he was figuring things out was ~1.5 weeks ago. We spent a lot of the spring apart because I had to be away for work. Last time we officially dated was in April, and last time we had a good relationship and spent significant time together was in February. Our other breaks have been primarily my choice, where he says he is unsure or unavailable, or is seeing someone else, and I say I'd better be out of contact so I can move on. We haven't had sex while we haven't been in a relationship. So far we've usually reconnected after a month or two.

I am at a point where if he doesn't follow through in the next month (which will bring things to a year since we met), the option is over. To me, "doesn't follow through" means dating someone new who is not me, and/or not asking me to meet up regularly with the purpose of deciding what we are to each other. Right now he and I have friendly relations and the lines of communication are open. He knows I like him.

My question is this: is it better to tell him that time is up in a month, or just make that internal decision and not bring it up in a conversation? FWIW, communication is typically fine and I have talked with him about my feelings in the past. The positives (obviously) are that we like each other a lot and are compatible, and have lots in common and an easy relationship. I think some of this hesitation is standard commitment fear, though some of may be that he's a douchebag or not into me or whatever, who knows, and none of it is necessarily solveable (at least not by me!).

Happy to provide any more clarification as you like.
(And gosh, I do feel a twinge of humiliation in even posting this.)

TL; DR: I pretty solidly feel that a guy I've dated on and off, for 11 months, has one more month until dating is no longer an option. Is this something I should bring up in a conversation, or just decide for myself?
posted by kellybird to Human Relations (30 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Sounds like it's already over. Don't contact him -- just move on.
posted by mochapickle at 8:58 AM on September 9, 2012 [30 favorites]

I think you would be okay letting him know now that time is up. Not to give him an ultimatum, but because you deserve to be with someone, right now, who isn't that wishy-washy about you.
posted by SpacemanStix at 9:00 AM on September 9, 2012 [7 favorites]

I wouldn't say anything just because he may suddenly get that panicky "she's leaving!" feeling and decide that means he needs to lock you down, for now. Then in a few weeks things will just revert to how they always are. I just wouldn't want to put myself through that wringer.
posted by cairdeas at 9:02 AM on September 9, 2012 [38 favorites]

Mochapickle has it. If his time's up, don't waste any more of yours on him.
posted by mhoye at 9:02 AM on September 9, 2012

If he still needs to "figure things out" after 11 months, I'd say you don't really have a relationship to end.
posted by pla at 9:02 AM on September 9, 2012 [16 favorites]

He has decided what he is willing to be to you.

He is willing to be the guy who shows up every few weeks or months to take your emotional temperature and refonfirm that you are still interested. Then he wanders off.

Another month is not going to provide him with a clarity inducing thunderbolt because he is already clear. Admitting that would make a sane person say "get out of my life" and he is smart to notice that you are not crazy. So his MO for continuing his side of things is saying what needs to be said so that you keep opening the door.

"I really (think I) really like you. A relationship with you might be awesome. But I need to be sure. Actually I love you. See you soon!"

So it's not a relationship you're ending, it's a tolerance for his inability to accept the consequences of honesty about his feelings that you are ending.

And you don't even need to tell him. Just stop answering his calls and go on dates with its who migr be willing to really focus on being with you.
posted by bilabial at 9:08 AM on September 9, 2012 [14 favorites]

The only person who can say what's happening here is you. Why are you hanging around with him at all if this is how he goes about his business? It's fairly obvious he doesn't have his head in the game at all, and for some reason you're waiting around for a moment he hasn't come close to providing.

People live out their values in front of you - not at some point in the future you come up with. If you have to set a deadline to decide on whether someone is emotionally available to you, make that deadline TODAY and move on.

Get on with your life, and treat yourself the way you want to be treated by someone else in the meantime. Nothing in this scenario is ever going to change - just the way you think about it and treat yourself will.
posted by Lipstick Thespian at 9:11 AM on September 9, 2012 [3 favorites]

Good lord, drop him now. Do not stop go, give him another month, or allow him to take up space in your life. The last time you had any sort of relationship that was good was February. This isn't a relationship, it's a guy keeping his options open because he can. It's time you make the decision that he's not worth it.
posted by Sal and Richard at 9:14 AM on September 9, 2012 [6 favorites]

I agree with what's already been said here. He doesn't deserve any more of your time. I've heard that "getting closure" is a myth, in that it is something we create for ourselves, not a thing given to us by a benevolent ex-partner. Give yourself this closure.

If I were you, I'd probably send him one final letter/email, because I'd be worried that he'd still keep trying (as in the past) unless he sees a real stop sign. If you do this, be polite but firm. Something like, "we have had a lot of fun but I have realised that I can't keep waiting for you to make up your mind about our relationship and I need to move on. I wish you all the best for the future."
posted by fight or flight at 9:20 AM on September 9, 2012 [3 favorites]

Been through this before. Sounds like he's the "out of sight, out of mind" type. You're not going to hear anything from him if you don't make the first move, and at this point...why bother?

FWIW, communication is typically fine

Well, okay, but as someone who is all about personal space and me-time and independence and so on, I'd still say that the communication here is lacking at best.
posted by psoas at 9:22 AM on September 9, 2012

This relationship you've been having with him, casually and off and on for a year, isn't working for you. This is who he is in this relationship with you, and he's told you why: he likes you but feels ambivalent about you and has never been infatuated with you.

You should end it now, and tell him that time is up, but not as an ultimatum (which could get him to make a short term commitment before wavering). It's just over.
posted by J. Wilson at 9:41 AM on September 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

This is one for a short, sweet memory; not a long haul. He knows it too, even said as much. Move on, don't torture yourself.
posted by ead at 9:41 AM on September 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

When you take a position it's important that you feel certain about it so that you don't send a wishy washy message. It appears that is the way it's been going until now for him. He never really has to decide because you are always there. You can tell him that if and when you are interested in an exclusive committed long term relationship and you know for certain that I am the one you would like to have that relationship with, then I may be open if I'm free and if at that time I have feelings for you and believe that you and I are the best thing for a good life for both of us. Until then, this is not for me. Then you can decide if you are even interested in a friendship or if that makes you too vulnerable. But I think making the boundaries clear to him, and sticking to it, is the smart thing for you to do. And stick to it. Good luck and keep your eyes and heart open for the right one.
posted by Tziv at 9:46 AM on September 9, 2012 [5 favorites]

What's the point of telling him his time is up in a month? Do you have some fantasy in your mind of him suddenly becoming the person you want him to be because you issued an ultimatum? Because that isn't going to happen. He is not going to magically change the way he feels about you and it's childish to think otherwise. His time is up now. Why do you allow yourself to be treated this way?
posted by MaryDellamorte at 10:17 AM on September 9, 2012 [5 favorites]

I think bilabial has it. You don't have to give him another month to make it a full year of you dealing with his indecisiveness. You can end it right now, today, this minute. From what you've written here, you've been more than accommodating - you don't owe him anything else.

He may or may not be an asshole, but he's had eleven months to figure out what you mean to him. That's long enough. You're free to walk away without warning him that you're planning to do so. Giving him that warning probably won't result in him deciding to commit to you, and while it sounds like you like him, you don't seem that enthused about continuing the relationship. (Which makes perfect sense.) So... don't continue it. Consider yourself single as of today, and when he gets in touch in a few weeks, you can decide what response, if any, you want to make.
posted by Angharad at 10:25 AM on September 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

Yup, whatever with this guy.

There is a better one. Have you ever read "He's just not that into you?" It really helped me cut through the b.s.

....many fish in the sea and it will be fun!
posted by ibakecake at 10:37 AM on September 9, 2012 [3 favorites]

I've been there, hun. I know the feeling of liking someone who is flaky and indecisive, and having them love me one day and the next want to be with "the love of his life" (his ex). Two years later, I ended it because the back and forth never ended, and I've come to realize it never will. His decision-making is (very) faulty, not me.

There will never be that magic moment of clarity. If you choose to stay and deal with this, you need to accept the fact that he will be a here today; gone tomorrow sort of relationship. If you do feel that twinge of embarrassment (we've all been there, I'm not judging) then that right there is saying that you are NOT okay with how things are right now.

Cairdeas has it: I wouldn't say anything just because he may suddenly get that panicky "she's leaving!" feeling and decide that means he needs to lock you down, for now. Then in a few weeks things will just revert to how they always are. I just wouldn't want to put myself through that wringer.

Avoid that; either end it now or choose to deal with this ambivalence until one of you cracks weeks, months, years from now. You know what you deserve. Best of luck to you.
posted by andariel at 11:02 AM on September 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

I agree that you don't need to give him a notice period of 30 days and can make the decision whenever you're ready.

Two comments: if he is a procrastinator, hearing that he has 30 days may lead him to spend 29 more days trying to work things out with the ex, or trying to make up his mind or whatever, and then on day 30 try to arrive for you. But in two to three weeks more, will he just get cold feet again? If you want to truly move on in thirty days, maybe tell him he has just one week?

Second, all of this could be a lot of drama, both this month and next. You're amping up the pressure: now or never! It sounds like decisions and commitment are hard for him, and you would essentially be forcing him to choose: commit to you or commit to NOT being with you. He may spend a lot of time stressing out about this, which he may or may not pull you into via long talks. Since you're choosing the timeline to some extent, you may consider when it would be best for this drama to occur. If you have major work or school deadlines, you might consider an alternate approach (like just assuming now that he won't come back from the current absence and being resistant to getting back together when he does).
posted by salvia at 12:16 PM on September 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

He has regularly come knocking and said he misses me and likes me, but he hasn't had consistent follow through in this becoming a relationship.

Sounds like you're some kind of ersatz-Mama in his book. Would explain the lack of giddy feelings and a bunch of other things in your question. Dump.
posted by Namlit at 12:55 PM on September 9, 2012

He sounds exhausting and immature and a potential threat to your self-esteem. He also seems into the drama of "finding himself." Dump him.
posted by discopolo at 12:57 PM on September 9, 2012 [4 favorites]

What's nice about Metafilter is that it's so formulaic:

Pick the favorite answer. Done and done!
posted by kellybird at 2:31 PM on September 9, 2012 [4 favorites]

If someone can't make up their mind about you, the answer is always no. And if it's no, you're wasting time on him when you could be meeting the love of your life. Don't even DTMFA, that's already happened, you just haven't realised it. Get out there and keep dating!
posted by Jubey at 4:07 PM on September 9, 2012 [2 favorites]

Not sure if anyone will read this follow up, but... for completeness...

When I was growing up, I watched my parents fight like crazy and lots of times I thought, "They can get through this, if one of them or the other would just sit down and says they love the other person and want to make things work out." It seemed so obvious to me, watching hundreds of their fights as a kid, and they didn't do it and got divorced.

Later on, in about 2004, I broke up with someone who actually loved me a lot and vice versa, because I was having emotional ups and downs and fears which led to arguments and bad words and bad behaviors. I regretted it for a couple of years after. While it's sort of hard to patch up an argument, it can be ludicrously hard nearing impossible to come back from a break up. We couldn't work things out after that and it was super painful for me. I hesitate to get to "complete breakup" phase with anyone because my experience has shown that it's really hard to recover from, and oftentimes it leads to people being gone forever.

So for these reasons, I have a very, very, very hard time closing doors on people when I have feelings for them, and when I think there might be something between us. I can see that this guy might have taken advantage of this tendency I have. However, even knowing my tendency, it's hard for me to put aside that tendency when it's so visceral for me.

Part of me always (even now) wants to follow up with something positive, especially if I haven't tried every single last thing I could try. E.g., part of me wants to say to this guy, "We obviously like a lot of things about each other and have for almost a year. What do you say we have some conversations about this and try to talk through some of it?", and try other such constructive things. I almost have to get to utter and total humiliation, sometimes, to get it in my noggin that I should walk away.

I guess, yes, therapy. But for the moment, while I understand all of the above, even the unanimous AskMefi knowledge doesn't pierce through some of my ways of thinking. So there's that. Hrm.
posted by kellybird at 5:50 PM on September 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

You really need to get to a place where you are comfortable with the idea of people exiting your life. Because they will, for a multitude of reasons, and it needs to be ok.

Needing someone to bring you to utter humiliation for you to end it is actually scary, you could spend decades in a miserable relationship, because it never gets "that" bad.

You won't change this line of thinking in one go at it. It's like trying to change the way you walk. First you get someone to go through how you currently walk. Then they show you a new way of walking. Seems simple, but the first time your mind wanders you'll revert back to the old way. When you are tired, or busy, or the day is getting stressful it's just not a priority anymore. It takes a long time of reinforcement and encouragement to stick to the new, and better, way. Weekly meetings with a therapist will help this along.
posted by Dynex at 7:20 PM on September 9, 2012 [9 favorites]

You really need to get to a place where you are comfortable with the idea of people exiting your life.

That's very useful, Dynex, thanks. It's actually something I hadn't even considered. To me, people exiting is The Horrors and the wrath of God and all that is wrong in human existence, living proof of why the world will never be good, etc. etc., and all that jazz. My mind goes to dead children, chopped off limbs, lonely old women looking out at the sea, wounds that never heal, and the like. It would be a big shift in perspective for me to consider how it's actually ok. I am not sure I could totally get there... My lived experience is that human losses are the scariest and most horrifying thing I have ever personally felt and that they hurt for a long time. That's why I get into deep humiliation before signing up for one. I guess it'll take some practice, meditation, and therapy to be more ok with it.

Incidentally, my therapist tends to say, "So you're exercising regularly and doing well at work! Gold star! You're a-ok! Fully functional!" Maybe I should shop around!

And yes, it's when I am sleep deprived or stressed at work that I am most likely to get in touch with the person mentioned above. Though oftentimes I can stop myself and say, "I am sleep deprived right now, this can wait until tomorrow."

That was a good comment to think about, thanks.
posted by kellybird at 7:59 PM on September 9, 2012 [3 favorites]

Another thing that might help to remember is that cutting off people from dating doesn't necessarily mean them exiting your life. Maybe having this half-relationship is stressful, but being good friends later down the line might not be.
posted by corb at 9:45 PM on September 9, 2012

When someone exits your life, they never really leave. Every interaction and experience you've encountered with someone else has shaped the person that you are today. And that will never go away. Here's the thing though, some people just aren't a good fit for your life, which isn't a judgement call. Some people are just better matched for other people. But the amount of time you spend on a stagnant relationship, is time wasted that you could have spent looking for someone who will help you grow as a person.
posted by MaryDellamorte at 10:29 PM on September 9, 2012 [2 favorites]

I'm glad it helped. I used to feel similarly, though not as extremely, and tried to keep in touch with every friend I ever had. It helped me to break the habit when I dated someone who had no problem cutting people out of his life that were negative in some way, and he had a large circle of very wonderful and loyal friends. I took stock of who in my life were positives and who wasn't, and simply stopped trying to maintain contact with the bad ones and they slipped out of my life.

So, to expand on what MaryDellamorte said, give a once over to your week and add up how much free time you actually have for other people. How much of that are you willing to throw at someone who detracts from your happiness? Why wouldn't it be better spent forming healthier friendships, or maintaining the good ones you already have?
posted by Dynex at 2:05 PM on September 10, 2012

(And, maybe to shopping around for a new therapist. If they are otherwise very helpful, try having a talk with them about how that statement isn't helping.)
posted by Dynex at 2:06 PM on September 10, 2012

You only get one life-- spending your energies on people who aren't placing as much value on you is often a waste and can make you bitter/give you more baggage. You don't want to meet "the one" and be afraid to trust or rely on him because you've given so much to people who can't make up their minds.
posted by stoneandstar at 4:01 PM on September 10, 2012 [7 favorites]

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