Dear Charlene: “They Stopped Texting Me Back”
Every month, writer and actor Charlene deGuzman answers your questions about love, loss, and loneliness.
Hi everyone! I’m Charlene deGuzman!
I’ve teamed up with FLOOD to offer you all advice, support, and hope! Every month I’ll be answering any of your heart’s questions on life, love, happiness, and any of the deepest places in between.
Let me introduce myself. I was depressed at age eleven. I never thought I could ever feel happy or lovable. I spent my whole life trying to escape the pain. My life was a mess until I got fed up and did something about it. And now, as a recovered sex and love addict, I am the happiest and healthiest I’ve ever been.
I’m here to listen and help. Ask me anything at firstname.lastname@example.org. Your identity will remain anonymous.
And if you need one-on-one guidance, check out the work I do on charlenejoy.com. I would love to help!
I was texting with a dude I like, and when I asked him what he was up to on the weekend, he stopped texting me back. This always happens. He flirts with me, tells me I’m hot—but whenever I talk about hanging out, he disappears. A few days went by and I sent him some late-night (OK, so I was drunk) texts. I probably shouldn’t have, but I was tired of being ignored. Finally he texted back: “BOUNDARIES.” I kept asking him what he means, and he never texted back. He still hasn’t texted back! What did I do wrong?
Ah, texting. Where emotionally unavailable people can thrive.
This is a really tricky situation, because this isn’t just on you, and it isn’t just on him—it takes two to tango.
Back in the day, pre-recovery, I was in your shoes far too many times to count. I’d find myself obsessing over some guy, and while every text response felt like a hit of the best drug that ever existed, every lack of response felt like agonizing torture. And with every hit, the cycle of unhealthy relationships continued!
From the very few things you’ve told me about this guy—that he disappears for days in the middle of texting, that you push his boundaries, and that he still hasn’t texted you back—there’s a chance that this guy is unavailable, whether that means he’s avoidant, vague, wishy-washy, or just not actually interested. I talked about unavailable people in my last column, so you may want to check that out.
Though he’s flirty with you, that’s unfortunately as far as some people want to go—sometimes the intrigue is all they want. Intentions may not match here: You want to hang out, and he just wants to text. A lack of clear communication and a stating of needs seems to be a problem here.
When boundaries are too rigid, they can keep a person from experiencing fulfilling connection and intimacy. When they’re too loose, a person can easily become an emotional doormat.
Regarding the boundary pushing, it looks like your text-after-text approach leading up to your late-night-drunk-texts struck a nerve, which is totally valid—and just as valid as your frustration with his mixed messages and abrupt radio silence. Avoidant people tend to have more rigid boundaries, while attached people tend to have a lack of boundaries, so it isn’t surprising that boundaries on both sides were pushed.
Boundaries are a way to create a healthy space between you and another person. They can be both emotional and physical. When they’re too rigid, they can keep a person from experiencing fulfilling connection and intimacy. When they’re too loose, a person can enmesh themselves with other people, lack their own identity, and easily become an emotional doormat. It can be difficult to find the healthy place between rigid and loose, and it’s a practice that requires constant awareness. But boundaries are so important for self-care and relationships that it’s good to be aware of not only others’ boundaries but also the ones that we must set for ourselves.
So, for example, here are a few boundaries you could consider setting for yourself in order to pursue healthy relationships:
– If a person has red flags (in this case, difficult to communicate with, avoidant, etc.) you will no longer pursue and contact them.
– If an unavailable person doesn’t text you back, you will not continue texting them.
– You will not text people after certain hours of the night, or while intoxicated.
– If you need to express real, important feelings, you will not do it over a text! Honor yourself with the presence and attention that you deserve.
And if you are really feeling ready to challenge yourself and be done with the bullshit, consider this ultimate boundary:
– If an unavailable man contacts you, you will no longer engage. Don’t take the hit! Don’t do the drug!
Remember: We simply cannot control what other people do. We cannot change anyone. We cannot fix anyone. If you start dating this person, that does not mean they will magically change and be better. But we have a choice in what we participate in. What are you no longer willing to participate in? It’s up to you, and only you. And you deserve better. How much longer do you want to wait?
Whatever you decide to do, it’s also a good idea to be aware of your boundaries with others and check in with yourself on a regular basis:
– What kind of energy do you bring to your relationships? Is it positive and nurturing, or negative and draining? Are things like honesty, respect, and contribution mutual, or is it one-sided?
– How do you use your time? Are you on time, or late? How are you using other people’s time? Are you considerate, or inconsiderate?
– How do you treat other people’s space? Are you physically respectful? Appropriate?
– Do you keep your word? Do you stick to plans? Are you used to flaking?
– Do you say no when you need to? Do you ask for help when you need to? Do you ever take responsibility for things that aren’t yours? Do you ever put other people’s needs ahead of your own?
Now answer these questions for the people in your life:
– Do they honor your boundaries? Do they even have boundaries? Where do you no longer want to participate?
– When someone crosses a boundary, do you speak up?
Without healthy boundaries, it’s much easier to lose responsibility for your own life, which can lead to stress, resentment, and anger. Relationships will be difficult because you don’t know when one person starts and the other begins.
As I tend to say every time: It all begins with you. If you don’t set boundaries, they won’t exist. If you set boundaries but don’t honor them, neither will other people. If you don’t respect other people’s boundaries, they will have a hard time respecting yours.
So, you didn’t do anything “wrong.” It’s just time to start setting some healthy boundaries—and you can start now by texting the right people. FL