How do I feel like my boyfriend is my boyfriend?
November 21, 2013 7:38 AM   Subscribe

I see my boyfriend once a week with little to no contact in between. I don't feel important or close to him but I don't know if I'm being unreasonable or pushy about this. How do I change this without being crazy?

I hate to ask this but I am upset and don't know what to do other than break up, which I do not want. We've been together for 3 months. He's 37, I'm 29. A few weeks ago he declared we were boyfriend/girlfriend but I see him one night a week. He's too busy to see me more and does not text me much, about once every other day. I am pretty hands-off but if I can't see him more than one time a week I would like to hear from him at least once a day, just a 5 minute text exchange or email which I do not think is a big deal. This is the slowest moving relationship I have ever had. So I thought maybe I needed to reach out to him. I started texting him more but still only get back short, sometimes even one-word, responses, usually hours after. I've tried funny, entertaining, sexy, informative. It doesn't matter what it is.

I don't feel like part of his life. I don't know how to get closer to him. I haven't had this problem before. Usually I volunteer info and then the other person volunteers info back but with him he only volunteers shallow things. He hangs out with his office colleagues more often than me. He's said he wants a girlfriend but I don't feel like his girlfriend. To me that means being companions who talk to each other regularly and share things and see each other more often.

When we are together he does everything perfect, acts like he is crazy about me, loads of attention. We have a great time together, never fight, like the same things, have great discussions, get told by strangers to shut up, touch each other a lot, all that.

I'm unhappy with this but don't know how to address it without sounding really weird or needy. Is there something I should be doing to facilitate things? What can I ask him to move things along? I'm not a clingy person and like that he isn't suffocating me, but I need more contact than this. But then I think maybe it's too early to expect more?

He is scatterbrained and has ADHD. Reading this over I think some people will suggest he is seeing someone else but I've been with cheaters before and I really don't believe he is. Please assume he isn't.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (24 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
I would definitely talk to him. He may think that your level of interaction is just fine, but if it's not meeting your needs, it's not a balanced relationship. The only way to find out is to get it out in the open.
posted by xingcat at 7:41 AM on November 21, 2013 [5 favorites]

Before they had phones that texted 160 characters, these things were used for talking. I would call him at say lunch time and try to have the same banter with him aurally that you tried by text.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 7:45 AM on November 21, 2013 [5 favorites]

Yeah, having conversations about this kind of stuff is not always fun, but it is so important. You've articulated it well here: "I'm not a clingy person and like that he isn't suffocating me, but I need more contact than this. But then I think maybe it's too early to expect more?"

I would say that exact thing to him, and then ask him what he thinks. You also know precisely what it is that you need, so you can be specific about what would help you. Being able to pinpoint the cause of an issue and the ability to figure out concrete ways to solve it can be difficult, so you've already done a lot of the work here. All that's left is to talk it out with him. Good luck.
posted by k8lin at 7:49 AM on November 21, 2013

Yeah, you are at that magic 3-month mark where shit starts to get really real (or doesn't). He's given himself the label of boyfriend, but he isn't really acting like one. He's being a boyfriend on his terms. Why should he step up and give you a (perfectly reasonable) level of attention, when so far he's getting exactly what he wants/needs without the extra effort?

Me, I would lean waaaaaaaay back. He has time for his bros, but not for me? Well, suddenly my calendar is a bit too full for texting and once-a-week conjugal visits. I have no patience for the "too busy" malarkey.

Probably the more reasonable approach though would be to have a sit-down with him. Your needs aren't being met; let him know what you need, and give him a chance to step up. No apologies, no putting yourself down for having normal, healthy needs...just a straight-up convo.
posted by nacho fries at 7:51 AM on November 21, 2013 [14 favorites]

Next time you see him, say to him "if I can't see you more than one time a week I would like to hear from you at least once a day."

That is completely reasonable and is you stating your needs. If he can't make that happen, that's too bad, but it's proof that he cannot give you what you need. So be direct, be clear, and be ready to move on if he's not willing to give.
posted by phunniemee at 7:51 AM on November 21, 2013 [1 favorite]

It sounds like this dude is purposefully keeping you at arm's length. Why? Only he knows, but nothing you've written sounds like a failure on your part to entice him to see you more often.

Regardless of why this is happening, the only thing you can do about this is talk to him and make it known what it is you want out of a relationship with him. Then, either compromise on something that satisfies you both, or go your separate ways because, again, this is not a scatterbrained guy who doesn't think to call you. It's a guy who set up some explicit boundaries for whatever reason.
posted by griphus at 7:52 AM on November 21, 2013 [7 favorites]

I didn't immediately think cheating, I thought married. But we'll discount that for now.

At the heart of this, you are not getting what you need from the relationship. Why are you settling?

I'd just say to him, "If we're boyfriend and girlfriend, I need more from you. I need to hear from you daily and I'd like to see you X times a week. I want to be married some day, and I want a family and my time is too valuable to spend it with someone who isn't on the same page as I am. What do you want from this relationship?"

There are no tricks or strategies for progressing relationships. You can only open your mouth and ask for what you want. Also, if in fact you do want to be married and have a family, then you should articulate that. It doesn't mean today, but it does mean that you are in relationships not only for fun or sex, but for a deep emotional connection that you want to evolve into a permanant relationship.

I don't know why expressing one's desires is interpreted as weird or needy. What's weird to me is being in a relationship in the abstract. An amorphous, "let's see where this goes." Relationships are pretty much only a couple of things:

1. Ways to find people to settle down with. And to have children with eventually if that's what each wants.

2. Ways to spend time with someone, that includes sex.

That's all well and good, as long as both people want the same thing.

You're not saying that you want to marry HIM, just that, eventually you want to be married. (Or not married but committed, or not committed, but together for a term.)

Whatever it is you actually want, tell him. He can't read your mind, and he may assume that you just want a fling. If you don't just want a fling, don't keep seeing someone who does. It will only end badly.

People are afraid of articulating what they want because they're afraid that the other person doesn't want it too. And then what? Break up?

The reason you don't want to break up is because as it stands right now, in your head, you're on the same page. But what if you found out that he isn't? What if the relationship is perfect for him, as it is, right now and that he'll NEVER want more? Would you want to stay then? If so, WHY?
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 7:52 AM on November 21, 2013 [11 favorites]

Oh yeah this was me sort of. Early on we talked every other day or so and saw each other a few times a week and that wasn't enough for me, and then our relationship grew and now we talk for at least an hour every night, and if we didn't, it would seem weird. But in the 3 month phase, it is still early. So text him when you want to, call him if you want to, don't make it a big deal. It's not bad to reach out or whatever. If things are going in that direction, they will build until it just feels natural to have that much contact.

You don't need to make this a "come to Jesus" conversation. Just tell him "man I miss you, once a week isn't enough. How about you stay over during the week?" then see what he says.

Slow moving isn't bad. If it is slow moving, but done properly and moving in the right direction, then it is building a good foundation.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 7:55 AM on November 21, 2013 [1 favorite]

You are not 'unreasonable', 'pushy', 'clingy', 'weird', or 'needy' for wanting to hear from your boyfriend more than once a week. That is a totally fine thing to want and to ask for.

It might not be something your boyfriend wants to do in a relationship. That is also totally fine, if that's how he wants to run his relationships, but if so it probably means you aren't compatible and there's no real way around it. Or it may be something he would be fine with but hasn't really thought about, or not the way he usually behaves but something he's willing to do now the relationship's getting more serious.

Regardless, the only way you're going to fix this is to address it with him, directly. But I think you need to remind yourself that what you want is totally fine here before you do that. Because it is.
posted by Catseye at 7:57 AM on November 21, 2013 [15 favorites]

Relationships involve communication.

I'm unhappy with this but don't know how to address it without sounding really weird or needy.

There's nothing weird or needy about wanting regular contact with someone you're in a relationship with.

I'm not a clingy person and like that he isn't suffocating me, but I need more contact than this.

Communication to the effect of "I need more contact than this" is about as straightforward and self-respecting as it gets.

IMHO, a partner that can "hear" my concerns is a partner worth continuing a relationship with. Nothing less.
posted by strelitzia at 7:58 AM on November 21, 2013 [3 favorites]

I don't feel important or close to him but I don't know if I'm being unreasonable or pushy about this

It's not unreasonable to want to feel important or close to your boyfriend. It is not pushy to ask for this to happen.

However, you are unhappy and stressed and angsty at three months in, and personally I think this is a red flag. This is the easy part, usually, when it's all love and lust and hormones and not being able to stop talking to each other. It already sounds hard work, and you are already questioning your own needs and expectations.

He's said he wants a girlfriend but I don't feel like his girlfriend. To me that means being companions who talk to each other regularly and share things and see each other more often.

It sounds like he has a different idea of what that means. That's fine, he's also allowed his own feelings. But you need something different and that's fine too. If you were my friend, I'd advise you to chalk this one up to "he may be a nice guy but that doesn't mean he's right for you", cut your losses, and find someone who makes you feel like you matter to them as much as you want to.
posted by billiebee at 8:00 AM on November 21, 2013 [2 favorites]

What do you want this relationship to be? And don't say "Normal," because there's no such thing. Ask yourself what you want him to be doing and what you want to do.

Once you have that worked out for yourself, tell him that. Have a discussion. If the two of you can come to a synthesis, then great. If he only wants a girlfriend on Fridays and you don't want to be someone's girlfriend just on Fridays, then walk away.
posted by Etrigan at 8:00 AM on November 21, 2013 [1 favorite]

People are afraid of articulating what they want because they're afraid that the other person doesn't want it too. And then what? Break up?

I wanted to quote Ruthless Bunny's statement because it is such a clear articulation of why we don't speak up on our own behalf when we are well within our rights to do so. Perfectly stated.

Assuming you do choose to speak up, I think it's helpful to know in advance what your limits are, and what direct action you will take depending on his response. If he is lukewarm, wishy-washy, "needs more time to figure out how he feels / is still trying to figure 'it all' out", or is anything other than super-enthusiastic about stepping things up, you may want to mentally prepare yourself to wish him well and be on your merry way.
posted by nacho fries at 8:03 AM on November 21, 2013 [4 favorites]

I was with someone like this for two years. He doesn't want a girlfriend, he wants a reliable weekend companion for activities and sex. A girlfriend on demand only.

He doesn't want to talk to you or share a life with you, based on his actions. You can ask him, he will deflect. It's just up to you to determine this goes on for.
posted by bquarters at 8:07 AM on November 21, 2013 [12 favorites]

I have been the person on the other side of this relationship. I was not cheating and I was legitimately extremely busy, and the dude's incessant pressure for more contact despite me begging him to ease up, combined with his refusal to accept that I had really serious things going on in my life that did not involve him, is what made us break up.

It absolutely doesn't sound like you are being incredibly pushy or demanding at all, though, so unless he is having serious issues in his personal life to which you are being insensitive (and it doesn't sound like that is the case either), then it seems totally okay for you to tell him that you don't feel like this is working for you and that you need a little something more.
posted by elizardbits at 8:10 AM on November 21, 2013 [2 favorites]

Impulse reaction: you don't feel like he's you're boyfriend because he's not you're boyfriend; he's just someone you hook up with once a week.

Plus: yeah, I admit it - I didn't think cheating, either, but married. Not-married cheaters tend to want more contact. And it's not going to look the same from the side of "other woman" as it does "being cheated on".

It's also entirely possible he's clueless / doesn't care / is incapable of giving more, and the only way you're going to find out which variety you have is to stir things up and see.

It's entirely reasonable to want more contact then this, even just three months in. In fact, those first three months are usually high-level-of-contact, which is part of why this reads so off. Stir, and if you don't like the results, dump it out and start over.
posted by stormyteal at 8:15 AM on November 21, 2013 [2 favorites]

You told us "I'm not a clingy person and like that he isn't suffocating me, but I need more contact than this."

Tell him exactly this. Tell him you need more contact. It might feel uncomfortable to start that conversation, but you'll be better off in the long run.
posted by RainyJay at 8:29 AM on November 21, 2013 [1 favorite]

He doesn't get to "declare" that you are boyfriend and girlfriend, you decide that together. I agree that he's made you his "girlfriend on demand". Whether his purposes are nefarious or not, I doubt if this guy can provide the kind of intimacy that you want.
posted by windykites at 8:58 AM on November 21, 2013 [3 favorites]

My bf and I started out with seeing each other every week with infrequent texts in between. I felt the same way as you do sometimes, but I simply followed his lead, focused on doing my own thing and over time our communication styles gradually changed. A year and a half later and we were seeing each other like 4 times a week and sending short texts pretty much every day. We never did the talking for hours on the phone thing - boring!

3 months is still early... follow his lead and let him initiate. Some people hate checking in every single day because you tend to just talk about the same things over and over again or the conversation isn't as free flowing and fun as when you're face to face.

Focus on making the times you do see him as wonderful as possible and he'll think about you more and probably initiate seeing you more. If you stress/nag him about it this early on I'm sorry to say you run the risk of coming off as needy and with not much else going on in your life.

P.S. We all want to do date people who have other things going on and have full lives outside of the relationship.
posted by soooo at 9:23 AM on November 21, 2013 [1 favorite]

For three months, seeing each other once a week or so seems pretty normal to me. I mean, people have lives. Limerance is awesome, but that doesn't mean you can quit your job. And, I don't know, the not texting thing seems somewhat outdated (every relationship I've been in in the last 5 years has involved lots of gchat and texts and such despite still having to hold down jobs), but YMMV.

All of the above said, if you are not happy, and this is not the kind of relationship you want, you should talk to the dude about this and see what's up. And if his answer is, "sorry I'm just a hands-off kinda guy", you have to decide how much you really want to be with this dude if your ways of relating to each other are so different.
posted by Sara C. at 9:23 AM on November 21, 2013

Yeah, I thought married, too.

You should talk to him about it it, but at the end of the day it doesn't matter why he's like this. It might just be how he approaches relationships.

It sounds like you have a good grasp on what you want and need from a relationship. When you have this conversation with him, you should be prepared to accept that he might not be able to give you what you want and need. (And your articulated wants and needs are completely reasonable, by the way.)
posted by mibo at 9:55 AM on November 21, 2013 [2 favorites]

I'm not assuming he's a cheater or married or anything. Maybe he's totally awesome, honest, upright, etc, and he just prefers very little contact. Even if that is the case, it would drive me fucking bonkers. I absolutely could not be in a relationship with someone who only wanted to see me once a week and wasn't in any other kind of contact all week.

If it were me, I would get to a point where I'd have to say, "I like you a lot, and I'd like to see you more often. Like, at least 3 days a week. This is very important to me, to the point that I don't think I can continue the relationship if something doesn't change soon. Can we get together more, starting now?"
posted by latkes at 10:34 AM on November 21, 2013 [3 favorites]

Unless you know what he does with the rest of his time, this is a tough question to answer.

Not minute-by-minute - just generally if he's busy with work and plays softball twice a week or whatever.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 10:39 AM on November 21, 2013

WHY are you trying so hard?! This sounds like the most boring/unsatisfactory relationship ever. What's so great about this guy that keeps you from dumping him? I don't think I could do three weeks of this let alone three months! There ARE other men out there you know. Sorry if this sounds harsh but seriously, it just doesn't sound worth the effort.
posted by WalkerWestridge at 3:38 PM on November 21, 2013 [1 favorite]

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