The strongest attraction - Is it physical, chemical, or something else?
January 22, 2019 7:22 PM   Subscribe

New year, same old mistakes. I dated a guy for only four months and we stopped seeing each other a year and a half ago, but it seems like we can't stay away from each other. He ended things because he didn't want a relationship, and I liked him very much, I still don't think I am over him. Every time I begin to forget about him, we seem to run into each other in very strange places, and the timing always seems like the universe is playing a practical joke. Am I just crazy and reading into things too much? Do I tell him how I feel?

Back story - I am 27, he is 25. The four months we were together in 2017 were beautiful, and for the most part we were inseparable. He was very clear that he didn't want a relationship, but we both agreed we wanted to be exclusive and I was happy not to put a label on it, and was enjoying the time we spent together. At the start of the fling, I took it very slow at the start to not spook him off, but we would talk almost every day (he would initiate the conversations 90% of the time) and things were going well. Within a couple of months he had introduced me to all of his friends and we would all hang out (I was regularly invited to boys poker nights) and even his parents knew about me. I have never felt so comfortable around someone, and have never really been able to be myself around someone with such ease.

I think around the four month mark when his friend began mistaking me as his girlfriend he started to freak out, and he ended things seemingly out of the blue - we had never really had a fight or disagreement and he maintained that he still liked me very much but we couldn't continue seeing each other. I was devastated, and for the next few weeks there were some embarrassing drunk 'I miss you' messages on my part, which he never replied to luckily and for the most part, he's been very fair to me and has put firm boundaries on not giving me the wrong idea or sleeping together.

We live in a small town so we run into each other every few months, I've stopped frequenting the bars and places we went to together, but we still seem to run into each other in the strangest of places. We had managed not to speak or see each other for about 8 months but he must have had a moment of weakness in October last year, and in a strange twist of fate when he spotted me waiting for a bus home on a street corner waiting for a bus at 2am, he stopped the cab driver to ask me if I wanted a lift home even though it had been a very long time since we were on speaking terms. We slept together that same night in a frenzy of passion, the sex was phenomenal (as it always is - some of the best sex I have ever had) and I floated the idea of sleeping with him casually a few more times a couple of weeks later when I was drinking and booty called him, but he maintained that the night we had just had together was a one time thing and shouldn't happen again.

I slipped up a few more times when inebriated and after a few more rejections, I sent him a message warning him that I would have to block him because I had no self control and would keep hitting him up but that I hoped that he wouldn't take it personally, I just didn't want to annoy him anymore than I was. That was in November last year and up until last weekend, I behaved myself. But after a pub crawl and a full day of drinking I remembered his number and messaged him out of the blue on Saturday night saying 'I know this is a long shot but what are you doing tonight?' thinking there was no way in hell he would reply since he was so adamant that he did not want us to sleep together again the last time we spoke. He replied straight away, invited me over and we both agreed that it would just be sex and couldn't be anything else. The night was mind blowing as always on both of our parts (he even said it the next morning) and we didn't cuddle as we usually did after, and I left in the morning, on good terms, high spirits and feeling empowered. When I got home on Monday night I decided to unblock him from social media, but didn't re-add him as a friend, I just felt like a bitch keeping him blocked after he had paid for my ride home and wanted to leave the door open in case he wanted to contact me again.

Last night I noticed that the message from him that was previously sitting in my inbox had changed form his username to 'User Not Found' and realised that in the past 24 hours, he must have been thinking about me as well, and must have looked me up, seen that I had unblocked him and then instead blocked me! My friend checked on her account and he still existed so he has not deleted his account and definitely blocked me. Does anyone have any explanation as to what might have prompted this behaviour? I am so confused because he was so keen to see me... Did he just feel guilty for what happened? Am I just delusional and annoying and he's just trying to get sex from me and disappear without dealing with the emotional fall out, or could there be other feelings there after all this time?

There have instances of me being 'crazy' in the past (aka: me calling him out on his shit when he ghosts me or disappears off the face of the planet and doesn't treat me like a human after we hook up and have a good time together) but there's been other strange occurrences of him acting 'crazy' as well - for one, up until I blocked him in November he used to watch all of my instagram stories which I didn't read into too much until we had a chat one night and he told me he's seen all the things I've been up to for the last year and he's amazed at all the cool design work I have done for bands and how he wished he could message me to tell me that when he saw it, so he has definitely been keeping tabs on me and I wasn't even following him on social media since we had broken up, but he was still following me.

And last year, one of our mutual friends who we both don't know very well, just an acquaintance from partying told me that he had been approached by my ex at a party, and he had asked my friend what he thought of me 'Like tell me what you really think of her - honestly...' which was strange... Also the fact that after almost two years we still can't seem to stay away from each other.

So my question is MeFi's - do I write him a letter in a last ditch attempt explaining how I feel? I am a bit of a hopeless romantic so could there still be something there or am I just delusional? I am having a hard time forgetting about all this and I know I am probably just shooting myself in the foot by even writing this now but I can't shake the feeling that he might still have feelings for me.
posted by bebebardot to Human Relations (40 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
No. I could write more, but it would just encourage your rumination, which is what you need to get over so you can get together with someone who is actually thrilled to be with you and acts that way. No.
posted by praemunire at 7:39 PM on January 22 [32 favorites]


Right now, he has issues making him unable to commit to a real relationship. With 99% certainty, it's about him.

You're not going to be able to do ANYTHING to change that in him. He may, someday, be willing and able to make that change in himself... but it's not going to be because of you, or for you.

At some point after that, the universe might throw you two together once again, and then, it might work.
But until then, you're just battering your head against the wall.

I'm not going into details of my story, but I promise you, I get what you're saying - from the perfect chemistry, the way he runs from commitment despite the seemingly perfect connection, to the cosmic joke/ God's nasty sense of humor/whatever.

In my case, I'm 25 years down the road from the beginning as teens. We've been married, divorced, had kids, been engaged to other people, and have settled into a very rare occasional ex-with-benefits + reasonably good friends. There's even been recent discussion on the table of sharing a home to get him (and his child with someone else) out of a not-healthy living situation, and provide some income/housing stability to myself and some of our late teen/early 20s children.

If I'd known what I know now, I might have run the opposite direction. It's been a hell of a difficult road. Some days, I can't even decide if I wish things had been different, especially as I see friends hitting the 20th anniversary mark. I still want a solid, stable relationship with one person, and I wish it had been him all these years. It's actually one of our kids that pointed out to me recently that it's him, and the way he feels about himself, and his value as a partner, and it's never been about me and my failings.

I wouldn't recommend that anyone follow a similar path. Instead, I'd say, do your best to move on, find happiness with other people, and learn about being your best you. Give him time to grow, too. And if somewhere down the road, the universe pulls it again, and you're free to, at that moment, see where things go when your paths cross again.

But don't beat yourself up too hard if it happens again. I've come to believe that all along, this is what he and I each needed to grow as people. If things had been different, I wouldn't be who I am now, and I wouldn't have raised some pretty darn amazing kids.
posted by stormyteal at 7:45 PM on January 22 [8 favorites]


He is a commitment phobe and you love the chase.

I sent him a message warning him that I would have to block him because I had no self control and would keep hitting him up but that I hoped that he wouldn't take it personally, I just didn't want to annoy him anymore than I was.

Don’t give him so much power. You don’t have to explain anything - just you do you, and let the pieces fall where they may.

The universe isn’t putting you together for anything cosmic. The universe is testing you to see if you will make better choices at the next random encounter. The universe wants to see if you’ve learned your lesson. When you show the universe that you’ve grown, then the next level up will appear. And THAT level is magical. Not this petty drama.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 7:47 PM on January 22 [9 favorites]


He likes you but not enough to commit to you. Read "He's Scared, She's Scared" and "Attachment" and you will realize why this is never going to work. He is always going to freak and bail on you again and again if you let him.
posted by jenfullmoon at 7:47 PM on January 22


Drop it. He's either not in a position to date you or he doesn't treat people well, and you are not going to be able to move on to a more functional relationship with this hanging around in your mind. Declare it over to yourself for real.

The universe isn't sending you messages. Coincidences happen, especially when people live in the same small town and are horny.
posted by metasarah at 7:48 PM on January 22 [13 favorites]


both agreed we wanted to be exclusive ... we would talk almost every day (he would initiate the conversations 90% of the time) and things were going well. Within a couple of months he had introduced me to all of his friends and we would all hang out (I was regularly invited to boys poker nights) and even his parents knew about me.

In any definition of "relationship" beyond the very current one people your age use, you were in a relationship. You were his girlfriend in every way but the title. No wonder it felt so confusing and so difficult to move on.
If I were you, I'd give myself permission to mourn this as a real relationship/break up. Mourn it as a good relationship that ended. You need more than he can give you and you deserve it. Give yourself some time to heal, do not contact him, and then move on.
posted by nantucket at 7:49 PM on January 22 [16 favorites]


Only write him a letter if you want this to turn into like another full year of your life going around and around and having sex and blocking and unblocking each other and scrutinizing each other's minor social media moves, but nothing substantial ever happening except potentially you getting your heart broken anew.

I am saying this as an old person: You guys are both young and this is the kind of thing that happens when two horny young people aren't dating anyone else and are generally bored and have great chemistry. It is SUPER NORMAL and literally everyone I know has had this relationship, including me. But ultimately, it's just a recipe for ongoing drama. You still have feelings for him but he just wants to bang -- he told you this. He is going to continue to think this -- it doesn't matter why and it honestly doesn't have anything to do with you. If you want to be in a relationship, this dude is a waste of your time. Block him for real. Lose his number. Date other people. Stop wasting your own time. Give yourself the space to get over this person who you haven't untangled yourself from but who isn't giving you what you actually want.
posted by Countess Sandwich at 7:51 PM on January 22 [23 favorites]


Oh, bebebardot, I know what it’s like to be a hopeless romantic. sometimes we want love so badly, we lead ourselves to believe that the series of mishaps and seemingly random encounters are actually leading up to a big romantic confession of mutual love.

But this guy is unfortunately not the hero of your story. He doesn’t want to commit to you. He has been very clear, this entire time. He likes sleeping with you, he likes knowing that he is desired, he likes being sure that there is always someone out there who is waiting for him. I’m not even going to tell you that “maybe it’ll work out one day”, because most likely it won’t, and any tiny bit of hope will be enough to sustain you and continue on this path for a few more years.

Give a gift to yourself. Keep him blocked, realize that chance encounters will always happen in a small town, and practice training your mind to stop thinking of him. Right now, it’s easy for your mind to wander down the familiar pathways of “what-ifs” and “maybe this time” and wondering what he is doing. Every time you find yourself thinking about him, move on to something else. Anything else. Stop counting on him, stop letting him take any more of your precious time and headspace. He’s not worth the effort.
posted by umwhat at 7:53 PM on January 22 [8 favorites]


There have instances of me being 'crazy' in the past (aka: me calling him out on his shit when he ghosts me or disappears off the face of the planet and doesn't treat me like a human after we hook up and have a good time together)

Oh, come on - I hope you know that none of this stuff qualifies as crazy.

Your problem is not that you're a hopeless romantic. Your problem is that he is the exact opposite of a hopeless romantic, yet you keep trying to interpret his actions in a way that fits into your hopeless romantic framework. You have to stop trying to read his tea leaves and realize that your approach to relationships is so different from his that he might as well be a different and incomprehensible species.
posted by showbiz_liz at 8:22 PM on January 22 [9 favorites]


No way you should contact him.

From an outsider's perspective it is so incredibly obvious that there is no 'romance' in this. This is sex, when he feels like it.

I had a guy I used to see. He would be really into me when we were together, sex was great, we would hang out all day, and then I wouldn't hear from him for weeks. Then one night, one of us would text, we'd meet, have a great time, have great sex, sometimes it felt like romance or love, sometimes we would say we'd 'never felt this way' or it had 'never been like this', and then I wouldn't see him for weeks. Sometimes I'd get ambiguous texts - I would text back and then I wouldn't hear from him.

I got tired of this and met my husband. Now this guy constantly snaps me and I ignore him, he messages me, I ignore him. This has been going on for 2+ years. It is cyclical - sometimes I will be inundated for messages and sometimes there will be months of nothing.

I guess what I want to say is: all of this is meaningless. I was, and still am, some kind of boredom filler for him. Or an ego boost. Or maybe he cares about me in some strange way. He liked me enough to hang out with me and have sex with me sometimes, when he felt like it. Sometimes he even felt like he loved me. But it was all nothingness, empty.

I'm sorry but I think you are with the same kind of person. I know it feels real, but it's not.
posted by thereader at 8:36 PM on January 22 [16 favorites]


This isnt pheromones or rom-com magic slipping into the real world. This is just good sex and poor boundaries, which is a terrible combination.

Block him. Move on. This 'relationship' is not ever going to be what you want, because it's all on his terms and always will be.

No shame here, I've definitely been there and done that. Trust me when I say you will be much happier without this dude.
posted by ananci at 10:57 PM on January 22 [7 favorites]


On the off-chance you haven't seen it yet, your Ask immediately reminded me of this question from 2017. My answer (ultimately a much longer-winded version of other Mefites' advice) to that Asker is almost exactly what I'd say to you: his constant disclaimers about "not wanting a relationship" are BS, because OF COURSE this is a relationship, and he DOES want one--one where he doesn't have to pull his weight and show up for you, i.e., exactly what you have now: a shitty relationship.

This is borne out by him making you feel "crazy" any time you actually attempt to set boundaries or call him on his shit. Because he knows that the minute you rediscover your self-respect, the show is over, so he'd better dangle the "cool girl" trophy in front of you to keep you from noticing that you're way, way better than this.

I know--we all know--from experience that cutting him off simply as a matter of principle is so, so hard and doesn't feel good, because it feels like losing the only toehold you have in his brain/life. But with these people it's just the opposite.

The only way you will truly matter to this dude is if you bruise his ego by cutting him off, because this arrangement is entirely about his own massive narcissism.* (That's why he picked you and strings you along, btw: it's not because you're a pushover, it's that your positive qualities make him feel good about himself.) So blocking him comes with both a short and a long-term benefit: you immediately reclaim your worth, and you free yourself of this shitwaffle to make room for other, better people.

It's going to sting, and feel really wrong for a little while--I find mindless distraction (Netflix! Long runs! Discreetly checking out cute people on the subway!) helps wait out the part where your lizard brain is shrieking at you to reestablish the attachment. Wishing you the best, because you deserve it.

*(I mean narcissism in the general sense of arrogant self-absorption, not the personality disorder.)
posted by TinyChicken at 2:11 AM on January 23 [14 favorites]


Gah, sorry, I got carried away and didn't see that you apparently aren't hooking up currently. But my answer re: the "relationship" question (you had one, it sucked) and should you contact/ let him back into your life (no!!) still stands, just with the tenses slightly adjusted.
posted by TinyChicken at 2:21 AM on January 23 [2 favorites]


Oh, honey.

No. No, don’t encourage more contact. You get a high from those moments where it’s good and then the shock of the bad intensifies that high. This is not a romantic story. You guys aren’t thrown together by fate. You live in a small town and you run into each other every so often. He is fun to be around when he’s in control and can dictate exactly what and how much of him you get, and then to prove he is in control he draws lines.

You can drag this out indefinitely by popping on over and just seeing if you can tap into that high again, but it would be bad for literally everyone. Self destruction isn’t romantic, not really. Don’t keep tossing yourself into a situation because you’re mistaking drama as a sign of potential or value. It’s *just* shitty drama. Having a nice, stable relationship grow out of that kind of trash would be an abberation.
posted by Blisterlips at 3:13 AM on January 23 [5 favorites]


To answer your actual question:
do I write him a letter in a last ditch attempt explaining how I feel?

No, because he already knows how you feel. He knows you want a relationship, and he still doesn't want to be in a relationship with you (or maybe with anyone, we don't know). If that changes, he knows where to find you. Go out and meet other guys who want to be in a relationship with you!
posted by sunflower16 at 3:27 AM on January 23 [2 favorites]


Two things struck me. One, his asking his friend what the friend thinks of you. This echos what many above pointed out. He's looking for outside confirmation that you are "acceptable". The boy has a lot of growing up to do. You can, and will do better. Start dating other guys. Enjoy your new relationships.

And, gently, you might want to dial down your drinking a bit. It seems that it's tied to a lot of the angst you are feeling.

Best wishes to you!
posted by LaBellaStella at 3:40 AM on January 23 [5 favorites]


The early stages of romantic love are very, very neurologically similar to drug addiction.

"The neuroimaging comparisons suggest that romantic love and drug addiction both display the functional enhancement in reward and emotion regulation network...The neurochemical comparisons show that there are many similarities in the dopamine (DA) system..."

Feeling fixated does not mean you are "meant to be" with someone any more than persistent cravings mean you are "meant to be" using heroin.
posted by BusyBusyBusy at 3:58 AM on January 23 [11 favorites]


This stuff sounds really fun but also kind of smalltime and limiting. I advise you get out of this bullshit little town and start swimming with the whalesharks of commitment-avoidance in some hugely romantic big place like Paris.

Come back in three years for a visit and Darth Vader through the town dropping in on old acquaintances while wearing unimaginably of-the-moment shoes that nobody understands and that they will talk about years hence. Run into him "by some crazy chance" and smile at him warmly. Buss him on both cheeks. Take your leave of him, offering him the barest tips of the three longest fingers on your left hand. If you feel this experience has been significant enough to warrant a paragraph in your commonplace book, take a moment on the flight back to Brussels to scribble it down. But it probably will not be.
posted by Don Pepino at 5:11 AM on January 23 [12 favorites]


I just want to chime in to say that continuing doing what you're doing with this person is a bad idea, but I think you already know that, deep down.

Chemistry is not always a cosmic, magical thing. It can happen with the people who will destroy you and who are truly bad for you and your wellbeing.

I was in this EXACT situation with a guy for 3 freaking years, on and off. He too had "feelings' for me, but not enough feelings apparently. I wasted so much time hoping he would come around to wanting me, to loving me, to treating me right. Yes the sex was good, we had fun together, and the physical chemistry was incredibly strong - but everything else important was missing. Something in me eventually had enough, and I cut him off for good. He's been blocked for more than 6 months now and I can say with certainty that I will NEVER unblock him or feel the need to go back.

What I realized was that during our time together, the situation did more damage to me than I thought. My self esteem was in the toilet. I felt worthless and sad. Also the more time we spent sleeping together, I was constantly stressed because I always had to react to the next shitty way he was treating me. I had gotten attached to him (due to the consistent sex messing with my head), so I was jealous about who else he was seeing, what he was doing, why hadn't he invited me to that thing, etc. etc. I was tense all the time. The sex hormones had made me artificially attached to this person who was so, so wrong for me and was doing so much damage. I had tried to convince myself that this was "just for fun", but it was subtly and slowly destroying me.

But I only walked away when I felt really ready to, and even though all these people can tell you it's a bad idea, you'll also only walk away when you're truly ready. And I promise you - when you actually walk away, you will feel a huge sigh of relief internally. I hope that you walk away sooner than later. These feelings aren't fun compared to the adrenaline/sex dopamine boost - it's not worth it. I think you'll get there. Good luck :)
posted by koolaidnovel at 6:23 AM on January 23 [3 favorites]


So he wanted to be exclusive, and you spent all your time together, but he didn’t want to be in a relationship, and he freaked out when other people recognized that he was in a relationship.

Friend, that is not a man who is emotionally healthy or emotionally available.

It might be worth thinking about your self-esteem and why you’re accepting these scraps he’s tossing you. This is not cosmic love. Cosmic love is okay with calling your girlfriend your girlfriend.

Are you familiar with attachment theory? He may have an avoidant attachment style. He wants and needs intimacy but is scared of it, so he can only be close when he’s also holding you at a distance, for example by saying you’re not in a relationship. Or by sleeping with you after you’ve broken up.

And avoidant folks often attract folks with an anxious attachment style, who are preoccupied with their romantic relationships and have what’s called bungee cord break ups: the further you get, the more you feel pulled back in.

What you’re feeling isn’t love or passion. It’s an attachment crisis. He’s giving you intermittent rewards that keep you salivating.

Real love shouldn’t feel like a roller coaster.

The book Attached: The New Science of Adult Attachment is incredibly insightful.

Block this guy in all media and don’t have any contact with him (except a polite but distant nod if you see him in public) for at least a year.

He’s not ever going to give you what he want. He can’t. And you deserve to be with someone who isn’t resisting you, who is crazy about you.
posted by bluedaisy at 6:39 AM on January 23 [3 favorites]


He’s not interested in a relationship at all. He sometimes caves and has sex with you because you contact him a lot and sex feels good, but he knows that doing so leads you on no matter what you say about it being casual. You keep seeing each other because you live in a small town.

Because you’re a woman (right?) you’re getting away with a lot of behavior that is, honestly, a bit creepy. When someone breaks up with you and says they don’t want to sleep with you, and doesn’t reply to multiple messages, you need to leave them alone regardless of how you feel.

Stop asking! The answer is no.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 6:54 AM on January 23 [3 favorites]


Also, look, you clearly don’t just want him for sex and you clearly never really wanted a casual thing. At some point you need to stop justifying basically lying to him and/or yourself and take responsibility for your behavior. You can’t keep saying it’s sex only if you’re basically in love with him and tallying all the signs that he wants a relationship. He’s probably really uncomfortable with being in ongoing contact with someone whose words and actions don’t match. And it’s okay for him to feel that way.

I get that there’s a lot of pressure on women to be cool and okay with casual sex even when you’re not. I get it! It sucks! But you can’t lie about the kind of relationship you want and expect the other person to feel okay and comfortable with having ongoing contact with you in what is, basically, a charade of a friendship. Lying about what you want makes genuine communication impossible and ultimately tends to lead to being cut off completely.

In the future, be up front about what you want and if things don’t mesh, okay. You could be two years into a genuine and respectful friendship with this guy post-rejection, and you likely would have moved on. Instead you have this, and I’m 100% sure that you can do better.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 7:06 AM on January 23 [1 favorite]


Oh yeah man. Everyone has this relationship (and it is a relationship, whatever the people involved try to pretend to themselves).

Look, actually it is probably not a super-pure coincidence that you guys run into each other. But it's also not even remotely magic or true love or any shit like that. Y'all are putting each other in each others' ways, probably not-coincidentally at the times when he needs an ego boost or you are bored or vice versa.

I had a thing like this go on for almost a decade! We would "coincidentally" run into each other all the time and be like WHAT A WEIRD FLUKE except like...come on. Each of us knew where the other lived. We lived in the same neighborhood, went to the same places, and even if we were "avoiding" the other's bars and whatnot, there was still the drugstore and the train station and other unavoidable places. Come on.

It was done (of course neither of us would ever admit that it had started. LOL. we were idiots.) when I started dating/eventually moved in with a long-term partner, and shortly after learning of this he did the same and moved in with his on-and-off girlfriend. We literally never saw or heard from each other ever again.

It's been 5? 6? years. I don't think either of us has moved far. I'm sure we still have a dozen mutual friends and hangouts. We're not blocked on each others' media or whatnot. I bear him no ill-will! And I don't think he has any for me, either. I even miss him sometimes. But we don't want to run into each other and fuck with each others' lives anymore, so we don't. Don't even have to try.

When you're ready to be done with this it'll be done, so very done. But it won't be done until you're ready.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 9:29 AM on January 23 [5 favorites]


when someone ends things "out of the blue" that means one of three things:

something bad was going on in your relationship that you're denying and minimizing now;

something bad was going in on your relationship that was kept secret from you;

or everything was as it appears: he's a man who tells ridiculous lies to his girlfriend about their relationship not existing, the way a baby thinks you can't see him if he covers his own eyes. And he is not a man who feels emotional attachment to his girlfriend just because he has fun with her.

any of those three ways, that is someone to leave alone.

plus, he's not interested.
posted by queenofbithynia at 11:28 AM on January 23 [3 favorites]


we still can't seem to stay away from each other.

That's not true, and when you 'tell your story' like that, it's going to make it harder and harder to see the truth and drop this guy for good.

do I write him a letter in a last ditch attempt explaining how I feel?

No, he knows exactly how you feel.

he might still have feelings for me

So what? You know how he treats you when he does (not well), so who cares?
posted by destructive cactus at 3:42 PM on January 23 [1 favorite]


Thanks MeFites, I appreciate your advice. Just wanted to clear a few things up:

a) I'm not a creep - and Rock 'em Sock - I do not actually contact him a lot. For a year I had unfollowed him from all social media. He was still following me, viewing all of my stories and a few months ago started to like my photos again. I still didn't message him when he started doing this. He actually started things up again by spotting me on the side of the road one night and telling the cab driver to pull over and offered to take me home. He could have easily seen me and left me on the street, we had not talked for months and months at that point - so he was the one to initiate things again. I messaged him a few times after we had slept together that night because there was no indication that he wanted it to be a one time thing until I tried to sleep with him again and he declined. I would not have messaged him if he had not show me interest - he said 'he was pretty keen to see me' when he did.

b) We are not friends and we do not talk on a regular basis at all, maybe once every few months when we run into each other. Even though he has maintained a fair few times that 'he would love to be friends' his actions have indicated the opposite.

c) I can't block him - because he has already blocked me. Which is what is actually driving me crazy about this whole situation - I can't figure out why he would do such a thing and to be honest it's what has made me feel so crap about the whole situation. I unblocked him after our last rendezvous this weekend because it felt rude keeping him blocked when we had a good time together and left on good terms. So since Monday night he has looked me up on Instagram, seen that I have unblocked him and instead blocked me. He calls me crazy but I sure as shit ain't the only crazy one if he's also thinking about me and looking me up...

Thanks for your thoughts everyone. The overall resounding answer is to leave it alone and I feel like a huge idiot. I should know better by now.
posted by bebebardot at 5:29 PM on January 23


Don't be so hard on yourself bebebardot- so many people who responded recognised themselves in your situation. And they are only in a position to advise you to steer clear of this guy because they've made exactly the same choices, in some cases for a lot longer than you.

I also recognised myself in your question, and I agree with many commenters that reading up on attachment might be interesting for you- Attached is good and often recommended here, but I preferred Hold Me Tight by Sue Johnson .

Two things in those books that I think might be relevant to you:

- People who are 'avoidant' can make even secure people feel anxious and insecure.

- It's not 'crazy', needy, demanding or desperate to have emotional needs and want your partner to make you feel loved, safe and respected.

Your characterisation of both him and yourself as 'crazy' for doing perfectly reasonable things makes me wonder if you (as I did) bought into the myth that caring is uncool and having needs is pathetic.

You're not crazy, and you're not an idiot. You've reacted the way many people do to someone you've got a connection with who sends you mixed signals.

For me personally (after doing this exact thing many times over), I've made a rule that if someone's sending me mixed signals, the only signals I listen to are the ones that say 'no'.

The other rule I have is that I don't care if he's not into me or just damaged/commitment phobic/whatever- the end result is the same. I want to be with someone who wants to be with me, and who makes me feel loved and safe.
posted by Dwardles at 2:40 AM on January 24 [4 favorites]


Thanks Dwardles, I will give one of those books a purchase and have a read. How did you make the rule that you only want to be with someone who wants to be with you?

I am 27, have never really had a real or "proper" relationship (one where someone actually would call me their girlfriend) and every time I date someone I try and choose someone who treats me kindly and with respect. It's not like I'm dating assholes - this guy and a few others have been so kind to me at the beginning and everything seems to be going well until it all crashes and burns and seems to end in the same way.

They're usually crazy about me for the first few months, and when I begin to feel comfortable enough to reciprocate their affection, they lose interest and run like hell never too be seen again. I am very cautious at the beginning to not come across as too over enthusiastic and try to put a bit of a break on things, but as soon as I begin to relax and get comfortable it's like they sense it, freak out and pull the plug.... When they were the ones to come across so eager in the first place - they were the ones introducing me to all of their friends, telling their parents about me (or introducing me even), making future plans and telling me how much they enjoyed my company.

I have thought in the past maybe I am too needy when I start to relax but I don't think I am asking for much in my relationships - I don't even need the label of being 'a girlfriend', most of these boys have agreed they want to be exclusive and I am fine with that, I just want to spend time with someone who wants to spend time with me a few times a week, takes me out every now and then and maybe even holds my hand in daylight hours.
posted by bebebardot at 10:32 PM on January 24


Yeah, so the book Attached speaks to some of these issues. People who are avoidant can sometimes express love only when they are chasing, only in the beginning. If you show love back, they freak. But the answer isn’t not to show love.

How distant are being in the beginning? Can you talk more about not wanting to be called a girlfriend? There’s absolutely nothing wrong with wanting a label. Honestly, if you’re in an exclusive relationship with someone, and going out to eat and holding hands, you’re a girlfriend. And that’s fine!

If someone is scared of labels, if they say, “I don’t want to be locked down,” then run, don’t walk away. Their words and behavior should be consistent. Don’t be the cool girl who stuffs down her needs. Be honest with yourself and your partners about what you want, and be okay walking away if they can’t meet those needs.

Another way of thinking about this: don’t be with someone who isn’t exciting about you. The internet version of this is Mark Manson’s “Fuck Yes or No.” Please read it!
posted by bluedaisy at 11:22 PM on January 24 [2 favorites]


" I am very cautious at the beginning to not come across as too over enthusiastic and try to put a bit of a break on things, but as soon as I begin to relax and get comfortable it's like they sense it, freak out and pull the plug.... "

Having noticed a similar pattern in myself, my reading of this is that by coming across as someone who doesn't have needs, you're attracting people who aren't willing or able to meet your needs.

They think you're this perfect, self-sufficient person who is always happy and will never make any demands. They might even think they've found 'the one', because they don't have to work and they don't really know you so they put you on a pedestal. But when you reveal yourself to be human, they can't deal. They're only capable of that fun, superficial part of a relationship, with a person who has no flaws. Committing to someone makes them feel hemmed in. Showing up for someone in need feels like a burden. Accepting someone's imperfections feels like failure. But these are perfectly normal things to expect from someone. It's not that you're needy for wanting these things, it's that these guys are insufficient because they can't provide them.

In fact, your reserve might even be putting off decent guys. It feels really romantic and thrilling to be chased by someone, but nice guys who respect people's boundaries and want a relationship are going to be put off by someone who seems unenthusiastic about them. Because they have needs and want to feel loved. Guys who find your lack of interest really appealing are probably attracted to the idea of someone who doesn't want to get too close.

"How did you make the rule that you only want to be with someone who wants to be with you?"

Basically by going around this block several times and realising it makes me miserable! I've also experienced the way it feels when someone really likes me and wants to be with me. There's no doubt or ambiguity.

So if I find myself wondering 'what does he think of me...?', or if a guy is weird about the girlfriend label, flaky with communication, doesn't want to see me/be in contact with me regularly, disappears on me, tells me things like 'I'm not interested in a relationship' or 'I can't see you anymore', talks about other women he's seeing, then NO MATTER WHAT other wonderful things he might say, I'm out. Talk is cheap. No matter what a guy feels about me, I want someone who actually shows up.

That also means I have to be vulnerable- I have to make it clear I like someone, that I would like a relationship.

That can feel really scary, and it's something I'm still working on.

But I think that risking our hearts is the price we pay for love, and there's something ungenerous about keeping our feelings totally protected, while expecting someone else to risk theirs to make us feel safe.

Anyway, sorry for the essay, I just really related to what you said and thought some of my experience might be useful.

I also think it's awesome you've noticed a pattern- it took me a lot longer to notice I was the common denominator in all my disastrous relationships, and it really is the first and most important step in changing.
posted by Dwardles at 8:24 AM on January 25 [4 favorites]


"...maybe I am too needy when I start to relax but I don't think I am asking for much in my relationships - I don't even need the label of being 'a girlfriend'"

Just take a break from that not-needing-anything, letting-them-set-terms bullshit. You're only 27--that's like sixteen in contemporary human years. (In 1960, 27 was nearly 30. Today? Come on. You're barely of age.) Take a break from tiptoeing around quashing your feelings all the time and just allow yourself to jump in with both feet and need the label "girlfriend" in, like, month two. Try this for the next three relationships. What's the downside, they might run? They've been running, even when you're on your best behavior! (They do this because of their being barely of age in contemporary human years, btw. Plus you've just had a run of bad luck.) You have years ahead of you to work through these starter relationships until one takes. Stop spending your years trying to hold on to trifling men and start finding ones that will let you relax and have the fun you should be having.
posted by Don Pepino at 8:27 AM on January 25 [4 favorites]


Couldn't agree more Don Pepino.

Also want to emphasise- people who are terrified of the words girlfriend/boyfriend get the world's biggest eye roll from me.

What is so terrifying about that? It's not legally binding. You can break up! Any time!

It's basically saying they want all the benefits of being in a relationship with none of the expectations of basic human decency. So pathetic and small.
posted by Dwardles at 8:36 AM on January 25 [4 favorites]


You're NOT needy. You are dating avoidant guys who encourage you to need them and then when you do, freak out and run away screaming, which is behavior they will pull on every woman until they decide to get over it or die.
posted by jenfullmoon at 5:28 PM on January 25 [1 favorite]


Thanks everyone, reading these messages is honestly the only thing getting me through the week at this point. I heard from him yesterday morning since I (very stupidly and against all logic) messaged him on Friday evening asking to see him again, and then realised what I had done was a terrible decision so quickly followed up with an apology message for flogging a dead horse / over stepping the whatever invisible boundary we haven't actually set yet again. He replied with: Hey, no need to apologise. Sorry for not replying to your messages that's my (very immature) way of dealing with things. I had fun too but I don't think it should happen again for both our sakes. I'm probably going to block your number now because I think it's the best we remove all temptation x . I replied with a heart felt message but got nothing back. It's probably for the best since I am having trouble un-memorising his phone number.

Thanks bluedaisy for trying to explain that to me some more. I am not being overly distant in the beginning of these relationships, more so a bit cautious because I'm probably scared of getting hurt. I think the hesitation with the girlfriend label is a combination of things: a) because I have never had an actual 'boyfriend' just a series of these sort of relationships that only last a few months, so I don't want to scare anyone off for the first few months, and b) I want to get to know people properly before I dive in-head first with that kind of commitment because of a 4 year long 'thing' with a guy who I was hopelessly in love with who became abusive both physically and emotionally and refused to call me his girlfriend or say he loved me or acknowledge that we were together even though he even moved into my house at one point. When I tried to end it after 4 years of living on his terms, he freaked out, started stalking me for a bit, used to break into my house in the dead of night and abuse me, and it ended in having to call the cops to fish him off of a bridge because he was going to jump off of it to commit suicide . So ever since them I'm a bit wary because they all seem lovely and nice in the beginning, and I never see it coming when they end up being horrible people.

I also think I have trouble walking away from people who can't meet my needs because I don't fall for people very often, and when I like someone I like them for a very long time, I can't forget about people easily it takes me years.
I have a very big heart and I have a lot of love to give but I just feel like no one wants it. Plus the mounting pressure of getting older and being single literally my entire life makes me feel like there is something wrong with me. I am going to go read Fuck Yes or No by Mark Manson this morning.

Dwardles please don't be sorry for the essay, I appreciate it so so so much. I think you are right, I've definitely though that perhaps I am the 'manic pixie dream girl' in all of these relationships because honestly, the way they look at me and how they act in the beginning it seems like they are falling for me. I am not sure if you are right about putting off decent guys though (although I can't really tell the decent guys from the not-so decent ones, if they could walk around with literal big red flags would be so fantastic) so I wouldn't say I am not acting interested, I am still am very enthusiastic, affectionate and warm in the early stages - I just hold back on expressing how I'm really feeling when I feel crazy about someone early on into the relationship. I guess I have never experienced what it feels like when someone really likes you and wants to be with you without doubt so I guess I am just clutching at proverbial straws of whatever little bits of love I can get. I am working on being more vulnerable, just like you have been but that's what usually fucks everything up so you are right, it's scary - case in point the guy this whole thread is about, everything started going down hill after the night I told him I liked him 3 months into seeing him (his answer - why would you like me? and when I explained, I just got silence.... Not a great feeling.) I always say that life is too short to not tell people how you feel, so I always let them know. It's just been a lot of pain. I know I have a lot of work to do. I am just not sure where to start. I've given up on looking for a partner and focusing on myself and enjoying my life, but forever is a hell of a long time to be alone. How long has it been since you noticed your patterns? Did you feel like things improved for you once you did?

Also Don Pepino you are an amazing writer, I love your brutal honestly and I have actually saved your Darth Vader through the town answer into my phone notes, and I've re-read it a few times when I am feeling blue about being stuck in this small town with all these ghosts of my past. Also thank you for equating me to a teenager - I've been feeling very old lately, there's only one real strip / street of bars and nightlife where I live and the majority of people who go out in this town are under 24 - looking around on the dance floor or at the bar is literally like looking into a sea of BABIES. I think my six week trip to Europe planned for later in the year might be exactly what I need. And you're right... this should be fun but it's not.
posted by bebebardot at 6:16 PM on January 26


(Note: I wrote the following before your latest update)

I am 27, have never really had a real or "proper" relationship (one where someone actually would call me their girlfriend)

don't even need the label of being 'a girlfriend’

If a “real” relationship is what you want, and if you want someone to call you their girlfriend, stop acting ok with not being called their girlfriend. Don’t be surprised if at the beginning you say, “I’m ok with not being called your girlfriend” and then a few months later you say, “I would like you to call me your girlfriend” and they disappear. Dwardle’s analysis is brilliant.

Being in a situationship where both of you pretty much act like you’re in a relationship but you don’t call it that is kind of BS. Like what is this “we’re exclusive but let’s not call it a relationship” thing? At that point you shouldn’t have accepted it (why did you? Don’t have to answer here, ask that of yourself) and had further discussions about why he wanted things that way. So that’s what you need to recognize and end things early if it’s clear he’s not going to give you what you want - because he’s not going to change his mind. I think that’s what you’ve been holding out for with this guy.

Good for you for choosing guys who are kind and respectful* - now you need to take the next step. Stop thinking that you’ll scare them off if you say something like, “I’m looking for something serious, and I’d rather we refer to each other as boyfriend-girlfriend if we feel we’re compatible with each other after a couple of months.” The wrong ones will take off in the other direction and that’s GOOD - you want them to self-select out. The right ones will stick around and want the same things. *Though someone who refuses to call you his girlfriend while that is something that you want, isn’t really kind and respectful. You need to state that clearly much earlier on.

In short, know what you want, and be honest with people about that upfront. I’m not saying to say to everyone you meet “I want to be your gf” on the first date, but have that discussion within the first couple of weeks/first few dates. Say something like, “I’m looking for something serious, how about you?” And talk about what serious looks like to you and what you want. If you both aren’t on the same page, then don’t continue to see each other.

I feel like I may be being too harsh, which is not my intent. I’m not saying you are at fault and you are to blame - love yourself MORE and honour your wants and needs. The right people will as well and don’t accept anything less than that.
...
I wrote the above before your latest update - ok, so there is a story behind why your relationship to the girlfriend label and… it’s pretty traumatic, tbh. Have you seen a therapist to process this relationship? If not, it might be a really good idea. Also, it’s ok to call each other boyfriend and girlfriend and break up after that. By using those labels, you’re not saying you have to be together forever. You guys define together what they mean to you.

Plus the mounting pressure of getting older and being single literally my entire life makes me feel like there is something wrong with me.

Boy howdy do I feel you here. Maybe this Captain Awkward blog will help.

I've given up on looking for a partner and focusing on myself and enjoying my life, but forever is a hell of a long time to be alone.

Hold your horses! Why are you assuming that you’re going to be alone forever? I mean, don’t give up on looking for a partner if that is *truly* what you want, because knowing that you want something and not allowing yourself to want it or to try to work towards it - that leads to madness, seriously. Yes, definitely focus on yourself and enjoy your life. But why does that lead to thinking you’ll be alone forever? (Don’t have to answer here.)

Your trip to Europe sounds AWESOME so enjoy!
posted by foxjacket at 11:11 PM on January 26 [1 favorite]


"So ever since them I'm a bit wary because they all seem lovely and nice in the beginning, and I never see it coming when they end up being horrible people"

Everyone gets burned like that. Some people can be very good at hiding it for months or even years until their true self leaks out, or they decide to let it out.

It may not be that you're bad and wrong. There are a lot less good dudes out there to find, and the avoidant ones who pull shit like this are all over the dating pool because they are always jumping in and out of it. You have much better odds of finding shitty dudes, lying dudes, trickster dudes, "scared" dudes, whatever than you do a nice keeper. Keepers are like looking for needles in haystacks. Some people have just managed to get lucky early on in life. Some of us don't. Some may get lucky later or not at all.
posted by jenfullmoon at 1:13 PM on January 27 [1 favorite]


...looking around on the dance floor or at the bar is literally like looking into a sea of BABIES.
God. I know. The sea of babies is So. Very. Painfully familiar. Please, please get out of there. I'm so glad you're going on a trip!

This horseshit is also painfully familiar:
...everything started going down hill after the night I told him I liked him 3 months into seeing him (his answer - why would you like me? and when I explained, I just got silence.... Not a great feeling.)

It gave you a bad feeling because it was horseshit self-aggrandizing "I'm an overgrown Holden Caulfield of great mystery just James Deaning my way through a life unworthy of me" on the part of the dumbass in Q. Let's roleplay this in case it happens again. I'll be him.

The dumbass:
Why would you like me?
You: [Gaze at him steadily. Blink. Pause for three beats. Blink again. Take a deep breath. Sigh a long sigh.] As it turns out, I wouldn't like you. I wouldn't like anybody who said something that transparently self-serving. If you're an unlikeable clod then I must be a moron for liking you, riiiight? And any horrible shit you pull in the next howeverlong we're together is my own fault, riiiiiiiiight? I don't have time, hon. Can I help you gather your personal articles before you get the fuck out?

It will get fun again, I swear. I can barely remember being 27, but I do know that I turned miserable at about 25 and stayed miserable for about five years after that. I was more miserable from 25 to 30 than I've been ever since, and I got through my 40s. Your fear that you'll never be able to recognize a viable relationship because you've never had one is understandable, but it's also unfounded. You can learn from these shitty little interludes with douchey dickbags, too: you learn to recognize what you don't want and by process of elimination, you find what you do want. Your job right now is just not to die of misery during the difficult years while you're learning to spot crap. Hand back as much of it as you recognize, and in time you'll get good at spotting it. Then the turnaround will get quicker, and the whole stupid rigmarole will start to get fun. Eventually you'll find someone who isn't trying to hand you a bunch of horseshit, and you and that person will be happy. For reals--it can happen!
posted by Don Pepino at 7:45 AM on January 28 [1 favorite]




I am 27, have never really had a real or "proper" relationship (one where someone actually would call me their girlfriend) and every time I date someone I try and choose someone who treats me kindly and with respect. It's not like I'm dating assholes


With respect, you have been. this guy from the question is a complete asshole and his one saving grace is a certain amount of self-awareness now, although it doesn't make up for his childlike dishonesty back in the beginning. I think you feel like you haven't been dating assholes because your standard of comparison is very low.

you have had real relationships. your four-month relationship with this guy was real. he was just an asshole. When you're exclusively and mutually committed to a man romantically and sexually, and it's mutual to the point where you're "inseparable," that is what it means to be someone's girlfriend. You were his girlfriend; he was your boyfriend. you're still distressed over the breakup and not just the on-and-off hookups ever since, because you thought he was "kind" and not an asshole, and if that had been true, there would be no explanation for a breakup you never saw coming and still don't understand.

but please consider what I'm about to say, I really think this is true:

you know about warning signs like physical abuse and degrading insults, and as long as you pick men who don't show those warning signs, it seems safe. but you don't recognize that it is just as big a warning sign to be lied to about something that is honestly pretty objective, such as what we call it when two people are not married, but are sexually exclusive and emotionally infatuated with each other. we call that a relationship and we call its inhabitants boyfriends or girlfriends unless we hate those words and prefer "partner" or "lover" or some such thing. but it's all the same definition and it's all the same thing. that's what you were in.

if this guy had taken you on a romantic picnic and told you the grass was pink, not green, and got very upset when you said it looked green to you, and forbid you to call it green grass because he didn't like that word, you would have known something was not right with him. I mean not right. that particular power play - the lying one - is the one you need to learn to see. you need to be able to distinguish lying from honest relationship preference incompatibility: the guy who won't be your boyfriend but still wants to make out now and then, he might be frustrating but that's all. he can hurt you but he can't wound you. But the guy who is your boyfriend in every way, but pretends he's not, is a snake. a low-level sadist who thinks you aren't very smart.

(I don't of course mean you can just declare someone to be your boyfriend against his will. the guy who just wants to see you once a month for sex, he's not your boyfriend; the guy who says he likes you but never makes a move, he's not your boyfriend; the guy who has two dates with you and wants to marry you already, he's not your boyfriend. the guy who says he loves you but won't be exclusive even when you ask him to, he's not your boyfriend. but I don't think you're confused about that.)

did you ever hear the thing about why scam emails are so badly written? that they're done that way on purpose? supposedly, financial scammers don't even try to be convincing, because they don't want to put a lot of effort into the con: the effort goes into identifying the people who will fall for it, who will never check the claims against reality: who can be pushed around. this is the same way a professional not-your-boyfriend operates. it's the same line of thinking, and it works. the best way to verify control over a mark is to tell them a blatant lie and see if they stand up to you. if they don't, you know you've got them.

when a guy tells you something that sounds delusional or like a lie, that is the red flag. when your boyfriend of several months says he doesn't want other people thinking you're in a relationship, you burst out laughing and leave him. you can decide to be the kind of person who doesn't even have to think about it, because it's such a joke.
posted by queenofbithynia at 8:51 PM on January 31 [1 favorite]


I agree with much of the above, but I think this metaphor is off:
did you ever hear the thing about why scam emails are so badly written? that they're done that way on purpose? supposedly, financial scammers don't even try to be convincing, because they don't want to put a lot of effort into the con: the effort goes into identifying the people who will fall for it, who will never check the claims against reality: who can be pushed around. this is the same way a professional not-your-boyfriend operates. it's the same line of thinking, and it works. the best way to verify control over a mark is to tell them a blatant lie and see if they stand up to you. if they don't, you know you've got them.

when a guy tells you something that sounds delusional or like a lie, that is the red flag.


The romantic scam is not badly written, and it's not likely to throw up obvious red flags. It won't sound like a lie, because he believes it, himself. This is a disordered understanding of the normal decent human desire to be an independent, mature, funloving, not-rom-com-deluded human person in a dating relationship, and that's why it's easy for both parties to buy into it and not realize at first that it doesn't allow them to develop intimacy and is therefore painful and stupid.

I feel like most people are born capable of spotting Nigerian prince e-mail scams, but the opposite is true of these romantic scams. Most people who have the bad luck to encounter one of these intimacy-averse people while trying to date others (and in my experience that's most people) will fall victim to this line of thinking, at least for a while. It takes time to learn to spot this stuff and see it for the nonsense it is. I like the e-mail scam metaphor in one way, though: it can be fun to write back to scam e-mails or talk back to, for instance, Microsoft or IRS scammers on the phone. Devoting time to people with this particular romantic delusion is about as emotionally rewarding as dallying with telemarketers and phone scammers. Eventually you're going to get bored with it and hang up and go make a sandwich.
posted by Don Pepino at 6:52 AM on February 1


It will get fun again, I swear. I can barely remember being 27, but I do know that I turned miserable at about 25 and stayed miserable for about five years after that. I was more miserable from 25 to 30 than I've been ever since, and I got through my 40s.

Oh shit man, I know this thread is probably dead but I just really really really wanted to second the hell outta this. Late 20s was absolute ASS. The WORST. Oh my god, it's amazing that any of us make it through. I'm hittin a real bad rough patch here at the back-end of my 30s and it is still nothing compared to age 27.

And also fuck that "single all my life" narrative; you haven't been single all your life! You've been in a number of relationships! So the dudes would not call them "relationships." So what? Dudes don't make all the rules.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 9:58 AM on February 13


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