Is "needing space" really a thing?
April 3, 2013 6:58 PM   Subscribe

How can you tell when you legitimately need to give a partner "space" and when you should just throw in the towel?

(Long, sorry...)

Background: SO and I are both in our late 30s/early 40s. I'm separated; he's divorced. We've been dating 4.5 months, exclusive the whole time.

I met SO on a dating site and we clicked right away - our lifestyles seemed compatible, we had good conversation and great sexual chemistry (we also both share a common kink and bonded over that right away).

SO told me from the beginning that he has "commitment issues," though he's trying to work through them, and tends to freak out after dating people for a couple of months. (Throughout our relationship, though, he's told me he isn't freaking out about us.) He dated and/or slept with quite a number of people during his separation and after his divorce, but many of these were long-distance, as he travels a ton for work. He specifically mentioned that his longest post-marriage relationship, of 5 months, ended largely because of the distance.

While I accepted his commitment issues, SO has said/done several things that suggested to me he might feel there was at least a chance of a future with me. He took me to his home city back in January, where I met his family. He strongly encouraged me to become involved in a sport about which he's passionate, which I did. He also strongly encouraged me to get a passport (which, shockingly, I never had before) so that we could travel together. He mentioned that if I still "like him" by next spring - yes, a year from now - he'd like me to join his family for his annual birthday trip. All good signs, yes?

There have been a couple of things that bothered me, too. For example, he still maintains a profile on the dating site where we met. He told me early on (as evidence of how he likes me) that he was "no longer on [dating site]." I took this to mean he had deactivated his profile, as I had, and was hurt to learn that he meant that he was no longer looking at the site or messaging people. On the kink site we both use, his profile indicates he's still looking for a relationship and/or play partners. (He's told me he's not super active on this site, and I know this is true, but he has at least logged in to accept or send friend requests, so I'm not sure why deleting the "seeking" information would be a big inconvenience.) Regardless, I made a conscious decision not to let these things get in the way of our relationship, especially so early on.

The current problem is this: I now haven't seen SO for two full weeks. The first week was due to his business travel, and when he returned, he told me while we were texting that he is trying to figure out what he needs/wants, and that he "needs a little space." I was taken aback by this, and admit I responded in a pretty childish way - basically a "fine, you won't hear from me then." I was really hurt, though, and even more so that he never replied to that text.

That same night and the following morning, I read the book "Radical Forgiveness" and did all the exercises in it, and felt like I was in a much better state. (For those who haven't read it, the book is basically about separating the facts of what happened from our interpretations, and realizing that everything that happens is an opportunity for growth and healing.) I recognized that learning to deal with someone's need for space is something I need to do if I am going to have any successful, healthy relationships going forward, and this was a chance to do that. I emailed SO to apologize for the tone of my text the night before, as I realized I was just trying to provoke a reaction, and to tell him that such patterns are part of my own issues I'm working through. He wrote back to say he'd decided not to respond because he didn't want us to wind up saying things we regretted, and that sometimes my issues trigger his issues. We pretty much concluded the exchange with me telling him to take the time he needs. I just honestly didn't expect it to drag out like it seems it has.

That was a week ago. Since then, contact has been minimal. Up until a couple of days ago, he was still interacting with me some on Facebook ("liking" and occasionally commenting on my status updates, etc). On Easter morning, he texted me with "Happy Easter," to which I replied with the same. He asked in a followup text something about my kids, and I responded with a similar question, which he ignored. Last night (Tuesday), I felt so anxious that I finally texted him to ask if it would be out of line to ask for a status update on where he stands. He told me it wasn't, and that he is "feeling better" but is dealing with a stressful home buying issue. He also asked how I was, but when I told him I have been kind of up and down, he never replied. He also didn't reply to my text a few hours later in which I told him to have a good night.

Since then, nothing.

I know he has this commitment issue, and with 20/20 hindsight, I can see how our relationship has been difficult for him in some ways. (For example, I was asking to spend several nights a week with him, because my ex-husband was doing some of his overnight visitation with our kids in my home - something that fortunately is ending next week.) I also know that, as previously explained, most of his other relationships were long-distance, giving him much more time to focus on his high-stress job, his athletics and personal interests, etc. Finally, it's clear we are just really different people: when I'm newly "with" someone, be it a romantic partner or even a really fantastic friend, I want to be around them as much as possible, whereas he clearly seeks more personal time to himself.

Given the chance, I'd like to re-approach our relationship with much more balance and respect for his needs, and see what happens. I just don't know if I will have that opportunity, given how it feels like he's avoiding me.

I am completely open to the possibility that I am overreacting here, and that I should just chill out and let him do his thing. FWIW, I do genuinely like him a whole lot, and I don't want to ruin this relationship over a couple of rough weeks. I also recognize that my own relationship history includes several instances of very high-contact, hands-on, emotionally intense and ultimately codependent relationships that flamed out miserably (my marriage was one of these). I am very much trying to break this pattern and to be in a more balanced, emotionally healthy and stable relationship, but admittedly I'm not too sure what that looks like.

On the other hand, I'm genuinely hurt. I don't know how he can know I'm struggling (and I'd think he would have to know) but not concern himself with my well-being. I don't know how he can see texts from me, like the ones from last night and from Easter, and just decide not to respond. It makes me feel crummy, and part of my way of dealing with that is to just get pissed off and indignant. I do believe that we teach people how to treat us, and I don't like the idea that I am being some kind of doormat here, if in fact that's what waiting around is.

And this whole feeling of being in relationship limbo really sucks. I don't know if he's just avoiding me until I get sick of it and break it off with him, thus saving him the difficult conversation. (I do think he's more direct and respectful than this, but who knows.) Or maybe, in a few days or a week or several weeks, he'll pop back up and be ready to renew our relationship.

I guess what I'm wondering is this: can "needing space" ever have a positive outcome for a relationship, or is it pretty inevitably the beginning of the end? And if waiting makes sense (after all, I'm not interested in seeing someone else; I just hate not knowing what's going on and want the pain to end), then how can I effectively distract myself to make it easier? I don't want my neediness and my innate desire to get resolution - even a negative resolution - to ruin a potentially good relationship.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (28 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Yes, needing space can have a positive outcome. After less than five months, though, I think you're already on a rocky path. I suggest you consider giving him some space and putting less stock in this relationship after such a short period of time. If he resurfaces and you think it's worthwhile, great. If not, don't get too worried about it.
posted by jzb at 7:07 PM on April 3, 2013 [2 favorites]

It's fair to tell someone that you're hurt, that you're not getting your needs met, and that open communication is a requirement for an adult relationship.

It's OK to need space, but it's also fair to have to articulate what kind of space you need, how long it's going to be, and — and this I think is crucial for relationships with any sort of distance — when it's going to end.

Otherwise, it's a half-assed out of sight, out of mind thing and the dude may just not be ready for a real relationship yet. Since you've got kids, you can kinda say fuck it, you don't have to play games any more and vague communication about space falls into "games" for me.
posted by klangklangston at 7:11 PM on April 3, 2013 [24 favorites]

I don't know how he can know I'm struggling (and I'd think he would have to know)

Why would you think this? It doesn't sound like you've actually told him that you're struggling so mightily, at all.

I'd bet you serious drunk pizza money he thinks everything is shiny and dandy now because he needed his space, you were mad (snippy text), but now you're not mad (radical forgiveness). Because he is not inside your brain knowing that you're in fact stewing and wounded.

Generally, though, if you're a) not even divorced yet and b) reading "Radical Forgiveness" re: a 4.5 month relationship, you may have jumped A LOT of guns somewhere and might want to scale back your own involvement with this, or any, dude.
posted by like_a_friend at 7:15 PM on April 3, 2013 [12 favorites]

I get the sense that this is the relationship ending; it makes sense that you would be hurt.

I think jzb has it. You may not want to jump to any conclusions, but you may also not want to place your bets on this particular dalliance.
posted by vivid postcard at 7:16 PM on April 3, 2013 [3 favorites]

He asked for space but didn't give a timeline, you said ok. But it wasn't really ok with you. Now time has passed and you're getting anxious and guessing and inventing possible outcomes.

I don't mean this to be rude, this is an honest question: Do you think you're going to change? Do you think that you are going to become less "needy"? (your phrasing) less in need of contact and resolution?

Because somebody might need to change their understanding or expectations, is it reasonable for you to expect him to change or even yourself at this point?

Say he needs this space every 6 months, a year, or 2 years.. could you handle that?
posted by French Fry at 7:19 PM on April 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

I recommend this book:

It sounds like he is an avoider and you have an anxious attachment. He does care for you, but his conditioning leads him to pull away when things get too serious.

It is natural and normal to want to be reassured by your partner, especially if you have not seen them in two weeks. It is not "neediness", and not evidence that you don't know how to have a "balanced, emotionally healthy and stable relationship". The fact that this relationship is making you doubt your normal needs is unhealthy.

It's like someone who has not eaten for three days asking, "How do I stop feeling needy about food? What can I do to distract myself from my hunger?" They should just go eat! Similarly, you should find someone who welcomes your messages and is thrilled to reply to you.
posted by cheesecake at 7:27 PM on April 3, 2013 [16 favorites]

He's complicating your life, you sound confused and unhappy. Do you really feel good about him? Do you feel good about yourself? Because this guy doesn't sound worth it. He's full of promises, but noncommittal guys do that.
posted by discopolo at 7:28 PM on April 3, 2013 [8 favorites]

I have codependent tendencies I've been working on taming, but haven't road-tested them in a proper relationship. So I can't speak from the perspective of having consolidated all that in the kind of dynamic I think you're after.

But, I think, realistically, high-need, high-contact people are always going to be a bit on the high-need/contact side. I'm not convinced that's necessarily horrible. And I'm pretty sure there's some other nice/attractive person out there who would be much more willing, and suited, and situated, to meet you half-way. And maybe, that wouldn't constitute actual work for him (or you).

Starting off with anguish and hoping he/you will change dramatically is not a good sign imo.
posted by nelljie at 7:29 PM on April 3, 2013 [4 favorites]

I'm mostly concerned that you seem to be taking on all the emotional work of this relationship. It's you who forces yourself to overlook the fact that he's maintaining his presence on dating sites, it's you who decides you have to "forgive," it's you who apologizes for a pretty normal and understandable reaction, it's you who pushes yourself to accept long periods of no contact with inadequate explanations.

Regardless of where this relationship goes, you could use some of your "space" to figure out what your minimum requirements for respect, contact, honesty, and attention are going to be in your future relationships. Because you seem to be willing to be a bit of a doormat, sorry to be so harsh, while someone who is old enough to manage himself better takes advantage of your willingness to believe everything that isn't working is your fault. You are not wrong to feel a bit "crummy" because he does, indeed, know you're struggling and is just not interested in involving himself with your needs. And he's already made himself entirely emotionally unavailable, so this isn't something he's working on with you and for you, it's something he is doing all by himself and cutting you out of. Think about that a bit. I think you deserve a better commitment in a relationship, and I wish you did too.
posted by Miko at 7:30 PM on April 3, 2013 [58 favorites]

I have experience with kink. This has nothing to do with that, so let's get that out of the way, yes? There are no special circumstances here. I'm also aware of radical forgiveness. Again, no special circumstances.

I'm very sorry to tell you this, but this person is not your SO. He's someone you were dating. It's come to an end (or he's likely to drag it out a bit, but basically, it is over) and there will be no "restructuring things" from his perspective.

He's already structured everything to his desire. He also telegraphed to you up front that (a) the relationship would not last longer than 5 months, tops, and that (b) he's a player.

I'm really really sorry. Your initial response to his BULLSHIT text about needing space (after 5 months, no face-to-face or even a goddamn email??) was on point. The only mistake you made was following it up with an apology the next day.

Strike that.

The first mistake you made was deciding his explanation about the dating site wasn't something you had standing to take a stand about.

The stand you should have taken was, "Nice knowing you. Good luck on the dating site. Now hit the road, buddy."

I'm sorry. Truly. It's not your fault and I hate every fucking time I have to explain this here, but again, here goes....

For whatever reason, women are taught to sublimate their needs for others, usually, men. Taking this on board does not serve your interests, it doesn't make for more stable relationships, and it doesn't lead to true love. It does make it hella easier for men to take advantage of women, tho, so I guess that's why the message is so pervasive in the culture we share.

There is no such thing as being "needy" or "high maintenance" or whatever old canards your social circle subscribes to. Really.

Every one of us is due affection, open communication and respect, honesty, fidelity (if that's how we roll;)) and LOVE - no matter gender, sexual preference, social status, education level, etc., etc., etc..

When you are dating someone, if the tell you they can't meet your needs, believe them and move on. Dating, love, and committed relationships are two-way streets. If someone can't meet you half way, or give as good as they get, take a pass and move on.

Usually, placing a higher value on how someone behaves and the way they make you feel above all else helps weed out the guys that may be flash and sexy, but aren't what you want long term.

If you want someone who shares your kink, put that characteristic on the list. Add a bunch more traits that are of premium importance, like, these are things you can not live without in a partner... Then, stick to your list. Don't compromise.

Go out there and find someone AWESOME.
posted by jbenben at 7:41 PM on April 3, 2013 [98 favorites]

I came in to say much the same thing as Miko. It sounds like you're doing 100% of the compromising in this relationship, yet your concern is that you're not compromising enough.

That doesn't seem right to me. Does it really seem right to you?
posted by Georgina at 7:42 PM on April 3, 2013 [6 favorites]

I actually think this guy has made it pretty clear who he is, he's told you he has an issue with commitment, his actions clearly show this - still active on dating sites, no contact after being out of town, not returning messages and then finally as if to really drive the point home, asking for space. So give it to him. In fact, give him all the space he needs, forget about him and start looking for someone who can give you what you want.

I know you're hoping that by doing forgiveness exercises or whatever, you can fix what is 'wrong' with you so he will come around, but seriously, there's nothing wrong with wanting to be in a committed relationship! You don't need fixing, you just need someone who wants the same thing. This man doesn't have the balls to give it to you straight, he's doing the slow fade thing to get you to do the dirty work instead, so he doesn't have to be the bad guy. Cut all contact and if he ever contacts you again, tell him you hadn't heard from him, you assumed naturally, it was over and you've moved on. Wish him the best and then block his number.
posted by Jubey at 7:44 PM on April 3, 2013 [7 favorites]

Space is good. Space is a real, legitimate need. This, however, isn't a space thing. And the continued presence on dating sites while in an exclusive relationship is a red flag you shouldn't ignore.

I don't think you're in a real, grown up relationship with this guy. I don't know if he's capable of that. But if you want to find out, you should start by telling him what you told us here:

You want to re-approach your relationship with more balance and respect for his needs. You want him to do the same, and your needs include [whatever level of communication you need in a relationship]. You'd like to know if he's game. You don't need an immediate answer, but you can't wait in limbo forever, and you'd like for him to think about it and get back to you.
posted by J. Wilson at 7:44 PM on April 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

I would favorite jbenben's comment multiple times if I could - they've got this.

This guy sounds like a weasel. I just extricated myself from a year-long relationship with one of his weaselly brethren, and please, trust me on this one, he's a weasel. All of those doubts you're having? All of the uncertainty, the second-guessing, the making excuses for him? It just keeps on going. The more chances you give him to treat you like a second-class citizen and someone who isn't worthy of respect, the more he'll walk all over you and treat you like crap.

Please, listen to what your instincts are telling you. This guy isn't emotionally available, isn't behaving like a mature adult, and isn't treating you with the basic courtesy and respect that one generally deserves after dating for almost five months.

My partner did the same thing to me, making plans for "the future," but ultimately he wasn't over his wife (they are separated now, 4 years) and was "faking" a lot of our relationship. It was very much a carrot/stick approach, and I think he said the things he did to either make me feel better, or to convince himself that we had a future together. He did almost all of the same things that your beau is doing, but I always made excuses for him or convinced myself that I was being too needy, or thought he needed more time, etc. Don't fall into that trap!

I've been reading many of the human relations threads on here, and something that keeps popping up over and over is the comment,"People tell you who they are early on; listen to them." My thoughts, post-breakup, are that anything in a good, mutually-respecting relationship is a topic for discussion. You should be able to talk to your partner about anything, including how this is making you feel, how he feels about it, etc. If he avoids communicating with you, there's no real way that you can solve this problem in a manner that's satisfactory for both of you. He sounds like he's trying to avoid it at all costs, because he likes you enough to keep you around, but possibly doesn't want to admit that he can't commit himself to you, right now and/or in the future.

Guys like these aren't worth the heartache. You can feel sympathy for their predicament, sure, but they are adults who shouldn't play with another person's feelings in this manner. There is nothing you can do to make him want you fully and completely, or commit to you fully and completely. It's not you and it's not your fault; he's just not ready. He most likely needs therapy and some major self-introspection to delve into his various issues, and the right thing to do would be to either strictly date casually or not date at all until he can decide if he can ever commit to another woman or not.

I've gotten to the point where I can understand why my ex felt and behaved the way he did, but it's going to take a long time to forget. I regret that I invested so much of myself in the relationship, despite all of the red flags he threw out during our relationship. It was a messy, bitter breakup full of hurts and resentments on both sides, and life is too short for that, you know?

Out of fairness, though, give him the benefit of the doubt and try one more time to talk to him. See if you can discuss your mutual needs, and pay attention to whether or not he really listens to what you are saying. If he tries to turn the conversation back around on you and tells you everything you are doing "wrong" without acknowledging your feelings, then tell him it's been fun, but it's time to move on.

It's excellent that you are working on your own inner growth, and as many people advise here on AskMe, self-therapy or in-person therapy is almost always beneficial. Therapy can help us discover why we keep on attracting people like this into our lives, and how to deal with the associated problems that crop up because of it.

Good luck and be strong. Feel free to MeMail me if you'd like.

(P.S. I hope this isn't too much personal information, but it sounded so much like what I just went through that I had to comment! Again, good luck!)
posted by cardinality at 8:20 PM on April 3, 2013 [14 favorites]

You need to try very hard to listen to the words he said rather than interpreting his actions. He said he's not great with commitment and he needs some space and isn't looking for a serious relationship. The other stuff -- what he's done that could be interpreted differently than this -- doesn't matter. He means those words he said.

I'm so sorry, but this is not a "potentially good relationship." The sooner you cut it off and move on, the better.
posted by bluedaisy at 8:22 PM on April 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

jbenben gave it to you straight. Heed her rallying cry.

One thing I wanted to comment on is this:

I recognized that learning to deal with someone's need for space is something I need to do if I am going to have any successful, healthy relationships going forward, and this was a chance to do that.

If you were already in a successful, healthy relationship then yes, being comfortable with your partner being his own person, and not feeling anxious or panicky when he does his own thing, is valuable.

In the scenario you've described, though, it's not healthy. You're distorting and contorting your own *healthy, normal* needs to conform to his. Don't buy into the ooey-gooey radical forgiveness woo about being all-compassionate. Nobody loves a martyr.
posted by nacho fries at 8:43 PM on April 3, 2013 [11 favorites]

Cut all contact and if he ever contacts you again, tell him you hadn't heard from him, you assumed naturally, it was over and you've moved on.

As someone who's written the above almost verbatim to a dude: if you can do this, you will feel like a million bucks. It has the added benefit of really leaving dudes like this one twisting in the wind.
posted by like_a_friend at 10:14 PM on April 3, 2013 [11 favorites]

Sorry, he's just not that into you. I don't think this is really a space thing. I wouldn't invest too much energy into this if he's not reciprocating.
posted by empath at 11:24 PM on April 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

I'm with jbenben all the way. And Miko, and like_a_friend etc. The Beautiful South also had something to say about this along the same lines...

Much of what I wanted to say has been said, I just wanted to add something on commitment issues: I am a commitment-phobe, and have been, for various reasons, throughout my adult life, on and off. But to say I have commitment issues is entirely unhelpful: it doesn't actually describe what's going on with me nor does it help anyone for whom this would be relevant information (it's a bit like going to the doctor and saying "I've health issues"). My commitment issues were/are: after a first marriage which was suffocating and which tilted into abuse territory, I felt... suffocated in relationships and would withdraw. Until I fell for my next important SO, I fell hard, and the commitment issue vanished. A few happy years followed, then increasingly unhappy years, before a really jerkish break-up. So I became afraid of being hurt in the same way before (took years to recover), and I always stopped short of being really giving of myself in relationships - I half-committed, but was afraid to go the whole way emotionally. It never got to the point of seeing what would happen if I actually really fell for someone again, whether that would lead me to overcome that inner emotional hurdle. I'm confident it would... since I would probably only fall for someone I could trust to be "safe". But, of course, I am too afraid to let that happen easily etc. vicious circle.

Anyway, this is to say that "commitment issues" is just an umbrella term for a wide variety of problems: you can fear that you will feel suffocated, that you will lose your identity, that you will be incapable to make sound decisions should you become too emotionally invested, that you will open yourself to abuse, more vaguely that you will lose your freedom, whatever that means, that you have to give up on one or more of your principles, or just plain that you will have to really start to take someone into account when you are planning things (this might sound ridiculous, but it is a genuine problem when you've been solo a while) etc. It can also be a cover for "I want you to think I'm a serious and reliable person, except for this one little thing that you can save me from, but really, I cannot be fussed too much either way". The difference between a hazy "commitment issue" and the much more concrete things I enumerated above is that you can do something about the concrete things (you being both you, the commitment-phobe, and you, his/her SO, and you, the couple), they can feature in your interactions, your plans - basically, they are not an easy way out for being half-arsed, but rather allow you to engage with the other person, just not always at the desired level of intimacy or socially visible commitment.

Basically, my feeling is that he has been grooming you straight off the bat to be a doormat (what with the whole "I've got commitment issues" spiel - what exactly are you going to do with that information? Other than allow him to blow all hot and cold and have a relationship on his terms, of course), and you yourself have become a bit of a co-conspirator. None of this is necessarily malicious, of course (I mean, you will hardly have been all "Oh, jolly! I get to potentially invite someone to kick me, yuppy!" either), but continuing with the forgiveness is the wrong way to go here. He can have problems, but that is no excuse for lack of respect and care.

Good luck - this is really pretty horrible, especially coming from someone of his age, who you'd assume has more self-knowledge and/or more awareness of the feelings of others.
posted by miorita at 3:40 AM on April 4, 2013 [10 favorites]

The thing that disturbs me about this is that he has you on a hook, isn't acknowledging that it's a painful hook (even though you've let him know), and seriously is not being very nice to you.

If his issue is that he can't deal with relationships because he needs his space, he should not be in relationships with people until he gets that shit worked out. It seems like you could be saintly in your understanding and patience, and he would still be in selfish zone. I'd run, screaming. YMMV
posted by angrycat at 4:46 AM on April 4, 2013 [3 favorites]

Among other things, this guy does not sound like good step-father material. A successful blended family has to start out with a really stable relationship, not with a fixer-upper commitment phobe.
posted by yarly at 9:52 AM on April 4, 2013

My guess is that he met or slept with someone else on that business trip, hence the cold shoulder. Him not taking his profiles down is a hint of this.

Putting up with everything someone does, no matter how rude, is not the alternative to your prior behavior. In fact, it is another form of boundarylessness. It makes all your relationship decisions about him & what he wants and you get lost.

Sounds like you're ready to do the hard work of deciding what YOU want out of a relationship and being independent enough to ask for it in a confident, straightforward way. The problem with your text is that it was roundabout and snippy, which you caught--great. The meaning behind it--that you want to be close to him and are not OK with his request for endless non-communication--is solid and right on, though.

You're getting there. Follow your gut on the doormat thing. Forgiveness does not mean allowing the behavior to continue as your needs continually come last. It means accepting what happened, yes, but it doesn't mean being passive about what you actually can change in the situation: the actions you can take to protect yourself, learning to communicate in a healthy assertive way, choosing potential partners who are themselves healthy and appropriate in relationships.
posted by the young rope-rider at 10:24 AM on April 4, 2013 [7 favorites]

If this kink site is a BDSM site and he identifies as a dom, he's playing a game with you. If you unhide your profile there, saying that you're seeking "a relationship and/or play partners" just like he is, you'll hear from him within the day. He may not mention that's why he's getting back in touch, but that will be why.

This isn't manipulative or punitive. He's the one who set the precedent that it's acceptable to have this on your profile in the midst of this relationship. You're just following his lead and letting him determine how serious the relationship is -- not serious enough to be the kink version of Facebook Official. That's what he's asked you for by requesting "space," right? He's asked you let him dictate the terms of the relationship.

Right now he's confident that you're attached to him firmly while he's not tethered to you at all. He asked you for space and you spent a night and a day filling out an entire freaking workbook on being okay with his decision to ignore you. He'll only recommence his pursuit if his confidence is rattled. Reclaim your power. You can't make him change his status to In a Relationship, so you'll have to make the statuses match on your end. There, now you're back in balance.

Unhide your profile on the straight dating site, too. Don't change anything about either profile next time until he does, if you want to keep seeing this guy. I wouldn't if I were you, though. I'd use those profiles to find a better one. You want a boyfriend and this guy doesn't want a girlfriend, he wants occasional dates. Incompatibility doesn't get more clear-cut than that. In your shoes, I'd change his name in my phone to Jerkface McButt and move on. Every woman should know the empowered hilarity of ignoring texts from Jerkface McButt. It is almost impossible to mourn the loss of Jerkface McButt for very long.

I understand that you want to avoid codependence. I think that trying to make it work with this guy is you overcorrecting for past errors, though. Binge eating is bad for you, but so is starvation. Lots of guys out there will sit down with you for regular meals.
posted by cirocco at 10:59 AM on April 4, 2013 [3 favorites]

If this kink site is a BDSM site and he identifies as a dom, he's playing a game with you.

I am not an expert on BDSM, however, I think that if you were in a dom-sub situation with him, you would already know he was playing a game with you and you wouldn't be here asking us this question.

I also think, in my nonexpert wisdom, that if he is doing this as some kind of domination game, it's nonconsensual, and nonconsensual domination games are what I like to refer to as "bullying" or "being a dick" or "someone I don't want anything more to do with".

Well at least that's what I think. Like I said, I have no experience with BDSM, but I do have experience with socially sadistic types trying to play domination games with me. I was going to launch into a rant, but then I read the rest of cirocco's comment more carefully and - now this is something I can state from personal experience - he describes a guaranteed strategy for winning such a game, whether you originally agreed to play it or not.

Since you like reading, I strongly recommend the banned texts "The 48 Laws of Power" and "Why Men Love Bitches". The first of these is a frankly amoral book, so use it for good and never for evil, but you will be much better at seeing manipulation and power plays for what they are. The second of these will explain why it's a bad idea to be too accommodating to a man who blows hot and cold, and describes specific scenarios in which you may be being manipulated and how to gracefully resist the manipulation. Yes, it's twee and gender-essentialist, and a lot of people (who wouldn't stoop to actually reading the book) assume it's a manual for women to manipulate men. You can ignore the tweeness and gender-essentialism, and most of the kneejerk objections to it are really just strawman arguments reinforcing the cultural message that a good woman will submit to a man's ill-treatment without resistance.

Overall, jbenben wins this entire thread. If a guy ever asks you to "give him space" again, move to Cleveland.
posted by tel3path at 11:59 AM on April 4, 2013 [4 favorites]

YEa, I think he's trying to break up with you without having to actually do it, which is weeeaakk.

I notice thath all the communication you mention in your question is texting / email / facebook. In the future it might do you well to try using a phone call or in person dialogue to communicate when you really have a message or question to get across. When you send a text message about some problems and it gets ignored, it hurts, but its also open ended and you can rationalize why it wasnt answered and driver yourself crazy. I think th eimmediacy of a phone call diminishes that - to me it seems not returning a phone call (voicemail) is a more direct blowoff and ignoring you live on the line is a deal breaker. So phone calls for importatn messages may help you in future relationships.
posted by WeekendJen at 1:34 PM on April 4, 2013

There is a book about guys like this. It has a really stupid title, but it is actually not a stupid book. The book is pretty much a description of this guy. He is like a textbook example of a "commitment-phobe," or, to be a bit more real about it, a player.

He took me to his home city back in January, where I met his family.

Dude. In January? And at our current point in time you've been dating 4.5 months? So that means after about 6 weeks of dating he's taking you back to his home city to meet his family.

That's called fast-forwarding. When a guy does all these things that normal people only do when they're really serious about someone - but he does them bizarrely early in your acquaintance with him.

Talking about pie in the sky dreams about a far-off point in the future together, when you still barely know each other, is another classic example of fast-forwarding. And uh, what do you know -- He mentioned that if I still "like him" by next spring - yes, a year from now - he'd like me to join his family for his annual birthday trip.

All good signs, yes?

No. Read the book. My reflex when I read he said he was a commitment-phobe, and that he introduced you to his parents, was to think "I bet he did in the first few days or weeks of dating."

This is just a really common pattern of behavior for players. When you read enough about it you will recognize fast-forwarding right away and see it as a bad sign, not a good one. They do all these things that are usually signs of being serious, and they really flatter women by doing them so bizarrely early on. The woman thinks, "I must just be *that* special! He must just be *that* in love with me!"

About the rest of it, it's like Taylor Swift says - "He was long gone, when he met me." There is nothing at all you could have done to change the outcome of this. There's nothing you can do now, either way. He's done. He was done before he even started - he put an expiration date on this which he told you about up front.

He also set it up so that he could tell you and himself that you were the bad guy when he ended it. If you made the slightest objection to the kind of heartless and shocking treatment that any human being could rightfully object to, then he could blame you for being clingy and needy and not understanding of his issues which he so sensitively shared with you up front and you claimed you were okay with. But don't fall for that and blame yourself, because it's not true. This is his game.
posted by cairdeas at 3:24 PM on April 4, 2013 [9 favorites]

Also -

On the kink site we both use, his profile indicates he's still looking for a relationship and/or play partners. (He's told me he's not super active on this site, and I know this is true, but he has at least logged in to accept or send friend requests, so I'm not sure why deleting the "seeking" information would be a big inconvenience.) Regardless, I made a conscious decision not to let these things get in the way of our relationship, especially so early on.

Actually, it's a gift when you notice someone has told you an unabashed bald-faced lie early on in the relationship. That gives you a chance to cut it off before you get really enmeshed with them. It is actually a really really good thing to "let" bold lies "get in the way" of your relationship with a person.

This guy lies and deceives like all the time. Going forward, I don't think it's going to be fruitful to get any kind of true answers, status updates, or explanations from him. Or closure. I think you are going to need to just decide for yourself what is really going on, without his input, and be satisfied with that.
posted by cairdeas at 3:35 PM on April 4, 2013 [3 favorites]

I understand that you want to avoid codependence. I think that trying to make it work with this guy is you overcorrecting for past errors, though.

Actually, the behavior the OP describes is codependency in action. Things like:

I minimize, alter, or deny how I truly feel.
I mask my pain in various ways such as anger, humor, or isolation.
I do not recognize the unavailability of those people to whom I am attracted.
I value others’ approval of my thinking, feelings, and behavior over my own.
I am unable to ask others to meet my needs or desires.
I am extremely loyal, remaining in harmful situations too long.
I compromise my own values and integrity to avoid rejection or anger.
I put aside my own interests in order to do what others want.
I adopt an attitude of indifference, helplessness, authority, or rage to manipulate outcomes.
I act in ways that invite others to reject, shame, or express anger toward me.

And like

I am not aware of how I feel. I am aware of how you feel.
I am not aware of what I want - I ask what you want. I am not aware - I assume
My fear of rejection determines what I say or do
My fear of your anger determines what I say or do
I use giving as a way of feeling safe in our relationship
The quality of my life is in relation to the quality of yours

Are all things that are classic hallmarks of dependency relationships that I think I hear echoes of in the post. I used to struggle with things like this. I got a lot of help by reading Melodie Beattie's books, Codependent No More and Beyond Codependency. I don't really like the word "codependent" any more than anyone else does, but reading about the phenomenon helped me immeasurably. The focus is in learning how to value and stand up for yourself appropriately, draw appropriate boundaries with others in relationships, recognize when you're focusing on others so much that you neglect yourself, and understanding what it is and isn't reasonable to expect from other people. Those are all things I didn't learn completely well growing up, and my mistaken beliefs about relationships had me make many mistakes involving being way too focused on inappropriate partners, and way too patient and forgiving of men who weren't that interested in or respectful of me, so the explicit clarity of those books was helpful to me and I think might be to you too.
posted by Miko at 3:38 PM on April 4, 2013 [7 favorites]

« Older Something wrong with the wife's computer. But...   |   Hotkeys for special characters in a document... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.