Can Someone Offer Me Any Kind of Explanation of this Behavior?
November 10, 2019 2:45 PM   Subscribe

There is a man I just cannot get out of my head, so I made a bold move. His response has been...puzzling. Can someone offer insight?

For background- Two years ago i (F37) met “Brandon” (M30) while on a temporary work assignment abroad. I was doing contract work on a navy base, he is in the navy. We had instant chemistry...but it was an impossible situation. We danced around each other for a month and then had a pretty intense (secret, because of out jobs) affair. Both of us thought it would be nothing, we have a big age difference, and we were only temporarily in the same place. It surprised both of us that it turned into more. Right before we had to separate (my contract ending, him deploying for a year) I told him I wanted to try things for real, and he was like, " I like you so much, but I’m about to deploy and I can’t be with you."

I took it as a rejection. If he liked me enough, he would want to be with me, deployment or not. I tried to move on.

Then, a year later, after his deployment, we happened to be in the same place at the same time again. I had dated other people, and thought it was over, but when I saw him I realized I was still stinging from his rejection. I tried to avoid him, but the area we were in was small with few people. One night he showed up with my friends, he’d been drinking, and he kept trying to kiss me, saying he missed me. I was shoving him off (no one knew about our affair, and because of our jobs, it was important that no one know) telling him we could talk later. And at one point he was like “Jesus, don't you know i f*cking love you!?!?”

Of course, that everything I had wanted to hear. The next day i brought it up to him, and he said “Wow, I guess I hadn't repressed those feelings as deeply as I thought. You’re leaving soon. I don't want to do this again."

Ok. Rejected again. Tried to move on, but a few nights later, after drinking, I brought him back to my hotel. We had sex all night and also the next morning, but when it came time to leave, he almost started to panic. He said, “I can’t do this again. I can’t. It’s too painful. We're both leaving. I. Don’t. Want. This.”

I was heartbroken again. This time i was determined to leave him behind. He went on to say that he didn't think he could ever be alone with me again because it was too easy to slip back to what it was like before. We purposefully distanced ourselves. We remained friends, but not close friends. The kind of friends that message each other a meme like every 2 months and then talk briefly.

Now its been 8 months since that last time. I know I haven't gone into what is so great about him, but he has been a solid friend to me for 2 years. It's hard to explain what it can be like to be in these intense situations with few people to lean on. Affair or not, he is someone that I could call if I really needed something. He would do almost anything for me. He actually loaned me money when i was in a tight spot about 6 months ago, even though we barely speak. I have since moved on to a new phase in life. I no longer contract in the middle of no where, and now live in a large city in the US. I’m about to start school (he actually encouraged me to do this).

So then 3 weeks ago, he messaged me a picture from Sri Lanka holding one of my favorite foods, and when I responded he called me. The call was late in the evening my time, meaning it was morning his, so its not like he was drunk. On the phone call he said that he just got news about his last duty station, it was a few hours from me, he was getting there in May. He asked, could he fly me out for a weekend to see him when he got there?

Of course I was thrilled, but then I started thinking like, am I going to wonder and wonder between now and June what might happen now that we're actually in a situation where something could be feasible? I was worried I would put my life on hold dating wise.

So I sent him an email (he is deployed at the moment with spotty email access).It basically said (in really nice words) “I still have feelings for you, I’d like to explore them when you get back in June, but if you aren't interested, please just tell me so I can put those feelings aside and move on."

A week later I got a response at 4 am. It said “I got your email! We just pulled into Thailand, so I haven”t responded. Text me when you wake up! I want to talk to you again! I miss you!”

I woke up at 6:30 am and texted him that my mother was in town so my time was more limited than normal, but if he could tell me when he was free I would make myself free. He responded immediately “I’ve been up for like 36 hours straight. I’m going to bed, call you tomorrow? I want to talk to you soon."

The next day another text, “I'm on duty. Call you in a few hours if nothing breaks” I responded that my mother was asleep and I was just hanging out reading so to call whenever.

And then...nothing. He responded to another group text that we are in about an hour later. Since then, he has also been silent in that group.

Now its been 3 weeks. Not a word. I am friends with multiple people on his ship, so I have (stalker-ishly) tracked the movement. They have been pulling in and out of ports every few days in Asia. He’s still reading all the group texts (but not responding) and I’m left stumped. What could have possibly happened in those few hours?

I want to follow up and be like, “What happened? I didn't want to drive a wedge between us, i just wanted to know if you felt the same, and if you don't, i will be ok, i can move on. Your rejection isn’t going to break me!” But my friend that i have confided in told me not to, that he was just a jerk. I feel like maybe he’s too anxious to call, so he’s just avoiding me. Can anyone explain this at all? Should i just...not say anything ever? Maybe never speak to him again? Give him more time?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (29 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Just a note to say: If I have a pretty good what ship he’s on, this is bad opsec and you might want to anonymize this.

Also, this is unlikely to end in the way you’d like. He is showing you his hand. He also likes you and having sex with you, but he is not going to be there for you as a partner.
posted by stormygrey at 2:57 PM on November 10, 2019 [14 favorites]

He's somebody who doesn't want to put the effort into a long distance relationship. When he is sober he tells you this.
He means it .

When you're both around it's easy and fun, but that's not his life and not yours . It won't work.
posted by AlexiaSky at 3:12 PM on November 10, 2019 [6 favorites]

You're his back burner girl/boy. He misses how much you like him when he is lonely. He loves you when he's drunk and/or horny and/or lonely. He does not want to be in a serious relationship with you and he does not want to explicitly say that to you. It's very nice that he lent you money, but it doesn't mean much. He is stringing you along. Sorry. I'd go no contact, personally.
posted by windykites at 3:14 PM on November 10, 2019 [23 favorites]

I’d be thinking about what you want. What you have now is a good long-distance friend who you have an intermittent hot affair with when it’s logistically workable. You’re otherwise single for now, I think? It doesn’t sound at all as though he’s planning to turn the relationship into a monogamous commitment, and it sounds as if he gets avoidant when he thinks you’re moving in that direction.

So... if the status quo is making you unhappy, I’d cut off contact with him because he doesn’t seem to want to change it. But if the intermittent affair is a positive thing in your life, while I wouldn’t put anything local on hold for it, it seems as if you could just continue as you have been.
posted by LizardBreath at 3:20 PM on November 10, 2019 [3 favorites]

His failure to meaningfully respond to your email is (a cowardly form of) rejection, just as if he’d written back to you and said “not interested.” He’s not responding because he’s trying to keep you on the line as an opportunity for a hookup.
posted by sallybrown at 3:23 PM on November 10, 2019 [9 favorites]

He doesn't want to have a Big Emotional Talk while he's deployed or whatever, for whatever reason, so he's avoiding you.

He clearly likes you a lot but finds this whole thing incredibly stressful. Given that he's in a situation without a lot of control or privacy, it may just not be the right time to discuss all of this.

Beyond that, though, I think that he has been pretty clear that he does not want a long-distance or intermittent thing because it's too painful for him. He may have slipped up and claimed otherwise, he may be in a position in May to do something different, who knows. But he definitely does not want to have an intense emotional engagement with someone who is not around.

Wait until May I guess? Or, frankly, what seems healthier for both of you, block his number and move on definitively. This is not what he wants (he said, panicking!) and it doesn't sound like it's changing. You may be into a long distance thing, I can't tell, but if he's not and you're not in the same place...well, that's that.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 3:42 PM on November 10, 2019 [7 favorites]

For a relationship to really lock in, it has to be the right set of feelings in the right life circumstances - not just location, but career and emotional intelligence and readiness for growth. And I don't think he has any of the latter right this minute. The spark is there, and that is a requirement for anything else to happen, but it's all spark at this point and he's not ready to grapple with the anything else.

90% of the time I'd say give up, he's a fuckboy at the end of the day, BUT this is a circumstance where his job is kinda intense right now in a way that most people's jobs never are, and as such if you want to declare a moratorium on this discussion until his feet are on the ground and he's approaching some kind of settled (moved in to wherever he's going to be living for the moment, has whatever passes for a routine work schedule, in general has the head bandwidth to think seriously about this), that would be reasonable. I think y'all run the risk of fucking up something that might otherwise be material by texting and emailing about it while he's highly engaged in work. He can't possibly have his head in this game right now; this is a thing I know from friends long-married to the military, too: you don't come first all the time, and sometimes you have to eat shit for months because it's just not the time and place.

It would be nice if he would clearly communicate that to you, but he may be afraid that it's too offputting to say out loud - because, I mean, it is definitely not relationship best practice to say "hey, can you just hang on for 8 months?". You could find out by asking: should we table this discussion until you're in Xtown and the dust has settled?
posted by Lyn Never at 3:53 PM on November 10, 2019 [14 favorites]

You could find out by asking: should we table this discussion until you're in Xtown and the dust has settled?

This is what I was going to say. I'd hit emotional pause on this, if I were you, and revisit this when he is not deployed. If you meet someone between now and then, so be it.
posted by Countess Sandwich at 4:23 PM on November 10, 2019 [5 favorites]

Double check with him about whether he responded before you make any decisions. Communication channels can be flakey in the situation he is in, and as far as you know the next question down in the AskMe queue may be from a sailor who really wants to make things work but his on-again-off-again flame blew off his heartfelt email.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 4:27 PM on November 10, 2019 [9 favorites]

It's dangerous to mind read, even if you have what you think is a good sense of where he is and what he's doing. A simple thought here might be, he might be literally busy? I mean, given what you've said about his work that seems like a reasonable and uncomplicated reminder.

That said, the follow-up email accurately reflects how you feel and what you want and need to know right now. I don't see a reason to avoid sending it. You two are close—he may well expect that you'll reach out knowing what he said before about his trepidation about being alone with you.

The heart is complicated. You two warm me up a little, because it sounds like you both are in a star-crossed situation and yet still being very, very good people to one another. You don't have to discount hope and desire while being firmly in the present moment. Reach out to this person—it sounds like you both want to keep knowing one another, and this kind of spark is worth fretting over and caring for, no matter the outcome of this particular conversation.
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 4:32 PM on November 10, 2019 [6 favorites]

A simple thought here might be, he might be literally busy?

It's also the case that when you're working hard, for a lot of hours a day, you can have the capacity to read a group text (for example) or whatever and just not have the time and energy required for a big, important conversation. It sucks that he didn't communicate this, but let's be real--he doesn't seem all that great at managing feelings.

Also I want to say---it wasn't okay for him to push himself on you repeatedly when you were pushing him away. Him ascribing this to him loving you is what I mean about the feelings stuff. This is not an expert in managing his feelings and/or impulses.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 4:35 PM on November 10, 2019 [6 favorites]

I guess I'm an anti-romantic. I don't believe there is only one person in the world for each of us. Thus I think it is a shame that you've held on to this and haven't used the years to move on.

I don't know what he really feels. Neither do you.

Since we can't answer this question, the question is for you alone: is this the kind of passive-aggressive treatment you want?

if not, move on. Yeah, not easy. Little good in life is.
posted by tmdonahue at 4:36 PM on November 10, 2019 [4 favorites]

I took it as a rejection. If he liked me enough, he would want to be with me, deployment or not.

I understand why this was rejecting, but I also think that it's possible for both of these things to be true: he liked you a whole lot and he didn't want to be in a long distance relationship for a year. I don't think this means he didn't like you "enough." Everything here that you've seen as a rejection to me reads as someone really like you but feeling like this situation just makes it all very difficult.

I think he really likes you. I also think it's possible he's not sure what to tell you. Like, are you asking for a commitment, to be in a long distance, monogamous relationship now until he's back? It's not clear he's asking you to put your dating life on hold. He's also in a very different context since he's still deployed and moving around. I think he was trying to tell you that he likes you and wants to see you right away when he's back and he's excited that you all will be near each other then. You seem to be asking for something specific now. You keep framing this in terms of not wanting another rejection. I don't see that he's rejected you, but has rejected a long distance relationship.

“What happened? I didn't want to drive a wedge between us, i just wanted to know if you felt the same, and if you don't, i will be ok, i can move on. Your rejection isn’t going to break me!” I don't think this helps you reclaim your power, draws boundaries, or puts you in a position of strength. Like, what's the question you are even asking him here? You keep pushing him to reject you, but it's clear he does like you because he wants to see you in May.

It's not great that he hasn't gotten back in touch. It's also possible he feels rejected because he extended an invitation to you for May, and you didn't accept it. It's possibly he's nursing a rejection wound as well.

You really like this guy. You aren't really going to be able to see if anything will work til he's there in May. I suspect he wanted you to say yes to his invitation and then continue along til then as if you're both still single and you could both still date others.

If you want to give this one more chance, you could tell him, "I'd really like to see you in May. Should we plan for that and pause these other conversations in the meantime?" If you're really okay with that, then maybe try that.
posted by bluedaisy at 5:01 PM on November 10, 2019 [7 favorites]

He's at work. I would just cut him a lot of slack. And if both of you want to end it anyway (don't you? I can't tell) what difference does it make? I would just leave him alone, see what he says if he comes back. This might be his way of ending it or it might be the reason he didn't want to be in a relationship while out at work: stuff like this happens. There's really no way of knowing. I would say just focus on finding someone local & try not to let him rent too much space in your head.
posted by bleep at 5:21 PM on November 10, 2019 [2 favorites]

He doesn't want a long distance relationship with you and he doesn't want to talk about a potential future relationship while deployed. He says different things once in a while when drunk and sloppy, but that's not the version of him you'd be in relationship with most of the time.

If it will help you feel better about the dangling loose end and you want to be kinder to him than his behavior frankly deserves, you could send one more message. Something along the lines of "Trying to connect while you're on the move isn't working well, get in touch when you're at your next station in May if you'd still like to meet up, take care until then."

And then drop it, live your best life, date if an appealing prospect comes along, and if he tries to send you anything heavier than a meme until then, kindly and firmly tell him you don't want to discuss relationship stuff until he's back on dry land permanently.
posted by Stacey at 6:18 PM on November 10, 2019 [10 favorites]

My guess is he's a little immature in a number of ways, including not being great at thinking before he speaks or acts, especially when alcohol is involved. He's also at work, under what could be difficult and stressful circumstances, and needs to stay focussed. When he's sober, he's smart enough to realize that a long-distance relationship, especially one that needs to be kept secret, might not be something he can manage.

He likes you but it's impossible to know how serious his interest is, i.e. he could be thinking about something long-term with you, or he could just want to keep an entertaining option open.

Either way, I agree with Stacey above: say something about the difficulty of connecting while he's still out there, and ask him to get in touch when he's settled again. Keep it very, very light if he tries to communicate with you after that. Then, get out there, date, do all the fun things, and you can see how you both feel.
posted by rpfields at 7:22 PM on November 10, 2019 [1 favorite]

I don't understand why you are taking him being in the navy as some kind of weak excuse for something else. he is literally in the navy. when you say getting deployed was just a polite line, that if he really wanted to be with you he'd be with you, do you mean he should have quit the navy for you? I don't think it says anything awful about him that he cares more about his career commitment than about a potential serious relationship. it just means he is not available for anything but a weekend now and then.

Can anyone explain this at all?

yeah. he's not thinking of you every hour of the day the way you're thinking of him. he's not planning out his texts to have a certain effect on you the way you're planning yours for their effect on him. he's not counting the hours between replies. you are making a mystery out of a very unmysterious thing. particularly:

a few nights later, after drinking, I brought him back to my hotel.

so you are just as familiar with how one comes to make such decisions under the influence as he is. that part of his behavior is no mystery either. you look at it as blatantly mixed signals; he looks at it as nothing to worry about because he already said he couldn't do "this again" but you were still interested in sleeping with him.

please just tell me so I can put those feelings aside and move on."

you can move on any time you want, you don't need his clarification or permission. and he has told you. he just also likes you enough to sleep with you anyway. that makes him a bit of a dick. he'll probably be better in five years. don't wait.
posted by queenofbithynia at 7:35 PM on November 10, 2019 [5 favorites]

You mentioned your jobs as an impediment to a relationship earlier -- I wonder if he's gotten into some kind of trouble for corresponding with you romantically, and that's why he's suddenly not able to respond.
posted by amtho at 7:52 PM on November 10, 2019 [3 favorites]

I'm amazed at the number of responses rationalizing his shitty behavior. He's so busy being in the navy that he can't respond to you for three weeks? Bull fucking shit. He's not nearly as interested in you as you are in him. You've already been jerked around enough. Don't let him do this to you anymore. Cut your losses. Seriously.

If I were your friend I would literally drag you out of the house, if I had to, to go meet other men. The best medicine for you right now is to force yoursef to date other guys. Frequently. You can tell yourself while you're doing this that you can still get with him in May (IF he even makes good on his offer to fly you out). Hopefully by then you will be over the unwarranted obsession you are currently experiencing. EVEN IF you decide to get together with navy guy again, you will do so from a position of power where you have swum with other fish and you know that your life doesn't depend on this one guppy.
posted by nirblegee at 10:09 PM on November 10, 2019 [7 favorites]

People love to dream up reasons why he doesn’t call, maybe he lost his phone, maybe someone died, maybe he got into an accident. Seriously, occam’s razor ... the simplest explanation is the most likely. He’s just not that into you. He’s had plenty of chances to let you know, he’s given you a lot of reasons why it wouldn’t work for him up to this point (he could do long distance, he clearly doesn’t want to) and with his current actions, that’s what it boils down to.

So the simplest explanation is when he’s drunk he misses you, when he’s sober, he backtracks. I’m sorry but I hope this frees you, because he sure as heck won’t show you the respect of telling it to you straight.
posted by Jubey at 10:12 PM on November 10, 2019 [6 favorites]

Anyone whose behavior ties you up in so many knots that you need to post to AskMe about figuring it out, is IMO not someone who you should be allowing to control your mind and heart. You deserve better. It. Should. Not. Be. This. Hard.

He knows how you feel. If he wants to pick things up with you, he knows how to reach you. Walk away and stop thinking that every single aspect of this "relationship" is your responsibility. Reclaim your life and take back your power. Seriously, it should not be this hard.
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 2:31 AM on November 11, 2019 [5 favorites]

You initially lost me with him drunkenly trying to kiss you against your will. But nevertheless I persisted and having read everything, would like to kindly offer a truism learned here on AskMe:

the longer it takes to explain every twist and turn of what happens in a relationship the less likely there's anything there.

There's nothing here. The best you can do is respect your brain capacity and stop letting this person live there rent free. They don't get that privilege.
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 4:16 AM on November 11, 2019 [9 favorites]

This dude has said multiple times that he doesn’t want to date or get into a relationship. He doesn’t initiate conversations and doesn’t follow up. You go weeks without hearing from him. There might be chemistry between you, but that’s it. You have been told it’s not going to happen. Repeatedly. Stop chasing the guy.
posted by Autumnheart at 4:37 AM on November 11, 2019 [7 favorites]

How is it puzzling? He's been consistent. He likes you as a... "friend out there". It's nice to have a friend. And on top of that he has great chemistry with you for rare, when-in-port physical hookups.

At the same time he's been consistent that he does not want a long-distance romantic relationship, with the different level of expectations that would bring. Part of that (a big part) is not wanting to have e-mail conversations about the state of the relationship, extractions of promises, etc.

If you're not into having someone like that in your life ("somewhere out there" friend, someone you could call in an emergency, an occasional sexual treat) then you don't, but it doesn't sound all that terrible to me. Of course if you love him and want more, then it will be a source of pain, so consider what you want.
posted by fingersandtoes at 8:10 AM on November 11, 2019 [4 favorites]

It sounds like he knows that being in a relationship with you is bad for both of your careers and might be illegal or unethical, from the way you’ve described it. He cares about that when he’s got his full faculties and isn’t drunk or exhausted. Whether he likes you or not is pretty much irrelevant under those circumstances. Trust the sober person.
posted by tchemgrrl at 8:47 AM on November 11, 2019 [2 favorites]

Sorry, but from an outsider’s perspective, it sounds to me like he just sees you as a free source of local sex, and that he only contacts or thinks about you when he is feeling lonely or horny.

His pushy drunken “Jesus, don't you know i f*cking love you!?!?” is offensive and controlling and seems to demonstrate that he feels entitled to sex with you and he gets angry when you “deny” it to him.

I’m pretty sure that this guy isn’t abstaining from sex (and probably using that same line) in every other port of call. I would stop hoping for anything real from him, block his calls/texts, and remove yourself from any groups or messages where he is involved. I would also get a check for STDs.

(Lastly, you refer several times to this being an “affair”—is this guy also married (which would certainly explain his repeated almost-instant post-coital shouts of “I can’t do this!”)? Or is that just a term you use to refer to the hookups as somehow “forbidden” because of his job or a difference in ages?)
posted by blueberry at 10:50 PM on November 11, 2019 [2 favorites]

Don’t follow up. I wouldn’t contact him again and move on, don’t put your dating life on hold for this guy. If he contacts you, sure you can respond (and I’ll bet $100 that if you’re seeing someone you really like, THEN he’ll be ALL over you). But do NOT hold out for this guy.

He’s not interested, or he’s emotionally unavailable or he’s got a partner or something. And he’s in the navy, which I know nothing about. Either way, he’s not available for what you want, chemistry or no chemistry.
posted by foxjacket at 5:20 PM on November 12, 2019 [1 favorite]

I say just put it on hold until you get better news, and don't dismiss it fully until you get better word from him directly instead of just making up guesses.
posted by Quarter Pincher at 9:09 PM on November 12, 2019 [1 favorite]

Having your SO deployed for 3 or 8+ months on the regular is tough. And they gotta be on their game on deployment, it's hard for some to switch between being a bf and sailor. could be he really likes you, but cannot muster the energy to make this a real commitment. A lot of girlfriends and wives ditch their dudes on deployment, it's just a fact. So having a no-strings arrangement might just be a lucky strike him.
He could be hella sweet, you got mad chemistry etc., but this whole thing is more about what you want, cuz I think he is completely fine with stuff being ambiguous.
posted by speakeasy at 9:52 AM on November 25, 2019

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