Am I dealing with a clinger? Or is this my own issue?
September 8, 2020 6:40 AM   Subscribe

I just met someone and it seems to be going well! But! I am wondering if their recent actions are normal and if my discomfort is telling me something about them, or if I need to work on myself.

I was recently setup with someone two weeks ago, and it's moving quickly. I would love a sanity check from the green to see if I am overthinking/overreacting to recent things.

I met someone two weeks ago - and so far, we have had three great video dates, and never run out of things to talk about. We have a ton of interests in common, which I don't find easy. They're already very clear that they like me a lot, and I like them too.

But I've been feeling a bit uneasy about some things and they're visiting in a week.

1. They text me a lot. Like, a lot. We've yet to meet and I'm not a big fan of texting all the time. The other day they expressed sadness (but in a "joking way") that we didn't text one day. I replied that I am not a big texter, and prefer the phone - and they seemed to take this well? But I am a bit worried about them being upset around that one day because I can't do this forever.

2. They are visiting in a week and have made a lot of references to hooking up during the trip. I am definitely into them, but I am uncomfortable and feel a bit pressured by that. I hardly know them still, and I don't know what they are looking for - I don't like being physically intimate when I haven't had the chance to get to know them.

3. They have made references to getting married. Jokes, of course...but it's overwhelming.

4. They invited me to come visit on the first call (granted, after two hours of talking). I was surprised by the fast invite and they said that they are very trusting and do that with strangers. It would drive me insane if I am dating someone, and they invited strangers over.

5. They said they are very sensitive so I am worried that my direct nature will inevitably upset them, and if I communicate any of the above it will not work out.

Are they just super excited and I need to learn how to accept that someone would feel excited about me? I want to meet them in person and see how we vibe, but I am also a little concerned at the same time. I also am a worrier and overthink everything, so I may be looking for red flags when they're not there.
posted by treetop89 to Human Relations (28 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
You can set boundaries without calling the whole thing off. How much have you expressed your feelings about this stuff to her?
posted by showbiz_liz at 6:56 AM on September 8 [7 favorites]

I've expressed only the texting thing, but not the general overwhelmed thing yet. I'm not sure how to bring up the hooking up - I want to do it in person after I see how it's playing out?
posted by treetop89 at 6:58 AM on September 8

I have expressed to someone (on what is mostly a hookup app, actually) that I need to meet in person and then have some space to myself (often 24 hours) before I know what I'm up for, and they took it fine, that m.o. worked for them, and we had coffee for a few hours and two days later we hooked up. I think setting a boundary or stating a need and seeing how someone responds can be really useful and tell you a lot about them.
posted by needs more cowbell at 7:06 AM on September 8 [4 favorites]

They said they are very sensitive so I am worried that my direct nature will inevitably upset them, and if I communicate any of the above it will not work out.

If this person is not able to handle your communication style, then it was never going to work out anyway. Surely you don't want this to "work out" if that means you have to be walking on eggshells for the rest of your life, right? Be clear about what is and what isn't working for you. Ask for what you need. That's not a license to be an asshole, but it is an opportunity to find out whether you're compatible.

By the way, I do share your concern about how fast this is moving. If you need an internet stranger to tell you that this person's behavior raises some red flags, then you've got one right here. That said, in any relationship, what matters most is how you feel about it. Different people will have different reactions; if you're able to speak up honestly for your own needs and boundaries, and recognize when someone is not meeting them, then you will find someone compatible much more quickly.
posted by ourobouros at 7:11 AM on September 8 [33 favorites]

It seems like you think there must be something "wrong" about one of you, and that your question is about which one of you is wrong.

I think you should communicate how you feel with her.

But if it doesn't work out, it's just a bad fit. That doesn't mean there is anything wrong with either of you.
posted by NotLost at 7:12 AM on September 8 [2 favorites]

I am wondering if their recent actions are normal and if my discomfort is telling me something about them

i would be less interested in how 'objectively' normal this level of intensity is (it's outside the norm but not wildly so) and more interested in how you feel about it. there's nothing wrong with feeling uncomfortable about things moving this fast. your discomfort is telling you that if this is the way this person fundamentally is, rather than a short term reaction in the early stages of a relationship that'll calm down over time, this person may not be right for you.

They said they are very sensitive so I am worried that my direct nature will inevitably upset them, and if I communicate any of the above it will not work out.

tbh i would focus on this more than the other stuff. you can communicate your feelings tactfully, but holding back on communicating about things that are important to you because you're worried about the other person's reaction is a recipe for bad times.

you don't need to run through the whole itemised list with them. assuming there's a good vibe when you meet, reassure them that you like them, tell them you want to spend this visit hanging out and getting to know them better irl, and you're not ready for anything physical this time. they're allowed to be momentarily disappointed with that if it's not what they'd hoped for from the visit, but if there's any worse reaction, that suggests this is not a relationship you want to be in.
posted by inire at 7:14 AM on September 8 [7 favorites]

you're just going to have to meet her and see how you vibe, as you say. And be honest with what you need in terms of time and pacing and all the rest of it.

And yeah, some probing of the "I invite strangers over" thing is in order, for sure. And also umm you know be wary about the "sensitive" thing. Make sure it doesn't mean "you aren't allowed to do anything that might hurt my feelings."
posted by fingersandtoes at 7:15 AM on September 8 [5 favorites]

There is no "normal". Most of dating is just figuring out if your two styles are compatible.

1. I replied that I am not a big texter, and prefer the phone - and they seemed to take this well? But I am a bit worried about them being upset around that one day because I can't do this forever.
You expressed your personal preference. They took it well. As long as they continue to respect your preferences, then take them at their word and consider this exchange as a positive.

2. They are visiting in a week and have made a lot of references to hooking up during the trip. I am definitely into them, but I am uncomfortable and feel a bit pressured by that.
Similarly, next time they bring it up again, state your expectations. It doesn't have to be overly serious, but you should definitely manage expectations on both sides for this topic! "I think I should mention that I like to take some time getting to know someone before moving onto physical stuff. And I'm so excited to finally meeting you in person!"

3. Hopefully just awkward jokes. I'd let it pass for now unless it becomes just a pattern of Too Much For Me.

4. You've noticed this, but you have continued the relationship and progressing to meeting. So, I'd just add it to the bucket along with point 3, for now.

5. They said they are very sensitive so I am worried that my direct nature will inevitably upset them, and if I communicate any of the above it will not work out.
If you communicate things honestly and kindly, I don't think you should worry about how they will take it. If they get upset and it doesn't work out... well, this is what the dating period is for and best to find out now that your communication and relationship styles do not match.
posted by like_neon at 7:17 AM on September 8 [3 favorites]

You can have a mismatch between personal preferences and styles that makes your relationship untenable without diagnosing her with some dreaded womanly disorder like clinginess. It's reductive and misogynist. Likewise, you can have preferences for phone calls over texting and waiting to get physical that are just preferences, not issues.

Don't evaluate her against a stereotype, evaluate her actions and stated preferences and how they mesh with yours. If you think the two of you are not a good fit -- and signs point to you not being a good fit -- then it's okay to not want to be in a relationship with her, regardless of whether her behaviour or yours is or isn't "normal".
posted by jacquilynne at 7:28 AM on September 8 [7 favorites]

These are mostly worries about the future. Will the texting eventually become a problem, will hooking up/sex eventually become a problem, will your direct communication style eventually become a problem...I mean, sure, maybe one or more of those things will become problems! But they're not actually problems now and you can't predict the future, so...I think this is just overthinking.

I get why you're worried about the fast pace. I prefer a slower pace, too, because I need some time to develop trust and comfort. But maybe she's got a different personality or maybe she is just really smitten. She has been respectful of your boundaries when you've set them, so I don't think she sounds too worrisome.

Also, I wouldn't take the "I invite randos over all the time!" as a literal fact. She could have just been trying to save face when she asked you over and you said no. Trying to make the invitation some no big deal thing that she might have asked anybody, even if the truth was that she asked you over because she was crushing on you after the call.

I think this is one of those times when you have to let the worries flow in and out without holding onto them or giving them a lot of power. Relax, and enjoy yourself until you don't, you know? It very well might not work out! But you can't see into the future, you can't protect yourself by prognostication. So just be in the present as much as you can and hope for the best.
posted by rue72 at 7:28 AM on September 8 [10 favorites]

[Just noting that there were changes made to the pronoun language in the post to remain gender-neutral. Please be aware of that when commenting here on out. ]
posted by travelingthyme (staff) at 7:57 AM on September 8 [12 favorites]

Think about your attitudes. "clinger" is a judgy word. It sets boundaries, but adds shame. Shame doesn't help with boundaries, it implies that the person is hopeless. You don't want to make them feel hopeless.
Not sure how this will shake out, since there seems to be tension building. Resolving it amiacably is tough. But with the right attitudes this will work out better, regardless of outcome. In general, reserve thoughts like "clingy" for after the fact. They are more interested than you, and they're emotionally honest. If they're also nuts, that's something you figure out later. But in the interim, let go of the assumption. And understand that it defines your behavior, while it's floating around in your brain. You're more likely to be hurtful when you silently judge people.
That being said, I'm sure you're a nice person, although my words are stern.
And you have to be you. If you have to be dishonest around them, shit will start piling up. So it's about filtering the attitude, keeping the honesty.
You're opposites it seems. Could be good. Hope this works out.
posted by svenni at 8:10 AM on September 8 [2 favorites]

Honestly, they sound really clingy and like they've already invested a lot in this, probably more than is totally reasonable - I'd be edgy about someone joking about marriage before we'd met in person, especially given how recently you two met online. I think you should make your own needs here clearer: don't text more than you're comfortable with; it sounds like you're demisexual (need a solid emotional connection to experience attraction) so while there's nothing wrong with the whole "let's hook up when we meet" thing, it's also fine if that's not something you're up for and they need to be cool about that - I think covid is making us all a little crazy and it's definitely making us more awkward, because social skills are skills, and they atrophy when not in use, so that could be some of what's going on here too. Figure out what you're comfortable with and go forward accordingly.
posted by bile and syntax at 8:16 AM on September 8 [5 favorites]

General dating tip: if you can't be yourself, including setting and (politely but truthfully) stating boundaries for yourself, it's not going to work out. Even if you force down all your needs into a tiny box so you don't make them upset in any possible way, that's only going to work for so long so it is a TERRIBLE strategy, and it does not make relationships work out.

You don't have a good way of knowing yet what the source of this seeming pushyness from the other person comes from. It might be more intensity than you're going to be able to get along with, it may just be an overeffusive communication style they could calibrate if they got a better sense that that's not your way. Saying out loud with your words - again kindly but honestly - things like "hey, I'm not ready to joke about marriage" and "I don't want to crush your enthusiasm or say definitely no when I don't know yet, but I'm uncomfortable with a lot of pressure to hook up. I'm going to have to see how I feel in the moment; I always need some time to process before I am sure."

And if they don't like that? There's the data you need. You will survive someone being disappointed with you, even if it stings for a second. It could also be that they feel rebuked for a moment but realize they CAN chill it out a little and still be happy to proceed, and then it turns out you vibe together pretty well and now know how to negotiate boundaries and communication styles!
posted by Lyn Never at 8:26 AM on September 8 [9 favorites]

About your point #5: how they react to your direct nature is not your problem.

Just reading about this person feels like walking into a spider web...yeeeecch! Too clingy by half for my taste, and I’m betting yours, too. And the constant need to be “in touch”...that’s not a mature personality, in my book.
posted by BostonTerrier at 8:50 AM on September 8 [1 favorite]

Something doesn't have to be wrong with either of you in order for the two of you not to be a good fit with each other. For example your first 4 points had me thinking, yikes, if I was talking with this person, I'd be ready to nope out by now - they sound way too eager to push things forward too fast for my comfort. But that's just me. Someone else might really appreciate that lack of hesitation.

If this doesn't feel ok to you, that's ok. It doesn't mean there's anything wrong with you.

And you have this random internet stranger's agreement that all that sounds like a lot. The constant texting AND the joking about marriage AND the pushing to hook up, all together, from the same person, over a 2 week period? Too Much.
posted by unicorn chaser at 9:13 AM on September 8 [5 favorites]

Here’s how I read this post:

two weeks ago, and it's moving quickly.

Hm, red flag. Google love bombing. I don’t know if this is that, but it’s something to be aware of.

Next paragraph, ok that’s good. You and the person like each other. Sweet.

they expressed sadness (but in a "joking way") that we didn't text one day

Hm, red flag. You don't know each other. It's ok to not text for one day with someone you barely know, even if you're having a lot of great convos.

they seemed to take this well?

Ok, that’s promising.

made a lot of references to hooking up during the trip.

Hm, not sure about that. Nothing wrong with wanting to hook up, but definitely speak up about that if it’s something you don’t want to do. If they don't respect that, that's a red flag.

I don't know what they are looking for

You can ask them this. Conversely, what are you looking for?

They have made references to getting married. Jokes, of course...

This for me would be a definite red flag. They’re joking about getting married, and ya’ll haven’t even met yet. Not cool at all.

They invited me to come visit on the first call (granted, after two hours of talking).

Yikes. So not only are they not concerned about their safety, they’re not worried about how you might feel about your safety.

They said they are very sensitive so I am worried that my direct nature will inevitably upset them, and if I communicate any of the above it will not work out.

Other people have already addressed this. Don’t change yourself to suit other people, if they can’t deal with it, then that means they’re not right for you and better to find that out sooner than later when you haven’t invested a lot yet.

I would definitely go into this with caution. For me, there's a bunch of stuff here that would make it right on the border of just ending this. And I don't think meeting in person would necessarily make things better. Be clear about what you want and what your boundaries are. If they don't respect them, that's all you need to know.
posted by foxjacket at 9:51 AM on September 8 [6 favorites]

Their behavior doesn't sound clingy to me at all. They invited you for a visit after one chat but you have mutual friends -- correct? That means they probably feel safe with you and an in-person date is not crazy after a sort of virtual coffee. I would at some point gently say, not when they're joking about it, that your timeline for thinking about marriage is at least six months after knowing someone -- that's when you're ready to start considering it. See if they take the hint and cool it.

And in terms of texting, I'd tell them straight up that you like hearing from them but could they text less? You don't want to ignore them but you also can't keep up. Then make sure that once every few days you text first just to say "hi," or call.

You should also be really clear that you don't want to hook up on a first visit/date. If you've been going along with it and then you spring that on them when you're in person, it will feel like you're rejecting them for their looks. That's not great. Just be open about it.

If all this sounds like a horrific slog and not like something you're willing to do, I'd just end it. This person seems sweet, eager, and kind of vulnerable. It's a specific type of person that you either like or you don't. It sounds like you're clicking on other cylinders so whether you like this kind of person or not is up to you.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 10:49 AM on September 8 [4 favorites]

I don't think clinginess is the right word here, but it is fair to ask if this person is just too much for you.
(In my experience, a clingy person is often an insecure person, and when they are in a situation of comfort, the behavior does not manifest itself. )
Regardless, to respond to your issues:

1. Different people text differently, this is something you would both come to a meeting of minds on. I never ever ever text my partner, but my sibling and their partner exchange a “Good morning” text each day.
2. References to having sex—if you express you like things to move slowly, they might dial it back.
3. References to getting married--would make me feel a bit uncomfortable, but not to the point I wouldn't continue seeing the person. It might have been a one off, and if it was supposed to be a joke, I'd probably overlook it.
4. Expressing their openness to quickly inviting people into their homes —not really clear, is it a mindset or does this person often collect strays? That you would find this annoying is not a bridge you have to cross at this point.
5. “I don’t want to upset them”--—you should share your thoughts and feedback! If they don’t know you are finding the comments a bit much, you are denying them the chance to recalibrate. If they are the kind of person who cannot take relationship feedback, then you know...

So, your fear of communicating is the issue. As far as I can tell, you’ve given a green light to that kind of joking/banter, so a label of clingy is not fair, in my thinking.

It sounds like you do like this person, meet up in person and see how it goes! Enjoy the connection and be honest. As things progress, you'll get a better sense of this person and how well you mesh.
good luck!
posted by rhonzo at 10:50 AM on September 8 [1 favorite]

Is it possible whichever mutual friend arranged this set-up two weeks ago really talked you up to the new person? You're uncomfortable with their level of excitement given the duration of your acquaintance, but maybe it's partly based off feeling like they know you better than they do. Anticipation could be fueling their excitement, too, if the mutual friend discussed a possible fix-up with them far earlier than you realize. You've described yourself as a worrier; the friend may have made very sure of your potential date's interest before broaching the subject with you. Or: were you dating someone, and not available to be fixed up until recently, but Date's been hearing excellent things about you for a good while? (Trying to address your unease, here, not rule out that you're just super-cool and making a superb impression.)

I think you should still meet, keeping your own comfort level and boundaries in your mind and on your lips. It's okay to say you want to take things slower. They're "very sensitive;" that sensitivity needs to allow some space to be sensitive to your needs, too.
posted by Iris Gambol at 11:02 AM on September 8 [1 favorite]

In my experience, when someone describes themselves as "very sensitive," that translates to "I will expect you to walk around on eggshells FOR MY WHIMS, and only mine." So, tell them that you're "sensitive" about joking about sex and marriage, that it makes you feel uncomfortable, and see how SENSITIVE they are to YOU.
posted by 2soxy4mypuppet at 11:09 AM on September 8 [2 favorites]

I read this mostly as this person sounds kinda immature, personally. All that "joking" and references sound indirect and possibly even passive aggressive, and that would be a pass from me.

You said you feel a bit uneasy but if you still feel mostly comfortable and excited, I don't see any harm in continuing to talk to and then meeting the person and seeing what happens and how you feel. (Unless they live far away or would incur great expense or some other mitigating factor where you'd want to make the decision to pull the plug more expediently.)
posted by sm1tten at 12:25 PM on September 8

Well, I don't think there has to be a binary here: either they are clingy or you need to work on yourself. We all need to work on ourselves, right? Also, "clingy" isn't a super helpful term (nor is being "too much"). People have different communication styles and relationships wants and needs. The point of dating is to figure out if you align. It doesn't mean something is wrong with you or them if it doesn't work; you're just different. You've pointed out some good things about this person -- especially shared interests that you don't find very often -- so it seems like you are interested in giving this a chance. In that spirit...

I think it might be time to be a bit more direct and intentional in your conversations and see how that goes. For example, you said...
The other day they expressed sadness (but in a "joking way") that we didn't text one day. I replied that I am not a big texter, and prefer the phone - and they seemed to take this well? But I am a bit worried about them being upset around that one day because I can't do this forever.

The part here that's a concern, to me, isn't so much that they want to text every day. Rather, the issue, I think, is more that they addressed in a joking way. However! It's a great sign that you addressed it directly and it seemed to go well. That's excellent! It might be that, longer term, if you and this person were to be in a relationship, you might find that the communication volume decreased. You might also find that you could compromise -- it's a bit less than what they want and a bit more than what you want. Or you might find that sending a quick text once a day goes a long way towards helping them be secure.

But I am a bit worried about them being upset around that one day because I can't do this forever.
This is the part where I'd push back on you a bit. You gave them feedback, and it went well. That's great! What's that expression? Don't go looking for trouble? Don't go looking for trouble.

Now, I do think you can take this direct communication a step further.
They are visiting in a week and have made a lot of references to hooking up during the trip. I am definitely into them, but I am uncomfortable and feel a bit pressured by that. I hardly know them still, and I don't know what they are looking for - I don't like being physically intimate when I haven't had the chance to get to know them.

This is an excellent thing to go ahead and address in advance. A phone call or video chat might feel awkward, but it's another chance to see how you all mesh. "Hey person, I am enjoying getting to know you. We have had three great video dates, and never run out of things to talk about. We have a ton of interests in common. I am looking forward to meeting you in person! I also want to address expectations. I don't like being physically intimate when I haven't had the chance to get to know someone. I am definitely into you! But I'd like to take the physical part of our relationship a lot slower, and I thought it was important to let you know before our visit."

And then just see how that goes and how they react.

Here's the thing. I think if you end this now, you might wonder what would have happened if you took things a bit further. So I'd at least talk about these things, and see how that conversation feels, and then move forward from there.
posted by bluedaisy at 12:49 PM on September 8 [2 favorites]

Hm, it's possible this person is a narcissist. That's I think what foxjacket may have been alluding to above when they referenced "love-bombing."

How a narcissist works is they will meet you & immediately pay super close attention to you, tell you how amazing you are, and make you feel really special. They are quick to say they love you, quick to want to move in together, quick to want to get married. Everything is kind of a whirl. It is super common for people to describe their early days with a narcissist as feeling exciting and instantly intimate, and to also say they felt pressured & pushed too fast.

Your person describing themselves as sensitive also fits. The fundamental reality of narcissism is that narcissists secretly feel empty and useless. That means they can't bear anything except unconditional & exaggerated praise: even the slightest criticism feels like being murdered. And so yes, self-aware narcissists will describe themselves as sensitive.

(Another potential fit: if they are single at an age when many/most people are partnered. There are lots of reasons for people to be single, but one of them is that they're unable to form sustaining intimate relationships because they are a narcissist.)

Sooooo. There are a lot of comments before mine saying this person sounds fine, you may just be incompatible, etc. Those people are almost certainly right! I think the chances that this person is a narcissist are very small (like maybe 1-2%?) but if they are one, you need to figure it out, and get away from them before they ruin your life.

If any of this resonates for you, try reading Malignant Self-Love. Either you'll find yourself nodding along with every paragraph, or you won't. Good luck!
posted by Susan PG at 1:31 PM on September 8

Thanks, everyone.

Some have flagged love bombing and potential narcissism. It's honestly part of my fear because I've had a very rocky relationship start exactly the same way with someone who ended up being incredibly self involved. I am recognizing the patterns again.

I think I'll be direct and see where it leads - I agree the response will be very telling. I want to meet them in person as well.

I do feel a bit guilty about how wary I am to someone's enthusiasm, but it's from a place of self protection. I will try to update here after the fact once it's a bit clearer. Thanks all!
posted by treetop89 at 1:38 PM on September 8 [4 favorites]

I am wondering if their recent actions are normal and if my discomfort is telling me something about them, or if I need to work on myself.

Yes, yes, and yes.

I feel like you (and a number of respondents here) are trying to make big judgments and assign labels based on a teensy tiny data set.

Some stuff to keep in mind:
  • People have different levels of comfort with trust and intimacy. None are implicitly wrong.
  • Communication preferences vary a lot. The quantity of small casual interactions (texts) or longer, deeper ones (calls) that someone prefers comes from culture and conditioning as well as personality, and can ebb and flow.
  • Communication styles are also super variable. Directness, comfort with joking, etc. These can all part of a continuum of healthy interaction.
Here are two other things that I'm listing separately with emphasis, because I think they are super important right now:
  • We are in a crisis. Life is complicated, and we are not all acting like ourselves all the time. I know for a fact that I'm more emotionally needy right now. I miss hugs and dancing and casual social interaction. I'm sure I come across as way more of a weirdo than usual.
  • Texting is awful for communicating emotions. You are communicating remotely, which gives you SO MANY opportunities for miscommunication and reading too much into every word (especially for a worrier/overthinker--ask me how I know).
It's good to listen to your instincts, but at the same time, we humans are very, very skilled at finding patterns that may or may not actually exist. It's ok to be wary and scared of repeating a previous traumatic experience, but please don't project a past partner's motivations and behaviours onto someone new, without giving them a chance to show you who they are.

So, my actual advice here: Slow down. Talk. Set boundaries together.

Set aside time for a video chat soon. Tell this person that you are a direct communicator, and that directness is important to you (I often send people to an ask/guess culture article), but that you also worry about saying the wrong thing and upsetting people. Tell them that you have a tendency to overthink and worry, and that you are feeling anxious and wary because of a past bad relationship experience. Let them know that you want them to clearly say if they are upset or hurt by your words or actions (so that you don't have to guess).

Then tell them the things you've told us about your needs: that you feel overwhelmed by frequent texting and by marriage and hook-up jokes. That you probably won't be ready for physical intimacy this visit. Tell them that you really like them (you do!), and that you want to get to know them better in a way that feels safe and fun for both of you.

If they respond with anger or defensiveness or make demands of you, you'll be learning something new and important about them.

If they respond with empathy and understanding, then you're at a good place to decide on some boundaries about what their visit will look like, how you want to keep in touch on the day-to-day, and how you communicate discomfort or concerns to one another.

Be kind to yourself. You got this.
posted by bethnull at 6:56 PM on September 8 [5 favorites]

I'd like to echo rue72's suggestion that when they said that stuff about inviting people over they could have just been trying to de-escalate and save face.

We're all poring over this tiny amount of information with a magnifying glass, taking every single word at literal face value, but seriously, people backpedal and tell white lies when they really like someone and they said something awkward and now they're desperately trying not to make it weird.

In a strained, artificial situation like the one we're all in now, people may not be behaving in exactly the same way that they would behave under more normal circumstances. In my past experience, someone can come across poorly over text and seem completely different, conversationally, face to face. Even a video call is not really the same as an in-person conversation, for various reasons -- it's a restricted window of interaction that abruptly opens and then abruptly closes, and you're on all the time while it's happening. I think that puts more pressure on someone to keep things going and be an active and engaging participant, which might cause them to veer into awkward jokes, oversharing, or generally moving too quickly in a way that seems weird.

(For all we know, they're lying awake right now replaying that time they made the marriage joke, and that time they said they invite strangers over, in their heads in glorious cringy technicolor, and wondering how much of an idiot you think they are. Obviously I'm just projecting here, but I can very easily see this happening.)

I'm not suggesting that this is all in your head. It's quite possible that you and this person are just not compatible. From the general gist of your post, I'm not sure if I'd be compatible with them either. But I think we're all communicating through suboptimal methods and none of us are at our best.
posted by confluency at 2:37 AM on September 9 [2 favorites]

Update, all - I met them in person! Overall, for someone who I've never met before, it went very well. Their personality in person is great and they're very into me. Yet, the core issues around the energy levels remain. By the end of the weekend I was exhausted. Communication was good, and I asked to go slow - and they were receptive and agreed and empathetic, but then a day later they would do something that is *not* taking it slow. For now I am going to continue to put forth boundaries and see if they're respected, but we'll see.
posted by treetop89 at 10:42 AM on September 17 [4 favorites]

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