Pushy or passive?

From a reader:

We are friends-only now. Before we were kind of dating and flirting. We definitely like each other, but his ex came back into the picture. He said he needed time and that he is not ready for a relationship so I did not contact him for three weeks but then we began to text/flirt daily. Before our break, I told him I see him as more than a friend. Now I’m not sure if he is seeing someone else or if he is interested in something more. I don’t know how to talk about this without pushing him away or scaring him.

Editor note: The reader wrote twice with updates to the question so I slightly modified the text for improved reading comprehension.

 

My response:

Dear reader:

What compels you to pursue this man?   I wonder if you have spent any time considering and determining what an ideal relationship looks like to you.

Below I offer a conversation starter and comments you could make to draw out this man’s real story. But first, let’s consider the concept of “relationship must-haves.”

In my world relationship must-haves are also called showstoppers. If one of my must-haves is missing from my relationship I know it’s time to stop the show and take a hard look at the situation. Usually I don’t like what I see. My showstoppers remove relationship blind spots and guide me toward healthier decisions.

My five relationship must-haves:

Deep intimate love, passion, respect, we bring out the best in each other and can talk about anything at any time.

Everything else is negotiable.

Knowing what you want from a relationship before it begins can prevent heartache and save valuable time because it will be much easier to notice when your relationship strays from the values you hold and the needs you have.  Relationship integrity is found in our must-haves.

Once I made the commitment to always honor my truest relationship desires my must-haves/showstoppers have sheltered me from making futile dating decisions. No doubt this has liberated me from unnecessary heartache and allowed me to wait until the man of my dreams appeared.

What are your must-haves?

Once you settle on your vision of relationship happiness consider if the man you are texting can give you what you need.

A few harsh truths about dating men I learned the hard way:

1. When a man wants you he makes it obvious. When he does not want you (for any number of reasons) his lack of obviously wanting you is the biggest clue of his being uninterested. Flirting does not count. Most men are hungry to flirt and will do it no matter how uninterested they are in romance.

2. Passively waiting around for him, giving him space, does nothing to increase his interest. It might not push him away but it won’t pull him closer either.

3. Believe it when a man says he is not ready for a relationship. In your case he could still be grieving the loss of his previous relationship. (If so, why did he create an online dating profile?!? It infuriates me when people use online dating as a band-aid to cover recent relationship wounds and disregard expectations and feelings of other online members who are ready to get serious.)

When the person we date says s/he is not ready for a relationship this is code for “this is not serious and probably never will be.” Also known as “I want to hook up without any strings attached.” The comment is typically offered by non-confrontational people who fear telling the truth and have inadequate communication skills.

Longing for someone we cannot have makes us blind to those who are in front of us.

Why wait to ask for what you want?  What are you waiting for?

This is the gist of what I would say to him after preparing myself that walking away could be the healthiest thing I can do for my mental health and will leave me open to meeting the love of my life.

How To Say It:

“Guy I like, I have something to say that is nerve-wracking and hard for me to talk about. I hope you will bear with me as I try to express my thoughts.

You and I have been in contact for x months now. I am glad we met and like the connection we have. However, I wonder if we are on the same page, because I see us as more than friends.  Since you told me you needed more time to recover from your past relationship, I have wondered where I stood with you.

I like flirting with you but have been receiving mixed messages lately. I can’t tell whether or not you want to take things to the next level.

What would you like to have happen between us?”

A few difficult conversation basics:

• Being vulnerable at the beginning of any difficult conversation softens what the other person hears from you.

• When we approach these talks as “learning conversations” and stay curious throughout, it disarms the other person and helps reduce defensiveness.

• Acknowledging how the other person feels, in an empathetic way, goes a long way toward the other person staying calm. Reflect back what you heard by saying “Am I hearing you say xyz?” Or, “Let me see if I understand you correctly. I heard you say xyz…”

How does this sound to you?

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Waiting for a Call

Question from a reader:

Hi There.

I have a friend with whom I have wonderful conversations on the phone. When
SHE phones, we often talk for hours, and when we talk I feel like we are
close friends due to the nature of what we discuss and the length and
intensity of the conversations. However, when I phone her I almost ALWAYS
get her answering machine, and I often don’t hear from her for a long time
after (sometimes up to a month). When she does call me, she can almost
always reach me. She often starts by apologizing that she hasn’t been able
to call me back, and says she’s been busy. This issue has bothered me for a
long time, because I feel like she’s lying to me about “being busy” as the
reason for her not phoning. I feel like she’s screening her calls, and
purposely doesn’t pick up when I call, but I’m not sure why. I’ve touched
on it once by saying “When I call, I get your voicemail an awful lot…..is
there a good time to call when I’m likely to reach you?” She responded with
a pause, some rambling, and eventually said that a particular time worked
best. I had already been trying to call at that time. Miraculously, after
that, for a couple of months, she answered the phone when I called. Now,
the situation seems to have reverted back to me getting the answering
machine all the time.
I have often thought that my calls are being avoided on purpose, which
would suggest that she doesn’t want to hear from me. Yet, I am not sure, as
when she phones me, we talk for hours. In one way I’d like to know what’s
going on so that I can finally stop wondering and guessing, but in another
way, I’m scared to have this conversation because she’ll likely say
something I won’t like hearing.
I think I need to mention the voicemail issue again, but in a way which
clearly conveys how I feel and what I’m concerned about. Do you have a
suggestion?

Thanks,

Waiting for a Call.

———————————
[My 1st reply]

Hi Waiting,

Thanks for taking the time to write. Sorry to hear about your frustration.

It sounds like your friend enjoys your friendship, but might be trying to set boundaries with you by controlling when you two talk. Maybe I am wrong to think you want a romantic relationship with this person but it sounds like it. I am guessing you have other friends with whom you talk on occasion and it doesn’t bother you like it does with her.

Clearly, she likes talking to you … when she has the time and inclination, which seems to me like she does consider you a close friend but is probably not considering romance. Deciding when and how often you two talk may be her subtle way to communicate this.

However, since her behavior hurts you, confirm her intentions. What about opening the conversation with something like this:

“If you did not know this, I look forward to our conversations. They energize me and seem to deepen our friendship, which I really enjoy.

Because I consistently have trouble reaching you whenever I call, I wonder if you are uncomfortable with something I am doing? I do not want to push you away or do anything to weaken our friendship. But, sometimes I really want to reach you. When you don’t answer the phone or return my calls within a few days I get the feeling something is wrong, and I get frustrated with your silence.

Is there something different I can do to encourage a call back?”

Hearing this from you might give her permission to tell you how she feels about your friendship. Maybe add an additional comment about your intentions, such as:

“Are you concerned I want something more from our relationship? Maybe this is something we should talk about briefly.”

It is a bold move to encourage open and honest communication. Fortunately, we can approach these talks so neither party dreads having the conversation.

Be well,
Lynne

———————————————
[Reader reply]

Thanks for the advice. I will definitely try some of these suggestions if she phones me back.

I’m curious about what makes it seem like I’m interested in a romantic relationship with this person? It is true that I have other friends with whom I speak with only sometimes, but these are relationships with a great deal of reciprocity ( I phone, they phone, I suggest an outing, they suggest one, etc) something which I feel is really lacking in this relationship. Also, my other friends generally answer the phone when I call, or they get back to me within a few days of getting my message, and vice-versa. But, strangely enough, I don’t feel the same closeness with them that I do with this friend. I think I forgot to mention that I was only calling her once a month at best, sometimes every couple of months. I consider myself a fairly intelligent person, and I’d like to think that if she didn’t want to talk to me, and she ignored my calls and never called me again, I would get the hint. Only when she does phone me, she is keen to chat..and often for at least a couple hours at a time. This is what leaves me feeling used and confused. It’s like I am there for her, but she is never there for me. Texts are the same way. She sends me these long, thoughtful texts, and when I text her..no response for many days. We hang out on occasion, and seem to have a great time. I think she does consider me a friend, maybe even a close or “good” friend. And when we are talking, I feel the same way. I think that’s why I get so angry and upset when I can’t reach her. I just don’t understand what to make of it all.

-Waiting for a Call

———————————————-
[My 2nd reply]

Hi Waiting,

In your original message, you expressed fear about how she might respond to your needs. I thought you might have romantic feelings for her because I know that I feel much more afraid approaching a difficult conversation with someone I want as a romantic partner than I do with a platonic friend. Maybe that’s just me.

In my earlier years of dating, I grew anxious if someone I liked did not get back to me within a reasonable time period. These days, I chalk up delayed calls to lack of romantic interest and will let go of wanting a relationship with this person. When a friend does not return my call, my feelings are less hurt because I know how busy life gets and feel secure that I will eventually connect with this friend when it is convenient for us both.

Because your friend pushes your buttons, in both positive and negative ways, I hope you will honestly communicate your concerns to her. If she is a good friend she will listen and try to find a solution so you can feel heard by her when you need it. If she will not accommodate you, then you may want to consider the depth of the friendship and whether or not it is worth pursuing.

Good luck,
Lynne

[Originally received November 2012]

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Vacation Needy?

Question from a reader:

Been married 35 years. For the past 10 years my husband has
slowly been cutting me out of his life. He has his own friends, his own
activities. Our last vacation together was 5 years ago. I want a nice
vacation. It started with wanting a really nice vacation for our
anniversary. It didn’t happen. Every time I bring it up, he has a reason
why not: too expensive, can’t get the time off, don’t want to go there,
need to see how it goes for you at work, need to see if you get the new
job, etc. In the meantime he’s gone to Vegas with the boys, been to
Florida with his cousins and Mom several times, week long motorcycle rides.
I don’t want to go somewhere by myself. I want to go together. I’ve told
him this. Now what?

M.

Hi M.,

Have you two talked lately about the status of your relationship? If not, maybe it’s time.

As you know, vacations are the time we escape our mundane lives together and re-explore what we like about each other. I cannot help but wonder if his not wanting to vacation together signals something more important: that he is possibly checking out of the relationship.

Rather than focus on lack of vacations as the primary problem, if it were me, I would use the vacation issue to lead into the bigger conversation about where we stand with each other. Of course, this conversation intimidates even the strongest of us. But, you already feel frustrated that you are getting less than what you deserve in your partnership. Perhaps by talking about how it makes you feel in a blunt, but non-judgmental way, you two can have a calm and honest conversation that may yield a stronger bond between you.

I am taking a wild guess you two do not have many talks about the nuts and bolts of your relationship. So, maybe you want to preface this conversation by first saying a few words to get his attention and compassion so he will be a better listener. Maybe something like:

“I need to say something that makes me nervous to talk about. Please help me by waiting to talk until I have finished.

I would love to take a vacation with you. Yet, whenever I ask about us vacationing together, you always have one reason or another why it cannot happen.

This has been going on for the past five years and is beginning to upset me a lot. I am concerned you do not enjoy spending time with me any more.

Maybe now is a good time to check in and talk about where we stand with each other. Please help me understand why you will not vacation with me.”

Hopefully, he will respect your need to be recognized, and will understand your need to know what he is thinking. Thirty-five years is a long time to be in a partnership. It is typical to experience an ebb and flow to our connectedness with each other. But, you have waited long enough for this phase to pass. I think it is reasonable for you to now request his attention to the needs of the relationship.

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How To Say It: How to Reject an Unexpected Date Invitation

This line fell out of my mouth when a man asked me out on a date five minutes after we met. It felt like the perfect thing to say without lying, and I liked the way he reacted to it.

The Situation:

As you wait in line at the post office, you have a 5-minute talk with the person ahead of you who invites you out for a drink before its your turn at the counter. You are surprised and … not interested.

The Opener:

“I appreciate the offer. Chatting with you has been fun. I am flattered and …”

Get In It :

“I am unavailable.”

It’s honest, respectful and sends the right message.

If you want me to tailor “How to Say It” to your unique situation, write in and ask me.

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How To Say It: Decline A Long-time Friend Who Now Wants More

The Issue: Sexual Chemistry as the Dealbreaker.

You have been close friends for a long time and love each other. But now he wants it all, sex and a serious relationship with you. Having him as your partner would be perfect. You can see yourself living your life with him … except that you have never before felt compelled to jump his bones. Is it possible that you have sexual chemistry? To be sure, you fool around a few times. Sadly, you realize the chemistry just isn’t there for you, although he seems happy with it.

You are afraid to hurt his feelings. You will be crushed if he withdraws from you because he is such an important part of your life.

But, it’s time to tell him you cannot have a romantic relationship with him.

The Opener:
“When you suggested that we explore a romantic relationship, I was excited about it. I was immediately intrigued and wondered if maybe we are meant to be together. After all, you are sexy and handsome and considerate and kind and … [obviously, fill this in as appropriate].”

You are one of the most important people in my life and I want us to be in each other’s lives always. Our relationship is more meaningful to me than you may know.”

Get In It:

“I can feel your passion for me and I wish more than anything that I could return it to you. Believe me, I wish my body would respond the way I want it to. It feels like the universe if playing a cruel joke on me because I want us to be together. For so long you have felt like family to me, and I can’t seem to get past feeling that you are my brother rather than my lover.”

Close It:

“I will be crushed if you withdraw from me. I don’t want anything between us to change. I am really glad we explored the possibility … and now we know. I love you so much and I hope we both can look at this as a little adventure. Is there anything more I can tell you? Is there anything more you’d like to say about it?”

Do you have an intimidating conversation to start? Write in and ask me “How To Say It.” I will respond quickly.

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How To Say It: Decline A New Friend Who Wants More

The Issue:

You recently met and became quick friends. Soon thereafter, the flirting started… and not by you. At first you laughed it off, but now it happens a lot. Clearly, he wants to cross the platonic line but sex with him is not interesting to you. It’s time to tell him you want friendship and nothing more.

When to Approach:

Right after the flirtatious comment is flung at you.

The Opener:
[with a smile] “Just to be clear, is your flirting an invitation to fool around?”

Get In It:
[Note: These phrases are the suggested skeleton for the conversation. Add filler if it helps.]

” It’s great that we have become close friends so fast. It feels like you already know me well and I like that a lot.

I’m flattered that you want me. And … I see us staying on the platonic track. I am all for flirting as long as we are on the same page about where it’s going. I like our connection the way it is now and I’d like to keep it this way.”

Close It:

“I want us to stay close friends. Are you alright with this?”

If you want to tailor “How to Say It” for your particular situation, write in and ask me.

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How To Say It: A New Relationship – Not On Same Page? How to Break It Off

The Issue:

You like this person. You want more but sense the feeling is not mutual.

You spend more time feeling anxious rather than happy about the relationship. Maintain your integrity. It’s time to communicate your feelings, knowing this conversation could likely end the relationship.

Don’t lose yourself in hard work trying to get your love interest to see how great you are. Nothing is more important than that you feel good. If the relationship doesn’t make you feel good the majority of the time, you know it’s not the right one for you.

The Opener:
“I have a great time with you when we spend time together. It’s been fun and exciting to have you in my life. Frankly, I was hoping for a deeper connection with you.

And, I feel unclear about where this is going so it would be really helpful if we can have a talk about us. It’s a bit nerve-wracking to talk about it, so I hope you will chime in and help it along.”

Get In It (3 options):
[Note: mix and match statements if it helps]

1. “I feel your resistance as I try to get closer to you. I have tried opening up to you, hoping that you’d feel comfortable doing the same with me, but it does not seem to be working. I get the feeling that you prefer an emotional distance … and that feels uncomfortable to me. It will help if you can explain what you’re thinking so we can decide if it’s a good time to let go of this, and maybe pursue a deeper friendship instead.”

2. “It might be that I am too sensitive to date you. I find myself feeling uncertain about our dating status a lot of the time. I have a hard time understanding what you want from me. The ambiguity is uncomfortable for me and it leads me to believe we are not on the same page about what we want from each other. I like you and I would be happy pursuing a deeper friendship because it feels like a better choice for us.”

3. “I want you to be happy. I want happiness, too. I want my relationships to feel natural and effortless. Trying to get you to talk about the status of our relationship feels like pulling teeth. It is too hard for me. The ongoing uncertainty I have about our relationship makes me believe it’s not the right time for us. In the pursuit of happiness, I think we should stop trying to have a romantic connection and begin focusing on a deeper friendship.”

Close It:

“Do you agree that friendship is a better choice for us? I am listening if you want to correct my assumptions or have something more to say about all of this.”

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How To Say It: Dating Someone New – The Break It Off Talk

The Issue:

You have been out a few times and you like this person. Unfortunately, the romantic spark isn’t there for you. But, you like the idea of becoming friends.

The Opener:

“I am glad to be spending time with you. I like the easy connection we have. And,

Get In It (3 options):

  1. “I wish I felt differently about our romantic connection but it’s not showing up for me. And, I would like to hang out more and become better friends if you are up for that.
  2. I see you as someone who is important in my life. And, I see our connection as platonic rather than romantic. So, I’d like to keep talking/hanging out, if you are comfortable with that.
  3. I’d like it if we could transition from dating into a deep friendship. I still want to hang out with you and get to know you better…”

Close It:

“So, I hope you want to become better friends. If you are not comfortable with it, I will understand. What do you think?”

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“How To Say It” Series

The “We Need to Talk” division of A Sound Match helps you manage your dates, significant others and all kinds of personal relationships with practical tips and advice.

The “How To Say It” Series suggests how to calmly start a difficult conversation and walk away feeling relieved.

Intimidated by an upcoming talk?

Make your approach, armed with phrases suggested by me, Lynne, the person who created A Sound Match to help you get together … and stay together.

The suggestions are time-tested, based on relationship scenarios with people like you who have been calling me for years to get calm before, during, and after the storm — with excellent results. [read testimonials here]

Possible scenarios in the series:

  • How to gracefully decline a second date
  • How to breakup an early stage relationship
  • How to ask for better sex
  • How to resolve important relationship issues
  • How to talk to your boss about troubling matters
  • … and more

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Build a fort. Start talking.

Inside the fort.

Without exception, every breakup story I hear has to do with a breakdown in communication.

A while back I wrote a post urging couples to supervise their relationships. Have scheduled talks that I call “The Huong Phat.”

While this concept freaks out most every man I know, my response is “so what?” Would you rather open your eyes one morning to see your girlfriend sitting on the edge of the bed shedding tears because, to your surprise, she is about to throw the breakup bomb at you?

Yes, it can feel intimidating to carve out time to talk about your relationship. Why open a can of worms? Because, like it or not, those worms have already made nests in the crevices of your mind.

When two people get together, they create a third wheel called “the relationship.” The relationship has a life of its own and wants attention or it gets cranky and mean. Suck it up and talk to your partner about important issues before they become problems. Give them a place to air out and breathe.

Turn the intimidation into intrigue.

Build a fort and have your Huong Phat inside. Your fort is a judgment-free, respectful, safe zone where anything can be said or done.

The first time, make your Huong Phat fun and light. Ease your way into the concept of scheduling time to hang out in the zone. You might talk about a future vacation … or recount sexy moments from your past. It’s a great place to spend a Sunday afternoon.

If you need to address serious matters, learn how to start a difficult conversation here.

As a kid, didn’t you build forts with walls made out of sofa cushions and blankets so you could have a private place to go for secret meetings? I did, and those feelings of being on my own planet came rushing back the moment I stepped inside the fort my boyfriend (at the time) built for me as a surprise using found objects from my living room. We felt closer to each other as soon as we entered the cozy space. Once inside, we had an overdue and meaningful talk about our relationship (which surprised me and led to a memorable amorous tryst).

Do not underestimate the safe and intimate feelings inspired by a cozy and comfortable space. The outcome is usually unexpected and welcome.

It is easier to leave your mundane troubles behind when you walk into your own private space. Consider it a stay-at-home getaway.

You don’t need a fort to talk. You do, however, need a special place and regularly scheduled times to talk about your relationship. The Huong Phat is preventative medicine to help keep your relationship healthy and thriving.

How to Build Your Huong Phat Fort

This is the makeshift fort I just created at my friend’s house using the couch, floor lamps, and other fort-like items I found:

Entry to the fort.Closed entry to the fort.The structure I used for the fort.

After you build the first fort, it is easy to rebuild.

For an instant fort for time-sensitive folks, get a pop-up tent, then throw sofa cushions and pillows on the floor, hang scarves from the ceiling (you want that harem tent feeling), and bring in a soft-light lamp or flameless candles.

House items to consider using: the couch, couch cushions, floor lamps, shoji screen, large sheets, shawls, down comforters/throws, sleeping bag, pillows, small, low-light lamps, office binder clips (to clamp the sheets/shawls). Only flameless candles!

Click here to buy everything you might want to build your fort (I searched for lowest priced items that were highest in ambiance).

If it sounds painful to throw sofa cushions on the floor to sit, then build the fort around the couch. Build the ceiling and walls first.

I tack one side of a large sheet to the wall over the couch, tacking it a few feet from the edge so it hangs to form the wall. To create the opposite wall, I clamp the other side of the sheet to floor lamps or a shoji screen (you need something tall). You might clamp on a few shawls to lengthen the walls, depending on how much sheet length you left hanging.


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