Life Advice



Erika Ettin: What to do in a confusing situationship

Erika Ettin, Tribune News Service on

Published in Dating Advice

Q: I don't know what to make of Richard. I've seen him three times, including the trip upstate, and each time he indicated that he wanted to see me again, but I don't sense a whole lot of enthusiasm.

He was initially undecided about whether or not he was going away for Thanksgiving, then ended up going away. I was sort of hoping to get a Thanksgiving greeting. So I finally sent a greeting and he responded but didn't even ask what I was doing for Thanksgiving/how I was. A couple days later, I reached out to ask if he was back. He responded and this time he did ask what I did for Thanksgiving/how I was.

Before Thanksgiving, he had said he wanted to hear me sing and even asked if he could come to the studio. When we had dinner, he said he'd be happy to help me carry my gear to a performance.

His messages tend to be rather bland and he's not keen on phone conversations as he's a bit hard of hearing. What do I make of all this?

— Penny, 52, Port Washington, New York

A: I appreciate all the feedback. It sounds like texting is clearly not his best mode of communication, so if you're waiting for him to miraculously get good at initiating texts, I think you'll be waiting a long time. That in itself isn't an issue necessarily. What may be is that he says a lot of things, but his follow-through seems to be lackluster. Rather than playing a game of chicken, seeing if he'll reach out before you do again, I'd send an honest text:

"Hi Richard! I can't tell from our texts how interested you are in continuing to see each other. I know I've really enjoyed every time we've gotten together and would like to continue getting to know each other. But our communication in between dates is sparse, and we don't have another date lined up, so I thought I would ask! Happy to chat on the phone if that's better."

Are you comfortable sending something like this?


Update from Penny:

"So I finally did it – I sent him a text today and said I didn’t sense enthusiasm to spend time with me or get to know me and that if that was the case, I didn’t want to waste his time or impose on him…"

(Note: This is not how I, Erika, would have phrased this message. I don’t think meeting a new person is ever a “waste of time,” and she sort of put herself down in the process.)

"… He responded this evening and said he didn’t see it as a waste of time and said he was very impressed with my talents and was jealous of my energy and drive, likes my sense of adventure and finds me incredibly interesting – but he doesn’t feel the click to pursue a relationship."

My final response:

"I know it’s not what you wanted, but it’s always better to know."

Why did I share this interaction? Oftentimes when we’re in a situation, we think things are spontaneously going to change. Or we think someone can read our mind and suddenly know what we want. Generally, neither is true. In this case, Penny was having anxiety about Richard – not knowing why he continued to text yet not make plans. I wish Richard had had the courage to proactively call things off, but in the absence of him providing closure, I recommended that Penny seek clarification on her own. I know ignorance may seem like bliss, but in reality, knowledge is power.

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