BRENT STOLLER

Writer. Advice giver. Peanut butter and chocolate enthusiast.

People Do What They Want to Do

Man and woman sitting across from each other in silence

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(Question has been modified for space and clarity.)

I’ve been dating a guy for two months. He’s in his 50s, divorced and has a teenage daughter. I’m 40.

Our relationship started off quick and intense. We had what I thought to be a good connection. He would call/text regularly, probably every other day.

But lately the communication has died down, and I’m always the one to initiate it. He does respond back, though.

Two weeks ago, we had plans to meet up over a weekend, but he ended up having to go out of town for a family emergency. I only found out he was leaving because I texted him. Wasn’t that something he should’ve wanted to share with me? It would be nice to be included in his life.

I feel like he might not be into me anymore. We saw each other last week, but I haven’t heard from him since. I don’t want to be the only one to reach out anymore.

How do I let him know that I’d prefer a little more communication (maybe every other day) without coming off as crazy?

Or should I just ask him to tell me if he’s no longer interested?
–Dragon Archer; New York, NY

I’ve learned a lot from my father.

I’ve learned how to work hard and conduct myself with integrity. I’ve learned how to be a good man and a good family man.

And though I’ve never learned how to change a tire, I’ve learned that that’s OK as long as I keep my Triple A subscription current.

One of my dad’s lessons I’ve found myself referencing recently is a quote — a quote he learned from his father:

People do what they want to do.

Whenever you’re wondering why someone does or doesn’t do something, wonder no more. This is why.

We all have an internal system of priorities. Every day, every decision we face is funneled through that system. Do I do this, or do I do that?

While social etiquettes, other people’s expectations and doing the “right thing” factor into our decision-making, ultimately, we pick the option that, once everything is calculated, ranks highest on our hierarchy.

For instance, I’m writing this article because it’s what I want to do.

Granted, that desire is derived from guilt, because for most of the day, I’ve wanted to procrastinate more than be productive. So that’s what I’ve done.

But now, the scales have tipped. And thus, here I am.

Like anything, there are exceptions to this rule. But I don’t think that’s the case in your situation.

I think your boyfriend is doing what he wants to do.

He’s communicating with you when he wants. He’s seeing you when he wants. And he’s keeping your relationship at the level he wants.

He’s got all the power — which leaves you with none.

We’ll get into whether or not this relationship is worth holding onto. But the larger goal here is to help you regain some control of your situation.

You’re blowing in the wind right now, vulnerable to his every whim. That’s not a fun place to be. And that’s something that needs to change.

It’s time for you to flip the script and start doing what YOU want to do — with this guy, or anybody else.

Here’s how…

1) Pay attention to the signs

We could speculate forever on what your boyfriend is thinking and feeling. But doing so would get us nowhere.

Instead, let’s focus on what we know for sure. What are the facts?

-Your relationship began quickly and intensely.

-Shortly after, your boyfriend started pulling away and stopped initiating contact.

-You have now gone a week without communicating.

-He broke plans with you without telling you.

-He is still responsive when you reach out to him.

To me, this is a classic case of, “He’s just not that into you,” because it follows the stereotypical arc:

A promising start gives way to a steady decline, as one person retreats and retreats until they disappear.

Of course, your guy hasn’t disappeared. Yet.

The fact that he still responds to your calls/texts could mean he hasn’t closed the door on your relationship.

But that’s not necessarily a good thing.

He could be doing this just to keep you around, so you’ll be there whenever he wants or needs you.

And at the moment, you’re letting him — even though you suspect something’s wrong.

2) Trust your instincts

I mean this in two ways:

To read the signs, and to behave in a proper manner.

You’ve known things haven’t been right with your relationship.

You’ve known something was off from the moment this guy stopped initiating contact. You’ve known it was odd that he didn’t tell you about his family emergency, and that he hasn’t involved you in his life.

You wouldn’t have written into this column if you didn’t.

So have faith in those instincts, and don’t be afraid to follow through on them. It’s the only way you’ll keep your time, energy and emotional expenses to a minimum.

Secondly, you mentioned you were worried about coming off as crazy if you asked your boyfriend to communicate more often.

But I think you’ve already got your “crazy compass” dialed in.

Recently, on comedian Adam Carolla’s podcast, a father-to-be called in for advice, because he was afraid he wasn’t going to be a good parent.

Adam replied to him that he had nothing to be concerned about — the simple fact that this guy was worried about being a good parent meant he’d figure out how to be a good parent. He cared, and that was what was most important.

It’s the parents who don’t care you have to worry about, Adam explained.

The same applies here.

Because you’re concerned about being crazy tells me you’re (probably) not crazy. So trust yourself to be yourself.

3) Be honest

Dating is a game. And you have to be willing to play it if you want to win.

Early on in a relationship, that means keeping cool while concealing your (personal brand of) crazy.

You want to show interest, but not too much interest. You want to call, but you don’t want to call too often. You want to score, but you don’t want to be too obsessed with scoring.

Just as every athlete discovers, though, you can’t play the game forever.

At some point, the probationary period ends and you have to cut through the coyness to determine if the two of you want to be together.

You’ve been thinking about having the, “Are you still into me?” conversation with this guy, and now’s the time to have it. You are both adults, each with established lives, and you owe each other that honesty.

Tell him how you feel and what you need, and make it clear that if he can’t provide that, you can’t stick around.

Be true to yourself, and you’ll end up with someone who’s true to you.

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This article originally appeared on the Good Men Project.

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