Can People Change?
June 15, 2015 8:56 PM   Subscribe

I'm with a guy who's not romantic at all and I can't stand it. He says he can change, but is that even possible?

So I'm with a guy right now who apparently has been in an abusive relationship and has a lot of social anxiety. So that's the context. We're not really together; it's more of a "wait and see" thing since we're long distance.

But the real problem is, even though he says he wants a relationship with me whenever he can move to my city, he is very unaffectionate and not romantic at all and I'm the complete opposite. It's pretty much a dealbreaker. He never wants to talk about the future or about us, he prefers to keep things light and simple. Again, opposite of me. He says he loves me, but only if I say it first. He says he can change and be the way I wish he could be, but I doubt it. He has also told me he can't stay with just one person at once, but says he can change that too, with time. He says he plans to be monogamous/more affectionate with me because I'm the one he sees himself with for the long term.

Can I believe him? Do people ever change? Should lack of affection be a dealbreaker? He's also trans and I'm just waiting for him to start hormones and stuff because it might help him open up more and be more comfortable with me.

Thanks for any advice...
posted by lhude sing cuccu to Human Relations (21 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Being romantic and affectionate isn't a gender based thing so I have no idea how hormones are supposed to help there. So he can't stay with one person but that will change too over time (although not now...?) Does this comment mean he's currently seeing other people? It would seem so. How are you with that? All of these things that he plans to change, well, where is it? Just saying it might happen one day isn't good enough. If he's going to change, I would expect to be seeing it right now. Word are cheap, anyone can spout promises. Look at what he's doing and judge him on that and if you don't like what you're seeing, well, you know what to do.
posted by Jubey at 9:05 PM on June 15, 2015 [1 favorite]

Anything can be a dealbreaker. You're allowed to end a relationship at any time, for any reason.

That said, you're not in-person dating this guy, and some people suck at verbal/text affection. Like me for instance? I'm acerbic and sarcastic and jokey pretty much 100% of the time with the things that I say, but I can be plenty affectionate physically. My mode of loving expression is way more in the touch realm than the say realm. And different people have all kinds of ways of expressing affection that wouldn't come across in a long distance, not-technically-dating-yet, wait-and-see relationship. You're putting the cart way before the horse here.

If you're not getting the affection you need now, for the relationship you have now, then you need to evaluate that for what it is and address that appropriately. That needs to be an ongoing conversation with this guy, and not something that you hope will just organically happen at some magic future point when everything is perfect and you're both together-together in the same city. You have no idea when that will be. Build on the relationship you actually have, don't plan for the one you think you'll have.
posted by phunniemee at 9:10 PM on June 15, 2015 [12 favorites]

You can't fix everyone you date or pseudo-date. This is not a good fit. You deserve someone who adores those aspects of your personality, not a man who is uncomfortable with them, but eventually sees himself growing to the point where he can tolerate you with some discomfort. Let this guy go, and set out to find that other person, who will idolize you passionately for all your many facets. Don't settle for anything less than the partner who loves your pilgrim soul.
posted by seasparrow at 9:13 PM on June 15, 2015 [3 favorites]

Probably he'll never change. Just look for someone else. I'm sure you'll find someone else who is at the very least affectionate. I know it's tough to dump someone, but there are lots of better potential partners out there. It might take effort, but this dude is really bringing you down.
posted by discopolo at 9:38 PM on June 15, 2015 [1 favorite]

People do change but usually only because they want to. If he genuinely wants to become a more romantic person and is strongly motivated to do so, he might. But if he only wants to because that's what you want... well, sorry, but I think the chances are not good. I think how he is now is likely a good indicator of his natural inclination, and even if he puts on a certain amount of romanticism to please you, it will gradually diminish back to his natural levels. Which aren't compatible with your needs.

And yes, it is a totally valid need to want love shown and demonstrated. Everyone has their own preferred style of giving and receiving love, and if yours don't match, you'll have a relationship where each of you is consistently wondering whether the other really loves them.
posted by Athanassiel at 9:41 PM on June 15, 2015

He doesn't want to be in a relationship with you. Lots of things can change, but I certainly wouldn't wait around for THAT one to change.
posted by J. Wilson at 10:01 PM on June 15, 2015

Should lack of affection be a dealbreaker?
Is there some universe where lack of affection shouldn't be a dealbreaker?? ??????
posted by bleep at 10:20 PM on June 15, 2015 [34 favorites]

he is very unaffectionate and not romantic at all and I'm the complete opposite.

He never wants to talk about the future or about us

he prefers to keep things light and simple.

He has also told me he can't stay with just one person at once

He is telling you over and over that he is not compatible with you. He can plan to change as much as he likes--change doesn't happen until it actually happens.

For your own sanity, I suggest that you put this not-even-a-relationship-yet to bed, and meet someone local who wants to hold your hand and talk about the future and be serious and monogamous. It is okay to want the things you want, and search for a person who provides them.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 10:20 PM on June 15, 2015 [25 favorites]

You're not even together yet and you already feel emotionally neglected. This is supposed to be the stage of things where you feel amazingly desired. This will not improve, and you deserve more.
posted by stoneweaver at 10:32 PM on June 15, 2015 [9 favorites]

Leaving to one side the expression of affection part, because everyone's already covered that, it sounds to me like he's going through a lot and likes you in ways, but may not be clear on how or when that might manifest relationship-wise, if at all. Net result is you're in limbo. It's ok for that to be a dealbreaker, too.
posted by cotton dress sock at 10:46 PM on June 15, 2015

How old is this guy? Because this is like, textbook early 20s whispy i-dont-want-to-tie-myself-down/i don't want to commit or do any serious emotional heavy lifting stuff.

I was this guy, and most of my friends were this guy at one point or another. Throw him back, still a tadpole, not your responsibility to train this dog to sit or roll over.

(I also think the trans-ness is a complete red herring here. A guy is a guy is a guy, and it wouldn't be the first time i've heard of someone who ended up presenting a different way/being agender/etc following the classic trope-y path. This is textbook young guy shit, and to an extent young person shit)
posted by emptythought at 10:50 PM on June 15, 2015 [5 favorites]

People sometimes change, but it's unwise to base a relationship on the premise that they will.
posted by ead at 11:41 PM on June 15, 2015

The social anxiety and history of abuse are what I was mostly thinking of re "going through a lot", to be clear. I had that combo, and went through a phase of dating just to date, for fun, for whatever - it might be a weird time of figuring out boundaries while at the same time wanting closeness, which isn't entirely fair to others, but also may not be entirely conscious.

But again, whether that's true or not, decide for yourself whether the behaviour is acceptable to you. (I vote no.)
posted by cotton dress sock at 11:45 PM on June 15, 2015

In my experience, people who spend a lot of time telling you they can change and will change, don't. The people who decide to actually change, instead of just trying to placate you, just get down to it once they realize what the problem is. They do the work without expecting you to throw them a parade.

There is a caveat however: I've only ever seen people successfully change certain behavior. Nobody can change who they are entirely.

So this: He says he can change and be the way I wish he could be says to me that the changes you'd need from him are simply too much and that you two are simply incompatible. You should stop waiting around for this fellow and go on some dates with some local guys.
posted by colfax at 1:30 AM on June 16, 2015 [1 favorite]

This person sounds like a lot of hard work, for him and for you.

Can't help noticing that you don't mention anything you are getting out of this relationship.

Don't get stuck in the trap of continuing a relationship just out of a sense of obligation to make it work.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 1:57 AM on June 16, 2015 [2 favorites]

I'm pretty much with the consensus here; I don't have a high degree of confidence that this person will change. Especially the non-monogamy part.

To find the relationship you want you need to truly understand what your emotional needs are and then firmly stick to finding the person who meets you emotional needs. Don't compromise. It's not fair to you. It's not fair to the other person.

Now it can take some time to discover whether or not a person will meet your fundamental emotional needs are. That's what dating is for. But I think it's pretty clear that this person will not meet your emotional needs.

But say you still want to give this a chance? This is what you do.

You tell this guy exactly what your emotional needs are and you give him the option of starting to meet them right now or taking his chances, doing some work on himself and coming back to you in the future when he's ready to.

Bruno, I really like you and would love to give a relationship a chance, but I need A, B, and C in a relationship to feel cared for, secure, and happy. If you are able to start doing X, Y, and Z today, then great, let's date. If you're not sure, need to change, need to work on yourself, then go do those things and come back when you're ready to give me A, B, and C and we can try then.

Then go live your life, go no contact for a while, date other people, and don't stay hung up on this person.
posted by brookeb at 4:32 AM on June 16, 2015 [3 favorites]

You know that saying, "I wish I knew then what I know now"?

That is an older person's way of saying that they made big mistakes in the past. If they could do it all over again, they would not make the same mistakes. You hope to help other people avoid your pain and frustration. So, myself and all these lovely people are trying to help you avoid pain and frustration.

Listen to your inner voice. This is not even close to being a good match. You could stroll down to the nearest bus stop and find someone there who is better suited for you. Your time is precious, your needs are valid.

My philosophy is that you give the person one more chance to "come correct". That way, you don't have that "Should I have tried harder?" hanging over you. (On preview, agreeing with brookeb). State your needs. His reactions will tell you everything you need to know.
posted by Grlnxtdr at 4:44 AM on June 16, 2015

If you were married with kids, you would want to work with him on this.

If you were in a long-term, same-location relationship and you balanced the negatives with a lot of positives, this would be a difficult question to answer.

But: you are "not really together" and you already "can't stand" a major aspect of his personality, one that is crucial to you in a relationship, and you don't mention anything that you like about him. The real question is why you are even considering pursuing this.

You deserve better, and you should first end this potential relationship and then try to think about why you aren't treating yourself properly. If both of you change, then you can consider starting to date him.
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 5:46 AM on June 16, 2015 [1 favorite]

People change. But, as a betting man, I would not bet on it. Betting that people in general can change is a good bet with proper odds, but betting on any one specific person changing is a bad bet with almost any odds.

If it were me, I would cut ties, but I also think a reasonable course of action would be to tell him to contact you when he moves to your city, but until then, you are going to date other people and live a normal single life.
posted by AugustWest at 6:50 AM on June 16, 2015 [2 favorites]

Maybe I'm reading too much into this... it sounds like he has found someone to share his burdens while he is going through some stuff - social anxiety, trans stuff, etc - and is afraid to let go because then he would be alone. So he's promising whatever you want to hear in order to keep you.

It doesn't sound like a good match FOR YOU, but maybe you can be his LD friend and give him friend-type-love and support without tying each other down to be SOs waiting for some future to happen, which right now doesn't have any of the elements you want.
posted by CathyG at 8:26 AM on June 16, 2015 [5 favorites]

it sounds like he has found someone to share his burdens while he is going through some stuff - social anxiety, trans stuff, etc - and is afraid to let go because then he would be alone. So he's promising whatever you want to hear in order to keep you.

This is probably exactly what's happening. :(
posted by lhude sing cuccu at 9:01 AM on June 16, 2015

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