I'm making a huge tiny mistake.
December 30, 2012 10:12 AM   Subscribe

Is waiting for someone to contact you first giving them too much power? Is contacting them first desperate? Am I overthinking what is already a trainwreck (most likely)? Help me out, romantically-experienced MeFites!

While studying abroad, I dated a guy. When I left, I was heartbroken and left agonizing over "what could have been", to the point where I found a solid excuse to return to my study abroad site and am currently stuck in what is probably a slow-motion wreck. Before leaving, we had sort-of agreed to just be friends, but upon returning (just a few nights ago) I quickly made the stupid decision to sleep with him again--stupid because while I am getting attached to him unnecessarily he probably doesn't see me as much more than a hook up (although he's vague and a little unclear--he's very sweet, helpful and kind to me much of the time, but then becomes withholding without much warning). Now it's almost New Year's and I really want to hang out with him, although he was really vague and uncertain about hanging out with me. I was thinking of contacting him first, because I usually wait for him to contact me first and it's driving me crazy. I feel like it gives him too much control over my time and myself. But will it make me look desperate for his company? I have alternate friends I can spend New Year's Eve with, and would like to just know whether I should make plans with them or whether I can count on him. Does this make me look clingy or needy? Can I just call him and get it over with already or will I look like a fool?
More long-term, should I try to pursue this relationship at all? Is it worth it to open up to him about the fact that sleeping with him is making me feel more emotionally attached despite the fact that I don't see him necessarily becoming more attached to me? I'm not a very romantic type of girl--the rational part of me knows that I can find another guy without much issue and that if he rejects me he'll become a blip in my life over time. But the emotional, irrational part of me wants him so badly and just wants to see this relationship play out over the long term, even though I have to return to my home country for at least another three months. Will opening up to him make me look dumb or oblivious? I'm just sick of getting hurt and I want him to be clear that what probably just looks like a silly fling to him is having a serious effect on my mental health at this point in time. Is this a dumb thing to do?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (17 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
You are allowed to pursue what you want.

I don't like that he's being vague, but if you're feeling like this you are allowed to tell him you really like him and want to pursue more with him.

If he responds with ANY vagueosity at all, or worse sleeps with you again and then waxes vague, get out the banhammer because he won't improve.

No you are not "dumb or oblivious" for having feelings. I know female emotion is usually portrayed as a drain on the masculine pursuit of... well, don't know really... but that doesn't mean he gets to sleep with you but you don't get to feel any way about it at all. You are a person, too. It may even turn out that he is a person, though you seem to have a low opinion of him.
posted by tel3path at 10:20 AM on December 30, 2012 [17 favorites]

I want him to be clear that what probably just looks like a silly fling to him is having a serious effect on my mental health at this point in time.

He doesn't need to know this. YOU need to know this. And to act accordingly. The only thing you might want to communicate with him about is, if you're not clear about this (and you'll probably find as you read the new posts that come in in response to you that everybody else IS clear about it) that you are very interested in him romantically and you want to know if he feels the same. If he says "yes" (and there is about a 1% chance that he will), then you can proceed with this relationship. If he says "no" OR is ambiguous (there is a 99% chance of either of those), you should cease contact with him immediately.

You can't be friends with him. You think you're not romantic but you are. "Emotional and irrational" is basically the same as "romantic." Get back to your Homeland as soon as possible and find that next person the "rational" part of you is sure you're going to find and start turning this guy into the vague memory he's going to become.

I am not your therapist.
posted by DMelanogaster at 10:25 AM on December 30, 2012 [18 favorites]

I think you're reading too much into this. What he's doing is really uncool, but don't invest too much time over-analyzing this. Make plans with your friends (that way you're guaranteed a good time--hopefully!) and invite him via text message to hang out with you (still expressing interest but in a casual way).

For what it's worth, it's normal to desire and want to be desired. If he chooses not to hang out and doesn't want to pursue things further then move on, but don't worry about appearing clingy or needy. You'd only appear this way if he continued to decline hanging out with you and you kept on asking him to hang out OR if you freaked out on him for not spending enough time with you.
posted by livinglearning at 10:25 AM on December 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

Maybe he thinks you're not that into him because you never contact him first and was testing to see if you would take the initiative once? If you want to firm up plans for NYE then firm up plans for NYE. If you ask him if he wants to hang out on NYE and then he's all vague, say goodbye. But if you always just wait passively for him to do everything he probably thinks you don't care all that much.
posted by Justinian at 10:25 AM on December 30, 2012 [2 favorites]

Worry less about how it makes you look and more about how it makes you feel. If you feel desperate and needy and clingy, that is the thing to address. If I were you, I'd hang out with my other friends and try to just get over him. Giving the non-relationship relationship energy seems like a bad path to go down.
posted by rtha at 10:27 AM on December 30, 2012 [3 favorites]

Go home, girl. (Or boy, as the case may be.)

Longer advice:

Just enjoy your New Year festivities without worrying about this dude and whether he Really Likes You or whatever. If you guys end up hanging out, cool. If not, no biggie. (Do the kids still say "no biggie"?)

I have felt a similar dread of being The One Who Contacted First, always being the Asker, and the like. Now that I am getting to be far too experienced in early stages of attempted relationships, I've started to see this as a sort of yellow flag.

If the other person is never contacting you and you're doing all the work, that's not a great sign. If the other person tends to be evasive about plans in general, that's not a great sign. Someone who really likes you will want to hang out with you. Someone you're genuinely compatible with will not make you feel "clingy". Whether the problem is that the person in question isn't into you, or the problem is that it's just not meant to be, this much trouble over something so simple (casual hangouts) is usually a bad omen.
posted by Sara C. at 10:28 AM on December 30, 2012 [11 favorites]

There's no right answer here.

Explore what you want to explore. Risk only what you want to risk. If you feel like it's too much risk, don't do it. If you go against all advice and do something you feel like doing (or don't do what you don't feel like doing), use the ensuing experience to learn what it's like to trust your feelings.

Be prepared that with feelings, there's often more risk than we think there is, but that doesn't mean that we should shut off feelings. It's okay to get your feelings hurt just like it's okay to fall in love. We learn and grow from both things, even though sometimes it's unpleasant.

There's nothing wrong with working with your feelings, just keep in mind that there's risk there that you can learn from, mitigate, avoid, whatever ends up working (or not working) for you. But I think it's easier to risk a little hurt and to do, experience, think and talk than it is to bottle it all up and regret not knowing. Even if you get a little bruised you get to learn both from yourself and from others and the world.

I do recommend, when you've got the feeling that you've got something to say, saying it and seeing what the guy responds with. You can measure a lot of folks really well by just doing that - talking and seeing what happens. Even if he doesn't interact with you respectfully over that you still have information about what kind of guy he's like.

Luck, strength and take care of yourself.
posted by kalessin at 10:29 AM on December 30, 2012 [2 favorites]

I found a solid excuse to return to my study abroad site

It's not wrong or desperate to ask someone out, in fact it's healthy to speak up about what you want. It is wrong and dishonest to say you agree to something (being friends, being FWB, ending a relationship, etc.) and then secretly try to manipulate circumstances to change the thing you agreed to into the thing you really want (a relationship).

Whether you ask this guy out or not, you should always strive to be honest in relationships with others and with yourself.
posted by headnsouth at 10:54 AM on December 30, 2012 [7 favorites]

Worry less about how it makes you look and more about how it makes you feel.

Well said! You might play your cards exactly right, but if the underlying hand is bad, you still won't win. In other words, whether or not you call will likely not change the outcome. There's an underlying truth there -- you like him and he ... feels what?

More long-term, should I try to pursue this relationship at all?

Why is he considering you a hook up? Is it because you two already converted the relationship to "just friends?" Or is it because he doesn't want anything serious at this time, with you or in general?

I guess in your shoes, I'd try (once) something like "hey, you know, I really like you. I have to go home for three months but could be back in April if you had any interest in making a go of things. Do you have any interest in going out for real?"

About NYE, I'd say, yeah, why not call him? You came back to see him! But, holidays are always high-pressure and high-stakes in a way that can lead to misunderstandings. Be careful not to take his "yes" or "no" about NYE as his "yes" or "no" about the entire relationship. Maybe call him to ask if he'd like to hang out again some time soon, so that if he already has plans for NYE, he can say "yeah, what about next Friday?" Good luck!
posted by salvia at 11:04 AM on December 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

he's very sweet, helpful and kind to me much of the time, but then becomes withholding without much warning

By the way, the moment when he withdraws could be the moment when he realizes "she's leaving, I can't let myself fall in love with her." OR, it could be the moment when he realizes "shoot, I think she's misinterpreting my niceness as romantic interest. I need to stop sending mixed signals." It's impossible to know without discussing it. That's why you need an explicit discussion. Since your most recent explicit discussion led to you two being "just friends," he may well think that this is where things are at. Calling him for a date on a very high-stakes evening may further confuse him -- few formerly-romantic people hang out as just friends on New Years Eve. That's why I suggested that you ask him to go out "sometime soon," and move pronto toward a real conversation.
posted by salvia at 11:10 AM on December 30, 2012 [3 favorites]

Wouldn't you feel better if you sort of came to a resolution either way? It sounds like he's had enough time to make his mind up about whether he wants to be with you. If you just flat out tell him you like him a lot and ask him where he sees it headed, then he'll either say he doesn't want to be with you and you can move on and stop wasting your energy on him, or he'll say he does want to be with you and you'll get what you wanted.

There isn't much to be gained by "leaving the ball in his court" if what he is doing when it is in his court, is nothing, and that is just making you more frustrated. You know what I mean? Ask for what you want :-)
posted by mermily at 11:17 AM on December 30, 2012 [2 favorites]

This doesn't sound like you have a committed relationship, so you have a few choices:

1) you can be honest and up-front about how much you care for him, and how you would like things to proceed with him, and then accept the outcome of that conversation.

Or, 2) you can continue to dither about, lusting after him but feeling he has the control of the relationship, making yourself miserable and worrying about how you look to him.

Or, 3) you can decide the whole thing is crap, go out with your friends, and throw yourself into being young, free, and fabulous.

I suggest #1 or #3.

#2 is a waste of your time.
posted by Squeak Attack at 11:22 AM on December 30, 2012 [4 favorites]

I think you're too into him and you're going to get hurt.
posted by discopolo at 11:52 AM on December 30, 2012 [3 favorites]

If you want to spend time with him, tell him that. You might get hurt but IMO life is too short to play games and not pursue what you want when you want it. I've made mistakes and had my heart broken but I also feel like each failed relationship brought me a step closer to my current husband and best friend.
posted by kat518 at 12:37 PM on December 30, 2012 [3 favorites]

People worry too much about looking a fool. I think it's cool to be upfront about what you want - at this stage, as far as it extends to "I want to spend New Years with you" seeing as you're probably still working out your feelings for the longterm.

Some people are vague. My SO was vague for about 10 months and never initiated anything til about month 4 or 5. BUT - whenever I suggested something, he always, ALWAYS turned up and was present. Being the one suggesting stuff all the time didn't bother me, but then again he was never shy about introducing me to his friends etc. He just didn't know how to be in a relationship, and I saw enough potential to keep going. And here we are two years later. Anyway, this is not the point of the question, although I do think it's important to give some people a chance to get comfy - but only up until the point that is isn't damaging to you. But I felt a lot of uncertainty like the sort of stuff you're expressing now.

To the specifics of your question, I would just say/text something like "hey, what are you up to for NYE? Would love to hang out if you're free, let me know" - give him room to say no, take the step to be upfront about what you want, work on yourself to be ok with a no and try and remember that you are NOT A FOOL. If it is a no, then at least you've got it over and done with and you have a group of pals to hang with anyway. I think fear of getting a no means people avoid asking the question so they remain stuck in that anxiety ridden feeling that at least holds a possibility of yes. Don't do it to yourself. I mean, don't scream "I LOVE YOU" at him, but all you're doing is asking him out. That's it! You're all good. Think of that sweet relief once you get that answer either way. It must be agonising right now, but hurt is different from disappointment.
posted by mooza at 3:42 PM on December 30, 2012

He's by nature withholding, you say? Well, that's your answer right there!!

Hon, the reason you are so spun on this guy is because it's easier to get hung up on, and seek the approval of, people who are withholding. It's a really really common thing. In the kink community, when a dominant is withholding to an extreme, it's called a Mind Fuck. There's actually an art to it, and everything.

In real life, this guy probably isn't all that. Add the withholding to the receipe and he's instantly compelling! Oh la la!

At least, it's compelling until someone like me comes along and demystifies the tactic for you.

Don't call him. Enjoy your New Year's! Blow him off, even if he calls you. Get thee home and away from this train wreck ASAP.

Rejoice that you dodged a bullet. Bonus? That you will recognize this dynamic when it pops up in your life, and you won't fall for it again, which will leave you available for someone really GREAT to fall in love with.

Happy New Year:))
posted by jbenben at 3:45 PM on December 30, 2012 [11 favorites]

If you want to spend time with him, contact him and tell him. Don't ask him what he's doing, don't make up a story about why you are contacting him. Tell him the plan - what you want him to do, where you want him to meet you, what time.

Some folks above are saying this is not going to turn into a relationship. I say, fine, wear some sexy underwear and have a great NYE!
posted by jander03 at 9:56 AM on December 31, 2012 [2 favorites]

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