DTMFA or wait for more?
October 3, 2022 8:56 AM   Subscribe

I, a late-twenties woman, have been seeing a guy for about two months. Things have been feeling a bit one-sided for some time now. I am considering ending things and would like some perspective.

We have fun when we are together and I like him more than other men I’ve dated in recent years. He’s the one who pursued me initially, but things have been feeling a bit one-sided for some time now - I am often the one scheduling dates and we don’t talk much in-between.

I brought up dating intentions recently, saying I’ve been getting more invested and wondering if it’s mutual. He got defensive (he often gets defensive/flustered does when I prompt him to discuss his feelings) and said that he enjoys our time together but hasn’t thought about it more than that - that in his relationships, he doesn’t like forcing things and prefers to see where things go. He mentioned that he has not been seeing anyone else. My concern about the one-sidedness went unaddressed and I was a bit too overwhelmed to bring it up again. I’m also not sure I formulated what I wanted to see very well, it was just a vague idea of ~seeing a future~ and ~commitment~.

At this stage, I’d like to feel like things are progressing - like we are increasingly integrating each others’ lives (ex: talking most days; planning more elaborate dates, like day-trips, ahead of time; meeting each other’s friends…). I realize that I have not been pushing for this either (ex: I have not introduced him to friends yet; I don’t initiate conversational texts very often), because it feels like I’d be doing too much work in addition to scheduling almost all of our recent dates. I realize that this may sound old-fashioned, but I feel like if the guy doesn’t initiate hanging out often or progress the relationship further, he’s just not that into it. I really want to see initiative on his end, but it feels odd to ask for that.

I am thinking of ending this. Though I get the sense that he likes me when we are together and enthused to see me (even though I set things up a lot of the time), I feel like my time is being wasted, given his lack of initiative. I also disliked his defensiveness to what is a fairly commonplace question on our situation. However, I also get the sense he likes to take things slower (he has mentioned that it takes him a while to open up to people, he seems to have some difficulty being vulnerable) and I am hesitant to lose out on a potentially good relationship if things develop further down the line, simply due to my impatience and insecurity.

I’m looking for some perspective from more experienced daters - should I wait a bit longer and see where this goes? I am also considering going on dates with other men in the meantime, just so that I don’t put all my eggs in one basket. Is this a clear-cut case of “he’s-just-not-that-into-you”?
posted by Clyde Sparrow to Human Relations (36 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
it sounds that way to me. Definitely see other people, at least.
posted by fingersandtoes at 9:01 AM on October 3, 2022 [5 favorites]

There's a middle ground between ending things and the status quo: tell him / ask him these things and see how he responds. Is there discussion? Is there more defensiveness? Is he open about what makes him seem defensive? Are you two able to navigate discussion and, if need be, conflict without hurting one another? That's material that can help you crustallize or dispel any given judgment you're considering.
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 9:03 AM on October 3, 2022 [2 favorites]

Is this a clear-cut case of “he’s-just-not-that-into-you”?

In my personal experience, yes.
posted by aniola at 9:04 AM on October 3, 2022 [21 favorites]

You are guessing at what he is feeling. A better strategy is to state your needs clearly:

"I'd like you to schedule more of our dates, would you do that for me?"
"Let's talk/text more often between dates, I love talking with you."

If he can't meet these basic needs, or responds badly to a clear request, it will tell you a lot about how he's feeling about you and what kind of person he is.
posted by fake at 9:05 AM on October 3, 2022 [25 favorites]

Best answer: "He got defensive (he often gets defensive/flustered does when I prompt him to discuss his feelings)"

Honestly every time I see some version of this in a post on AskMe, I wish my phone had a button I could push to delete and block the guy on your behalf. He might as well be wearing a t-shirt with a giant red flag inscribed with "ManBaby" in Comic Sans on the front.

Relationships are hard work. If he's unable to front even this bare minimum of communication effort in the early stages, he's not ready to date on a grown-up level.

posted by invincible summer at 9:26 AM on October 3, 2022 [61 favorites]

This is a tough situation, because you are getting a bunch of confusing signals. If I am reading your post correctly:

Relationship building: He is introducing you to his friends, he and you enjoy your time together, he isn't seeing other people (he says)

Relationship eroders: He isn't planning dates, he might not be initiating phone/text conversations (but you also said that you aren't doing this?)

But if you are considering breaking up with him, you might as well talk to him what you feel and want. Remember that actions are what really matter here: if he is willing to more equally do the connection-forming work, it would indicate that he is willing to meet your relationship needs.

Get clear on what you want. Then be prepared to say it, and possibly give him time to think about it and process away from you.

Slight (initial) defensiveness (when issues are first broached) is actually something I've learned to tune out. My partner of 20 years has some social anxiety that contributes to him getting overwhelmed in social (and dating) situations. But he has proven time and again that if he has a chance to work through things on his own, he heeds my requests and changes his actions. So there is that angle.

But honestly, unless your requests are met with positive behavior change, his defensiveness is a tactic to thwart having to meet your relationship needs and an easy DTMFA. 'Cause if he isn't willing to do 50% of the relationship-building now there isn't a viable path forward.
posted by Sauter Vaguely at 9:44 AM on October 3, 2022 [3 favorites]

So you know something about him - he's not good about talking about emotions abstractly. You're allowed to not like that and see it as a negative - but there is another option, like some are suggesting, which is to adapt how you communicate with him. Instead of bringing up an abstract issue, like whether his emotional commitment is growing, bring up the specific symptom that's bothering you - i.e. that you plan all of the dates. "Hey, I've noticed I plan most of our dates - have you noticed that?" It's possible he's just unthinkingly allowed you to fall into this gendered role, and has no idea it's a problem for you.

If he gets defensive in the face of any and all conflict, that's a red flag - but since it sounds like you do have a good time together and you like him more than other men you've dated recently, I'd at least see if you get a different result by approaching emotional topics through explicitly requesting concrete behaviors you want/need.
posted by coffeecat at 9:52 AM on October 3, 2022 [1 favorite]

I realize that this may sound old-fashioned

It is actually exactly the opposite of old fashioned to expect that your relationship will be an equal partnership with the work of the relationship shared between both parties.

Are you interested in pursuing a relationship with someone who won't contribute equitably to the labor of being in that relationship?
posted by phunniemee at 10:04 AM on October 3, 2022 [15 favorites]

Two months is still way early in a relationship. Stop initiating so much with him and see what happens, and in the meantime see other people.
posted by MelissaSimon at 10:31 AM on October 3, 2022 [18 favorites]

What MelissaSimon said. I'm not sure how old you are, but two months is early days for some. His behavior may be a warning sign of lack of investment, or he may just not move quite as quickly as you. I'm not saying make excuses for him indefinitely, but starting to read your post I thought, "how can anything be 'for some time now'? There hasn't been time for 'some time now' yet!"
posted by praemunire at 10:48 AM on October 3, 2022 [7 favorites]

Agreed on the "back off and see if he contacts you" strategy, and by all means see other people (although it's not clear how you responded when he told you he wasn't seeing anyone else, this may be something you should tell him first if he's got reason to think you're not.) Two months is pretty early but if you need him to show more active enthusiasm, now's the time to make that clear. He wants to see where things go, then he can watch them go away if he doesn't step up.
posted by restless_nomad at 11:19 AM on October 3, 2022 [3 favorites]

Ughhhh so many men don't make the bare minimum of effort. See other people. If he wants to date you he can take some initiative and set up a date. Otherwise that's your answer.
posted by emd3737 at 11:22 AM on October 3, 2022 [4 favorites]

Liberate yourself from trying to coach along a man who will not do the minimum to keep up a new! shiny! relationship. If you have to drag him to water at this point, what will it look like in two years? I submit the answer is "not better." Do not waste time on this person, your dignity is priceless and there are definitely men you won't have to chase who will be interested in you.

And even if there WEREN'T those men, being alone is better than chasing some half-raised child to return a text.
posted by Medieval Maven at 11:27 AM on October 3, 2022 [14 favorites]

Best answer: If you were to back off a little, or make it clear you won't stay in a relationship where your SO is passive about planning dates, etc. you might see some increased engagement (i.e., he steps up and plans some dates, takes more initiative), because that costs him very little--he can just go back to pursuing you as he did in the beginning, and you'll feel like he's making progress but he won't have to get vulnerable with you. I'd be reluctant to do that, personally, because of his defensiveness around emotions. It sounds like you'd like to be with someone who, two months into the relationship, is able to give you some honest and self-aware answers about their feelings. You could ask him to work on his discomfort and defensiveness around emotions, or say something like, "I want to be with someone who can discuss their emotions with me," but his big defensive reaction to your very reasonable question about how he's feeling about this relationship makes me skeptical he could respond positively.

To put it another way, you haven't liked other men as much as you like him, so he has that component of what you're looking for, but you don't like his lack of ability to talk about his feelings, so he's lacking that component of what you're looking for. What an absolute bummer! It's so hard when the missing piece is something that seems fixable. But since you can't fix it for him, you have to engage with the actual person, not the fantasy of who he could be if he just learned some more relationship skills.
posted by theotherdurassister at 11:51 AM on October 3, 2022 [7 favorites]

I’ve been getting more invested and wondering if it’s mutual

he enjoys our time together but hasn’t thought about it more than that

There's your answer. He hasn't thought about it because he's not invested. Sorry.
posted by danceswithlight at 11:55 AM on October 3, 2022 [3 favorites]

Yes, date other people. This relationship sounds like pretty casual dating, and while it's nice that you have fun together when you see each other, I'm not clear if what you describe is an established enough thing for a "DTMFA"-type recommendation. My recommendation would be to stop setting up new plans if you don't want to, see other people if you want to, and if he initiates in the future, consider accepting the invitation or not.
posted by sk932 at 12:13 PM on October 3, 2022

It's really hard to know, without knowing you well, if you are legitimately seeing a lack of interest, or if this is more that you are a planner and he isn't so much. Or that you like to plan further out. This doesn't seem clear cut to me. Is this a usual pattern for you, that you get a bit anxious and insecure early on? I have been there, and it's really tough!

It also sounds like you tried to have a DTR (define the relationship) conversation, and talk about planning, and he did a bit of defining -- he said he's not seeing anyone else and you're exclusive with him -- but he also indicated he's not eager to start being the planner. Is this something you can live with, if it's not a lack of interest?

Also, have you had the big "What are you looking for?" conversation? Do you know if you all are on the same page in terms of long term relationship interests?
posted by bluedaisy at 12:19 PM on October 3, 2022 [1 favorite]

I'd bail. Things should be more fun than this at 2 months.
posted by Ragged Richard at 1:04 PM on October 3, 2022 [5 favorites]

Even if he is "that into you," do you want to be in a relationship with someone who can't talk about that relationship without getting defensive, who leaves the work of building the relationship up to you if (if it is to happen at all), and who doesn't express enthusiasm when you're not actively spending time together? Personally, I value emotional/communication skills in my partners, and would not be open to this at all (and think invincible summer's perspective seems about right...).
posted by Edna Million at 1:06 PM on October 3, 2022

By two months, he should be able to articulate some interest and emotional engagement with you. This doesn't sound promising to me, and I think you could do better.
posted by Dip Flash at 1:18 PM on October 3, 2022 [2 favorites]

praemunire said all.

How can anything be "for some time now" when it's only been two months?

If you never met the guy before this, you're still just barely getting to know who he is, and vice versa. When I was years into the dating search, everything I ever read and learned from experience is that usually, if it wasn't meant to be, things will fall apart by about month 6. Many times, it will disintegrate much sooner than that if there just isn't the attraction, timing, or momentum (or if there is recognized abusive tendencies or other red flags)...

But if you are enjoying each other and each continuing experience with each other is mutually satisfying - then it is often by about the 6th month that certain deal breakers have finally made themselves clear, even if it's just a few niggling details that seem to bother at least one party in the relationship more and more to the point that it's just not worth investing in.

Give it a few more months, & relax and enjoy what comes in the meantime... even if that means that you get tired of waiting for his initiative and someone else comes in to fill the gap! You may find that he reveals more about his character that you aren't on board with, or that he starts to show more initiative because he actually misses your contact - rather than feels pressured into getting back to you. You'll be better able to tell in 2-4 more months.
posted by itsflyable at 1:27 PM on October 3, 2022

Given what you've said, I could read this either way, in terms of whether he's into you and has said so in appropriate ways this point, or not. I could also read that he's made efforts, or that he hasn't.

But: if you dump him now, you will be dumping someone because they couldn't read your mind. You have not expressed your wishes and your needs to him; he has not had the chance to live up to them, or to let you down. I would suggest that you should do that before you dump him, if only for the practice.
posted by Dashy at 1:31 PM on October 3, 2022

Best answer: I've been where you are, and even asked similar questions on askme. I got a variety of answers like you have here that usually boil down to:

1. Speak your needs, they can't meet them if they don't know
2. X months is too early, chill and see how it goes if you're enjoying it
3. Bounce, this is already failing

For me, whenever I tried 1, it didn't end with the person suddenly stepping up. That led to an underwhelming conversation followed by a slow fade on mine or their part if not us calling it off directly. When I tried 2, I would feel anxious, unhappy, and unfulfilled until I'd either do 3 or circle back to 1 and still end in the same place.

Things started to work when I embraced 3 when I felt my needs weren't getting met.

I'm not saying there are never scenarios where 1 and 2 work out. What I'm saying is make a decision based on your feelings, not a series of potential outcomes that could happen if you ignore your instincts and play it "properly." You aren't enjoying this. You feel like you are chasing this person to show interest. Who on earth wants that? If its so new and fun, shouldn't you be...having fun?

When someone likes you, you won't be confused.
posted by amycup at 2:31 PM on October 3, 2022 [23 favorites]

Honestly, he just sounds like he feels "meh" about this. It's fine if you're there, but he's probably not super attached to you either. I get that he's better than anyone else who's come along in years and that's still kind of better than absolutely nothing (oh, don't I), but he doesn't sound like he'd be fazed if you suddenly disappeared tomorrow either. I can also say that if you stop contacting someone and then you wait for them to contact you, it almost never happens.

Also, what amycup said.

And yeah, if you wanna go date other people in the meantime, you might as well. See if anyone is more into you than this one is, and I guess just kinda take him as a placeholder until then if you still want to date.
posted by jenfullmoon at 3:04 PM on October 3, 2022

he doesn’t like forcing things and prefers to see where things go

Nowhere is where things go, if all he wants to do is "wait and see". There comes a point where he will have to decide to start making commitments, if he values the relationship. Small ones in the beginning, to be sure. I mean, being able to say "I really like you, and I'd like for us to date exclusively while we see where this is going" doesn't seem unreasonable after two months.

Or else he can gently admit that he doesn't know how he feels yet, and is not ready to be exclusive, without making you feel needy and pushy for asking.

If you feel it's more the latter than the former (and if you can get over the fact that he hasn't been clear and kind in communicating the fact) you could still give it a little more time, if you want, while being cautious about going all-in on your own feelings. But I wouldn't give it a LOT of time if he continues to want to keep things "undefined".
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 3:12 PM on October 3, 2022

+1 amycup and jenfullmoon. When a guy is into you, you don’t need to ask questions like this on AskMe two months in. Back off and stop contacting him as much and see if he takes the initiative and asks to see you.
posted by whitelily at 3:24 PM on October 3, 2022 [1 favorite]

Any relationship whether it's between co-workers, friends, relatives, OR romantic partners needs to be based in reciprocity and mutual effort. It's even implied in the roots of the word - "lat" being the latin root for "carry" and "re" being the root for "back."

He is not carrying his weight in moving the relationship forward and giving back to you the same amount of time and effort. And of course it's annoying and anxiety producing to not having that same level of reciprocity. You can either dial back your effort and see if he steps up, tell him that a sign of good relationship to you is reciprocity in energy, effort and enthusiasm that you're not feeling from him and see what he says, or just move on.

I think it's worth stating this basic expectation if only to give you practice in speaking your needs and see what happens.
posted by brookeb at 3:51 PM on October 3, 2022

He got defensive

because you told him you really liked him?? what's to defend?

either he experiences compliments and affection as aggression and you should dump him, or you somehow expressed affection and compliments in an aggressive way, as it might be an employee performance improvement plan (I have a hard time imagining this but I'm sure it is possible) and you should dump him.

he ought to be pleased that you like him. you ought to be pleased that you like him. but neither of you are pleased.

incidentally, you don't sound old-fashioned at all. old-fashioned people don't increase their emotional investment and start life integration processes, they fall in love. or they don't. and I think old-fashioned terminology is useful in this situation.

If you don't want to like him any more than you do unless he likes you back just as much, stop asking him out. don't tell him it's over, just stop. see if he does anything about it. then you'll know.
posted by queenofbithynia at 4:48 PM on October 3, 2022 [1 favorite]

I actually think two month is a long time, not a short time, to spend dating someone who can't be bothered to put much effort in. Why should you have to "state your needs" when those needs are simply that he puts some effort in? It's a waste of effort to try to explain to people why you want them to put in the bare minimum.

As someone who has been through this a few times, I recommend getting out now before you get more invested. Date someone who is interested and puts in effort without having to be confronted about it.
posted by bearette at 5:48 PM on October 3, 2022 [3 favorites]

I think this guy is just not that into you. If it were me, I’d call it a day but if you actually want to see give him a chance, stop putting effort in and tell him you’re going to start seeing other people (and actually do this). He doesn’t need to bother trying because you’ve done all the work so far, so he thinks you’re invested and he doesn’t need to bother. You can either show him that he does or you can break up. But really as bearette said, you don’t want to have to twist someone’s arm into being with you. Screw that.
posted by Jubey at 5:59 PM on October 3, 2022 [2 favorites]

Personally, I have stopped subscribing to the "she/he/they just aren't into you" camp. I see its validity and value BUT I now ask myself this:

Am I into this person? Is this relationship meeting my needs?

Can I communicate what I want? Are they communicating what they want?

There are people who are super into you but are super selfish or emotionally immature. What they think is unimportant if they aren't willing to try. The saddest thing for me in dating these days is how unwilling many people are to try! At two months in, I'd say it's less about a lack of interest and more about a certain fear (understandable but can be worked on) and/or entitlement (I'll call it laziness.) I hope you can talk to him about things and that they get better. I feel this situation is so common in 2022, sadly. For me, reframing it as a personal limitation rather than a lack of interest has been really helpful when I'm frustrated dating, at least with many of the people I've dated. I'm sorry and wish you luck! Even if this doesn't work out, you're one step closer to knowing yourself and finding a truly great relationship.
posted by smorgasbord at 7:39 PM on October 3, 2022 [6 favorites]

Btw: he mentioned he’s not seeing anyone else, but that’s not necessarily the same as you two agreeing to exclusivity. He could be seeing only you by chance (no one else he likes has come around).
posted by whitelily at 8:16 PM on October 3, 2022

Definitely keep open to looking elsewhere, but from your description there's a chance the problem may be more that he feels put on the spot. Tell him you want to answer these questions but let him know it's okay if he takes a day or two to think about it.

Give him that room, and if he fails to make use of it then he's not relationship material even if he is into you.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 8:35 PM on October 3, 2022

At two months, everything should be fun and exiting and new, but you're starting to form deeper relationships and get more involved in each other's lives (in my opinion, obviously). It seems neither of you is moving to do that, so maybe the relationship has run its course. Push your concerns to him in a way that makes it clear things have to change or you're out. One way or another, you'll have your answer.

Btw: he mentioned he’s not seeing anyone else, but that’s not necessarily the same as you two agreeing to exclusivity
This jumped out at me too - maybe I'm jumping at shadows, but the correct way to express this is 'I'm not interested in seeing any one else' or similar.
posted by dg at 10:45 PM on October 3, 2022

Response by poster: Thanks for the variety of perspectives, MeFites. As the day went on, I found myself secretly hoping to get more answers of the “bail now” variety, which says a lot. Though he had shown himself amenable to feedback, I did not have it in me to request a basic level of interest. So I bailed - I prefer getting closure, plus this person and I have overlapping social circles, so slowly fading might have lead to awkwardness. My ego is pretty bruised but it’s definitely for the best.
posted by Clyde Sparrow at 5:41 AM on October 4, 2022 [17 favorites]

Trust yourself and your instincts. What you want is reasonable and exists!!
posted by spindrifter at 4:43 AM on October 7, 2022

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