I Thought He Liked Me. (In which I use the word "feel" way too many times.)

[Scroll to the bottom for the tl;dr summary]

It started, as millennials’ relationship stories usually do, with a Facebook post. I liked a status update of his, and waited to see if he would initiate conversation. He did, and for the next three months I tried to get to know him and potentially start a real relationship.

Curiosity

I had been nursing a quiet, protracted attraction to him, and I thought this was an opportunity for me to find out if there was anything more there. The fact that we hadn’t been in the same city for three years, and therefore hardly had a basis to start from, didn’t matter. Neither, at first, did the fact that we would have to conduct most of the relationship over the phone because we lived so far apart.

In the first few weeks, I was going on curiosity and hope. I was keen to see where things would go with this person who was always such a mystery to me, who I had always been drawn to. I wanted to find out what was behind the attraction. I was encouraged by the way he spoke about a connection that he felt we always had. I thought this was my chance to pursue a relationship with someone who seemed to be equally as interested in me. It was exciting to have the chance to have my feelings for someone requited for once.

Hope                  

Initially, our conversations were stilted. A lot of flat, tentative talk about the activities of our day. Gradually, we began to talk about more important things. He told me about his future plans. I enjoyed feeling like he was making me a part of his life. I started to tell him more about myself, hoping all the time that I was interesting enough to keep his attention.

I remember feeling like I was in the dark a lot of the time. After the first month or so, I started to feel like he wasn’t putting the same amount of effort in. I constantly felt like I didn’t know what was on his mind. I wanted him to make the effort to reach out to me, instead of leaving me to initiate conversation and move things along. I wondered if my feeling like he wasn’t trying was some sort of sign, but I quickly chalked my uncertainty up to my inexperience in relationships.

Insecurity

I was very aware that I didn’t know what I was doing. A lot of the time I looked to him for cues about what to say or how to behave. This is why, when he began to send me racy messages, I was shocked and overwhelmed. No one had shared these kinds of desires for me and with me before. But I made myself go along with it. I thought this was another step out of my comfort zone and into a relationship. I liked this new kind of attention, so I ignored how awkward and uncomfortable it felt.

Warning Signs

Around the time that his messages became a lot more focused on what I was wearing and how much he “wanted” me, it became more and more important to me for us to meet up in person and get reacquainted. I needed for the conversations to become grounded in something real. My anxiety about the two of us meeting again after so long became pronounced after two months of conversation that seemed to have one note. What if we didn’t get along at all when we were together in a room? Would all the WhatsApp vibes translate IRL? I started to feel more attracted to him, and I believed a meeting would help me to feel less unsure about everything.

We’d been talking for two months when we got around to setting a date for a meeting. That is, it took two months for him to commit to a date. Each time I suggested something, he would either have work or he would have other plans. I told him I was starting to feel like we don’t have time for each other; he assured me that wasn’t the case.

Once he told me when he would be coming to town, I started crossing days off on my mental calendar. Finally, I would get to see him; I would get to see the months of conversation manifested into something concrete, something real. I was nervous. I shared this with him, and he said I shouldn’t get worked up, “it will be fine.” I felt like he was dismissing my concerns. It wasn’t the first time he had made me feel that way, but I looked past it. At this point, I had decided that my feelings for him were real, and that I would make the relationship work. I was invested. 

By this time, I had also learned what type of person I was in a relationship: I was a person who needed time, attention, patience and physical contact in order to feel secure. I could see that I wasn’t getting those things from him, but I thought “it will work out – we just need to meet.”

I put a lot of hope in this meeting. I thought that once it had happened the relationship would be more real, and he would be more committed, and I would feel more certain about everything. I believed the answers to why I felt disconnected from him would be found in that meeting.

Disillusionment

When the meeting didn’t happen, I was deeply disappointed. Granted, life happens and sometimes you have to cancel your plans. But I had waited the whole morning to see him, and when he made his excuses I felt like he didn’t even think it was that important. He was very “oh well. It was out of my control” about the whole thing. In the weeks after effectively being stood up, I started to feel like things between us were moving backwards.

Our conversations were never the same after that. I had no idea where I stood with him, because he would avoid my questions about the future, and still talk about how he wanted us to be together at the same time.

In June, after a particularly uncomfortable week which included him telling me I had no choice but to “watch this space” when I asked him if he was taking me seriously in all this, we had an argument about my not wanting children. I had asked him before if not wanting children was a deal breaker for him, and he had said “you could say that.” On this particular night, he took that up to “it definitely is”, and accused me of not caring about what he wanted at all. He started talking about how closed-off and defensive I was, saying the way I protected myself made me “selfish.”

I was hurt, but I still tried to make my case with him. I tried to make him see that I did care about him, and that I was making an effort to let him into my life. But he had obviously already decided that he didn’t want to continue the conversation anymore. After basically calling me dumb for not understanding what he was saying, he told me “I’m done here”, and stopped replying to my messages.

Cut-off Point

In the week after that, I went back and forth in my mind, thinking about what I had done to cause his outburst and how I could resolve it. He had clearly shown me that he didn’t care, but I refused to believe that, and I kept thinking there must be a way to make things better. Mostly, I hated feeling like I was being punished for something I didn’t even know I was doing wrong.

Then I realised that this was the perfect opportunity for me to unburden myself of this not-quite-relationship and all the anxiety it had been causing me. It felt like giving up, or accepting defeat, but after five days I sent him one last message and a voice note. I’m not sure what I said, but I tried to let me know that I was hurt and disappointed by how things ended. 
I didn’t expect him to respond, and I blocked his number, but I still wondered what his response would be. I wanted to know how he was feeling – that was all I had ever wanted throughout those three months – and I didn’t want to believe that it would be that easy for him to just forget about me. Partly out of arrogance, because everyone likes to believe that they are memorable, unforgettable, even. And partly because it didn’t make sense to me that two people could share hopes, dreams and desires in intimate conversations, and then one of them could just cut the other off completely.

Taking Stock

Of course, all the lessons from this are only coming after it’s over. After I’ve agonised over his non-responses and wondered how true his intentions were. Only now does it look like I played myself from the beginning. I had to be insulted before I could see that I deserve more, and I don’t have to put up with things or concede others in order to make something work. It’s only after I used up so much precious emotional energy that I can see how craving attention and trying to quell loneliness can get me into serious trouble.

I hate that this happened, but I can’t do anything about it. I can’t make him apologise, and I can’t make him behave the way I need him to. I don’t think about what he’s doing or what his response was to my last message anymore, but I also haven’t forgotten what happened altogether.

Also, I have postponed all further attempts at a relationship to my 40s. I’ll need at least two decades to gather the courage and energy I need to take on something like this again. 

Tl;dr: It’s been almost two months since this boy I was talking to ended things between us before they really started. I’ve been sorting through shoulda woulda couldas and spotting missed signs, hoping to reach some sort of satisfying conclusion about what happened. It turns out you can’t control a guy’s actions, and when you feel like something isn’t right, you should definitely act on that feeling.

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