Mixed signals related to abuse in childhood?

iVillage Member
Registered: 03-30-2006
Mixed signals related to abuse in childhood?
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Thu, 01-17-2013 - 4:54am

Hello Friends,

I am wondering if people could offer some advice on a guy I really like who I'm confused over.  I will call him Tim.  So the situation is that he is my yoga teacher.  What I know about Tim's background is that he was abused growing up.  I don't know what type of abuse (verbal/sexual/physical or a combo), but I'm sure it's very bad. 

When we talk, he is so warm, kind, caring, and sweet.  From the first day I joined the class, he seemed attracted to me.  He seemed to pay special attention to me and even invited me to have lunch with him after class.  I immediately thought that he probably doesn't offer to have lunch with every student, and there were other very cute ladies in the class whom he did not invite, and they were new too.  Lunch was nice, and then we parted ways.

The following week in class, he was very happy to see me.  He gave me a huge hug.  Again I felt he was paying more attention to me than others.  After class he did not invite me to lunch, so I just left.  The next morning on Facebook he sent a message saying he's sorry we did not get to talk more and that we should chat next time we see each other.  I said that sounds great, maybe after the next class.  He agreed.  

After the next class, I approached him, and he said he was having lunch with this other girl who is also a teacher.  But he quickly said I was more than welcome to join them.  I was pretty surprised since I thought WE were hanging out after class.  I didn't want to be a poor sport, so I went along thinking maybe his interest in me was all in my mind.  He spent most of lunch asking me tons of questions about myself.  It didn't seem to me that he was romantically interested in her, nor was she flirting with him.  Apparently they were having lunch in order to plan for a class they are going to teach together.  It's possible that she decided to go to his class that day, and since she was in town, told him it was the best time to meet to plan the class.  I don't know.

Another time, we had a lengthy workshop that ended at 10pm.  We ended up grabbing a bite after.  He mentioned before that he likes walking in the park...and so do I.  While we were eating, I was being very cheery and said, "I love walking in the park too.  You should come with me some time!"  He said, "I should?"  And he didn't look very enthusiastic.  I felt a bit embarrassed, like maybe I was being too aggressive, so I said, "Or not.  It was just a suggestion."  Then he perked up (it was very late after all) and said he would join me some time.  When i got home, I sent him a Private Message on FB with my phone number.  He didn't contact me, so after a few days of feeling confused by all of this, I decided to just let it go.  I told myself that he is a very warm guy and that he probably makes everyone feel special.  I was happy enough to be friends.  

I skipped class a couple times because I was sick.  He never called or texted.  But I received a group email from Tim inviting me to be part of a dinner of 10 people, including me.  It was a dinner to discuss yoga stuff.  I thought it was a tad strange to invite me to such a thing b/c I am so new to the class and most of the other people were teachers who he has know for years.  I decided to go, but I really had no expectations about Tim.  And a couple of the ladies are very attractive, so I thought it might also be an opportunity to scope him out and "prove" to myself that he probably treats us all the same and that I might be mis-interpretting his signals as romantic when they are not.

He was socially awkward throughout the night.  One example is that I had just met another guy and was only talking to him for like one minute.  Tim walked over and joined the conversation.  We were discussing a new cafe that had opened recently, and this guy was telling me it was really good.  The guy said it's a great date place.  Tim suddenly looked at me and blurted out the most bizarre thing:  "You two should go.  You should text him and go together."  Me and the other guy looked perplexed.  It just seemed like Tim was acting strange and saying things that made no sense.

During dinner, he did not show anybody the attention that he showed me.  He certainly wasn't being flirtatious with any of the other women.  Throughout dinner, I kept catching him staring directly at me.  When I would look at him, he never looked away.  I think other people might have noticed him doing this.  I caught him staring so many times, and I felt really shy and blushed a lot each time I would catch him.  I kept thinking, There is no way he is not interested in me or not attracted to me.  It's rare that a man looks at me like that, and the two that have became the greatest loves of my life.  

After dinner, I gave Tim a ride home.  It was midnight, and he had to get up at 5 am for work.  I wanted to open up a conversation in the car about his behavior and all the staring and just get it out in the open if we are attracted to each other.  But I decided that maybe it wasn't the best timing, when he is exhausted and needs to get straight to bed.  During the car ride, he said, "What are you doing tomorrow?"  I said I was meeting a friend.  He asked if it was for lunch, and I said no, she is having lunch wtih someone else.  Then there was silence.  I was hoping he would simply ask me if I would meet him for lunch, but that didn't make a whole lot of sense because I already knew he is working all day.  So again, I just felt like it was more mixed signals.

Anyway, he is my teacher in a class I LOVE, so I don't want any weirdness between us.  Maybe he doesn't date his students?  Or maybe his socially awkward behavior is a result of having been abused.  I did some research on adult survivors of abuse, and he does fit a lot of the characteristics.  Maybe he lacks self-esteem.  Maybe he's extremely guarded.  I do notice that as warm as he is, sometimes when I talk to him i feel as though he is not "present."  Maybe it's what they call dissociation.

I guess I'm wondering if there are people out there who are (unfortunately) more familiar with severe childhood abuse and can tell me if I should be more patient.  I can say i feel a lot more complassion now that I understand better why he might behave the way he does.  I really do like this guy and wish he would give us a chance to spend time together, not just as friends.  Is having an open discussion with him too pushy at this point?  I know some people might judge and say, "Why would you want to get involved with someone who is so screwed up?" or whatever...but I come from abuse myself (not nearly as severe), and it's screwed me up pretty badly.  The self-esteem and dissociation stuff is awfully familiar, but not as intense as others who have had it much worse than me.  My ex-boyfriend of 4 years was so good to me that I can honestly say he helped me heal and showed me that I do deserve love.  So I am not ready to throw in the towel on Tim just yet.  

Thank you for your time.  ;)

~vanillabeanie

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iVillage Member
Registered: 03-30-2006
Mon, 01-21-2013 - 1:09am

Hi everybody,

Thanks for the responses and thoughts.  I just thought I would comment on one thing from the last post:

"Maybe this guy is not ready to date but the poster is and they are just not on same page as of yet.. Either he will bite or he will just fade away or maybe down the road a bit he will ask her out.. or mabye they will find other people..

Its all about timing I would assume right now and sometimes we are just not ready for something or something smacks us in the face and we just dont see it.."

This is very true and thoughtful--life isn't black-and-white.  The fact is that I love his class, and I don't want to make anything uncomfrotable for either of us.  While I think I should step up my flirting (I've held back because I was afraid of making him unfomfortable, him being my teacher), there is no rush.  It's true, maybe the timing is not right and I just need to let this "play out".  

~vanillabeanie
iVillage Member
Registered: 01-02-2008

When I was reading JT's response about the cookie jar and all it made some sense to me..and sometimes in my life when I guy appeared interested in me and he would waffle back and forth it always felt like in my gut and heart of hearts that he was unsure and didnt want to start something he couldnt finish in a relationship.. Like why bother to start something when I cant totally commit to it.. I knew a guy once who was nice and we talked and were very open but when it came to dating he backed off big time.. I later found out that he was still living with his exwife and couldnt commit to anything in that moment.. I think in life or I know in life that we as people are at different spaces and different journeys than others.. Maybe this guy is not ready to date but the poster is and they are just not on same page as of yet.. Either he will bite or he will just fade away or maybe down the road a bit he will ask her out.. or mabye they will find other people..

Its all about timing I would assume right now and sometimes we are just not ready for something or something smacks us in the face and we just dont see it..

 

Avatar for cfk_3
iVillage Member
Registered: 05-14-1999
Sun, 01-20-2013 - 2:54pm

See, I didn't see it directed at you, I thought it was meant for someone else.  That someone else is almost always the target so it leads me to believe that it's the same person using multiple identities.  I may not always agree with said targets ideas or beliefs but other people's ideas and beliefs usually don't offend me in such a personal manner.  These types of comments almost seem personal.  And while I'm at it, most men are not usually petty like that so that too makes me skeptical.  What are the odds that an entire handful of people zero in on one persons posts? I realize that trying to flush it out is futile but one thing I cannot stand is hypocrisy.  If you're going to complain about a negativity issue, then try to be part of the solution and not THE problem. 

I'm off my soapbox now and am going to go try to find some humane mouse traps.  I have one who is sneaking into my bird food ;]

Avatar for floridagirl52
iVillage Member
Registered: 10-16-2006
Sun, 01-20-2013 - 2:27pm

I have to say I agree here with Cfk regarding JT's unnecessary last sentence.

Perhaps you felt my answer was a "take no risk" answer? In the original post, she says:

****While we were eating, I was being very cheery and said, "I love walking in the park too.  You should come with me some time!"  He said, "I should?"  And he didn't look very enthusiastic.  I felt a bit embarrassed, like maybe I was being too aggressive, so I said, "Or not.  It was just a suggestion." ******

I think she has already suggested they do something and he pretty much shut her down. Sure, she can analyze it, and make excuses for his reaction, and even ask him out again, but I still say that if there is mutual attraction, it's just not this hard. But that's just my opinion.

Avatar for cfk_3
iVillage Member
Registered: 05-14-1999
Sun, 01-20-2013 - 11:48am

Hey JT, I would really appreciate an answer to this question:  Why do you feel it necessary to call people out?  I can recall several of your posts where you've cited negativity on this board.  I found the last sentence of your post both negative and completely needless.  Why not start practicing what you preach?  It's gratuitous comments like that one which make me question some of the identities here.  Insults veiled within a seemingly helpful reply = so transparent.  

iVillage Member
Registered: 02-08-2011
Sun, 01-20-2013 - 10:06am
To answer your original question, yes - childhood trauma can have terrible effects on how people approach relationships. I'm a guy so I can only speak to having dated women but there have been two distinct paths I've seen from someone who has had a background of sexual abuse - either they jump into sex quickly and often with a fairly steady stream of different partners and talk about it a lot because that gives them the feeling of control over it and therefore the past trauma, or they shy away completely from it - move one step forward, two steps back. Of course this is speaking in general and my experience, every person is different in how they handle things and the severity of their experience is different as well.
That being said, I think you may be reaching with this explanation and, as other people said, making this far more difficult than it is with the analysis. Whatever the reason, something is holding him back and there are a lot of possibilities. The first guess is that he is insecure. And a close second to that guess, he may be weary of the potential drama of dating someone in his class. The third guess is that he got out of a long relationship and may just be wanting to enjoy single life for a while. The fourth guess, sorry, I'm just trying to give some perspective, but with how much analysis you have written, I'm wondering if that has come across during your interactions with him and he may be seeing you as potentially a bit draining.
None of these are impossible to work with. He sounds like a kid staring at a cookie jar and pondering it - that cookie could be so good, but should he reach over and risk the trouble or shouldn't he. He may stay in limbo like this for a long time. This kind of indecisiveness would drive a lot of people crazy, however, in this situation it sounds like a very good match.
So while, yes, it's all guessing - fortunately we're all adults so I think simple honesty is your best option to encourage this to move forward. It doesn't take much - "I've enjoyed talking with you but there isn't much chance in class. How about that walk in the park? Or I found a great (cafe/vegetarian restaurant, etc.) want to try it?" It may take saying that once or twice and he may need to continue to have the security blanket of being around friends at first with these things. But clearly you are into him, so why not.
The problem on this board is that people who advocate for never taking chances are usually people who rarely have a date.
Avatar for cfk_3
iVillage Member
Registered: 05-14-1999
Sat, 01-19-2013 - 4:58pm

I kept reading your post thinking "Where's this abuse angle coming from" and then I finally reached near the end where you indicated that this is something you've experienced firsthand.  Then it made more sense.  I still think you are reaching a bit, but I there's no harm in that . . . I would try to give you advice but it seems as though you've made the decision to go all in on this one so I'll just wish you good luck and hope that you'll come back to fill us in . . . It's always interesting hearing how these things play out. 

iVillage Member
Registered: 03-30-2006
Sat, 01-19-2013 - 12:38am

Hi Xxxs, many thanks for the reply.  Now that I've had a couple of thoughtful responses, I think I've made up my mind and decided to play a new game, eventhough it's against my normal behavior, which frankly hasn't gotten me anywhere in my whole lifetime because I'm single in my 30's.  The game called "He's Not That Into You" didn't work, and neither did "Ignore Tim."  I realize that the only game I haven't played is "Hit on Tim Big Time." Tongue Out

I think you are right about nice guys not being players and taking a lot of time to catch on--I literally said the same exact thing to a lady who told me that she kept after her crush (now husband) "for months" because he was "clueless" and "had no game."  He was divorced, and even his little daughters were dropping hints.  I guess things worked out eventually, and now they've been married for 9 years.  

~vanillabeanie
Avatar for xxxs
Community Leader
Registered: 01-25-2010
Fri, 01-18-2013 - 4:45pm

 Ask him out for a drink etc.  The days of waiting are over.  There are many men who are not players and who have been conditioned that you are just being "nice".  So any other interest just does not occur(program not found).  Many people have this problem with communication.  Some take time to process it as it goes against what they were taught.  But Boldness works! 

chaika

iVillage Member
Registered: 03-30-2006
Thu, 01-17-2013 - 4:21pm

Hi Floridagirl, thx for your thoughts. Yes, of course we all overanalyze when it comes to dating, lol! ;) And no, you are not being harsh, I totally have all the same thoughts 50% of the time (the other 50% I feel the opposite--that's why I'm posting ;))

And yes, I'm positive he is not gay. His last relationship was 2+ years ago, and it was for 8 years. His ex is a woman.

I'm not opposed to anything you've said, in fact, that was my plan, to just ignore him and chalk it up to "he's not that into me." But he continues to do things that I view as being blatently attracted, so it's getting hard to ignore. I joked to my mom that my game of "Ignore Tim" isn't working.

As far as "encouraging" me to date someone else...if you look at it from a different context, that was not really what he was doing. My own father said to my mother's ex-boyfriend (who she is still close friends with after 40 years), "Thank you for taking my wife out." It was awkward as hell for everybody. But some people lack social skills. When they are trying to hide their feelings, they say weird things out of left field.

As for not showing initiative...he did invite me to a dinner with his close circle of friends. That's why I'm like, maybe he moves slower than most people who aren't so guarded. Maybe he wants to check me out when I'm around his friends. I also left out the other instnaces of him interrupting my conversations each time I was talking to other guys (didn't want to bore everyone with details). Not that Tim was rude, but the other guys definitely noticed his behavior towards me.

So anyway, if I didn't love the class so much, I would just stop going. The other thing is that Tim lets me go for free!! I am broke and can't afford the $75/month to join other studios. I am definitely keeping my eyes on other men. My heart is open, and if Tim doesn't loosen up and join me on a walk or whatever, it's his loss! You snooze, you lose I guess? :D

(I had to edit because for some reason when I posted, it came out as one enormous paragraph)

~vanillabeanie

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