Does waiting for someone with "issues" ever work out?
June 1, 2013 3:57 PM   Subscribe

I'm in love with a guy, he has too many issues to be in a relationship right now... Has anyone ever waited for a person like this and had it work out?

I've known him for seven months, two months ago started developing feelings for him... he said he wasn't interested. A few weeks later, he was interested but not ready for a relationship. A few more weeks later, he's even more interested than before (which is clear through actions/words) but isn't ready for a relationship right now.

We act like a couple... sometimes. Other times he's more standoffish/aloof. Sometimes he'll be two different ways within the same night. It kind of seems to me like he's developing feelings for me he doesn't want to develop, and is kind of going back and forth wrestling with that. But I can't say for sure, and he's one of those types that keeps 90% of his actual personality private because of trust issues. I've known him seven months and I'm only just now getting to know the real him. Which isn't really an issue for me, I'm the patient type and he's been opening up more as time goes on, for whatever reason.

I'm not in any real rush to date him or really change the way things are right now. I'd like to be with him, but I can wait. It does suck when he's cuddly and affectionate one day and the next day he seems uninterested, but I'm willing to wait for him to figure his shit out. But the question is... Has anyone had any experiences like this that actually ended positively? I can't tell if he's the type that if he liked me enough he'd date me, or if he really isn't interested in dating anyone right now. And talking to him won't work, he'll give me a variety of different answers and admit that most of them are bullshit.

Even though I'm free to do what I want dating-wise, I really can't bring myself to go out with other people because it feels like I'm cheating. Even though we're not anything but friends-with-bens. So I'm kind of in a conundrum. It just seems like situations like this always end up with the person finding someone and magically they want to be in a relationship. Soyeah, if you've had this situation not end like that, if there's any hope, please tell me. Thanks.
posted by Autumn to Human Relations (46 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
I've been that guy before. It does not work out.
posted by destructive cactus at 4:00 PM on June 1, 2013 [11 favorites]

In my personal experience, "waiting" for someone really means "I am not ready to be in an actual relationship so I will fixate on this basically unavailable person so I don't have to deal with my own issues." That is, it doesn't work out, but not because of them, because of me.

Honestly, I don't recommend it. Disengage, process your own stuff, and only get involved with people who actually want to be involved with you.
posted by restless_nomad at 4:05 PM on June 1, 2013 [23 favorites]

You deserve somebody who is crazy about you.
posted by Mr. Justice at 4:05 PM on June 1, 2013 [23 favorites]

I knew a guy like this and then he met a girl when we were on a snowboard trip together and then they got serious and are probably married now. I wasn't exactly waiting for him but I kinda just should have stayed the hell away from him and not "acted like we were dating" even though that was comfortable and nice.

Because BOOM, with Other Girl he had no issues at all. So it sure worked out for her
posted by sweetkid at 4:07 PM on June 1, 2013 [29 favorites]

I predict heartache. This guy has you wrapped around his finger. He is giving you juuuust enough positive reinforcement to keep you invested. And then he withdraws that affection to keep you destabilized.

You not in a conundrum: you're in denial.

Strongly advise to walk away from this one.
posted by nacho fries at 4:09 PM on June 1, 2013 [34 favorites]

Yeah, I've done this. I'm so sorry, but it doesn't work.
posted by 3491again at 4:15 PM on June 1, 2013 [1 favorite]

This is already a mess. If you're going to be friends with benefits, then you need to be just that. If you are going to be romantically involved, then you need to be that.

This is somewhere in weird middle territory, and I doubt you will get what you want or that he will "come around". If you are physically intimate that may be all he wants. You already say you're "friends-with-bens"?

Let me ask you this:

Is he cuddly and loving when you are getting physical?
Is he less cuddly and affectionate when you are apart and not sexually intimate?

If so, he probably just wants a booty call.
posted by Crystalinne at 4:25 PM on June 1, 2013

This isn't a situation in which he's struggling to be comfortable with intimacy, it's one where he's being very successful at developing and wielding power over you.

Find someone who wants you to feel appreciated and valued consistently, and who would be disgusted at the thought of being doubted to the extent that you'd post a question like this, who will actively do things to stay far away from the line that separates douchy indecisive vacillating behavior from forthright loving adult behavior and whom you don't have to fool yourself into thinking is the exception to a rule that holds 99% of the time. You deserve way better than this.
posted by alphanerd at 4:26 PM on June 1, 2013 [9 favorites]

When people say they aren't ready for relationship due to issues, it is code for, they have issues with dating you.

He's cuddly and affectionate when he feels lonely, needy, wants an ego-boost, etc. Well, there you are, a sure bet. The next day, he feels better about himself, or worse, or is in a bad mood due to reason completely unrelated to you, he "reverts" to his true emotional state.

He may not be sufficiently self-aware to articulate this to you. He may not know how to manage the situation -- so many of us so, so want to have someone there, because deep down we fear we might be Alone Forever. So we cling to one another, even when, upon closer look, what we cling to is nothing more than fleeting comfort.

For kindness to yourself, kindness to this stalled situation -- let him go. The future is uncertain; better to move toward a direction in which good things can happen than to be stalled, going no where.
posted by enlivener at 4:27 PM on June 1, 2013 [8 favorites]

I agree with alphanerd that this is a power play. Sorry, but guys who aren't ready for relationships shouldn't be in them, and they also shouldn't be leading you around like a spaniel on a short leash for months at a time.

This will never resolve to your satisfaction. In one form or another, it will always be like this.
posted by tel3path at 4:32 PM on June 1, 2013 [3 favorites]

He told you he's uninterested and not ready for a relationship. You've ignored that, persisted, and this is a green light for him to use you when he feels like it.
posted by mani at 4:40 PM on June 1, 2013 [9 favorites]

All of the above posters have it, it's not going to end well. He is basically using you and will have suddenly recovered from his issues once he meets someone he really falls for. So like everyone is saying, find someone who feels that way about YOU. Or just enjoy not being on someone else's rollercoaster. I've been there too, most of us have.
posted by bquarters at 4:44 PM on June 1, 2013

Seven months is not that long; even if you were in a more traditional/defined relationship you'd still be getting to know him.

This will not end well.
posted by RainyJay at 4:49 PM on June 1, 2013

In my experience and that of people I know - no, it never works out. Waiting for someone with "issues" to get over said issues never ends well, at least for the one waiting.

People with "issues that keep them from dating" always manage to get over these "issues" when they meet someone they really want to date. It's like being "too busy to date:" If someone is really into you, they will find the time, or get over their issues.

"I have issues that mean I can't date you" is code for "I'm just going to string you along until I meet someone I really want to date. In the meantime, I want to stay in your good graces for whenever I want a booty call." And it's no reflection on you or your desirability or dateability - it's just he isn't feeling it for you.

Please don't waste your time on this guy.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 4:57 PM on June 1, 2013 [6 favorites]

Talking to him won't work, he'll give me a variety of different answers and admit that most of them are bullshit.

For some reason, whenever people talk about "settling," it's always in a very particular context: like, "settling" means dating someone who is a little tubby or a little short, or who has a boring job in accounting instead of being in a band.

For most of my twenties, I could have read that sentence I quoted above and just nodded along, being like, oh, that sounds like normal behavior but now I would like to share my hard-earned post-30 wisdom with you: HELLO YOU ARE SETTLING, THIS IS UNACCEPTABLE BEHAVIOR FOR A GROWN ADULT, GET A BETTER BOYFRIEND. He might have a million issues; he may not be ready to date; he may not be that into you; he may be super into you and be ready to propose tomorrow, but that doesn't even matter because he is incapable of even doing the baseline mental work of figuring out his own stupid emotions and describing them to you. That is the minimum you should expect from him, and anything else is settling. Me and (I bet) you and a whole lot of other cool, dateable people in the world have been doing this basically since we were in kindergarten. If he can't do it, then he is either unintelligent, lazy, or spoiled, and either way it is gross and you should break up with him.
posted by pretentious illiterate at 5:01 PM on June 1, 2013 [44 favorites]

Yeah, I'll nth what everyone else has said. I dated this guy. When the "right" person comes along, your issues suddenly either disappear and/or you work them out immediately so that you can be together. He already told you no. The answer is no. I mocked the book "He's just not that into you" but it actually really helped when I was getting over 'not ready' guy. Then I met 'Ready Healthy Well-Adjusted Guy' and just (very happily) celebrated out 5th wedding anniversary. Wait for the right guy - it's worth it. He is not the right guy - he already told you.

From the other side: I was dating someone at one point - perfectly nice, nothing 'wrong' with him - and told him flat-out that I was going to be too busy to really have a relationship the upcoming semester. I meant it - but part of what I meant was that I was not 'into' him enough to make time for him. There are other guys I dated I would have made time for. I was just not that interested. Not returning his calls probably sounds mean, but stringing him along would have been meaner.

Good luck!
(pretentious illiterate = awesome. Dating 'grown-ups' is the most amazing thing! Promise!)
posted by jrobin276 at 5:04 PM on June 1, 2013 [2 favorites]

And talking to him won't work, he'll give me a variety of different answers and admit that most of them are bullshit.

whoa. humongous red flag here. even if you did get into a real relationship with this guy it probably wouldn't work because of this. i'm sorry.
posted by wildflower at 5:14 PM on June 1, 2013 [5 favorites]

Nope nope nope nope nope. He will not work through his issues and you will be the one to pay. Guaranteed.
posted by discopolo at 5:15 PM on June 1, 2013 [1 favorite]

Does waiting for someone with "issues" ever work out?

Nope! Get out now.

You won't believe me. You won't take this advice. You won't. Years from now, when you're crying, you won't even remember you got this advice. But you will have wished you had acted upon it.

When people show you who they are ... That's who they are. Believe them. Save yourself the heartache.

But you won't take the advice. People never do.

Good luck!
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 5:17 PM on June 1, 2013 [10 favorites]

Sure, it works out -- for him and the girl he likes enough to date. Not so much for you.
posted by snickerdoodle at 5:20 PM on June 1, 2013 [4 favorites]

A few more weeks later, he's even more interested than before (which is clear through actions/words) but isn't ready for a relationship right now.

Here's some advice from a previous AskMe question about "dating warning phrases": when someone uses the phrase "right now," as in "I'm not ready for a relationship right now," delete "right now" and substitute "with you." In other words, what the sentence really means is: "I'm not ready for a relationship with you." This tip was given by FAMOUS MONSTER, who added:
Don't take it personally. Compatibility is not about being the best, or the worst. Don't call them out on their dishonesty, either... Just say you understand and put on your coat and hat and leave them to it.
posted by John Cohen at 5:41 PM on June 1, 2013 [21 favorites]

I was in this exact same situation and I waited and waited and then finally I gave the other person an ultimatum and told her that either we were going to be a couple or we couldn't be friends any more.

Three years later we got married. Our first kid turned out pretty awesome so we decided to have kid number two, and we're a couple weeks away from that expansion.

Y'know when she became interested in giving our relationship a try? When I left and decided to go looking for someone else. You gotta be willing to turn away from him and not look back. If he really is interested in you, it'll work out. If he truly isn't, it won't.
posted by incessant at 5:49 PM on June 1, 2013

He is not interested in being with you. Believe him when he says so! If he were, he would be doing everything he can to overcome his weird hang ups. He's not, so you have officially reached the stage called "he's just not that into you".

It kind of seems to me like he's developing feelings for me he doesn't want to develop, and is kind of going back and forth wrestling with that.

And no, he's not developing feelings for you. He's weighing the degree to which he is being a bad person by allowing himself to benefit from whatever relationship the two of you do have despite the fact he is not interested in being with you. He was telling you he was interested likely because he was lonely and bummed that your relationship dynamic was changing. It has nothing to do with an affection for you. It has to do with him getting his needs met and he is doing so at the expense of your own.

You are wasting your time by not dating other people. Stop lying to yourself about this and move on.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 5:59 PM on June 1, 2013 [8 favorites]

I think I remember some previous questions from you about a pretty complicated and unhealthy relationship. I'm glad that one is over.

That said this one doesn't sounds like a great situation either. Given that you were able to extricate yourself from the previous situation I think you have what it takes to see this for what it is and give it a pass.

You truly deserve better. Stop hanging out with this guy and start seeing other people (or take some time to work on yourself). This is NOT CHEATING. It is being responsible, it is taking care of yourself, it is avoiding heartbreak, is it seeing things for what they are and taking charge of your well-being.

If you have a therapist, you should definitely be exploring this situation with them.
posted by bunderful at 6:12 PM on June 1, 2013 [3 favorites]

In my experience, no. In fact, it doesn't end up working out for the person who waited, but it DOES end up working out for SOMEONE ELSE.

Oh, I'm sure there's an exception to this rule, just as it's probably true that, somewhere, there's a person who texts, writes emails and even surfs the web all the time while driving and never has an accident, but it doesn't mean that's wise.
posted by 2oh1 at 6:16 PM on June 1, 2013

Never, ever wait for someone. If you wanted to get married, would you wait for someone who was still on the fence about it or seek someone who's already ready and willing? The latter is immeasurably preferable.
posted by Anima Mundi at 6:18 PM on June 1, 2013 [1 favorite]

The way I see it, the person you know and like is "a person with issues." That person without issues will likely be a different person in likeability.
posted by rhizome at 6:24 PM on June 1, 2013 [1 favorite]

"Not ready to be in a relationship" is usually code for "I don't want to date you." All the complex psychological twists and turns are just attempts to convince you to stay committed enough that he can have whatever he wants from you – sex, companionship, social esteem – without having to give anything back in return. You are being had.

(Caveats: This is assuming that the person in question isn't hospitalized or otherwise unable to date for legitimate medical reasons.)
posted by deathpanels at 6:30 PM on June 1, 2013 [1 favorite]

Run. Not only does this situation never work out, but you're going to end up being hurt much more than you would be if he was a jerk.
posted by Ragged Richard at 6:41 PM on June 1, 2013 [2 favorites]

Nope. There is no hope. You're a booty call, that's it. Move on.
posted by heyjude at 6:54 PM on June 1, 2013

Even if you choose to continue to sleep with him, please do yourself the favor of getting back into the dating pool. There is NOTHING that is official about your relationship. As there is no relationship, you can't possibly be cheating on him by dating others. He's just sleeping with you. That's all that's going on.

Also, is the guy you were crushing on in a post not a month ago?
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 7:30 PM on June 1, 2013

I've never seen this work out.
posted by J. Wilson at 7:35 PM on June 1, 2013 [1 favorite]

He doesn't want to date you. But is ok having sex with you while he finds someone he is willing to put his issues aside for. Which is what you do when you want to date someone.
posted by French Fry at 8:06 PM on June 1, 2013

I did this. It ended disastrously.
posted by mynameisluka at 8:36 PM on June 1, 2013

computech_apolloniajames: Yes it is. I'd thought that was the end of it until he mentioned he'd been thinking of us dating... then the next day he was over it again. Rinse and repeat.

Anyhow, he tried to hang out tonight and I lied and I told him I'd be busy for quite some time so he probably wouldn't see me for awhile. He was basically just like okay. And then I cried lol. (not in front of him of course!)
posted by Autumn at 8:50 PM on June 1, 2013 [6 favorites]

move on. if there's potential for a relationship someday in the future, you two can start over from scratch when the time comes, if it ever does, and meanwhile you have a life to live.
posted by davejay at 9:05 PM on June 1, 2013

As I get older and older, the more I want to tell my friends: If s/he says s/he is bad for you, unavailable, or out and out crazy, they mean it.
posted by Jacen at 9:18 PM on June 1, 2013 [3 favorites]

Have I done this? Yes.
Has it worked out? No.

That said, I disagree with some of the previous posters. It may not be that he's just not that into you; it may be that he literally isn't capable of a relationship, or at least not one with the degree of connection that you want. Or it could be that he just doesn't like you That Way and can't admit it even to himself.

This particular dynamic can appeal to those of us (which may not include you--I'm speaking for myself here) who want to believe that we will be The One Who Finally Breaks Through and Wins the Trust of Hurt Guy (or Traumatized Guy, or Indifferent Guy, or Inconsistent Guy, or Afraid of Being Abandoned Guy). That desire, if you have it, is worth scrutinizing.

Along those lines, I recommend the book Attached, by Amir Levine and Rachel Heller.
posted by chicainthecity at 9:45 PM on June 1, 2013 [2 favorites]

Run. Run as fast as you can. Do your best not to look back.

I'm the cautionary tale. I wasted five years of my life - my whole social life in medical school - chasing exactly the same kind of relationship you're describing. We had a "dating" kind of thing, and then he got funny and we had a long talk about how he was still harboring feelings for his ex-fiance, and he wasn't ready to get serious with someone new. Fast forward 3 months, we're still hanging out (and things were feeling pretty serious), until I accidentally saw his phone photo shrine to his ex-girlfriend. I was crushed and swore that we would never be friends.

Over the next four years, we oscillated between being friends and frenemies, having our weird friend-dating thing (as well as his "I'm not ready to get serious" thing). We started sleeping together, and we moved in together, and were still having sex, but I was still chasing this boy who didn't want to get serious with me. I caught him cheating on me. Twice. And I couldn't afford to move out, so we would cycle between sleeping together, me hating him (and myself), and then forgiving him and starting the whole chase over.

People thought we were together for years. I thought he'd someday realize how perfect our friendship was and how much I loved him. It never happened. He never wanted to call me his girlfriend, but he was always super-jealous when I'd go out with my friends. He was emotionally unpredictable and used me as a crutch all the time. He'd be cuddly one minute, and then the next, mean, moody, and ignoring me. I started to feel guilty and slowly began to back away from my previously robust social life. I put out an ultimatum before the residency match, basically saying that he needed to declare himself before I submitted my residency choices, or I'd go wherever I damn well pleased.

He didn't. I moved across the country four months later, and two months after that, I found out that he had been sleeping with my best friend.

The people who want to date you will make it clear that they want to date you. Don't waste your time or your life chasing people who don't want to be caught. He's not ready now. Maybe someday he will be, but in the meantime, date amazing people and fall in love with people who deserve your time.
posted by honeybee413 at 10:37 PM on June 1, 2013 [4 favorites]

There's nothing in this relationship for you except disappointment, hearthache and regret.

Treat this guy like the Amityville Horror: Get Out, Get Out, Get Out!

Do it now.
posted by Pudhoho at 10:50 PM on June 1, 2013 [1 favorite]

Two things:

#1. He says he isn't ready, but the moment the right person comes along, he'll be ready for her and you'll be crushed. In the meantime, he's stringing you along for the sex.

#2. You're a lesbian who is friends with benefits with a man you're in love with. There is not one single bit of that which makes sense.

Figure out what you want. If what you want is him, Tell Him. If he says no, end it and move on.
posted by 2oh1 at 12:00 AM on June 2, 2013

I've been the girl with issues before...don't put yourself through this. You deserve someone who wants to date you right now.
posted by fromageball at 5:54 AM on June 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

I did this. It's one of my biggest regrets in life - I was worth more than the tiny little crumbs the guy was doling out and you are, too. And the guy I did this with had no issues when a woman he really was into came along, as was the case with several who have posted on this thread, so I sense a theme.

Look, it isn't that you're not good enough for this guy, it's just that he wants something different in a partner from what you have. In my case my fwb wanted someone more creative than me. He ended up with an (untalented, flaky, broke) actress, instead of me, a successful scientist. That sounds bitchy but let me explain. I'm not saying I'm better than she is, just trying to make the point that she wasn't intrinsically "better than" me. Another guy she might have been madly in love with could just as easily have strung her along until he met me and I blew his socks off!

So this guy not being that into you does not mean you're not worthy enough of him. Try your best not to let this do a number on your self esteem the way it did to me. I'm now with someone who thinks I'm great and I really regret wasting my time on that loser based on him stringing me along juuuuuust enough for me to think it could turn into a relationship, when all he wanted was the sex because, hey, sex.
posted by hazyjane at 7:36 AM on June 2, 2013 [3 favorites]

I've done this too, and the 'issues' turned out to be that he didn't actually want to go out with me, but found it convenient to spend time with me/at my house. As others have said, this didn't end well.

My dad died during this period. A friend of mine offered to travel up to the funeral with me if I needed someone. Meanwhile, I was sat in the hospice whilst my siblings were on the phone to their SOs knowing that I wasn't 'supposed' to call the pseudoboyfriend, and when I tried to call him on the day of the funeral - not to sob down the phone, but just to have a normal chat with someone - he cut the conversation short quicksmart. This is not a fun situation to be in, and looking back I should have ended that crap right there. How would this guy react if you had a tragedy or emergency? Would he act like a friend, or would he find you inconvenient?
posted by mippy at 9:42 AM on June 2, 2013 [3 favorites]

A good friend said this (more or less) to me once:

If you went to the perfect job interview, and they said, "you have to wait three months," would you? Then after three months, they said, "you'll have to wait three months more," would you? then they said, "you'll have to wait three months more," would you? At what point does it become the wrong job? At what point would you be happier in another job, where the answer was "See you in two weeks."

What if that was a university? "We can't take you this year, but next year."

You wouldn't wait for any of these things for too long, because while you wait, time is moving on. Three months of lost salary. A year behind in education. That is your life. Why would you wait for someone who is 'not ready'? They're not ready, but you are. You can wait for them, but what if they're never ready?

Life will give you plenty you have to wait for. When a relationship is right – when it's there – the beginning should be easy. If it's not easy, you really have to ask, is this the right thing for me? You can't force your way into a job or a university. Things choose us. And people choose us. If the other person's not choosing you, it's probably best not to choose them...

posted by nickrussell at 10:06 AM on June 2, 2013 [18 favorites]

That happened with me, and yeah, a few weeks later, he was suddenly ready for a relationship..with someone else. (I found out about that later because he completely disregarded me when it happened.) Suddenly everything is different when it's the right person. Everyone's different, but that's my experience. I think it's a waste of time and emotion. I think most people would jump at the opportunity to be with someone they really wanted to be with who was offering themselves right there, unless they have legitimate reasons that apply to anyone who tries. If he acts interested and then not, it could be to give you hope so you'll still stick around for what he wants.
posted by wholecornandsalt at 12:45 PM on June 2, 2013 [3 favorites]

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