Dear MetaFilter,
July 12, 2015 10:11 PM   Subscribe

Help. I am suffering from the most debilitating crush (on a guy) I have ever had. Interest is being returned; obviously not quite as strongly as I am feeling it inside. That's fine; the real problem is that my past relationships have been abnormally fast paced and for a variety of reasons this one is going to have to be of the sustained-effort variety, something I have no experience whatsoever with. How do I steadily build up this relationship and what is reasonable for me to expect from him (and him from me) as time passes?

We were matched on a certain dating service, and compliments have been exchanged, so I assume some rudimentary level of physical interest is present.

Another important thing to note is that the guy is very busy—legitimately, that is; I know it's not just an excuse to blow me off. He has warned me of this, saying he didn't want me to mistake it for lack of interest. I did get a bit clingy a few weeks in before I had comprehended quite how busy he was and have been dialing it back so hard since. We have been in communication for about two months and have seen each other twice in that time. Like I said, very busy. We've planned to meet up again quite soon.

I'm not playing hard to get (nor have I ever); I'm trying to play it cool (but not cold!) so I don't overwhelm him. To restate the problem, I've never had to play it cool with anyone in the past so I'm looking for advice on how to do that.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (20 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Make plans far in advance so you both have something to look forward to, but not so far that it's like you're planning a whole event. "I know you're super busy, but what about dinner and drinks next Thursday or Friday?" Or find something like a show two weeks from now, or a movie that's going to come out. This way you're on the books so there's no need to hit him up every other night to see if maybe tonight is a good option, or tomorrow.

Or just ask him to pick a day and promise to make it work. As long as he's partly in control, he can help you set the pace.
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 10:33 PM on July 12, 2015 [1 favorite]

Ok look, you don't know this guy. You don't actually have a crush on this guy. You have a crush on the idea of this guy. You've only met him in person twice in two whole months! That's just not enough time to have any real indication of interpersonal chemistry with him. What you know is based on a dating profile, some exchanged compliments, and chatting. I'm going to guess what you've done is built up a bit of a mythology around this guy, imagining future times with him that will just be oh so perfect. That's what you have a crush on. Not this guy, but the idea of this guy.

This is ok, I think it's pretty normal (I do it, too), but it's going to help you a lot in this situation to recognize that's what's actually going on so you really and truly can dial it back inside your head, and not just in terms of how much you contact him. If you don't, then if/when this doesn't work out it's going to hurt, and it's going to hurt far in excess of what would be a reasonable amount of attachment to form after only two dates. Recognize that the guy you have a crush on is likely +90% being excited about the potential and not so much based on things that are real, tangible, or happening in real life.

Because in real life what's going on is that you are not a priority for this dude, straight up. He's only made time to see you twice in two months. Unless you are dating Barack Obama I am pretty certain he could have mustered up a few more hours in all that time to go on another date with you. He may like you plenty, and he may indeed be very busy, but if he were really returning interest, in my opinion, he would be making more of an effort to see you.

So, recognize what you're doing to yourself here and give yourself an emotional buffer from this guy. An easy way to do that is to get back on your dating site and start chatting up some new guy you've matched with. If opportunities to actually date this first dude present themselves, go ahead and pursue them! But don't forgo the chance to have something real with somebody actually available by sitting around waiting for this dude to get his act together.
posted by phunniemee at 10:34 PM on July 12, 2015 [37 favorites]

you are not a priority for this dude, straight up

This is worth repeating. Even if he is the world's most perfect, sweet, kind, thoughtful, competent, loyal, amazing, handsome, hilarious dude, and everything goes swimmingly - does anything so far actually indicate he'd be around more than once a month in the future? Would this be enough for you?

There's a lot of things you need to assess the potential of in new partners as well as connection and chemistry, and compatibility of availability is a really big one.
posted by Jon Mitchell at 10:41 PM on July 12, 2015 [8 favorites]

Compliments have been exchanged? Over a dating site? I'm so sorry, but most signs point to this not being anything that it seems.

He could be in a relationship or married, misrepresenting his job status or wealth, only out for internet drama without ever meeting in person, only interested in cultivating a no strings hook-up or a one night "girlfriend experience" after which he will ghost on you.... but pretty much nothing you wrote indicates a real person with genuine benevolent intentions towards you. Red flags galore.

First of all, this is not a relationship at this stage. It sounds like you have not even met, yet he is already telling you he will not be having time for you or interacting with you at normal levels because he is "busy"? Then he should not be on a dating site, if he does not have time. He's not available.

When you are crushing really hard on someone who is withholding and you have not even met them, 200% this person is some kind of user or narcissist - probably both. You're being charmed because you are vulnerable in some way, you are being preyed upon.

I guess there is also a chance he is normal and you are a clingy weirdo with outlandish expectations. Except: "Another important thing to note is that the guy is very busy—legitimately, that is; I know it's not just an excuse to blow me off. He has warned me of this, saying he didn't want me to mistake it for lack of interest."

Emphasis mine. Basically, married men or men hiding other romantic commitments pre-arrange to manage your expectations with statements like the one he made. People who are interested in building a relationship make time and space for a relationship before interacting on dating sites. Folks using dating sites for hook-ups and/or cheating do it this way. For me, the tip off is that this is a game which is (so far) working on you is that you are crushing harder than you have ever crushed on someone you likely have not even met yet.

I'm sorry to pop the bubble here. He may even legitimately be some sort or famous person or high powered executive or entrepreneur, or whatever other "legitimate" reason he is using for not interacting with you normally - this only strengthens the perspective that he's a user running a game on you, though. being kept at arm's length is not fun. Don't agree to it by continuing on with this man.

Again, people looking for a committed relationship makes space for that in their lives. He is making zero space. You are accepting the burden of his limited schedule as a relationship feature and you haven't even been on a date.

Pass on this experience because he is not offering you anything but headache and heartache. And yeah, the underlying reason is that he's a user type and I'm pretty sure he isn't about your wellbeing or happiness. See: He doesn't have time for you.

Block, delete, move on. Throw this one back. This is not what you think it is. There is no potential here for anything good.
posted by jbenben at 11:50 PM on July 12, 2015 [10 favorites]

Whoops! I missed that you have met him. Twice in 2 months means you don't really know him, though.

Twice in 2 months + Dating Site pretty much usually equals otherwise committed, possibly married. Even if he was legit busy, why are you OK with taking on the burden of his schedule difficulties?

Fundamentally, my answer hasn't changed. I'm just sorry thus far he's doing such a good job of setting hooks into you while giving little/nothing back.
posted by jbenben at 12:00 AM on July 13, 2015 [4 favorites]

I'm sorry, I logged in to say the same things.

1. You don't know him, you're projecting big time. You're crazy in love with a figment of your imagination, because is your dream guy someone who only has time to see you twice in two months? Someone you can't just relax and love the way you want to love them?

2. "Busy" is almost always awful in my books. I am busy. I am very very busy, but I know that if something is important to me, I find a way to fit it in, even if it means putting something else on the back burner for a while. Priorities. If your guy is Barack Obama, he's married. Move on. If he's anyone else, he is too busy for you. Barack Obama has time for a relationship, kids, pets and work. How busy is your guy really?
posted by stellathon at 1:17 AM on July 13, 2015 [3 favorites]

Your description of the situation leaves me...skeptical. As others have pointed out, there are red flags (about him and his availability; about you and your projections; about the timeframe and its brevity) in abundance.

But to answer your question: the best way to play cool is to be cool, and in this case that means making an honest effort to flirt with and go out with other people. Enjoy the crush, if you want, but keep yourself open to the possibilities of other crushes too.
posted by girl flaneur at 1:31 AM on July 13, 2015

I generally come in these threads to defend busy, but twice in two months?

Once a week i could defend, but that's just ridiculous. I see semi-known acquaintances i'd like to become better friends with more often than that.

This guy likes the idea of having someone wanting him and being flirty. You feel like you're straining yourself to play it cool because he wants a microwave meal of a "relationship" he can pop in whenever he feels like for a quick snack.

posted by emptythought at 1:37 AM on July 13, 2015 [3 favorites]

Everyone is busy. Everyone still eats, and could occasionally ask someone to do that with them.

I have no idea if this guy is gently blowing you off or is otherwise committed, but I think you need to seriously address some issues if you can get this head over heels over a guy you have met in person twice and have otherwise engaged with sporadically online.

You said that all of your relationships have been abnormally fast-paced. Why? The only common factor in all your past relationships is YOU. Why do you push so fast? Do you have a deep need to be in a relationship such that you jump at whatever looks possible and then try really hard to "make it work" ASAP? If so, why?

Address that, and not rushing will be a whole lot easier - both for this guy and anyone in the future.
posted by modernnomad at 1:51 AM on July 13, 2015 [2 favorites]

Once a month meetings in the beginning of a relationship to me reads casual on the part of the guy. I would be cautious about how emotionally attached you are allowing yourself to be... my interpretation of your question is that you want more now and you're trying to be the good girl and pretend you don't, as if that's required and the only way you will find a fulfilling relationship. If you think I'm wrong about that, proceed. What I did in the past when I dated the "don't fence me in" types was impose a strict rule on myself of taking turns in contact: one text, call, IM, etc. from me followed by one from him, and I wait for my turn as long as it takes and reveal no anxiety or anticipation about the time duration between turns. Same with making plans to get together: his turn to come up with an idea, then mine, keep it cool, save your OMG crush excitement for your journal or your girlfriends. Try and stay casual on your side too until you find something better/he realizes he wants it to be more serious. I don't think anyone is so legitimately busy to limit meetings to once a month if the relationship is not long distance.
posted by dissolvedgirl22 at 5:24 AM on July 13, 2015 [1 favorite]

Outside of this particular person, think about what you want out of a relationship on a long term basis. What would a loving, happy relationship look like for you? How often would you see each other?

The idea of "cooling it down" so you don't scare off this guy seems like it's focusing on an immediate goal while ignoring your actual long-term desires. Even if you succeed, all you're doing is setting yourself up to be with someone you only see very rarely (if you keep up your current rate, you'll see him 12 times a year!). Is that what you want?

Don't forget that dating isn't just about convincing the other person that they want to be with you - you're also 'auditioning' them for a role in your life, too. Unless what you genuinely want in relationship is an occasional night out with LOOOOTS of space to do your own thing, I think you'd be better off recognizing that this person can be very nice, and you can enjoy talking to them a lot, but that still doesn't mean the two of you are compatible, relationship-wise.
posted by DingoMutt at 5:31 AM on July 13, 2015 [3 favorites]

Put a rubber band on your wrist. Everytime you think about him, snap the band. Over time, the amount you think about him will be reduced. The other thing you could do is buy one of those tally counter apps for your phone and count every time you think about him. Eventually that will go down.

If you aren't exclusive, don't act like it, go on dates with other people.
posted by Ironmouth at 6:24 AM on July 13, 2015

He can be both interested in you and legitimately too busy for a relationship. I mean, it's rare, and basically everything in adult life comes down to choosing your priorities, but maybe thinking of it that way will help you.

You know, tell yourself- alas, life got in the way of good intentions, how sweet and sad! -or whatever.

My rule is once a week is the minimum to make something "a relationship" and not just friends/friends with benefits/whatever.

I would suggest looking for a less busy but still awesome guy who can and will actually give you a relationship right now.
posted by quincunx at 7:10 AM on July 13, 2015 [2 favorites]

I've never had to play it cool with anyone in the past so I'm looking for advice on how to do that.

Take steps to reduce perseverative thoughts and conversations about this guy. Learn about what's going on in your brain. Get a notebook and log events and your feelings. Every continuous day of no contact is like further withdrawal from an unhealthy substance. Give yourself credit for getting through it.

Stop initiating contact. Not as a game, but to give yourself clarity over how much he's initiating.

Get busy yourself, in ways that expose you to busy people living lives and having relationships.

- volunteer with a group, something where you have regular contact with other volunteers. You'll get to know people who make time for what's important to them. Seeing this modeled, and over time getting an impression of their relationships, can be an eye-opener. Don't mention this guy.

- sign up for a class, or a hobby group, or take a part-time job. Anything to keep you constructively busy. If you're *really* feeling obsessed, it might be more effective to steer into it by choosing activities relevant to the guy, without being stalkerish. (E.g. learning a language he speaks, not apprenticing with his auto detailer.) Don't talk about this guy.

- cultivate existing friendships/acquaintances. Ask them about their interests and listen. Don't mention this guy.

- join a gym and/or get workout buddies. Endorphins help. Shared endorphins even better. Don't mention this guy.

- find a therapy group where you can talk about this guy and get honest feedback from other members.

Have a friend or sockpuppet post an Ask about people whose relationships started out slow because legitimately busy. The responses may be helpful to you, and will certainly be interesting to read and fun to write.

All of this should help not only in playing it cool but in becoming sustainably cooler.
posted by wonton endangerment at 7:37 AM on July 13, 2015 [5 favorites]

In my experience, even the busiest of people has time to go out once a week AT LEAST with someone who lives within an hour of themselves.

Dating less frequently that would indicate that they aren't interested enough to keep you from finding someone else to keep you company. After all, part of dating is trying to keep the person satisfied with you and you alone. If I don't give someone enough attention I'll assume they will seek it elsewhere.
posted by Guinevere at 7:48 AM on July 13, 2015 [2 favorites]

Date other people! Put effort into feeling fabulous and having a fabulous life and date other people. If he comes around and his schedule has magically freed up, confirm that he's not married (etc.) and have fun. But use your energy for yourself, and meeting other people, rather than pining for this dude.

Date other people and "playing it cool" will be effortless because you really will be cool, e.g. too busy to care for his flaky ways.
posted by witchen at 7:58 AM on July 13, 2015 [1 favorite]

Came in to underscore wonton endangerment's point about perseverative thinking and to add that you shouldn't judge yourself or beat yourself up for it. You are NOT alone. WE's advice on how to cope with the thinking is good.

Some of us are more prone to it than others. But if you read advice columns, many straight women take on all of the responsibility for managing relationships (and are encouraged socially to do so). Some of us go into mental spin cycle over that because it LOOKS like a problem to be solved. As a result you lose a lot of mental energy that could go into other activities. Said the sadder but somewhat wiser lady.
posted by Sheydem-tants at 9:16 AM on July 13, 2015 [3 favorites]

No. Seriously, if it's going to be the kind of relationship you want, you will not be going through all of these contortions. It will be obvious that he's interested. Don't waste your time.

Sometimes when I find myself with an all-consuming crush that makes no logical sense, it's a sign of dissatisfaction elsewhere. Enjoy that energy, but realize it's coming from you and has nothing to do with him. Try to date some other people who are more present and available and see how quickly he diminishes in importance.
posted by jeweled accumulation at 11:55 AM on July 13, 2015 [2 favorites]

To add to what i said above, after reflecting on this more...

A friend of mine is one of those guys who has worked at startups and just like killed himself working til 3am coding and stuff. Like, days and days in a row. He really enjoys it and he's great at it, but it sucked up a ton of his time until he recently got a normal 9-5 job at BigCompany.

He had several successful relationships that ended relatively amicably with Normal Adult Conversation and then afterwards managed to go on multiple dates each week when his schedule was still like that. And yea, he was sleeping and eating relatively normally too. He neglected some silly stuff(he was driving his old beater project car because his really new one had a blown tire on the street in front of his house for like... three months?), but he gave a crap at all about being in a relationship and dating.

And i mean, he got great reviews on dating too. Cute outings, good amounts of hanging out time, cute surprises/texts. And yet this guy was working like, doctor in residency amounts off and on.
posted by emptythought at 2:18 PM on July 13, 2015 [1 favorite]

I don't think he likes you as much as you like him. Even the busiest guys (with crazy stressful jobs)I've dated made time for me when they really liked me and were pretty eager to meet up even when they were tired.

I think you should let this die. This guy sounds really strange and shady.
posted by discopolo at 2:32 PM on July 13, 2015 [1 favorite]

« Older help me with a clever slogan for these pregnancy...   |   Anachronistic medieval Eastern European settings? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.