He travels across the world to see me, but does he actually like me?
January 26, 2016 5:17 PM   Subscribe

For about 7 months I've (31f) been in a long distance relationship with a man (31m) who has visited me three times in a different country for increasingly long periods of time (10 days, 3 weeks, and soon, a month). I have also visited him for 2 weeks (my work schedule didn't permit more). We get along well in general, and have similar hobbies and amazing sex. Despite his travel to see me, I am still anxious about his level of commitment to me because of his communication style.

He claims that we have different communication styles, that, as an INTP he will "never" be as affectionate as I am (ENFP, for those who care). While I send links, photos, and mail him letters, videos of me stripping (!) and drawings, I don't get much back. For christmas , I got some sex toys straight from the website, without even a note. Don't get me wrong, I was happy about the sex toys, but it was a bit humiliating. I find communication is hard, and he responds to my attempt to bring "big things" up by closing himself off. I suspect that he is defensive because he just doesn't love me, will never love me the way I want to be loved, and that I am wasting my time. If we were in an open relationship, I might have started looking elsewhere for a partner I feel more secure with, but he has asked we remain monogamous. He says he cares about me when I ask, and he says that his travel to see me proves this, but I have my doubts. I wish I could quiet my doubts and have patience for him to "come around" since it's still a bit early in the relationship.
posted by jacobnayar to Human Relations (27 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I'm not sure what your exact question is but I would say that your emotional needs are what they are. If he isn't fulfilling what you need you may just be a bad match despite the amazing sex and the other aspects about the relationship you like. It's okay to break up because you want or need different things. If it were me, I'd find someone else who could give me what I needed.
posted by FireFountain at 5:22 PM on January 26, 2016 [11 favorites]

What is your question? Should you break up with him? I vote yes because whether he loves you or not, you two have incompatible communication styles. That will probably never get significantly better.
posted by desjardins at 5:22 PM on January 26, 2016

I am an INTP and when I'm away from my partner I'm a lot like you. I think "doesnt love you they way you need" nails it. We're both horribly soppy, snd its great. Permission from another internet stranger to give this guy a pass.
posted by jrobin276 at 5:30 PM on January 26, 2016 [1 favorite]

ADDENDUM: to his credit, after I've told him what I needed from him, his communication style online has actually slightly improved. More "xoxo's" and the like. It's a marginal kind of improvement, I grant you, but it's nice to see him trying.
posted by jacobnayar at 5:31 PM on January 26, 2016

How is it when you're together? Some people just suck at communicating over distances. Might be worth taking that into consideration.
posted by gadha at 5:33 PM on January 26, 2016 [5 favorites]

I once dated someone a lot like the guy you're describing: a great person but not a good match in terms of communication and emotional expression. There actually were romantic letters and thoughtful gifts, things I cherish to this day, but not enough to sustain relationship happiness when in person. I'm sure it was hard on him, too, as he had certainly tried to be more open and I'm sure my personality differences (ENFP, too!) were difficult at times. I learned a lot from the relationship and wish we were still friends; however, I'm also glad we broke up and can see clearly how frustrating things were in retrospect, especially in my current relationship where communication is mutually satisfying.

It sounds like you're getting nervous about this upcoming visit. If you're looking for permission to break up, you certainly have it. If you've just got the jitters and are worried, you're welcome to see what happens. Like gadha said, perhaps it truly is an issue of difficulties communicating over long-distance. Maybe it's a sign of a bigger incompatibility. Why not have a heart-to-heart about this before the visit, and see how he feels? If he's willing to entertain the possibility that things won't work out, that's something positive because he's being real and honest. Perhaps things will be much better in person as you can learn a lot about someone in a month, even if it's not quite the same as living together permanently in the same location. However, if he refuses to even discuss the possibility of things not getting better, then I think you have your answer.
posted by smorgasbord at 5:40 PM on January 26, 2016

Are you positive you aren't the other woman?
posted by quincunx at 5:52 PM on January 26, 2016 [23 favorites]

He says he cares about me when I ask, and he says that his travel to see me proves this,

The proof that someone cares about you is in their wanting to meet your needs, not in pooh-poohing them. Trust your gut.
posted by headnsouth at 5:53 PM on January 26, 2016 [11 favorites]

I suspect that he is defensive because he just doesn't love me, will never love me the way I want to be loved, and that I am wasting my time.

Do you trust him? If he's telling you that he loves you, then either:
a) You don't trust him, and then you don't have the basis of a relationship. Trust is what binds people together in a relationship. Actions and words mean nothing if there isn't trust. If you really don't believe him when he tells you things, you should end the relationship because there is no relationship there.
or b) You do trust him, and then you need to believe what he tells you. Your doubts and fears could be more about your own anxieties and insecurities, and you might want to look into some strategies to manage those. And I think it's a good sign that he's trying here. If you continue to be clear about what you need (and what is his job to manage vs. yours) then the two of you can collaborate on a communication style that meets in the middle.

However: you don't have to be together just because you love him and he loves you. Very different communication styles can be a dealbreaker in relationships. Especially long-distance relationships, where you're limited in the ways you can communicate. It's up to you to decide if you even can feel secure and trusting in a relationship with him, based on his communication style. If you say "no" to that, it's not because he didn't love you enough, or because you didn't love him enough; it's not a wrong you're doing to him, it's just because it wasn't meant to be. Managing anxiety about relationships is a hefty task and if there's a huge strain on you to do that within this relationship--in a way that wouldn't happen if this relationship were different--then be aware you can make the choice not to bear that burden, and to let this go.
posted by capricorn at 6:10 PM on January 26, 2016 [1 favorite]

If you're getting the sense he doesn't feel the way you need him to, it probably doesn't have to do with anything precisely quantifiable like how many Xs and Os are in his texts. It's probably either because he doesn't love you the way you need him to, or because he is truly not capable of making you feel secure. Is the sex worth feeling insecure indefinitely?
posted by babelfish at 6:11 PM on January 26, 2016 [1 favorite]

Just listen to your gut, you feel unfulfilled and this is no fun. He makes you anxious. If a guy makes you anxious, don't twist yourself into a pretzel trying to ignore your feelings. Just break it off, mourn it, and move on. Respect your gut and let it do its job. Guys will always make it seem like you're being overthinky and anxious and you're all wrong in putting the pieces together. That's how you end up wasting time in the wrong relationship trying to make it work.

That anxiety comes from there being a difference between how you wish he made you felt and how he actually makes you feel. Most guys are better everything in our imaginations. And you haven't spent enough time with him for the exasperation that eventually will come to set in.
posted by discopolo at 6:18 PM on January 26, 2016 [2 favorites]

I"m not sure what your question is, but I think you are wasting your time with a guy you don't care for all that much.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 6:18 PM on January 26, 2016

Uh, the box of sex toys would just weird me out, honestly. It's a weird, unromantic gift that just screams: This is all about sex for me. No card? No - "thinking of you?" The only time it's okay to send something directly from a website is if it's a super practical gift that they asked for, i.e., I sent my sister a blender off Amazon for her birthday.

I also just got out of a relationship with an unaffectionate man, and I'm really happy about my decision and feeling optimistic about the future. One of the weird catalyst moments for me was when my friend's occasional housekeeper told me that I looked beautiful one day - I thought, "Hmm, my boyfriend has never said anything that sweet to me, but this lady I only know slightly just freely offered a compliment like it's no big deal." Because it shouldn't be a big deal. And for what it's worth - I'm an INFJ/INTJ (analytical, nerdy introvert) and I am still affectionate and soppy as fuck. Meyers Briggs is no excuse.
posted by ablazingsaddle at 6:27 PM on January 26, 2016 [28 favorites]

He's not meeting your very reasonable needs and when you ask him to do better, he resists and reverts back to his comfort zone. This is unlikely to improve if this is how he's dealing with it while you're still in the honeymoon stage. He may not be "naturally" inclined due to personality type or habit, but that doesn't excuse him from making a real and consistent effort to meet the needs that you've clearly and repeatedly expressed. He can create new habits and patterns. He's telling you that he doesn't want to and it's not important to him.
posted by quince at 6:38 PM on January 26, 2016 [1 favorite]

Another vote for moving on...personally, I think it's better to accept who he naturally is rather than trying to change how he acts/what he says--and because who is naturally is doesn't match what you're looking for, it's best to end things.
posted by three_red_balloons at 6:42 PM on January 26, 2016

About the gift without note. I wouldn't jump to conclusions there myself, as sending something to another country can be a surprising amount of hassle and cost. The easiest is often to order online in the country of the recipient and messages are not always an option. Expectations of sending cards with presents or thank you notes is also something that can vary a lot across cultures or even just families.
posted by meijusa at 6:43 PM on January 26, 2016

This guy is not going to "come around". Your doubts are there for a reason. Heed them!
posted by fourpotatoes at 6:57 PM on January 26, 2016 [1 favorite]

There's a lot of context that is missing, though it might not matter. I find myself wondering if you're from different cultural backgrounds, whether you have met his friends and family or seen him in his home environment, or he in yours, etc. I ask because I can think of two friends n their late 20s/early 30s who had relationships that matched this pattern, with men from cultures very different from theirs. The men professed love, visited, sent gifts, etc., but in neither case could the women break through to a "real relationship" state. I'm not sure what kind of phenomenon this is, exactly, but in these two cases the men seemed to enjoy having a girlfriend who was foreign and exotic and sexy to them, but who demanded absolutely nothing really change about their lives. That's not a relationship.

It just kind of reminds me of this. When people are serious about one another and sincerely in love, it doesn't matter what their Meyers-Briggs is; they will do what's needed to stay together. He's kind of doing the minimum possible to maintain the plausible illusion that you have an actual relationship, but I doubt he feels very strongly about you, and really wonder whether you do about him - doesn't sound like it. It sounds like you're reached the end of the line and you realize there isn't much more that's going to materialize. Time to move on.
posted by Miko at 8:10 PM on January 26, 2016 [7 favorites]

Just wanna say two general things:

(1) it's super weird for me to see anyone who identifies with the perceiving side of the P/J axis to read their Myers-Briggs category as rigid destiny. I'm not sure I buy it. But then again, I'd *totally* believe that someone who identifies on the perceiving side AND identifies introverted would be really cautious about either effusive or highly demonstrative affection, even if they really enjoy you and the relationship.

(2) LDRs have challenges on top of whatever any given normal relationship might have. I think a certain amount of extra insecurity about the relationship is often a natural outcome and might even be a biological fact, at least in some people. And I think they're often a breeding ground for a kind of bipolar exciting/ambivalent relationship and only sustainable for limited periods of time. So, that's something to think about. In fact, I would consider the possibility that this is *the* issue of your relationship if it's valuable enough to you.

So with that said, I can totally see why you're asking internet strangers about this. You're clearly ambivalent. I mean, on one hand, you've got this:

I suspect that he is defensive because he just doesn't love me, will never love me the way I want to be loved, and that I am wasting my time.

That's pretty bad. If this is really the way you feel, and it checks out when you interrogate that feeling and look at the relationship as a whole, then yeah, leaving is probably the right thing to do.

Dating is rough and there might be some bumps in the road if you go looking elsewhere, but it's pretty likely you could find men out there who would be pretty happy about the links, photos, letters, stripping videos and happy to return in kind, with affectionate words. And getting along well and similar hobbies and great sex. This is a totally clearable bar by more than one person.

But on the other hand:

after I've told him what I needed from him, his communication style online has actually slightly improved. More "xoxo's" and the like. It's a marginal kind of improvement, I grant you, but it's nice to see him trying.

Well, that's promising, actually. That's an acknowledgment of your feelings and an attempt to adapt to please you. Maybe it won't be enough in the end, but while there's progress, there's certainly reason to keep pessimism at arm's length.

And the fact that he's asked for monogamy means that if he isn't a two-faced liar, he's probably committed to working the relationship at least for the present (you'll have to figure out if you trust him, but if you want one practical test, visit him unexpectedly. People who are into you generally like that. And it will generally freak people who are not into you -- or trying to juggle something else -- right out.)

One question I'd explore along with the any progress you see is whether that *does* make you feel happier about the relationship.

If you can say to the guy "hey, these things would help me feel more secure about our relationship and satisfied" and "I love it when you do stuff like this, moar pls" and he does them... do you feel better? If so, hey, it's probably worth enjoying another few months of getting along well and shared hobbies and great sex and then re-evaluating. Possibly while thinking about your own communication style and what else you could put into the relationship.

If you go through that kind of cycle and still don't feel any more secure, any better about the future, then you know you want something else from this relationship and don't know how to get there.
posted by wildblueyonder at 8:18 PM on January 26, 2016 [1 favorite]

And the fact that he's asked for monogamy means that if he isn't a two-faced liar, he's probably committed to working the relationship at least for the present

Again, there's not enough context to know, but it could also be just a pride/control issue - I do whatever I want, but I extract a promise from you to be monogamous. I think we'd need more context and background to assume it's a truly two-way agreement.
posted by Miko at 8:33 PM on January 26, 2016 [1 favorite]

You're wasting your time. Trying to justify him being too lazy to expend any emotional effort for you with Myers-Briggs voodoo is pointless; it's just excuses, and what you describe from him is far enough to the left of the peak of the curve that it is more parsimonious to attribute it to him not giving a crap than him just having a shitty communication style. Even if he does give a crap and is just so incredibly bad at relating to other people that this is the best he can do, how could you make it work, particularly long distance?
posted by mister pointy at 8:41 PM on January 26, 2016 [1 favorite]

To be quite honest, what you've described just sounds like a long distance booty call. Aside from the sex, I don't get the impression there's an amazing connection there and if he found someone who lived closer, he'd probably ghost on you.

At the end of the day, you can quote Myers Briggs all you like, what it basically boils down to is he doesn't care enough to make an effort, (well, he likes you well enough to make an effort to get laid and that's about it.) The sex gift pretty much summed up your relationship in his eyes anyway. It's a bit sad that his version of trying after you asked him is throwing another xo onto the end of his sign off. Either way, it's not enough for you so there's nothing more to see here. Move along.
posted by Jubey at 8:59 PM on January 26, 2016 [5 favorites]

I am feeling so grateful to all these lovely strangers who took the time to respond. Thanks everyone.
posted by jacobnayar at 12:53 AM on January 27, 2016 [3 favorites]

I think it may not be fair to say this is a long distance booty call, I mean - traveling internationally for a month to see someone involves a heck of a lot of financial outlay and life upheaval/commitment. It sounds like a very high call:booty ratio even if you're going at it like bunnies. I can't tell you if he loves you but it does seem clear he must care a lot about you - I agree with him there (as someone who travels internationally on the regular and knows how much frustration and difficulty can be involved with being away from home for an extended period).

Regardless, it's unclear what he's actually expressing to you aside from xoxox's via text. Long distance is a huge challenge if you aren't both able to find ways to show each other you care. Unless the long distance thing seems pretty temporary and he's great in person, I would agree with everyone that you should move on. Unwillingness to discuss things you're upset about is a huge nail in his coffin.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 12:56 AM on January 27, 2016 [2 favorites]

Seconding Miko and quincunx.

The background behind the thing Miko has noticed – and which I experienced firsthand as the "exotic French girlfriend" in dude's case (yeah, I'm American, but I suppose having dual citizenship in France technically does make me an exotic Frenchwoman... imagine me rolling my eyes while saying that, mmkay, any form of "exoticism" is shallow and objectifying) – is that it's part of a PUA tactic. It's pretty big in Europe. The past few years it's gotten common enough that there are tells:
- dude dates a woman from another country (whether she lives there or locally), but he doesn't learn her language. He'll make excuses like "it's such a complicated language!" but I have plenty of friends in multi-cultural love relationships, and boy I can tell you, when you fall in love with someone from China, you learn some Chinese. Because it makes them happy. It's harder to tell if your native language is English since it's viewed as a privileged one where dudes can do the opposite and use you as a conversation partner. The tell with English is that they seem oddly more interested in how you say things than what you actually share about your life. There's a hollowness to it where you wonder if you exist as a person.
- harder to tell when you're the woman, but dudes never talk about the "exotic" women they're dating except in terms of where they're from, we never have any idea of what these women are like as individuals.
- whether the woman meets his family or not, the dude makes minimal if any emotional effort. It's a huge difference between men who love the women they're with. It's something like watching a puppet show. The dude gets all the benefits, blablas about his hot exotic other, but it's empty. The theatre is more important.

The effort put into traveling is often used as "proof" it's genuine, yeah, but if that's the only thing, well, there may be something else he's getting out of travelling. The dude who dated me had loads of business in the area, and as I found out later, he was taking his other girlfriend with him too, as well as his kids. There were also other women in the area on the side (yes, in addition to me and the other girlfriend).

Anyway, don't let that sort of consideration get to you too much, the key thing is this dude is doing pretty minimal stuff and your gut is going "errr no, I'd like more". My gut did the same, and this was a guy who traveled from a Scandinavian country down to southern France for weeks at a time every few months, which are not cheap plane tickets. I was glad to have listened to my gut when he told me he wasn't the monogamous guy he had claimed to be, it made it a lot easier to let go.

And knowing about the PUA/"exotic gf" phenomenon has also helped, because you realize it's really not anything you've done wrong, or overlooked, or any of the other stuff society likes to make women feel guilty about. It really is "just" objectification. It's perfectly fine to want more than objectification in a relationship, obviously.
posted by fraula at 2:42 AM on January 27, 2016 [3 favorites]

Two cents here:

1) Beware the sunk value fallacy. Which is, because I've put time into it and am emotionally invested, it will work out. There is no problem in trying something new / someone new, yet it behoves us to ask, "Am I happy now? Do I like what I have now?""

2) In that context, are you happy with things as they are? It sounds like a) you met a man, b) you've spent quality time with him and really enjoyed it, and now c) you want the relationship (and the man) to blossom into something more.

Leave behind what's happened before, and focus on now. Honestly (to yourself):
• Is this interaction going where you want it to go?
• Can it go where you want it to go?
• If nothing changed and it continued as is (both in geography and behaviour), would you find it fulfilling?
• Is it adding to your life, or is it a compromise?

I feel from your words that you know the answer. I do not have a read on what that answer is, but I feel that you already do know the answer. Either answer is fine. If you are in love, you can allow the situation to blossom, even if it may be somewhat unconventional. If you need more – this is close, but not quite there – that is fine too.

The answer will come from understanding which of those is the real answer within.
posted by nickrussell at 5:40 AM on January 27, 2016 [1 favorite]

Framing it as "does he care for me?" makes it seem like the important question here is whether or not he wants to keep seeing you, when really you'd do well to ask if you want to keep seeing him. It doesn't matter if he cares about you or not, he isn't making you FEEL cared for. That sounds so sad and unfulfilling.

You deserve much better.
posted by DingoMutt at 7:09 AM on January 27, 2016 [2 favorites]

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