What to do when the guy I'm dating is uncertain about proceeding?
July 24, 2014 9:44 PM   Subscribe

What actions should I take when the guy I have been dating for a month seems confused and uncertain about taking dating to the next level?

I met a wonderful guy online about a month ago. We've been seeing each other about once a week for the past month, and I felt I connected with him on so many levels. He has been consistent in communicating with me and planning weekend dates earlier in the week. I thought everything was going well until a few days ago, when he called me and said that he felt at around this time is when he would normally consider moving a relationship forward but that he didn't feel completely comfortable with doing so. It seemed like he was breaking things off. I told him that I didn't think there was a specific timetable for such things and that I was willing to take things slowly and that I wasn't looking for anything serious right away. I asked him what in particular made him uncomfortable but he couldn't give me a specific reason. He said that I had all the qualities of someone he'd want to be in a relationship with but he couldn't pinpoint why he was feeling uncertain. We had a second phone call later that night, in which I tried to explain that I was willing to take things slowly and that I was a very loyal person (he apparently has some past emotional baggage from an ex who hurt him). I was distressed and tearing up and he had difficulty speaking, which makes me think maybe he was feeling emotional about all this too. We ended that phone call civilly but with no mention about whether the breakup was definitive.

I really like this guy, and I had thought that things were going well for the past month. His actions certainly had me thinking he was as into me as I was into him. I did not see any warning signs and I am left feeling so confused and heartbroken. There are some factors that I think may have factored into his decision, such as the fact that I'll only be here during the summer, but I think it wouldn't have been difficult for him to mention this if this were the cause for his ending things.

What should I do? I have not contacted him the last few days to give him some space in case he changes his mind. Should I maybe send him a short email asking to meet up and talk? Or should I just leave it be? This was the first dating experience in two years that I had felt so optimistic about, and I want to proceed cautiously. Thank you all in advance.
posted by enantio to Human Relations (32 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Also, is it likely that he just has cold feet and is scared of his feelings? Is this typical behavior of men who have just started dating someone?
posted by enantio at 9:48 PM on July 24, 2014

Leave it leave it leave it leave it.

If you contact him asking to 'meet up and talk', you will set up the dynamic for the entire rest of the relationship. Which is: him pulling away/effing around/being ambivalent, and you chasing after him/sitting round waiting/wondering how you got into this misery.

Do not. Sit tight. Next move is his. If he doesn't make one, move on.
posted by Salamander at 9:52 PM on July 24, 2014 [88 favorites]

Also, is it likely that he just has cold feet and is scared of his feelings? Is this typical behavior of men who have just started dating someone?
posted by enantio at 9:48 PM on July 24 [+] [!]

No and no.
posted by Salamander at 9:52 PM on July 24, 2014 [13 favorites]

this is way too much for having seen each other, what, 6 times over 4 weeks? i don't think he's the guy for you, or maybe for anyone right now. i think it's more likely he's trying to let you down gently than he's scared of his feelings.
posted by nadawi at 9:58 PM on July 24, 2014 [21 favorites]

Sorry this is happening.

You should completely forget about him and move on. Delete his number. Don't respond to any further contact. Seriously. It's a complete waste of time.

This happened to me before. Same kind of conversations almost exactly a month into dating. Same weird inability to talk on his part. Cost me a few weeks of difficult emotions but I finally cut my losses, kept dating other people and met someone 100000000x better for me than he was or ever could be.

As nadawi pointed out - this is way too much drama early on. You shouldn't have to "convince" a guy that you're a lovely person. That's not how healthy relationships start.

Whether he has baggage and trust issues from prior relationships that make it impossible for him to communicate clearly with you or he simply is not that into you.. It doesn't really matter. You are not his therapist. Let it go.
posted by Gray Skies at 10:08 PM on July 24, 2014 [31 favorites]

Move on. When you're with the right one, none of this stuff will come up, I promise.
posted by Hermione Granger at 10:09 PM on July 24, 2014 [15 favorites]

Also: You do not really like this guy. You like the fantasy of who you hoped he was. The reality of this guy is his behavior toward you (now). Do you like his current behavior or how all of this feels? No? Then you do *not* like *this* guy.
posted by Gray Skies at 10:11 PM on July 24, 2014 [38 favorites]

From our point of view as random internet users reading about this in plain text from one person's point of view, there's just one thing we know about him: he seems to be very good at creating drama out of thin air. And you're going to leave town anyway! This does not seem like a recipe for a lasting romance.
posted by John Cohen at 10:15 PM on July 24, 2014 [6 favorites]

Aww, I'm so sorry. This is the pits. Take yourself out for ice cream, take a hot bath, do something that makes you feel good and comforted right now. Take care of yourself. It feels crummy to be where you are.

I've been there, right where you are, with a guy that everything was just gangbusters with, and I had no idea that it was going to end. And then it ended, and it made me feel just so, so bad. I stopped eating for a week, and couldn't really sleep at all. It was intensely traumatic for me.

So, my first piece of advice is: take care of yourself. Try to make sure that you do the basics: eat, go to work, shower, do things that make you feel good.

My other piece of advice is this: you say that you want to be cautious. That is great. Be cautious, with the next guy that comes along. Not in a bad way: just pay attention. Evaluate the person you're dating. Make mental notes of the things that alert you to potential mismatches in your values. Try to figure out if the person you are dating takes good care of themselves, and whether they are in tune with themselves emotionally. Evaluate how they make you feel, but also evaluate who they are, fundamentally, to the best of your ability.

Evaluate, because it injects a healthy caution into a budding relationship. And it takes time. It takes a long time to really know if a person is wonderful. It just does.

I am so sorry that things are over with this guy. But, in a way, I'm not sorry, because now that this has happened, getting back to a place where you would feel good and optimistic and solid in the relationship? At least for me, that would take a very long time. And it would be painful and difficult, too. Someone you have known for a month - well, you just haven't had time to evaluate them properly. This action gives you so much data about this guy and about your relationship and how he would treat that relationship - and you - if you "tried again." That data would always be in the back of your mind, that knowledge that he might just drop you like a hot potato again.

And that kind of thing just takes too much work to come back from. It's very painful, and there's a good chance that it wouldn't be worth the cost you'd have to pay, emotionally. Even if it is just cold feet - that's no way to behave if you have cold feet. If you have cold feet, you talk about it. Together. Even if it's hard. This guy did not talk to you about problems or concerns, which means that he probably would not do so in the future, and that would leave you in a sorry state a lot of the time. How could one not feel insecure in that relationship?

I'm sorry this happened, but like people say: "You're better off without him, honey." But really. There will be another guy who is wonderful, but he'll be wonderful and he'll communicate with you, too, and it will be a much, much better relationship than the one you ever could have had with this dude.

Take care.
posted by sockermom at 10:39 PM on July 24, 2014 [6 favorites]

He called you to break up (well, to the extent that one can after a handful of casual dates) with you. I'm sorry, but that's what that was.

Most people at this point just go for the fade out, maybe a week of texting "k" and apologizing for being so busy. (Check the annals of AskMe for plenty of examples of this.) This guy actually called you to break it as gently as he could. That tells me that you read him pretty well in that he's probably a pretty decent guy who does like you quite a bit. Just not in a relationshippy sort of way.

This is ok. It happens. Just leave it be and go date more people.
posted by phunniemee at 10:42 PM on July 24, 2014 [22 favorites]

There are some factors that I think may have factored into his decision, such as the fact that I'll only be here during the summer

Way to bury the lede.

My guess is that it's hard for him to say "Look, I like you but a) too much to just have a summer fling," and/or "b) not enough to do the long distance thing." Some of us suck at long distance dating and do not do it. That's fair and legit.
posted by DarlingBri at 10:45 PM on July 24, 2014 [19 favorites]

Whatever the reasons/extenuating circumstances: A maybe is a no.
posted by ablazingsaddle at 11:04 PM on July 24, 2014 [7 favorites]

This sounds like a fantastic way to waste a summer on feeling shitty from all the push-pull and tiresome morose stare-at-shoe-and-kick-dirt uncertain crap.

which is to say, this relationship(and that maybe needs some "", yo) sounds like it fails at doing what it's even labeled to be on the box. Mainly, there's nothing fun or summer flingy about this. It's all the miserable morose low parts of a relationship right out of the box.

Why would you want that?
posted by emptythought at 11:19 PM on July 24, 2014 [4 favorites]

Move on. He's just not that into you. He may not be able to articulate why things changed or he doesn't want to. It doesn't matter. Don't ever try and talk someone into being with you.

He may have been dating someone else. You should have been dating other people too. Don't put all your eggs in one basket so soon. Date several people and have fun. Don't beat yourself up and keep looking. Be positive and don't let crap like this put a chip on your shoulder. His loss. Next!

I've become a fan of A New Mode, it's dating advice for women. Yes, it's kinda schmaltzy and Cosmopolitan/Glamour-like but still pretty good. Why did a seemingly great guy disappear or lose interest is probably the number one question asked. You are so not alone.
posted by shoesietart at 11:34 PM on July 24, 2014 [4 favorites]

"He's great at creating drama out of thin air!"

I can't Nth John Cohen enough.
posted by jbenben at 12:27 AM on July 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

Y'all are done. Delete his number, move forward. Maybe put dating on hold till you're more settled in the fall?
posted by RainyJay at 2:04 AM on July 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

I, a guy who has only been in relationships very infrequently, didn't even realize for quite some time that there is a finer-grained staging to them, apart from maybe getting married. And I'm still not sure I understand it all.

So anyways, is it possible that he's similar and has reached some conclusions about the stages of relationships that don't make sense or sees something that's an obstacle which isn't really an obstacle?

I'm asking just because this was my first thought, but honestly after reading other peoples' answers it does seem pretty plausible that he actually had something very definite to communicate about his level of interest in you and just chose a clumsy, confusing method of conveying it.
posted by Sockpuppet Liberation Front at 2:33 AM on July 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'm sorry this happened to you.

But he's not uncertain about proceeding. He knows he doesn't want to proceed and told you that. The message might have got a little garbled, because these are hard things to say to people. (Once I actually had to ask if the guy was breaking up with me, and he said he didn't know. He knew. The words are hard to say sometimes.)

Move on. You shouldn't have to talk someone into sticking around -- when it happens right, no one will be able to talk them out of it.
posted by mibo at 4:14 AM on July 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'm going to be the lone voice of dissent here and say I think it's OK to email him. I think you need to prepare yourself for the very real possibility that things are over between you, but it seems like he may actually be confused about his own feelings right now. It's kind of mysterious, and there's no great harm in making one more little effort to resolve this. I think you can reach out to him one more time without being clingy or weird.

I'd say, email him, tell him you like him a lot and you miss him and you'd be interested in continuing things, but if he's not interested, so long. I don't think offering to meet is the best idea. Just say what you want to say in a short email. Let him know that that door is still open, for now, but that you're not going to chase him. Then leave it be. At that point, he'll have to be the one to make the next move.

Relationships are so f'ing hard sometimes. You sound like a sweetheart. Good luck.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 4:37 AM on July 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

This will go nowhere. It can end now and you can move on, or you can do the dance of a thousand dramaz and keep it going through sheer will and tenacity. And you can feel even worse when it finally does end.

Go no contact immediately. Don't even bother to tell him, just drop the whole thing. Block, de-friend and every other nuclear option.

Guys who are into you and who like you do not pull this shit. They wouldn't risk losing you. Say it out loud and think about it.

As for the whole, he's been hurt before so he's pushing me away to protect himself-thing, even if it were true (which it isn't,) that is not how emotionally mature people act. Why on earth would you want to be involved with an emotionally immature person?

There is a species of person who will get you interested, shower you with attention, push intimacy early and often, tell you how wonderful you are, and then pull away to watch you go frantic. Please don't play this game.

You're disappointed, not heartbroken. You'll be amazed at how quickly you can get over this if you just walk away. You still have a month of summer, plan fun stuff with your friends, stay busy and don't look at Facebook for about a week.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:28 AM on July 25, 2014 [10 favorites]

why email him? you've already had two phone calls where the results were the same - he said he wasn't ready (I'M NOT THAT INTO YOU) and you said what's the rush! (I'M WILLING TO TAKE ANYTHING I CAN GET!) he's doing this nicely, but if you keep pushing communication he's eventually going to have to be blunt/rude which will hurt more later. keep your dignity and walk away now.
posted by cristinacristinacristina at 5:37 AM on July 25, 2014 [6 favorites]

He's not feeling it and doesn't want a relationship with you, so he broke up with you. That's it, I think. There's no ambiguity here. You should move on.
posted by J. Wilson at 5:58 AM on July 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

I've dated a few guys who were ambivalent about their feelings for me in the early stages, the way this guy is with you. And because I was young and foolish, when they'd bring up that they weren't sure they were feeling it, I'd try to talk them out of it. And I'm damned persuasive, so I'd usually get them to stick around for another couple of months... but then we'd have a ugly breakup, because they just weren't into me and I was trying to force them to be into me.

That doesn't work.

This guy is not into you. I know it sucks right now, but please believe me, if you keep trying to get him to be into you, you're going to feel even worse down the road. Don't do that to yourself. Just let this guy go, and get ready for the next guy, who will hopefully be more awesome than this guy.
posted by palomar at 6:15 AM on July 25, 2014 [4 favorites]

he called me and said that he felt at around this time is when he would normally consider moving a relationship forward but that he didn't feel completely comfortable with doing so. ... I asked him what in particular made him uncomfortable but he couldn't give me a specific reason. He said that I had all the qualities of someone he'd want to be in a relationship with but he couldn't pinpoint why he was feeling uncertain

He thinks you're nice, he doesn't want the relationship to be more serious, it's possible he's trying to break things off in a plausibly deniable way (which I personally think is ass behaviour; be upfront and honest).

But the important thing here is that he's just not Feeling It. He's made that pretty crystal clear.

So, I'm sorry, but he's just not that into you. It's only been a month. Move on. If you hear from him again--you almost certainly won't--re-evaluate at that time. At this time and for the rest of your life, he was a fun and brief experience and that was that.

Sorry. Sometimes relationships (barely start) end with a whimper and not a bang.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 7:02 AM on July 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

There's nothing you can do. You can't 'make' someone fall in love with you. He's already tried to softly break up with you and you're hanging on. Thankfully he was honest and forthright about things instead of dragging it on or disappearing. I'm sorry. You've got to let it go.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 7:10 AM on July 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

The most important part of this is that you are only going to be able to be with this guy for the summer.

You two, by your description, had a real connection. He then called to tell you straight up that he did not feel comfortable taking this dating to a higher level. He told you very honestly that, yes, he does like you a lot but he is not comfortable getting more involved with you.

This guy honestly broke up with you. You did the most uncomfortable thing possible in that situation, which is trying to argue with his intent to break it off. In the future, please realize that feeling entitled to a relationship unless the guy can "present a case" for breaking up is not the coolest thing to do.
posted by Willie0248 at 7:38 AM on July 25, 2014 [16 favorites]

The most important part of this is that you are only going to be able to be with this guy for the summer.

Agreed. I can understand why he'd be uncomfortable taking things to "the next level" - what other levels are there when you are only around for another month?
posted by sweetkid at 9:22 AM on July 25, 2014 [2 favorites]

I've had guys in this situation come back around and we ended up dating...but ONLY when I went cold turkey and ignored them.
posted by amaire at 10:04 AM on July 25, 2014 [2 favorites]

You should move on. If he's ready, he'll follow. You can't really do anything to make this person get back into you. Only he can.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:52 AM on July 25, 2014

I don't think he was all that straightforward with you and I don't think you did anything wrong by wanting to talk about it rather than just saying "oh, okay." He gave you mixed messages. I don't care what conventional wisdom says about tacit social agreements that mixed messages are really just polite no's and whatnot and we should all just take them and give them with impunity. It's not cool to do that. People should adult up and be straightforward.

But I wouldn't pursue him further. You don't have the potential to be serious with him if you're leaving town soon anyway. That might have been the reason he pulled away or there might be some other reason. He may not know it. It could be subconscious. If he can't articulate the reason, he may not be a particularly self-aware person or he may be a wuss. Or both.

Try not to waste any more time on him. Sorry this happened to you!
posted by xenophile at 11:02 AM on July 25, 2014

In such cases you dump him. That's it. He is not ready to proceed forward and you are. That is a big difference. The reasons are many and among them is one that he is not ready to proceed further, with you. Stop analyzing why he isn't doing something you want and just move on.
posted by jellyjam at 1:25 PM on July 25, 2014

Response by poster: Thank you all for your comments; I really appreciate it! I think I've accepted the situation for what it is, even though it was disappointing.
posted by enantio at 10:31 PM on July 28, 2014

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