Maybe we'll be in a relationship by the time I'm 800 years old
November 4, 2017 2:39 AM   Subscribe

I've gone on a few dates with a self-professed slow mover. I like him, but he's terrible at communicating between dates and the glacial dating pace is slowly killing me. Is there any hope here?

Met online a little over a month ago and went on a few dates. Conversation is really fun and there's a sweet, easy emotional and physical connection that I can tell is mutual. Kissing has been good.

However, the in between after dates is uneven to the point of being tiresome. Sometimes I don't hear from him for days. Sometimes we text and he suddenly drops the conversation without closing it out at a moment that isn't so awkward that it's objectively rude, but it at least borders closely to it. Other times we have a great, active conversation for a couple of days with him driving it. He's a bit on the shy side so I've tried sending some texts first to get conversations moving. He generally responds well, but I have never liked being the pursuer and given the slow mover thing, I'm not totally comfortable initiating.

If I was judging just based on text, I'd assume this guy is simply killing time by chatting with me, but given the quality of the dates, that doesn't feel accurate. He's soft spoken and somewhat introverted while also being independent. Having spent a lot of his adult life single, I think he's both somewhat hesitant about connecting too quickly and just plain bad at dating. I'm trying to be patient with him but I am hating his phone communication to the point where I have considered throwing in the towel more than once. I do not enjoy ambiguity.

What are my options here? Is there a gentle way to say "hey, I really dig you but you are terrible at texting and making plans. I'm not in a hurry and have no desire to make demands of your time but can you explain how you work so I don't have to read the tea leaves?"
posted by amycup to Human Relations (30 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I dated a person similar to this. Please trust your gut on this one. Introverted and soft spoken people can still be excellent communicators. For me, this line really stood out in your question, and I couldn’t unsee it: “he's terrible at communicating“. I value strong communication and this was a dealbreaker for me. Having misaligned values does not make you a terrible person.
posted by nathaole at 3:08 AM on November 4, 2017 [16 favorites]

It sounds like you guys just plain are not a good fit.

Nathaole has an excellent point. Introversion (defined as feeling depleted by interacting with people and recharging when alone) is not the same as poor social skills, although the popular use of the word has expanded to include both.

So, I'd say that from your description it sounds like this guy just doesn't understand the social skill of dating, like the balance of mutual initiative, and the social grace to not leave your text partner hanging. If that were the case, some tactful conversation might cause him to rethink. However, the part where he's a "self-professed slow mover" conveys that he's perfectly aware that he's out of step with how these things usually go and that he has no interest in doing things differently to accommodate a partner. *That* is serious relationship red flag territory. If you are thinking about qualifying and downplaying your interest and contorting to adapt to his pattern this early on, *that's* serious red flag stuff too.

He might be great in lots of other ways, but continuing on this path sounds like you're setting yourself up for power struggle, and a relationship that fosters self-doubt (why doesn't he ever make the move, doesn't he like me enough to X/Y/Z, etc, etc) instead of healthy affirmation. I'd suggest moving on.
posted by Sublimity at 3:41 AM on November 4, 2017 [11 favorites]

How about this:
"hey, I really dig you, but your style of texting and making plans really differs from mine, and isn't working for me. I'm not in a hurry and have no desire to make demands of your time but can you explain how you work so I don't have to read the tea leaves?"
posted by Too-Ticky at 4:16 AM on November 4, 2017 [30 favorites]

"And also, would you be willing to make some adjustments for me?"
posted by Too-Ticky at 4:17 AM on November 4, 2017 [6 favorites]

I would assume that he won't substantially change without therapy. Relationships where you want to change the other rarely work out.
posted by Obscure Reference at 5:20 AM on November 4, 2017 [5 favorites]

You sound frustrated. Expectations about texting are difficult.

The contrast between these two statements jumps out at me:
- "he's terrible at communicating between dates"
- "Other times we have a great, active conversation for a couple of days with him driving it."

n'th Too-Ticky, talk about it, but also talk about it in text, not just in person. In text, say "I'm gonna be incommunicado for the next 3 hrs, or "gotta get ready for a meeting", and get him into the same habit.
posted by at at 5:46 AM on November 4, 2017

I've posted about this myself before, but there can be quite a troubling disconnect between "person for whom all texting is a way to randomly share thoughts with zero expectation of timeliness" and "person for whom certain text exchanges can be the equivalent of an IRL conversation, and abandoning them without notice is as rude and frustrating as simply walking away from the other person mid-sentence".

If you are the latter, you are definitely in the minority, and as others have noted, you need to communicate with your significant other(s) so that they are hip to this part of your nature. They may or may not always accommodate you, but it's worth sharing so you can at least bring it up later and say, "hey, remember when we talked about this?" Because it can really hurt.
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 6:12 AM on November 4, 2017 [11 favorites]

I hate texting, especially with folks I don't know well, especially when there's more on the line than "is 6PM good?" I bet my sweetheart could've written this same question when he first met me six years ago, and in fact we fell out of touch (aka we first met and texted back and forth for a few days, then I just fell off the radar). He ran across my profile on OkC and reconnected that way, and we went out on an is-this-a-date date, and kept hanging out after that. If he hadn't been so patient about it, and wasn't willing to take the initiative in contacting me at first, we probably wouldn't have ever started dating for serious. The catch was that we both had a lot of free time then, so I could use texts purely for logistics, as in "hey want to meet up tonight?" then we'd actually meet up. We had good chemistry intellectually, and later it turned out in the other important ways, too, and that's what kept the relationship going strong. This isn't to say that you should be "patient" if you're getting lukewarm signals or other red flags in terms of his interest, but since it sounds like everything's solid face-to-face, is there a way you can just have more face-to-face? Or maybe there's a platform he likes better (I don't suck so much at using Hangouts or WhatsApp as an irregular texting platform since I can type at an actual keyboard, which for some reason makes a difference). Honestly, as a hater of texting, if all the other signals are actually, truly good, talk about communication with an eye for the big picture ("What's the best way to keep this thing we're doing active?") rather than the small.
posted by tapir-whorf at 6:17 AM on November 4, 2017 [15 favorites]

Mostly, this reads to me as if you like texting, and quickly, and well, he doesn't. It isn't unheard of for people (especially introverts) to have a limit on how much they can deal with lots of texting. My suggestion: just call. You want to set plans? Call and get it set up.
posted by Juso No Thankyou at 7:29 AM on November 4, 2017 [5 favorites]

I would wait and see if he sets up another date, and on the date broach it if it feels right like "hey I like spending time with you but I need more interaction between dates to feel close." If he can't do that then you'll be unhappy as time goes on regardless of the reason for the lack of contact. Yes you can keep busy/do other things but I don't think it's wrong to want more contact and in my experience I still end up unhappy in the relationship even if I'm spending my time well.

I've dated guys who don't like texting and it either indicated issues on their end (like too stressed out/preoccupied to text), or just not interested enough in me, either way it didn't work out because I wanted a serious relationship with someone who had energy to spend on being with me. The only one it was ok with was because he was a shift worker with no phone access much of the time, and once we were "official" we could each assume we'd see each other in our free time.

I've stayed friends with one of the other crappy texter guys and he'll have his dates texting him while we're hanging out and he fully reads the texts and ignores them, he's not too busy to text back (he says he is) he just doesn't. Drove me nuts while we were dating but now I see it's not me, it's his avoidant dating style, and it drives all the other women he dates nuts too. Moving on from him fairly quickly so I could meet more suitable dates was one of the smarter decisions I've made. My boyfriend was responsive from our first contact online but not in a needy or aggressive way and it suits me so much better.
posted by lafemma at 7:56 AM on November 4, 2017 [1 favorite]

If conversations with him are fun (as you say elsewhere), he doesn't suck at communication, he just prefers voice over texting. Also, avoid loaded negative judgment words like "suck".

BTW, if he's good at voice, maybe try this feature, already in most texting clients, as a compromise.
posted by WCityMike at 9:03 AM on November 4, 2017

To me this looks exactly what I’d expect slow-moving to look like. Casual chats here and there when it’s convenient, having a nice time when we’re both free. I’d expect to hear once or twice a week. It’s not wrong to want something different but it does sound like he assessed himself accurately.
posted by tchemgrrl at 9:17 AM on November 4, 2017 [3 favorites]


You can't fix this person. Why would you want someone like this? Run away.

You might also read Puzzling People by Thomas Sheridan. I don't think this guy is a psychopath! Rather, it's worrying you are willing to make yourself so very very vulnerable to this stranger who is treating you strangely. This should set off flags for you, but it's not. On every level, the emotionally healthy reaction is to not want to pursue this guy. Whether his behavior is shyness or calculating, you should know enough to know it will mean a relationship of difficulty and omg, life is already SO hard - why would you want this recipe for misery?
posted by jbenben at 9:20 AM on November 4, 2017 [1 favorite]

He frames his style as slow-moving, but I'm betting that it's going nowhere instead. I'd move on and find a better match.
posted by quince at 9:57 AM on November 4, 2017 [3 favorites]

He told you in advance. It could be a technique or quirk, no way to tell and it doesn't matter. he's really unlikely to change. If you were in a relationship, I'll bet he'd be the same way. I would definitely be seeing other people. I would maybe continue communicating with him if he's really interesting, but I would have low expectations. If anything, I'd reduce my communication with him. But, really, wouldn't you like somebody who actually engages?
posted by theora55 at 11:28 AM on November 4, 2017

Is there a gentle way to say "hey, I really dig you but you are terrible at texting and making plans. I'm not in a hurry and have no desire to make demands of your time but can you explain how you work so I don't have to read the tea leaves?"

Yes. You say "hey, I really dig you but you are terrible at texting and making plans. I'm not in a hurry and have no desire to make demands of your time but can you explain how you work so I don't have to read the tea leaves?"

Because that is a completely reasonable thing to say, and a perfectly admirable way to use your grown-up words.
posted by DarlingBri at 12:34 PM on November 4, 2017 [5 favorites]

A few dates in a little over a month? What are we talking - 5 weeks, 4-6 dates? Plus what seems like quite a bit of texting (both satisfying or not) in between? That is actually quite a lot of contact for a few weeks in, especially someone who is taking their time. Maybe stop texting casually? Maybe do phone calls once or twice between dates? Are you guys exclusive? If it looked like this at month 6, I'd say you're unmatched - but unless you need daily long talks with lots of text pings in between, maybe just hold back a little and see how the conversations go when they're less constant? I personally don't think I'd be able to keep up with the amount of communication you're looking for this early (and I am now someone who literally spends almost 24/7 w/ my partner - so it's not about how it will always be).
posted by I'm Not Even Supposed To Be Here Today! at 1:08 PM on November 4, 2017 [13 favorites]

Someone whose really into you will show you that and you won't be constantly questioning where it's going. Also, I would never ever date someone that I described as being bad at communicating. (I'm talking in general, some people just don't like texting which is fine.) You can get through almost anything in a relationship, when it gets tough, if you can talk about it. If this guy is already showing you that he can't, you know everything you need to know.

I also think it's quite likely you're not the only person he's dating - and that may be fine with you! But the flakiness of contact etc makes me think he's got other things on the boil.
posted by Jubey at 2:09 PM on November 4, 2017 [4 favorites]

What you write has just enough detail that it's possible to interpret it many different ways. I'll just throw out a few things that I've found to be true and let you see if any of them are useful:
1. Generally, a person can only make minor changes in their communication style.
2. The first part, when you're still forming a relationship, is the most awkward and confusing period of a relationship.
3. Once you have your relationship systems set up (e.g., once you're living together, or once you know that you hang out after work except on Tuesdays and Fridays, or whatever), this long-distance chit-chat becomes a lot less important, and how you relate when you're together becomes a lot more important.
4. However, reliable long-distance communication ("can you pick me up from the airport at 4?") remains important.
posted by salvia at 2:32 PM on November 4, 2017 [2 favorites]

I think the first two answers here nailed it. I am also a person who needs communicating/chatting between dates in order to feel connected and invested (and, frankly, wanted.) It's a non-negotiable for me. If you're really feeling this guy and want to get a clear read on how he feels about you, I think it's worth a shot the next time you see him to say "hey, I dig you but it seems like we have different communication styles. Something I know I need when I'm dating someone is more contact in order to feel connected. Wondering what your thoughts are on that." I would not even ask him for anything specific (and at this stage I definitely wouldn't ask him to make adjustments). I'd just see what he says. If he's a decent communicator who's truly interested in you, I imagine you'll know from how he responds.

I have done the *adjusting my expectations/explaining things away/modeling what I want in the hopes he'll learn* thing in SPADES and I'll tell ya, it's crazy-making and a great big waste of time and energy if the person isn't willing to bend a little for you.

I also want to add that there's no right or wrong amount of communication at this stage of the game. Some people text frequently and enthusiastically, some hate texting and save the majority of their contact for in-person. I think it's just about what feels good to you. And if this guy isn't going to meet you halfway there, find you a guy who likes being chatty in between dates. They do exist.
posted by blackcatcuriouser at 4:34 PM on November 4, 2017 [1 favorite]

You sound needy and exhausting. I say that as an extrovert and a woman prone to falling head-over-heels for dudes right away and wanting to spend 24/7 with them. You've only known this dude for a month, and you're not even in an exclusive relationship, I'm guessing from the title, but you need to hear from him every day? Yikes. You say you have no desire to make demands of his time, but clearly you do if you hold it against him that you don't hear from him for a few days.

Also, the way you've phrased this "you are terrible at texting and making plans" makes it seem to me that you lack both empathy and maturity. First, regarding the texting, I think others have covered it well above, but I also want to add that for me someone who texts incessantly is actually a big red flag. Like, why don't you just ask to see me if you want to talk to me? Why don't you just pick up the phone? Don't you have better things to do than text all day long? Is this just a way to kill time for you? I hate using text to hold extended conversations. Again, you say you have no desire to make demands of this man's time, but you need to understand that texting is actually a huge drain of time, even more so than an in-person meeting. If I'm texting with someone, I can't 100% concentrate on either them or the thing I'm doing. Then in the back of my mind I'm worried about them getting offended if I take too long to answer them. Clearly, the two of you have different views of texting, but you need to approach it from that angle, not as a 'you are bad at dating and terrible at communicating' thing. Because from what you've written here, I see no evidence that he is either. Second, regarding the making plans bit, well...I just don't get why you can't do it? I get the not wanting to be the pursuer thing, but there should be some give and take, and unless you're suggesting every single date I don't see the problem. Also, could it be that since you're texting him all the time that, well, he doesn't see the need to see you? Give the man some space to breathe and a chance to miss you. You say he's an introvert...I'm an extrovert and would feel smothered by this, if he's an introvert I can only imagine how he feels.
posted by unannihilated at 5:11 PM on November 4, 2017 [7 favorites]

Appreciate the input everyone. A few additional clarifications for those who mentioned lean detail:

- I'm an introvert too. I can and do easily go days without communicating with people.
- conversation initiative I have taken has been 1 first text per week, max.
- this is unnatural for me and makes me uncomfortable to a degree, but given that we are BOTH introverts, I thought it might be good to "share the load" a bit.
- the element that has made me scratch my head is the sudden stops. They are at the cusp of reading as an ignore, especially given that we are sparse texters to begin with. My instinct is that is a communication blind spot for him.
- I'm trying to manage my own time and decide if we are fit.
- my language was casual and somewhat jokey here - I would never accuse someone of being a terrible communicator as that would never help any communication issue.

Those answers suggesting I honor my needs and feelings are really resonating for me. I see how I've pushed out of my comfort zone and it's not a fit for me. I'm going to stop and we will see how that goes. We may both introvert ourselves into never speaking again but we might both do better with more extroverted people to balance our timid natures. Nothing wrong with that.

Thanks again!
posted by amycup at 6:01 PM on November 4, 2017 [3 favorites]

My view is borne of recent failed relationship experience (read my last few questions here). If your needs feel unmet now, they might always feel unmet. If things are slow and a little distant now, they might always be slower and more distant than you’d like. If it’s making you anxious now, it will probably always make you anxious.

Things started slow like this with the guy I recently broke up with. And yep, they incrementally progressed. I was patient and told my own insecurities to be quiet: ‘it’s early days, just chill out’ and ‘oh he’s just not a texting guy’ and ‘he’s taking it slow, I can respect that’ and ‘it’s great he has his own interests and life’. And we had a wonderful connection and so much fun when we saw each other.

But you know what? Dress it up however you want, he was never as excited about me as I was about him. The distance was never bridged. I never felt truly cherished or wanted by him. And I never would have.

Your needs are your needs, and they’re not ‘needy’. They’re valid. You get to define what makes you feel safe, comfortable and loved in a relationship, and to hold out for someone who’s capable and willing to meet those needs

If I were you, I’d hold out for someone who’s all “fuck yes I want to date you and talk to you!!” Someone who wasn’t making me ask these questions.
posted by wreckofthehesperus at 9:56 PM on November 4, 2017 [8 favorites]

This is classic "he's just not that into you" territory. Move along . .
posted by Stephanie_Says at 3:25 AM on November 5, 2017 [2 favorites]

An admitted "slow mover" whose spent most of his adult life single? (although if he's e.g. 30 that's not a lot of adult life) -- Sounds as if he's ambivalent about getting into a relationship. I also don't think that, after a month of dating, introversion has much to do with it (you've already formed some kind of comfortable rapport.)

It seems as if, after a bunch of dates, this would be a good time to open a discussion about what you both want, and see if he can accommodate. And yes, some of us hate texting conversations.
posted by DMelanogaster at 5:27 AM on November 5, 2017 [1 favorite]

Maybe I'm the one weirdo who doesn't enjoy texting constantly with someone new. Over the summer I went on a few dates with someone who at first I really liked, but my interest was extinguished by so much texting. Responding started to feel like a chore. I felt like the texts were creating a false sense of intimacy where no real intimacy yet existed. I wanted to get to know him in person, not through a series of texts. I find conversing through texts to be tedious. It's fun when we something interesting/unusual and can laugh or make comments about it. It becomes less fun when it's a conversation about how each other feels or discussing our days.

I would ask him if he enjoys conversational texting. Next time you see him, I might bring it up in a non-confrontational way by saying something along the lines of, "I get the sense you don't enjoy talking in texts." Then, see what he says. If the reason he's not communicating is because he doesn't enjoy texting, then perhaps see if you can arrange more dates. If he doesn't want to go on more dates and doesn't enjoy texting, then it may be time to end it.
posted by parakeetdog at 8:56 AM on November 5, 2017 [4 favorites]

I think it’s worth it to simply tell him your concerns and see if he can address them by changing his texting / communication style. Think of it as an opportunity (admittedly, maybe the last one) to determine how compatible you are and how well you can communicate about potentially thorny issues.

I say this because I had a similar issue when I first started dating the guy who is now my husband. I decided I didn’t have anything to lose, so I told him: “Look, I really like you, but when you don’t reply to my texts, it makes me feel really uneasy. I guess I’m the kind of person who needs to hear regularly from the person she’s dating. Doesn’t have to be big – but if I text, I’d appreciate a reply; and if I haven’t texted, I’d appreciate a quick line, even something as silly as, ‘Hey, how about that rain?’”

The fact that he listened to my concerns, was totally open to hearing them, and then followed through on becoming more accessible, became a really important part of my growing confidence in the fact that he was well worth my time.
posted by mylittlepoppet at 1:10 PM on November 5, 2017 [2 favorites]

As someone in a long term relationship with an introvert, lemme tell you that even shy types can make their interest known when they want to...

I think you should move on and find someone else who is more assertive about showing their interest.
posted by Gray Skies at 1:30 PM on November 5, 2017

Listen. Slow your roll. Think about it this way. If this guy and you had just met as friends, then this pace would be perfect. This guy is interested in you. Sex seems to be off the table and yet there is hanging out. Don’t “end it.” Unless you hate the idea of being friends with him. Nobody says you have to sleep with him, I think that would be a terrible idea given your dynamic. Just see what happens if you do nothing. He seems to like you.

On the other hand, your interactions should be mutually fulfilling. You shouldn’t tolerate being left hanging.

I think this is a case of you wanting to be pursued and him wanting to go slow. Give it a month and you’ll find out the endgame.

Consider that things that begin with passion often crash and burn. Were sex involved I would advise you to get out, but currently I see nothing but a burgeoning friendship (but I could be so wrong FYI).

In sum, don’t sleep with this person, don’t hang your hat on a relationship with him (I’m so sorry!!! We’ve all been there), do nothing, wait to see what he does. Proceed.
posted by karmachameleon at 7:54 PM on November 5, 2017

Could he be married? The reason I ask is because his abrupt disappearances during your conversations indicates that he's needed elsewhere, and quickly, and the fact that he doesn't pick up where he left off shortly thereafter may be an indication that the text thread has been deleted/abandoned. Also, the long breaks in-between seeing each other could indicate that he has a full and busy life to attend to, and when he can sneak away he schedules you in. How much do you know about him? If you have his full name and the city he lives in a people search site would pull up a live-in female around the same age.. I actually found out a guy I was dating was married this way. Whitepages told me there was a woman his age living in his house! Needless to say that ended immediately. It may sound intrusive but if someone seems odd or like they're stringing you along I think it's justified.
posted by Avosunspin at 12:11 AM on November 29, 2017

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