Boyfriend acting strange after spending several nights together?
March 11, 2015 1:38 AM   Subscribe

We're both in our 30's and have been together for 4 months. We made things official a few weeks ago, but only because I asked how he sees us and he responded that he thinks of us as being in a relationship. We've never spent this much time together before, and he's the kind of guy who needs to take a break for a 3 days after long weekend dates. I'm not clingy, he initiates most dates.

I slept over Fri, spent half of Sat, then slept over Sun and Mon night. On Sunday night, while laying in bed, I let it slip that I loved him. He asked me to repeat myself, then he kept saying, "Aww!" like it was the most adorable thing he's heard me say, or just liked the way I said it. He seemed happy, and was still grinning the next morning as I got ready to leave for work. He has said I love you while falling asleep on more than one occasion in the past, but not in a long while.

Later that day, he encouraged me to join a social gathering that he was going to that night for a game we both play. He seemed excited about me coming, and while hanging out, he was telling the others about funny jokes I had made during our private discussions. It felt like he was showing me off which is a huge change from the earlier days when he was very private about our relationship. It got to be midnight, and he offered to walk me home. We played a GPS based phone game on the way to my place. He seemed irritable on the walk home. He kept bringing up public transportation, and I told him I was ok the rest of the way, but he insisted on walking with me. He raised his voice a little to explain a point he was making about something. "I don't know how else to explain it to you." For the game we were playing:"Are you going to put mods on these or you're just not going to bother?" I asked him if everything was ok. He admitted being grumpy, said it was nothing I had done, but commented that maybe we're spending too much time together. And I jokingly said,"And whose fault is that?!"

At home was my car, so I offered to drive him to his place. He asked me to spend the night. But then he used an irritated tone in a way that made me stupid when I didn't know how to lock his door right away. "One turns this way, the other turns that way." He has always locked it before. He was sweet the rest of the time we were together and there was a lot of joking around. But then he tried something kinky and aggressive during sex which caught me by surprise. My reaction seemed to turn him off (I removed his hand from my mouth and nose after he covered my mouth. I also made a little noise like "mmm" in protest.) He said,"Sorry, I got a little excited." He rolled off me and lay there with his eyes closed. He seemed to be acting a little strange. But he told me he was just relaxing. He was less affectionate in bed after this, didn't cuddle as much, only a quick kiss when I left instead of his usual long one. He just seemed weird. He hasn't contacted me all day, not even to say goodnight which is so unlike him. He usually contacts me a little less after a date but he always contacts me before bed. He never skipped saying goodnight/good morning, even after arguments we had in the past.He's very active on group chats. I have been trying to give his space. I only messaged him that his gloves were in my car. "No worries, hold onto them."

I don't know what his deal is. Now I'm not sure if I should wait until he initiates contact again or reach out to him myself. Not sure what to say to him if I do.
posted by lohachata to Human Relations (57 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Sounds like someone who's ready to bail. And not anyone worth hanging on to. Move on.
posted by humboldt32 at 1:52 AM on March 11, 2015 [1 favorite]

Someone who is good with you in small quantities might not be good with you in large.

I mean, it's like cake. A slice is good, but a whole cake in one sitting? Too much. Now not every person is cake. Some are carrots and some are popcorn and some are a whole food pyramid. But him? He's cake.

Reach out to him when you want to. You'll ask him if everything is okay. He'll lie and say that everything is cool. You'll say that it's not. Tell him the vibes you're picking up. Go from there.

Good luck.
posted by inturnaround at 2:15 AM on March 11, 2015 [4 favorites]

I don't know that I agree with Humboldt. To me it sounds like he likes you and wants to spend time with you, but his time-with-other-people meter is full and he couldn't rectify the two. I get like this sometimes. (Like, ideally I would spend 100% of my time with you because you're great and <3 but practically I'm all gtfo I need some time to recharge.) It can be hard sometimes to find a way to verbalize that without it coming off like rejection. It's similar to other forms of crankiness, like how sometimes you don't even realize you're tired/hungry until you bite someone's head off and wonder where the heck that came from. I'm not saying it's a good excuse, it's just something that's pretty common and I suspect what's going on here. If the dude is like me he probably feels like a real shit about it now in hindsight.

I'd step back a bit and let him contact you, which I expect will be soon. When he does, tell him he was acting weird the other night and being really short with you and that you didn't appreciate it. Let him apologize (and if he doesn't, well, that's a real problem for you to consider). Also maybe mention that if he's going to suffocate you during sex you'd like some forewarning about it.
posted by phunniemee at 2:28 AM on March 11, 2015 [24 favorites]

I feel like something's missing here between him being pretty darn cool at the party and walking home. It doesn't seem like the behavior of someone who has checked out.
posted by rhizome at 2:38 AM on March 11, 2015 [3 favorites]

I agree with rhizome. What happened between an exuberant loving time at the party and the grumpy walk home? You might never figure it out, maybe he doesn't know either. Maybe it's overload of intimacy. Maybe it's a next step from your declaration of love - a step he had already made, and that you'd finally made the night before. Maybe it's a step towards testing your boundaries about being ordered about, or shamed or something. Guessing sucks. I'd be pissed off about the suffocation thing, especially after the terse walk. But maybe it was sex game that went awry and he's ashamed.

So, the big thing is the type of dance going on. I hate guesswork times and I've learned to put my foot down on it. (Usually on my own foot, as it's a pact I've made with myself: 'no guessing!') maybe you could say "your behaviour towards me feels withdrawn and frustrated. I won't play games about whether it's something to do with me or our evening together last night, so please try to explore what is happening, with me listening and caring, or reassure me that this is your own stuff, and you're onto it.'
posted by honey-barbara at 2:55 AM on March 11, 2015 [13 favorites]

It would be a huge red flag to me that someone got exasperated with me to the point that I felt stupid... and then sprung something agressive/kinky during sex that night. There is just something about it that makes me feel like he was pushing your boundaries to see how much of that behavior you'll accept. Some people become abusive once they realize they don't want to be in a relationship with you. I don't know why, but it happens.

And its okay for your partner to be annoyed with you, I annoy my partner I'm sure... but the way they behave is important because you shouldn't have to second guess yourself or be left wondering what you did wrong or what was wrong with him. So in that regard, how you feel as a reaction to how he spoke to you is an indicator of how healthy this relationship is for you.

Likewise with sex. Its okay for your partner to suggest doing things that are kinky or aggressive in bed. You two are a new couple and don't know each other so well yet, there could be things he likes that you aren't in to, or vice versa. But it needs to be safe and well communicated. He can suggest whatever in the heat of the moment, you say no... and you move on... you should still feel very loved and cared for afterwords.

Sometimes when you get serious with a guy who deep down has big issues, they will act like the jerks they think they are to devalue you.

I think you should take a HUGE step back. You sound sweet and and it doesn't sound like a good fit.
posted by catspajammies at 2:59 AM on March 11, 2015 [43 favorites]

Not knowing what to do with irritability, needing space, I guess ok, but the condescending comments - no. People can be irritable and not make the people they're supposed to care about feel stupid.

The ambush-style suffocation attempt is freaky and would have me running.
posted by cotton dress sock at 3:00 AM on March 11, 2015 [20 favorites]

I have no idea what's going on in that guy's head, but it does seem obvious that he needs some space. So I'd give him that.

However, the breath play thing he tried on you is very not cool. That's not like pulling a big feather out of your bedside table and waggling your eyebrows during sexytimes. That's a pretty advanced form of play that requires a huge amount of communication, knowledge and most importantly consent before it happens. He didn't offer you any of those things. It's a good thing that he stopped when you indicated that you weren't comfortable, but he shouldn't have been putting you in that situation in the first instance.

I would think long and hard about someone who leaps that that scenario when he's having something going on, being your sexual partner. Instead of using his words and saying "would you like to try [thing]?" or "I'm having a bad day, can we cut tonight short and I'll call you in the morning?", he went straight for controlling your breathing.

Like I said, I have no idea what's going on in this guy's head, but I think that you would be best served by giving him some space to work it out and then having a very frank conversation about boundaries and limits and expectations with him before you get anywhere near his bed (or even him) again.
posted by Solomon at 3:13 AM on March 11, 2015 [18 favorites]

I just wanted to clarify something: people have kinks and that is absolutely cool. What's not cool is non-consent. Especially for things like controlling someone's breathing.
posted by Solomon at 3:15 AM on March 11, 2015 [19 favorites]

Eww - sounds like a child - I'd check out of this a bit (actually, I would move on for the reasons Solomon outlined - not cool to spring this on someone - it just sounds like he's trying to control the situation/you - it doesn't sound like a kink to me).
posted by heyjude at 3:19 AM on March 11, 2015

i was all set out to write a post on how this didn't seem like that big of stuff to me, and then i reread the last bit.

So when he tried something moderately to fairly non vanilla on you during sex without talking about it first(which is somewhere between shitty and awful) and you weren't receptive... he acted like a teenager who didn't get controller 1 on mario kart.

Uhhh... fuck that.

It changes the entire context of all the previous hot/cold behavior. See, i'm sympathetic to that kind of stuff. Parties can be very energizing when everyones playing off everyone else and then you can feel completely drained/distant/weird afterwards. I can be like this, my partner can be like this, i know other people who can be like this. Everything right up until the sex stuff/breath play could be considered pretty normal and i would think it was beanplatey even...

But in the context of that, i don't know... he just seems fucking weird. Especially with how pouty and distant he got after.

I'd wait for him to contact you again, and then directly confront it and go "hey, that really wasn't ok and you weren't acting ok beforehand either. What's up with that".

If his response is anything but completely apologetic and sincere seeming, and ESPECIALLY if it's some kind of "omg you are blowing this way out of proportion" then fuuuuck that noise.

The sex stuff without the other behavior is something you can sit down and talk about as No It Doesn't Work That Way and You Can't Act That Way. The post party grumpies/weirdness/drainedness and irritability is also not super weird. People get tired, people get socially drained and get annoyed with weird minor things more than they usually would in either or a combo of both circumstances.

But as a combo its like... weird hot and cold guy who doesn't understand boundaries and flips to pissy like a lightswitch out of nowhere. Gross.

Listen to his response very carefully when you tell him this wasn't ok, and why. And yes, you will hear from him again. He's likely waiting for you to come running back, and will eventually contact you with an air of annoyance that you didn't.

And just so you know, it's absolutely legit to want some space/time after a stupid night like this. If he thinks it wasn't, then that's also a sign of manbaby ahead.
posted by emptythought at 3:28 AM on March 11, 2015 [21 favorites]

Sounds like the beginning of this guy treating you poorly. I would be scared by his behavior. It seems like he's pushing your boundaries and treating you contemptuously. Not okay.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 4:05 AM on March 11, 2015 [12 favorites]

To me it just sounds like he was in a bad mood, and it may very likely have been unrelated to you as he said. It does sound like he isn't handling his grumpiness in a mature way, though, and that's something you need to decide if you can or want to deal with in the future.

That said,

He admitted being grumpy, said it was nothing I had done, but commented that maybe we're spending too much time together. And I jokingly said,"And whose fault is that?!"

I have to admit, when I'm in a grouchy mood, these type of "joking" comments can really get under my skin. He was trying - in an admittedly not very adult, not very direct way - to tell you what was bothering him. Instead of being willing to engage in a dialogue with him, you made a joke (and even worse, one that places the responsibility for the situation solely at his feet).

I don't think this excuses his crumby behavior, but if you do decide to stick it out with him, you might want to be aware that this isn't a particularly productive response.

posted by schroedingersgirl at 4:07 AM on March 11, 2015 [15 favorites]

The sex thing is a big red flag. Like Solomon said, consensual kink is fine. Him suffocating you out of the blue? When you've never talked about it? As soon as you two made it official? I'd be running for the hills.

And I've never heard of someone needing a three-day break from their partner because they spent a weekend together. Sure, it might so happen that you don't see each other for three days after the weekend. But two days is so much for him that he needs you to leave him alone for three days after? Is this enough for you?
posted by Enchanting Grasshopper at 4:20 AM on March 11, 2015 [2 favorites]

As an introvert who needs time to recharge after socializing, let me assure Enchanting Grasshopper and the OP that yes, there are people who need a break after spending so much uninterrupted time with another person, and that it doesn't necessarily mean they don't care for you.

I mean, my best friend in the world and I travel together and it's awesome, but once we're back in town, I definitely need/want a few days away from him. Maybe it's unusual, but I happen to think it's healthy for me. Maybe it is for OP's guy, too.

Different strokes and all that, right?
posted by schroedingersgirl at 4:46 AM on March 11, 2015 [14 favorites]

Have you tried asking him "what his deal is"?
posted by deathpanels at 4:53 AM on March 11, 2015

I strongly dispute the idea that "breath play" is a "moderately to fairly non vanilla" activity. It could end in your death. It's one of the most extreme activities there is.

Since he didn't discuss this with you and get your consent beforehand, I feel that you were violently attacked. It just has a little "kinky" plausible deniability.

I think the safest thing to do is get some distance from this man and this relationship so you can figure out how you really feel.
posted by gentian at 4:57 AM on March 11, 2015 [14 favorites]

Hello, fellow Ingress player! I find that most of us on Ingress are introverts, and the meetups are careful doses of interaction that mostly focus on the game, which is a pretty neutral topic. Was it a late night? Was he introverty and tired? Sometimes when my social energy runs out it runs out quick, especially if I've been trying to push past my usual limit. And then I get snappy about stupid things like doors and mods.

And then he fucked up during sex and he is probably embarrassed and not sure at all how to talk about it and yes, MeFi, people should talk about it but lots of people are terrified to spit out the words especially if they did something wrong.

So, he's in his safe space on g+ and comms, recharging his introvert energy and his portals.

As for what to say, it depends on you. Are you okay with a relationship where you both recognize the introvert burnout and work around it? My partner and I have always agreed that we are allowed to ask for time alone at home, for example, which means the other person makes theirself scarce for a while. Maybe the grumpiness is a time-off signal. I am not saying he's just allowed to be a jerk, I'm saying that it can be a predictable thing. If you think of HALT (hungry/angry/lonely/tired), the tired factor hits way earlier and for different reasons for introverts.

Is the kink stuff completely off the table, or needs way more warning or a different version or...? Do you think he's a monster for it? Do you think he's fine but it's not going to be part of his relationship with you?

The way the sex conversation goes is important. If there's an element of contempt or that he deserves to be allowed to suffocate you or that you were wrong to stop him, then dump him. If there's none of that and you sense he's embarrassed and sorry and wishes he had gone about it differently, that's more encouraging. It is, as gentian mentions, a high risk activity. It seems to be really in vogue at the moment and I'm not sure everyone understands that or how to talk about it. The reason I am not jumping to "violently attacked" is that he backed off and withdrew when you resisted. Go with your gut on this one. If all the words sound right but your gut says no, listen to that.
posted by heatherann at 5:20 AM on March 11, 2015 [3 favorites]

The reason I am not jumping to "violently attacked" is that he backed off and withdrew when you resisted.

Backed off and withdrew and pouted. As opposed to, say, comforting and reassuring her, he lay still with his eyes closed in a way that made her ask what was wrong.

No, it doesn't make what he did more violent but it speaks to character, and to who he is concerned about.
posted by gentian at 5:27 AM on March 11, 2015 [24 favorites]

This dude sounds infuriating and exhausting. When I was younger I once dated someone who blew hot and cold like this, expected me to read his mind, and didn't take responsibility for his own emotional state -- he just felt like he was at the mercy of his feelings, whatever they were. He wasn't sending up abuse red flags like your guy is, but even so, god, breaking up with him was one of the best things I ever did. I suddenly has so much more energy for my own needs because I wasn't spending it trying to make sure I read all the little signals correctly and protecting someone else from his own decisions. God. Ugh.
posted by you're a kitty! at 6:37 AM on March 11, 2015 [7 favorites]

Man, everyone is talking about introvert burnout, and I am a huge introvert, I get that mefi is an introvert-heavy site, but the way you deal with that social burnout is important. This dude dealt with his irritation and burnout by being increasingly verbally aggressive to you and then lashing out at you physically during sex. If he'd just been grumpy or snapped at you prior to your sleeping over, or if he'd been totally normal all night and then gotten suddenly aggressive during a sexual encounter, I'd be willing to chalk it up to him needing to communicate better about kink or him needing space or whatever. But this looks like he was getting increasingly irritated and instead of asking for some time to himself to decompress, he kept using you as an outlet for that irritation, and he escalated his aggressive behavior from snapping at you to choking you out. That's... really not okay. Laying hands on you in anger (especially during an intimate moment) is not acceptable.
posted by moonlight on vermont at 6:41 AM on March 11, 2015 [27 favorites]

You told him you love him. His reaction was, "aw, that's adorable." His reaction was not to say "I love you, too." Now, I know you think he has said "I love you" before, but he has only done that while he was falling asleep, and not not in a long time. Mumbling it while falling asleep doesn't count, and that's especially true here because he did not say he loves you back.

So, my guess is that he is freaked out about your relationship, or that he doesn't feel the way you feel, but that he's too immature to bring this up or talk about it like a grown-up.

I could be wrong. But even if so, it's clear that he's too much of a child to talk about things like a grown-up. It's okay to be grumpy, it's okay to want time apart, and it's okay to try to initiate kink into the bedroom. But it's not okay to condescend with hostility about how to lock a fucking car door, or to roll over and pout when your girlfriend isn't enthusiastic about having breath play sprung on her, or even to be so passive aggressive about how you should take public transportation even while he's insisting on walking you home. I mean, I think he's acting like a petulant child, and that has nothing to do with his introversion, and by his 30s he should know better.

If you want to try to see if it can work, you should probably call him up and say you need to talk about these issues because they're not making you feel good.
posted by J. Wilson at 6:42 AM on March 11, 2015 [6 favorites]

Looking at your askmefi history - it looks like there is a pattern of his behavioral "weirdness" and aloofness, you thinking over every detail that may or may not have lead up to it and moving on to more of the same.

Ask yourself if you are getting what you want from this relationship. It's been 4 months and your question now looks a lot similar to what you asked when you just started seeing each other. Are communication lines open, can you address these issues directly to gain more clarity? If not, perhaps its better to move on.
posted by mooselini at 7:21 AM on March 11, 2015 [1 favorite]

This was one night. He screwed up in a number of ways. And, not to be mean, but you contributed by choosing to listen to his "let's spend time together" instead of his "I need some space." Doesn't mean that he doesn't like you or that you should dump him. If this isn't a pattern, let it go and wait for him to get in touch with you. Try not to worry about what his deal is until you see him again and you can have an open conversation with him -- and even then, focus on the big-picture "what does each of us need to be happy in this relationship" rather than bringing up specific things he said or did (other than the "breath play," which is important).
posted by chickenmagazine at 7:24 AM on March 11, 2015

After seeing mooselini's answer saying this IS a pattern -- never mind.
posted by chickenmagazine at 7:25 AM on March 11, 2015 [2 favorites]

" He usually contacts me a little less after a date but he always contacts me before bed."

Yeah- that's called, he wants to see you when he's horny and when he's satisfied he's not so into spending time with you. A tidbit I got from metafilter that I 100% agree with "If a man is as into spending time with you AFTER he comes than before he comes. Only then is he sincerely into you."

Also "awww" is not a good reaction to saying "I love you". That's the kind of reaction a guy who sees you as naive and willing to put up with things might give you. Like a child next door that you're happy likes you & wants to please you because it means you can get him to do whatever you say without much hassle. He then used your I love you as a way to take advantage of you in the bed room by trying to push you into something. If you were my friend I'd ask you to stay clear of this one. He may even be physically dangerous down the road, I dunno- but at the very least he's psychologically dangerous.
posted by manderin at 7:32 AM on March 11, 2015 [7 favorites]

This is your third question where you're wondering if this guy is acting strangely. At this point it's not even important whether he is or isn't. The important thing is that he's not acting like someone you're compatible with. Four months is nothing; you should be over the moon with each other. Move on and find someone who doesn't act this way around you.
posted by desjardins at 7:40 AM on March 11, 2015 [19 favorites]

IMO there's a limit to where the framework of "kink" applies, and outside of that there's just being mean and controlling in bed. Attempting to regain the ability to breathe when it's taken away suddenly is something anybody would do reflexively, including people who deliberately undertake it because they want to. Acting annoyed at that super ordinary behavior sounds like someone who's looking for something to get mad about, more like an unwinnable test than an effort to do something mutually pleasurable during sex.

Even aside from that, it sounds like he's currently unwilling to let his actions towards you reflect what he claims to feel about you, which should be a thing that rarely if ever happens in a relationship.
posted by Stukos at 7:52 AM on March 11, 2015 [2 favorites]

Is covering your mouth during sex something that he's done before with your consent/participation or was it completely out of the blue?

Most of it sounds like he was just having an off day for reasons that could be entirely unrelated to you with the added bonus of unexpected intimacy from you.
posted by Candleman at 7:54 AM on March 11, 2015

Drop kick him to the curb. NOW.

Look. I have extensive (professional) experience with kink. There is something massively wrong inside of this person.

There is no part of understating to you how extreme and threatening what he did during sex was. It wasn't "play" -- it was an urge to dominate and annihilate you during what is supposed to be safe loving intimacy. Holy shit. There are so many levels of psychological fucked up in that move. I'm freaking out that you are not freaking out, TBH.

I can unequivocally state if you have asked 3 questions about his weirdness, and he has turned on you for no reason, and he was outrageously dangerous and aggressive in bed in, frankly, a mental illness kind of way -- Please run away from this damaging person until it is too late and your self esteem gets twisted, and he turns from emotionally violent, to physically violent.

You can not help or fix him. I swear this. Run. Run. Run.
posted by jbenben at 8:04 AM on March 11, 2015 [11 favorites]

Would you be happy if things are the same way six months or a year from now? I'm an introvert, and think it's unusual to need three days off after a weekend together. And whether it's unusual or not, is it what you want? Do you eventually want to live with someone or get married? How would that work for someone like him?

I've had that happen to me unexpectedly during sex, and it was scary. Guy was not my boyfriend. I chose not to see him again. I think it's important to feel safe in a relationship, and if you decide to stay with him, at a minimum you should bring up how the suffocation thing made you feel, and see how he reacts.
posted by three_red_balloons at 8:07 AM on March 11, 2015 [1 favorite]

I read through this question, then clicked through to read your other 2 AskMe questions about this relationship (not even the [more inside] parts, just the front page text) and just want to tell you this:

I know this is your first time dating again after a 10 year relationship ended, but I promise you--promise you--that if this kind of hot-cold behavior with flashes of contemptuous impatience is not your bag, there are good, attractive men out there who share your attachment style and availability who will not make you anxious like this, or like the problem is you. It's not your job to research the "care and feeding of your introvert" or play the push-me-pull-you game of a 38 year old man who may not want the level of intimacy in a relationship that you desire....may not want this from anyone. The fact that it started after you finally professed your love, there was a "lock down" of commitment, and the chase was over, is not an unusual pattern at all.

I've had the dynamic you describe with an otherwise really great guy who's a wonderful friend but--at 47 now, still hasn't resolved his "middle distance runner" problem he finally admitted to me happened with every woman after about 6 months to a year. FYI, there is no sign the "wife and kids" set he wanted by age 40 are anywhere in the near future (I remember telling him at one point in frustration when he was being especially churlish, "If you want a wife and children, you know you'll have to talk and share a living space with them for more than just 2 days a week, right?").

I then dated a guy who was absolutely, 100% unambiguous from the start that he enjoyed my company very much, whether it was passive (different activities in the same room) or going out together. I never had that lurching sickness in the stomach over whether I was going to get hot or cold that day/week. The relationship ended for other reasons, but man, I would never ever go back to trying to "understand" and "empathize" and "work around" the (childhood) issues and incompatibilities of the first guy. I don't confuse anxiety for arousal, or caretaking for "healing someone through love" or "understanding."
posted by blue suede stockings at 8:25 AM on March 11, 2015 [16 favorites]

Oh, yeah, in the light of your previous questions, it may just be a bad fit.

If I hadn't seen those, I would have said that some people act differently after you become official, exclusive, whatever. They start assuming all sorts of stuff because you are "a couple;" they start pushing your boundaries; they take you for granted. Sometimes they stop saying please and thank you. Some of this can be fairly innocent and/or can be changed if you let them know your preferences. This guy, though, sounds a little petulant and as if he's just letting you see more and more unpleasant parts of his personality.
posted by BibiRose at 8:49 AM on March 11, 2015 [1 favorite]

What blue suede stockings said times one zillion. If you're constantly trying to figure out what's going on, or trying to read his mind, or trying to adjust your behavior, or trying to work around his moods, or what have you, that's a damn good sign that it's not going to work out. If it's going to work out, it's easy at the beginning. Of course, in any good relationship, turf wars will pop up after a while, but there's none of this constant guessing game about what's going on with the two of you.
posted by holborne at 9:33 AM on March 11, 2015 [2 favorites]

Three AskMes in 4 months all about pretty much the same behavior? At this point I think you have to just accept it: this is what this dude is, a somewhat immature jerk who's, you know, not terrifically emotionally available and maybe not super-into the relationship (or maybe any relationship!).
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 10:30 AM on March 11, 2015 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: It's telling that so many people are seeing emotional abuse. He told me a few months ago that his father was "severely physically and emotionally abusive" to him and his siblings when he was growing up. He did not go into specifics. He hasn't spoken to his father in over 5 years. He says he still feels the effects of the abuse at times. He's also living in the apartment where some of the incidents occurred. As for the contempt, previous boyfriends all had times when they acted the same way when in a bad mood so I had chalked it up as normal, albeit jerky behavior. My best friend thinks he's manipulative.

I did get a huge kick out of the Ingress reply. I had wondered if a fellow Ingressor would recognize what I was referring to. :D It's such a shame that I won't have a boyfriend to enjoy the game with me anymore.

And it's a moot point now, but I don't think he was only about sex, we have hung out several times without it and he has invited me over just to cuddle. He also spents most of Sat with me just walking around or going to stores. I know I said that he speaks to me a little less after our longer dates, but there's actually a delay with that. He actually contacts me more frequently the day that I leave his place, and it's all sweet messages to check up on my day, nothing sexual. It's the day after that that we don't talk much until bedtime and come to think of it, that's usually a Sunday when he feels like he has nothing to talk about. Most of the bedtime chat is nonsexual as well.

But everyone raises good points about the red flags, immature behavior, and the fact that I probably shouldn't need Rosetta Stone to figure him out.

We had lengthy discussions on what kinky things to try and he never once brought up THAT fetish. I'm also not sure if I would go as far as saying he was irritated. He lay there like he was drained of energy . He still played with my hair and spooned me but there was a noticable weirdness. Awkwardness perhaps..

Also, an example of not wanting to hang out for 3 days is when I see him, say Wed and Thur. Then he doesn't want to see me until Sun or Mon, though he contacts me frequently with the exception of the weekend days where he has nothing to say since he did nothing.

He still hasn't initiated contact :/ I'm debating on messaging him and saying something like,"You're been acting really strange lately, mind telling me what's on your mind?" to at least start a discussion. I'm not sure if he will reach out. We had a disagreement a month ago where we didn't see eye to eye. He was aggravated and wanted to get off the phone because we were talking in circles, not seeing eye to eye. It seemed like a normal fight except he became silent afterwards even then. The kind where he stops initiating but still replies. I caved in and reached out to him on the 3rd day and he acknowledged the part he played in the disagreement. He started to see me every other day after that. Guess you can say that was a honeymoon period.
posted by lohachata at 10:30 AM on March 11, 2015

I think Metafilter tends to be a little quick to jump to DTMFA. You love him? Express the problems in this and your previous posts to him and ask if he's willing to work through them with you. Quite possibly with a professional. If you can take steps together to resolve the issues, great. If not, move on.

As far as the hand on mouth thing, ask him directly what he was trying to do and why. There's a world of difference between trying to cover a partner's mouth to restrict moaning noises and trying to suffocate someone during sex. Neither are cool without talking about beforehand and having a safety signal, but there's an order of magnitude of difference. He might have been trying something relatively innocent and got embarrassed by it or thought he'd offended you by going too far. Sometimes if you get caught up in the moment and push boundaries a little too much, it's best to just disengage and calm down - I've certainly done that.
posted by Candleman at 10:50 AM on March 11, 2015 [2 favorites]

If you do try to continue things, think about where you want to be in a relationship a year from now and ask him to do the same. See if they're mutually compatible and work on finding a path to get there.
posted by Candleman at 10:54 AM on March 11, 2015

I think your boyfriend is feeling insecure about his role in a relationship. Let's assume he likes you. He really, really likes you. He took the big step in vulnerability and made you an official part of his life at the social gathering. Now the stakes are even higher. After showing how much he likes you to [people], he knows somehow the rules for "what works" might change, and he will probably have to adapt in order to feel he doing an adequate job of being a "man" in the eyes of [people]. It may not have resonated that way for you, but it sounds like for him, a pressure has come on.

I told him I was ok the rest of the way, but he insisted on walking with me. He raised his voice a little to explain a point he was making about something. "I don't know how else to explain it to you."

This is the behavioral evidence you shared that sounds to me like he's doubting his ability to "be a man" for you -- basically resorting to chivalry because better behavioral models are lacking in our dominant culture. I do think much of the dominant culture perpetuates the ideas that in a relationship there is always one person who is superior, and it could be that now that he's experiencing a relationship with an equal partner, part of him may be panicking under the old school programming to figure out how not to be the inferior partner in the relationship. Even the breath play I would interpret as him trying to figure out how to up his prowess in an independently "manly" way. It's also very symbolic of silencing the feminine, and maybe that's where his internal dialogue is at.

I'm saying this fresh from facilitator training for Making Connections support groups for women. Something we learned yesterday was the difference between an abuse belief system and a healthy belief system. In the abuse belief system, the abusive party believes they need to be the superior, central, and entitled party in the relationship. The trainer even shared her personal story of how her own husband had honestly never been taught any different about relationships. In his mind, relationship partners were always in one of two categories: superior and inferior. So whenever she tried to be an equal, he would "defend" his right to be the superior party in the relationship. It took him a long time to understand that her being equal wasn't about knocking him down from the "superior" position. She really described it as him having to actively deprogram himself through committed actions (e.g. counseling). Even though he was raised in a middle-upper class family, he had no concept of what equality actually looked like in a relationship.

I'm not saying that's exactly what your guy is doing. But I do think this struggle is prolific enough that he's feeling his part of it. Him taking time and space to himself is probably his main method for dealing with this cultural wall for "men" whenever he hits it. So if I were you, I would wait and see what he chooses to do. If he can find a way to come back that transcends his inheritance from society's patriarchy, there's probably hope. But if he comes back in a manner that keeps you filling the "inferior" role, I'd say let him go. These are belief systems and like most belief systems, they tend to be deeply entrenched. Either he is in his own process for challenging and revising his belief systems, or he isn't and your desire for equality is going to stand in the way. How he chooses to behave with you now that you've reached this roadbump will probably be enough to tell you if he's someone who can grow with you over time, or if he's someone who's going to need you to change so that he can stay the way he is. (Also FWIW, the trainers reported from their support groups they find that it doesn't seem to matter whether a man is from an abusive home life as a child or not -- they still learn the dominant cultural discourse, and when they don't know what else to do, they still use it. Best of luck!
posted by human ecologist at 12:03 PM on March 11, 2015

Ugh. You're having to do a lot of calculating. We're throwing around a lot of ideas. It's up to you if this is okay. Another alternative is along the lines of just saying "hey this isn't okay" or "hey I don't know what was going on last night, but that wasn't okay."

It's not your job to diagnose how things went off the rails and cajole them back on. You could also just say "hey, I don't know what's up, but your train can't be driving over my fields like this" and let him call in the railroad engineers.
posted by salvia at 1:12 PM on March 11, 2015 [9 favorites]

I guess my metric is this - is there an imbalance of emotional energy in the relationship? I mean, do you think he's sitting at home dwelling on your relationship like this? No. No he's not. He's watching TV or playing Guitar Hero or whatever he does for fun. Which is what you should be doing: having fun.
posted by desjardins at 1:45 PM on March 11, 2015 [6 favorites]

This is the behavioral evidence you shared that sounds to me like he's doubting his ability to "be a man" for you

It is worth noting that for some men, severe childhood abuse can manifest in a strong uncomfortableness with adulthood and commitment, which they associate with abuse. Love and relationships can be triggering events. Has he gotten therapy for his problems? If not, the taking the relationship to the next level may be unleashing a lot of stuff - like maybe, what his father thought 'being a man' was.
posted by corb at 1:49 PM on March 11, 2015 [2 favorites]

He's not over growing up abused. You can not help him through this.

He's not relationship-ready. Since you seem to want to continue, please promise yourself you will DTMFA the next time he is physically aggressive with you.

His damaged side is testing your boundaries. You can not fix him. It will escalate, in an attempt to subconsciously explore and re-live his experiences with his dad growing up. This is unhealthy exploration and processing on his part. Refuse to participate.

Also, just don't date "withholders." They suck.
posted by jbenben at 2:20 PM on March 11, 2015 [8 favorites]

I looked at your other questions. Your guy has an anxious-avoidant relationship style due to having grown up abused.

It's not easy to date someone like this. However, if he really wants a healthy relationship and is willing to go to therapy, he can overcome a lot of his issues. I think you need to sit down and talk to him about what you're both looking for and how his behavior is making you feel and how he feels. If he's willing to work on it and you really do love him, why not give it a bit more of a chance?

However, if you are ready to bail now, it's perfectly understandable. You may not want to wait for him to work things out, and that's totally fine too (if he's even willing).
posted by Beethoven's Sith at 3:35 PM on March 11, 2015 [1 favorite]

Looking at your askmefi history - it looks like there is a pattern of his behavioral "weirdness" and aloofness, you thinking over every detail that may or may not have lead up to it and moving on to more of the same.

I didn't see this, because i usually just reply to the question as i see it and don't think of it(this is not some passive aggressive jab, it just usually doesn't occur to me).

You have several questions about this in only a few months.

That's kind of ridiculous. They're all about this guy being weird aloof modern romance novel "complicated" guy.

Fuck that. This tired shit isn't worth your time, and it shouldn't be this hard.
posted by emptythought at 4:12 PM on March 11, 2015 [2 favorites]


Dude's probably not evil. But are you sure this is the best you can do? Is this the first guy you've dated after your 10-year relationship?

I don't know, man. I'd probably just give up on him if I were you. I'd probably look in the mirror one day and remember how awesome I used to be and by like, "what the fuck am I doing, I'm still young and there has to be more out there."

This is not a question of is he bad or good or does he like you or not. Fuck that noise. This is a question of "is this all?" There are even better dudes out there. Gotta be. You might start daydreaming about them a little more. Odds are good Mr. Manipulation will sense it and suddenly panic, but even if he doesn't, you'll feel better if you're the less invested one here.
posted by quincunx at 4:56 PM on March 11, 2015 [4 favorites]

He seems kinda mean.
posted by kapers at 5:51 PM on March 11, 2015 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: I wanted to add another thing about him, just to share. He used to have polyamorous relationships but as he got older. he started to prefer monagamy for himself. He didn't mind if his partners saw other people as long as his needs were met. He felt compersion, not jealousy. He said that he sees me as a divorced woman and thinks I should put myself out there and date around so that I don't have any regrets. Because I was with the same personfor 10 years. He said he is confident and happy with our relationship so he wouldn't mind as long as his needs are met. He believes you can be serious with more than one partner. He thinks it would be good for me. But when I talked to other guys for any length of time at social events, he made comments to fish for info on how interested I was. Comments like,"You looked stunning tonight, no wonder (guy I was talking to) said he would leave his wife for you." He fished for info on whether I lay in bed with my male roomate. Those are some examples, I was never interested in them though. He made comments about how those guys probably fantasized about me, but he said it as if he was making fun of them and trying to make them seem unattractive. *shrug*.

I'm having a hard time moving on despite being very busy. For those who suggested working things out with him, I'm curious what do you think about him not reaching out to me for 2 days? Does it seem to indicate that he really does not care? I didnt reach out either, but only because he said we spend too much time together.
posted by lohachata at 6:19 PM on March 11, 2015

Re: your update.

Yeah that's messed up. In your three previous questions you only mention him being weird, moody and distant. That can go either way. But actively encouraging you to date other men when he knows (or strongly suspects) you want a monogamous-heading-towards-marriage relationship with him? Gross.

And the whole patronizing "you need to live a little and sleep around a little" is icky too. I wonder if it's the age difference. I hear after 30 it doesn't matter as much but this guy seems like he thinks he's soooo much older and wiser. And he's all set in his ways with his hobbies.


posted by quincunx at 6:33 PM on March 11, 2015 [5 favorites]

But when I talked to other guys for any length of time at social events, he made comments to fish for info on how interested I was. Comments like,"You looked stunning tonight, no wonder (guy I was talking to) said he would leave his wife for you." He fished for info on whether I lay in bed with my male roomate. Those are some examples, I was never interested in them though. He made comments about how those guys probably fantasized about me, but he said it as if he was making fun of them and trying to make them seem unattractive. *shrug*.

Just so you know, this isn't compassion and not jealousy. Either he's grossly misrepresenting himself in a manipulative way, or your meter needs some adjusting.

It's pretty gross to say you don't care in that context then do, even if it's depressingly common.

I also think "needs being met" is a gross way to put it. A real open or poly situation looks more like him being your primary focus, or just as important. Not him getting some arbitrary level of sex. The phrasing there seems to bely a really gross attitude that's generally incompatible with that type of relationship without lots of anguish and stupid chestbeating monkey behavior on the dudes part(which you already saw a bit of).

Grosssss. Extra super duper gross in context of everything else, too.
posted by emptythought at 6:36 PM on March 11, 2015 [5 favorites]

when I talked to other guys for any length of time at social events, he made comments to fish for info on how interested I was. Comments like,"You looked stunning tonight, no wonder (guy I was talking to) said he would leave his wife for you." He fished for info on whether I lay in bed with my male roomate. Those are some examples, I was never interested in them though. He made comments about how those guys probably fantasized about me, but he said it as if he was making fun of them and trying to make them seem unattractive. *shrug*.

Ok, I'm not even going to touch his wish to farm you out to other people (although I think maybe it's because he doesn't really want to be with you), but the thinking here is (among a number of other fucked up things), "what kind of idiots are they to find someone like you attractive", right? GTFO, GTFO, GTFO
posted by cotton dress sock at 7:27 PM on March 11, 2015 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: You could be right that he was farming me out because maybe he doesn't want to be with me. :/ Hell, if he wanted to be with me, I think he would have initiated contact by now. But I think his comments about other men were more likely about stupid chest beating monkey behavior because his disparaging comments were about the men specifically. He has commented on things like dick size, hygiene habits, etc. As jerky as he's been, he never made me feel unattractive, quite the opposite He used the phrase "needs met" because he picked it up from me. I was already using that phrase frequently when telling him about a past poly relationship and why my needs weren't met. Regardless of all that, there are still plenty of reasons to move on unless he makes some miraculous behavioral changes
posted by lohachata at 8:31 PM on March 11, 2015

I think his comments about other men were more likely about stupid chest beating monkey behavior because his disparaging comments were about the men specifically.

Still not really about you. And any time it should be, it isn't.
posted by cotton dress sock at 9:11 PM on March 11, 2015 [1 favorite]

You seem to be spending a whole lot of time worrying about whether he wants to be with you, and no time reflecting on whether you want to be with him. Do you? I sure wouldn't. You deserve better than this.
posted by you're a kitty! at 9:51 PM on March 11, 2015 [5 favorites]

Mod note: OP, moderator here — while it's totally fine to post an update to clarify something about the original question or similar, Ask MeFi isn't really suited for back-and-forth discussion or follow-up questions. So it's best to limit your comments to essential updates and the like, and should you want to ask another question you can just post a new thread (when the weekly limit expires). Absolutely no big deal here at all in this case, just a heads-up / general PSA. Thanks!
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane (staff) at 6:19 AM on March 12, 2015

Oh, fuck this guy. Seriously, two days and no text? Fuck.This.Guy. You can do better and it starts now

I'd send him a text saying exactly that: 'not happy at all that your idea of 'space' is giving me the silent treatment after criticising me all the way home on Tuesday, and then trying to suffocate me during a fuck. You needed to step up and apologise for being a vacillating, rude dick, but instead you're playing silent treatment games again. Consider yourself dumped, and judged.'

Lose this guy and seriously, move on.
posted by honey-barbara at 7:42 AM on March 12, 2015 [8 favorites]

There is zero data here to support anything other than he hasn't contacted you today. I think your focus should be on dealing with anxiety.

Not texting in 2 days is not a crime. And if you want to interact with him, text him.
posted by Ironmouth at 1:13 PM on March 12, 2015 [1 favorite]

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