Dudefile #48 – The Emotional Distance Dude

Hi Dude,
So I’ve been dating this guy for almost a year now, and still never had “the talk” to put labels on or discuss where we’re going.  Having come out of a very bad relationship before (that was abusive in every way possible), I was not ready to discuss things being “official” or for an actual relationship (no matter how great the guy) so although we have been in a relationship for a very long time, the fact that we had never discussed it made me feel like i was in a “safe zone” so to speak.  

Anyways, after Labor Day weekend we had our first minor disagreement, and the end result of that was that he said he wanted to spend more time together, spend whole weekends together, and really be more a part of each other’s lives.  So now we are in full swing, many times he comes to the city Friday til sunday, and then week nights I take the hour train to his place 1 to 2 times a week.  Our friends have been integrated with each other, and we are invited to things as a couple now.  A lot of his friends, guys and girls, at separate times have told me in private that “he really likes you” and one guy even referred to him as my boyfriend a few times. 

But WE have still never had the “talk” or acknowledged what we are or what we are doing.  AND, he has still occasionally logged into match throughout the past year.  So last week things came to a head when I finally came to the point that I’m ready to let my guard down and actually DO this, and try a real relationship and see where it goes, no more dating at an emotional distance with my guard up.  So after seeing him log on match once more, I unleashed the beast on him, a year’s worth of frustration and build-up, all the things he does that upset me, all the reasons why i’m frustrated, reasons why i’m unhappy and dont feel like myself in this relationship, and basically “what is going on, what is this and what are we doing?”  

A lot of my frustration and unhappiness stems from this being undefined, and so i felt like i couldnt let my guard down and be myself, if i was upset abt something, i would internalize it instead of talk to him, which is out of my nature, and also, w/out this being defined, i was holding back on who i really am in a relationship.  In a relationship, i like to leave cute notes, or cute cards, or do affectionate things, little surprises, but without ever feeling secure in what we were and where this was headed, I was only giving 65% of myself.  

The conversation that ensued was very difficult for him, he proceeded to tell me that “communicating” and being “open” are things that are very very difficult for him and things that he doesnt feel comfortable doing.  He said that he has had alot of loss in his life (lots of family members and friends have passed away), and his last relationship did a number on him, and basically he doesnt like dealing with emotions, and in fact, tries to “not feel emotions at all”…his exact words.  

He said over the past year its gotten worse.  He admitted that I’m the first girl he has dated seriously in 3 years and in the past, he dated a month or two here and there, but whenever the girl pushed for things to be more serious, he pulled away and ran.  In fact, he just overall is used to girls just wanting to be his girlfriend right away, so the fact that i wasnt ready for a relationship and never pressured or pushed him and made him feel like he was sort of “chasing me” a bit at the sametime, is a big reason why this lasted so long and he didnt pull away. 

I did some google searches on “emotional distance” and found several articles about fear of intimacy and overcoming it, I forwarded them to him, and he was very receptive to it and said he was interested in reading them.  Basically, the idea of having to be open and communicate his feelings makes him uncomfortable, and the idea of being emotionally vulnerable and dependent on someone else makes him uncomfortable.  And he even acknowledged that he knows we have both been dating each other with our guards up this entire time.   

End result of this conversation is that he acknowledged that he knows what he does and why he does it, but doesnt know if he can stop and open up and deal with emotions, etc. but that he wants to stay together and move forward and “try” to work on his issues.  He also said that he thinks there is the potential for a future for us, and that if he didnt, he wouldnt have dated me this entire past year.  I see the potential as well.  So we are moving forward together, taking baby steps, but putting labels on it seems to make him uncomfortable still even though he acknowledges this is a serious relationship.  

In regards to match.com, he said he wasnt using it to date, he only logged in to clear out the system whenever he would get emails.  And that he had no idea you could even make your profile private, and he made it private the very next day.  In regards to posting new pictures way back when, and in general, he said he views the site sort of the same as a myspace or facebook page.  I take this with a grain of salt, back in May he may have been still dating other people, but I dont think he is now at all, so I’m okay with the explanation. 
Right now, i feel like i’m walking on eggshells. still, I know I should focus on the fact that..he hasnt dated anyone seriously in 3 years, he ran from any girl that tried to make him commit in the past, so the fact that we’ve reached that point, and he wants to make this work, and “try” and change and be more open should all make me feel great, but it doesnt. After my last bad relationship, i’m not really in the business of wanting to “fix” men or change them anymore.  

BUT, I see massive potential with this guy, all the stars are aligning in terms of us being a great match, but with his fear of intimacy and openness and emotions, its hard to strengthen that connection.  I want to help him, but not sure how to.  My friends are telling me to be patient because to them its so obvious how much he cares for me and he’s trying to be what I need to make me happy.  But without having the “girlfriend” label, I still feel a tad insecure.  He is my boyfriend in every way, is respectful, caring, dependable.  He bought my best friend a present on her birthday in October and totally took me by surprise.  And i’m trying to understand his perspective of feeling uncomfortable being emotionally vulnerable and open to someone else, but I can’t.  Because i’m the complete opposite, I’m SUPER open and affectionate, and emotional, and wear my heart on my sleeve, and say how i feel, and I wouldnt have it any other way.  

My other girlfriend described the bf/gf labels thing as…its like having a marc jacobs bag, just b/c it doesnt say MARC JACOBS in huge block letters on the outside of the bag, doesnt mean its not a marc jacobs bag…which i guess is a good way of looking at it.  So I guess my question is, what is your take on all this and any suggestions or outsider perspective? 

He’s So Not Emotional 

So the Dude Whisperer looked up a couple Marc Jacobs thingies after your note just out of curiosity since, you know, the DW’s fashion knowledge doesn’t go much further than names like Chuck Taylor and Fruit of the Loom and it’s fun to see what the beautiful fashionable people are up to from time to time. He was a little disappointed, actually, that Marc Jacobs bags don’t say MARC JACOBS on the side in huge letters, although these crazy sunglasses come close. Oh wait, this bag really does have the name in all caps. You stay classy, Marc Jacobs. 

Anyway, the DW likes your friend’s Marc Jacobs, er, MARC JACOBS analogy, but doesnt quite agree. And here’s why. While the DW does not consider himself a traditionalist, and is also one of those simple sorts who does not see any value in a 100 dollar t-shirt whether it says Von Dutch or Ed Hardy or Von Hardy Dutch Doo Da, he thinks there absolutely some value in labels like ‘girlfriend’ or ‘boyfriend’ or ‘husband’ or ‘wife’ or whatever the case may be because they are a public statement of accountability. They say to everyone, including the other half of the relationship, “This is what’s up- we’re committed. We mean it. That’s the deal. Now you all know.” Unwillingness to accept a label of some sort, and any label counts from ‘gf” to the slightly businesslike ‘partner’ to the slightly TMI sounding ‘lover’ to whatever it is you choose, always makes the DW wonder- why not? What do you lose by committing to a name? Unless you’re an exceptionally idealistic libertarian who simply can’t be held down by The Man and His Naming Conventions you lose nothing…except other romantic options. 

So there’s that. On the other hand, though, the DW can’t help but notice that as much as you have now decided it’s time for the label, the first paragraph of your note decribed how for quite a while you weren’t ready to talk about things being “official” and that, actually, not talking about it put you in a “safe zone”. In other words, given that you and dude have been operating one way for almost a year- and a year is a pretty long time to develop habits and ways of interacting and stuff, right?- and hadn’t had much of a conversation about “girlfriend” and “boyfriend” until you got all medieval on his ass, it’s not likely dude is gonna catch up to your way of thinking, like,  immediately. It would take any dude a moment to recalibrate.

But really, here’s the thing about dude that it sounds like you’re going to have to make a decision about. We’ll give nervous Mr. Skitterpants the benefit of the doubt and assume he’s not full of sh&t and just dicking you around. A year of his time and integration of friends seems to give credence to that assumption. However, this ’emotional distance’ thing or wafflyness or intimacy p^ssyness, whatever you want to call it, is unlikely to fundamentally change. 

Yes, this dude may commit at some point. He may accept a label such as ‘boyfriend’ or ‘my one and only honeypie’. But he is always going to be, at his essence, more skittish than you, more reserved than you, less open than you, etc. etc. Sure, you might be able to coax him into leaving cutesy notes the way you like to just as the wifey has somehow trained the DW to not to wear his favorite hoodie in public anymore because it is allegedly “kinda disgusting”, but all the little behaviors in the world will not change The Type Of Dude He Is. Extroverts don’t become introverts, Yankee fans don’t switch to the Red Sox, gay men don’t learn to love tittyf*cking, the DW will not stop loving his “kinda disgusting” hoodie, you are never going to stop being SUPER open and affectionate and emotional and wearing your heart on your sleeve, and this dude is never gonna be a  mushy demonstrative bearhuggin’ softy of a fella. 

This is who you are and who the dude is. If you can live with that, great. Accept it, understand it will always and forever be part of an “opposites attract” and have excellent “opposite bone sessions” thing, as Carrie Prejean might say, and onward you go. If you can’t live with his reserved nature, (and the DW would say the same to dude about your wide open nature) you should stop the car, cut the engine, toss the keys, and get out now. Trying to fundamentally change a dude will not work and will not end well. Know how crazy it’s made you to hold back? He’ll go just as batsh*t buts trying to summon the energy to emote all the time.

So, in that sense, forget about thinking in terms of ‘potential’.  You’ve had a year to see this dude as he is. Use reality as your guide. On the one hand, he sounds like a pretty nice dude. On the other, that walkin’ on eggshells feeling you get with him doesn’t sound so nice. You have to figure out if the real, actual dude, warts and all, is what you want or not.

Best of luck with the dude,
the DW 

PS- As a final side note, HSNE, the DW would like to remind you and all the other readers to become a fan of the DW on Facebook here and follow his Twitter feed here. These are crucial steps to making this, and any other, relationship with a dude run more smoothly. A little dose of unmitigated genius in your day can only be good. 

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6 Responses to Dudefile #48 – The Emotional Distance Dude

  1. Anonymous says:

    this dude sounds depressing to be around. I don’t know about the rest of you but I think this guy has cheater written all over him. call it a hunch.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Whoah. I dated this man’s twin (it might even be him) and what’s happening to you, happened to me. GET OUT NOW. With men like this, you (as much as you think you are different) will be treated NO different than the previous woman. He’s not going to change and trying to help him will hurt you. If he has ever told you you don’t deserve how he is treating you, he is telling you the truth. Listen to that.I don’t know you but you deserve a man who will drink your bathwater. Aim for that.

  3. Anonymous says:

    PART I just like you and ‘anonymous #2’, i also had this dude in my life, for longer than was necessary. recently. emotionally he wasn’t even my type. i feel life’s too short for the fear/restraint that keep us from truly connecting to it.and – it’d didn’t work out. it really hurt as it ended, too. spooky how your dude echoes mine, asking to try to help by staying patient, tolerant, as he takes some steps (“baby steps” – verbatum) to remedy issues he’s aware he has, bla bla. but, these “steps” were so ‘baby’ they eventually revealed themselves to be more in the vein of “one step forward and two steps back”. he hadn’t had a gf in 3 years either (what if it’s the SAME dude, ha), and i never fully understood why that was an excuse? once you learn how to ride a bike, you will always know, even if you are a little wobbly getting back on it at first. where there’s a will there’s a way.the friend part…yeah. that’s to keep distance between you. don’t read it as a term of endearment or commitment, please. you see each other not that often in the first place, so why are you spending so much time with getting to know friends whenever you do hang out…? (and you don’t need to live far away for that to happen with this type of marc jacobs bag. you could live only a few blocks away, like let’s say a lovely 3 min bike ride or a ten min ocean laced stroll, and still only see each other only so often without progress. if not geographical distance, there will always be another reason why you can’t expect more from this MJ model.)

  4. Anonymous says:

    PART IIthen one day you stop listening to his explanations and promises to keep trying, and put his actions together instead. and you realize a thing or two that will help you get out, and also let go and move on.i don’t know if we can tell you to get out NOW though. i wasn’t able to heed the same advice, even when i gave it to myself. not until i decided enough of the eggshells already because they were beginning to really stink, did i do what i needed to, namely agree that i didn’t deserve how he was treating me. what i can tell you however is that i survived after being absolutely miserable for a bit. and now i’m so happy i got out.somthing you can do now is to look at why you decided to invest in this relationship when you were already excusing it and yourself by not engaging “officially” from the get go? if you were to be very honest, was there more to why you didn’t want to make it “official” than a previous bad experience? since your past relationship was so horrific (mine was too by the way, and a couple more relatively bad ones before that), could you be engaging with emotionally incompatible/unavailable men because you know these relationships won’t work out, ultimately? could you therefore be yourself afraid of commitment to a relationship that has TRUE potential? i always put so much weight on my poor taste in men, even tried to reprogram what i find desirable, but kept painfully failing, riddled with confusion and low self esteem. not until this very past one, your twin dude (or Mr. Skittypants, genius, DW!), did understand the common denominator, or the same shit different station phenomenon. these dudes were all emotionally unavailable in some shape or other (psychological, physical or emotional)! meaning, i was subconsciously seeking them out, while reading all sorts of unrealistic potential into them and us, but somewhere knowing that the house of cards would never hold, sooner or later would tumble (gotta love the analogies!). which means i was afraid of commitment too, but camouflaged it from myself and the world by only committing to relationships that i knew wouldn’t work. so, after you dump him, and you will when you’re ready, check it out. maybe it will clarify some things, like it did for me. because it all starts with you, you make your reality and your experiences.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Anon part I and II, i don't know you but i feel like all of that fell out of my own thought bank. Lovely.

  6. Anonymous says:

    I've dated this dude too. DW–you need to do a post on the "barely there guy" because there are so many of them. Do they stay just because they are getting sex? Room and board? The chance to avoid being in another relationship that might be more real? No matter what, there's a lot of these guys and there's no point in helping them develop their emotions. I think they're quite happy as they are.

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