A Watched Phone Never Rings
April 21, 2014 12:00 AM   Subscribe

Whenever I am anticipating a date with or a text from the guy that I'm with, I suddenly find myself avoiding everything I need to do in order to just mentally prep for that encounter. This is obviously not a productive or healthy way to anticipate a good thing, but I have acted this way since I was 16 and now at 26 I want to stop trying to be so damn available. Aside from keeping myself busy with obligations I MUST attend to lest there be Serious Repercussions, what else can I do to persuade my mind that living my life in the intervals will allow me to have better relationships, not the other way around?
posted by Hermione Granger to Human Relations (15 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
In somewhat similar situations I have had great success with just turning my phone off for a specific amount of time (an hour or two). I think it depends a lot on how much willpower you have. I can't stop myself from checking my phone constantly when I am anticipating a text, but actually turning the phone on and typing in my passcode is a long enough process that I can resist until my time is up. Once the phone is off and there is no way to communicate, it is much easier to concentrate on other things.

Clearly this is just a stopgap and I'm sure someone else can give you better advice about how to change your attitude.
posted by lollymccatburglar at 1:36 AM on April 21, 2014 [2 favorites]

Nthing turning off the phone
posted by zia at 2:27 AM on April 21, 2014

Yes, thirding turning off the phone. I will sometimes go a step further and turn off the phone, remove the battery, and place it in a physical place that is separate from the physical place where my phone is.

Make a list of things you enjoy doing by yourself, or things that would constitute living your life more fully. For me that list would include going for a bike ride, taking a long bath, reading a favorite book, etc. Your mileage might vary. When you find yourself focusing on anticipatory feelings about dates/texts, try doing something from the list.

Mindfulness meditation might help, too.
posted by quietshout at 3:46 AM on April 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

Also, other boring older person advice- when you meet the right person, they will call when they say they will, or you will just know that you can rely on them so this crazy-making "will they or won't they" and "if they will, then when??? and why not now????" will subside. Ideally!

In the mean time you definitely have to find another way to fill your time- go to yoga or swimming or something where you literally cannot be next to your phone, have it locked in a locker somewhere.

And this actually fits with a previous thread about carrying the phone around- just leave it in a different room (with ringer off if possible) and check it only occasionally at home. Much more peaceful!
posted by bquarters at 4:28 AM on April 21, 2014 [7 favorites]

My advice depends on the reason you're dropping everything in anticipation. Do you mentally prepare because you're anxious about saying or doing the wrong thing? If so, keep in mind that the kind of guy who's right for you will be into you no matter what you say, and work on mentally letting go of the notion that there's a right and wrong way to interact with a date. Or is it because you're super excited about the person? If that's the case, immerse yourself in distractions that are fun rather than serious business (time permitting). The more interesting things you have going on, the less inclined you'll be to keep checking for texts or calls, because you're already doing something exciting.

Also, this will sound absolutely ridiculous, but: read The Rules if you can find a secondhand copy somewhere. Now, The Rules is dumb as shit and I advise you to take neither its specific advice nor its underlying message seriously, and it is best read critically while drinking with a few friends and laughing your heads off. However, several of the bogus-ass rules ("never call him! always end calls first!") are built around the actual truth that, hey, it's a good idea not to be available all the damn time. Not because it makes you mysterious and feminine and universal boy bait (as the books claim), but because sitting around waiting for calls is kind of boring and people like dating interesting people who won't lean too heavily on the relationship for fulfillment or entertainment.
posted by Metroid Baby at 4:39 AM on April 21, 2014 [5 favorites]

Instead of sitting around waiting for him to call, pick up the phone and call him. If you don't like him enough to want to do that, find someone else whom you do like enough to want to call.
posted by TheAdamist at 4:53 AM on April 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

Part of this is game playing. Don't do that. Be refreshingly upfront and honest with guys you date.

Be honestly busy. Schedule things, even your shows on TV. Meet friends for drinks. Don't jump a the chance to "Hang Out" at the last minute.

I'm with Metroid Baby 100% about The Rules.

If a guy honestly likes you, he'll make the effort to plan things with you. End of story. If someone you like isn't all that into you, you'll get last minute offers like, "Hey, want to hang out?" Translated: "Hey, I'm bored and horny, can we have sex?"

Even if he's broke, he'll call you and ask, "I'm having a lovely dinner of PBJ and Game of Thrones on Sunday, care to partake?"

If you want, call him to make plans. "Want to come over for lasagna and parcheesi on Saturday?"

What you're doing is nursing along relationships where you're more into the guy than he is into you. When you're both into each other, you'll make dates to do laundry together, just because you like being together, no matter what it is that you're doing.

If you don't feel comfortable calling him, ask yourself why that is.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:32 AM on April 21, 2014 [4 favorites]

Sweet Jesus, I just had this conversation with my daughters who are in their early 20's.

You kids and your crazy technology. Nothing changes. I was just telling my daughters this story:

"When I met your dad back in the day (early 1980's), I worked at WBCN radio in Boston from 4 to 10 am and was also a DJ at The Paradise and The Channel. Your mom was like the epitome of badass cool and I was even in Boston Magazine's 'Women DJs on the Rise' article. Warren Zevon asked me to go on tour with him, a short-statured Irish singer tried to ply me with drinks and was desperate for me to be his girlfriend.

Your mom was the shit.

Your dad was in an up and coming band when we met and I thought he was special and adorable and we got along like a house on fire. A few days after we met and had a few pretty swell dates, he went on tour to Japan.

And because these were the dinosaur days and we didn't have instantaneous conversations with everyone all the damned time and if we wanted to call people we had to actually go to a telephone or stay home and wait for the phone to ring, this is what I did: I took a week of unpaid sick days and waited for your dad to call me from Japan. Seriously.

I was the shit and I stayed at home and waited for someone to call me.

From Japan."

All I can tell you is there's a certain kind of crazy that takes over in early days of a relationship. Relish that crazy. It's an amazing feeling.

But of course, in hindsight, it is completely bananas to act this way. And OMG especially in the days of cell phones? It's super-ass crazy.

It's also fun.

All that platitudes, all the "watched pots never boil" stuff, it's all true. And your older self will tell you how cute you were for staring at the phone and wishing desperately that it would ring.

Turn off your phone. He'll call or he won't. In the meantime, try to simultaneously enjoy the new-crush feelings and keep yourself busy.

*Yes, I am aware that I probably should have been more attentive to Bono.
posted by kinetic at 5:46 AM on April 21, 2014 [30 favorites]

I have handed my phone over to a dependable co-worker and asked him to hide it until 4PM.

It has to be someone you trust to look at your phone if it's buzzing and know that Aunt Tilly's call is true emergency but that Cousin Milly's text ain't.
posted by The Noble Goofy Elk at 5:53 AM on April 21, 2014

I got over this by telling myself that I didn't want to date somebody who would be waiting by the phone for me to call or text.

It seemed much worse when I imagined the object of my affection doing it and I was kinda grossed out and realized I was being gross if I did it.

So I may have still had the urge, but every time I did, I made myself get up and clean something, or write that important email, or take a walk without my phone.

You can't get rid of the urge but you can change how you handle it.

Good luck!

Ps as said above, someone worth your time not leave you wondering when you'll hear from them...because you'll hear from them.
posted by McSockerson The Great at 6:46 AM on April 21, 2014 [2 favorites]

It's ok to be excited especially if you like someone. But also, that good someone will be predictable. So you'll be excited but it won't be too much of a surprise when they call on Tuesday asking for a date on Saturday. But you'll still be happy they called!

To not get overly jumpy, I would relax and say to myself: with the right guy, it will just click, almost despite ourselves. I don't have to worry that our relationship is on some kind of precipice. It will grow naturally.

I must stress this: with the right guy, you could say the stupidest shit out of nervousness or whatever and he'll still think its cute. So don't worry! If you had to be perfect to have a happy relationship then buy me another cat and stitch my ladybits shut because it would have been game over for me.

Also: you probably want a guy who can make things happen. So you need to let him make it happen. Tell yourself: the kind of guy I want is the kind of guy who can pick up a phone and call/text me. Someone who participates equally in this relationship. And the only way I'll know if he's that kind of guy is to wait and see what he does of his own volition.

Maybe think of it more like an experiment. He's a new person to you. You like him & wonder if he likes you too. The only way you'll find out is to watch the experiment unfold. Given the ingredients of you (just you, as you are) and him (as he is), what kind of excellent cake will bake?

You could also read: "he's just not that into you" to help internalize that kind of relaxed confidence.

FWIW, when I started thinking in the above terms, dating became A LOT more fun! and a LOT less stress!

Good luck. You're awesome!
posted by St. Peepsburg at 7:57 AM on April 21, 2014 [7 favorites]

Best answer: Here's the thing. It's the 21st goddamn century. You have a communications device that you can carry on your person at all times. Very few situations require you to render yourself completely incommunicado.

So just... stop worrying about it. There is really no situation that's going to happen where this guy could try to call/text/whatever and you could conceivably not know about it for more than maybe 15 minutes. Go have a life, and when he calls, pick up the phone and talk back. There's nothing else you need to do. Waiting By The Phone has been solved. It is obsolete as a feeling to have.

But, OK. I have a feeling you're not just talking about the mechanics of talking to this dude, but the general Clearing Your Schedule type stuff just on the off chance that he wants to hang out. I recently had a moment of clarity about this in my own relationship. My boyfriend has an ongoing Thursday night thing. Have I ever been annoyed that he couldn't do something on a Thursday? No. Have I ever thought, "Ugh this is the worst I should go find another SO who would be more available to me on this one particular day of the week..."? No. I just know he has a thing on Thursdays, and mentally don't make date plans for that day.

It is possible that I'm simply the best and most understanding girlfriend on earth. But it's more likely that this is how your brain works when you like someone and want them to be happy. I bet that if there were times you couldn't talk or hang out or whatever, your boyfriend would understand. You don't need to be a barbie doll waiting in a box to be played with whenever your boyfriend feels like it. If your boyfriend needs that from you, he's not worth bothering with.
posted by Sara C. at 9:31 AM on April 21, 2014 [3 favorites]

Best answer: I’m reading your question a little differently than other folks are… not that you are clearing your schedule so you’re always available, but that you’re not able to focus on other stuff because the anticipation of connecting with him is so great. (Or maybe I’m just projecting because that’s what I do?)

Anyway, I deal with it by pretending it isn’t happening and getting involved in something else that requires attention but not a huge amount of focus. Reading won’t work, for example, because it doesn’t DEMAND attention; I would let my mind wander and end up stopping. Studying or the like won’t work because it requires more focus than I can reasonably give and it would just end up being frustrating.
For me, cooking works well, because there are a series of steps that need to be completed and you can’t ignore it or walk away from it because something will burn. Housework and yardwork in general work okay. Also paying bills, sorting through clothes, reorganizing drawers.

I’m usually able to get into the task I’m doing such that I’m not as focused on the anticipation, but even if I don’t quite get there, I at least got something productive done. It gets easier over time.

Another option would be to start considering texts as pleasant surprises rather than something you’re looking forward to. I’ve had some success with this; convincing myself that no communication is expected until our next date, and then when it pops up it is still exciting AND keeps me from wasting my life.
posted by metasarah at 11:59 AM on April 21, 2014 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Sara, I am so glad that you were frank enough to make the Barbie analogy. That is exactly what I have been for all of my partners and I am sick of it. I now have the chance to get back together with the one guy who does not want me to be that and I know that if I start now I can really get myself to a place where I do not believe I have to be perfect and in stasis until somebody wants me.

Thanks for the input so far. I am still open to any other suggestions, particularly as it relates to not just sitting around waiting for a date once it's been scheduled.
posted by Hermione Granger at 12:44 PM on April 21, 2014

Well, nobody wants to be a Barbie Doll who does nothing until Ken takes her out of the box. This follow-up detail, "I now have the chance to get back together with the one guy who does not want me to be that..." is concerning because nobody wants that in a partner.

This old/new guy may be awesome and special and wonderful, but it's not because he doesn't want a Barbie. Most people want a partner who has interests and things to talk about.

As far as suggestions for keeping busy, I don't know. What do you like to do? Train for a 10k? Take up knitting? A foreign language? Cooking class? Welding?

How would you occupy yourself if you weren't waiting for a date?

Do that.
posted by kinetic at 4:18 PM on April 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

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