Why do People Want to String Others Along?



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Side_Kick
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Sat Apr 03, 2010 12:29 pm

I am very analytical, and one thing that I've never been able to understand is the concept of someone "stringing someone else along," either by being in a relationship and cheating on them, treating them like a home-base, or by being friends with them, giving them occasional false hope, but not actually wanting to pursue anything with them.

Does it provide some sort of esteem boost? That knowing that someone likes them and is devoted to them although they could give a rat's @$$ about the person somehow makes them feel good? I would assume that if I had someone who felt strongly for me, but I didn't want anything with them, or had someone else that I was more interested in/connected with, that I would actually find it rather annoying to have them constantly pestering me... "So how do you feel about me? Are we ever going to be together? You'd tell me if something was wrong, right?" I'd just want to cut them loose. For their sake of course, out of compassion, but also for my own. Any other potential motivations for this behavior that come to mind?

I've had two people in my life do this with me now, and the first time was very effective... I let myself get dragged along for six years full of constant professes of interest, being given so many reasons to believe that something might come to fruition, and yet nothing ever did. I don't want to do this again. Is there any way to balance hope with skepticism? Or should one just choose one over the other? :?



Lene
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Sat Apr 03, 2010 12:45 pm

Personally, I wouldn't want to string someone along, but I can see why it happens and why it would be tempting. It seems to be a self esteem thing, coupled with a fear of being alone. You might not like the person enough to want to go out with them, but it's nice to know someone finds you attractive and that there's always a 'back-up' if you don't find someone better.

That said, sometimes people don't intend to string anyone along; there are people out there who act flirty unconsciously, or just use it so that other people are nice to them. They don't mean to be taken seriously.

I think if you're afraid of being strung along, you need to sit down and weigh up how a person acts versus what they say, and how their actions might look to someone observing the situation from outside. It's very easy to interpret peoples' actions favourably when you have a vested interest (i.e. if you fancy them, you may feel their actions are due to 'shyness' or 'he's just hiding his feelings', whereas if you didn't fancy them, the same actions might make you think "he doesn't like me at all. Stuff him").

If someone is giving you all the right signals but never acts on them, I'd say give it a couple of months and then stick him (or her) firmly in the friends zone, or stop hanging around them altogether if that's too difficult. If they haven't acted then, they probably won't make a move later on (certainly not after 6 years). Bear in mind, there's nothing to stop you calling their bluff and asking them out, but you will have to accept that you risk destroying any fantasy of being together if they say no.



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Sat Apr 03, 2010 1:02 pm

Without getting into it too much, I think you are succumbing to over-simplified labels.
Most people don't seek to 'string other's along,' certainly not on purpose, and often have no clue they're doing it. I figure that for most, they either think that the other person is okay with the status of things, or they don't properly know what they want, and have their fingers in both pies, so-to-speak.
But assuming malicious intention is usually off the mark, I think.



Lene
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Sat Apr 03, 2010 1:13 pm

Sound wrote:
Without getting into it too much, I think you are succumbing to over-simplified labels.
Most people don't seek to 'string other's along,' certainly not on purpose, and often have no clue they're doing it. I figure that for most, they either think that the other person is okay with the status of things, or they don't properly know what they want, and have their fingers in both pies, so-to-speak.
But assuming malicious intention is usually off the mark, I think.


I agree with Sound there. It's not really malicious behaviour (though sometimes it can be), more self-centered. Also, you have it within your power to clarify the situation (i.e. by asking them out yourself), so to some degree you are playing a part in maintaining the status quo by doing nothing.



Side_Kick
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Sat Apr 03, 2010 1:23 pm

First of all, Thank you, Lene, for your reply. You really seem to understand the situation from both angles, and I sincerely appreciate the feedback! :D

Lene wrote:
That said, sometimes people don't intend to string anyone along; there are people out there who act flirty unconsciously, or just use it so that other people are nice to them. They don't mean to be taken seriously.


It's not an unconscious thing in this most recent scenario... He initiated the development of a relationship with me, then became emotionally overwhelmed, and wanted to remove certain aspects (like kissing and being together physically). He tried to assure me that this would be temporary, and that he doesn't need distance from me altogether, just to have those details removed for now.

Lene wrote:
I think if you're afraid of being strung along, you need to sit down and weigh up how a person acts versus what they say, and how their actions might look to someone observing the situation from outside... actions might make you think "he doesn't like me at all. Stuff him".


All I seem to do is weigh his behavior against his words, and they always conflict. He says he enjoys my company, and doesn't need distance from me, but won't reply to my emails, and consistently expresses how "busy" he is, though he's online commenting on his other friends' statuses, and staying home baking all day. He'll chase me down the street to ask if I'm alright, but he won't even read an email I send him. :scratch: I'm starting to think this way ^, but he always assured me that he would tell me if something was wrong, he had changed his mind, etc. He has AS, and claims that (similarly to myself) he is unable to lie, and is always blunt and direct, but his behavior contradicts his words too often, and I am pretty sure he has already lied by omission a couple of times.

Lene wrote:
If someone is giving you all the right signals but never acts on them, I'd say give it a couple of months and then stick him (or her) firmly in the friends zone, or stop hanging around them altogether if that's too difficult... Bear in mind, there's nothing to stop you calling their bluff and asking them out, but you will have to accept that you risk destroying any fantasy of being together if they say no.


I might have to do this ^. I've tried to be friends, give him space, time, etc, but I can't seem to force myself to care any less for him than I do. And it hurts too much to see that he doesn't care enough to make time to just acknowledge my existence. :cry: I've already had to delete him off of some social networking sites, since I just can't bear the feelings it causes to see his activity, and know I'm no where in his mind. I had sent him an email, telling him how all of this makes me feel, and to just tell me honestly what is going on, and that if my emotional needs are too much for him, that I would understand, but I just need to know, but I doubt I can count on him to reply. And I find it so incredibly difficult to "move on" without "closure." I guess that's why I'm wanting so desperately to understand the concept of stringing someone along... If I can have one or more ideas of what it's all about, I can feel some sort of understanding, and hopefully let this go.

Sound wrote:
But assuming malicious intention is usually off the mark, I think.


I don't want to assume malicious intent... I just want to understand it so I can finally lay it to rest. If, as I suggested in my original post, the behavior was caused by a boost in esteem for the person doing it, I wouldn't consider it malicious. Lots of people do things that inadvertently hurt others, and though I wouldn't consider it an intentional attempt to hurt someone, or even necessarily a conscious behavior, it would just provide explanation for it. And understanding, for me.



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Sat Apr 03, 2010 1:26 pm

Lene wrote:
I agree with Sound there. It's not really malicious behaviour (though sometimes it can be), more self-centered. Also, you have it within your power to clarify the situation (i.e. by asking them out yourself), so to some degree you are playing a part in maintaining the status quo by doing nothing.


I agree with Sound, as well. The reason I was avoiding addressing it with him was that I didn't want to emotionally overwhelm him further, after he had expressed that he was already feeling overwhelmed before. Problem is, I've gotten to the point where I am so emotionally consumed by it, that I (selfishly) need answers so I can stop feeling crazy, listless, and terribly sad.



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Sat Apr 03, 2010 1:44 pm

Side_Kick wrote:
Lene wrote:
I agree with Sound there. It's not really malicious behaviour (though sometimes it can be), more self-centered. Also, you have it within your power to clarify the situation (i.e. by asking them out yourself), so to some degree you are playing a part in maintaining the status quo by doing nothing.


I agree with Sound, as well. The reason I was avoiding addressing it with him was that I didn't want to emotionally overwhelm him further, after he had expressed that he was already feeling overwhelmed before. Problem is, I've gotten to the point where I am so emotionally consumed by it, that I (selfishly) need answers so I can stop feeling crazy, listless, and terribly sad.


I think you may be trying to spare his feelings at the expense of your own, which isn't fair to yourself. This guy doesn't seem to know where his head's at. I don't doubt that he likes you as a friend, but he doesn't seem to know what to do with a girlfriend and is avoiding any form of confrontation.

You aren't being selfish in this case. You have every right to know if you are in a relationship or not. Personally, since he doesn't seem to want to clarify the situation himself (and I don't think "I'll tell you if things change" is good enough), it appears like the whole existence of the relationship boils down to whether you want it anymore or not. He seems to be a bit of a passive player.

Since he's driving you crazy, could you consider being just friends with him? You can be best friends or whatever, but at least that leaves you free to move on romantically.

Your guy reminds me a bit of an ex boyfriend I had; he claimed I was his girlfriend, but treated me like a friend (even referred to me as one a couple of times). It was very distressing being in a relationship with him because I felt I was missing out on, well, the relationship bit. It became easier when we were just friends and I found another boyfriend; the ex didn't change at all, but I stopped caring because he was now 'just a friend' to me too.



Side_Kick
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Sat Apr 03, 2010 2:17 pm

Lene wrote:
I think you may be trying to spare his feelings at the expense of your own, which isn't fair to yourself... You aren't being selfish in this case. You have every right to know if you are in a relationship or not. Personally, since he doesn't seem to want to clarify the situation himself (and I don't think "I'll tell you if things change" is good enough), it appears like the whole existence of the relationship boils down to whether you want it anymore or not.


Thank you for saying this. I have been feeling so guilty, because I know that he has a lot going on right how (hence the need for the emotional distance), and I've been thinking that it's just been my responsibility to control (or limit) my feelings for him, and that I've failed him by being unable to do so. It has cost me great expense, and that's why I've finally broken down... I can't do this anymore. I want to, but I feel incapable, no matter which way I go about it. :(

Lene wrote:
Since he's driving you crazy, could you consider being just friends with him? You can be best friends or whatever, but at least that leaves you free to move on romantically.


I've wanted to be friends... There's this annoying paradox where because I care for him as much as I do (have only felt this way about someone once before), I want to have him in my life, but it also tears me apart to have my feelings be so very unreciprocated. I guess that is a little selfish, there. Also, in an emotionally charged state and upon seeing a status of his demonstrating a fair amount of "spare time" he's been claiming to not have, I hastily removed him as a friend on facebook. I wish I hadn't, but I did, and I'm sure it will produce a lasting, negative impression on him. :?

Lene wrote:
Your guy reminds me a bit of an ex boyfriend I had; he claimed I was his girlfriend, but treated me like a friend (even referred to me as one a couple of times). It was very distressing being in a relationship with him because I felt I was missing out on, well, the relationship bit. It became easier when we were just friends and I found another boyfriend; the ex didn't change at all, but I stopped caring because he was now 'just a friend' to me too.


Thank you again, so much, for your replies, and for sharing a similar experience with me. I hope that perhaps some day, once I've had enough distance to change the context of my feelings for him, that we'll be able to be friends, as you were able to do with your ex.



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Sat Apr 03, 2010 3:17 pm

Sound wrote:
Most people don't seek to 'string other's along,' certainly not on purpose, and often have no clue they're doing it.



Oh, don't kid yourself, a great many people do these things with absolute awareness and intent. Some may do it because they don't want to hurt someone's feelings, but 'keeping someone as a backup' happens quite frequently and I've heard people flat out admit that they were doing it. There are cons artist of every stripe and level, stringing others along for all sorts of reasons. Believing it's always an unintentional accident is just naive.



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Sat Apr 03, 2010 3:57 pm

@Sidekick, you've already gotten really good advice from @Lene and @Sound, but I just wanted to reiterate that having needs isn't selfish - you're entitled. That's part of what differentiates a good match from a match: your partner's willingness to meet your needs (the same way you're willing to meet his).

It seems to me that you've been turning yourself inside out to not only meet his needs, but also to deny your own. I know it's important to you to understand whether he's unwilling to meet your needs, or unable to meet them - but the end result is really the same: he's not giving you what you want or need in a relationship.

If I were in your situation, I'd muster all my courage and end it. (I advise against trying to maintain a friendship while you still have feelings for him - it'll slow down your healing process.) I know it's not an easy choice to make, but it's probably better than to continue hoping for a different outcome.


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Side_Kick
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Sat Apr 03, 2010 4:24 pm

HopeGrows wrote:
@Sidekick, you've already gotten really good advice from @Lene and @Sound, but I just wanted to reiterate that having needs isn't selfish - you're entitled. That's part of what differentiates a good match from a match: your partner's willingness to meet your needs (the same way you're willing to meet his).

It seems to me that you've been turning yourself inside out to not only meet his needs, but also to deny your own. I know it's important to you to understand whether he's unwilling to meet your needs, or unable to meet them - but the end result is really the same: he's not giving you what you want or need in a relationship.

If I were in your situation, I'd muster all my courage and end it. (I advise against trying to maintain a friendship while you still have feelings for him - it'll slow down your healing process.) I know it's not an easy choice to make, but it's probably better than to continue hoping for a different outcome.


Thank you again, @HopeGrows :) It really does help to hear others say that I'm not being selfish here. I have a strong guilt-complex with mostly everything...

I have been, as you say, turning myself inside out to give him what he needs at the cost of my own emotional well-being... And I've burned out. And you're right, in that I've been driving myself nearly crazy trying to differentiate between his lack of ability or lack of willingness to meet me half-way... And that it doesn't really matter which is the case. This is the main reason I resent my emotions (or lack of control over them): I lose the reasonable objectivity with which I usually address other issues. Just not people that I get so wrapped up in. So thank you, again for hauling me back down the earth!

It is likely that I "ended it" by removing him as a friend. And I am in FULL agreement with you that maintaining a friendship at this point will not only slow (or entirely prevent) my ability to move on, but it would also find me continuing some false hope that things could change. :?



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Sat Apr 03, 2010 4:48 pm

Side_Kick wrote:
This is the main reason I resent my emotions (or lack of control over them): I lose the reasonable objectivity with which I usually address other issues. Just not people that I get so wrapped up in.


It's called love, kiddo....don't be so hard on yourself. Everybody wants their relationship to work out. One of the hardest decisions a person can make is choosing not to settle for what you can get instead of waiting for what you really want....that's why so many people settle (and regret it). For what it's worth, I think you're doing the right thing.


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Sat Apr 03, 2010 5:24 pm

^ :D Thanks, again! I'll try to stop criticizing myself for being human. lol ;)
And thanks for the vote of confidence. :)



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Sat Apr 03, 2010 6:11 pm

Willard wrote:
Sound wrote:
Most people don't seek to 'string other's along,' certainly not on purpose, and often have no clue they're doing it.



Oh, don't kid yourself, a great many people do these things with absolute awareness and intent. Some may do it because they don't want to hurt someone's feelings, but 'keeping someone as a backup' happens quite frequently and I've heard people flat out admit that they were doing it. There are cons artist of every stripe and level, stringing others along for all sorts of reasons. Believing it's always an unintentional accident is just naive.


yeah, I can't remember the exact statistic but about 10 or 20 percent of the population are supposed to be sociopaths. So there is not only the case of 'malicious intent'...which actually might be closer to characteristic of a normal psychology where the person is capable of registering malice and therefore by default benevolence...and there is consciencelessness, which might be just as common, where the person strings another person along because they don't register any remorse whatsoever, the normal feelings of guilt, shame, etc just don't happen in their psyche. In fact, the person I was pining after so bad for a year was strung along pretty badly by someone like this and probably still would be, ad infinitum, if she was willing to play along. I have quoted my ex sister in law on here but it's worth repeating because it's such a classic quote, when she said to my brother, in earnest, "you know how people say they feel bad when they do something wrong? when I do something wrong, I never feel bad." Always makes me smile. The capacity for remorse just is not there...whether it is due to trauma in childhood or loopy brain functioning that is inborn, it doesn't register.



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Sat Apr 03, 2010 11:41 pm

alana wrote:
Willard wrote:
Sound wrote:
Most people don't seek to 'string other's along,' certainly not on purpose, and often have no clue they're doing it.



Oh, don't kid yourself, a great many people do these things with absolute awareness and intent. Some may do it because they don't want to hurt someone's feelings, but 'keeping someone as a backup' happens quite frequently and I've heard people flat out admit that they were doing it. There are cons artist of every stripe and level, stringing others along for all sorts of reasons. Believing it's always an unintentional accident is just naive.


yeah, I can't remember the exact statistic but about 10 or 20 percent of the population are supposed to be sociopaths.

Could you help me search out info on this? Because I flat out don't believe it.



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