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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