Your Turn: “He Gave Me a Barrette For Christmas”

In a feature I call “Your Turn,” in which you, the readers, get to answer the question, I’m presenting the following letter without commentary from me:

My boyfriend and I have been dating for almost three months. He is in his second relationship, whereas I am in my first. We’re both 18 and began dating somewhere around the time college began. In the beginning, my boyfriend was really lovey-dovey. He texted me all the time, wanted to spend all his time with me, seemed very happy being with me, missed me all the time, etc. He said “I love you” after maybe a week or two, whereas I was just starting to grow feelings for him.

Somewhere around our two months in, give or take, he seemed to be a bit distant; didn’t text me as often, never invited me over to his house, always told me to go home, and other things. I felt like his love was becoming less and less. I felt lonely and neglected. And that’s when my love started to grow.

I asked him if he still liked me and if he wanted to break up with me and he said “I’m not sure,” and asked to have time to think. Sure, no problem. He still texted me periodically as if nothing happened, but I was still a little hurt. Couple days later, we lay in his bed in silence and he said that he “thinks” he’s still falling in love with me and asked if I still wanted to go out with him. I didn’t want to break up, so I said yes.

That evening, we talked it over, and he said that I am too “dark” (as in being sad and negative), that I am too selfless, too shy, and that I don’t take care of myself. He told me that he wanted to change that- that it would be good for me. He said that I should find things to do and keep myself busy. I said okay.

Our 3 month anniversary is in two and a half weeks, and my boyfriend still lacks interest in being with me. He doesn’t hold my hand in the car anymore, no kisses (I try but no luck), no intimacy. We recently went to hang out with some friends and he only held my hand while walking to our destination but did not hold my hand anytime after that. He still calls me “honey,” but never says “I love you” anymore. I still feel a little neglected and want some attention and love from my boyfriend.

We exchanged Christmas gifts, and he gave me a barrette. It was an expensive one (he forgot to take off the price sticker). I got him a pair of jeans (he doesn’t have many) and two handmade message pill jars. I can see his effort, because I am always wearing a hair pin or saying my hair gets in the way, and the barrette is my favorite color. I didn’t think he paid attention to that stuff.

Still, I’m not sure if he still likes me (or loves me). We are still newbies in the love game but are both willing to learn and make things work. What should we do? Is he trying to tell me something? What is he trying to do?


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  1. The immediate lovey-dovey thing is almost always a bad sign. And while it’s flattering to hear “I love you,” the fact that he said it after a week raises all kinds of red flags. Love is something that grows over time, and even if your bf was overwhelmed with infatuation and butterflies after a week, he’s showing recklessness and poor judgment to say he loves you so quickly.

    I’m sorry, LW, but I don’t think this is the guy for you. He criticizes your personality, doesn’t want to spend time with you…doesn’t even want to kiss you! That’s not a very good boyfriend, even if he did buy you a relatively thoughtful gift (and then forgot to take off the price tag).

    I know what it’s like to want a relationship, and believe me, I have dated some losers. But you should be having fun and meeting lots of different people at college, not settling for someone who treats you with such indifference. When you have a bf who really wants to be with you, you’ll be amazed at what you were settling for with this guy.

  2. “I felt like his love was becoming less and less. I felt lonely and neglected. And that’s when my love started to grow”

    why? WHY? W-H-Y??????

    1. kerrycontrary says:

      yes, this could become a long-term relationship pattern for the LW if she doesn’t nip it in the bud right now. Don’t love only the people you have to chase.

    2. WKS and because LW is after what she can’t have.

      LW, MOA. You are 18 and have so many years ahead of you to grow and change. Don’t try and settle on something that isn’t there. He doesn’t want to be with you and if he did, he sure has a funny way of showing it. Love doesn’t criticize or put you down as he does. He wants to change your personality? Um, no. Just no. You shouldn’t have to change yourself to be with a person and if you do, that person is not the right one.

  3. londonlin6 says:

    You are 18.
    You have plenty of time to find someone who wants to be with you, lets everyone know he wants to be with you, and most importantly, lets you know that he wants to be with you.

  4. If you are having this much trouble with him at 3 months, its time to MOA. Your needs are not being met, and he has already told you it is not a good fit. He says that you need to work on yourself and your depression. It sounds like he’s a good guy, but just not good for you. This is not a relationship that will last. Take some time away from him, start taking classes that interest you. Find things that you excel at, and start taking pride in yourself. Once you feel good about yourself, a much more fulfilling relationship will follow.

    1. OR…. he could just be exaggerating the things about her he wants her to change. Almost every relationship I’ve ever been in I’ve been given a list of things they want me to change about myself, from my attitude (sometimes a fair point) to my taste in music (kiss my butt, buddy). Some guys just want to mold a woman. Some guys don’t know how to compromise. She needs to figure out if those attributes are actual negatives, or if he’s just a jerkhole.

  5. I’m sorry, LW, but this is all kinds of wrong. You say it’s your first relationship so I’ll cut you some slack, but this is NOT what it’s supposed to be like. He wants you to change who you are, ignores you, doesn’t show physical affection, and you feel lonely and neglected?

    I know this is all new to you, and you felt the rush of new, young love and it was probably awesome and magical and butterflies-inducing and you want it to last, but it sounds like it’s just not going to work. This doesn’t mean you did anything wrong – it just means the two of you aren’t right for each other.

    If you’re not willing to give up yet, then my advice is to SLOW THE F DOWN. It’s 2.5 weeks until your 2-month “anniversary” (meaning, you’ve been together for closer to 2 months).You’re still getting to know each other and trying to figure out if you’re compatible long-term (and hint: if he already wants you to change, then you’re probably not). You shouldn’t expect him to say “I love you” all the time – even though he jumped the gun on that one, which is another issue in itself. Talk to him about what your expectations are – whatever they may be – and see if he’s on the same page. If not, MOA.

    1. But personally, I wouldn’t bother with the talk and just MOA. Both his words AND his actions right now are saying that he’s just not that into you. Sorry, chica.

  6. Avatar photo GatorGirl says:

    Move on. You’re 18, you shouldn’t have to force a relationship this much.

  7. LW your boyfriend sounds like the classic example of a man who blows hot and cold. This is not a good situation to be in. A guy who wants to really be with you will show that to you consistently. Unfortunately when you stick with someone who runs hot and cold, they get the message that you are ok with their behaviour…best thing to do is, when he backs off…so do you…if he needs space you give him tons of space…basically do the exact opposite of what you think you should do because with guys like this the tighter you try to hold on the faster they are gone…i know it sounds more like psychological warfare than dating but unfortunately you need to show you are independent and don’t care if he is around all the time…guys like these love the chase and if they think they have got you they quickly lose interest

    1. Occasionally demonstrating your independence, especially in a new relationship, is I think a good thing. But the behavior you’re describing would not be worth doing, to me. It might win her this guy, maybe even long term (but probably short term). But I know I’m unwilling to put in that much work just to be in a relationship. Any guy where I’d have to work that hard and strategize that much would simply not be worth the effort to me. F*ck that noise.

      1. seriously- relationships should not be a game. “strategy” should have nothing to do with it.

      2. yeah, i agree HmC…after i posted i regretted it immediately…i don’t think guys who act like this deserve to be pursued…independence is good in any relationship…but chasing someone like this guy is not worth the aggravation

    2. While I do believe this tactic would work (I mean, look…it’s working on her:”I felt neglected…it was then my love grew stronger!”), it’s so not worth it to play these games.

      1. sorry everybody…i know my post is crap…i wouldn’t want to play games with someone’s feelings…i actually think its very uncool…it is strange that when people pull away that’s when we start really wanting them though…i have had experience though with guys like this who pull away and as soon as you disappear that’s when they show up again (although it took the one guy a year!)

      2. Haha, I don’t think what you said is total crap, I get where you’re coming from. Sometimes it can be a thin line between game playing, and social intelligence/having boundaries. For example, an emotionally healthy, confident person probably would be inclined to give a guy space if the guy was pulling away… I mean, who wants to chase down someone who doesn’t want to be with you? I feel like a lot of relationship advice, for both men and women, is basically telling someone how to mimic confidenc, and sometimes that’s what people need. But that’s different than actively hatching a plan to make someone more interested in you. At only 3 months in, that investment of time/energy/emotions is so unappealing to me.

      3. “it can be a thin line between game playing, and social intelligence/having boundaries”

        THIS! And when you are new to relationships it can be even harder. I find it somewhat helpful if you can focus on what you want instead of what you want your partner to do. The latter tends to lean more towards game playing and manipulation, instead of being true to yourself.

      4. Oh yes, new relationships are definitely the trickiest! And I agree about being true to yourself and trying to focus on your own needs. That’s a good idea at all stages of the relationship.

  8. Avatar photo lemongrass says:

    Um, yeah. If you are celebrating 3 month anniversaries then you are not having an adult relationship. This guy just wants to bang you. MOA. Live for yourself and give yourself some respect.

    1. Yeah, that’s what I thought. 3 month anniversary? Ugh.

    2. SpaceySteph says:

      Eh I disagree. For the duration of my relationship with my fiance (before we got engaged, now I usually just mark that it’s X months to our wedding) I have always noted that it’s our “monthaversary,” (since “anni” means year). Now we don’t treat every one like an anniversary with fancy dinner and gifts or anything like that, but whenever I would realize that it’s that date, I would send him a little text like “happy monthaversary, still love you.”
      Anyways, we are definitely adults… just silly ones.

  9. kerrycontrary says:

    Yes, I will also cut you some slack because you are new at relationships. But for future reference, this is a huge red flag: “That evening, we talked it over, and he said that I am too “dark” (as in being sad and negative), that I am too selfless, too shy, and that I don’t take care of myself. He told me that he wanted to change that- that it would be good for me.” Not only is it downright wrong for anyone you are “in a relationship with” to criticize you like this, it’s freaking creepy that he wants to change you and says it will be “good for you.” We all have things to work on, but it is not the job of our partners to point them out so blatantly and with so little tact.

    Your boyfriend probably doesn’t want to date you anymore, despite what the barrette says. Things that start out so passionate tend to burn out quickly. Move on from this one because he doesn’t sound like a very nice guy anyways. But to answer your questions: I don’t think he likes you anymore, you should break up with him, he’s trying to tell you that he doesn’t want to be your boyfriend, and he is trying to get you to break up with him because he doesn’t have the courage to do it (this is common for guys with little dating experience, especially those that are 18 years old).

    1. Avatar photo Guy Friday says:

      Not only is it downright wrong for anyone you are “in a relationship with” to criticize you like this, it’s freaking creepy that he wants to change you and says it will be “good for you.”

      … or, you know, we could just be getting half the story, and a manipulated one from a love-sick 18 year old who is hearing what she wants to hear. Is it wrong to criticize her without being prompted? Absolutely. But is it still wrong to do it if she pushes and pushes him to explain to her why it is that he’s started fading out (which, you know, she’s kind of admitted to doing?) Because in the context of being pushed into naming things that were pushing him away, that sounds a heck of a lot more reasonable. Yeah, there’s tact missing, but it’s not like he’s all that much older than her, and if he’s really on his “second relationship” he probably hasn’t figured out how to do tact with a girlfriend. Hell, I’ve been with my wife for almost 4 years and I STILL haven’t fully figured out how to do it 🙂

      As for the “wanting to change her,” I took that to mean he wanted to help her be more outgoing and selfish and less able to be walked all over, not that he’s demanding she bend over backwards for him. It’s all fine and good to argue that no one should ever have to change for anyone, but in the real world people change for significant others all the time, and it’s not like any of these things are really bad things to change (except for maybe the “selfless” part, but I interpreted that as HER word, not his, in a “willing to help others even if it hurts her in the process” way.) Again, this is coming from a LW who repeatedly says throughout the letter that she doesn’t want to break up with him, doesn’t want to lose him, so it’s entirely possible this is being viewed through a lens of “I have to change these things if I’m going to stay with him!” rather than the “These are the things I’m not comfortable with, and I don’t know how you want to go from here” that he might have meant it as.

      All I’m saying is I’m skeptical that she’s hearing this all in the spirit it was intended if she’s THIS love-struck and “woe is me” about the relationship.

      1. Avatar photo bittergaymark says:

        Yeah, I agree. Everybody seems so bent out of shape that he told her to cheer up and not be so depressing… Uh, newsflash… I knew PLENTY of people in high school (boys and girls) who should have heeded that advice. And she sounds so needy… The biggest crisis is that he gave her a barrette? What the fuck did she want? A badly written poem?

        Oh, and falling in love with a guy BECAUSE he is seeming to lose interest? Uh… Bah… Women. Men. People in general… Far too many of you are sall o typical. It really IS true. The only thing that turns most of your cranks is being treated like shit…

        It baffles me to no fucking end.

  10. It really shouldn’t be this difficult or confusing. You’re 18, your’e both adults who are in college, and both of you should be acting a little more mature than this. MOA. There’s just too much drama and miscommunication here. Don’t waste any more time on this mess.

  11. Let’s ignore the barrette for the moment. I’m not sure it’s that relevant. What is relevant is that this is not what a relationship is supposed to be like or feel like. Truly. It’s just not the right relationship for either of you. You should not doubt his feelings for you or feel like he’d like you better if you changed.

    Here’s the thing: A guy will stay in a relationship with you for months or years even if he doesn’t really see a future or think you’re the one for him. And this guy doesn’t. He may let this drag on, but he’s not happy, and neither are you. And it’s not your fault or his, you’re just not a good fit and you should both move on. After dating 3 months you should feel sure that he likes you (or loves you). You should be physically affectionate and intimate with each other. You shouldn’t feel neglected. You shouldn’t feel like you have to change for him.

    This isn’t right, and you should let him know this isn’t what you want and move on.

  12. MOA. He doesn’t seem that interested in you, and this is a lot of drama for a three month relationship. And what are YOU getting out of it, anyway?

  13. MOA. It’s a new year. Start fresh.

    Advice for future relationships . . .

    When a guy goes cold, but will turn on the charm just enough to keep you around, it’s because he doesn’t really like you anymore for the long term but he is too comfortable in the current situation to let you go.

    I’m sorry if that was harsh, but it’s true. It took me many years and a few heartbreaks to learn that.

  14. sarolabelle says:

    You do realize that 3 months is not that long right?

    1. kerrycontrary says:

      yeh but remember when you were young and you felt like celebrating your 1 month anniversary? ahhh young love.

      1. Avatar photo lemongrass says:

        18 is not that young. Old enough to vote! At least in Canada, I don’t know what your voting age is and frankly I think 21 for a drinking age is OTT. But I was barely 19 when my husband and I started dating and there was no 3 month anniversary. We did yearly. I think maybe when I was 15/16 I “celebrated” month anniversaries with a boyfriend but by 18 you should be grown out of that.

      2. Avatar photo LadyinPurpleNotRed says:

        This is her first relationship so it’s reasonable that she’s acting young in it. You has your first boyfriend earlier so you got it out of your system. This is her first one.

      3. lets_be_honest says:

        Eh, not necessarily esp. if its your first relationship.

      4. Avatar photo lemongrass says:

        Yeah, you guys are right on the whole first-relationship thing. I just really hate when people blow off stupid behaviour from young people as them just being young. I think in general we should expect more from our youth and that they are capable of a lot more than we give them credit for and that clearly shows in my comment.

    2. theattack says:

      -Ahem- It’s actually 2 months and 1.5 weeks… LW is majorly rounding up here.

  15. lets_be_honest says:

    One of the best pieces of advice I can remember from DW is to ask yourself what YOU want out of a relationship. Too much focus on turning yourself into who he wants/what he wants isn’t good.

    (I think I’m screwing this up a bit, anyone else remember?)

    1. lets_be_honest says:

      And welcome back Wendy! Withdrawal was setting in!

      1. I think it’s bad I spent the last couple weeks asking myself how many days until Wendy was back. Haha.

  16. Aww… this is going to sound condescending, but the “our three-month anniversary is in two and a half weeks” thing KILLED me. LW, honey. You’re closer to two months than three months, by my math, so I don’t think it’s time to be worrying about the three-month anniversary. And I don’t think you’re going to make it there, sadly. He doesn’t want to kiss you, he doesn’t seem sure whether he wants to date you… you can do better. I think if you don’t end it, he will–fairly soon. But you should do it right now, because you deserve to be with someone who wants to kiss you, at the very least. Now, for two more potentially condescending thoughts… mostly because this really reminds me of my freshman year (OK, and sophomore year!) of college, not in fact but in spirit.

    Thought #1: You will be fine. College for most people is like this abundant, delicious, head-spinning feast of dating prospects. Most of them will even want to kiss you! It’s fun, and it’s amazing and you will fall in love again, I swear.

    Thought #2: Gather a circle of girlfriends around you. They might help you figure this stuff out before it gets to two-and-a-half months with a dude who is jerking you around. (I’m not saying he’s a jerk… he sounds young and confused, as we all have been. But he is jerking you around, and good girlfriends will call him on it the minute he pulls the “I’m not sure I want to date you” line.) College is also full of excellent girlfriend prospects. It’s the best part. 🙂

    Oh, and being selfless and shy isn’t something you necessarily need to “fix” unless YOU want to. Don’t let this dude convince you that if you’d just been “better” somehow (sunnier, louder, more assertive) he’d’ve liked you more. It might not work out with him, but it will work out with someone who likes who you are.

  17. LW, you deserve to be happy. I can tell you that right off the bat. I don’t want to criticize this guy (I’m really tempted to). So I will tell you this-MOA. No relationship that’s right would make you feel this way, let alone in the first 3 months. I can’t really guess what’s going on in this guys head, but what’s important is that his behavior is frustratingly inconsistent.

    I don’t want to use this cliche but am going to because it’s very true in this instance. YOU ARE YOUNG. You are in your first year of college. Do not waste your time on this guy. I would go so far as to say don’t waste your time on any guys in your freshman year, but I know that can be tough with the amount of people you are meeting and friends you are making. I can promise you will look back at this situation in a year or two and wonder why you didn’t drop him sooner.

  18. My gosh. Please hire an intern or ask a friend to write your headlines for you.

    1. Avatar photo lemongrass says:

      I fail to see what is wrong with the headline. They are supposed to catch your eye and it is true- he did give her a barrette for Christmas.

    2. you might think that wendy did that as an attention grabber, but that is literally the reason this LW wrote in: her boyfriend, despite being a douche, gave her a nice barrette for christmas and now she isnt sure if he likes her or even loves her.

      so please, blame the LW for this. she literally thinks that this guy buying her a barrette plays a huge part of this story…

    3. Good-bye, kf. Rudeness to your hostess is a dealbreaker around here.

    4. Wow, some one is bit too sensitive today.

  19. First, I think the barrette is a thoughtful and appropriate gift for their age, experience level, and length of relationship, especially because it doesn’t sound like a cheap/tacky one.

    That being said, the rest is clear: LW, he’s just not into you. It will be hard, but if you can disentangle yourself from him before it turns into a heart-wrenching on-going roller coaster, you should. Because the longer it goes on, the deeper you will get, and the worse things will get. (It will get both better and worse; and the better moments will trick you into thinking that the worse moments were not that bad after all.)

    1. Haha, I was just going to mention that there’s a book, “He’s Just Not That Into You,” which is a longer version of your point.

  20. As was said in the first comment, someone saying they “love” you that soon is a bad sign. Someone may like you a lot, or be attracted to you, or any number of things that quickly, but it’s not love. And if they can’t properly distinguish between love and those other things, it’s likely not going to work out well for you. They’ll later start to back-track and get nervous that they said things they didn’t mean or made commitments they aren’t sure they can keep. That’s what it looks like this guy is doing.

    One thing that I’ve always done and that I’m finally learning not to is to put too much emphasis on what the guy thinks and feels, and too little on what I think. I think you’re doing the same thing. The question shouldn’t be whether he likes you or not. The question should be whether you like this relationship and whether it’s what you want. And you’ve already answered that.

    You said that you’re not sure if he likes you. That you feel lonely and neglected. That he’s not living up to your expectations of a boyfriend, like not texting you or inviting you over. This arrangement is clearly not benefiting you at all. Who wants a guy who doesn’t even know if he wants to be with you or not?

    1. “You said that you’re not sure if he likes you. That you feel lonely and neglected. That he’s not living up to your expectations of a boyfriend, like not texting you or inviting you over. This arrangement is clearly not benefiting you at all. Who wants a guy who doesn’t even know if he wants to be with you or not?”

      This all the way!

  21. Hm. If you love barrettes and need them constantly, and he got you an expensive one for Christmas…That’s a pretty thoughtful gift. Most 18 year old boys aren’t that great at gift giving 🙂 That said, this doesn’t sound particularly healthy. It sounds like you both started off way too fast, and the he backed off/panicked. It’s not a good sign that he’s trying to change your personality, either. MOA, imo, or if you really can’t find it in yourself to MOA at this moment discuss with him your feelings and give him one more shot.

  22. Older and (hopefully) wiser says:

    I’m sorry to be so harsh but he’s not in love with you after a week. He’s experiencing a chemical “high”. Sounds like he doesn’t actually like you. He’s vaccilating because he doesn’t want to let go of the high.MOA and refrain from sleeping with someone until you really get to know each other.

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