Musings About More Mixed Messages


Question and Answer with relationship expert Dr Dennis


I was reading one of your Internet responses to a relationship question, and hope you can help me with mine.

I met him at a weekly happy hour. We started as just friends but I noticed that he seemed to only want to hang around me at the happy hours. I knew he was not involvement material so recently out of a marriage, so I kept it light. Problem was the more time we hung together (every week) the more attached I became. Then I started kind of being a confidante to him and he shared a lot of his ex-wife stories. Even though we kept it “just friends” I could feel sexual tension between us. We then started flirting some (sexual innuendoes) and I am pretty sure he was attracted to me. We hung out so much at this happy hour group that others in the group asked if we were dating!

After a few months, I started getting frustrated that he never asked me out. I rationalized it by saying he was still raw from his divorce and he had also hinted he wasn’t ready to date. One time he said he had “no trust in women” right now. One time he told me that he really didn’t like this happy hour group and probably would not come at all if I did not go!

One night I had too much to drink, and he offered to take me to his place he did not want me to drive. He said I could even have my own room. We spent the night in the same bed. He started to make a move but I said no. After that it still seemed fine with him. We picked up as before being just friends. But as soon as we left this happy hour, it was like a wall went up and he never would let it extend beyond the confines of that.

Then 2 months ago, while at the happy hour his friend said something that bothered me. He said, “He is dying to have sex with you and he can’t take it!” That upset me. The next day I e-mailed him and said that while I was attracted to him, I could not handle casual sex. I ended it with “don’t e-mail me back, I don’t want to discuss it more.”

After that he stopped coming to the happy hours until last week. It had been 2 months since I last saw him. I could tell he was tense and he avoided eye contact. I stayed away and was talking to another guy most of the night.

As I left that night I ran into him in the parking lot talking to someone. He did not see me, so I tapped him on the shoulder and said “hi”. He looked at me with the saddest eyes, and when I started to leave he stopped me and said, “Don’t go, stay and talk awhile.” First it was chitchat and then he said, “Is this all we are going to talk about!” I said, “I really don’t know what to say.” He said, “I was upset in that e-mail you sent me not allowing me to e-mail you back. Things have gotten really weird between us.”

Well I then lost it and it all came out. I said, “look, I can no longer just do this buddy thing with you I am too attracted to you and I just can’t do it anymore!” He said, “I can’t go there right now, I just can’t do it.” He also said, “I can’t cross the line with you and right now I only think of you as a friend.”

I said, “Is it just me or everyone right now?” He said, “No it’s not just you, I’ve done this to other women wanting to stay just friends.” Then he said something rather startling to me, “I WOULD HAVE DONE IT WITH MY EX-WIFE TOO IF SHE HAD NOT PURSUED ME SO MUCH.”

Once he told me that the last 2 relationships he was in, THEY pursued him, he did not pursue them. Is this a commitment problem? I thought perhaps he was just gun-shy, but are there deeper commitment issues? Everyone knows men like to be the pursuer, but it sounds the opposite with him?

Despite all this, I still feel as if he cares more than he is saying, or am I just crazy? I can’t believe he just thinks of me “as a friend” when he’s hung around me all these months? Do I have any hope of bringing him around? Any light you can shed on this man would be helpful!

Thanks, “Confused”


Hello “Confused”!

…or, should I say, “Hello, Ms. ‘Mixed Message'”??

I don’t know where to begin here. If HE had written to me instead of YOU, I’d have warned him to avoid you like the plague! Your behavior is classic “Attention Whore” activity!

It’s blatantly obvious to me that:

  1. You don’t really understand men
  2. You want only what you want, only in the way you want it; and
  3. You think he’s got to do all the work, and read your mind to make sure he
    does everything in just the right way.

I’m sorry if this seems brutal, but read on.

First, you need to understand the differences between how men and women view sex. You (as with most women) use sex to create intimacy and bonding. Men on the other hand use sex (initially) to determine IF THEY WANT to create intimacy and bonding! You went as far as to actually get into bed with him – the message being, “I’m interested in you and want to see if you are someone I want to have more with – let’s have sex”. Then, as soon as he reciprocated, you slammed him! How do you think he should feel?

Second, men don’t necessarily want to be the “aggressors” in the relationship all the time. Women expect us to be so. Women don’t approach men they are interested. Instead, they get “frustrated” when we don’t read their minds and the very subtle signals they send out. Another example from your story: you angrily emailed him to tell him that you weren’t interested in casual sex. Fine. Did you bother to tell him what you WERE interested in? And, I’m not talking about some inferred message – I’m saying “specifically”.

Third, men communicate very differently from women. You’ve tried to send hints to him that you were interested in something more. Men don’t read hints very well. In fact, many men don’t read hints at all! You’ve got to be clear and specific in all your messages, or accept the fact that men aren’t going to get them or are going to misinterpret them. That isn’t my rule – it’s just the way it is.

Especially with this man who is “gun shy” because of his divorce, and now with your game playing, is it any wonder he doesn’t make any substantive moves? The few he has made have been met with you pulling back! I’m not giving him leeway to make his mistakes either, but if you are sending messages that aren’t absolutely clear and specific, you have no right to be angry or frustrated by his lack of response!

If you are at all interested in this man, you’d better get your head on straight about this. Go back and look at your own actions. Try to be clear to yourself of what you want, and then try to communicate that to him.

For example, why not call him at work and ask him to meet you for a drink? (No – there’s NOTHING wrong with a woman inviting a man for a drink!) Then, when you’re together simply say something like:

“Look, we’ve been playing with each other for awhile now, and we’re not getting anywhere. I realize that I’ve been part of this too and want to try to clear up my position. I’m interested in you as more than a ‘happy hour’ buddy. But, I’m not ready to just jump in the sack either. Why don’t we go out on a few dates, get to know each other and see where it goes from there?”

The risk here is very low. Further, if he chooses to not accept your invitation (VERY unlikely!), you’ll know just where he stands.

Good luck, much love…