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February 23, 2009

Currently at MSN.com: Mixed signals from my ex!

Filed under: Advice — posted by Breakup Girl @ 8:50 am

MSN datingAsk Lynn, Breakup Girl’s alter ego’s advice column at MSN.com (powered by Match.com), is now being updated monthly rather than weekly. Now, you’ll get two new letters at the start of each month. This month’s theme seems to be communication and the weirdness thereof:

1. He Loves Me Not? writes in because when she told her boyfriend of three months “I love you” he answered her … with the sound of crickets. But does what we say — or don’t say — always reflect how we feel? Discuss…

2. Rubbed The Wrong Way has cause to be for all the mixed signals she’s getting from an ex-boyfriend who’s regretting the breakup–but only sometimes.


  1. Interesting, all the guys who said “I love you” first aren’t with her anymore, but the guy who won’t say it back is the other half of the relationship that, according to her, is ‘different.’ From all the rest, I am to assume. Now let me look into my crystal ball… I’d bet the guys who all said “I love you” first weren’t the ones who ended the relationship, either. Sounds like the guy who’s left her hanging is doing something right, and it has nothing to do with him not being ready (I assume you said that just to make her feel better). It’s because THEY’RE not ready yet and he knows it. The reality is that he refused to say it back because she is still testing him and he has to remain in CONTROL. That is, if he expects her to keep him around and not boot him like she did all the other little boys who threw down their cards too early. What, should he be afraid that not saying it is going to make her want to leave him? Then let her leave! Keeping her on the edge of her seat is what maintains her interest in him and he knows it. Besides, he’s not too worried if she leaves because he knows he can get other women whenever he wants. This only goes to prove that the guy should NEVER say it first. In fact, with most women, it’s better never to say it at all.


    (Comment repeated from another post)

    Comment by Paul — February 2, 2009 @ 9:11 am

  2. Paul,

    The kind of careful strategy of maintaining control and keeping someone interested sounds to me like a well thought out game plan. Like most game-playing, it can work very well on people who play games, and tends to crash-and-burn when dealing with people who don’t play games.

    Do you really want a dating strategy that only attracts game-players?

    Comment by Karl R — February 2, 2009 @ 10:04 am

  3. I think she should let go of worrying about it if she can. He treats her with love, she has confidence in his feelings, and that is the important thing. I think she should appreciate that he was honest enough not to say it if he wasn’t ready *for whatever reason.* It might just mean more to him than it does to her, and he feels the same way she does but doesn’t define it as love. Um, Paul, you’re drawing conclusions about this woman from “facts” that you MADE UP. That doesn’t say anything about her but says a lot about you.

    Comment by Aquagirl — February 2, 2009 @ 9:20 pm

  4. Karl R, obviously you’ve never dated a 10.

    The kind of careful strategy of maintaining control in an attempt to keep a woman interested is no different from the kind of careful strategy of professing you love a woman too early in a relationship in an attempt to keep her interested. Notice I didn’t say this guy didn’t love this woman, I just said he knew it wasn’t the right time to say it. We say these words are powerful. Well, then, if they’re more powerful than, say, “I’d like to cook a pizza instead of hot pockets tonight, dear–” then why should anyone feel compelled to say them back like a parrot just because the other person decided they wanted to say them first? This guy demonstrated his respect for the phrase by withholding saying it at an inappropriate time. The other guys got the boot in part because they didn’t understand the phrase. Or, more accurately, they didn’t understand women. But that’s a different issue that has to do with the subject of tests.

    Saying something to a woman when you shouldn’t versus not saying something to a woman when you shouldn’t are just two different ways of going about the same thing, it’s just that one tends to get good results and the other tends to get bad results. You talk about game-playing and manipulation. Show me one guy who bought flowers for a girl he barely knew in high school because he thought she really deserved them for their own sake versus because he hoped they’d make her fall in love with him and eventually get him laid. Guys who hope to exchange favors for sex are the real game-players and manipulaters you’re referring to, not the guys who exercise self-control and keep their mouths shut when they know that the words they’re about to say (or not say) might get them slapped. Most men don’t have this kind of self-control and they try to make up for it with sweet words and gifts that amount to game-playing of the truest kind; most men, when put to the balls test, would rather endure the pain of spending a grand on a diamond ring than of getting a drink tossed in their face for saying what they really feel. But the strength to say what he really feels is exactly what a woman wants in a man, regardless of whether him saying it makes her happy or sad or confused or whatever in the moment. You asked me if I wanted a dating strategy that only attracts game-players. Sure I do. Because we’re all game players whether we want to be or not, and we’re all either playing in the sandbox, junior varsity or the big leagues. Who isn’t a game-player? Do you really believe our communication is as simple as the words we use? Do you always tell the truth when someone asks you for it, and have you always gone through life being totally honest with everyone you’ve ever met? If so, then you deserve a trophy. For being the boringest guy on Earth.


    Comment by Paul — February 4, 2009 @ 9:26 pm

  5. Oh, come on, aquagirl. You know it’s all true :)


    Comment by Paul — February 4, 2009 @ 9:40 pm

  6. Sorry, Paul, my relationship is based on actual emotional intimacy. I’m just funny that way.

    Comment by Aquagirl — February 4, 2009 @ 10:10 pm

  7. I say again, I never said he didn’t love her and I’m sure the wind she got from his friends was accurate. Guys don’t tell their friends’ girlfriends that their friends are crazy about them unless they mean it; that would be asking for serious trouble from the boyfriend. They find other ways to escape the question or insinuate that the reality might be something other than what they’re saying on the surface. I’m sure you can relate, too, because women do the same thing. Actually, they just laugh when a guy asks them how his girlfriend feels about him, because they know a guy who’s pathetic enough to ask his girlfriends’ friends what she really feels about him isn’t going to be with her for very long anyway.

    By the same token, this woman obviously still wants to be in the relationship, otherwise she wouldn’t have asked for advice in the first place. So to say that my explanation equates to a personal lack of interest in, or appreciation for, emotional intimacy is absurd. That is, unless you can prove me wrong, which you won’t be able to because I’m right.

    Sometimes we have to make split decisions about what we should or shouldn’t say. The last time I checked, the “I Love You Back” dilemma is one of the oldest relationship debates there is. Even CNN recently did an article on it: “Why women shouldn’t say ‘I love you’ first,” written by Wendy Atterberry and totally off the mark. So just because I laid out an easy-to-read blueprint for his decision to not say it back doesn’t make me heartless and it doesn’t make me a playboy, either. Although I could be either or both. You’ll never know. But it’s presumptuous to assert either way, because you really don’t know me from the next guy.


    Comment by Paul — February 5, 2009 @ 3:45 am

  8. Good discussion, you guys. Let’s just make sure to keep it nice!

    Comment by Breakup Girl — February 5, 2009 @ 7:04 am

  9. Paul said,
    “obviously you’ve never dated a 10.”

    If you’re referring to a 10 in looks, that’s correct. If you’re referring to intelligence, I date 9s and 10s all the time. (It’s a matter of priorities.) I have dated someone who was a 10 in intelligence and a 9 in looks.

    But that’s really not relevant to the topic … unless the lady who wrote the letter (He Loves Me Not) is a 10.

    Paul said,
    “This only goes to prove that the guy should NEVER say [I love you] first.”

    I’ve also heard women say that women should never say “I love you” first (not including the CNN article). I even heard a woman claiming that within the last couple weeks. The reasons she gave were remarkably similar to yours.

    Let’s assume that you’re dating a woman who believes that. Let’s assume that both of you love each other very much. (Maybe you fell head over heels, maybe you’ve gradually grown to love each other.) You can’t tell her you love her, because you can’t say it first. She would end the relationship if you do. She can’t tell you she loves you, because she can’t say it first. You would end the relationship if she did. So neither of you can tell each other how much you love each other.

    I’m just guessing here, but I’d say that a relationship like this is guaranteed to fail, because neither of you ever says, “I love you.”

    The same principle holds true if both a woman and a man make certain that they never show interest in someone until the other person shows interest first.

    Comment by Karl R — February 5, 2009 @ 1:53 pm

  10. Karl,

    Notice I said with MOST women the man should never say it at all. I will admit that’s a very generalized statement, so I will clarify: If you’re a high-quality man, you shouldn’t be willing to marry most women, ergo, you shouldn’t say “I love you” to them. Unless you’re a total scoundrel. Still, clarification or no, I never really said a man should never say it under any circumstances. Yes, if that were the case then all relationships would have to fail in the end because one or both sides would never say it. That’s pretty simple reasoning. It’s also absurd and something I never would have implied.

    If a man is already pretty certain he’s going to marry a woman– not WANTS to, but is GOING to– then he should say it. By this time a lot of the initial courtship games are over and the relationship is moving into a new and more mature phase where certain understandings are expected to have been firmly established, e.g., that both people love each other and are willing to admit it verbally.

    What I do say in absolute terms is that the man should never say it FIRST. The main reason is chivalry. Yes, chivalry. A man should never put a woman in a position to have to say it back if she isn’t ready to. And despite what we may be certain of in our big little heads, we NEVER really know if she’s ready to. But we all know that saying the phrase means it’s expected to be said back. So, what if the woman doesn’t WANT to say it back? What if the WOMAN isn’t ready yet? What is she supposed to do, lie? Steadfastly maintain an awkward silence, like a soldier holding a front? Admit that she doesn’t really love him yet, but could in time? Or is she supposed to come up with a clever way to keep him guessing, e.g. maintain control in a shaky situation that HE created? No. Keep your cards to your chest, for your own sake and hers. Notice in the article that the woman admitted, “When someone else told me he loved me, I’d blurt it out, too, just so he wouldn’t feel awkward.” Bam. The guys put her on the spot and shot the relationship in the foot.

    A man should never say it first because if the woman hasn’t said it yet, it isn’t time. Now, this might appear to be a dilemma, or a Catch-22, because if she’s expected to say it first, then she’s the one taking control of the situation; she’s the one laying things down on the line. Well, sort of. We don’t want our women to be wet noodles, of course. So she’s expected to take some risk now and then. But it’s not a major risk and in most cases, if he’s waited for the timing to become right on her end, and if she’s secure enough to have waited for the timing to become right on her end, it’s not like she’s going to be worried about saying it or anything. It’s not like she’s going to be stressing, “Will he say it back?” because by the time the woman says it, it’s natural. She simply wants to. She’s confident in every way. Again, notice in the article where the woman said “When the time felt right — I was not scared to just go ahead and say it first. I didn’t doubt that he’d respond in kind.” So any sting the woman might feel if he doesn’t respond in kind, which, by the way, is the guy’s job to lessen, is not going to be that bad. It’s not like the risk of proposing, which is much more fraught with danger because there are really only two good responses to it. With “I love you,” there are still plenty of creative ways for the man to handle the situation without saying “I love you too” or “I don’t love you.” Some guys smile and say “I love you to death.” Not quite the same, but cheeky enough to keep her guessing. Or they might be even braver and just “smile big, hug her hard, and kiss her” back, like the guy in the article did. Hardly a response she’s going to break up with him for, which is why this woman is still interested and writing Lynn for advice.

    A caveat to this is that, just because a woman should be able to say “I love you” at the precise moment when she wants to, this doesn’t mean the man should be able to as well. Some people erroneously argue that if a woman should be allowed to say it whenever she wants to then the man should be able to say it whenever he wants to as well. Big mistake. Faulty logic. Just because a man WANTS to do something in a relationship doesn’t mean he SHOULD. Just because he WANTS to buy her flowers and tell her how beautiful she is and compliment her on her shoes and tell her funny jokes all night and spill his guts about all his hopes and dreams in the space of one evening doesn’t mean he should. Go back to what I said about chivalry: The man holds back on saying it first for the same reason he opens doors and pulls out chairs. He’s taking on hardship for himself to make things easy for her; he’s setting things up so she can walk in or sit down without effort.

    For similar reasons, this is why the man should always PROPOSE first. If you’ve noticed, we don’t hear any debate over this one in our society. Zip. Nada. Zilch. Sure, women can ‘bug’ men to hurry it up, they may even make demands, but when they do, it’s always to get the MAN to get on HIS knees and ask of the woman, “Will you marry me?” The women never do it themselves. In fact, we’d laugh if they did, man and woman alike. Why? Because by the time the proposal is made, unlike the “I love you” admission, the courtship phase is traditionally determined to be wrapping up. From there, the relationship traditionally has to go one way or the other: to marriage or to the rocks. That’s a major risk. That’s like going out to hunt saber-tooth tigers. So, women pretty much leave that up to the men. Like hunting saber-tooth tigers, traditionally you only get one chance to do it right. Traditionally it’s an issue of how well you’ve assessed the entire relationship up to that point. So if a woman says ‘no’ for any reason to this question, traditionally you can pretty much consider the relationship over. And the woman knows it, too. Sure, you might have forgotten a couple of technicalities, like when she says she wants to but it might be better to wait a few months for this or that to wrap up or whatever. But in general it holds true. Unlike when you say “I love you,” which is not quite as serious a moment. There may still be plenty of courtship left in the relationshiop to enjoy. So, play on.


    Comment by Paul — February 5, 2009 @ 8:31 pm

  11. >> Good discussion, you guys. Let’s just make sure to keep it nice!

    Well you know Lynn, I may have come across as a little overhanded in a few later messages and perhaps that wasn’t too cool. But all I did initially was give my own two cents without calling anyone names. Sure, I made it clear I didn’t totally agree with everything you were saying, but there’s nothing wrong with that in and of itself and I think I did it pretty fairly. It was another reader who first implied I was a scheming game plan artist whose success was probably mostly with women who played similar games. It was yet another reader who said I was drawing premature conclusions, making things up and then, when I tried to make light of it, responded by implying I wasn’t capable of actual emotional intimacy. So at least I hope we’re clear on that much.

    It’s funny how unorthodox ideas are so swiftly presumed to be ridiculous these days, and how swiftly those who propose them are attacked for it when the argument could be made that it is precisely sticking with old models that has gotten us into the mess and confusion we’re in today in so many areas, love and relationships included. You very rarely hear openminded conversation these days. These days, it’s rare to hear people say, “That’s interesting, I’m not sure I agree, but if that’s your position then how do you explain this or that?” That’s the way to have a civilized conversation. Not hurling personal slurs when the ideas don’t initially make sense. I won’t drop his name because I’m not here to turn your blog into an advertising space, but I didn’t come up with this stuff myself. There’s a guy on the Internet, in fact there’s a small handful of them, who are making serious strides in this area. Their arrival is timely because let’s face it: We’re in a crisis in America. Divorce and cynicism are rampant. The war of the sexes is raging out of control with a lot of fallout on both sides, especially for the kids. But don’t take my word for it. These guys’ methods have the approval and support of many women… not just men.


    Comment by Paul — February 5, 2009 @ 11:42 pm

  12. I did not say anything about you or your capacity for intimacy, Paul. I don’t know how you carry on your relationships. I only talked about myself *after* you said that I knew what you were saying is true. I’ll elaborate: my opinion is that real intimacy is absolutely inconsistent with a “careful strategy of maintaining control in an attempt to keep a woman interested.” Sorry if that hurts your feelings or disagrees with your opinions about intimacy, but it is my belief.

    Comment by Aquagirl — February 8, 2009 @ 6:16 pm

  13. About who should or shouldnt say I love your first, you should always be honest with your feelings and intentions and if it doesn’t work it wasn’t supposed to. Playing games wondering if I should or shouldn’t say something is so stupid. That is just like a tit for tat relationship, if you get to that point in my opinion you shouldnt be together.

    Comment by Tonya — February 26, 2009 @ 11:58 am

  14. [...] Read the advice at Happen, then come back here to comment! You can also read the comments from our original posting of the letter. Tags: Breakups, dumpees, exes, mixed signals [...]

    Pingback by Breakup Girl » This week at Happen: Mixed signals from ex — September 28, 2009 @ 8:55 am

  15. [...] Breakup Girl » Currently at MSN.com: Mixed signals from my ex! Feb 2, 2009. Good discussion, you guys. Let’s just make sure to keep it nice!. Notice I said with MOST women the man should never say it at all. Breakup Girl » Currently at MSN.com: Mixed signals from my ex! [...]

    Pingback by Bye girl good never say — January 29, 2011 @ 8:01 am

  16. Just ignore the guy, he will return when decide it, that’s for sure

    Comment by xlpharmacy reviews — October 20, 2011 @ 12:10 pm

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