Today’s letters are in honor of all the young women 25 and under who are struggling in love, throwing themselves at guys who give them barely a hint of recognition, hanging the whole value of themselves on whether or not their feelings for some guy are reciprocated, imagining their lives as essentially over if their future does not include the guy who only calls at night when he’s a little drunk and kind of horny. Ladies, I see you, I hear you, I was you once. Consider me the ghost of Christmas Future here with a message for you: It gets better. Your feelings for the guy who only calls at night when he’s a little drunk and kind of horny are not reciprocated and your future does not include him, God willing (please use birth control). Love, you will learn, is not anxiety over unanswered texts or spending hours trying to decipher the meaning behind one-word responses. It is not an hour of physical intimacy in the shadow of late nights, banking weight behind tender forehead kisses that really don’t mean what you think they mean, followed by days of silence as you try to “stay strong” and not “act needy” by, like, reminding him you exist.
Love helps you look for your dog who ran out the door without his leash, and love brings you Prosecco when you get a raise at work, and love reminds you that you need to pick up toilet paper on your way home. It is romantic, but not always obviously so. It is caring, and tender, and sometimes messy, and you will find it one day, but not by begging and not by strategizing and not by waiting three days before you send a text. Today’s letters are dedicated to those of you still waiting and still hoping the guy who only calls when he’s a little drunk and kind of horny might be The One:
I was in bed next to him and was torn apart, but I tried not to cry. I stayed strong, but he went on about how long-distance was bad and that maybe if we were single in four years, we could try again. He said we could stay friends and that I should give Tinder a try, a joke which I was not pleased to hear. He said he should have broken up with me at the end of the summer. I told him we could have a clean slate next semester when I go to university and it’ll be a lot better since I won’t demand too much out of him emotionally or anything. I practically begged him for a second chance, and he reluctantly agreed. The rest of the night went well, and I kissed him goodbye the next morning.
After that, he didn’t talk to me for a whole week. I was trying to see that if I didn’t initiate a conversation, would he? He never did. I was hurt as hell and eventually sent him a voice recording (since he dodged my call) saying how hard I tried to be a good girlfriend, how he was the one who gave me expectations for the future (I met his mom at three months), and how I wanted a clean slate but I can’t force him. The next day he responded saying how he shouldn’t have placed those expectations, how it scares him that I’m attached to him, and how he doesn’t know what he’s doing and needs more time to think. I responded with a long message trying to work out his commitment issues and said he could take time for his decision. I was really lovey dovey and hopeful in the message. I sent that message three days ago, and he hasn’t talked to me since and did not reply to the message.
I don’t know what to do. I don’t know if I should wait until final exams are over for him (in 1.5 weeks) for his response or if I should just tell him right now that it’s over. But do I really want it to be over? No. I just want it to seem that I’m confident and that I have the upper hand. We clearly aren’t talking and I can’t convince him to stay with me. What should I do? How can I make him miss me or change his mind without talking to him? I’ll accept if he doesn’t want to date anymore, but I feel like I’m unable to start the moving on and start the recovery process if I’m not even sure we are dating.
Please please please help. I just want him to be the one missing me this time. How can I make him feel the lack of me? — Lacking Me
Yeah, you aren’t dating anymore and you need to accept that and move on and start the recovery process. He tried to break up with you and you begged him not to. What was he supposed to say? He already felt shitty dumping you. Now you want him to do it again? Please, stop. I know you’re hurting, I know you’re sad, I know you really, really wanted this to work out. But it’s done. It’s over. He has moved on. He lost interested weeks, if not months, ago when he started college. Your getting closer to his family and buying him gifts and being a good girlfriend doesn’t change that. If anything, it makes him feel smothered.
He is telling you as well as he can that he wants his freedom. And who wouldn’t at the start of college? It’s such a fun and exciting time! I’m excited for you to start college yourself! You’re going to love it. You’re going to meet so many people and have new and different opportunities and learn a lot about yourself. But I want you to remember something: Whether or not a guy you like likes you back and wants the same kind of relationship with you that you want says NOTHING about your value, your character, or who you are as a person. It really doesn’t. And if you feel like you’ve lost the “upper hand” in a relationship, it is not a relationship worth fighting for. Because while the balance of power may shift between individuals in a relationship over the course of time, the cumulative power always belongs to the couple as a whole, and if you’re feeling that your power is depleted by your partner — ESPECIALLY early on (and seven months definitely counts as “early on”) — that’s a sign you’re with or pursuing the wrong person.
You ask: “How can I make him feel the lack of me?” It’s such an interesting question, and a telling way of phrasing it. You want him to feel that something is missing — that YOU are missing. You want him to feel the hole that you feel in missing him. Rather than wait and hope and beg and look for someone else to feel the same hole inside himself that you feel, take all that energy and spend it filling yours up. Someone is going to be far more attracted to the whole of you one day than the lack of you, I promise.
I went away for ten months this year, wanting to leave it all behind, but again on my return we fell back into bed with one another. He’s been casually seeing a woman ten years his senior. I worry about their relationship because I don’t want to see him hurt. I met her the other night at a house party he was throwing and they went to bed together. It affected me; I had been in his bed that morning.
I want him to be happy, but I can’t shake the feeling that we could be amazing. My feelings for him have grown and I full well know we love each other and are attracted to one another, and I can’t shake that he acts the way his does in spite of what he really wants.
I’m completely confused as to how to go on. — Protective FWB
I assume this guy is about the same age as you — so early 20s, right? And you’re confused about why a guy 23 or so would not commit to sleeping with and dating only one girl when he could sleep with and date multiple girls? BECAUSE HE CAN SLEEP WITH AND DATE MULTIPLE GIRLS! Why commit to just one ice cream flavor when you can eat scoops in all the flavors? Guys in their early 20s like a lot of ice cream, if you get my drift. They are not yet worried about calories and cholesterol and grams of sugar and all that stuff older people might worry about when they eat ice cream. And there’s so much ice cream to be had when you’re 23. It’s everywhere! And there’s so much time to eat it! And it’s not very expensive — a few dollars a scoop if you go to a fancy place. Or you can go to the supermarket and get a whole gallon for the price of a pumpkin spice latte and it’s great.
You say this guy loves you, and I bet that’s true. He loves you like he loves one of his favorite kinds of ice cream. Ben & Jerry’s Phish Food maybe. Mmm-mm, so good. Delicious! I could eat a pint of that right now, with it’s ribbon of caramels and the chocolate chunks and, oh man, it’s really good. But I’m not 23; I’m 41 and I gain three pounds just looking at that shit. That’s the crappy part about being 41. That and the jowls and what motherhood has done to my boobs, none of it’s great. BUT! But! I’ll tell you what: 41 is awesome in that I am not 23 anymore and sitting around crying over some guy who likes eating lots of ice cream. And you shouldn’t be either. You don’t have jowls, your boobs are probably perfect, and I bet your skin is flawless. Girl, pull yourself together and go enjoy yourself. And if you really feel like crying over this guy, do it over a pint of ice cream. Ben & Jerry’s Phish Food pairs well with tears.
If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at wendy(AT)dearwendy.com.