I'm hung up on a guy I went on three dates with.
Since we work on the same campus, I figured staying friendly would be the wise thing to do.
Here’s The Thing is an advice column/newsletter where I mostly beg people to either stop dating someone or to ask their crush out. Or I talk about weird things that came to my mind that no one is paying me to write about. I can never decide if I should capitalize the “the” in Here’s The Thing or not; apologies on lack of consistency.
You can submit your own question—or yell at me about how I’m wrong—by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org
I [24F] am feeling a bit pathetic because I can’t seem to get over a man I went on three dates with.
I work for a large university, and he works in IT for said university. I had a crush on him for months, and we would make conversation when he came to help with my computer problems. As modern love goes, we followed each other on Instagram, and I eventually asked him to lunch (to which he immediately said yes).
The entire first date was electric. I can’t remember being so excited by the existence of someone in a hot minute. I’ve dated a Not Insignificant number of people since my last real relationship two years ago, and they’ve all been pretty lukewarm.
But not this! Truly the stuff of rom-coms! We got along so well, and I thought he was smart/funny/witty/extremely cute/every other positive adjective under the sun. He asked me to a second movie date, and texted/flirted continuously in the week leading up to it.
And another knockout! He put his arm around me and would rub my shoulder during the movie, and I felt downright giddy. Followed by kissing in a parking garage, more flirting, and another date scheduled.
We had started a list of dates we wanted to go on with each other and movies to watch. Exchanged playlists. Detailed more personal feelings about large life things. I thought it was really going well.
The third date was at my apartment, watching another movie and just chatting with each other (making out occasionally). It was wonderful! My birthday was the following Saturday, and we had plans to hang out at some point on Sunday. We had been seeing each other for about a month or a little more at this point.
He’s a full-time employee and also finishing a degree so I obviously expected him to get busy with things/be unavailable to text while studying/working/etc. Not an issue, I totally understand that. So when responses were a bit slow that weekend, I didn’t think anything of it. But the Sunday we were set to get together, he messaged me that he doesn’t want to see me again. He’s busy with work + school, and he just doesn’t have time to commit to a relationship. But he really wanted to still be friends.
Since we work on the same campus, I figured staying friendly would be the wise thing to do. I said that I would like that at some point (which was true, it would be nice to have a friend my age in a town of college freshmen). About a week or so after this, I sent him a post that I thought he would find funny, and a very brief message about being glad that we could be friends. Then I was left on read.
And since then, he’s just made me feel confused. He emails me event invites saying that he and his friends will be attending and that I should go, but doesn’t respond to my previous message or the couple of work-related emails I sent him. He avoids me if I see him around campus (which has happened many times), but he decided to flag me down for a conversation just yesterday when he was in my building. We chatted and made each other laugh. I was reminded how unbelievably cute he is. He ended it with a “and please message me whenever, okay?”
I don’t really know what to do with my current feelings. I’m sad because it feels like I missed out on something really great, and I’m worried that I’m just not going to be excited by someone again. Part of me wants to ask him why he’s being weird, but then I feel like I would be the weird one? And then I wonder if I just wait long enough, until the semester is over, maybe he’ll have more time and want to continue dating.
Am I being too focused on something that’s never going to happen for me?
Look, I am about the biggest fan you can imagine of being “too focused” on something that’s never going to happen for you, so please, go right on ahead! Life has very little fantasy and imagination in it once you become an adult. One of the only areas where it’s socially acceptable to fantasize past the age of like 10 is in the bedroom and maybe about a crush, as long as you keep it to yourself. Which is frankly sad! Imagining things is fun! Playing out hypothetical scenarios is healthy! Yearning feels good, even when it feels bad!
Let me be clear: I don’t think it’s the end of the world to be hung up on someone. I don’t think the point of life is to get over people as fast as you possibly can so you can Find Someone Who Actually Is Good For You. That idea reeks of unquestioned normalcy and traditions. Who gives a fucking shit if you spend two years mooning over someone and it doesn’t turn into “anything” “serious”? (I’m putting that in quotes because longing is something, and crushes are serious and something did already happen between the two of you).
Being in steady, committed love with no disruptions is not the only worthwhile thing. Contentedness is not the only worthwhile feeling. Feeling lost, sad, unwanted, horny, raw, lonely, and hopeful… those are part of being alive! Even though some of those feelings suck or are uncomfortable, you don’t have to rush through them in an attempt not to feel them. You don’t need to get over this guy as fast as possible. There’s no reward for that! There’s no prize waiting in the afterlife for people who moved on from people they were into quickly.
And I think it’s going to be especially hard to move on from him because he’s doing some conditioning that would make B.F. Skinner drool. I don’t know if you took Intro to Psych or not, but if you didn’t, when it comes to operant conditioning— giving rewards or punishments for good or bad behavior— one of the most successful methods of reinforcement is not giving a reward or punishment every single time (continuous reinforcement) but rather giving random rewards or punishments (intermittent reinforcements). Usually, you want to teach someone a new behavior with continuous reinforcement and then to strengthen that behavior, you eventually move to intermittent reinforcement. Think like dogs and learning to sit. Eventually you aren’t giving your dog a treat every single time they sit, but in the beginning that’s how you teach them. Ok, so how does this apply to you?
Well, Not B.F. Skinner (as I will now call him since he refuses to be your bf) is doing that with you right now! He started out consistently showing you affection and now is doing it completely randomly, which means every time you might possibly make a move to get over him romantically he pulls you right back in. (Sorry to kind of indirectly compare you to a dog, you are not a dog).
The fact that this guy is choosing— and I have to believe he is choosing this, although his behavior is so weird that I at first asked myself, “is his phone maybe not working?” but then I was like, “Ah ah, Sophia, you’re trying really hard to give the benefit of the doubt to a shit-guy!! No no!!”— to be so confusing and erratic is just plain bullshit. I have no fucking clue what his endgame here is. Does he get pleasure from people being into him? Is that like a form of validation for him? Who is too busy to make out with someone? (No one. No one is the answer. JFK was the damn president and had time to fuck many, many people). He is being absolutely Buca di Beppo!
The rule I always follow when I feel confused by someone is this: actions, not words. His words say “I want to be friends” but if he really wanted to be friends with you he would absolutely be responding to you sending him things. He wouldn’t be avoiding you or flagging you down for random conversations that end with “please message me whenever” AFTER IGNORING YOUR MESSAGES. That is not friendship. Like at all. I frankly don’t have words for it because it’s so antithetical to how any normal person behaves. I don’t know what his deal is. I really don’t. I’m baffled.
My strongest suggestion (as an outside party for whom this is very easy to say) is to limit all contact with him. Do not message him, mark his emails as spam if you can without it being a work issue, mute him on all social media. Be polite and professional and get him out of your life as much as possible. There is not a romantic future for you here, not because he isn’t into you— he very well may be! No one knows what the fuck on earth this dude is up to! Maybe not even him!—but because you do not deserve/ will not settle for a romantic relationship with someone who does shit like this. This is the equivalent of trying to build your dream house on a swamp1. You have a ton of evidence that this guy is a little fucko. And past behavior is a pretty good predictor of future behavior. Even if this guy showed up at your door on his knees begging for romance, it would have to be a no from me. Your standards are much, much, much higher than someone who doesn’t email you back. I mean fucking customer service at Target.com emails me back!!!!!!
Oh, Sophia, maybe he has issues that he’s working out. Oh, Sophia, maybe he is really busy. I DON’T GIVE A SHIT!!!! SORRY!!! Hot people all over the world are working out their issues and being busy and not using those things as excuses for treating people like shit. (To be clear, it’s fine that he isn’t into you romantically, it’s his behavior afterward that is a yikes!). You didn’t miss out on anything great. At all. I promise you. What happened is that you found out that someone who seemed great wasn’t. Which is sad and fucked and you can be upset and hung up about it for a while! You should be! That sucks ass!!!!! But you didn’t miss out on anything. A relationship with this guy was never going to be great. He’s showing you that. Believe him.
As for asking him why he’s being weird, normally I tell people who want to confront an ex to just drop it and move on with their life because there aren’t really satisfactory answers outside of the truth which is usually, “I’m not into you.” HOWEVER, I don’t think you have anything to lose here. I wouldn’t do a big confrontation at all— professionalism!!!! Remember!!! Here’s what I would do, simply because it would feel good and because being a liiiiiittle petty2 every now and then to someone who has wronged you is good for the soul. The next time he invites you to something or comes out of his way to talk to you I would pause for a moment (that’s important) and say something like, “I’m super confused why you’re being so friendly/why you invited me to this because you have ignored a bunch of messages from me. I was totally fine with us being friends but it doesn’t seem like you can handle it. Is there something that I’m missing?” Keep in mind that this is best delivered with a smile on your face and a very upbeat tone. Is this necessary? No. Will it help anything? Probably not. Will it feel good? Maybe! Maybe not! You know yourself best. He may or may not be honest either way.
Anyway, good things will come for you. Maybe someday that will include a healthy, not-weird friendship with this man. I don’t think he can handle that right now for very unknown reasons. What can I say? Some people are enigmas. Fun to think about, easy to get fixated on, and impossible to understand. You will have spicy hot chemistry with another person who will treat you well. I guarantee it. I’m sorry it wasn’t this guy.
You can submit your own question—or yell at me about how I’m wrong—by emailing me at email@example.com
I actually don’t even know if this is petty. I think it’s just more blunt/confrontational than people are taught to be.