Dear Louise: 'The guy I'm dating talks about himself an awful lot'

The last few times we have chatted, he hasn't once asked me, 'how was your day?'
Dear Louise: 'The guy I'm dating talks about himself an awful lot'
A couple talking a stroll on the beach.

Q.I've started dating a guy that I met on Bumble. We hit it off straight away, and have been interacting during the pandemic, mainly via video calls and phone calls. 

We’ve had one or two dates in person and I am physically attracted to him. He also seems like a genuinely decent person, with a good work ethic, good familial relationships, and we have similar values. My only gripe is that he talks about himself an awful lot. 

He has asked me things about myself, and he does remember all the little things I’ve said. And when I do talk, he does genuinely listen. However, the last few times we have chatted, he hasn't once asked me, 'how was your day?' or ‘what are you getting up to this weekend?’, even though I asked him these questions myself. This is a big red flag for me. I feel that if you genuinely wanted to date someone, you’d want to know these things about them. I am tempted to talk it out with him but am unsure how to go about it without seeming like I am trying to change him.

A. We all have people in our lives who are seemingly unable to pass up the opportunity to centre the conversations on themselves. Their attempts to do so can be comical at times,(“oh, you sprained your ankle? Let me tell you about when I almost shattered every bone in my body during a freak table-tennis accident!”) but more often, it can be incredibly annoying. There’s nothing wrong with letting the most egregious of the Mé Féiners go from your life but I usually base that decision on one question – is this person an energy vampire?

When you meet them for lunch or dinner, do you leave feeling drained, exhausted, and weary? If the answer is yes, then it’s entirely appropriate to set better boundaries and protect your energy. Our time is increasingly precious. We should spend it with those who uplift us.

However, I must admit that I’m not getting that impression about your new beau. There are plenty of reasons why people might talk too much, especially in the early stages of a relationship. They might be nervous; chattering in order to compensate for shyness or awkwardness. 

They might be trying to impress their date, or might be hiding their insecurities by pretending to be over-confident. I’m not trying to diminish your fears, especially if this is a red flag for you. But you did say in your letter that when you do talk, this man does genuinely listen. 

That begs the question: 

Why aren’t you talking more? If you’ve been asking all the questions during your dates, maybe he hasn’t felt the need to reciprocate because he thinks you’re more comfortable with this dynamic. 

Let’s be real – it’s still not great. He should be expressing an interest in how your day went; that’s just good manners. If it was me, I would be tempted to simply start talking about myself more. If you ask him how his day went and he doesn’t ask the same of you, I would tell him, “my day was lovely too, thanks for asking,”, then laugh, and continue the conversation. It’s a tad passive aggressive and not viable in the long-term but it might be the nudge he needs right now to recognise his own behaviour. If that doesn’t appeal to you (not everyone is a petty bitch, like me!), you could take a breath, leave some space in the conversation, and wait to see how he fills it. Hopefully, he’ll rise to the challenge but either way, at least you’ll know.

We’ve been spoon-fed these ridiculous ideas about Soulmates and The One for so long that many of us believe our partner should be ‘perfect’. We imagine they will complete us in every way and never annoy us or say the wrong thing or hurt our feelings. Anyone who is in a long-term relationship will tell you that is false. But there’s a beauty in that too; in the understanding that your partner isn’t perfect but neither are you, and you’ve both made the decision to love one another despite that. I could be way off here but I wonder if it might be helpful for you to look at your romantic history and see if any patterns are repeating here.

Do you often get close to potential suitors and then find a fault that you’re unable to look past? You say this man is a decent person. You have similar values and you’re physically attracted to him. That sounds like a pretty solid foundation for a relationship to me. Could your reluctance be masking a fear of getting hurt? Maybe even a fear of commitment, which is really just a fear of intimacy?

I think a common problem with relationships is that we often expect the other person to be a mind-reader and we silently seethe if they don’t psychically intuit exactly what we want from them. This can be especially true of women because we haven’t been trained to be honest about what our desires; quite the opposite, we’ve been told it’s better if we have no needs at all. This is nonsense, obviously, all human beings have needs and it’s okay to ask for them to be met. 

If this is going to turn into something long-term, then the best advice I can give you is to talk it out with him. You can approach it in a gentle way that doesn’t put him on the defensive – no one likes being told that they’re hogging all the attention! – but you’ll never go wrong in speaking your truth. And if you say it to him and he still doesn’t step up to the mark? It’s up to you if this is something you can live with for the rest of your life.

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