The aftermath in my brain

One commenter on my last post mentioned something I hadn’t highlighted – but it was something my brain latched on to from my conversation with Tony. And since my writing this, a few others have gotten on that train.

It was his “I don’t want to hold you back” comment.

What the hell does that mean?

I doubt he’s at the point in our relationship that he loves me so much he would rather let me go than potentially hurt me. I felt that way about someone in the past, and it was borne out of a lot of love and mutual respect.

Where did my brain take that comment? To this place: it’s a passive way to tell me he can’t / won’t meet my needs. That perhaps he wanted me to say “I don’t want to be held back either, so goodbye Tony”.Β 

So that’s the first thing rattling around in my brain. I’m working on letting it go; his behavior will let me know soon enough where his head is at.

Which brings me to another blog comment. That I can’t possibly know someone’s motivation unless they tell me themselves.

This I definitely know to be true. Time and time again I see people get in trouble when they ascribe motivation to another’s behavior. It used to drive me crazy when Will did it – he was constantly convinced he knew why I did things, and he was often wrong. I am working to make sure I don’t do this – but it doesn’t mean I don’t think about it and come up with theories.

Bottom line of this hiccup with Tony is I took some of his behavior and believed they signaled something about where his head was at, and what his ability was to give me what I need.

These are dangerous things. Of course, I could be right about why he acts the way he does. BUT I am proud of myself for not letting myself get down into some dark place about how he feels about me. Nor did I allow my anger to override all other emotions. I honored it, because it was real. But I can easily fall into an “everything is this way” and forget the good things.

But here’s the rub. When do I go too far down the slippery slope of understanding and justifying behavior that I don’t like? Ending up rationalizing all of the behavior and later discovering I’m deeply unhappy and unsatisfied?

And then, how do I figure out which attitudes and behaviors are unacceptable, and which am I willing to discuss and hopefully negotiate, and which can I not live without?

Is Tony as communicative as me? Nope. Does he process problems the same way? Nope.

Does it matter?

And I say these things in moments of lucidity, earlier in the day. When I come back to this post to edit, there’s been a three-hour delay in response to one of my text messages earlier today. Then I call him in the evening from my home number – which he doesn’t recognize and answers the phone. He was at a sports lesson with his son. He can’t talk. I ask him to call me later if he can.

Five hours later, no text, no email. Nothing.

The day afterΒ we have a conversation about communication.


0 thoughts on “The aftermath in my brain

  1. Ugh, Ann, I know that place of questioning everything so well. If he can’t show you more effort one day in, then what is it going to be like next week or the week after? What if shit really hits the fan? He said it was inconvenient for him to go to your party but he went…really? was it really THAT inconvenient for him to meet the friends of a person he is falling for? And to point that out like the rest of these issues aren’t valid…. He’s giving you crumbs. I’ve been there so many times it is sad to say and I hate this for you. I tend to fall in love with a man’s potential rather than their actual present ability to meet my needs and receive the love I have to give. I feel for you, I do.

    • Thanks Hollie. This morning I’m ready to just call him and tell him enough is enough (but would he answer the phone?) If I was a low maintenance plant I would still be dying from lack of care and feeding. Maybe that’s a better blog post title…

      So I’m going to play a game, which I rarely do. I’m just gonna see when I do hear from him. I’m away today and overnight with my Mom and two friends so I can be somewhat preoccupied.

      • I think you’ve been acting like a low maintenance plant and you shouldn’t have to. You need light and care and plant food (or in your case, good sex). Enjoy your overnight, I hope it provides enough excitement and laughs to keep your mind busy. πŸ™‚

      • Ann,

        I seem to recall a quote from a very dear friend, “My advice to you? Don’t play games…” How I hate quoting people (I care for) back to themselves…but I think that you are right in what you told me. Nothing good will come from this. Resentment is invariably building within you now, Ann.

        • Hmm. Games versus tests. We could have a fun debate about that.

          I don’t inherently disagree with you, Will. As I’ve been pondering and responding to comments, I’ve realized that Tony has been very consistent in how he manages stuff like this – he doesn’t act, or if he does, it’s in very small increments and very slowly. I just made a comment above about the situation with his son, and he’s been no different.

          So the reality is that my backing away a little bit in my proactive communications with him has simply highlighted for me that even if he is discontent with the amount we are communicating (unlikely), he won’t do a whole lot about it.

  2. There’s that word again, inconvenient. Sometimes brutal honestly is not a good thing and subtleties in conversation and word selection, while they may be less of a concern for Tony, you are far more sensitive to these facets, Ann.

    Five hours and nothing…after the talk? This is beyond frustrating.

  3. I certainly hope during this 12 hours have you found a way to sleep. but yes I do understand the lack of care and feeding, and the negative impact it has. I’m so sorry, Ann.

  4. Mind reading is typically a futile exercise and a sure way to raise your anxiety about possibilities that may not be true. Also, I think in your case, I would want to proactively end things and make it clear that I deserve better. But even more importantly, unless he can definitively say that his marriage is over, I would step aside out of respect for the possibility that his family could be reunited. I know it’s not easy to do that, but I’ve learned some of these lessons the hard way.

    • Thanks for your comment Holly. His marriage IS over. But that doesn’t mean he won’t take a path that takes him back. I don’t think his core issue is angst about his ex – he’s just not ready to give anything to anyone right now.

  5. Ann I hate to say anything that could possibly hurt or offend you, but I feel that this man is only treating you as a convenience rather than a possible partner. I think you care for him way more than he cares for you. You deserve so much more. You are an absolutely lovely woman with so much to offer, please don’t sell yourself short by accepting this behavior.

    • I appreciate the care with which you’ve said that πŸ™‚

      I was just chatting with a gf and it reminded me of something he said about six weeks ago – he doesn’t like being in control because he could then make the wrong choice. Fundamentally he’s passive. Ultimately I think he likes me a lot but it doesn’t trump his unwillingness to put effort into a relationship. So yes, I’ve been convenient. If I remain convenient I’m sure things can just trudge along. But I can’t do that anymore.

    • I thought I had responded to this but guess it got lost somewhere… thank you for being concerned for offending or hurting me, but sometimes it’s really good for me to hear exactly what people think. It helps me on my journey. xo

  6. You are a beautiful, confident & smart woman. You deserve more from a partner. I say this with nothing but respect for you — you lowered your standards and expectations for Tony and he is still not able to meet them. The ball is in your court now.

  7. I’m going to say something similar to the bloggers above, but not quite. I don’t think he’s doing it intentionally which is why it’s so frustrating. He is definitely only going to give “this much” whatever that is. It’s clear that what he’s giving isn’t enough for you. But based on all the other good things, can you tolerate the lack of communication or does it ultimately become your deal breaker. He just doesn’t seem good at this relationship thing and u agree he’s not stepping up to the plate. But only you can decide if he gets more time or not. I agree he won’t pressure you either way

    • Thanks Hon. I agree with you, he’s not doing it deliberately. I’ve joked with people that if I thought it was deliberate I think it would be far more understandable for me.

      I’m seeing more and more that one piece of his personality that gave me pause before – a lack of willingness to take charge / control of things in his life. It’s not dissimilar from what was – or wasn’t – happening in the aftermath of his marriage. I’m not exactly sure WHY he won’t take action (fear, not caring, etc), but regardless, it causes this kind of stuff.

      Part of me feels like I could just fade away and he would never act. I suppose I’m doing that a little bit right now. I’ve really dialled back my communication with him, and it’s not like he’s texting to say “hey where have you been?”.

      • It’s so nice to meet someone who has so many great qualities but ultimately you need a man who is more in charge of his own life. Maybe he’s just not in that place, maybe it is who he is…regardless it’s what you can manage and if you keep questioning yourself like this it means it’s not for you because he probably isn’t going to change right now

      • A big part of you feels he will fade away and never act….it’s really what you keep coming back to. Like dangling carrots in front of him that he is just not biting fast or fully enough. I don’t think you can do it with his lack of communication….it’s killing you.

  8. I keep thinking about the movie where the friend tries to explain to the girl that if a guy is truly into you, you will not have to chase him. He will let you know, there will be no misunderstandings. Please run you deserve so much better!

    • Yes, you are so right. It’s hard for me when I can see a broader pattern of behavior – for example, he’s not even doing things that would give him what he wants with his son… and there’s no question about how he feels for his son.

      So what I end up doing is justifying that behavior…when really, it’s grounded in some deep-seated personality traits of his. And there’s nothing at all I can do about that.

      • Let’s for a second entertain the thought that he is just a prick who enjoys ignoring you. Then every attempt you make to call, text, or contact him, and he ignores these very sincere efforts on your part, he is then secretly ego stroking his gigantic prick head. If this theory is correct then he is the type of man who enjoys degrading another human being.

          • You would certainly know better than I would. Is it possible that the in- the- box theory could apply here? It’s the theory that when you are inside the box (to close to a situation) you have a completely different view of the situation than those of us who are seeing it from outside the box? G-uno

          • Not a completely different view, no. I agree sometimes it’s hard to see patterns or certain things as clearly, but in this situation, I know that he’s not that kind of guy – I would have picked up on that personality trait a long time ago.

          • After reading your extremely well written accounts with this man, the view from my side of the box is a man who is either extremely self-centered/rude, or a man who is just not as invested into having anything more than what currently exists between you both. I’m sorry, but you definitely deserve better treatment. Even in my friendships if I found myself being the only one investing in them, by calling, or contacting them at some point if there was not legitimate reason for them not responding back to me with the same effort I would not continue to pursue them in anyway. I would go forward, and place the focus back onto my life. G-uno

          • It’s a good point you raise… I wouldn’t put up with it for a long time with a friend, unless I knew it was temporary.

            Thanks for all the advice πŸ™‚

          • It takes incredible courage to be so open about your life. I think that I find myself defending your honor because your writing style is so genuine, and truthful that it offends me that Tony doesn’t recognize how rare it is to have a person like yourself find value in them. I will continue to enjoy your writing with less advice. πŸ˜‰ G-uno

  9. This is typical and normal…for 20-somethings. Not at this age. Flags are popping up and I agree with with Holly and the “Crumb Trail”. I miss blatant honesty. He needs to come clean and tell you what is going on. Maybe some other woman like being strung along. (my best friend was dealing with that…holding out hope for The Guy) I hope you know when to cut yourself free. But at the same time, don’t punish the next man to come along. Collateral Damage is painful for the innocent.

    • I don’t punish the next guy ever. I’m an optimist that way.

      I’m pretty sure I know exactly what’s going on, and it’s becoming even more clear as I respond to comments here.

      Tony is not a “take charge” person when it comes to his personal life. For example, he’s been upset / dissatisfied with how things have been with his son – not seeing him enough, etc – and he hasn’t done much of anything to move that forward. He wants some of the crap to be over with his ex, but he’s not pushing to get his stuff out of his old house, or an arrangement for car / child etc., which would help get to his goal.

      SO, I see this stuff with me as no different. He may want something different – whether that’s in theory to meet my needs, or to be non-exclusive, or who knows what. But regardless, he’s not going to take action to make that happen. I haven’t seen him do it in any other arena in his life, so I don’t think I’m going to be any different. He’s been consistent.

  10. There haven’t’ been too many times in my life where I’ve told a woman, “I don’t want to hold you back…” and when I have said it, it was because I had too much stuff going on – somewhere – that I had to deal with, bogging me down and stuff that would make me not the best person to be with – and, at least for me, it’s not an euphemism for, “I don’t wanna be with you.”

    I don’t know about other guys, but this means to me that I want to be with you… but I just don’t have what it takes; yeah, I could probably count on you to “help” me with some things but by doing so, I’d be putting a huge burden on you and while even “unmarried” relationships abide by “for better or for worse,” I wouldn’t think it fair to dump whatever shit is holding me back onto you.

    What did Tony mean by this? I dunno… and if he didn’t explain it – and you didn’t think to ask him at the time or want to be bothered asking him after the fact, how would you know what he meant by it? You could guess about any of this stuff you’ve been through with him and, yup, you could be right on the money… or you could be so far off base it ain’t funny even though I’d admit that his communication failures ain’t helping ease your mind about anything – it’s like having a one-sided conversation with someone who should be saying stuff but has invoked the 5th for some reason.

    So what do you do? You can be proactive and ask the questions you need to ask in this then decide the fate of all this based on how he answers and if he doesn’t, then you can decide to tell him to have a good life and get on with yours. If, for some reason, you believe there’s hope and he’s just one of those guys who lack decent communication skills, you could just wait for as long as you can be patient and if you’re out of patience, then you can put it to bed, end it all, and go back to getting on with your life.

    I learned to not ever guess or assume or make crucial relationship decisions without information. Even if I’m looking at a pattern of behavior that is known to me, I’m not gonna to up and assume that what I’m seeing is what I think it is – because I could be wrong and, yeah, I have been dead wrong in the past because I didn’t want to be bothered to verify what I was seeing in the other person. Of course, you do what you gotta do and in whatever way you need to do it but you’re only right when you’re proven to be right and not before the fact.

    Just saying…

    • I’m not sure if I say “thank you” enough to you for your very thoughtful responses here. So thank you. You always give me lots to think about, which I very much appreciate.

      I agree about trying to assign motivation. I can’t know whether Tony is doing / not doing things because he doesn’t like me that much, for example. That’s a dangerous thing to do.

      He did say more after his “hold me back” comment but I couldn’t remember the exact words he used…it was about where he is right now in his life. But it wasn’t as clear as I would have hoped, and you are right…I didn’t ask for clarification.

      One thing I have been able to do with him though, especially in the last couple of weeks as I’ve been thinking about what to do, is observe patterns of behavior. I’ve been responding to some earlier comments about this, and will probably write a post about it. I’ve realized that this stuff with me – and his inaction – is no different from what he and I have discussed, and what I have observed, with his son and his ex.

      Simply, he’s not a man of action and resolution. However, WHY he may want something different with me (either more, or less), I really can’t know unless I ask him.

      • I can assure you that you do, in fact, thank me plenty and I remain honored that you continue to allow me to give you food for thought.

        I’m sure after he said he didn’t want to hold you back, your brain stopped working at that point so you kinda missed what else he said after that and forgot to ask, “What do you mean by that?” It’s okay – happens to the best of us.

        You might break it off with him… or you might not… but while having a gut feeling or “listening to your heart” are good things to do, use your brain – think, but don’t feel all that much.

        You observe, you compile information, you form questions, then ask them so that you can confirm that what you’ve observed matches up to the answers to the questions. Then act in whatever way you need to act.

        If you don’t ask, you won’t ever know. I can’t say that he’d answer precisely and concisely about why he wants/needs something different with you (not like, say, I would do), but even if you ask and he’s tripping all over himself trying to answer, that’s not necessarily a reason to keep or ditch him – you still have to process the answers and then ask yourself a very important question: Do I want to keep him or let him go? And to answer that question, you need to think more than letting that final decision be a purely emotional one.

        And if you have to let him go, so be it… but make sure you’ve made an informed decision based on the facts and not just on supposition…

  11. We can’t change someone…as much as we would like to, we can’t…I think you will need to accept he’s not going to get back to you as often as you would like (at this point in the relationship) or move on if it’s something you really need…I think you mentioned he “stepped up his game” when you mentioned it before and yeah we can hope for that….Yet, I just see this as one of his “imperfections” like I mentioned in the last post…

    • Thanks Lisa.

      There are so many stock saying about women marrying a man and hoping he will change, and men marrying a women and hoping she will never change… and I do think there is some truth to that.

      I know many people are capable of change, but not everyone realizes it or knows how. And I know without question that I have to be willing to accept someone exactly as they are – because hoping for change won’t get me anywhere good.

      I think with Tony, he has the right intentions. But that’s not what I feel – I feel his actions. What’s I’ve been doing however is continuing this relationship based on his intentions. And ultimately, that’s not enough for me.

  12. This guy I lived with for 4 years taught me the phrase, “just don’t have it to give.” It popped into my head as I was reading this latest post. I agree with others’ comments about the convenience factor. I don’t think Tony is a bad guy, or untrustworthy, I think he just doesn’t have it to give – to you or anyone else. I think he likes you, and enjoys his time spent with you, but he’s just not committed. As long as you are willing to see him and tolerate the status quo, the status quo will continue indefinitely. And, obviously, the status quo is no longer good enough for you (as it should be). It’s a difficult place to stand, liking someone and recognizing that he/she is just not on the same page – or even reading the same book. Where do you go from here? I don’t think it’s healthy for YOU to continue with him. And, 12 hours later and NO communication? That alone speaks volumes. Call it inconsiderate, lazy, or divine intervention… it screams – “I don’t have it to give.” I know it’s easier for all of us to comment matter-of-factly, but this is your life and your heart and you must make the decision that is best for you. I wish you the best.

    • Thanks Tara. It’s a good phrase and I’ve been repeating it since I read your comment. I have theories as to why he doesn’t have it to give, but ultimately, his not giving it is what matters.

      This last week or so I’ve been at the point where every infraction is highlighted – every time 12 hours goes by and I hear nothing from him, it is even more grating than it might have been before. So I know I’m at my limit.

      I want to end this gracefully, with the clear message that this door is being closed but he can knock on it if he’s ever ready to do so. As I get angrier and more resentful, it’s highly unlikely I will be able to give him that message.

  13. I have to be very honest and say I don’t agree with some comments ” excusing ” Tony due to the possibility of him just not being good enough with communication. Regardless of being good or not , and we are not talking about 24/7 contact here , It’s not like you are asking him constant communication even. by what I read you are actually the opposite of “needy”. Expecting a call back from your boyfriend sounds to me like general common sense and not a specific thing that we can demand only from people who “are good at communicating.”. But well that’s just me… And even without me knowing what is inside Tony s head I’d say it’s quite inconsiderate not to get back to you after 12hours . I’d even day I’d expect anyone else , even a friend to be considerate enough to call me back after being asked to do so, let alone a boyfriend….I don’t think this has to do with communication at all.

  14. If I am reading this right, you had the communication conversation with him and then he goes silent again but answers the phone for an unknown number? He is too busy to send you off a quick text that me may be unreachable for a bit but can’t possibly miss a call, or let it go to voice mail, when it’s someone he doesn’t recognize?

    At this point it’s less about reading his mind and more about reading his behavior. It seems to be screaming “I can’t / won’t give you what you need”.

  15. Ann, leave the guy. I’m pretty sure you’ll do so much better. It hurts. A lot. The guy I was dating did those same things to me. Yesterday I finally demanded a reason that would explain the lack of communication and all those same shitty things you’ve been through. He wouldn’t give me any, so I broke up with him. I’m fed up with him and all his life crap. I’m missing him terribly and will miss sex with him even more…but I can’t take it anymore. I deserve much better. Day 2 after breaking up with him.

    • Lena, thanks for your comment. Good for you for taking care of your needs – it’s hard to do sometimes, especially when you aren’t being given the answers you seek.

      I will miss him, but I also know my life is full of other things and it will move on.

    • This is advice for married couples, too. I have been guilty of behaving like this and making my husband feel like he’s an option.

      • I think many couples forget this. We take spouses for granted because they are always supposed to be there for us. We tend to be irresponsible and not nurture the relationships the way we should. I see it over and over again.

  16. This is easy for me to say, but… I think you need to let Tony go, Ann. Truthfully, he seems to be moving away on his own, so the decision is being made for you.
    But you deserve better.
    Much better.

  17. How often have we seen the headline “Mind Reader Wins Lottery”? With that Captain Obvious statement, it comes back to what do you deserve? If you’re not getting that from him, then why invest brain cycles in trying to divine the reasons behind someone else’s actions?
    Words, you can get off the side of a latte
    Actions take courage and conviction.

    • I invest brain cycles in everything because it’s just what I do and how I process things. I can’t really turn off the analytical side… and I also learn from it.

      In some ways, understanding his behavior helps me understand how it triggers me. Why I continue to justify things that don’t feel good for me. What are the things that really matter, and what can I let go. All that stuff is why I do it.

      But ultimately, if the actions aren’t matching the words, that’s all that matters. And clearly, that’s what is happening here.

  18. This permission to be with others feels like that hall pass you got in your marriage. Am I being too harsh? Seems to me there are three options: 1) stick it out, see if he changes, 2) get out, 3) stick it out, see if he changes, explore other options. You are amazing and deserve the best. I hope you find some peace in this soon.

    • Based on the conversation we had, I think he knows he can’t do any more right now. Or it could be he just doesn’t care enough to give more.

      Regardless, it could be seen as a cowards way (now I’m being harsh) to get a change. Everything about Tony has been consistent – he will not take action to get a change he desires. Hasn’t done it with his ex and his son, and he’s not doing it with me. At least with the former, I know what he’s trying to achieve. With me, I have no idea.

      But ultimately, it doesn’t matter. The actions, or lack thereof, are the same.

  19. Here’s what I think, based on times when I have been on what I see as his (Tony’s) side of the fence. He is not making any promises, he is not directly agreeing to meet your needs, needs that you have made clear on more than one occasion. He is not doing anything he doesn’t feel like doing despite knowing how it makes you feel. If you continue to stick around under these circumstances absolutely nothing will change. Why should it? You tell him you’ve been hurt and angered by his actions, and that is his only consequence. He listens to you, doesn’t say much, you seem pacified, have sex, and he knows that his current pattern of behavior can continue. If you keep coming back for more, that’s your fault, not his (in his mind). I know that this was my attitude toward guys who wanted more from me than I wanted from them.

    Give him the flick, not another ‘This is what I need’ conversation. He knows what he needs to do to get you back if he wants to. Continuing to see him now is permission to continue his neglectful, haphazard behavior.


    • I said I would come back to this comment, so here I am.

      You are absolutely right about condoning the behavior. If I continue the same way, I’m not giving him any reason or motivation to change. I read a guy’s blog recently where he said they won’t change until it hurts.

      I suspect my breaking things off with Tony won’t hurt him all that much, but I know for sure if I continue to be there for him as I am, doing all the kind things I’ve been doing… why on earth would he give me any more, when he hasn’t to date?

      He is not a man of action. Not even when it hurts regarding his family. So I doubt that it’s going to make a difference with me.

      BUT…I can’t continue banging my head against a wall all the time with him.

  20. Hi Ann,
    Just a quick note to let you know that I’m here getting caught up. Sorry that I’ve been away for so long. You are always in my happy thoughts and prayers.
    I’m not done reading yet (and I know there’s more), but a song keeps coming to mind. Have you heard “Friday Night” by Eric Paslay? Even if you don’t like country music – the words resonate and are relevant in this situation. You deserve to be treated like a fabulous “Friday Night”…you’ll know what I mean if you know the song.

What do you think?