To my extremely great astonishment, I received a rather interesting email the other day from one of you, and I have obtained permission from the sender to answer it on here. I've edited it only for length and to get rid of identifying details. Here it is:
I read your blog and this may sound a bit funny but I just wanted to know what you thought about this situation I'm in, if you don't mind. I just thought you might have some interesting insight. There's this boy (right, so what else is new). I first met him a few months ago when we worked together and we became friends. I think he initiated the friendship, but since then the only consistent thing he's done is been flaky. That includes in texting, showing up, etc.
The thing is, although he is inconsistent, he actually does text me a lot, and I find that I get upset if I don't hear from him. He tends to overshare emotionally in a way that confuses me, and I go from thinking he likes me one day to being convinced that he is not interested the next. Then he admitted last night that he has been told off in the past for misleading female friends into thinking he's interested when he's not. So now I'm annoyed at myself for being conned, but I can't quite bring myself to leave it at that.
So... what to do? I mean, what do you think? He has said that he is still a little hurt over his last relationship. Does that change anything?
- Frustrated in Friend Zone (btw this name was her suggestion)
P.S. He just texted me twice in 20 minutes asking me about my day because I didn't text back.
So after I picked myself off the floor and reveled in like an entire evening of egomania, I wrote a response, which goes like this:
If you want to take my advice, please just know that I am pretty much the opposite of a dating expert. However, I will nonetheless of course be happy to tell you what I think about this situation, which I have been in many times myself. From your description of this guy's behaviour, I suspect that he is what the brilliant Natalie Lue of the blog Baggage Reclaim calls an "emotionally unavailable assclown." While Baggage Reclaim is directed at an audience of heterosexual women, anyone can actually be an EUA (that's emotionally unavailable assclown, remember). But I'll just say "he" when I'm talking about an EUA since the questioner is a heterosexual woman.
OK, now that we've got that PC bullshit covered, let me tell you exactly what an EUA is. He is a person who cannot commit either to being with you or to being without you so he tries to keep a foot in your life and a hold on your attention without ever giving you reason to believe he is interested in having a real relationship. You may rest assured that if he is being an EUA to you, he is not available to anyone. So please do not go using this as a reason to feel bad about yourself.
Now, you may be thinking "but he's just flirting with me, what's so big a deal about that?" I am in fact well aware of the societal messaging that says that flirting with someone in whom you have no sincere romantic interest is harmless, even if your flirting is extremely consistent, aggressive, or shameless. However, I will tell you that behaving in this way is the domain of an EUA. A person who is emotionally available will not do it.
In spite of this, however, I am personally not a believer in keeping your feelings inside when someone you like has been flirting with you, and I am also a believer in holding assclowns responsible for their behaviour, so I would advise you to make your feelings known. After all, you don't know for sure whether this guy is an assclown. It's just a hypothesis and you have to test it out.
So you don't have to be dramatic, just ask him if he wants to go for a coffee, and make sure it's just the two of you. You should do what you have to do to communicate what you mean by this, because I can tell you right now this guy has never taken a hint in his life. Just call it a date if you think he won't get it any other way. If you think that's too weird or something, then just say whatever you have to say so that he knows what you are feeling.
If he agrees to this, gets (for sure gets) your intentions, and is actually NOT an assclown, then he will help you take the next step, i.e. you won't have to keep nervously sticking your neck out. However, if he agrees to the coffee, seems to get it, but then makes it like you're just friends when you're out together and keeps texting you afterwards (likely), or if he gets all freaked out and says he didn't mean anything like that (possible), then you have your answer: this guy is a bona fide certifiable emotionally unavailable assclown.
If this is the case, then you are not to be in touch with him. The next time he shamelessly texts you or tries to get in touch with you, you must firmly tell him that you will not continue to be in flirtatious contact with him, and he will not be in a position to question you because he said no to your offer of a real relationship. With him not in touch with you, you will be in a position to move on. And if he continues to hassle you after you've done all this and told him to leave you alone, you will presumably see him for what he would be in that case, which is an immature idiot who doesn't respect people's boundaries. And you would just ignore him, and he would know why. But all of that is the most extreme case.
I know it sounds scary to just ask someone out or tell him that you're into him, but you should respect your own feelings so that you will have closure in this situation one way or the other. This is about putting YOU and your feelings and boundaries first. Allowing this guy to occupy so much space in your head when you are not in a relationship with him will erode your self-esteem very quickly. You must do what you have to do to avoid this outcome.
Oh, and btw, "being hurt over a last relationship" is one of the hallmarks of an EUA. Know this: it is very likely ONLY in his version of events that he was completely emotionally available in that relationship. If you get rid of him, Lord only knows the laughable things he may tell people about his inability to get over you. (That doesn't mean he has suddenly become available to you, obviously. You still need to stay away.)
Good luck with this situation and much xox,
P.S. One more little thing: please don't go thinking "but I want to be in touch with him even if he doesn't want to date me!" I mean, do you really, for any reason other than continuing to feel validated in fantasizing about him? Be honest.