Hey, Hive Mind. Could I be dating a narcissist?
January 28, 2015 5:05 AM   Subscribe

I've recently began dating a guy who's coming on pretty strong. While I want to embrace what feels like someone who truly cares after a string of emotionally distant men, I'm feeling like it's too much, too soon, and I'm getting incredibly idealized. Thoughts?

Hey, MeFi. Thanks in advance for your advice with this.

I recently began dating what seemed like an awesome dude. Super talented, great friends, really close with his mom, and, most importantly, seems super into me. The key word is "seems." We've only been dating for 3 weeks, but he pressed for exclusivity right away, telling me he hasn't felt this way for awhile, calling me his dream girl, etc. He even called his brother to tell him he met an amazing girl. He's not being a jerk about it, just telling me he's genuinely infatuated and can't see himself with anyone else right now.

To be honest, while all of this is sweet (and slightly overwhelming), I'm not totally comfortable with it, because it seems too good to be true. He's already talking about all the stuff we're going to do for his birthday in May, how good I make him feel, etc. He has some signs of being a narcissist, but also loves animals, his family, and his friends, and is close with a few exes. He doesn't seem to be blaming other people for his problems or is overtly negative, which narcs tend to be. He also comes from a background of abuse, via an uncle/absent father. I've experienced this type of intense idealization before, only to be dropped 2 months later for another girl.

All that being said, I'm treading with caution, though have agreed to be exclusive (if only because I don't date multiple people at once.) My feelings are definitely not as strong as his, but if he can prove himself to me, I'm willing to be open. I've done extensive work in therapy over the past 2 years to be okay with myself self-esteem and attachment-wise, so I'm really wary of undoing all of that with a toxic relationship. However, as someone who deals with anxious-preoccupied attachment, someone clingy is really what I need to stay sane.

What are your thoughts? Proceed with caution, or would you run like hell, even if you liked the person?
posted by shotinthedark to Human Relations (37 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
It seems like you are well aware of which yellow flags are already flying, and which red flags to keep a sharp eye out for. Proceed with caution, yes.
posted by The Noble Goofy Elk at 5:21 AM on January 28, 2015 [8 favorites]

It sounds like you're dealing with it fine by proceeding with caution. That was how I handled the last guy who came on too strong as well (sounds almost like the same dude I dated except mine was a musician).

Anyway, the times that I have been idealized and rushed into a relationship by a man, it's always ended the same way: I've proceeded with caution for 2-3 weeks, then bolted because they have started to become too controlling and smothering. My prediction is that the same will happen to you, so you might as well bail now. This sort of relationship-rushing, things like "you're my dream girl!" and so on is a red flag. You're really healthy to be questioning it like you are.

I totally get the history of dating distant guys and thinking you need to overcorrect with a clingy one. I found that it wasn't an overcorrection/balancing so much as a different kind of nope. Consider choosing a healthy guy with good boundaries. I don't think he would seem as distant as you expect.
posted by Beethoven's Sith at 5:25 AM on January 28, 2015 [6 favorites]

You haven't really described any signs of narcissism. You have described a guy who is infatuated with you early and is letting you know that.

It's three weeks and things are going well. Keep dating this guy, but don't expect anything more than that. Don't make life plans after three weeks, but you're already not.
posted by J. Wilson at 5:27 AM on January 28, 2015 [34 favorites]

If you like him, then roll with it. Just don't invest too much, too soon. You seem to jump to thinking he's a narcissist, you even have a cute nickname for it, but from your description, I don't see it. Who knows why he's so aggressive? Frankly, I too would be a bit concerned. Your eyes are open. Keep them that way. Don't let him push boundaries, and nip any controlling behavior in the bud.

You have to decide if you like HIM. Is he a worthwhile person? What are his plans for the future? What does he hold dear?

I've been there. I met a guy who had me over to meet his family on our second date. He handed me his infant nephew and told me, 'I just want to see you with a baby.' Yeah, I left skid marks because it had nothing to do with me and who I am, it was all about whatever his overactive imagination was conjuring up.

Proceed with caution.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:30 AM on January 28, 2015 [13 favorites]

I really wouldn't worry too much about a specific diagnosis so much as his behavior and how it makes you feel. Does it matter if he's a narcissist, or if he's pushing things too quickly for some other reason? "Could I be dating a narcissist" seems like the wrong question - no matter what, his behavior is making you uncomfortable, and that's what you've got to address.

I agree with everyone saying that you're doing well to recognize these potential flags and that you should proceed with caution. Probably wouldn't be a bad idea to discuss your boundaries with him now - again, not in terms of your concerns about narcissism, but rather in terms of needing him to slow down in order to give you, and this relationship, room to breathe.
posted by DingoMutt at 5:38 AM on January 28, 2015 [9 favorites]

If you like him it's probably worth a few more weeks. These things either crash and burn very fast or, if he's for real, may develop into a good relationship. I wouldn't automatically assume he is a narcissist from the description (because nothing you described sounds like narcissism). It sounds like he has good relationships with the people in his life? It's possible he is just enthusiatic and infatuated with you.

Sometimes when you have had bad relationships in the past your relationship radar is a little skewed. It sounds like you recognize that, and are being rational, which is great. If you enjoy his company and want to keep dating it seems fine to do so. At any point if you start dreading seeing him and are repulsed by the clingy-ness it's time to go.
posted by rainydayfilms at 5:52 AM on January 28, 2015 [1 favorite]

He has some signs of being a narcissist

Well, it's hard to say because you skipped right over the pertinent issue in the question. I mean, I don't think anyone would recommend you date a true narcissist. But are his "signs of being a narcissist" along the lines of "he primps in the mirror longer than what I think is normal" or "he doesn't value people's opinions and always has to have the last word, and thinks he is right all the time"?

Because the first one could just be that he wants to look nice. The second would mean a horrible relationship.
posted by The Deej at 5:56 AM on January 28, 2015 [8 favorites]

Can you try and be open with him about how you feel (framed positively)? Let him know that you're into him and think he's a good guy etc, but you'd rather take things a bit more slowly, and get to know each other better before rushing into anything.

How he reacts to that conversation should let you know a lot more about what he's like (if he respects your boundaries, talks to you openly and as an equal = good, if he doesn't, ups the ante, belittles you or tries anything controlling = bad).

It's also worth remembering that at the start of a relationship there's a lot going on: excitement, sex, readjustment, learning about your partner etc, so the fact that someone's response to all of that shouldn't be surprising in itself. But that comes with the caveat that once you've explained to someone the way they're responding to something makes you uncomfortable, they need to knock it off, pronto.
posted by Ned G at 6:01 AM on January 28, 2015 [1 favorite]

My best advice is to proceed based on how you feel about him and his behavior.

He doesn't get to do all the choosing and acting and doing. You get to do that, too. You get to have your feelings about him. You get to follow your gut. I think that's really what happens to us when we have the sorts of relationship problems you described; we've been trained to give up control over ourselves and stop listening to our instincts. You seem on track to trusting yourself. Do that fully.

That being said, something seems off to you. And it does seem too much, too quickly, particularly all the future planning and the "I told my brother all about you!" stuff. What to do? Tell him. Say, "This is sweet but overwhelming. I want to take things slow." If he can do that, then you have your answer. If he balks and pushes your boundaries, break up with him, knowing that he wasn't sincere to begin with.

Good for you for all the work you've done on yourself.
posted by TryTheTilapia at 6:01 AM on January 28, 2015 [10 favorites]

Part of what attracted me to my SO is that there was zero pressure. Sure, I could tell that he really liked me, but early on there were no grand declarations, no pressure to commit, none of it. We just enjoyed getting to know each other.

I'm always wary of someone who is too into it in the beginning. In my experience, those types tend to get bored and move on quickly.
posted by futureisunwritten at 6:14 AM on January 28, 2015 [4 favorites]

I think you should spend more time getting to know this guy and figuring out whether you like him rather than trying to diagnose him. He may be a narcissist, or he may have ADD, or he may have addiction issues or compulsions or phobias, but none of that matters as much as how he treats you, how you feel when you're with him, how safe you feel with him, and how well you two get along.

Leave the diagnoses to the experts and try dating for a bit.
posted by xingcat at 6:23 AM on January 28, 2015 [5 favorites]

Can I just say how awesome everyone is on here? I posted this at 8am; it's now 9:21, and there's a boatload of great advice.

re: Narcissisist, I focused on this specifically, because I've been involved with one before, and it was the most emotionally draining year of my life. Took me ages to finally feel ok. So I'm particularly wary about encountering one in the future. (Though, with my ex, he was pretty negative and dismissive from the start.)

I'm going to take all of this to heart (as well as more answers to come); for me, too much, too early is also a bad sign. Because of this guy's shaky upbringing (something I also experienced), part of me is hoping that I found my clingy other half, but I'm also hoping it doesn't devolve into something controlling.

I'll keep reading for now. Thanks again!
posted by shotinthedark at 6:24 AM on January 28, 2015 [1 favorite]

It doesn't matter if he is a narcissist. It doesn't matter if he has abandonment issues. It doesn't matter if he has a third nipple and worships tiger cubs. What matters is how you feel when you are with him. You feel rushed and hesitant. Pay attention to that. Value yourself enough to know that it is okay to ask him to slow down and, if he doesn't, it's okay to walk away.
posted by myselfasme at 6:24 AM on January 28, 2015 [16 favorites]

I have dated this guy. Eventually the reality of you as a full person will hit him, and honestly, this might be the end of your relationship. A lot of people love the idea of a relationship so much that they will mentally contort you into being that ideal as long as they can.

This part:

I've done extensive work in therapy over the past 2 years to be okay with myself self-esteem and attachment-wise, so I'm really wary of undoing all of that with a toxic relationship.

This concerns me. You're going to feel shitty and take it personally when he is inevitably disappointed that you aren't his "dream girl"--and this will happen, regardless of how awesome you actually are. You seem pretty level-headed about it now, but in my experience, his staggering realization that you are an actual person comes (quite curiously!) right after he senses you've let your guard down. He may break up with you, he may be mopey and pissy about being "wrong", or he might even begin some subtle abuse to try to change the things about you that don't line up with his initial conceptions.

It's also possible that he'll work through it and be a great partner! But the odds are not great, and I personally would not have the patience to help someone work through that anymore. Please keep this in mind and be wary of red flags if you continue this relationship.
posted by almostmanda at 6:31 AM on January 28, 2015 [11 favorites]

What are your thoughts? Proceed with caution, or would you run like hell, even if you liked the person?

What matters here are YOUR thoughts.* You're 3 weeks into a relationship and there's something about this person that is raising red flags for you.

That should be what matters.

You're not comfortable. Stop diagnosing him vis a vis narcissism/his attachment style/his upbringing/whatever. Why are you giving him so much mental headspace and benefits of a doubt? You don't really know him but you know he's making you uncomfortable. It doesn't matter WHY.

If you want to give him a chance, stop over-analyzing his behavior and looking for signs of mental disorders and how his past trauma affects him. When he does the coming-on-too-strong-stuff, tell him it makes you uncomfortable and you need him to rein it in. If he does; great. If you're still feeling hinky with his love bomb, then respect that and stop seeing him.

*But since you asked, I've learned that people like this are usually some kind of dramatic crazypants and I run from them.
posted by kinetic at 6:32 AM on January 28, 2015 [5 favorites]

I must admit to not being fully informed on the symptoms of narcissism. Is coming on too strong in a relationship falling under that umbrella, now? Because the only behavior (other than the vague "some signs") you're describing, OP, is that he's really into you, rather than really into himself.

Not that this isn't off-putting to many people (myself included), of course. You have every right to feel overwhelmed/concerned, if that level of intensity is uncomfortable for you, and especially if your past experiences with same have ended badly.

If you want to "diagnose" his potential for narcissism, perhaps consider those exes you mention; are reports of them all being on good terms coming solely from him, or do you have other evidence (e.g. are they mutual friends)? If he really does have several former partners who still like him, the odds of him being a toxic-level narcissist are probably low, right?

Actually, getting to know more about those past relationships might give you a better picture of how clingy he can be, or how quickly his enthusiasm wanes. Did they last for years, or just months or weeks?

But really, agreeing with others here, detective work and armchair analysis (ours, too) is less important than what your gut-brains are telling you. Something specific -- his intensity -- is making you uneasy. That might be partly you and partly him, or all him. Regardless, if he's cool, a kind request to slow things down should solve the problem (one way or another).
posted by credible hulk at 6:37 AM on January 28, 2015 [2 favorites]

Narcissism is one reason for people having poor boundaries and over-idealization in romantic relationships (generally because they see their partners as reflections of themselves and so insist that the partner be "worthy"), but there are lots of other reasons for poor boundaries and over-idealization in romantic relationships as well. As others have said, focusing on his behavior and communicating when it bothers you, rather than trying to ferret out the underlying reasons for it, would probably help you clarify whether the relationship will work.

I will also suggest that finding a partner who's consistently supportive of you does not require finding a partner with poor boundaries; "supportive and present" is not the same as "clingy," and trying to find someone who's emotionally unstable in ways that support your own emotional instabilities can create a whole set of unforeseen problems. The sturdier and stabler each partner is, the sturdier and stabler the relationship will be.
posted by jaguar at 6:56 AM on January 28, 2015 [5 favorites]

I understand your fears - once you've dated a narcissist your innocence is lost and you're on high alert all the time. The thing is, everyone has a strand of narcissism in them, that's the human condition, that automatic selfishness that comes out, and don't jump to label them NPD just because it's garden variety ego. Capital-N Narcissism is something else. And the great thing with Narcissists is that they show themselves the door - just show your flaws a little or mention their flaws a little and they will run away.

Now as for your specific situation, the advice here is all excellent. I just wanted to add that it's possible to find your schmoopy cuddly clingy partner who also has their own boundaries, self-worth and can pace a relationship. You may have to wade through several unhealthily clingy guys until you find the 'clingy' guy who is just right for you.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 7:07 AM on January 28, 2015 [3 favorites]

How did he "press for exclusivity"? Did he say "I am not going to date anyone else, I really like you and hope this works out for the longterm" or did he pressure you to agree to the same? Does he try to monopolize your time or ignore you when you put up boundaries? If you already feel smothered, or like he's not listening to you that's a bad sign, not because it means he's a narcissist but because of how it makes you feel.

Good relationships with friends, exes, and mothers can all be faked at first, as can talent (which should not really play a big part of your selection process, there are plenty of talented jerks out there). I thought one of my exes had a good relationship with his friends, his mother, and his exes but none of those things was fully accurate, he was good at putting on a positive front. I would be wary of someone telling you these things versus demonstrating them over time. It's just like when someone says "I'm really fun-loving and laid-back", does it need to be said? Having good (or with exes, at least civil) relationships with parents, siblings, and friends should be a minimum standard, not a reason for entering a relationship with someone. Bottom line is that I would not trust any of this right now because you're in the honeymoon phase of dating.

It was only after breaking up with my ex that people came to me and admitted things that I would have liked to know at the beginning of our relationship, but ultimately I should have trusted my gut and proceeded with caution instead of accepting what my ex told me about himself. Oh and he told his sibling about me right away too, I was flattered but the close relationship they had, which I admired at first, ended up being a major issue because they had no boundaries and he prioritized them over me in big ways.

Keep focusing on how YOU feel instead of reacting to his declarations about you and himself. When you notice something you don't like take it at face value and decide whether it's something you can live with happily or not, because it's unlikely to change. Instead of focusing on what he likes and says focus on the character you see him demonstrate day-to-day, focus on how you work through issues and show respect to each other. It can feel good to feel needed but I think you know it's not healthy, because the flip-side (that will come out eventually) is you making him feel bad, or you not being his dream girl.
posted by lafemma at 7:18 AM on January 28, 2015 [2 favorites]

I would be more optimistic about your post if you said that he was pushing for exclusivity but wasn't idealizing you.. but the fact that he is doing both is a big problem.

It's not simply wanting to be serious right away that is troublesome (though that can raise red flags..) -- it's the idealizing. I don't know if he's a narcissist, but he doesn't seem as self-aware and emotionally mature as you are. Specifically, I don't think he's done the work you've done on yourself. You are *aware* that idealizing someone in the early stages of a relationship is not wise -- does *he* know this?? From your description, it seems like he's just dream-girl-ing you, full stop, and that's probably not someone you want to get involved with..

You want someone who knows that idealizing someone in the honey moon stage is A Thing -- that it's normal, yes, but also chemically induced, an element of limerence and full of projections rather than insight into who someone really is. You want to date a guy who is self-aware enough to know the dangers of idealization.. someone who has done the work enough so that you can have THIS conversation with him - not just with MeFites on your therapist.

My advice is to listen to yourself and heed your internal warning system that this guy isn't a good match for your emotional needs. If you feel that you don't have enough information yet to drop him like a hot potato, then perhaps actually bring up these concerns directly with him (casually, over wine.. not like an FBI interrogation) and see how he responds. If his perspective is emotionally mature and self-aware, great! If he's defensive, dull or in denial, then use that as an indication of what you're signing up for down the line.
posted by Gray Skies at 7:29 AM on January 28, 2015 [6 favorites]

If you really like him, you should stick around for now. Take the time/space that you need (agreeing with all the above responses re: watching how he reacts to boundary-setting) and see how it plays out. I've known two of these guys, and it can play out in any number of ways. Guy A came on really intensely and lost interest, then came back a few years later after having decided I was THE ONE (note: he barely knew me), and when I wouldn't drop everything in my life and move to another city to marry him (I was mistakenly under the impression we were casually dating), he became angry and cold and trash-talked me to our mutual friends. The good news is that all of this happened within the space of two months, so I didn't lose a lot of time.

Guy B came on strong, but we took our time, and there have been some bumps in the road but I just liked him so darn much! And after some significant time (12 months), it became clear what his life was really like, how his personality and family really were, and it's all delightful. We are still together and I'm really glad I didn't nix the whole thing because he was intense at the beginning.

So I'd just give it time and keep protecting yourself. It can be hard to trust your "gut" if you have an anxious attachment style, but after a little while it should become clearer where the real red flags (if any) are.
posted by witchen at 7:29 AM on January 28, 2015 [5 favorites]

However, as someone who deals with anxious-preoccupied attachment, someone clingy is really what I need to stay sane.

This sentence gave me some pause. "Clingy" is not generally a word for something positive or healthy. It connotes someone who is needy and apt not to respect your boundaries. I dare say this is the absolute worst for someone who already has issues with attachment. A clingy person is not calibrated to respond to your needs or insecurities; they cling because that's what they do. The often tend to be erratic and move on fairly fast, too.
posted by BibiRose at 7:30 AM on January 28, 2015 [4 favorites]

I agree with BibiRose. I don't think you want someone "clingy". You probably want someone who has a healthy degree of independence, autonomy and self-esteem, but also someone who is affectionate and caring and capable of commitment. At least that's what I want.

I think what you're trying to say is that to feel safe in a relationship, you need someone who is willing to be there with and for you.. as opposed to someone who is emotionally unavailable, distant or lacking in affection. But what you don't want is someone who is "clingy". You know how I know this? Because you have someone clingy and he makes you uncomfortable.
posted by Gray Skies at 7:39 AM on January 28, 2015 [2 favorites]

I recently began dating what seemed like an awesome dude. Super talented, great friends, really close with his mom, and, most importantly, seems super into me. The key word is "seems." We've only been dating for 3 weeks, but he pressed for exclusivity right away, telling me he hasn't felt this way for awhile, calling me his dream girl, etc.
Sounds to me like you are perhaps a little cynical after dating emotionally distant guys. Yes, you should always be cautious at the beginning of a relationship, but I don't see anything in your post that would indicate this guy is being insincere in his interest in you. Maybe you're just so used to the aloof dudes that an honest guy throws off your bullshit alarm.
posted by deathpanels at 7:41 AM on January 28, 2015

You don't sound as though you like him!

Just because he's really really super duper into you, and he ticks a few boxes, doesn't mean you have to partner with this person. If you have low enthusiasm for this guy, you don't have to date him.

This last part I offer up in the gentlest way possible... You did not describe pretty much any narcissism traits, except for the idealizing you. What you did describe is yourself currently not being in a place where dating is comfortable for you. I agree this guy doesn't sound like a "keeper," but not because of any particular pathology. You just don't sound ready to be involved with any one, or ready to be involved with this one guy, and I think you should back away.

"Clingy" is not really the primary characteristic you are looking for. You are looking for genuine mature commitment with someone that makes you enthusiastic to reciprocate.
posted by jbenben at 8:33 AM on January 28, 2015 [5 favorites]

You should proceed with caution because you are not comfortable with how this is going. And you should be able to discuss your discomfort without everything blowing up in your face. So if you don't think you could ask him to ease up slightly because you prefer to move a little slower, without it all going to hell, that might be your answer. Because that would be a totally reasonable thing to ask for 3 weeks in.

I see where you are coming from on the narcissism worry, but of course we don't know him and we're not professionals, and all that matters is if the relationship is working for you. "Narcissist" has become kind of a buzzword and catch-all term for "shitty partner for me" but in the end, does it matter what you call it?

I will say, I think you are right on to see this sort of fast-tracking as a bad sign. I hate that. It's never ended well for me. Maybe he's just super into you. Or maybe he is putting you on a pedestal that he will knock you off of so fast and so hard you won't know what hit you.

Don't be too impressed by talent; talent is admirable but isn't a sign he'd be a good partner. I also wouldn't take "close to his exes" as a definitive sign he's good news, because in my relationships with shitty partners, that actually meant "I need constant female validation" or "I get a thrill from maintaining the emotional entanglement and sexual tension, and the daily reality of our relationship will always be compared to the mythology of my past relationships." (In my relationships with good partners, they were friendly or friends with exes but not so entangled that I'd know all about their special closeness 3 weeks into a new relationship.)

If you tend toward the clingy/insecure side yourself, trust me, you do NOT want someone even more clingy.

You don't have to date him even if he is wonderful. You don't have to date anybody, ever, for any reason, unless you really want to. Do you really want to be with him?

He doesn't have to have a personality disorder to be the wrong partner for you.
posted by kapers at 8:40 AM on January 28, 2015

I dated someone very similar who my therapist thought could have borderline personality disorder after the relationship imploded. There was speedy commitment, idealization, making long term plans very early on, declarations of love and marriage after just a few months. And then he had a psychotic break and destroyed it all with no coherent explanation. Now I remind myself there is no perfect. Perfect boyfriend = gigantic red flag. Spare me from car door opening, flower bearing, elaborate date/trip planning, extravagant gift giving, overly complimentary, quickly love professing men! If they are trying that hard at perfection, it's not real. There are no real life fairytales. Give me slow relationship development with a flawed but genuine guy any day. There is never a need for rushing. Rushing is a danger sign.
posted by cecic at 8:44 AM on January 28, 2015 [8 favorites]

No guarantees about your guy, but I can testify from personal experience that sometimes these exuberant puppy-dog types are 100% for real and great humans. But that doesn't make them the right person for you, and it's really really really really hard to keep that in mind when a cute, sexy person is giving you the full-court smooshy romantic press. (And what is with telling the brothers things? They always tell the brother things.)

In my case it took probably a year to finally put together that I just couldn't actually be the girlfriend my own puppy-dog fella wanted and I stopped waffling and said No. My discomfort, in hindsight, was my brain needing to work through a recent breakup and replay some old damaging shit with at least one more person, which was way less fun than having a super-smooshy romantic long term relationship. So, that's on me. But also, he and I had some deep incompatibilities that I felt were being lost under the steamroller of emotions.

Your discomfort might be cynicism born of bad experiences; it might be your spidey-senses telling you that there are fault lines in the relationship; it might be both. There's probably no harm in letting things play out for a bit though. It increases the odds of bruised feelings somewhat but these kinds of guys really do bounce back very quickly--it's just their nature.

All that said, you don't have to confirm that he has a diagnosable pathology before you're allowed to not date him. You can just not date him.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 8:47 AM on January 28, 2015 [1 favorite]

Sometimes you just feel that way about someone. Within a month of meeting each other, one ex and I were talking like that, and we meant it. Maybe he just wears his heart on his sleeve.

If you're into him, you're into him. If you're concerned about him "coming on too strong," whatever that means, then just say "Hey, I like you a lot and a lot of what you're saying about planning for stuff months away is coming across as being a bit strong. Again, I do like you! Could you dial it back a little so we can both enjoy things as they're going?"
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 9:24 AM on January 28, 2015 [1 favorite]

I recently began dating what seemed like an awesome dude. Super talented, great friends, really close with his mom, and, most importantly, seems super into me. The key word is "seems." We've only been dating for 3 weeks, but he pressed for exclusivity right away, telling me he hasn't felt this way for awhile, calling me his dream girl, etc. He even called his brother to tell him he met an amazing girl.

Okay, so this is a warning sign to me only in as much as he's got an image of you that's going to crash up against reality eventually. Nobody is perfect and amazing, and even they were, you wouldn't know it after three weeks, and his reaction when his image of you comes into the conflict with the real you is going to tell you whether he's just being irrationally exuberant or if he's going to end up being controlling and demanding and so on.

This is one of those things where you basically just need to tell him what you're thinking about the status of the relationship (but leaving your concerns about his mental health aside, I think). If he's moving too fast, you need to tell him so, now, before this relationship gets crushed by it early.
posted by empath at 11:34 AM on January 28, 2015

something like:

"Hey, I like you too, but we still barely know each other, and I'm not comfortable talking about getting serious, although I'm happy to be exclusive for now."
posted by empath at 11:35 AM on January 28, 2015 [2 favorites]

Abusive men often like to move things fast because they want you under their thumb. The faster you're exclusive/living together/married or whatever, the faster he feels he can finally take the next step and exert control over you. These guys often start out giving you nothing but compliments and things change when they feel you're starting to be "theirs".

But he doesn't have to be that type to be doing this. He might just have a savior thing going on where he feels you're the dream person that's going to "save" him from his troubles with the power of your love. I met a guy like this who had serious abandonment issues that stemmed from his childhood. His idealism was so strong that he did not ever want to hear how I really felt about anything unless it was something he wanted to hear. If I said,- I don't like how you do this- he would wail and insist over and over again that I didn't mean what I said and wouldn't let up until I told him so. "Tell me you didn't mean that!" He would say 20-50 times in a row with this incredible look of pain in his face until I would finally give in and lie and say that I didn't mean it. Then he'd get a smile on his face as if what he finally badgered me into saying was the truth and he'd forget all about what I really felt. He truly wasn't interested in what I really thought or felt about anything. He just wanted me to reflect the 'idea' of the person he wanted me to be and if I wasn't doing that he'd badger me into portraying that fantasy for him. I dumped him and he's been in a bunch of other disasterous relationships since then as well.

It might be nothing, but I would tread with caution.
posted by manderin at 12:45 PM on January 28, 2015 [2 favorites]

I think your inituition is telling you to stand back and consider before you get too involved here and intuition is a good thing. It can't hurt to keep it slow for awhile, anyway; if it's worth keeping, it'll keep.

I'm sorry to be crude, but this comes from two marriages and a few other relationships: Does he, by any chance, have financial difficulties? Or do you make a nice salary and his is variable or his company is laying off or ....

I never made any great amount of money, but I was always employed and made a decent living and you'd be amazed at the number of men who swore to die for me if I asked it and everything else that went along with that idea; the first I married and I supported him because he was "in school" - for 7 years, without a degree, usually on scholastic probation - he finally settled down with his fourth wife; the second I married but we separated about three months later - when I found out he'd quit his job on the day before we got married - all that time he was "hi-ho and off to work" every day, but in truth he was spending the day at his sister's - true story. Between those two I was engaged to a nice guy who had a daughter who was 13 and my daughter was 9 - a nice family setup and we were going to be happy - except .. he was in construction and had been with the union for many years and was high up on the call board but he just wasn't getting any work for some reason. Just before we married his best friend told me he had stopped taking jobs because "he's tired of working and you have a good job."

That's it for the big ones, but there were other interesting times that could have been until I found out I was the only one bringing in a regular paycheck. And remember, I was Queen of the Universe, paraded around and showed off to family and given gifts and waited on hand over foot, massaged, oh - yeah - the whole shebang.

Pay attention to your intuition and take it slow - and find out how secure his job is. Note that I don't think he has to make more than you, but beware if his job isn't stable.
posted by aryma at 12:32 AM on January 29, 2015 [2 favorites]

Nthing the, 'trust your gut!' responses. But also the, 'some people are genuinely like this!' sentiment.

The thing is, nobody here can really know if this is a problem unless they see you two interacting, and even then it'd be difficult to tell. Nevertheless, I think an impartial third party might have some insight.

With that in mind, has he met your friends? Do you have some friends that are insightful and honest when it comes to things like this? Could you set up a group activity and introduce him, and then get their opinion on the situation later on? Try not to lead them to the conclusion by asking questions like, 'does he seem too clingy?' instead, ask for complete honesty and their perspective, without saying anything. I mean, if they echo your fears, you know it's not just you, and you should put your guard up.

It's not foolproof, but it might help.

But consider that it might partially be fear on your end. Fear of making a mistake. Fear of being hurt again. Fear of being betrayed. Fear of being 'wrong' again. Fear that it's just too good to be true.

My boyfriend says he absolutely had an 'aha!' moment with me-- almost on our first meeting, and it was very hard not to sing my praises. I could almost feel him want to call me his dream girl, among other things-- he didn't, but I felt the vibe from him.

But partly I was scared, too. I don't believe in love at first sight, for one. However, part of my hesitance was also because I felt like nobody could possibly feel that way about me. Being 'the one' to somebody? Really? And that I didn't deserve to be called insanely beautiful and intelligent and special-- and when he said those things, he was obviously infatuated because I was ugly and stupid and nothing special, l had been told that subconsciously, my whole life. By my family. By society. Because I was not deserving of such high praise, obviously he was not in his right mind, moreover, he was inevitably going to leave once he realized I was an imposter, and none of those things.

These mental barriers made it so so hard to trust him, and it made me incredibly skeptical every time he gazed at me shiny eyed and praised me or my body. I mean, especially my body. I'm not the societal physical ideal; I'm chubby. So the fact he can see me and treat me like the epitome of sexiness? It blows my mind even now.

Hopefully I explained myself okay. Examine if this is at all in play here, for you. I didn't trust him, because society was telling me an ideal looked like ____ and I was not that, and every guy would/should want ____ over what I had.

But some guys do want those things and are not attracted to the societal ideal. Some guys totally mean what they say when they tell you that you're the prettiest and the sexiest, despite them having had girlfriends almost half the size of you in their past.

I can tell you that despite a couple of trying circumstances and temporary distance between us, we're still going strong, seven months later. If anything, we're more in love now than before. He's just as doting and into me, and our attraction hasn't waned one bit. I'd still proceed with caution, but know, it does happen.

And yeah, there's a little bit of rose-coloured glasses going on here. But sometimes that's what love is.
posted by Dimes at 9:54 AM on January 29, 2015 [2 favorites]

I'm in love with the insightful, intelligent answers here, and can't mark one as a best answer. I've decided to go with my gut, and wait it out a month or two. If he waffles or starts to become controlling, I'm out.

My hesitation with the whole "idealizing" thing is that, unfortunately, and I'm trying not to frame this by coming across as a total jerk, I'm attractive and successful, so I tend to attract guys who like that type of girl (i.e., narcissists), when in reality, I'm a bookworm who just wants a nice dude to share my life with. I've had several dudes pull the "DREAM GIRL OMG" schtick, not really knowing who I am, and I was pretty aware of how much they were projecting some false image onto me. The last one broke my heart. So I try to stay self-aware.

Anyway, I'll update this eventually. He might be crazy; he might be crazy about me. Only time will tell.
posted by shotinthedark at 12:31 PM on January 29, 2015 [2 favorites]

I just recently got out of a relationship with a guy exactly as you described - in all aspects. Said the same things, blew me off my feet really quickly, close to his mum, told his brother I was awesome (in fact, I even had to check to see where you were from to make sure it wasnt the same guy in which case I would've screamed "RUN"). He turned out to be a smothering, controlling, abusive arsehole. I wrote a question to mefi about him recently actually but have no idea how to link you to it.

Keep your eyes open.
Like you, I am anxiously attached and also had a string of avoidant men that made this guy seem so so so good. Too good to be true. After 3 short months he definitely was.

Just be wary.
posted by DeadFlagBlues at 1:33 PM on January 29, 2015

I dunno, this sounds like every single boyfriend I've ever had. Men fall in love more quickly than women. And no, their feelings never wavered. The rose-colored glasses remained firmly in place.

You might just be this guy's type.
posted by Guinevere at 6:10 PM on January 29, 2015

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