Feeling smothered

When someone likes another, the “liker” wants a lot of contact with the “likee.” However, if the ardor isn’t equal, the likee can feel smothered.

Case in point: I’m getting to know a new guy, thus far only by phone. He calls several times a day. Recently, I called him back from an airport and he asked me to call him when I got home so he knew I’d arrived safely.

While I appreciate his concern for my safety, I haven’t had to check in with someone about my safe arrival since I lived with my parents. So I didn’t. He left two voice mails when he thought I’d gotten home. I returned them the next day, as this wasn’t important to me and felt like a chore, not something I relished.

When one hasn’t yet even met a person, I think one call a day is sufficient — and even that can be overkill. I’ve been drawn into extensive text and IM conversations with guys before I’ve met them and have learned it’s usually a time sink. Yes, it can be fun and flirtatious, but if there’s no chemistry when you meet, then it’s all for naught.

The challenge is to assert one’s needs for not-so-frequent contact without hurting the other. If I’m not yet comfortable saying it outright, then I wait to respond, rather than replying instantly. Although if the liker isn’t astute enough to understand that too-frequent communication can be off-putting, he is not likely to get the subtlety of tardy responses.

When I am the stalker, er, I mean liker, and make too-frequent contact, I surmise that less-than-quick responses mean to lay off. I may be misinterpreting this as perhaps the person has been unable to respond. So if he responds enthusiastically, and with “I’m so bummed I couldn’t respond immediately,” that quells the doubts. But without that feedback, I look for the subtleties.

Have you felt smothered by a potential sweetie? If so, what did you do to dial it back a bit?


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11 responses to “Feeling smothered”

  1. Gatti Avatar

    Oy, does this bring back memories! Some years ago I dated a guy for about a month who was sweet but so needy that I had to back away (very quickly) and ended it almost before it had begun.

    I felt like I was constantly being monitored, that if I spent a couple of hours in a low mobile phone signal area the world was coming to an end when I could receive calls and texts again.

    Sheesh, just thinking about it makes me feel all cringe-y…

    There are ways of being supportive and caring without this. And from someone you barely know (or haven’t even actually met yet!) it is really overwhelming.

  2. Lisa Avatar

    This guy sounds like trouble only because you have not even met him yet!!! I have also realized that all the e-mails or phone converstions don’t really mean much until you actually meet the person in person. Not that this guy may not be sincere, but he has not even met you yet!

    I had a guy once on match.com send me all these e-mails basically implying that I was exactly what he was looking for, blah blah blah. He seemed a truly thoughtful, creative, and interesting person, so I continued to e-mail him. I did however kindly remind him that I was “just me.” To make a long story short, the guy, although very nice and well-meaning, was still devastated from the breakup of his marriage of many years and was totally idealizing me, seeking to fill the void in his life. This also I mentioned as his obvious idealization was making me feel a little uncomfortable, although as a literay “exercise” it was enjoyable.

    I did meet him for coffee a few times as he did seem a sincere man; however, as I suspected, there was little connection as I sensed he was still an emotional mess. Then wierd things happened–like some kind of ex “friend” calling to tell me he was still involved with her, supposedly following us to a coffee shop, etc. I had no room for this kind of “game” in my life and told him so. It went no where after that, but oddly, a year later, he contacted me again. We went out for dinner but after the “stalker” phone calls, I just felt no connection. I was willing to be a friend, but I never heard from him again. I wonder if he ever got his life together. He was really a good and sincere man and interesting and creative, just really struggling. I am way beyond being someone’s “get over her” girl.

    So, anyone who professes to really care about you when they haven’t even met you most assuredly has some kind of “issue” that will probably not be worth your time.

  3. Mitsy Avatar

    What comes to mind when I think of this was a short-lived situation where I corresponded with a guy from a dating site (can’t remember which one now) and he said he came to my town every week with his cousins to eat out. He lived less than an hour away from me, which would have worked out fine IF he’d been someone I could see myself with. However, after quite a few emails & phone calls, we arranged to meet casually at a local store I moonlight at. He had been in town with his cousins and did come by to meet me. He was a nice enough guy, but physically, he was a turn-off to me. There were no plans made for a date that night (thankfully). Later that next week, he shows up at the store AGAIN (this time by himself with no one else riding down w/him) and it was painfully obvious he’d driven all the way just to see me. I did not act happy to see him. I was cordial but flabbergasted that he didn’t even try to hide the fact that he’d driven almost 50 miles just to see me for 10 minutes.

    Later that night, I got an email from him asking me about going out and claiming that he was “crazy” about me. His being “crazy” about me was totally wrong to say and esp. when I had not even gone out with him. He did not really know me and after meeting him, I knew that I could not ever, ever get close to him physically. I wrote him that I was sorry that I could not be what he was seeking and I did not elaborate as to why. I’m sure I hurt his feelings, but I was not about to go out with this guy.

    I had thought about at least being honest about his comments in his email & him showing up at the store being a bit too much for me, but I did not mention that nor did I mention that his protruding stomach and odd-shaped body was a complete turn-off. I kept mum about all of that and I’m glad I did because after several years, I still see him in the store every once in a while and I will still talk to him, but he knows I’m not interested in dating him. I honestly don’t think the guy was dangerous or weird in a manipulative way….he was just wanting a connection so badly that he went about it all wrong and even if he had not said & done some of the things he did, I would still not be interested in him romantically. To my knowledge, since then, he has not found a long-term girlfriend.

  4. katie Avatar

    We train each other with our own responses and response times, no doubt. I hope a future post will address the opposite problem — i.e., someone you’ve not yet met in person who obviously likes you, and phone calls are stimulating and last 90 or 120 minutes, but happen only once every couple of weeks with little or no contact in between. He “wants to move slowly” and that is understandable, but… come on… show me that you’re interested! I have to rein in my frequency of emails in order to not be stalker-like, as I do enjoy this man.

  5. Lisa Avatar

    I just remembered about another match guy! I live in PA. He lives in New Mexico. He had e-mailed me and because he was another bicycle touring person, as I am as well, I replied because cycle tourists always have at least good bike stories to tell. We exchanged only like 2-3 e-mails. One week I was really busy and did not write to him in a whopping several days–he incorrectly stated over a week– when he sent me an e-mail asking what had happened to me, was I ok, was I going to let this “fragile relationship” slip away. Oh my gosh!!! I did not know that two e-mails constituted a relationship!! What makes it even odder, is that he had said in one e-mail that he did not like to talk on the cell phone because of the cancer risk. So, he didn’t have a land line? So basically our “relationship” was just going to be e-mail based? I replied and said I had been busy and that I was not really into the distance thing and did not really want a pen pal. I said it all in a nicer way than that!

    But you know, if he had not gotten all freaked out and implied we had some kind of relationship going on I probably would have continued to e-mail him to get to know him a little better because you never know. And to be honest, in his last e-mail he had not given me much too respond to, thus the “delay.” Just another story….

  6. Karen Avatar

    Oh this is definitely something I now think of as a red flag!

    I’ve dated a couple of these too-obsessed men and both cases were big mistakes. One turned into a scary stalker when I told him after a few months that I didn’t see a future for us (he finally stopped bothering me a year later after I changed all my phone numbers, sic’d the police and my workplace security guys on him, and told his own workplace what he was doing during working hours and they fired him), the other was a super-needy emo mess more in touch with his fantasies than with real life me. And both guys were also clueless in terms of what is socially acceptable behavior in many areas of their lives, not just romantically–so I think that was a clue.

    The stalker guy was one of those who insisted I call him the second I got where I was traveling, just like you. One time I went to visit my sister and I forgot to turn on my phone after getting off the plane and then we went out to dinner. I called him later that night and he was frantic and furious–he actually said he thought the plane had crashed! Ridiculous and controlling.

  7. Mark Avatar

    These are just examples of men who are socially awkward. They don’t know the proper way to behave towards someone they are interested in when a relationship has barely started.

    And there’s something weird about relationships that start with email instead of meeting the old-fashioned way. It’s way too easy for one party to read too much into things, to idealize the other person, etc. I am pretty much soured on the online dating scene. I’ve done it and met someone and had a nice relationship for six months, but I’ve had far more success meeting people in person. If I’m ever looking again I don’t think I’ll even bother with the online stuff.

  8. Mitsy Avatar

    I agree w/Mark about the online dating. I’ve said it before, and it just seems to be a landmine for players, desperate people or people who don’t know how to “date” anyone (basically socially awkward). I don’t think I’ll ever go back to it either, although I have occasionally looked at some profiles online since actually being active on them. That inner voice seems to tell me to not go there again. I think I’ll listen to it this time.

  9. Mark Avatar

    The other thing about online dating is that it’s a lot of work! Meeting someone in person can be fun. You can flirt a bit, etc. The online thing requires those emails, and then maybe chatting or phone calls — and all this before ever meeting the person.

    It’s the difference between meeting someone at an event and spending a bit of time talking, and either feeling it or not feeling it, and spending hours doing the email/chat/phone thing before you ever get to meet. And even with that time put in, you don’t really know if you’re going to feel it until you actually meet.

  10. Wayne Avatar

    This post and some of the comments are surprising, I know it’s a major generalisation but I always thought women needed the whole phone attention more than men, but clearly not!

    However I think text would have been the perfect solution to your situation with someone wanting to know you are home safe, a text message is a perfect way to convey information but not get into a drawn out conversation. But I also understand your anguish at needing to make contact (you’re not 12 anymore!).

    I actually state the fact that I don’t talk to anyone everyday on my profile so I think that sets a precedence.

    But I think consistency is the key I understand it’s hard because when you first meet someone you are all excited and you talk loads but it would be impossible to maintain, so sparse is always better. 😉

  11. Yvette Francino Avatar

    Oh, yeah. I can definitely relate to this one. The amount of communication needs to be equal or at least close. People need to figure out based on how frequently and how much someone is responding to know what is “right.” However, for those people who are not good at taking a hint (a red flag in itself), I do think a conversation might be in order. Or.. an email letting them know your communication style… ie. “I get so much email (albeit, most of it junk) that I can be bad at responding… Much better to get to know one another over coffee. Let’s meet, so we can get to know each other and figure out if we’re a good match.”

    I will say, however, about your “stalker” that I think it might have been better to call him after you arrived safely, even if just a quick call, unless you told him you weren’t going to call. My Mom still always asks me to call her when I get home from after flying out to see her (and I’m 50 years old). But still, she waits for the call to know I’m home safely. The guy probably wasn’t worried, but still… better to either call, or tell him it wasn’t necessary, in my opinion…