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16 October 2005 @ 03:35 pm
He's just not that into you  
As stolen from PMM. Unfortunately others run into this sort of lying too *sigh* It's so disappointing when people are just players as long as it's easy. Why is it that people what so much more than they are willing to give? Maybe I just need to learn to talk a better game...

mtnwoman:

A couple of months ago I read a popular book called "He's Just Not That Into You," which is a somewhat tongue-in-cheek advice guide that spun off from a "Sex in the City" episode. Normally I'd ignore such pop-culture trivia, but I read a couple of good reviews so gave it a chance.

In a nutshell, the book advises women who are struggling with boyfriends who consistently exhibit lukewarm or otherwise troubling or confusing behavior to realize that rather than expend a lot of energy to figure these guys out, they should consider the possibility that the guy is simply "not really that into" them.

The authors contend that if you consider that possibility and then decide that's the explanation (apparently many guys agree that this in fact is the case), it's easier for women to let go of unrewarding relationships with men quickly and with little or no acrimony.

If you can set aside the book's monogamy/marriage tunnel vision, it's pretty interesting.

Anyway, one part of the book which seemed important, but which wasn't explained, is this.

(Paraphrase, since I can't find the exact page right now:) "The last thing in the world he will tell you is that he's just not that into you."

OK, I've experienced this firsthand -- struggling on for months or years with guys who just won't admit that they don't really want to continue a relationship with me. I've been emotionally abandoned and abused, criticized, guilt-tripped, etc. in this process. It just yielded a lot of hurt feelings and wasted time. And for me, a lot of wasted effort trying to figure out what I/we could do to make things better.

This was frustrating enough when I was shooting for monogamous relationships (before I knew poly was a viable option). But to me it seems absolutely unconscionable, even disrespectful, in a poly relationship.

So my question is this: As far as I can tell, the authors of that book generally seem right on that point -- that most guys will go to amazing lengths to avoid admitting they're just not that into a woman they're dating.

Why is that? I really, really don't get that behavior. What is so hard/scary about admitting that you're just not that into continuing a relationship? Personally, I would probably react better to hearing that truth early on than dragging on and on while the guy denies it.

Thoughts?

- mtnwoman
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-the redhead-theredhead on October 16th, 2005 09:39 pm (UTC)
Pewter:

I've not read the book, and I've never watched Sex in the City either, but this is my response to what you wrote.

It sounds like the relationships they're talking about are ones that are not yet fully formed but there's some level of good feeling and caring about each other there, and so, a level of not wanting to hurt the other person. Telling another person that you're not that into them, that you don't see a future for the relationship is difficult. You have to be sure of that decision yourself and you have to be willing to risk hurting someone.

Neither of those is particularly easy. Having been on both ends of this situation it's nasty either way. Looking back I am glad that the person in question had the honesty and integrity to tell me what he was thinking, but it still hurt a lot at the time. An 'easier', or at least more manipulative, approach is to be unpleasant to the other person until they break up with you. On balance I prefer the faster pain of being told to the slow disintegration in confusion.
-the redhead-theredhead on October 16th, 2005 09:40 pm (UTC)
Mtnwoman:

Pewter wrote: "It sounds like the relationships they're talking about are ones that are not yet fully formed..."

Usually, but not necessarily. Sometimes this can be about relationships that last for years, dragging on in mutually unsatisfying limbo, because one person wants to work on it and the other doesn't, but isn't willing to say so.

"...but there's some level of good feeling and caring about each other there, and so, a level of not wanting to hurt the other person."

That sounds superficially correct, but here's why I don't buy that rationale: The partner who wants to work things out, talk them through, get issues and feelings out in the open often goes through a significant amount of obvious pain when those efforts aren't mutual. I can't see how a guy who "isn't that into you" can see the pain caused by his denial-rooted behavior and still claim "he doesn't want to hurt you."

Frankly, it seems to me more like he's trying to protect something about his own self-image, to not be the bad guy. Or he may view the relationship as something that's just happening to him and so it doesn't occur to him to take an active role. Or he may be happy enough to continue without effort as long as he's still getting good sex. But I really, really doubt that "I don't want to hurt you" is very genuine.

My opinion, of course.

"Telling another person that you're not that into them, that you don't see a future for the relationship is difficult. You have to be sure of that decision yourself and you have to be willing to risk hurting someone."

Agreed. It is hard. It shouldn't be lightly, at the first bump in the relationship or when NRE fades. Still, not saying so when that's the truth is cowardly and hurtful. Especially if you care somewhat for the partner, even if not enough to sustain your interest in a relationship.

Like I said, I can understand in an all-or-nothing monogamous framework that forces you to make exclusive and permanent choices between partners why some guys would tend to put off this kind of difficult communication. That doesn't excuse it, but it is more understandable. But in a polyamorous context with a clear emphasis on communication -- really, to me that behavior seems just pointless, cruel, and disrespectful.

Still, I realize this is only my opinion -- and admittedly a strong one, since I've been hurt this way. I'm curious about others' views.

- mtnwoman
-the redhead-theredhead on October 16th, 2005 09:41 pm (UTC)
chrys:

Hmm, I’m guessing the reason that would keep someone from owning up to “not being that into” the one that they are dating stems from their unwillingness to deal with the probable consequence of losing the current relationship prematurely (because they dread being alone – conversely the need to be in a relationship). They resist doing anything that might cause dissolution of a current relationship before they have secured something new with someone else, or at least have some good possibilities lined up. The condition of needing to be in a relationship may be rooted in many reasons – one that jumps out is probably low self-esteem or at least some kind of blockage in recognizing their own self-worth.
-the redhead-theredhead on October 16th, 2005 09:42 pm (UTC)
Pewter:

Sometimes this can be about relationships that last for years, dragging on in mutually unsatisfying limbo

I think I'd still classify that as a 'not fully formed' relationship. Quality not quantity is what makes a relationship, in my mind and in this context at least.

As to:
I can't see how a guy who "isn't that into you" can see the pain caused by his denial-rooted behavior and still claim "he doesn't want to hurt you."

I would guess it's a combination of not wanting to hurt you (more) by making that final step - because obviously the end of a relationship is the worse thing possible - that's what the media tells us, much of the time anyway. And also, he's still getting something out of the relationship which is not completely counterbalanced by the pain being caused.

I'm not sure that a poly context makes this kind of behaviour any worse though - it's still messing with other people's emotions in a not good way. Self realisation, honesty and a willingness to face changes are vital to this kind of communication, and all of those things are difficult, and probably rare.
-the redhead-theredhead on October 16th, 2005 09:43 pm (UTC)
Tabatha:

(Reaching all the way back to High School here.) I dated a guy once who just wasn't that into me. His ex-girlfriend suddenly became interested in him again when she found out he and I were dating and he dropped me like a hot rock to run back into her arms. Turns out she didn't want him, but didn't want him dating anyone else either. (I never understood that mindset.)

Anyway she promptly dumped him and he came to me for comforting. The second time he dumped me for her I figured it out. When he came back a second time I said, "no thank you" and got on with me life. My husband talks about his ex-wife doing something similar through out their marriage. I think that some people are simply unwilling to be alone and would rather "settle" for second best until something better comes along. This mentality, while it may not be conscious, is extremely dishonest and deffinitely doesn't lend itself to openly admitting, "Hey, I like you but I'm just not that into you."

I'm certainly not claiming that's what everyone who engages in the, "I'm just not that into you" behaviour is doing, but that's the brand of this behaviour that I've witnessed personally. Certainly there are some people who are just out to get laid and want to hang onto the sex as long as possible. Telling the sex partner that oyu aren't really all that into them isn't a very good way to keep the free sex available.

Any way you slice it this isn't an honorable way to run a relationship. I don't understand why anyone would want to hang onto a relationship with someone they aren't all that into, but many people aren't all that healthy in their attitudes about relationships. Lots of people are terriffied of being alone and will put up with all kinds of crap to hang onto unhappy relationships and wallow in their misery in the process. The only thing we can do is be as aware as possible of our own happiness, satisfaction, and fullfillment within each or our own relationships. If anything isn't working for us we must take responsibility personally for figuring out what's wrong and what to do about it. If a particular partner is acting like he/she isn't that into the relationship I want to know what's up and if that person won't engage in solving the problem I'm not likely to stick around for long.

Tabby Cat
-the redhead-theredhead on October 16th, 2005 09:43 pm (UTC)
mtnwoman:

Chrys wrote: "unwillingness to deal with the probable consequence of losing the current relationship prematurely (because they dread being alone – conversely the need to be in a relationship)."

This points to one reason why I find such behavior inexplicable and disrespectful in a poly relationship. A poly guy is not necessarily going to be alone if he ends the relationship with the woman he's not really that into.

For instance, in my own case a few months back, I had to initiate a breakup with a guy who, judging by his behavior, wasn't really that into me after our NRE faded. He is married. His marriage is good and strong, and has survived -- it's not like he was ever going to end up alone. And I'm in a good marriage, too -- it's not like I was going to be alone. There was no sense of monogamous-style desperation or scarcity bonding us.

Monogamous assumptions do not, in my mind, excuse anyone for not admitting they no longer wish to be in a relationship. But they do explain that behavior a bit. In a poly context, to me, that generally makes no sense, IMHO.

- mtnwoman
-the redhead-theredhead on October 16th, 2005 09:44 pm (UTC)
dollintheattic:

I have to line up with the posters on this thread who claim that tepid, indifferent behaviour (in a relationship) is due to preferring SOMETHING over being alone.

As far as it being a more heinous behaviour in the case of poly relationships......well, my response to that is that there are many people who don't care about quality in their relationships or friendships. They just want very basic needs met, and aren't interested in emotional/sexual passion, or being intellectually challenged. Well, make that challenged in any way, period. They choose relationships on the same level as some people stress-eat 'comfort' food. They aren't interested in thinking about why they aren't particularly happy with their closest associates. It's just easier all around to settle. I've seen it happen.

I'm editing to add that the reason you've seen this behaviour more in men than in women, is probably because women are more likely to be taught from childhood that it's ok to process and express their emotional states, while in general, men are taught the opposite. Women are more likely to know their emotional internal landscape, as far as it relates to others in their lives. At the same time, women are more likely to be seen as bitches when they express independence or anger, than men exhibiting the same behaviour--guys aren't looked upon so much in a negative light when they express their needs for personal power.

So, I guess we have useful and detrimental socializing for both genders. Anyway, now that I've experienced the "not that into you" phenomenon, and know what it means, I just put my energy elsewhere. No pain, no worries, nobody hurt.
-the redhead-theredhead on October 16th, 2005 09:45 pm (UTC)
mtnwoman:

Dollintheattic wrote: "there are many people who don't care about quality in their relationships or friendships. They just want very basic needs met, and aren't interested in emotional/sexual passion, or being intellectually challenged. Well, make that challenged in any way, period. They choose relationships on the same level as some people stress-eat 'comfort' food. They aren't interested in thinking about why they aren't particularly happy with their closest associates. It's just easier all around to settle. I've seen it happen."

Yeah, I think you're on to something there. That's a very good point.

- mtnwoman
-the redhead-theredhead on October 16th, 2005 09:46 pm (UTC)
Woodnymph:

What is so hard/scary about admitting that you're just not that into continuing a relationship? Personally, I would probably react better to hearing that truth early on than dragging on and on while the guy denies it.

In my experience, some men seemed not to want to take the responsibility of breaking it off, and hence being blamed for the breakup. ANd I think I've probably done that myself a time or two, in the past.

there are many people who don't care about quality in their relationships or friendships. They just want very basic needs met, and aren't interested in emotional/sexual passion, or being intellectually challenged.

Doll is SO polite. What I was thinking, is that "basic needs" equal sex, and many if not most men, specially the not to self aware variety, have a hard time cutting off a potential source of sex. It may not be their ideal relationship, it may not even be all that much fun, but sex is involved, and that means one must continue...
-the redhead-theredhead on October 16th, 2005 09:47 pm (UTC)
Bikil:

What I'm wondering too is, does the book address what the receiver of this behavior should do? I assume it does. But, I'm concerned about a person who would be willing to desperately hold onto a tepid relationship and continue trying to get communication and not receive it and go through all this pain.

I can, of course, see this happening a bit before the person realizes what is going on, but once they realize what's going on, I just can't see plodding along in a relationship like this.

Of course, I'm one of those blunt people who would just ask, why aren't you working towards our communication? or something like that. And if I felt the other person wasn't working toward it I would tell them in a nice nonconfrontational way, It seems like you are not working towards a goal in this relationship. That is how it feels to me.

Then depending on their response, that's it for them. I don't have time or energy to deal with someone like that right now. I know that sounds blunt, but it seems like not being blunt is one of the roots of this whole "not that into you" problem anyway.

So, if I was on the receiving end of this behavior, since I can do nothing about someone elses behavior except express what I'm feeling about it, I would analyze myself and see what I can do to make sure this kind of pain doesn't happen to me again. How do I feel like I handled the situation? Yes, some pain occured, as does often happen in life, but did I cause that pain to be extended by my own behavior? What can I work on in myself to help me not fall into this situation again? I know each relationship is different, but what kind of warning signs can I find that would trigger analysis of the relationship to ensure this kind of pain doesn't happen to me again? etc. etc.

As you can plainly tell, I'm one of those analytical people, constantly in a state of analyzing my feelings and actions to make my life experience what I want it to be. I understand that some people aren't like that, but this is what I would do. As always, YMMV!!

Bikil
-the redhead-theredhead on October 16th, 2005 09:48 pm (UTC)
mtnwoman:

Bikil raised a good point: "I can, of course, see this happening a bit before the person realizes what is going on, but once they realize what's going on, I just can't see plodding along in a relationship like this."

Yep, it's a hard lesson to learn. In my case. I loved my ex-boyfriend very much and treasured our relationship. I was willing to work and negotiate to help it become mutually satisfying.

What I learned, and what I'll carry into future relationships, is that working alone on a relationship only drains you. If a guy isn't willing to work with me on making sure our connection stays vital, then even if he's telling me he loves me and wants to be with me, actions speak louder than words. I'm listening to actions from here on out.

This does not mean I'll ditch at the first bump. It doesn't mean I won't understand when someone is going through a difficult time. It does mean I won't kid myself again when actions are so obviously at odds with words for more than a couple of months. It just sucks too much. Even if he isn't very aware of his emotions and meant no deliberate disrespect to me.

So what I learned from this book was when to translate a lack of mutuality or effort as "he's just not that into me," and to make my own decisions accordingly. Because I can't expect that he'll ever admit it. If I wait for that clarity from him, I'll just end up feeling drained, undervalued, and even used. And like is said, in a poly context, I find that especially abhorrent.

- mtnwoman
-the redhead-theredhead on October 16th, 2005 09:48 pm (UTC)
me:

I say this and really mean it - thank you very much for starting this thread. Unfortunately (regarding the bad kinds of situations) you and I share some similar experiences. I've gotten it twice this year, once recently with a nascent relationship and once with a 2 year one. Kinda makes one wonder.

I have discovered in these situations that even giving people what they want in terms of less expectation doesn't help *sigh*

Y'all have made some very perspicuous and cogent points. Thanks for giving me things to consider.

-the redhead-
-the redhead-theredhead on October 16th, 2005 09:49 pm (UTC)
mtnwoman:

The Redhead wrote: "I have discovered in these situations that even giving people what they want in terms of less expectation doesn't help."

Agreed, sadly. If the problem is that someone just isn't into being in a relationship with you, ratcheting down your expectations for him only leads to more downward ratcheting. Because the issue isn't really that he wants a different kind of relationship with you -- he simply isn't interested enough to make a sincere effort to sustain any relationship. Even if he generally likes you and you generally get along with each other.

It's no insult or crime if someone loses interest in a relationship. I understand that, even though hearing that news can suck. But ducking the issue is simply disrepectful and hurtful, even if it's not intended that way.

- mtnwoman
Pete 'Happy' Thomashappypete on October 17th, 2005 03:15 am (UTC)
You want a blunt answer?
I'm sure it's in the book, somewhere: dating someone you're not that into is better than being single while you wait for someone you are into to come along. There's probably a study out there to back me up on this, but the anecdotal evidence is strong--it's easier to attract a new girlfriend while you already have one or more.

[Same thing is true for employers...but that's not the topic du jour].

For the record: I'm observing not condoning...
-the redhead-theredhead on October 17th, 2005 03:23 am (UTC)
Re: You want a blunt answer?
Pete-

nice thought, but the people that both mtnwoman and I are referring to are married. Reading the rest of the posts by different people in the thread I copied may perhaps give a bit more clarity.

-the redhead-
Pete 'Happy' Thomashappypete on October 17th, 2005 03:43 am (UTC)
Re: You want a blunt answer?
Who knows--each relationship stands on its own...being a poly, married guy with a girlfriend may lend the man a certain legitimacy to prospective additional girlfriends, at least in his eyes....
-the redhead-theredhead on October 17th, 2005 03:48 am (UTC)
Re: You want a blunt answer?
ummm - I have no idea what you're getting at now, esp. in light of your first comment?

-the redhead-
-the redhead-theredhead on October 17th, 2005 03:51 am (UTC)
Re: You want a blunt answer?
The comment I've been referring to is " dating someone you're not that into is better than being single while you wait for someone you are into to come along. "

-the redhead-
Pete 'Happy' Thomashappypete on October 17th, 2005 12:39 pm (UTC)
Re: You want a blunt answer?
It's the same principle...scenario:

Married [polyamorous] man, who also has a girlfriend that he's allegedly behaving as if he's Not That Into Her.

In the poly community there's a huge distinction between people--most commonly men--who claim they are poly but are really looking to cheat on their partners, and those who are openly poly.

Being seen at poly events with one's spouse and girlfriend, for example, might send a signal to others in the community that you are not the cheating sort, thereby increasing your chances of finding another girlfriend that you might actually be "into."

I'm sorry if I elided something in my earlier post that made this unclear--what i was trying to say was the same "I'm with her in order to be more attractive to someone new" phenomena.

By the way, I don't think I've ever heard any other male espouse this explicitly--I'm inferring around observed behavior and digging at the "kernel of truth" hidden in numerous barbs and jokes overheard over the years. I don't think it's a deliberate strategy--but I do think it's something that has been "enculturated."
-the redhead-theredhead on October 17th, 2005 07:56 pm (UTC)
Re: You want a blunt answer?
ahhhh - okay, I get it now. Thanks for the clarification.

-the redhead-
Pete 'Happy' Thomashappypete on October 18th, 2005 01:52 am (UTC)
you're welcome...
Am I onto something, or unfairly dissing my fellow XY's?
-the redhead-theredhead on October 17th, 2005 07:56 pm (UTC)
Wildcard:

Yes excellent points.

It does seem tho that polyamory offers more options in terms of relationship than together or not. I like the idea of finding the "right relationship" with someone. Eg if the sex is really great when you get together once a month but if you spend more time together you get on each other's nerves, well then, why not just do what makes you both happy? Being relatively new to conscious polyamory I have made the mistake (in my naive enthusiasm) of trying to put someone into a box they didn't fit and then getting dissatisfied with the relationship. Or maybe the sex isn't that great but the emotional support and connection is.

It does seem that one of the advantages of polyamory is that you don't have to get as many needs met with each person so that does take some pressure off. But I know for myself that I am still learning to find the "right relationship".
-the redhead-theredhead on October 17th, 2005 07:57 pm (UTC)
mtnwoman:

Wildcard made a good point, about having more freedom in poly to have relationships that are less consuming in terms of time, but still meaningful. I like that freedom, too.

Still, even within that, there's a difference between meaningful connection and emotional unavailability. And someone who is pretty consistently emotionally absent whenever you are together (however often or rare that is) is probably just not that into you, I think.

It's not about time, it's about quality of connection and mutual effort, in other words.

- mtnwoman
-the redhead-theredhead on October 17th, 2005 07:58 pm (UTC)
adazeygirl:

Very interesting topic Mtn~

I read through that book a few months ago (maybe more). I was dating someone at the time who was exhibiting all those signs of "not being into me." I found the book rather helpful. Why?

Well, when someone is giving lipservice to love and intimacy but not really putting themselves "out there" it can be really confusing as to whether they are "into you" or not. I call it the split screen effect where you are experiencing two different types of reality at the same time. In one reality the person you are dating is saying all the right words, making all the right "noises" about your relationship and where it's going. They show studied interest when you are with them and you feel certain that they are as "into you" as you are into them. Then there's the other screen. On this one are all those other little items that just don't add up to someone really caring for you. It can be little or big details...I've seen both, but it always leaves you with that "manipulated" feel. It can take a bit of introspection to see through this level of deceit (and the person you are dating may or may not be self-honest enough to know they are playing this game with you).

Intimacy is hard enough (mental,emo,phys., spiritual) with one individuated relationship. In poly it's sort of like juggling fire knives without training. Why do I say that?

Well, what most folks are experiencing here on PMM is DATING. And dating, whether it be poly or mono can often involve:

1. Getting to know a person
2. Starting to feel that NRE as things warm up
3. Becoming intimate (any kind)
4. Getting to know a person more in a less "new" way
5. Realizing that they may not be THAT compatible with you
6. Trying to decide whether there is enough there
to continue on with the relationship
7. If you are poly...trying to decide whether that "bit" that drew you together is enough for a "bit of relationship" while you have other relationships that fullfill your drothers(not my preference, but some do this).
8. Continuing on to grow as a "couple" or deciding you are just not that "into each other".

There are variations on this theme. But basically most folks are looking for a couple of people (poly people here) that they really click with that are willing to deal with their "real, authentic selves" and keep on loving them. No easy trick, that one. Even in the mono world. Thus the thousands of dating sites all promising you the "one" that will fullfill your dreams (ack).

Poly gives you the space as it were, to try on these relationships without that constant threat of "we have to make this permanent/marriage" soon. I didn't say that made it any better or worse than mono. Just another WAY.

It also gives many folks the space to just be jerks and use poly as a way to get "some" without any sort of responsiblity to the person they are "getting some" from.

I want to glue "responsible non-monogamy" to their foreheads (big big sigh). When you claim to love someone...it seems there is some level of responsbility to each other (not just guarding your insecurity and not wanting to listen to your other "rant and rave" when you end it). IMPO, Poly is about multiple LOVES. And when you love someone, you care for them. And when you care for them, you can sometimes afford to put them first. Otherwise it's swinging, people.

Is there a difference between "Not being into you" and "using?" If I'm dating someone, and I'm not that into them...I'm gone quick...like a bunny. Why prolong the whole damn thing? Let go let go let go and move on. Find someone you CANlove and be happy.

Dazey
-the redhead-theredhead on October 17th, 2005 07:59 pm (UTC)
mtnwoman:

You made a lot of good points, Dazey, thanks.

That split-screen metaphor is particularly apt.

If you love your partner and want the relationship to continue, then you want very much to believe him when he tells you he still values your relationship. Yet when his emotional unavailability and other problem behavior consistently says otherwise, the split-screen dissonance is painful and confusing.

I dunno -- in my book, if you love (or at least respect) your partner, you don't split-screen them like that.

- mtnwoman
-the redhead-theredhead on November 30th, 2005 05:11 pm (UTC)
Marycat:

Expectations.. the harbinger of doom...

Self respect- the harbinger of good things to come...

Sex in the City- my grrrl friends minus the kids and then some

He's not that into you- well good because I'm not that into that many myself...

Hmmmmmmmmm. Sad we have to have a book to substitute for what should be a spine and heart in some people... I read it and just was cornered and agape... geeze.

MC
-the redhead-theredhead on November 30th, 2005 05:12 pm (UTC)
mtnwoman:

Rodrigo: I agree, sometimes downward ratcheting of expectations in a relationship is simply the result of negotiation, and that's fine. It can indeed work. And that's fine. I've sometimes negotiated for that myself.

However, when one partner really just wants the relationship to be over (or doesn't want to put effort into keeping it vital), then sometimes downwardly mobile expectations are justa ruse to avoid addressing the real issue.

And to me, that's a problem. YMMV, of course.

- mtnwoman
-the redhead-theredhead on November 30th, 2005 05:12 pm (UTC)
mtnwoman:

Marycat: Yeah, this book has problems. It's monogamy/marriage focus and all-or-nothing approach to relationships bugged me.

But that said, this book's message is an effective kick in the pants for some of us. I know that when I love a guy, I tend to be a bit too willing to make excuses for him. I'm not proud of that. There really are times when I need to step back and consider "Maybe he's just not really that into me," rather than credulously swallow platitudes that are not backed up by action.

Anyway, this book did effectively crystallize for me some things which have caused me a lot of problems in the past. I think that might help me make better decisions down the line. So it's been helpful to me in that respect.

YMMV, of course. It definitely isn't one of the best books ever written, that's for sure.

- mtnwoman
-the redhead-theredhead on November 30th, 2005 05:14 pm (UTC)
tms:

most guys will go to amazing lengths to avoid admitting they're just not that into a woman they're dating...What is so hard/scary about admitting that you're just not that into continuing a relationship?

I think sometimes it's a matter of indecision, or of not understanding your own heart..."hmmm, this relationship isn't going as well as I had hoped, but maybe it will get better if I stick it out for a while".

I can think of one time where I may have been "that guy". I started dating a woman I had known and admired for years, but the chemistry never happened. I guess you could say that I "wasn't that into" the relationship, but I was looking, waiting, for that spark I hoped and thought was there, and confused at not finding it.

(That's one of the very few relationships that I have regrets about, because through my own lack of self-understanding I hurt someone else. This was before I identified as poly; I hope I've grown a bit since then, have a little more understating of myself and would handle something like that better now.)

And sometimes, of course, it may be settling for what's there and available in terms of relationships, better to have something than nothing.
-the redhead-theredhead on November 30th, 2005 05:15 pm (UTC)
anklesnake:

I have experienced or witnessed things similar to this, though I have a much different interpretation.

There isn't one way to approach relationships, and sometimes what we might interpret as "tepid" behavior is actually just a different style of relating. I tend to be very affectionate and loving and ocasionally a bit intense - I very much like the idea of living with my partners, and I find a lot of satisfaction in deeply entertwined relationships. So if I'm dating someone who has absolutely no desire to ever live with me, who only has time available once or twice a month and who is less physically affectionate than I am, should I automatically assume that they "aren't that into me?"

The nice thing about poly, is you sometimes have the opportunity to see how someone relates to their other partners to get a feel for typical behavior and range of possibilities. Some people are just very independent and prefer their relationships to stay lighter, more distant, less involved etc. I think it's important to interpret a person's behavior towards you based on what is normal for *them,* more than what is normal for *you*. If someone is staying in a relationship with you, then they are probably getting something out of it. Of course this is not always the case, but I at least like to allow for the possibility :).

I personally have seen this kind of behavior mostly in women, but clearly that's just anecdotal. Cultural expectations can work both ways - A man who keeps his relationships at arms length is "afraid of commitment," "closed off" or "insensitive," while a woman who does the same is "independent," "self sufficient" or "strong." Women can actually get away with a great deal more insensitive and pig headed behavior.

I guess my long winded point is that sometimes it's more productive to say "we're looking for incompatible things in this relationship (or in relationships in general)" rather than "he/she just isn't that into me."
-the redhead-theredhead on November 30th, 2005 05:16 pm (UTC)
mtnwoman:

Anklesnake made some good points. She wrote: "Some people are just very independent and prefer their relationships to stay lighter, more distant, less involved etc. I think it's important to interpret a person's behavior towards you based on what is normal for *them,* more than what is normal for *you*.'

Yes, that is a valid way of looking at it. I know that closely resembles the way my ex boyfriend viewed our impasse. Of course, that perspective works much better in practice for who doesn't need intimacy than for someone who does.

Here's where personally I have difficulty with that approach -- and I fully realize that this may not reflect well on me.

If I focus too much on the rationale "his relating style is just different," then I end up beating my head against the wall trying to figure out how to compromise in order to find middle ground. That gets very damaging for me if the effort to find middle ground isn't truly mutual.

In other words, if what is normal for him falls far below my bottom line for minimum emotional connections, and he's not willing to compromise by stretching beyond that, then what's normal for me is more important, I think -- at least in terms of the decisions I make.

That's when a more precise way of saying "He's just not that into me" is useful. I also interpret that simple catchphrase as meaning: "He's just not into me enough to make it good for me to stay with him."

...And the more verbose version is, "Regardless of whatever positive feelings he has for me now, or how intensely he may have loved me or acted toward me in the past, for a while now he's demonstrated consistently that he isn't able or willing to offer the minimum level of emotional connection I need to make this relationship healthy and rewarding for me. This isn't a temporary setback. This pattern is not likely to change, and it's not likely to stop hurting me. It's time to end this relationship."

See, it's not necessarily a matter of the guy being cold, uncaring, or manipulative. Because, yes, relating styles can be different. That's just life.

For me, considering "Maybe he's just not that into me" after a couple of months of distant or problem behavior empowers me to make decisions rather than excuses. In the past, I have tended to make excuses (especially concerning different relating styles) and thus stayed too long in relationships that had grown harmful to me.

Personally, I'm poly because I thrive on intimacy. I need a baseline level of visceral, overt, mutual emotional connection to feel confident and safe in a sexual or romantic relationship. I don't need or want enmeshment or tons of time together -- just enough ongoing emotional connection to serve as a kind of carrier signal. Without that, I feel disrespected -- especially when I am very clear at the beginning of a relationship about this.

Other people are more comfortable with completely casual relationships, with little or no emotional connection. (Or at least, no need to be overt about whatever feelings are there.) That's totally fine. However, these are not people I should be in romantic/sexual relationships with.

YMMV, of course.

- mtnwoman