Should I say what I need to say?
June 25, 2014 1:51 AM   Subscribe

Stuck on someone, but things got weird and awkward. Would it be a good idea to open up and just let this person know how I feel about them? Wall o' text commences...

Yet another relationship question for me. These seem to give me the most trouble in life. It stems from coming out at 27 and never dealing with romance or dating until then. Add a lot of bad luck with hard to read people and I end up in these situations more than I'd like. Metafilter has been quite helpful in all these little ruts I keep finding myself in and I feel I've come a long way, but I still get stuck.

Anyway, a few months ago I met a girl who had come to my town to visit our mutual friends. We all went out drinking, and then I eventually made a move on her. We hooked up (not quite sex but almost) and then the next morning things were very awkward and weird. She was avoidy and wouldn't meet my eye. I was unsure how to approach her, and she seemed to be very aloof and standoffish. When people act so closed and awkward it's like a repellent to me and I can't approach them. So I probably seemed just as awkward although I was trying my hardest to interact with her. It upset me quite a bit, but I kept trying. Later that night I saw her making out with her ex. I was crushed and figured she was just not into me at all.

I didn't totally give up... I added her on social media. She would occasionally like and comment on my posts so I figured she at least didn't hate me. She let me follow her Instagram (which was set to private) but didn't follow me back - yet on several occasions she would manually go to my profile page once in a while and like and comment on old photos. So I wasn't sure how to read her behavior.

Eventually a couple months went by and I finally had to reach out to her because I felt so much regret over never trying to be clear with her. I messaged her on Facebook something simple, saying hi and asking her how she was, and she responded by asking for my number so we could text. I sent that to her and she texted me. Which surprised me because this took some effort and it seemed to show some interest on her part... I doubt anyone would do that if they didn't genuinely want to communicate. We had a small-talk conversation over text (nothing super meaningful or deep) but she suddenly stopped responding after one of my questions, and I didn't hear from her again. I was pretty sad and confused because she seemed so interested and responsive at first...and then suddenly stopped. I didn't want to bug her, and I just concluded that she wasn't into me at all. Keep in mind that it was extremely difficult to reach out to her in the first place. Somehow I have a lot of emotion tied up in this. BUT, I was happy that I had at least tried, and I had some closure.

This weekend I happened to visit her city for a work thing, and I saw her there, during the work thing and after. I hadn't really told her I was going to be in town because I just assumed she was not into me or into communicating with me. One of the first things she said was a joking but semi-serious "I can't believe I didn't get a text from you that you'd be here." I played it off casually, but really I wanted to remind her that *she* was the one who had stopped responding, and I didn't think she wanted to talk to me.

We hung out in a group after the event and she was giving me some very mixed signals. One of the first things she said to me was that the best time of her past year was going to my city to visit and hanging out with me and our friends. But then later on when I was joking with her she joked back and said she "made a lot of bad decisions when she was in [my city]." I don't know if she means hooking up with me, or hooking up with her ex after me, or just getting too drunk, or what. But it confused the hell out of me. She was friendly to me, alternating with being very aloof/awkward with me. She did and said a few things that made me think she was interested (and that she knew a few details about me that showed she was paying close attention to me), but would then do things that made me think otherwise. She invited me to her house for a bit while she did some chores (just her and I) before we rejoined the group, and she was talking about dating and my general gist was that it seemed she was frustrated about her love life and wants a relationship. When it's just the two of us she seems to open up, and we've had some good conversations - I like many aspects of her personality, although she seems to be a tough nut to crack.

I reached out to her over text the next day to see if she wanted to come out with us the second night, but she said she was busy with work.

When she left our last small work event yesterday (it was a group of 4 of us) she walked away without even looking at me or saying bye. It was bizarre and I was crushed.

Then tonight I got a text from her asking me if I was still in town...I said that I wished I was but I had flown back this morning. So that made me even more confused and upset, because it shows a glimmer of interest on her part.

Anyway, long story short I'm dealing with someone who is giving me pretty mixed signals and who seems very guarded about her feelings and emotions.

Part of my dilemma here is that I feel like *I* dropped the ball...I wasn't direct with her when I had the chance. I didn't really flirt with her very much aside from being friendly and trying to talk to her and engage her. And I know I can be hard to read as well...I can be shy and I'm not open about my feelings and it's something I'm really working on. She makes me SO incredibly nervous, and her personality quirks don't help me out of that hole like some warmer personalities will.

For some unknown reason, my feelings about this whole situation have been bugging me to no end. I feel extremely depressed about how it all went down. I think it might be because I feel like I f*cked up....and I worry that she's acting this way because she thinks *I'm* not interested, or that I just wanted a hookup and didn't actually care about her. I feel like the fact that we did get physical necessitates directness at this point, and I can't just test the waters by flirting or asking her out...especially because we live in different (but neighboring) states.

My question boils down to how to deal with this:

I feel like I need to open up and communicate with her.....telling her that I DO like her and that I hope she's not upset with me or what happened between us, and I hope things can be okay between us moving forward even if she doesn't like me romantically. And then... just let the chips fall where they may. I just want to know if there's any interest on her part. I hate living with question marks and regrets. It will be hard, but I can handle rejection....I can't handle the "What if's".

Should I reach out and just say what I need to say, or just bury this? Should I ask her directly how she feels, or just put my feelings out there and let her respond? How/what is a good way to do this? Is this doomed?
posted by christiehawk to Human Relations (16 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
There are lots of people who won't give you mixed signals and won't be very guarded about their feelings and emotions with you. Some of them will be people you're potentially romantically interested in.

This is just way too heavy for someone you hooked up with once and weren't sure whether or not to pursue. The fact that something didn't work out once doesn't mean you necessarily did anything wrong and doesn't mean that she necessarily did anything wrong, it just didn't work out.

Treat it like something that didn't work out. You don't owe her anything - not an explanation, not a reassurance, not a friendship even if she doesn't like you romantically (or even if she does). Your own phrasing of the question - "should I say what I need to say?" - is something that might merit further self-examination. Why do you describe what you feel as a need? Is it a need for you, as in "I need this in order to feel at peace with the situation", or is it a need based around the relationship that might have been - "I need to clear this up with her to see if we might have a future together"?

To me, it doesn't sound like there's a lot to be gained by saying anything further, even if you really really want to, for whatever motivation. Spending some time sitting with your feelings, working out what's at the root of the need and examining how it's making you feel and how you want to respond to those feelings and what kind of outcomes you're looking for might make things clearer.

Your question is filled with stress, tension, self-doubt. There are people who won't make you feel like this that you can date - I would recommend leaving things where they are with this person, not apologising or pursuing*, and trying to find someone who doesn't leave you feeling torn up and like you've done something wrong when you try dating/hooking up with them. People like this exist, and your time and energy is best spent looking for one of them (or several! date and have fun!) rather than putting more of yourself into something that doesn't sound like it's making you happy.

*Even if it turns out she does like you and you do like her, it seems like she's not particularly good at communicating those feelings. And maybe that's something you need to work on too - I can't make that call. But it'll be easier to do that with someone who's better at this stuff and can guide you. Do you actually want a relationship with someone who makes you feel confused and like you screwed up and who's hard to read? What you've written above, about a hookup and some mixed-messagey encounters down the line, sounds exhausting. Do you have any reason to think that a relationship with this person, for you, would be any less exhausting?
posted by terretu at 2:12 AM on June 25, 2014 [6 favorites]

Just reading this whole thing made me anxious, I can imagine how you feel.

From my outsider perspective, you're dealing with someone who REALLY can't communicate in a straightforward manner. That's not likely to change. My guess is that if you did talk to her and found out the attraction was mutual and began some type of formal relationship, your next questions would be about her not responding to texts or cancelling dates or she left in the middle of the night type of thing.

You wouldn't have any peace in the relationship. You're well-intended and open with your feelings and she's impossible to read.

It may be that she's a wonderful person, but sheesh, the way she communicates basic interest is impossible to decipher and bizarre.

For that reason alone I think you should forget about her, definitely block her on social media and move on.
posted by kinetic at 2:42 AM on June 25, 2014 [2 favorites]

When you are young and you feel unlovely, every person who expresses some interest in you can seem WAY too important. It's like you're dying of thirst, and these people come wandering out of the desert with canteens of water, so you're desperate to hang on to them forever. (This isn't just true of romance. Awkward folks can do this with potential friends, too.)

I got out of the hospital today following major surgery and I am kind of loopy from painkillers, so I hope you'll forgive me if my advice is crap. But I get the impression that you are a young person with self-esteem issues and you're working way too hard to decode your situation with a girl who probably doesn't think about you nearly as much as you think about her. I don't say that with any malice toward you, or disrespect toward her. It's more that she's probably more experienced and was just looking for some fun, and you are a vulnerable little duckling and you are looking for love, with a capital L. Maybe?

Everything you're saying about her reminds me of some of my own fumbly romances when I was 22. If some girl made out with me it seemed like such a BIG DEAL. If she was just kind of casual later I'd make myself nuts, trying to figure out what was "wrong." Don't be 22-year-old me! You had some fun with this girl. I doubt she's trying to send mixed signals, it's more that the signals she's sending aren't very strong either way and they're not the signals your instruments are looking for. She's willing to hang out with you and is maybe interested in more, but it doesn't sound like she's feeling those fireworks you really want her to feel. I'm sorry. Relax and back off. Maybe she will pursue you. More likely, maybe you will find somebody you click with better.

Did I mention the painkillers? Here's wishing you well, from the heart of Bat Country.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 3:25 AM on June 25, 2014 [26 favorites]

My question boils down to how to deal with this

She lives in a different town and is sending mixed signals. This is like the easiest thing in the world to let drop. Let it drop.
posted by empath at 3:33 AM on June 25, 2014 [3 favorites]

Yes, let it drop. I think she just wants to be on friendly terms because you have mutual friends. To me, it reads like she has no romantic interest in you. Plus, dealing with her gives you a lot of anxiety and stress, I doubt that would get resolved if you two were to enter a long-distance relationship. It seems like the two of you have just different communication styles and different expectations.

If you really can not let it be, write her about how you feel once (sweet and short) and let her respond if she wants to. "Pam, I really enjoyed to get to know you better during my last visit to your city. I wish we could have picked up where we left off last time in my hometown. I just want you to know that I see potential for a relationship. Give me a call if you are interested to take this further. Love, c.
posted by travelwithcats at 4:01 AM on June 25, 2014

She's either purposely sending mixed signals to try and string you along, or she's oblivious to the impact on you. Either way, it doesn't bode well for a relationship between you two (and I say this with much love, being an anxious person myself). The way you WANT to feel after a couple dates with a person is secure, appreciated and calm. You can find someone who will bring out those moods and feelings in you.
posted by cranberrymonger at 8:28 AM on June 25, 2014 [2 favorites]

Is this one of the people you have asked about before? I think what you are interpreting as something you did wrong is actually stuff she's doing: running hot and cold, being vague, behaving in unpredictable ways that incite certain levels of drama. Some people love that shit. I think it's past time to move on. If it was going to work out, it would have by now.
posted by juliplease at 8:59 AM on June 25, 2014

Haven't you written about this person before??

Silently block her on all social media (there's a way to do this so the other person doesn't know you've "hidden" them) block her on your smartphone, and forget she ever existed.

It was a one night stand. She is not worthy of even being a friend!

Move on happily. This is not your problem to solve!!
posted by jbenben at 9:01 AM on June 25, 2014

In other words, consider this an opportunity to earn your "I walked away from a player before I got played" badge.
posted by juliplease at 9:03 AM on June 25, 2014

I think you might be reading a little too much into the “mixed signals.” She may not have decided or put much thought either way into how she thinks about you; hard to tell without being there, but her mixed signals might just be “not actively pursuing.” And given your nervousness around the situation, she might not be clear as to your intent either.

Nthing what everyone else said about not using up so much headspace on this, and that it’s easy to get overly emotionally involved when you don’t have a lot of other stuff going on. But I don’t think this is necessarily doomed. Given the lack of communication clarity, send her a text saying you wished you could have spent more time with her and ask if she’s interested in more. Putting yourself out there for rejection is tough, but not as bad as what you’re putting yourself through now.
posted by metasarah at 10:58 AM on June 25, 2014

Response by poster: Thanks everyone. Yes I will full on admit that I've had horrible luck in people that have been showing me interest then screwing me over (my therapist will whole heartedly attest to this and is also baffled by the people I've been dealing with), so my self-esteem in romance is basically shot. And that is probably the reason for being so sucked into this mess....I can't seem to find someone decent!! Anyway. I appreciate everyone taking the time to respond.
posted by christiehawk at 12:07 PM on June 25, 2014

What do you like about this person other than you think there might potentially be the possibility that she could maybe perhaps be into you? There's nothing about that in your question.

That's not to say there's nothing there, but back in my lonely years the possibility that someone might actually be open to "something" felt like enough of a basis for a relationship. This was mostly the result of my fear of being alone forever. It led me to a lot of unproductive, painful over-thinking of trivial interactions and trying to understand the motivations and intentions of other people, which is futile. It added barriers between myself and the rest of life, and it contributed to a self-perpetuating cycle of feeling like I had no capacity to understand people at all.

My advice would be to put this fiasco behind you and focus on finding ways to be around people with shared interests who live in your same town. Any relationship with actual potential won't require anything near this level of rumination. Ceasing your worry about never finding anyone won't magically cause your unicorn to appear, but living in that worry is itself an obstacle to attraction.
posted by under_petticoat_rule at 12:41 PM on June 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

Maybe if she lived nearby and you were going to be seeing her around anyway it would be worth an attempt at some direct communication (which is usually a good thing) about your feelings and trying to figure out what's going on with her. I think reading into your recounting of events and being very generous towards her, there might be a fairly benign explanation for her wishy-washiness, like she stopped responding to you because she was going through a tough time in her life/had met someone else and was dating them for a while but has now stopped, comment about how you should have let her know you were coming to town was her way of flirting, maybe she thought you would make another move if she invited you back to her place and she's too shy to make a move on you, so she did chores… god, I don't know.

I definitely do not think that you screwed anything up here - direct communication is great but it's really not necessarily something that's expected or easy to do with someone who is really just an acquaintance, who you haven't even been on a real date with. So please don't be hard on yourself over that. What you did was fine, this was a learning experience, now you have identified some things that you can seek in a future partner (open, friendly style that makes it easy for you to open up).

If you find your mind going back in circles about this, tell yourself to stop right there and immediately do something future-oriented, like putting out some messages on your online dating site, or making some plans to do something fun with a friend. Hopefully soon after instituting this policy, your life will be so much more filled with good times that you will be too busy to remember this situation and woman.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 6:51 PM on June 25, 2014

You don't mention what gender her ex is. Because my immediate thought is: are you sure she isn't straight?
posted by dekathelon at 11:28 PM on June 25, 2014

Response by poster: Hah! No. She's definitely 100% gay.
posted by christiehawk at 11:33 PM on June 25, 2014

You didn't do anything wrong. She started being wishy washy immediately after you hooked up. She didn't talk to you, and made out with someone else the same day. She's bad news, forget her.

She was avoidy and wouldn't meet my eye. I was unsure how to approach her, and she seemed to be very aloof and standoffish.

I think you're blaming yourself because if you did something wrong, it means there is something you correct. That's not the case. She did all the wrong here.

I once made out with someone and it was awkward. When I kind of approached him to talk about it, that led to an open, polite, kind 10 minute conversation that preserved our friendship in the longer term. That guy was decent. This girl... not so decent. She's been consistent in being a bad dating / making out partner in many ways.

I think you have to let this one go. There isn't anything more to say. Unfortunately, when people act like she has, there is rarely-to-never a way for that to become a relationship, hopeful as one might be to the contrary. I've been there. Many people have. The advice I'd give a friend is to let it go and try something else. It sucks, but them's the breaks.
posted by htid at 9:43 AM on June 26, 2014

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