The Mystery of the Unringing Phone
August 6, 2008 4:24 PM   Subscribe

Does my being the initiator of most of our contact mean he's not really interested in me?

In yet another installment of my Really Bad at Dating series, this is the latest:

Guy and I (I'm female, fwiw) flirted with each other which resulted in his asking me out. We had met several months before, so knew each other somewhat prior to our date. I called him the day after the first date to thank him and we went out on several other dates, during which we'd talk for hours and hours. He's adorable and mildly IT geeky in a cute Star Wars kinda way. He's somewhat nervous around me, which I find endearing.

In the meantime, New Guy started a new job, which in addition to his TWO OTHER JOBS, means he's working about eighty hours plus per week. I email or call or text him maybe once a week and notice that sometimes he responds and sometimes he doesn't. I chalked this up to his working a lot and also the fact I wasn't really asking him for a response, more at I was just saying thanks for the date or whatever.

After a few weeks, things turn wonderfully physical. During prior and subsequent dates he's displayed very cute googly behavior, such as being nervous around me and hesitantly groping for my hand. This leads me to believe he's interested in me.'s the problem: I realize I'm the initiator of most of our contact. As said, I'll get in touch with him maybe once a week and he does enthusiastically respond to me, calling me back fairly quickly and always accepting my invitations to dinner (and the conversations are usually quite lengthy, not just a five minute thing, but a good twenty to thirty minutes, which I usually end, so it's not as if he's trying to get me off the phone). But I've also noticed that after a date, he doesn't respond to my follow-up thank you emails and sometimes a week will go by with no contact from him before I break down and call him again.

Friends say he's clueless and that this is not uncommon behavior for a soul who spends his day developing software. I feel like a heel calling him every week to say hi when I'm guessing his phone works just as well as mine. Also, there is also this weird "women shouldn't call men" thing that I think is wrong yet I'm somehow worried about breaching nonetheless.

What gives? I'm not even going to utter the phrase "is he just not that into me?" instead I'll ask what the hell? I really do care about him and it's been about six weeks now so I would expect there'd be a little more communication by now. Any insight? Furthermore, yes, I know I should ask him, but I don't know how to do that without sounding needy. So any advice you have on that would be helpful, too.
posted by December to Human Relations (32 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
"Hey, want to go out this weekend? You do, cool!"

On the date: "I really enjoy going out with you, but I feel funny always being to one asking you out. So I'm available next week, but only if you plan a date and call me."
posted by orthogonality at 4:32 PM on August 6, 2008 [9 favorites]

Sounds like it could be social anxiety on his part. I'm much the same way. Doesn't mean I'm not into her.
posted by ten pounds of inedita at 4:34 PM on August 6, 2008

Three jobs sounds like someone trying to get out of serious debt. Maybe he's insecure about this? But still, 80 hours a week (and assuming commute time) is probably draining and there's little time for anything else.
posted by crapmatic at 4:35 PM on August 6, 2008

Oh, yeah, and if it's social anxiety, a suggestion like ortho's would be a terrible idea. Exposure therapy is great for people with anxiety, but imposed exposure therapy typically has the opposite effect; he might well withdraw completely.
posted by ten pounds of inedita at 4:36 PM on August 6, 2008 [1 favorite]

Best answer: He's working really long hours, as you say, so he might not be free to say, "Hey, want to go out at this time and this place?" very far in advance. Rather than calling you at the last minute, he latches onto your calls like a drowning man to a straw and readily agrees every time you suggest the two of you get together.

You've shown him that this is perfectly fine with you by continuing the relationship and growing physical with him, so as far as he knows, everything is okay.

Instead of analyzing this to death, just come right out and tell him, "I need you to call or email me the next day after we date, or I feel like you are brushing me off. And if you initiated things every once in a while, that would be great."

If you don't tell him, there's no way he's going to know. Cut him some slack for being slightly clueless and obviously overworked, and just open up to the guy!
posted by misha at 4:38 PM on August 6, 2008 [5 favorites]

Response by poster: Crapmatic (great name, btw): Good thought re the finances. But one of his time consuming jobs is actually volunteer work. Also, he has no debt other than his mortgage and makes some serious bank, so it's not insecurity on that front.

Also, I would like to point out, too, that it's not that he stopped communicating steadily after things turned physical or anything like that; it's been this way from the beginning.
posted by December at 4:45 PM on August 6, 2008

and it's been about six weeks now so I would expect there'd be a little more communication by now.

Yeah, women should be able to call. It's not weird, but it is weird he hasn't called you in six weeks. I'd take that as a sign that he's not as interested in you as you are in him. No matter how geeky, akward, or introverted he is. He would have called by now.

I wouldn't call him. Move on as they say.

and always accepting my invitations to dinner

Did he ever do any inviting? People are going to blast me for this, but let the man invite you at least half of the time or more. It's no fun doing all of the initiating and you deserve better. My husband is as introverted as they come. He was akward and shy and could barely get his food order out of his mouth at a drive-thru window (he'd kill me, I'm exaggerating, only slightly) but he managed to call me and ask for dates. Sometimes relentlessly so.
posted by LoriFLA at 4:47 PM on August 6, 2008 [1 favorite]

Hm, sounds like me! :) I'd say that he's interested, just shy. Maybe he feels like he's being intrusive calling you or whatever... not that he's admit to it (I never would!) If he's super overworked, too, and answers to someone at said work(s), I'd say that this is definitely the case -- probably not a conscious effort or anything, but I sure don't want to take the effort and call someone who possibly doesn't want to be intruded on after I've just finished up my 12 hour shift at my gloomy IT job(s). Bring it up to him on the next encounter (ala Orthagonality) or just keep on callin'! I'm sure it brightens his day, especially given his behavior on dates.

Yea! My $0.02, at any rate.
posted by ThomThomThomThom at 4:54 PM on August 6, 2008

Response by poster: He has called me in the past six weeks and sent a few unsolicited emails and texts, it's more that MOST of the time, I'm the initiator. I didn't mean to imply I'm the only one doing the inviting; it comes from his direction, too, but I'd say I do 80% of the heavy lifting in terms of asking and initiating the calls, which makes me feel like a stalker. Sometimes I'll initiate the "hi, how are you" call with no intention of extending an invite and he'll then ask me out during that call.
posted by December at 4:55 PM on August 6, 2008

He has called me in the past six weeks and sent a few unsolicited emails and texts,

Oh, okay. From your question it sounded like he hasn't too the initiative to call you in six weeks.

If he has contacted you in the last six weeks but hasn't asked you out, maybe you should talk to him. Have you seen him in person in the last six weeks? If not, I'm going to have to say that he's not as interested. People do make time to see people they are interested in, especially new and exciting romantic relationships. Back off for a while. I'm not advocating you play head games, but see how long it takes him to call you with an invite or a "I miss you, I'd love to get together" message. I'm not implying that this guy isn't interested in you, he very well may be, but he's not a baby, he's a grown man with a mortgage. He doesn't need his hand held. If he wants to see you he knows what to do.
posted by LoriFLA at 5:04 PM on August 6, 2008 [1 favorite]

taken the initiative
posted by LoriFLA at 5:06 PM on August 6, 2008

Response by poster: LoriFLA: Thanks - Yes, I've seen him several times in person over the last six weeks (that's how long we've been dating, maybe eight dates or so, plus I knew him for a few months before that). He has contacted me and asked me out during that time, my issue is more that I'm usually the one doing so and I don't know if that's a consequence of his not being interested, his being busy, or his being shy...or what.
posted by December at 5:11 PM on August 6, 2008

Apologies for my last post when I said, "I'm not implying he isn't interested." I am implying the isn't as interested, because I said that twice. Proofreading is not my strong point.

I'll say it again. From what you wrote, he probably doesn't share your level of interest.

Anecdote: My husband can be shy. Sometimes he doesn't initiate "things" (wink wink) as much as I'd like. It has distressed me in the past. I asked him about it. He said that he's not afraid to ask. He'll ask and he does. Sometimes we lie to ourselves and say, "oh he's just shy, I have to do it for him. I'll take the pressure off. He's too afraid to initiate sex, dates, phone calls, whatever." Wrong. You two have already been physical. He's a man with a successful career and a house, is super busy with his career and volunteer endeavors. He probably doesn't have a whole lot of trouble navigating through life. He may be a bit shy in the romance department, but I'm going to bet he knows what to do and say if he really wants something.

Maybe he is interested and maybe he wants to see you. You know best. What does your gut tell you? Has he told you how much he likes you? Maybe you'll have to keep doing most of the planning and initiating. Is this something you'll want to continue doing? Does that sound like a fulfilling relationship?
posted by LoriFLA at 5:36 PM on August 6, 2008 [2 favorites]

Don't worry about what people should do or what people do or don't do. This is a special circumstance because of his heavy workload and maybe his slightly geeky/introverted nature. If i were you I would cut him some slack if you enjoy your time spent together and he seems to be into you.
posted by amethysts at 5:37 PM on August 6, 2008

Best answer: Sounds to me like he's into you, but maybe not all that good at reaching out and initiating contact.

Also, there is also this weird "women shouldn't call men" thing that I think is wrong yet I'm somehow worried about breaching nonetheless.

I'd ignore that myself. But what do you want? Are you comfortable calling him every time? Not getting cute emails yourself? What if -- this is an extreme example -- you marry him and for the entire rest of your life, you do 80% of the calling or emailing? What if you end up being the social planner for someone who only takes the initiative to plan his own work calendar? If you're cool with that, and plenty of people are, go on as is and don't fret about what it means. Maybe his mom is a total social butterfly; maybe he and his brothers got tons of social contact without ever asking for it; maybe he's perfectly matched for someone who's a social planner; and if that's you, no worries.

If not, I'd do something like what orthogonality suggests. This is one of many things in life where you get treated the way you expect others to treat you. If you go on doing more than your share, you'll end up having some relationships where others do less than their share. Plenty of people do this, and it's totally fine; not everything has to be 50-50, particularly if this is a strength of yours. But wanting someone to ask you out on dates is normal, not needy. If you don't want to be picking up the slack, then I'd slowly start to leave the slack lying there. I'd mention it in a light and friendly way first so he knows what's going on ("I'm starting to feel like a stalker here"). Leaving the slack on the ground is the kind of thing that is totally anxiety-provoking, by the way. Be prepared to wait -- no matter how clear you are, he'll probably lapse into the habit of waiting for you to call. He'll have to learn to reach out, which will take some time, assuming he's even willing to. You could help ease yourselves into the new 50-50 balance (or whatever you're going for) by shifting from 80% to 70%, then to 60%, etc. It sounds like he likes you. But he also may want to focus entirely on work while having a relationship with someone who does all the asking and planning. Best of luck however you proceed.
posted by salvia at 5:47 PM on August 6, 2008 [1 favorite]

Be clear and direct about what you want, and then see if he's interested enough to try. Don't start playing games with him assuming he's going to figure it out. Especially if he's nervous around you already.
posted by Gary at 5:47 PM on August 6, 2008

Some people are just like this. I'm like this. My partner is even more so. It's kind of a miracle we ever got together at all, given how averse both of us are to making phone calls, initiating emails, etc. It could be about him not being into you, but it could also just be about him going along merrily in his comfort zone because he doesn't realize his comfort zone is making you uncomfortable/unhappy/worried. It sounds like things are getting a little more serious between you two, so perhaps this is a good time to just let him know in a calm way that it makes you a little sad that you're so often the one initiating contact, and it would mean a lot to you if he made a bit more effort. Chances are he'll make a bit more effort if he knows it's important to you. Or at least you'll probably feel better for having gotten it out in the open so you're not fretting about what it could possibly mean when it's quite possibly innocuous.
posted by Stacey at 5:49 PM on August 6, 2008

i'm guessing he's not that into you. i think he likes you and is happy to spend time with you for as long as you want, but i suspect his priorities lie elsewhere.
posted by thinkingwoman at 5:53 PM on August 6, 2008

One more for that's just now he is. I hate talking on the phone. Calling people is just stressful, regardless of how I feel about them. Give it some more time, bring it up gently, etc. If things seem good when you're together, I wouldn't worry too much.
posted by devilsbrigade at 5:59 PM on August 6, 2008

Working a lot of hours does not mean he isn't lazy.
posted by Brocktoon at 6:46 PM on August 6, 2008

Best answer: If he's working 80 hours a week and still finding the time to send unsolicited texts and emails and finds the time to still see you (8 dates in 6 weeks is a reasonable start, I think) - I think he IS into you, even if you feel like you're doing all the heavy-lifting.

I have been in situations where I have have had to make all the contact - 100% of the time. That's when I call it quits. But it's reasonable to believe that one of the two of any partnership is going to be the one who plans/calls/texts more frequently - and I go back to his 80 hour work week as a reason why he might not be able to match you with the number of contacts made.

Also, there's a possibility that you just like to plan or organise things more than he does - I know I certainly like to make plans rather than do things at the last minute.

If it's really a concern, I'd let him know - I don't think it hurts to mention that you feel like you're always making first contact. Even if he is shy, I don't think that will scare him off - surely even really shy people will send a text or email asking someone out, if you've already said you'd like to hear from him more often.
posted by crossoverman at 8:15 PM on August 6, 2008

I'll get in touch with him maybe once a week and he does enthusiastically respond to me, calling me back fairly quickly and always accepting my invitations to dinner (and the conversations are usually quite lengthy, not just a five minute thing, but a good twenty to thirty minutes, which I usually end, so it's not as if he's trying to get me off the phone).

Sounds promising. I don't think there is a need for alarm bells just yet.

One thing: sometimes people can be neatly slotted into 'askers' or 'answerers', in terms of their preferred mode of behaving. Put a preferred asker together with an answerer, and you get no prize for guessing what happens.

It might be that he's currently quite content simply responding to your approaches, invitations etc & it doesn't even occur to him that it's at all problematic in any way, because you two are still getting a good dose of interaction.
posted by UbuRoivas at 9:43 PM on August 6, 2008

or what crossoverman said. and also devilsbrigade on phone aversion. on top of regular phone aversion, a busy schedule can make somebody even less agreeable towards initiating phone calls.
posted by UbuRoivas at 9:48 PM on August 6, 2008

Best answer: Some people are callers. Some people are callees. He's a callee. You're a caller. Perfect.

there is also this weird "women shouldn't call men" thing

That is a weird thing. So weird that you should set it aside and never think it again.

Just call him when you want to see him, and stop keeping a scorecard of who initiates what when. I bet you a whole nickel he has not the faintest clue this is an issue.
posted by ook at 10:27 PM on August 6, 2008 [1 favorite]

he asked YOU out. that counts as initiating contact in my book.

he's interested, just insanely busy and probably doesn't know what you expect or how to meet it.

i would skip a week, as hard as it might be, and let him close the distance, if you need to feel needed. you're making it easy for him to continue behavior you dislike by continuing to initiate every date.

or you can confront the issue directly. as suggested.
posted by emptyinside at 11:16 PM on August 6, 2008

My husband and I have been together for two and a half years, and had our first real phone conversation last month. He thinks about me ALL THE TIME, but hardly ever initiates contact for the sake of contact while we're apart, no matter if it's a few hours or a few days.

Whether or not he's into you is something better to judge while you're together, not while you're apart.

If it's really a dealbreaker that you're the one to call (even if he's happy to hear from you), then it's a dealbreaker and you should move on and find someone more aggressive. If it's just a concern that tweaks you a little, go with the suggestions that make him calling a condition of you getting together. If being the one to call doesn't bother you that much, simply ask if he minds that you initiate the contact so much.
posted by itesser at 11:18 PM on August 6, 2008

Even if he is indeed into you, it sounds like you need someone who calls more often. There's nothing wrong with that. Also, you don't sound "needy" at all. On the contrary, I'm actually worried that you are making too many excuses for him.

As for how to talk to him about this, why not give him the url of this thread?
posted by conrad53 at 12:19 AM on August 7, 2008

He's into you. He's just different from you. (Which is usually good with boys and girls and touching are all involved.) I think he's getting enough contact from what you initiate and that makes him perfectly happy.

But it bothers you, so you should tell him what you would like.

All bets are off if he gets defensive about it when you bring it up, but I don't think he will be.
posted by Ookseer at 1:13 AM on August 7, 2008 [1 favorite]

He's into you.

IT/geeky type can mean that he reads things very ... strictly. In the sense that if something you say to him doesn't call for a direct response he will not see any need whatsoever to respond. I'm a little like that myself. Don't take it the wrong way. Try tacking on questions to the end of your emails/messages/etc and see if his behaviour changes.

I'd suggest that you confront the issue directly, and explain it not in terms of what is or is not the objective socially acceptable standard, but in terms of how it makes you feel.

I've also had the experience where I'm constantly 'beaten to it' by the person I'm seeing, in the sense that on multiple occasions I'm gearing up to ask that person out for another date, composing the email in my head (or whatever, picking up the phone, etc) and just at that moment that person rings me up and asks me out. Obviously this is too coincidental to be the sole explanation for his actions, but it illustrates the point that some people are slower to call/ask others out than others.
posted by nihraguk at 3:59 AM on August 7, 2008

Best answer: IT/geeky type can mean that he reads things very ... strictly. In the sense that if something you say to him doesn't call for a direct response he will not see any need whatsoever to respond.


I'm working out a hand-wavey theory here that some people see overture-type communication (chatty emails and texts, what have you) as an important thing, as a useful way of checking in with someone. Other people think "I don't have to decide on a time or a place for anything... I'll eat a sandwich instead of replying to this".

Not sure if this is what's going on with you and yours, but what you've written doesn't ring any alarm bells to rouse shrieking vultures caped in big red flags of DTMFA, etc.
posted by eponymouse at 5:03 AM on August 7, 2008 [1 favorite]

My intuition: He's shy and awkward, and he needs a good push or three. Yeah, you need to remind him that time spent with a woman is a Good Thing. He'll get it eventually, I think. Guide the process.
posted by Citrus at 6:41 AM on August 7, 2008

I've found that women consistently underestimate the pressure that traditional sex roles place on the man in the very early stages of a relationship. I'd assume that he is into you unless he says otherwise. Although I have no way of truly knowing this, I suspect that much of the training women have regarding men involves judging a man's interest on how aggressive he is with them. This can cause problems.

Talk it out with him.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:21 AM on August 7, 2008 [3 favorites]

« Older I feel too young   |   Free food in the east bay for a birthday girl? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.