Is he a man child?
July 2, 2020 4:53 AM   Subscribe

Pondering whether I should continue seeing my quarantine Bumble date

I'm 32 and female. We met on Bumble at the beginning of April and spoke on the phone several times throughout April and May. In June, our city opened up and so we met up. We had 6 dates including one long 5 hour hiking date. I had a great time on each date. Personality and chemistry-wise, it's a great match. I can tell he likes me. However, there are a few annoying things that I'm not sure if I can get past:

- He initiated the first date, but after that I had to initiate all the dates. I initially had to refuse his couple first date asks because we actually weren't allowed to travel between different areas of town at that point and I was strictly following my city's social distancing guidelines. Maybe his confidence took a knock and he prefers to let me take the lead? Kind of annoying though.

- He went on vacation this week without really letting me know in advance. I wanted to have a talk with him before he left to discuss whether we are on the same page. He had texted me and said 'I will call you in one hour.' And never called! He waited until the next day and texted me once he had already left. Now I'm asking myself if this is worth my time. A few other facts: He lives with his parents. Not sure if it's a cultural thing (Indian) or just an immaturity thing (he has a good job).

Should I continue seeing him or is he too much of a man child? I'm not interested in teaching a grown man how to behave especially since he's 2 years older than me. On the other hand I'm not sure how to end it seeing as I've been pretty obvious about the fact that I like him. But the unwillingness to call me back kind of stuck out as a really annoying and immature way to behave. Is it worth a second chance?
posted by winterportage to Human Relations (29 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
It's hard to say from those examples. He could be flighty. And living with your parents in this day and age is not so abnormal, especially since he comes from a culture that places a higher emphasis on maintaining familial ties. When I think "man child" I think someone who does not clean up their space, who does not perform emotional labor, who expects you to do the laundry, etc. It doesn't sound like you have enough information to say those things.

That said, if he's not communicative and doesn't seem interested in initiating dates he could just not be that into you.
posted by schroedinger at 5:07 AM on July 2, 2020 [5 favorites]

I think this could just be communication awkwardness. He might have stopped initiating the dates because he felt like he kept getting it wrong (coronavirus’s fault and not either of yours). The not calling thing is more annoying, but if you have good chemistry, I think it’s worth asking about. And how he reacts to that question—“hey, how come you said you’d call me in an hour but then didn’t?”—will give good insight into his maturity level.
posted by sallybrown at 5:13 AM on July 2, 2020 [5 favorites]

I am 34 and personally I would not seriously date anyone who lives with their parents, regardless of the reason. Maybe that makes me a bad person, I don't care. My independence is my #1 most important to me trait and someone who does not share that value with me is a fundamentally incompatible partner. YMMV.

The other things can be cleared up through the magic of communication. Clearly and without shame or apology state your need for him to initiate dates and keep his promises to have conversations. If he can't meet your clearly stated needs he's not a compatible partner for you.
posted by phunniemee at 5:16 AM on July 2, 2020 [14 favorites]

You can and should converse with him about the mismatch that currently exists between your communication styles and preferences. It’s not “teaching” to have a talk with someone about your needs and theirs and how to meet in the middle. If he doesn’t seem open to discussion and a reasonable amount of change and compromise to communicate in ways that you prefer, then I would consider this could be a dead end. But you really can’t know that without at least talking to him and trying! People aren’t mind-readers and he probably doesn’t even know he’s, according to you, been really annoying and fucked up his “first chance”. Surely the whole point of a relationship is to communicate and grow well together?
posted by Balthamos at 5:17 AM on July 2, 2020 [21 favorites]

If he has a habit of not following through that’s one thing but losing track of time on a day before you travel is absolutely the kind of thing I do - there is normally a lot to do and time gets away from me and I’ll remember something I was supposed to do at like 3am...Have that chat you wanted to have about how things are going and take it from there?
posted by koahiatamadl at 5:19 AM on July 2, 2020 [2 favorites]

I feel like if clear lines of communication are important to you these are things you need to ask him about now, couching it in terms of what you need. It's not helpful, I think, to look at this as 'teaching him how to behave'. It feels like you're expecting him to know what you need without actually telling him what you need.
posted by unicorn chaser at 5:23 AM on July 2, 2020 [6 favorites]

Everyone's going to have an opinion based on the facts you wrote, but you have your instincts. I think they're telling you that this guy's communication style or investment doesn't match yours. I've never had instincts like that and had them proven wrong, personally. But you don't have to make a rash decisions. Just talk to him. Likely his response to you trying to openly communicate you needs will give you lots more info to go on.
posted by bearette at 5:34 AM on July 2, 2020 [15 favorites]

On the other hand I'm not sure how to end it seeing as I've been pretty obvious about the fact that I like him.

If you've initiated the past five dates and been the one driving the communication, I think the simple answer is just to stop doing those things and see if you hear from him. That should tell you all you need to know about how much he genuinely likes you and how much effort he is willing to put in.
posted by unannihilated at 5:34 AM on July 2, 2020 [71 favorites]

Best answer: Maybe his confidence took a knock and he prefers to let me take the lead?

Or maybe first-date ideas are pretty easy to come by because it's such a formulaic process, but subsequent ones require more creativity and vulnerability? I'm annoyed for you on this one too. I guess I can understand some people having not being up on all the restrictions at first, but by now he should have the hang of it, especially since everywhere that's been opening up has been very explicit about what's now available. Plus he's living with his parents, which even if they're not particularly old should still (imo) make him more eager to get this right for their sake. So I don't really buy "two months ago I got some guidelines wrong" as a reason to need someone else to pick outings at this point. Particularly when it's not like you are/were even being extra cautious or anything. Back in April he really could have--and legally and morally should have--just read those same government documents to know what an acceptable option would have been. I'm trying to be patient with the idea that at first he wasn't aware of them, but once you declined his initial suggestion, would it really have been so difficult to get it right the second time?

In any case, however, you don't actually need a definitive ruling on "Man Child: Yes or No?" If you're fed up, that's enough. You've been doing a lot of work, relatively speaking, and it's totally fair to want to see that he's reciprocating that instead of just happily going along until it's inconvenient or requires too much emotional labor (a "where we're at" conversation, for example). Or if you feel like that's too harsh a reading of the situation and you want to try to talk through this with him and see if he changes his behavior, that's fine too. Just have specific benchmarks in mind of what that would look like and what kind of timeline you'd want to tolerate, because apparently this is bugging you, and you deserve a relationship that doesn't bug you.
posted by teremala at 6:22 AM on July 2, 2020 [2 favorites]

It's totally valid to break up with someone just because he's doing stuff that makes you unhappy. It doesn't need to Reflect Badly on His Character. It can just be, like, "I personally don't feel like putting up with this."

If you really like him and really want to give him a chance, don't try to ignore what's making you unhappy. The sanity-preserving way to give him a chance would be to tell him what's making you unhappy — not to "teach him how to behave," just to be clear about your feelings.

He can decide he wants to honor your feelings by doing things that make you happier. Or he can decide to be whiny about it, or demand a medal for doing tiny kind things, or tell you you're being "needy" (ugh), or use the information in whatever shitty way — in which case, fine, you've got a man who annoys you by accident and isn't grateful to know what you'd like better, dump the guy for sure.
posted by nebulawindphone at 6:32 AM on July 2, 2020 [12 favorites]

Like someone else said, your instincts are in gear and telling you something feels off. Have you had the conversation that you are only dating each other or, alternatively, are taking it slow? Maybe he feels that because it's fairly new that he's not obligated to inform you of his goings on. Also, his Indian parents may be expecting him to marry an Indian girl (I only mention this having met Indian men who told me so) and it may not be a serious relationship for him if you are not Indian too. I'm any case, have a conversation about what you and he want going forward. And if he is serious then ask him to initiate some dates and keep his word when saying he'll do something or to be realistic about promising such things.
posted by DixieBaby at 6:44 AM on July 2, 2020

If you're uncomfortable with the situation, you probably should break it off. That said, I'm not seeing anything about him that is red-flag-worthy. It might just be an awkward match, rather than any misbehavior on his part.
posted by Thorzdad at 6:45 AM on July 2, 2020 [2 favorites]

Communicate your preferences, see how he responds, take it from there.
posted by Goblin Barbarian at 7:00 AM on July 2, 2020 [2 favorites]

Best answer: You mention he's Indian, and culturally Indian enough that he still lives with his parents, which means there might be a real cultural disconnect at play here: he might not have any real idea how to date you. If you are from a culture where dating is the normal way to find partners, you are bringing with you a whole framework of ideas and expectations and mores and norms that he is unaware of. We all learn about relationships from watching the people who are close to us, especially our parents - and if his parents had an arranged marriage, then what he thinks is normal is an extremely lopsided relationship where men are not expected to make any effort to woo women (outside of a few symbolic gestures, perhaps, if you're lucky), and it's women's role to do 100% of the relationship work. You might think you know what that's like because you come from a patriarchal culture too, but ... you don't.

You're seeing it in action now: he doesn't take the initiative to make dates with you, he didn't keep you informed about his travel plans, he promised to call and then he didn't. By his cultural standards, he isn't behaving thoughtlessly and he isn't treating you in a cavalier or disrespectful way. He's not evil for doing any of this, and contrary to what you may assume going by your cultural standards, these things don't indicate a lack of interest from him. It sounds quite within the realm of normal behavior for a culturally Indian guy who is interested in you.

The question is: is dating him going to be any fun for you if your cultural assumptions are being thwarted at every turn and you need to argue in defense of your dating/relationship wants which you would otherwise take for granted? Even in the best case scenario, he's going to be completely open to your differences and to figuring out compromises, but he will still be coming from default settings which are very hostile to women. And from his view, you are coming from default assumptions which are very hostile to his ties with his parents (his mother, to be specific). In the very best case scenario, each of you will be committed to keeping your minds and hearts fully open to the cultural values of the other, and will do the hard work needed to make egalitarian compromises. He might need to be schooled in not judging your manicures-and-makeup budget, and you might need to be schooled in how to allow him to prioritize his mother's needs above yours.

IDK I keep trying to write a more even-handed comment but I can't. Fuck it. The truth is, I and literally every other desi woman I know considers "lives with his parents" to be a FUCK NO GET THEE BEHIND ME SATAN-flavored dealbreaker when dating a desi guy. The usual dating advice of "talk to him and see what he's thinking" etc. sounds hilariously tragic to me. Do with this information what you will.
posted by MiraK at 7:08 AM on July 2, 2020 [38 favorites]

I was really bad at keeping up non-in-person communication when I first started dating my partner. They had to tell me to be more talkative on the phone (I hated phonecalls) and respond more often when texted/initiate more text conversations. On my part, I'd never had a serious relationship before so I wasn't used to keeping in touch so often, plus it was probably a mismatch in how much communication we were used to. I made an effort to communicate more, and 13 years later we're married with kids, so it worked. My point is, ask nicely if he could communicate more/better. Maybe he will and things will work out, maybe he won't. But it's worth a try. For what it's worth, I text my partner way more nowadays and get annoyed when they don't respond, so the shoe's finally on the other foot...
posted by EndsOfInvention at 7:11 AM on July 2, 2020

I think the incident where he said he’d call and then didn’t is clear enough to make it a point. “Hey, you said you’d call me in one hour and I waited around and you didn’t call. It made me feel very stupid and then when you did get back to me it was to let me know, for the first time, that you were out of town for a week. This made me feel kind of weird about us and that maybe I’m a low priority for you or that maybe we are just on really different pages about what we want and need right now. What do you think?”

If that conversation is too scary for you then your gut is really telling you something. If it’s too scary then you should hang back and see if he chases you a bit. If he doesn’t then he’s slow-fading and it’s shitty and it has nothing to do with you.
posted by amanda at 7:17 AM on July 2, 2020

> > “Hey, you said you’d call me in one hour and I waited around and you didn’t call. It made me feel very stupid and then when you did get back to me it was to let me know, for the first time, that you were out of town for a week. This made me feel kind of weird about us and that maybe I’m a low priority for you or that maybe we are just on really different pages about what we want and need right now. What do you think?”

I strongly disagree with this script. This is basically his cue to say, "What? Noooo, I was just busy, baby, don't you know I'm crazy about you," and it's a trap! It sets up a pattern where you beg for verbal reassurance rather than communicate the expectation that he's accountable for his actions.

IMO it's much better dealt by saying, "Dude, wtf, you said you'd call?" and waiting for an apology. That way neither you nor the guy are confused about the fact that he fucked up and needs to change his behavior.
posted by MiraK at 7:36 AM on July 2, 2020 [12 favorites]

It's hard to answer this without more information. Importantly:

1) how did you react when he finally texted you after not calling you?
2) did he apologize/explain?
3) exactly why is he living with his parents?

I know people who have moved in with elderly/sick parents during lockdown, to help keep them safe. Is this a temporary arrangement?
posted by yawper at 8:10 AM on July 2, 2020 [1 favorite]

If you're presenting yourself as the voice of mature adult comportment, maybe bring up the behaviors that bother you rather than considering dumping him for them without bothering to find out what's up. On the other hand, if "man child" is how you talk about him when you like him, perhaps it's best for both of you if you cut bait.
posted by less of course at 9:44 AM on July 2, 2020 [4 favorites]

I mean, if you don't want to see him anymore don't see him anymore. You sound pretty annoyed.

I'm not getting "man child" from your description, he just sounds less communicative than you and a bit scatterbrained.

If you really like him besides these issues and want to continue seeing him, I'd bring them up to him in a neutral, non-accusative way and see if it's something he's willing to work on changing in order to accommodate you. It's possible he doesn't even realize his behavior is bothering you and will happily change once he knows. But, also be prepared that he may not be willing to change -- he might prefer to find someone who doesn't see these things as issues. (Which is also fine!)
posted by mekily at 9:58 AM on July 2, 2020

This is definitely "talk to him, not us" territory. These will not be the last things he does that you want/need him to do differently, so get those lines of communication open!
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 10:13 AM on July 2, 2020

Regarding the "date initiation" bit, you can just tell him "so call me when you're ready to get together again." When he calls, say, "so what would you like to do tonight/this time/whenever?" Both reasonable things to say.

Thus you'll have him initiating the next date without any awkward demand on your part.
posted by JimN2TAW at 11:00 AM on July 2, 2020

Meh. Sounds like you're both lukewarm. Move on.
posted by whimsicalnymph at 11:48 AM on July 2, 2020 [1 favorite]

At this stage I see no true red flags. I left home when I could but in other cultures that is not the norm and not a bad sign. My husband had lived on his own but was living back at home when we started dating. He is not oppressed and both of us adore our families of origin although I would not have lived with mine as an adult. If that fact bothers you though, let him go. As for the not calling, early days. Get to know each other's communication styles and preferences.
posted by biggreenplant at 12:01 PM on July 2, 2020 [1 favorite]

Best answer: He had texted me and said 'I will call you in one hour.' And never called! He waited until the next day and texted me once he had already left.

This is not a good sign, especially after 3 months into your relationship with him. I wouldn't want to be treated that way.

I strongly suggest following the advice of unannihilated and have him make the next move. If he doesn't, then it's okay. You tried your best. On to the next good man that comes along!

I'm not interested in teaching a grown man how to behave

Then don't. It's up to him to choose to behave like a man, not you. You just need to carry on being the lovely lady that you are.

is he too much of a man child?

I don't know. Maybe he is and maybe he isn't. Blowing you off the way he did, though? I'm not sure why that isn't a red flag to some people, but it would be to me. No, it's not evil, it's just jerk-ish. After 3 months around him, it would certainly be a red flag to me.

I'm not sure how to end it

That's okay. You don't have to do anything except let it lie. We often try so hard to control things in our lives that we forget that sometimes the best thing to do is to just let it be.

Focus on YOU right now; your perception of things is important. How do the ways he's chosen to go about things make YOU feel? Is that what YOU want? Do his actions deserve your attention and respect? Let your intuition guide you.
posted by chatelaine at 12:26 PM on July 2, 2020 [4 favorites]

A few other facts: He lives with his parents. Not sure if it's a cultural thing (Indian) or just an immaturity thing (he has a good job).

Sometimes it's both! Let's be clear, being from a culture where living at home as an unmarried adult is common and doing so into one's thirties doesn't necessarily mean that someone doesn't know how to adult. Yes, it is a little bit more difficult to evaluate some of those domestic-labour "man child" issues when someone isn't living independently, but his relationship-maintenance skills are a different story altogether.

Taking into account everything in MiraK's comment, yes, that's a thing (but I hesitate to comment further because I'm not Indian myself). That said, living at home isn't always reflective of cultural values as it might be of simply living in a high-COL area and being an unmarried adult child. The context is also slightly different when said adult child is socioeconomically better off than their parents and becomes the head of household, which is more common in some immigrant communities here than in others. Also, you're in Canada, where for some reason it's just more common and culturally acceptable than in the US to have children of immigrants live at home despite being culturally Canadian in most other ways. It's more of a Toronto/Vancouver thing than a Montreal thing, but there you go. You'll figure out what the deal is there pretty quickly if you keep seeing him.

All that is to say that you might not want to assume that he's unassimilated in a way that will create problems in your relationship, especially if you have a lot of evidence to the contrary. Even so, he just sounds like a lazy dater, in ways that you're probably likely to encounter even with more unequivocally-Canadianized guys who are in their thirties and still on the market. While everyone whose said that communicating your preferences at the beginning of a relationship is kind of table stakes, it's perfectly reasonable to bail if you feel like you have to do too much work to ensure that he does equal work.
posted by blerghamot at 12:29 PM on July 2, 2020

I like MiraK's script with respect to him not calling you. He said he was going to do it and he didn't, he needs to apologize and make sure it doesn't happen again. As far as date ideas are concerned I can't say because it could be too many things. You could either call him out on it or just wait for him to initiate something. I'd probably wait for 2-3 days and if he hadn't initiated anything then call him out on it.

I think the living at home thing is a red-herring with respect to him being a man-child. FWIW I can only think of maybe 1 or 2 of my Indian/Pakistani family friends that didn't live at home until they were married if they were living in the same city as their family. Some of them even bought homes/condos that they rented out and still lived at home. Living at home might bring up a host of other issues you might not be willing to deal with though.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 1:13 PM on July 2, 2020 [1 favorite]

Personality and chemistry-wise, it's a great match.
This is really great, and I'd focus on this. What's happening now is that you have some wants and needs, and it sounds like you haven't expressed them directly. When you told him you wanted to have a relationship talk, it was right as he was heading out of town. It sounds like you were a bit hurt he had plans he didn't tell you about, which is understandable. It's also understandable that right before he left town wasn't a great time for a relationship talk. But yeah, it's not great that he didn't call, or even text you to say he couldn't call. I get why you feel hurt.

This is a good time to practice good relationship skills. The worst case scenario, I think, is that you express wants and needs and he is unable or unwilling to meet them -- which means you know the deal and you can move on. The best case scenario is that you express your wants and needs, and you have a conversation where you can both figure out what works for you, and you move forward with better relationship communication. It sounds like you are ready to DTR, define the relationship. Are you wondering if maybe he is not? And maybe you are feeling some rejection and want to push him away first?

Should I continue seeing him or is he too much of a man child? I'm not interested in teaching a grown man how to behave especially since he's 2 years older than me.
Also... speaking of mature relationship skills: I'm not sure this "man child" label is helpful here, or a sign of maturity on your part. I mean, I think we all know what you mean, but it can healthier to describe behaviors rather than labeling people (my therapist told me that!). Also... you are the same age. At your age, you are ... the same age.

Anyway, it sounds like you want a mature relationship, so that means it's good to act like a confident adult person and articulate what you want and then have a conversation about that. You can move forward and not see him anymore, but I'd give him another shot. It seems like you really like him and are maybe scared of getting hurt. You're asking us to read his mind when really you should be talking to him.
posted by bluedaisy at 1:30 PM on July 2, 2020 [2 favorites]

I'm not interested in teaching a grown man how to behave

don't condescend this hard to someone who hasn't done anything wrong except forget to call you exactly once, if it's not even pleasurable to feel superior. you wanted to find out if the two of you were on the same page, and now you know that you aren't. don't date anyone you think is beneath you.

plus, someone who doesn't ask you out and won't call you back is usually not that interested.
posted by queenofbithynia at 10:11 PM on July 2, 2020 [5 favorites]

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