Just tell me he doesn't like me
March 3, 2018 5:40 AM   Subscribe

I dated a friend, briefly, it didn't work out. I feel very conflicted about our ending conversation and would like some help getting some closure.

About a month ago, I started dating a dear friend who I have been close with for just over a year. He had liked and been attracted to me for a while, and we decided to start something. He was upfront at the beginning and told me he didn’t want anything long-term or serious with me. I told him I also couldn’t see us being serious. A couple weeks in, though, I realized that that wasn’t what I wanted. I told him that I wasn’t interested in something casual or in being with someone who was half in and half out the relationship the whole time. I wanted to be in a serious and committed relationship. He acknowledged that that was fair and that he guessed that that meant that things wouldn’t work out between us. If that had been the end of the conversation, I think it would have been fine.

Instead, he got very emotional and sad and cried a whole bunch. He said lovely and very affirmative things about liking me and how beautiful I was. He wondered out loud if he had made a big mistake. But he also said that he was afraid this wouldn’t work because he didn’t feel a magical connection and he didn’t want to hurt me at some point in the future when he met his manic pixie dream girl and fell head over heels in love.

Afterwards, I felt so conflicted and confused. What just happened?! I spoke to my friends and they said very unhelpful things (trying to be helpful), “he clearly really likes you and is just afraid of commitment!” and “you too would obviously be perfect together”

I’m a big fan of the adage “believe people when they tell you who they are (or what they want)” He told me so clearly from the get go that he didn’t want a serious relationship with me. Over the course of our final conversation, he didn’t change his mind, just showed that he liked and cared about me a whole bunch.

I need to let go of this and stop ruminating. I need to stop hoping that he's going to change his mind. I need to stop thinking that he's just 'too afraid' and that deep down he really really likes me. Hive mind, do you think you could help me out?
posted by twill to Human Relations (44 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
It sounds like he is grieving not only the fast rise of a romance but also the possibility of the end of a good friendship. He also sounds like he had hoped for a better outcome, possibly a sort of casual fling of flings which would give him the freedom to keep looking for 'the one'. Ultimately, he realised he would be breaking your heart any way he would have acted. He does not sound like an ideal partner, even if the relationship might have felt magical in any respect.
posted by parmanparman at 5:48 AM on March 3, 2018 [8 favorites]

I need to let go of this and stop ruminating. I need to stop hoping that he's going to change his mind. I need to stop thinking that he's just 'too afraid' and that deep down he really really likes me.

Yup. No amount of rumination will give you either mind-reading or mind-changing skills; unless he uses his words to tell you what he was thinking, you will never know and it's a waste of your time and energy to ruminate about it. Similarly, he either changes his mind or doesn't but your rumination about it will not have any impact on that. Either way, in other words, your best bet is to change your focus and do your best to redirect your thoughts and emotions from this relationship for a while.

My suggestion is that you first explicitly decide to get some distance/time off from this guy for a definite period of time (e.g. 3 months, 6 months). Tell him you need that length of time to process the end of the romantic relationship, and will not be in touch for that time. (This may upset him, but that's fine--a decent person will accept that there is some unavoidable upset going around right now, as a result of the break-up, and this bit is his share). Then fill up your time with other things. If he really likes you and is afraid of commitment, and/or you would be perfect together, the thing will eventually happen whether you are constantly ruminating about it or off doing your own thing in an art class/dating others online/in the gym. But the latter option is likely to be better and healthier for you.
posted by Aravis76 at 5:49 AM on March 3, 2018 [5 favorites]

But he also said that he was afraid this wouldn’t work because he didn’t feel a magical connection and he didn’t want to hurt me at some point in the future when he met his manic pixie dream girl and fell head over heels in love.

I don't think "fear of commitment" is the issue here so much as "ridiculously unrealistic ideas of what real relationships are like". Given the latter, you're well shot of this. He doesn't want a real woman, for this future hypothetical relationship he's expecting. He wants a Designated Love Interest who's been written to complement him in every possible way, and he doesn't see you as that person, and it would not be better if he did see you as that person. He's probably not a terrible human being, but he's developed a certain set of social expectations towards women that bode very poorly for relationships, right? If he's not going to examine those things without your prompting, he isn't worth it. You are not his NPC girlfriend. You probably could have had a perfectly fine relationship if he wasn't like this, but you can't fix it for him.
posted by Sequence at 5:52 AM on March 3, 2018 [99 favorites]

Ugh. I went through something similar. I'm sure he is sad that he won't get to have a casual fling with you, but you need to stay focused on the relationship you want and this guy obviously isn't willing to be that person.

Stopping rumination is difficult though even when you know its the right thing to do. For me, trying to be mindful of when I'm doing it and then saying to myself "stop" and focusing on something else helps. I started visualizing it as removing fish hooks from my brain and then changing my focus. I think it definitely gets easier with time and practice.

Try to internalize that thinking about this guy really is a waste of energy that you could be harnessing to pursue the loving committed relationship you deserve. Taking some time away from him probably is a good idea as well. I didn't do that in my case and I think it has prolonged my recovery time.

Best of luck.
posted by seraph9 at 6:02 AM on March 3, 2018 [1 favorite]

All kinds of things are possible - he could be afraid of commitment, he could be suffering from the illusion that when it's "true love" you hear violins, he could be just not that into you but not want you to feel bad about it, he could be wildly in love with you but unwilling to expose you to his mafioso relatives, he could be secretly married with a wife in another state. None of these things matter. The thing that matters is that he said no to you.

And the thing is that if he really thinks that the magical connection/attraction means it's true love, he is going to break a lot of hearts throughout his life. No need to let him mess with yours any more.

However, as someone who tends to ruminate over breakups, I have always found it difficult to stop ruminating. It's not a switch I can turn off, it's something that impossible to stop on day 1, a little easier to disengage from on day 14, and not a problem on day 400. Here is my answer to a similar question which might be helpful as might some of the other answers there. The circumstances are a little different but the answers are all about how to move on and deal with the grief and pain of a lost relationship.

Be patient with yourself - you're in detox - and remember that you deserve someone who sees clearly that you're a great match for them and says "hell yes" to a relationship with you.

(I've also learned that casual sex is not a good idea for me but when I'm excited about a new person I'm good at forgetting that. Dude says he doesn't want anything serious, I say that's totally cool, a few weeks later I'm crying to my therapist because casual dude is casual and I want more. My new policy is to establish up-front that we're both looking for the same thing before getting too physical. So far it's resulted in a lot less sex, but also a lot less heart break).
posted by bunderful at 6:02 AM on March 3, 2018 [30 favorites]

So your problem here is that you caught yourself a babyman, and this is what babymen do. Acknowledge to yourself - and cut yourself some slack - that it is super confusing to get caught in their weird sticky webs, and also frustrating that they often seem to have the potential to turn into emotionally mature men (note: the world generally beats that out of them or they do eventually get something like there at the expense of a string of women and sometimes first sets of children who have to bear the brunt of their learning process, it's not a thing to stick around and wait for).

Manic pixie dream girl isn't the girl you settle down with, or even hold out for. I'm hoping he didn't literally (or almost literally) tell you that, because if so...dang, dude. You're dodging a bullet. It doesn't feel good today, but you will feel it eventually.

Give yourself the rest of the weekend to wallow. Really go for it, have a big old cry, stay in your pajamas, journal. Then watch Garden State and feel the cold sweat of relief, as if you saw the shadow of the monster outside your door for a moment, and then it moved on.
posted by Lyn Never at 6:15 AM on March 3, 2018 [47 favorites]

I think you need some "eh, this is definitely over and not worth your tears" perspective to counterbalance your friends. Well, his final confessional dump is strong evidence in favor of that. It was going all right, and then he just kind of blarfed a bunch of emotions out to mess with your head. They weren't to make you feel better, they were so he could feel better, with no real thought to your feelings. You don't wonder out loud in front of someone you just dumped, for crying out loud! And the whole thing about not wanting to commit in case he feels a spark with someone else - that's pretty insensitive, to preemptively compare you to an imaginary future partner. If he literally said the words "manic pixie dream girl" or anything approaching that, he can go jump into space.

It sounds like you know all this and need your eye-rolling WTFy feelings to be corroborated so they can drown out the "but you would be perfect together!" twaddle. Let yourself mourn the friendship and the potential relationship that never crystallized, but keep listening to that little eyeroll inside you; it speaks the truth.
posted by Metroid Baby at 6:18 AM on March 3, 2018 [19 favorites]

I need to stop thinking that he's just 'too afraid' and that deep down he really really likes me.

I'll be blunt because I think it might be helpful - he's an emotional man-child. Even if he likes you, he's made it clear that you're going to perform a lot of emotional labour just to get him to be a functioning partner in a relationship. Real men figure their own shit out - boys make you work to understand what the fuck his weird, quasi-romantic vibes are and how they might apply to you.

Count your lucky stars you found this out now vs. 6 months into this relationship. If what you want is a serious, adult relationship, this dude is clearly not ready for that no matter what his feelings are.
posted by notorious medium at 6:20 AM on March 3, 2018 [23 favorites]

If he really likes you and is "just" afraid of commitment -- when commitment means absolutely nothing concrete, just the same old behavior of having a girlfriend and treating her like a human being, except it's expected of him and not a favor he's doing her -- that is worse than if he just doesn't like you enough. worse for you.

please do not normalize or minimize the bizarrerie of a grown man, who wanted to be in a relationship with you badly enough to start one, being "just" "afraid" of having a relationship. it makes no sense but it's practically a social institution like Thanksgiving by now because of everyone's decision to acknowledge it like it's a real reasonable thing that just happens a lot. When people tell you he really likes you but is afraid to say so, they are telling you he is a functional child who cannot be relied on. they are not telling you something nice about him. they are being kind of brutal.
posted by queenofbithynia at 6:43 AM on March 3, 2018 [21 favorites]

I had something very similar happen years ago, I was ending a relationship with a man that was unsustainable for many solid reasons. He then, whether it was conscious or not, while taking clear actions that were in support of breaking up - said things and behaved in a way that did nothing but instill in me doubt regarding his feelings. He admitted seriously conflicted feelings that lead me to stay on the hook emotionally for him from afar for a very long time.

He might have kept all that to himself, but he didn't. And it complicated a very wise decision I had made. I see it now for what it was because I now know that this person had a habit of creating the perfect conditions to be able to return, even years later, to all the women he was involved with. That may not be the case for you at all, and I hope it's not the case, but I felt it might help you see one reason why a person might do this.

My advice is to consider all he said to be just his thinking out loud and that information is not really your problem. He might have, if he were more thoughtful (but no one is perfect) not said those things out loud. Because what does it matter if you are breaking up and he has no intention of trying to work things out with you or keep the relationship going other than to emote and/or confuse you? You are right to believe people when they tell you what they want. I would add to take people's actions to be hard evidence of what they really want. And seriously try to focus again on what you want, and what you wanted when you broke up with him is to move forward without him.
posted by marimeko at 6:54 AM on March 3, 2018 [6 favorites]

What an asshole.

Given that you're not his mommy or his therapist, his sad feelings about refusing to give you what he dangled in front of you and initiated are not your problem and expecting you to deal with them is incredibly selfish.

Anyways, this kind of behaviour is usually more of a means to access pity and give themselves "permission" to do what they want by circumventing the part about your feelings. It's like magic. Nothing in the hands, nothing up the sleeves and yet *poof* suddenly it's all about you feeling bad for him! Fly free, little bird, go seek the magic love of your dreams! I understand! It's okay! Barf. He thinks this maneuver is a get-out-of-guilt-free card.

This guy just wanted to fuck you. He literally told you that. He wanted to use someone already emotionally invested in treating him well because of a friendship, and he is being a sad little boy throwing a pity party tantrum because he can't have his cake and eat it too, you won't give him all the benefits of a relationship with out any of the work.

Expect him to come around wanting to "try again" when he needs an ego stroke and then "chamging his mind" when he gets his emotional-sexual relief.

What an asshole.
posted by windykites at 7:36 AM on March 3, 2018 [45 favorites]

Something Furiosa said really resonated with me. When she was out in the desert meeting the crones for the first time and Mad Max appeared they were ready to kill him. But she praised him: "He's reliable". And they gave him respect.

To be reliable as a man is the opposite of the social conditioning we recieve around romantic love. A reliable man knows his own emotions and is in charge of them. A reliable man makes promises and follows through. A reliable man will be your rock when you need one, and your biggest cheerleader when you don't, because he wants you to be reliable too. A reliable man will be your partner for decades. This boy was not reliable.

Go be Furiosa.
posted by saucysault at 8:03 AM on March 3, 2018 [60 favorites]

He’s not into you in that way. He would have preferred not to have this conversation with someone he’s slept with, which is why he tried to have it before you started sleeping together. You caught feelings, and there’s nothing wrong with that, but it’s not what he signed up for. He feels guilty about not reciprocating, hence the tears, but he’s done nothing wrong. Neither have you. You’re two adults who slept together and it didn’t work out to be what you both wanted. Now it’s over.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 8:08 AM on March 3, 2018 [8 favorites]

I'm just gonna refer to this previous post and mostly leave it there regarding commitment issues. I don't know if this dude qualifies on that level or not, but you can deduce it for yourself.

But seriously, he's just not that into you because he is waiting for the MPDG to come along? Seriously? Really? Well, if he doesn't like you THAT much because he thinks lightning might strike and he'll dump you for someone better, then fuck him. To paraphrase from the book Wild Ride by Jennifer Crusie and Bob Mayer, he loves you all he can, but he can't love you all that much. (Though I don't think "love" is really the emotion going on here for him.) As for "magical connections," some folks are "showers" and some folks are "growers" in love, but theoretically you could get magical if you wanted to stick around and see what happens. But he doesn't wanna, so...

I think it's time to break off the friendship too, at least for a while. I don't know if I'd say to ever be friends with this ex though, he seems like the sort that will jerk you around.
posted by jenfullmoon at 8:18 AM on March 3, 2018

When I was dating I encountered guys like this - they are aplenty. I did my best to end things as soon as I saw the signs and got through it by telling myself that the right guy would have no hesitations about being with me, I would not have to wonder where we stood, or worry about over-texting, or question if he was interested enough, and I was right.

Agreed to avoid him for a while and I would add onto that go on some dates, go flirt, find a new crush or two. Stop talking about it with the friends they will not get it until they see it play out a few more times. This guy will continue to act sad and tell you he's attracted to you, and the more you don't care the more he will do that, and the more that happens the more you can confirm he has classic commitment issues that will not change without some serious effort on his part. Try to have some compassion for him because eventually you will have the happily committed relationship you want and he will still be looking for "the one", that's what happened with the one commitment-phobe guy I've stayed friends with. He has repeated what he did with me at least twice since I ended our non-relationship (that he admitted was a relationship afterwards).
posted by lafemma at 8:47 AM on March 3, 2018 [3 favorites]

You both sound rather young. Given that, he doesn't have to be a jerk, just someone who doesn't understand How This Works Between Two Actual Grown-Ups and so is resorting to a really dumb script he picked up somewhere. That may be fixable by life (it will take years), but it isn't fixable by you.

You now have an important data point as to how you feel in practice about casual, no-commitment relationships. Please consider it next time you have a chance to sleep with someone casually and your brain is trying to tell you loudly that you can totally enjoy it to cover up your lizard-brain whispering that maybe it will turn into more if you just are low-key enough about it. Since it's not your thing, don't try to be the Cool Girl.
posted by praemunire at 8:58 AM on March 3, 2018 [10 favorites]

I don’t think he’s necessarily a bad person. It sounds like he also developed some feelings for you, but not enough to really want a relationship. If he wasn’t expecting you to end it, that may have resulted in him saying some things he should have kept to himself. He might be kicking himself over that now. We don’t know.

It’s hard not to try to figure out what his deal really was, but that’s ultimately unknowable. Time will almost certainly heal this, but the best thing for you in the meantime is to take care of yourself. If it helps to hang out with friends, do that, but if they say unhelpful things, tell them you need to talk about something else. Or watch movies in your pajamas. Or blast empowering music. Or get engrossed in a novel. You’ve had a painful disappointment. Be good to yourself.
posted by FencingGal at 8:59 AM on March 3, 2018

There's lots of great advice upthread, but I just wanted to focus on the ruminating piece.

One thing that helps me get out of a ruminating pattern is doing something caring or generous for somebody with a stable presence in my life. This can be reaching out to check in on a friend, planning a trip, writing a much-delayed letter. Or, like this morning, playing with my cat for an extra half an hour. This interrupts the thought pattern, gets me out of myself, and also reminds me of my agency in positive relationships (I have something valuable to give as a person, and I can enjoy that giving too!)

Take care!
posted by elephantsvanish at 9:07 AM on March 3, 2018 [6 favorites]

You don't want to be with a guy who's going to be looking around for his "true love" while you are a placeholder. Imagine how anxiety-producing that relationship would be. You'd be constantly vacillating between being reassured by his kind words and worrying whether this or that attractive person was the one he'd leave you for. That's bad for your mental health, a waste of your time, and you deserve better.
posted by Knowyournuts at 9:09 AM on March 3, 2018 [8 favorites]

If a good guy likes you, he chases you and asks you to be his partner.
Anything less is a waste of your time.
Words are cheap, doesn't matter what he says.
If he's not trying to make you his partner, he doesn't like you enough.
I know it hurts, but getting entangled with an ambivalent partner hurts more.
Move on.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 9:23 AM on March 3, 2018

I'll also say that some people cry during conflict. We tend to think crying is for the really sad feelings, but people cry for many reasons. And this dude may cry for reasons other than "I think I'm losing the love of my life." But, if you can, try to imagine all the words he said, but without the tears. The words are what matter. "He likes you and you're beautiful, but he doesn't think it will work out, because he doesn't think he feels "that way" for you." You have your answer.

Good luck with the healing! I hope you meet a guy who's interested in a relationship with you, soon.
posted by greermahoney at 9:24 AM on March 3, 2018 [5 favorites]

If that had been the end of the conversation, I think it would have been fine.

Instead, he got very emotional and sad and cried a whole bunch. He said lovely and very affirmative things about liking me and how beautiful I was. He wondered out loud if he had made a big mistake. But he also said that he was afraid this wouldn’t work because he didn’t feel a magical connection and he didn’t want to hurt me at some point in the future when he met his manic pixie dream girl and fell head over heels in love.

Afterwards, I felt so conflicted and confused. What just happened?!

Some people do this thing where they think that as long as they warn you about how shady they might be in the future, that they don't have to feel bad when they're shady in the future. If you were to stay with this guy, there is a 110% chance he would always be looking for feelings that you do not inspire in him, and he'd end up cheating on you, and he'd feel completely justified because, like a scorpion in a sermon, he'd already warned you who he was- some guy who wasn't in love with you, who was looking for a manic pixie dream girl to fall in love with.

Here's the rub: If he just flat out said to you (you, who wanted a more-than-casual relationship) "Hey, I'm not sure this would work out because I'm looking for a manic pixie dream girl (which ain't you) so that I can fall in head over heels in love (which is something I don't feel for you)", it would hurt his chances to keep the casual relationship going, because it's too disrespectful.

So if he wants to keep the casual relationship going, he has to lead with something that's not such a slap in the face, like lovely and very affirmative things about liking you and how beautiful you are, followed by a dangled carrot that things miiiiiight end up working out (which is really just an admission that he's unsure what he wants). His words and actions were designed to be contradictory and confuse you into continuing in a casual relationship that you already know you don't want to be in.
posted by 23skidoo at 9:33 AM on March 3, 2018 [11 favorites]

I kinda stopped reading the answers when I got to Lyn Never's comment because she nailed it. While there might be sincere affection there, the thing is he's not mature, because mature men don't act this way. And because he's not mature, that makes him a mess of a partner for you or anyone. Best to avoid. Don't keep a candle lit on this one, let it go.

Personal story: I was once in a very similar situation, heartbroken at being dumped by someone I really liked due to a lack of the mysterious/fantasy "magical connection." Several months later, to my shock, he called and asked to get back together with me. In the meantime, I had gone through all the stages of grief, gotten involved with some new activities, and had just met someone else (though we were not yet exclusive and really just talking). I went to visit him somewhat hopefully and found myself just...unmoved. I saw him differently now. He was still a "babyman" and seemed to be coming from some place of maybe-unhealthy need, and I really didn't like the feeling that he might have decided I was good enough as a consolation prize, or something. When we talked after we met I said the timing wasn't right and ended it there.

Since that time, he married someone else really quickly after that, and was divorced within two years (and he had been married once before we met). He's since married a third person within another two years, I assume it's fine, I am no longer in his circles. In any case, I think he was very much someone who was looking to cast a person in the role of "perfect girlfriend/wife" and it made him very unrealistic about relationships and also very unable to relate to me, or any woman, fairly and completely and maturely. I am so grateful I didn't pursue it. I've since married the guy I had just met at the time.

So, you know, take heart. He is still a child and still feels like a victim, not an agent, of his own feelings and relationships. He has a confused head with a lot of imaginary ideas about relationships, women and romance. He sounds ego-driven. Ultimately, you can waste years hoping he might mature.... but you definitely will (I mean you already are more mature), and if what you want is a real relationship, there is likely someone more grown up and much more in control of themselves and able to see you as fully human in store for you. Don't waste much time on this. He's on his own program and you don't need to wait around for him to catch up with you, if he ever would. Some people like this never do grow up.
posted by Miko at 10:02 AM on March 3, 2018 [13 favorites]

Afterwards, I felt so conflicted and confused. What just happened?! I spoke to my friends and they said very unhelpful things (trying to be helpful), “he clearly really likes you and is just afraid of commitment!” and “you too would obviously be perfect together”

Yeah, those are really unhelpful responses. The guy indicated he isn't afraid of commitment, he just doesn't want to commit to you because in his imagination there's this magical perfect-for-him girl out there he just hasn't met yet, a girl that he already knows isn't you.

Even while he was crying about his conflicted mind, he still knew that girl isn't you, even though he likes you and thinks you're pretty. Well, lots of girls are likeable and pretty. You guys obviously wouldn't be perfect together, and he isn't worth the time or emotional investment of a relationship with you.

It's no fun to be someone's girlfriend in the shadow of some real or imagined "better" girl. I've been there, but in my case the perfect girl in my then-boyfriend's mind was a real girl that he had dated and who dumped him. He never got over her because, in his mind, she was his perfect woman even though she dumped him. It sucks and when you're in that kind of relationship with a guy. You never feel like you're enough for him.
posted by wondermouse at 10:46 AM on March 3, 2018 [5 favorites]

I don't think "fear of commitment" is the issue here so much as "ridiculously unrealistic ideas of what real relationships are like".

These actually go hand-in-hand with those with avoidant attachment style. They need distance and have difficulty committing, and hold unrealistic fantasies of what relationships are like holding up a romantic ideal that no one can meet presumably to avoid committment.

I recommend the book "Attached" to explain further.
posted by bearette at 11:04 AM on March 3, 2018 [4 favorites]

Something I realized after thinking about this question: you're really worried he might "like you". As if that is valuable as gold and you daren't walk away because *angels sing* he LIKES you and that means you have to be with him because...he likes you. Doesn't matter if he's good enough for you, or ready for you, or even if you want to be with him - which you don't, because you already saw it was not a good match - because what do even your feelings mean in the face of a man, whose feelings have value, liking you? Nobody will ever like you again, that's the law, so this is your shitty husband now.

You don't have to be with someone just because they like you. That's the lowest bar, liking you. You are allowed to have standards above that. This should not be your kryptonite, that a man has mustered up A Feeling in your general direction. It should not make your knees weak to discover a man wasn't just using you for sex or your Netflix password.

This is not a value judgement of you at all, just a truth about the world: liking someone is cheap/free. I like literally hundreds of people, and all but about 5 of them require zero effort on my part, and honestly all but about 30 of them would just get crossed off the list if they did require even periodic effort. This guy likes you giving him nice fee-fees in his heart place and his pants place, but it's not significant enough and he is not ready enough to actually like dig in and be a good partner to you. Or anyone, at this point and time, it sounds like.

There's nothing meaningful or majestic about some babyman liking you. I feel like this is a great opportunity for you to look this particular insecurity in the eye and trace it back to its source and kill it with fire.
posted by Lyn Never at 11:22 AM on March 3, 2018 [35 favorites]

Culturally, there's a belief that women are emotional and men are not, but that's wildly inaccurate. When he declined to commit to you, he had lots of feelings and he spilled them all over you. If he wanted a relationship, he'd act accordingly. You cannot know his feelings or motivations. You only know his behavior. Pay attention to your feelings and needs. (what Lyn Never says, in different words)

How do you stop ruminating? You are smart to recognize it. Ruminating is a thought habit. Put a rubber band on your wrist. When you find yourself ruminating, snap the rubber band just enough to hurt a little bit. Make a list of other stuff to think about. Mentally plan your dream house, or write fanfic. Set mental tasks, like noticing people's eye color, or who's wearing bluetooth earbuds, or whatever. Play word games on your phone. Listen to music, not the cerebral kind, but the sing-along, dance-along kind. Read compelling books, trashy or non-. Memorize poems. Now would be a good time to take up a new skill, haven't you always wanted to play guitar or speak French or join a Dungeons and Dragons group? In 6 months, you could have learned to knit, made a sweater, made friends at a knitting group, and realize one day that he's no longer on your mind.
posted by theora55 at 11:27 AM on March 3, 2018 [4 favorites]

He has really insulted you, you just aren’t seeing it through his wailing and tears.

You’re good enough to fuck, but not good enough to date. And now he’s crying because you aren’t satisfied with just being something for him to fuck, you want an actual relationship. All the rest of his waffling is just window dressing - he doesn’t “really like you but is afraid to tell you”, he just openly told you he didn’t want a relationship with you because there are plenty of other women out there who he’d drop you for in an instant. The bottom line is you are only good enough for sex, not for anything else, but he has manipulated you into feeling sorry for HIM in all this.

You should be much angrier than you are.
posted by tinkletown at 12:45 PM on March 3, 2018 [10 favorites]

There are guys who are super critical of women and think the perfect girl will make them feel passion and butterflies... but they also don’t want someone with intelligence, a temper or opinions... but the nice girls just don’t make them feel what they need to feel. You can be gorgeous and smart and nice and these guys won’t be happy. They want some super specific way of feeling that just doesn’t work. This guy will probably still be single way after you’ve dated and married and had children
posted by catspajammies at 1:36 PM on March 3, 2018 [2 favorites]

I was going to be supportive of this guy having emotions, and the issue about men not being allowed to express emotions the same as women. But then I reread it and saw the manic pixie dream girl comment.

That’s not cool at all.
posted by Vaike at 1:37 PM on March 3, 2018

I need to let go of this and stop ruminating. I need to stop hoping that he's going to change his mind. I need to stop thinking that he's just 'too afraid' and that deep down he really really likes me. Hive mind, do you think you could help me out?

This guy and your friends are just stuck in movie land where the guy always gets the girl after overcoming a series of obstacles. All of this is just storytelling - they're not seeing what's real, but you do. Feel free to be a bit smug about it.
posted by heyjude at 2:30 PM on March 3, 2018 [2 favorites]

Lucky for him, he may yet be able to acquire one of the customizable robotic women sex dolls that are currently a work in progress to achieve the impossible in human standards he has set out for you. Maybe that appears as an insult, but please examine what he has requested of you, without taking your requests into consideration, and examine that against the logistics of you (or anyone for that matter) ever being able to offer him that and you can then rationalize that this what he's really asking of you and what is likely the only thing that could serve him that. Or possibly magic.
You don't need to feel conflicted or confused, what happened was: it worked until it didn't. You both developed some level of feelings and attachment but not enough for it to progress into what you each wanted of it. It is also not uncommon to mourn the loss of a dear friend, even if it was inevitable or necessary.
Take care of yourself and move on, don't get stuck on overanalyzing what may or may not have been stated or apparent or hidden between the lines, because it was, and mature adults just don't do that.
posted by OnefortheLast at 2:35 PM on March 3, 2018 [1 favorite]

Alas, I have replied to one of the posts a commenter linked to instead of the OP's.
So my first half of comment, scratch that but the second still does apply correctly.
In addition, I have to give the guy some bonus points as it appears he was honest with you throughout, you both just got mixed up/confused in the end by the complications of developed feelings, which is entirely normal in a situation like this. What he wants may indeed be unrealistic, but he was upfront about it and spared you getting hurt further once it came to light that you already were.
You were both on the same page to begin, your desires changed and then so did the "page", and you're both mourning the loss of something you were previously enjoying.
Now he's likely feeling conflicted over letting you go because he knows it's not what he wants long term, and keeping you going along "just in case." I'll point out that his morals did win in this situation. You're conflicted because you want more, and he's expressed having developed more himself, but the two still don't match. Just make sure you don't hurt yourself further by trying on an adult sized version of the "does he secretly like you" quiz.
I don't know if I'd recommend keeping the friendship for your own well being though. I think you already know all this and got it down in your last paragraph.
posted by OnefortheLast at 6:08 PM on March 3, 2018 [1 favorite]

I know this probably sounds WAY out there, like BONKERS, considering the uniformity of the responses you've had so far. But just for completeness sake, consider this:

What if he was just saying something that at the time seemed like a good idea, with the intention of basically, in a long-winded way, telling you "it's not you, it's me" (AKA the oldest line in the book).

I'm saying it's possible, in this particular instance, that he didn't truly mean anything by it, may not actually believe what he was saying at all, and that instead it was just a narrative he hastily thought you might buy, in the heat of the moment, drawing from a movie or a book or whatever, in an emotional state of guilt or what have you, that would shift the blame from you to him... so you wouldn't have to feel shitty about your self. But he messed that up for whatever reason we can only speculate about.

So he may not actually be waiting for MPDG but instead just wants to take the blame himself and not make you feel like it's because you're not good enough, but this is probably the best line he could come up with on short notice (i.e. not practiced at this).
posted by some loser at 6:17 PM on March 3, 2018

I kinda skipped through a lot of the comments because I was annoyed by the pile on. This guy isnt a jerk just because he's going after what he (rightly or wrongly) thinks he wants. I don't think its particularly helpful to cast him as a man-baby or an asshole. What he was, was very clear. Despite any feelings he had about you, you are not it.
So now believe him and move on. Time will take the sting out of this.
posted by WalkerWestridge at 8:21 PM on March 3, 2018 [2 favorites]

> I’m a big fan of the adage “believe people when they tell you who they are (or what they want)”

I think your instinct is right and that's exactly what you should do. Your friend is giving you bad advice. Is it possible he was crying because he really loves you but is afraid? Sure, it's possible. If I had to guess, he was crying because he sees himself as a good guy and he had to confront the idea that maybe he behaved in a not-so-good way and sort of used you. He thought telling you up front what he wanted to do would make it okay, but it didn't – he still ended up hurting you – and now he's burdened by the fact that he still ended up the bad guy. Or maybe he was sad that whatever friendship you two had is basically over and he lost a good friend. Who knows? I don't think it's because he's secretly in love with you and can't accept it. But that's kind of the point: We don't know why he got emotional. We just know he said he didn't want a real romantic relationship with you. Stick with what you know and move on.
posted by AppleTurnover at 8:32 PM on March 3, 2018 [1 favorite]

Can I just add, that you did really well to identify your feeling so quickly (wanting to be serious), asking for what you want, and not putting up with a mind-f*ck compromise. I know people who have let these kind of tortured half-relationships go on for years. Good work! :) You are so much closer to finding someone who is great for you and willing to step up to the plate
posted by hotcoroner at 12:01 AM on March 4, 2018 [10 favorites]

I agree with those saying that if he's told you he isn't into you, then that's all you need to know and any other details are irrelevant. (I've been into people before but not into them *enough*, so it's certainly possible he likes you but doesn't feel strongly enough to pursue a serious relationship. Regardless, the takeaway for you is the same.)

I've never heard of someone who was really really into someone but didn't want a relationship with them because they were scared or whatever...that sounds like the kind of thing women tell each other because it sounds nicer than "he doesn't like you".
posted by sunflower16 at 12:42 AM on March 4, 2018 [11 favorites]

Thank you everyone for your responses. Before I wrote this question, I was very close to reaching out to him and asking if we could just try being together.

I don't think this guy is an asshole. He's definitely not manipulative or a player. He has been a good and supportive friend... who also wanted a casual relationship with me which, well, didn't end up working out so great.

But what struck me, and Lyn Never's comment reflected this so well, is that the moment, the moment he talks about liking me and finding me beautiful and started crying, what I *feel* and what I *want* immediately goes out the window, so much so that I completely restructure my framework so the story is now all about how God, isn't it so so wonderful that a man (a real live man) likes me. Ugh.

Anyway, thank you all for taking the time to respond and for helping me put my feet a little more firmly on the ground.
posted by twill at 12:14 PM on March 4, 2018 [11 favorites]

(but also torturous because he doesn't like me enough. I wish my need for validation didn't come so directly from being perceived as a good enough love interest)
posted by twill at 12:23 PM on March 4, 2018 [2 favorites]

The only thing I can really add to this, having been through some iterations of this and having watched friends go through some iterations of this, is: RUN!!!! Easier said than done, but, seriously, as I recently told a dear friend: stop (yourself), drop (what you're doing), and roll (outta here, stat). It sounds like you already know this. Since you asked about how to stop ruminating, I once found a good article on the web that may be applicable -- the gist of it was that you just control yourself and you feel the sadness and then you don't call him, even if you're really sad, or it's really hard not to, or he's texting you, or he's calling you, or his mom is calling you, or... you know, whatever else (or text, or email, or whatsapp, or whatever your preferred mode of communication may be). There isn't a magic way to get over the pain instantly, but going through the motions of distancing yourself will help speed things along. And I wouldn't worry about losing the friendship -- in my experience, good friendships--romantic or not-- can survive a necessary emotional break when it's needed, and you can think about rebuilding the friendship when you're good and over it. Best of luck!
posted by dubhemerak3000 at 1:11 PM on March 4, 2018 [1 favorite]

We are trained our entire lives to sit up and beg at the first sign of affection, so it's not a character flaw when it happens to you. It's just a thing every one of us has to hunt down and eradicate in our code. At first you just have to learn to sit with the discomfort instead of instantly responding or trying to soothe it. Eventually it stops being a pain (and an intrusive or pervasive thought) and just starts being a piece of information.
posted by Lyn Never at 10:19 AM on March 5, 2018 [1 favorite]

Having been through something so similar, I too had people close to me say, "He sounds scared."

I commend you for getting off this train of thought right now, because I was not as smart as you, and it did me incredible damage. The confusion caused me to spiral into a deep depression, to the point of suicide ideation, such was my desperation to stop feeling so bad every waking moment of every day and night. I lost track of how much money I sank into therapy. I saw one therapist for months, and she agreed that he seemed scared, which really did a number on me. I risked my life and well-being on the hope that he truly did love me and would eventually figure his shit out.

But he wasn't trying to figure his shit out. And after the year+ it's taken me to fully understand what happened and why, I can tell you that what notorious medium, Lyn Never, and Miko have stated is exactly what happened. This is a babyman who does not and may never understand his own heart, and who would've put you through years of emotional hell - insecurity, neglect, always tiptoeing around his needs and fearful of placing too much pressure and expectation on the person who is supposed to be your rock - if it even were to last that long.

As for my babyman, he wound up cheating on one girlfriend once she became too inconvenient and "not fun anymore." Then he jumped into a long-distance thing that is the relationship equivalent of a cactus. He can keep it alive with a few texts a day, and never has to answer for where he is, who he's with, or what time he's coming home. He doesn't have to compromise his precious autonomy to deal with undesirable "obligations" such as hanging out with her family or her friends. He had told me once that spending time with me was so enjoyable, because it was "like a vacation away from everyday life." Well, he got what he wished for with the new girl... each time he visits her it literally is a vacation. Maybe that's what she's after too, but if not, I feel sorry for her if she expects their relationship to change. He's found the perfect facade for fooling the world and this girl into believing that he is capable of being a decent partner and sustaining a healthy relationship, but he is still the same babyman. At least I (and you) had the chance to see the red flags. He still contacts me from time to time with flirty texts and DMs.

Me, I eventually picked up enough pieces of me to date someone else. Someone who has never given me any reason to feel less than his first and only choice. It struck me so hard when I was getting to know him, "This is a man, not a boy." He is reliable. I have no doubt that when you meet someone who is a man, and not a boy, you will see it as clearly as I did, and that will give you peace that you are not missing out on anything worthwhile with the babyman.
posted by keep it under cover at 11:25 AM on March 5, 2018 [2 favorites]

(but also torturous because he doesn't like me enough. I wish my need for validation didn't come so directly from being perceived as a good enough love interest)

I think it's brilliant that you've recognised this in yourself. If I had learned this earlier it certainly would have saved me from at least two heartbreaks and wasting a cumulative 3 years of my life with idiots who didn't deserve me despite liking me.
posted by like_neon at 2:38 AM on March 6, 2018

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