I will give you space until it comes out of your ears
December 9, 2014 7:10 PM   Subscribe

It's early days in our relationship yet, and I like this guy tremendously, but his communication practices are driving me up the wall. Am I being too demanding or do I have some basis for feeling neglected? more flakey snowflakeness inside

We started dating in early september. He asked me out almost as soon as we met, he was very clear that he liked me and was interested. We have wonderful, easy conversations. and one of my happiest moments maybe this whole year was sitting curled up with him on his couch in happy silence reading different books together while something delicious was cooking on the stove, this will tell you a lot about both of us. They (who!) say your first kiss tells you a lot about the whole relationship, well our first kiss was, to me, frustratingly slight. I mean the guy was so feather-touch, and not in a gently-intense kind of way, more like a scared kitten. Things eventually got more passionate, but ve-e-e-ry slowly. The sex didn't start great (I think he was nervous), but it rapidly got great, he's very creative, pays attention to what I like, and seems to do better with actions than words. but he also tends to pendulum-swing on physical/emotional intensity and affection. sometimes I feel like he can't hold me tight enough, it's this straight, pure yearning where we spend hours just lying together entangled. other times I feel like he's extremely diffident and abstracted, even cold, and almost jumps out of his way not to touch me, and on those sorts of days when we do meet up to make dinner or whatever, I feel like he couldn't care less whether I stayed over or not.

the main thing is the communication though. OK, we're both busy people and I'm extremely independent, definitely on the very low end of the needy scale. But this guy breaks the bottom of the scale. i sometimes go for days without hearing a peep from him. I've been away on business for several weeks and I've gotten about 4 brief emails. I've been too wary about feeling like I'm pressuring his communication style to suggest skyping every now and then (and tbh I'm not a big fan of phone talk either). at the time when I left I had felt like it was too early in our relationship (and he seemed skittish enough about being Committed) that I didn't really push a conversation about how much to stay in touch. he typically takes a few days to reply even to the briefest emails. he has told me he really hates email, and calendars. he hates smartphones. I am welded to my android. I try not to bombard him with emails, I really work very hard to adjust my communication style to accommodate those of people I'm with, but in this I really feel like I'm curtailing my natural tendencies a lot.

I'm also too wary about feeling like I'm pressuring him to even try to make plans too far in advance with him. the night before I was leaving (and wouldn't see him for over a month), he'd arranged to make dinner for some other friends of his. I sincerely believe it was not any sort of game playing, just an inability or unwillingness to factor me into his plans - which is fine, I mean we've not been dating long. but the time before that, when I saw him last, it was one of those days where he was on the abstracted/cold side of the pendulum swing, and he told me after dinner that he had to get up very early the next morning and probably needed to get to sleep, so I agreed to leave and go home, even though (as I later acknowledged to myself, after realizing I'd been upset all the next day) I hadn't actually wanted to and was sad that he didn't seem to want to see me much before I left. I realize this is a problem area, since if he is naturally unresponsive to emotional needs and I am naturally reticent to state (or even recognize) my emotional needs (which I am) we're in for a tough sort of paralysis. I also haven't felt able to make any plans about how or even whether he wants to spend time with me when I'm back. I eventually got up the nerve to drop him a casual email asking whether he was around for any of the christmas break. I said I missed him, and suggested a couple of ways we might get together (eg. movie). He replied (two days later) with a characteristically brief email, no reaction to my suggestion that we get together when I got back, no saying he missed me too, nothing, only that he would probably be at his family's between Christmas and New Year. he's really into his work (we are both professors) and he's working to a deadline right now, and I totally understand that aspect of it b/c I too am a huge workaholic, but this feels to me like bordering on neglect. I know we've only been together a few months, I think he's either INTJ or INTP, probably the latter, and I'm told these guys take forever to warm up to a relationship. when I tell friends we've been dating for just a few months, they smile knowingly and say ah, that honeymoon period, and I'm like, what honeymoon? I like him a huge amount, but so far our relationship has been exactly like that damned first kiss, frustratingly slight. I seriously almost can't even tell if he likes me anymore. I guess it also doesn't help that we haven't seen each other for some weeks. but I mean, if it's this cool at the very start of the relationship, maybe I'm only destined to feel even more and more neglected over time?!

I want to be patient if it will help him settle into the relationship, but I also don't know how to start suggesting my discontents to him if I do hold my tongue and give him the space he needs. I mean, I have never, ever been in a relationship where I might even conceivably be accused of not giving someone their space, christ I disappear into my head all the time. so this is all very strange and bizarre to me and most times I don't feel like I can read him at all. I don't really know how to talk to him about this in a way that wont be threatening, overemotional, manipulative, or demonstrate exactly the kind of neediness which he seems to fear (and which I am really really not!) I'm sorry if this is long and convoluted but I am perturbed and confused. any thoughts would be appreciated!
posted by starcrust to Human Relations (41 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
This sounds like he's a very introverted person without a lot of relationship experience. There are probably some days where he's run out of patience with other people (introvert!) and just can't muster up the energy to deal with anyone, even you. That's not your fault, and not really his either, but it's up to you to decide whether you can cope with it or not. It's OK if you can't or don't want to. He might also be very cognizant of his lack of experience and that would feed a certain hesitancy on his part, not to mention fear of doing something wrong can lead to doing nothing, which is also maybe doing something wrong.

It's also possible that your gut is right, and you "cant tell if he likes [you] anymore" because he doesn't, or at least doesn't match your intensity.

We internet folk are just guessing down here, though, so maybe bring some of this up to him? Pick a moment when he's not being withdrawn to do this for best results. We can't tell you if being patient with him will pay off, but I don't think any relationship worth having was ever ruined by a little communication.

As an aside, I wouldn't put too much stock in that INTP/INTJ analysis. It reads like astrology in its overbroad characterizations.
posted by axiom at 7:25 PM on December 9, 2014 [4 favorites]

Best answer: You're basically asking "How can I make my perfectly legitimate feelings not inconvenient to someone who might not be into me if I inconvenience them" and dude, that's kind of fucked up.

I think he's just not that into you, but you know, you can find out by using your words. Like, in person.

"I like you tremendously and I am enjoying our time together a lot. I realise it's early days yet, but in an exclusive relationship I need to be with someone who is responsive to my communication and is invested in spending time with me regularly. Is that something I can expect from you, or is that not something you can offer?"
posted by DarlingBri at 7:26 PM on December 9, 2014 [61 favorites]

I don't think you're compatible. Mostly because it seems that he's quite emotionally unavailable and maybe, on some level, not that interested or ready to be in a relationship. I think it's him, not you. Your wants are not unreasonable. Situations like this don't tend to get better over time.
posted by quince at 7:26 PM on December 9, 2014 [14 favorites]

You need to ask for what you want. Only you can tell him this. You want to skype? Tell him you want to skype.

you suggest your discontents by bluntly stating them.

think of it this way, you can live for a person or for your needs and values. Ask directly for what you want and accept that he may not want that and you'll have to give him up. But that's living your needs and values and it works better in the long run.

so just tell him, bluntly, what you want.

the secret to doing this is to be able to let the relationship go in your mind before you ask for what you want. You want a different set of behaviors from the guy you would like to date, so ask him to provide those behaviors.

if he won't, break up with him. there are many more people out there you can meet. on your way to and from work tomorrow, count all of the men you see that you find attractive. you'll find that there are more than you think.

so ask him directly. if it ends the relationship, well this was not the one for you, then.
posted by Ironmouth at 7:29 PM on December 9, 2014 [7 favorites]

Don't bend your "natural tendencies" to suit someone else. Find someone with the same natural tendencies. This especially made me cringe: "I really work very hard to adjust my communication style to accommodate those of people I'm with."

Don't ask if you're right for him. He can make up his own mind about that. Ask yourself if he's right for you. He's probably a great guy! But he doesn't sound like he is right for you. Go find the guy who wants to text and email you all the time. I promise they're out there.
posted by desjardins at 7:32 PM on December 9, 2014 [15 favorites]

Agreeing with the general consensus that rather than trying to guess what's making him like this, you have the right to say "hey, regardless of the reason you're like this, it's kinda not enough for me because it makes me feel like [x]. Is this something we could work on meeting in the middle about, maybe?"

You're looking for ways to justify his behavior to yourself so you can cope with it - but the question is, why COPE with it when you can COMPROMISE about it? And in order to compromise about anything, you have to state what YOU want out of the situation.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:32 PM on December 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

I could have written this a year ago. Seriously, almost word-for-word. It's uncanny.

It didn't get any better, and I wish I hadn't let it drag out for many more months.

This is not the level of interest and enthusiasm that makes me feel good in the early stages of a relationship.
posted by Salamander at 7:34 PM on December 9, 2014 [10 favorites]

This sounds less like "different communication styles" and more like "this guy is completely emotionally unavailable."
posted by jaguar at 7:38 PM on December 9, 2014 [5 favorites]

Are you exclusive? Have you agreed you're in a relationship?

Does he have an autism spectrum disorder?

It sounds like he's not available for the kind of relationship you want, for whatever reason.
posted by J. Wilson at 7:50 PM on December 9, 2014

Best answer: No, no, no! When I got together with my husband, we were all over the communication. Emails and phone calls and then hugs and cuddling (and sex, of course). No. You deserve better than this. Stop fucking making excuses for this guy. If you are in a relationship, you are BOTH in it, and you shouldn't have to manage it or second guess him. What do you want, a man or a baby? Because this just sounds like way too much bullshit to put up with for having a relationship. My husband was very clear that he really was into me and he would get up in the middle of the night to answer my emails because he was so excited to hear from me. There was ZERO doubt that he was totally into me and in love with me.

Now we are an old married couple and there is still ZERO doubt that he is into me and loves me. He calls me on his break at work and on the way home to say hi and see if I need anything at the store. We are sickeningly best friends, and there is no loss of communication. I tell him if he is being an asshole and he tells me if I am being a bitch. If I hate the movie, I say I hate the movie. I don't pretend. If he hates my movie, he says so. Sometimes we will both watch the movie, but at least we are honest about it and do it for the other person. But there is always the communication there, the honesty, the humor and the love.

Do not ever get into a relationship where you have to manage the other person. Just dump it and move on. If you are with someone, you are with them (and this was the case for my prior relationships as well). You have to feel special and loved, and happy to see the other person. Like yay! I am see them! Warm fuzzies! Not, oh.. not sure, ugh, what did I do, blah blah. See? It shouldn't be like that, it should feel good! Does he make you feel good! No? Then move on.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 7:54 PM on December 9, 2014 [35 favorites]

Relationships are hard work, but when a relationship is this hard, this early, I think you know what to do.

The come-here-go-away thing you describe is *always* a really big red flag. I don't think I've ever seen that dynamic sort itself out in the long term in a healthy way. You may want to consider if you are *attracted* to his available-and-then-distant routine; I've seen many people get consumed chasing someone who is just tantalizingly out of reach emotionally. If so, you might want to explore why that is, and if you want to continue along that route.
posted by girl flaneur at 8:08 PM on December 9, 2014 [2 favorites]

This sucks. I feel for you.

I fell in love with someone like this. It did not end well. He is a wonderful person through and through and he loved me as well and he could not give me what I need and this guy cannot give you what you need, either.

By all means ask for what you need. Just pay attention to how he acts rather than what he says after you ask.
posted by Bella Donna at 8:14 PM on December 9, 2014 [7 favorites]

I'm INTP and think you're being perfectly reasonable in what you want. This would bother me too.
posted by jrobin276 at 8:26 PM on December 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

I really work very hard to adjust my communication style to accommodate those of people I'm with...
Do you think he's spending this kind of time or care or energy thinking about you? Accommodating you? Adjusting to you? Thinking about your needs? It sounds like you're spending a lot of time in this relationship making sure he feels good and safe and like he has space... What about how you feel?

Whether he's a jerk or whether he's just a bit of a reticent fellow, it doesn't sound like this relationship is a very nurturing one to be in for you. It can be very hard to shut the door on a relationship where you're having pretty decent sex and you're able to read on the couch and cook together and have a warm little nest together sometimes, but it's a very powerful thing to be able to put your own needs first and to take care of yourself all of the time.

I used to stay in relationships like the one you've described here because I wanted so much to be a good girlfriend, and I wanted to accommodate and adapt and care for the guy I really liked/loved. I didn't stop to think things like: "How do I feel? Do I feel cared for here? Am I getting what I need?" Once I started approaching relationships by asking myself how I felt about the other person, rather than thinking about how they felt and trying to prevent them from having any negative feelings with respect to the relationship and to me, I really noticed a profound shift in my life and in the role my relationships play in it.

So: You've said that you don't feel very good in this relationship. What if you talk to him and it turns out that yeah, he's not that into you after all? That will smart. That won't feel good. But it will feel a lot better than falling in love with him and having him run hot and cold on you for another two and a half years while you try to walk on eggshells around him and accommodate him and take care of him and his needs. What if you talk to him and he says, "Yeah, this is a lot, but I also value this relationship and I'm happy to Skype once or twice while you're gone"? No one here can predict how he'll respond, but I think that talking to him about how you feel is probably the best step you can take here. That is the shortest route to taking care of yourself and putting yourself first and seeing if your needs can and will be met in the context of this relationship right now.

Each person in a relationship has to take care of two people. When everyone in the relationship is taking care of only one person's needs, it's not really a good relationship. No matter how warm and comfortable it is when you get the chance to sit together on opposite arms of the couch with soup on the stove and a book in your hand.

All the best as you work through this.
posted by sockermom at 8:29 PM on December 9, 2014 [22 favorites]

I've been in some very similar situations, and they did not end up well. I believe that you're not pressing him for too much time. Sometimes it doesn't matter - either they only want very limited contact, or they want to portray you as pressuring them when you're not. As others have mentioned, you deserve better. It should not be this much work.
posted by FlyByDay at 9:09 PM on December 9, 2014 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I am sad that you say you don't know how to state your concerns without sounding overemotional or 'too needy', because I think what that really means is that you need to adjust your concept of what 'too needy' is - it sounds like you think having any needs makes you too needy. I assure you this is not the case! You can state your concerns to him in the simplest, most honest possible terms here, no need to over think it.

"I'd like to talk to you. Want to set up a time to Skype?"
"I'll be gone for a month, and spending time with you on my last night in town would be really special. Is there a chance you might be able to reschedule with your friends for a time while I'm away?"
"You didn't mention whether the times to meet up over the holidays I proposed would work for you - I need to know so I can make other holiday plans, could you get back to me on that?"

These types of statements are very straightforward and polite, and it's very important that you actually make statements to these effects so that he knows how you are feeling and what your expectations are. His responses give you much more information about his actual intentions and feelings. From what you relate here, he seems quite disengaged and uncaring, but it is also hard to tell whether he might just be clueless or not, because when he upsets you or lets you down, the expectation or standard that you're setting hasn't been made clear. Giving him more time is unlikely to help him 'warm up to the relationship' (presumably behaving more like you want/expect him to behave) unless you also ensure he actually knows what you want him to do. I think it would be acceptable to give him a shot at meeting your expectations, if you're willing to work on stating them, since he hasn't really had that chance yet - but I'd also agree with other posters that when you're starting this far apart from one another, and you've already let anger and disappointment build up, things are less likely to end well and cutting your losses seems completely justified.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 10:37 PM on December 9, 2014 [12 favorites]

- He was cold before you left.

- He sent you home for the night.

- He didn't see you, and instead saw other friends by choice the day before you left?

- He barely replies to emails since you've been out of town?

I think he's "broken up" with you. I don't think he's going to warm up, or even be available, when you get home.

For the record...

I would have drop kicked his ass out of my life the hot second he chose his friends over me the night before I left. What a fucking shitty way to tell me you're not seeing me anymore!?!?

Lose this guy's contact info. He's a coward with a habit of withholding. YOU CAN DO BETTER.
posted by jbenben at 10:42 PM on December 9, 2014 [14 favorites]


With this guy you could talk yourself blue in the face stating your needs, and he will feign ignorance.

Good. Riddance.
posted by jbenben at 10:44 PM on December 9, 2014 [3 favorites]

It shouldn't be this much work to be with somebody. You shouldn't have to play detective and make excuses for his behavior. I simply can't imagine being away from someone for several weeks and then they don't seem to have any interest in seeing you when you get back. I don't think the issue is him needing space or hating e-mail; I think the issue is that he just doesn't care. I think it's time to let him go. It sure seems like he's already let you go.

I'm so sorry. I know how terrible this feels. But somebody like you who's willing to work this hard to make a relationship work deserves someone who also cares enough to try hard to make it work. You are a catch, and somebody who cares this little doesn't deserve you.
posted by WorkingMyWayHome at 10:57 PM on December 9, 2014 [6 favorites]

I want to be patient if it will help him settle into the relationship, but I also don't know how to start suggesting my discontents to him if I do hold my tongue and give him the space he needs.

Sorry this is happening.

Sounds to me that his interest level in you might have been high at first (eg when he asked you out), but has now sunk to very low levels. This happens, unfortunately, and it has nothing to do with personality type. He just isn't that into you, or he's an asshole or both.

Also sounds like you have self esteem issues, or you'd realize that you deserve better.

other times I feel like he's extremely diffident and abstracted, even cold, and almost jumps out of his way not to touch me, and on those sorts of days when we do meet up to make dinner or whatever, I feel like he couldn't care less whether I stayed over or not.

This is really gross behavior. Why are you into him?

Give him all the space he needs by breaking up with him. Don't get into any deep conversations about it or try to change him. Just tell him this isn't working for you.

You've already wasted enough of your time.
posted by Gray Skies at 11:55 PM on December 9, 2014 [7 favorites]

Did he just get out of a relationship right before dating you?

I've been casually dating someone for the same amount of time as you and I've been acting just like the guy your dating. I normally don't act like this, but my first date with this guy was exactly two weeks after I broke up with my boyfriend of two years. I went because I didn't think it was going to go anywhere and I needed a distraction, but we really hit it off and I've been seeing him consistently every 1-2 weeks since our first date. It's tough because I don't want to stop seeing him because I really like him (we always have a great time together, very attracted to each other, etc.) and I WOULD date him if I could, but I just can't.

So I just continue seeing him and for the most part it's great, but sometimes I get kind of skittish and overly protective of my space and create distance. I've told him I'm bad at texting/paying attention to my phone and sometimes I won't text him back for a few days. I constantly switch or break plans with him depending on my mood/if something else comes up. Whenever I'm hanging out with him it's fine and I remember how much I like him, but when I haven't seen him in a few days I get kind of weird and wonder what the hell I'm doing. Is it possible this is what's happening with the guy you're dating?
posted by ad4pt at 12:02 AM on December 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: You're in the "fish or cut bait" area which always sucks because in a shiny new relationship so many things are so nice, and sometimes there are a few little things that aren't. It's hard to be in this weird spot because this guy surely does have some qualities that are attractive, and you're left figuring out if the other stuff is DTMFA or not. And it feels like he's better than nothing, right?

The reality is if in the woohoo early days he's not wanting to talk to you all the time because yay shiny new girlfriend, it's really damned unlikely to get better.

I lean towards DTMFA but I'd talk to him first using DarlingBri's script. You need to tell him what you want (and for God's sake you are in no way being pushy or unreasonable) and give him a week to up his game.

Re-reading the way you've written this, it's pretty obvious you're bending over backwards trying to be cool and making excuses for being ignored because he's an INJP or whatever personality type and being not needy in this relationship and all he needs to do is show up and not be a terrible kisser.

You deserve to have your needs met with someone who's responsive to you (4 brief emails in a month??!). This is not the man to meet those needs.
posted by kinetic at 3:10 AM on December 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

I confess I got about halfway through your description and thought, "He's dating other people, or living with someone else, or something like that." Usually that is the explanation when someone communicates that sporadically so early in the relationship. By this time, I guess you would probably know but he sounds like he is pretty set in this pattern for whatever reason.

You should only stay with this guy if you can be happy with this more or less the way it is.
posted by BibiRose at 4:52 AM on December 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

If you can't talk to him and he can't talk to you then things aren't looking good. It's possible he's waiting for you to come back from your month away so that you can grow closer face to face, but if you haven't got a line of communication open through actual words (which can be expressed through email - some of the most amazing revelations happen through letters because there is no talking over each other, amongst other things) then is it worth it, to you, to let him dictate the way that the relationship will go?

It's a tricky situation because your relationship is in its early days so knowing what to push and when can be fraught with difficulty, I agree. But ask yourself, if you are the only one who's pushing for a connection then is it going to be on you to do this from now on and is that something you can do without feeling that things aren't exactly on an even keel?

Ring him up, speak to him voice to voice and tell him you'd love to open up a line of communication while you're away. If he doesn't respond positively to that (which is not being pushy at all) then you have your answer.
posted by h00py at 4:53 AM on December 10, 2014

Do you think he's spending this kind of time or care or energy thinking about you?

Sockermom has it. This guy doesn't deserve more from you.
posted by virago at 5:45 AM on December 10, 2014 [4 favorites]

Best answer: You talk a lot about his needs, what about yours? When did you become the second-class citizen in your relationship?

I would sit down with him and tell him what you need.

"Ralph, I really like you and I'd like to be in a long term relationship with you. As it stands now I'm frustrated with the incredibly low level of contact we have, especially when I'm traveling. Is this something you'd be willing to change to make me happier?"

If he's perfectly happy with the way things are, and he doesn't really care about what you want...chalk it up to a misfire and move on. If he's willing to make a good-faith effort to change to accommodate you, then you can work with that. Do keep your eyes peeled though and make NO excuses. If he's half-assing it, just stop calling him.

Frankly this sounds like an awful lot of work for something that should be the cherry on your sundae though.

Do this experiment. Don't call him, don't email him...do nothing. See if he contacts you. Let him make the plans, and if you're busy, don't change to accommodate him. Either he steps up his communication because he misses you, or he doesn't. If he doesn't you've got your answer and without some messy, drama-filled break up call.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:10 AM on December 10, 2014 [2 favorites]

I'm also too wary about feeling like I'm pressuring him to even try to make plans too far in advance with him.

You're acquiescing to his desires out of the worry that he won't like it, or worry he'll think you're "too needy and clinging" so you hold back on how you would normally behave? Why!? This is the perfect time to learn about each other, to test each others boundaries, before you've both invested even more in the relationship. And, in a sense, you're doing him a disservice too by not being honest about your wants and desires.
posted by redindiaink at 6:47 AM on December 10, 2014

Best answer:
Men always say that as the defining compliment, don’t they? She’s a cool girl.... Cool Girls never get angry; they only smile in a chagrined, loving manner and let their men do whatever they want. Go ahead, shit on me, I don’t mind, I’m the Cool Girl.

Men actually think this girl exists. Maybe they’re fooled because so many women are willing to pretend to be this girl. For a long time Cool Girl offended me. I used to see men – friends, coworkers, strangers – giddy over these awful pretender women, and I’d want to sit these men down and calmly say: You are not dating a woman, you are dating a woman who has watched too many movies written by socially awkward men who’d like to believe that this kind of woman exists and might kiss them. I’d want to grab the poor guy by his lapels or messenger bag and say: The bitch doesn’t really love chili dogs that much – no one loves chili dogs that much! And the Cool Girls are even more pathetic: They’re not even pretending to be the woman they want to be, they’re pretending to be the woman a man wants them to be. Oh, and if you’re not a Cool Girl, I beg you not to believe that your man doesn’t want the Cool Girl. It may be a slightly different version – maybe he’s a vegetarian, so Cool Girl loves seitan and is great with dogs; or maybe he’s a hipster artist, so Cool Girl is a tattooed, bespectacled nerd who loves comics. There are variations to the window dressing, but believe me, he wants Cool Girl, who is basically the girl who likes every fucking thing he likes and doesn’t ever complain...

I waited patiently - years - for the pendulum to swing the other way, for men to start reading Jane Austen, learn how to knit, pretend to like cosmos, organize scrapbook parties, and make out with each other while we leer. And then we’d say, Yeah, he’s a Cool Guy.

But it never happened. Instead, women across the nation colluded in our degradation! Pretty soon Cool Girl became the standard girl. Men believed she existed - she wasn’t just a dreamgirl one in a million. Every girl was supposed to be this girl, and if you weren’t, then there was something wrong with you. -- Gone Girl
You don't have to be the Cool Girl with no needs.
posted by jaguar at 7:02 AM on December 10, 2014 [26 favorites]

Best answer: I said I missed him, and suggested a couple of ways we might get together (eg. movie). He replied (two days later) with a characteristically brief email, no reaction to my suggestion that we get together when I got back, no saying he missed me too, nothing

So it's not like you haven't been communicative. You have, and he's not reciprocating. It feels "strange and bizarre" because you're thinking in terms of a relationship, but it will immediately make sense when you realize he isn't. I'm sorry, I know this sucks so much, but just drop him an email telling him not to call you anymore and go have fun with your friends, and start the new year resolved not to get into contortions accommodating the guys you date more than they're accommodating you.
posted by fingersandtoes at 7:50 AM on December 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: thanks, everyone, for these insights and for helping me to feel that how I am feeling is a valid and not crazy response. I know I don't value my own needs enough, and I have a hard time recognizing that I do have some. I wrote him a long email a few hours ago, but he hasn't responded yet. I hope I'll at least be able to speak in person to him about my concerns when I get back. I do think one of my strengths as a partner is that I can speak about emotional matters very reasonably and clearly, and without getting angry. I hope he will be able to appreciate it, and recognize that I'm willing to work on this with him at least for a little while longer.
posted by starcrust at 9:28 AM on December 10, 2014

Please don't waste another second of your valuable time on this guy. Your desire for a healthy, communicative relationship is valid. Your needs are valid! Relationships are supposed to make you feel happy, and you can't find that if you're stuck waiting for crumbs of affection from this dude.

Also, I think you'll be kinder to yourself and be able to establish better boundaries if you don't make excuses for people because of their Myers Briggs score. The validity of Myers Briggs is questionable at best. Regardless, you wouldn't allow someone to hurt you because they really like the color blue sometimes, right? :)
posted by Orange Dinosaur Slide at 9:28 AM on December 10, 2014 [3 favorites]

This is just a guess and may not excuse anything, but given the time of year and the fact that you're both professors, I have to ask: is there any chance he is on the academic job market (even in secret)? Because that might explain both his reticence to make future plans and his day-to-day distance, if he's busy trying to deal with the insanity of being on the market.
posted by dizziest at 11:10 AM on December 10, 2014

I wrote him a long email a few hours ago, but he hasn't responded yet.

It's in his court. Don't sit around and wait. Are there any interesting people (male, female, platonic) at your temp work location?

I hope I'll at least be able to speak in person to him about my concerns when I get back.

Surely your long email said enough. It's his turn to talk.
posted by headnsouth at 11:53 AM on December 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: well, he replied now. he's just not that into me. so there we go.

he said he thinks I'm hot but not compatible enough, so has been enjoying casual dating and hadn't meant to give me an impression there was more than that. I really don't get it. maybe there's just something fundamentally wrong with me.

thanks for all the help anyway.
posted by starcrust at 12:34 PM on December 10, 2014

Why would this mean there's something fundamentally wrong with you? Are there reasons beyond what you've stated? Because nothing you've stated suggests that there are- just that you weren't a good fit and he was a wuss about being up front about it.
posted by small_ruminant at 1:08 PM on December 10, 2014 [3 favorites]

Check your MeMail.
posted by zeri at 1:21 PM on December 10, 2014

he said he thinks I'm hot but not compatible enough, so has been enjoying casual dating and hadn't meant to give me an impression there was more than that. I really don't get it. maybe there's just something fundamentally wrong with me.

There's nothing wrong with you. You just got deceived by a manipulative "playaaaa", and there isn't a person alive that hasn't had the same thing happen to them. That's all.

I'm sorry this happened to you, but this was not your fault, and it is not a sign that anything is "fundamentally wrong" with you.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:29 PM on December 10, 2014 [9 favorites]

Bullet dodged, my friend.
posted by tristeza at 1:51 PM on December 10, 2014 [13 favorites]

There is nothing fundamentally wrong with you ... but do reconsider whether blaming yourself for other people's poor communication and personal choices is healthy.

If there is a takeaway from this, it is that you need to listen to and rely on and trust yourself more. This guy "told" you early on that he was casual, but by focusing so intently on controlling what your words/actions conveyed to him, you didn't notice what he was conveying to you.
posted by headnsouth at 4:56 PM on December 10, 2014 [7 favorites]

It sounds like this person was misrepresenting their feelings when he said he hates e-mail, calendars, and smart phones. And rather than be honest and respectful, he hurt you. That's on him, not you. Good luck and best wishes to you.
posted by MrBobinski at 5:16 PM on December 10, 2014 [10 favorites]

Best answer: When everyone in the relationship is taking care of only one person's needs, it's not really a good relationship.

This times a zillion.

There's nothing wrong with YOU if Mr. Flinchy isn't interested. Also from Heather Havrilesky, the genius behind Mr. Flinchy, this Ask Polly column, which is highly relevant:
"Your letter is a service to womankind. Your clarity in sketching out the basic dimensions of the smart, super-romantic lady mind is unmatched. You underscore the central, looming question that so many young women grapple with, thanks to our culture's shitty, reductive, black-and-white fairy tales: "Am I a princess or a frog? Am I the very best or the very worst? Am I good enough or will I never, ever be loved? Am I pretty and skinny and sweet and therefore MAGICAL or am I a reject?" Forget that the prince is a vainglorious dipshit! Forget that the prize you're competing for is not a prize at all!" (full column)
This dude? Not a prize.

Also, FWIW, I'm an INTJ working in academia. While it's typical that I disappear into my work when I'm working, I will bury someone I'm interested in under texts, emails, phone calls, and smoke signals, if that's what they need from me. This guy's flinchiness has nothing to do with his Myers-Briggs type, and everything to do with him being an ass.

Nthing that you dodged a bullet here.
posted by culfinglin at 2:45 PM on December 11, 2014 [8 favorites]

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