Why is the chase all that matters for guys, it seems?

I really don’t understand why… guys try so hard to hook you. And then once you’re hooked, they’re no longer interested.

The beginning is the best, really–they’re working so hard to impress you, picking up the tab and not letting you contribute, making reservations, doing research, happily going along with what you suggest, telling you how great and beautiful you are. So when it happens, you’re primed to agree to be their girlfriend.

And then, slowly, it starts going downhill. It may take a few months but it will, inevitably it feels like.

I’m getting to the point where I just can’t trust a guy to stick with me. He’ll ask me out, sure, but then it’s like he considers his duty done and now he has pasted a girlfriend onto the facade of his life, but he’s certainly not going to change any part of his life to accommodate said girlfriend, he’s not going to change anything about himself. And I remember the compliments I got at the beginning–you’re so beautiful, etc–and I wonder if they ever actually cared about who I was, or if they just wanted to show me off.

See, this time I had my eyes wide open. I was skeptical. I knew that if someone was complimenting only my looks, he may not like my personality. But he seemed so easygoing and laidback, he seemed like the type to take it in stride. He told me all about how he thinks it’s a guy’s job to keep his girlfriend happy. I started to think that okay, maybe he can handle me. Maybe he can handle that I’m insanely picky about food, I’m addicted to an idol boy game that keeps me tethered to my phone all day (at 2.5 hour intervals most days), I like BL and anime and other weeb/otaku shit, I have dealt with anxiety and depression in the past, have been on medication for them, and those issues may flare up, and I’m generally a sensitive person who sometimes needs a break from stimulation (all of which has gotten me labeled as a drama queen by less charitably minded people/”friends” in the past).

So I started trying to let him in on it. I could tell the mental health issues thing weirded him out. I wouldn’t have even told him except that a side effect of my medication (which I stopped a month ago, but we’ll come back to that) was going to be something he’d notice, so I thought he should know. I could tell he was judging me for using my phone so much, especially because he likes to be as untethered as possible (he prefers to use an iPad over a phone–who knows why). One time I even purposely ignored my game on my phone because I knew he’d give me the side eye for picking it up and playing it.

Who knows if any of these things really contributed to it, though, because what happened was that he thought I was trying to tie him down by asking for too much contact. Basically, I wanted us to talk every day. That’s how my most successful relationship worked and I was super happy with that setup. On my first date with this guy, he asked me how to make a long distance relationship work, because he’d failed before but he gets sent on these month-long business trips and he was worried about maintaining a connection with someone during that time. I said “As long as there’s communication, you can keep the connection alive. But it has to be regular communication.” He smiled and looked relieved. He seemed to agree with me completely.

And yet, when that proposition became a reality, he balked. I wanted us to have a short chat ideally every day but once every couple days would have been all right too. Just 30 minutes or so of us being available to one another to catch up in real time about our days, weekend plans, etc. I was willing to compromise on the communication frequency. I told him he could work it out. But he was still spooked. That whole idea scared him. He thought I was trying to tie him down and he told me to “think of our relationship more casually.” Excuse me? You asked me out, you asked me to be your girlfriend, and you talked a big game about how it’s your job to keep me happy. You gushed about me to your friends, to your PARENTS, your parents bought me presents, you cut your hair for me, you made it sound like you planned to be with me for a while, and now suddenly chatting daily is too much?

He did agree that I was completely right and that this had been an issue in his past relationships. And yet instead of challenging himself to try something new, he ran. All of a sudden his job had him working hours so long he never got to go home (boo hoo, you made your choices) and “we aren’t a fit” because I’m trying to control him. Except I’m not, I’m just coming at him with American relationship and communication ideals. This is normal and not controlling in the US. I don’t want to control him. I just want to keep our connection strong through regular communication. Not messages you send here and there, and I reply to hours later, and you reply to hours later, and we never have a real-time conversation and I don’t know when I’m going to see you next. No. I’m not going to do that.

So yet again, I’m left blindsided by another guy who swerved away from a chance at a deep connection, which is what I want. Why even ask people out if you don’t want a real connection??? I don’t even know how to trust what guys say going forward. I mean, what can I do? If they ask me to date, be like “Stop. Do you really mean that? Do you really like me for who I am and are you willing to try to forge a real bond with me?” I can see many guys just running in the opposite direction from how intense that is. Or, or, they tell me what they think I want to hear. They enthusiastically say they’re down for that (just like he did on the first date), but in reality they’re not. How can I even trust what they say?

And then I fall for them. And then as soon as they can say they “got me,” they lose interest. What the fuck? Do I just have to pretend to be aloof and uninterested the entire time so they can feel the thrill of the chase and feel motivated to keep me happy? Why are men like this?

I’m not even really that upset about this guy specifically. I liked him, but I was just starting to get to know him, and some of what I saw, I didn’t like–such as how he had a weird habit of shouting (in English) “Make some noise!!! Let’s bounce, yo!!!” at random times. I do NOT know why. It’s hilarious in hindsight, but still totally insane. Definitely glad I don’t have to deal with that anymore. Or how I’d turn around and find him chatting to some random sketchy guy from Bangladesh (he lived there and can speak the language), which happened twice. Or his weird ideas about sex and our weird singular encounter (0 orgasms. For anyone). I dodged a bullet, but when I think about the future, I still feel pretty hopeless. Is it really going to be any better in the US?

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Work venting (or: why am I not getting promoted?!)

I’m currently really upset/unsettled about a work situation so I’m mostly going to vent about it.

First, a nice positive update. My love life is currently going well. I have a boyfriend! And from the looks of things so far, a very good one. Which I’ve definitely thought and said in the past. So I still feel cautious that this one is going to pull the rug from under me like, unfortunately, a couple have in the past. But… he’s really good. He thinks I’m the most beautiful girl he’s ever seen (this is what he said). He voluntarily met me at the airport when I got back from my trip to the US and then accompanied me to go get my cat from my friend’s place where she had been staying while I was gone, and helped me bring her back to my apartment. This is not an easy task but he did it cheerfully, willfully, and happily. When he asked me out, he did it as we were riding Splash Mountain on a very impromptu (we arrived at 5pm) trip to Tokyo Disneyland, which happened solely because I said I wanted to go and he agreed readily. The one thing I was a bit unsure of about him was his hair, which was getting a little long and he said he actually had no plans to cut it (it’s a minor thing, but hair is a big part of how you look, and I am shallow). I didn’t tell him to cut it, though I did say I prefer shorter hair (and he said he prefers naturally colored hair when I showed him pictures of me with partially dyed blue and pink hair, so I jokingly said that it’s the same for me and short hair, and maybe if he cut his hair I wouldn’t dye mine again) and I had actually made my peace with it because he was making the look work, but when I saw him last weekend I didn’t recognize him because he had cut his hair the way that I had hoped he would cut it. He cut his hair for me… I still can’t believe it. Oh, and of course he looks EVEN CUTER with his hair cut! (Needless to say, I’ll be keeping my end and not dyeing my hair.)

He is Japanese but he went to grad school in London and lived for several years in Bangladesh; he can speak English (accented but fluidly) which means he can understand my English which is a huge relief for me (again, not because I can’t speak Japanese–I can–I just prefer to relax when I’m dating someone and if I’m always thinking and speaking in my second language I can’t relax). Aside from that we have great communication in general and I feel like I can talk to him about anything–not only that but he’s likely to just take it in stride. I had him do his MBTI type and he is ENTP, which is supposedly one of the best matches for my type, INFJ. I have actually never dated an extrovert before. I always get crushes on extroverts (and then we just become friends but never hook up ever), but I have never dated one before now. It’s another big relief because I don’t have to worry about him talking to my friends–he’ll talk to them just fine and in fact be HAPPY and EXCITED to meet new people. And of course, the fact that he speaks English will help if he ever meets my parents. Oh! And he’s already told his parents about me. We’ve been dating a month but when he went back to visit his parents over the Obon holidays he told them about me (this is extremely, extremely rare in Japanese relationships) and they bought me souvenirs which he gave to me. They got me two types of souvenirs from the part of Japan where they live, and his mom got me a clear file with Mt. Fuji on it with summer flowers all around it, which I love.

I’m still just in complete awe over this. He is so great, and I feel really happy and relaxed when I’m with him. When we were on the train bringing my cat home I felt suffused with this feeling of 幸せ; pure happiness.

But so anyway, let’s get down to the real reason I’m here, which is to rant about yet another unfair work situation.

So, okay. Some backstory. In March 2015, I was hitting a low point. I was basically being bullied at my job by my boss and I felt really isolated from my coworkers because many of them didn’t like me. I was dating Shiki but he was getting more and more distant. I was living in a tiny, cockroach-infested apartment that I hated. I wasn’t on my meds so I was on my own with my emotions. Moving back to the US seemed like the best solution to all of my problems. I wrote a long Facebook post about how I’d decided I would be moving back in a year because I was having such a hard time and couldn’t hack it here anymore. I got a lot of sympathy but it also kind of had more of a long-term effect than I had imagined. Basically ever since, whenever I’d meet up with friends I hadn’t seen in a while, they’d mention the post and seem concerned about me. Or I’d be talking with someone and suddenly they’d burst out with “Well, I don’t understand what you’re even still doing there, considering you’re miserable.”

In a nutshell, the post had the effect of convincing the majority of my friends that I was completely miserable and unhappy in Japan (and also, that the longer I stayed, the more some of them–the unkinder ones–judged me for still being there) and I was going to leave any minute. Which was true, at that moment in time. It’s not still true today though. March 2016 has come and gone and I’m still here. I do still have a tentative departure date, maybe, but it’s two years from now.

What happened to change things, really, was that I got a new job, and one that I was really excited about. In the fall, I was talking with two of my friends and one had worked as a freelance translator for a company where one of her old classmates had worked. This company also happened to be the rival company of my current company, so same industry, same genre. At that point in time, I just wanted out from my current company but I wasn’t ready to move back to the US quite yet. Going freelance and then moving back seemed like a pretty good plan, so I asked my friend to put in a good word with me at that company with the person I will call Sena (that’s the nickname my coworkers and I have for her, although she is American).

Then, I was contacted by a recruiter about a full-time position at that company. I jumped on it and interviewed. One of the three people I interviewed with was–Sena! And at that time I assumed she would be my potential future coworker, someone at the same level as me. And I thought I was interviewing for a position in charge of a game. I got the job, and was utterly thrilled and promptly decided I was staying another two years at least because I didn’t want to fuck up my resume which was already looking too much like I was a job hopper. I was so ready to get out of the toxic environment at my old job that I gave up my December bonus of about $5,000 give or take, which I would have gotten if I’d just stuck it out one more month. But I was at my limit and I couldn’t wait that month. Plus, I thought I was moving on to a higher position.

Surprise on my first day then, when I discovered I was actually part of a team for a game under the person in charge of the game, who was Sena at that time. She was my boss! I didn’t anticipate that.

So what I didn’t know until today is that at some point, either when my friend put in a word for me with Sena about freelancing, or during my interview process for a full-time job, Sena asked my friend some questions about me. And in that conversation, my friend (probably thinking of that Facebook post in which I declared I was leaving in a year and sounded miserable) told Sena that I had been thinking of leaving Japan soon and was going through a rough time.

Unbeknownst to me for a long time, Sena took that information and ran with it. At the time I interviewed they were interviewing a lot of people, and Sena would come back to the department and tell everyone–casually, out in the open plan office, not in a meeting–her thoughts and impressions on each of the candidates. This is really unprofessional! Anyway, so what she said about me was that she thought I’d only stay a few months and then I’d be out, that I didn’t seem interested in the company or the job at all. (Then why did you decide to hire me?!) None of this is true because that was never my plan and I took the interviews very, very seriously because, while yes I wanted out of my toxic company, I honestly wanted to work at this company. In fact, I thought the interview I had with her went very well, I thought it was the best interview I’d ever had in my life and that we all left it feeling like we’d bonded. But in reality, she came away with a totally different impression and was thus very dismissive of me before I’d even started.

So, I started, discovered I wasn’t in the director position, had a few meetings with her and HR and our manager about it, and I thought I made it clear to her that I wanted to become director in the future if I couldn’t start as one, if it was a role that I could do. In the meantime, I set out to become a very strong producer, which was my role (not its real name but I’ll call it that). And I did do that, and I am a very strong producer. I have an eye on not just my own things I’m in charge of but the game as a whole, and I spend my own time (sometimes my own free/weekend time) thinking about and coming up with new things to implement in the game and new ways we can make money. I was also given some more translation-oriented tasks to do, because that’s what I did at my last company, though where possible I tried to push my other skills–things that would be necessary if I were to become director. It never really felt like Sena listened to me about that though. Another girl joined the team I was on in February and I would not say she’s a stronger producer than me, though she tries very hard and we do work well together as a team.

So, now the time has come for the new director of the game I’m working on to be chosen, and Sena as the manager (she got promoted along the way) is in charge of the decision.

Did she ask me what I wanted? Did she ask the other girl what she wanted? Did she ask the current director, my boss, who thinks very highly of me and who herself said I was likely to be the next director, for her recommendation?

No.

She decided all on her own, based on her “intuition,” based on her impression of me from back in the interview and back in her conversation with my friend in which my friend said I was unhappy and might be moving back and wanted to go freelance (which I had also told Sena about, though I’m pretty sure I said it was like an in the future type thing), that I was not the right fit for the director position at this time, and she was going to promote my coworker instead. Who started after me. Who was an English teacher before this. Who has a total of 5 months of game industry experience. (At this point I have a bit over two years’ experience.) Who is not the stronger producer, as anyone on our team will agree.

????????????????????????

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

So at first I thought, this is because Sena thinks I’m difficult and my coworker is compliant and easy to manage. She wants a yes man. But now, I don’t know. I think her impressions of me as someone who was just going to quit after a few months have done a lot of damage here. That was never my intention, and I thought I made that clear, but obviously I didn’t.

So I talked this over with Sena and the conversation actually went fairly well. I told her that I want to progress my career here, and I intend to stay for at least another two more years and by the end of that time I want to have a strong resume to show to game companies in the US so I can get a good (NOT entry level) position there. She explained that she sees a lot of herself in me, that she thinks I have a great gift for translation that she wants to use to the fullest, that she plans to put me in a different type of role (read: a translation-focused one, which is NOT WHAT I WANT), that she does have leadership plans for me in the future, but that choosing the other girl for this role makes sense for now. When I pressed her as to why her and not me, she said it’s because she wants to put me in charge of new projects in the future. (But I realized there’s a contradiction in what she said, because she also said that she wants to put “experienced directors” in charge of new projects, and I would not be an experienced director at that time.)

So I accepted it for a while and now I’m back to feeling bitter. Because this happened before. This happened at my last company. My friend was hired, everyone loved him, and while I left before this happened, he was promoted (in fact a position was created for him) and even if I’d stayed it would not have been me getting promoted. And I spent so long feeling shitty, like I don’t belong in the workplace, my personality is all wrong for it, I can’t just do what people tell me to do if I think it’s dumb, I talk back sometimes, I’m never going to have professional success as anything more than someone who does an entry level job really well, I’m never going to be promoted again. (I was promoted at my job in the US; twice actually, but neither put me in charge of other people.) And I was trying so hard to prove myself here (I mean, that wasn’t my sole motivation to do a kickass job; I did a kickass job because I enjoyed the work and it came naturally to me to excel at it), and it just feels like it was all for nothing. Arbitrary reasons, feelings, and “intuition” are going to be all that matters. (And this is coming from someone who values intuition a lot, but I also think when you’re making promotion decisions, maybe talk to everyone involved too.)

I’m more convinced than ever that I’m not going to thrive under this crazy person and I should just get out before she does any more damage to my career, but I’ve kicked up a fuss about this and I think everyone agrees by now that the next person to be promoted has to be me. So it would be silly to quit now, and also, I really don’t want to go through the whole job hunting rigmarole again, especially since I told myself this was going to be my last job hunt in Japan.

I did however get a new freelance gig, writing articles for a Japan news site, which is good because the translation work I was doing has pretty much dried up (so it’s good that I saved almost all the money from that).

More whining about dating and love in Japan

(Adapted from a comment I wrote to Mary of Ruby Ronin)

I’ve written about this many times before, but dating here in Tokyo as a non-Japanese woman continues to feel kind of hopeless, which is another reason I frequently think that I want to move back to the US (but cannot seem to decide one way or the other once and for all)–to find a life partner. Even though a “friend” accused me of having yellow fever numerous times, it’s not like I’m thrilled with the prospect of dating Japanese guys. But when you live here, it’s kind of your best chance, and I’m definitely attracted to the cute ones and appreciate their hairlessness. In any case, I have not had great luck with foreign guys here either (for numerous reasons), so there’s no use shutting out 98% of the population. For Japanese men, I try to look for the guys that have been overseas, while not going so far as to find the guys who are fascinated by all things foreign and just want to be wide-eyed around a foreigner, to try to find someone compatible with my American sensibilities, but even that is no guarantee. Shiki, my last ex who ghosted me, spent age 8-18 in the US. And he still had communication and avoidance issues.

The biggest issue is really communication. I believe you should be open and honest in relationships, and try to work out a better way of doing things together whenever there’s an impasse. But it doesn’t work if it’s just me explaining my feelings, and the other person is silent but formulating secret escape plans (Shiki) or refusing to budge at all and continuing to do what I already said I didn’t like (Mitsu – specifically telling me to change various things about my body).

Cheating, while I’m aware it’s rampant here, has not really been an issue I’ve noticed personally. Maybe they were cheating and I never knew, but I tend to go for introverted, shy guys who aren’t the type to be flirting and meeting up with girls. When things were going south with Shiki, acquaintances would tell me he must definitely be cheating, but that just wasn’t his personality. Maybe he was, but I tend to believe he was just mired in work and possible depression/exhaustion. I had a moment of weakness a couple weeks ago and LINE messaged him “Hey, hope you’re doing well.” He responded by creating a new LINE account, which automatically became friends with mine (I don’t think he realizes this happens every time he makes a new account). Of course, he didn’t respond to me, and based on the timing I guess he made the new account in an attempt to avoid me. He clearly still thinks I’m some crazy stalker ex. I don’t deny that I acted that way but he also pulled away the emotional attachment I had gotten used to (typical avoidant attachment style) so I think my reaction is somewhat understandable. I definitely tend to have an anxious attachment style so I just wasn’t a good match with an avoidant person anyway.

In addition to differing attitudes on cheating, there can still be weird attitudes about the sex industry that I don’t think most American guys would have. My ex Mitsu told me about an overseas trip he took (before we were dating) where he and his friends visited a brothel together, and he slept with one of the prostitutes there. He had no remorse, and it almost disgusted me enough to break up with him then. (To clarify, I’m not against the sex industry/prostitution as a whole, but I really doubt the woman he slept with for money in some South American country was doing it because it was a profession she had chosen. It’s more likely she was forced or roped into it, and I hate to hear about male tourists contributing to that situation. And I still don’t understand why he and his friends thought that was an okay thing to do all together while traveling abroad.) It’s still a really weird thing about him, but he never saw it that way. But I’ve heard of tons of similar stories. I heard about the executives at my last company going on sex tourism trips together; I’m sure they were married. Hell, the CEO of my last company allegedly had a sex apartment where he took girls, separate from his house where his wife and kid lived, and he also once brought vibrators to work that he planned on using later that evening and showed them to my old team leader (to be like “Hey bro, check this out, I’m such a stud”). But I think his wife totally knew and just accepted it as the price of her lifestyle. I think a lot of women here do think of it that way and accept that it’s going to happen. People just have a different view on marriage here, it’s more like a business transaction, an agreement to raise a family together as eventual platonic partners, than a romantic connection upheld that way forever. To me, that’s depressing, but that’s often how it is here.

I think it’s possible to find a great Japanese guy (a few of my friends here have) who doesn’t have any of the cheating and emotional unavailability issues, but they are extremely rare. You also often have to catch them early, like in college, before the Japanese society mindset clamps down on them and they turn into someone who would never consider actually committing to a non-Japanese woman.

Unfortunately, my American conviction that healthy relationships involve open communication, and Japanese people’s tendency to be afraid of and run away from (or just think is too rude to even tolerate) openness and directness really clash sometimes. That’s been the biggest issue.

However, I truly am enjoying the single life. For so long, I have spent my life waiting for a response from a guy, checking my phone and feeling disappointed when he hasn’t sent anything. I spent so much of last year obsessing over the demise of my relationship and trying to picture what the hell my ex was going through. It was just a lot of wasted effort. He wasn’t doing the same for me, so why should my life basically end up revolving around him? Once it became unequal, I should have ended it. I learned a good lesson. I am not waiting around for a guy and putting him on a pedestal and obsessing over him anymore. I’m way more important to me than some dude who doesn’t care about me. And relationships–having to factor someone else into your decisions, and make compromises, and hash things out–can be so much work. For once, I’m actually enjoying this time instead of desperately trying to find someone. I really like it.

…Or, well, I was enjoying the single life. Lately, I feel back to desperately checking Pairs (a Japanese dating app) and Okcupid for messages from anyone cute. And I’m feeling increasingly despondent about ever finding someone, even though it’s been my dream ever since I was little to find… well, I know “true love” and “the one” and “soulmate” is bullshit, but can I at least say “the love of my life”? I thought I had found that person, but he’s with someone new now and seems very happy, and we probably weren’t right anyway. I would really like to find my other half, it’s what I’ve been dreaming of almost my entire life, and I hate the thought of living out my life and never finding that person, which sometimes it feels like that’s how it will be. It doesn’t help that literally all of my friends back home are more or less happily paired off and have been for years and years now. I am the only one who had a long-term boyfriend and we aren’t still together today. Ugh, I hate it. I’m sick of looking for my 運命の人 and never finding him. Where is he?

Thank you, Momoko Kanzaki of Laurier

Getting ghosted fucked me up for a while. I still feel a tiny bit fucked up about it when I think about it now, though I’m feeling in a better place every day. Honestly, 2015 was basically me getting progressively more jaded and cautious after suffering romantic and career rejections (even if things seem to be better now on at least one of those fronts).

While I was still trying to figure out how to get through that whole situation, during the gray period where no one had officially broken up with anyone but getting my supposed boyfriend to contact me and follow through on promises to see me was like pulling teeth and I wasn’t sure whether to pull the plug or hold out because both choices seemed equally painful, I did a lot of desperate late-night googling. I read up on ghosting, fading out, all of that in English and Japanese, because I figured there might be cultural differences that would mean I should get a Japanese perspective too. The Japanese sources ended up being more helpful to me because the work culture is so much more intense here, which is why it’s a lot harder in Japan to figure out if someone is really, truly just busy with work or if they’re fading out on you, because it is possible that it’s entirely work stuff and his feelings haven’t changed. I read accounts from several girls who endured months-long periods of virtual radio silence from their then-boyfriends, now-husbands who eventually surfaced and they were married. (Who knows if those are actual solid marriages though, or if he’s going to pull that same stunt again down the line.) Another girl said that her boyfriend regularly disappeared for months at a time, and she waited patiently because he always came back around, and it was just an established pattern by then.

At the beginning, stories like that gave me hope. Yeah, exactly! It’s just work and he’ll come back to me! Everything was so good! By the end, they just depressed me. These girls are getting played, and so am I… 

One of the things I came across during these Google sprees was the writing of Momoko Kanzaki, a writer for the women’s/love section of Excite News (lol, I know, Excite still exists and is relevant–only in Japan). I was so moved by what she wrote in three of her columns, which seemed to be about exactly what I was going through, that I copied down the text and saved it. She takes a very brassy, no-nonsense view of how men often treat women, and a lot of it was just what I needed to hear, although it wasn’t what I wanted to hear.

She wrote about dating busy men. First there’s this article [J], entitled “Men who won’t contact you because ‘Work is busy'” (I’ve translated these excerpts; any bolding is by me).

Men who can’t even make plans using work as an excuse, who will happily leave you waiting for months on end, and who are too tied up to even text you are not a partner who is honestly face to face with you.
If you’re thinking about your future, it can’t be one-way–it has to be “partners who are both properly facing one another” or it won’t last.

She followed it up with “No impatience, no complaining, no brooding… how to date a busy man you rarely see?” [J].

Men who are buried in work, who say work is crazy are not placing importance on love, so they’re not going to fall in love. It’s highly likely that, unexpectedly, they’ve rarely gotten truly close to a woman before; they’ve kept themselves at a moderate distance. It’s also the case that they reject deep connections and are afraid of them.
They can’t bear people’s feelings.
That’s why they make it their job’s fault, saying “I’m busy, so…” and seek refuge at work. These men are not open to love.
It’s highly unlikely that he’s going to fight for you, nor can you hope that he’ll treat you with good faith. He can’t face your serious intentions.
He’s fine keeping you waiting, he won’t give you an answer, and he wants to be vague. He doesn’t want to get scolded later, so he won’t even make plans. He refuses to take responsibility or shoulder any weight.
So if you want to force it to work with a man like that, all you can do is smile, look past it, and endure.

She also wrote about the fadeout: “‘Is this a fadeout?’ Men who go radio silent–why do they suddenly disappear?” [J].

I think it’s buried deep in a man’s psyche to choose to flee when things get rough. They don’t want to be blamed, so they don’t want to become the bad guy. There are things he’s hiding and things no one can know, so he fades out.

To have someone suddenly sever the ties in your relationship is truly rough. You don’t even know why he left, and even though you want to know the truth, he continues to completely ignore you no matter if you call and text. When he won’t tell you anything, and you can’t even talk to him, all you can do is end things all on your own. With no way of confirming that it’s over, it’s incredibly difficult to force yourself to bury your feelings.
You have to give a good kick to a guy who won’t say a single word to you.
You can’t hope for a constructive relationship from someone who tries to run away when things get bad and inconvenient for him, and you can’t build a solid foundation. So while ending it with someone like that is the right thing to do, a wordless declaration of intention causes people to suffer; it haunts them and won’t let them go. There’s nothing so painful as to be ignored with no reaction at all.

Yeah, it was pretty much like she was speaking into my soul. Everything was happening EXACTLY as she described. I really think my ex Shiki was afraid of forming a deep connection with anyone, and once I seemed to be asking that of him, he disappeared. Looking back, I really wonder if he’s gay or something (there were some bedroom issues too) and that’s why he preferred me at arm’s length. I just don’t know. It continues to baffle me why he was so adoring in the beginning and then went cold.

But I refuse to have a partner like that anymore, someone who is avoidant and puts work first, who doesn’t make love a priority. “Partners who honestly face each other”–that’s what I want to find looking forward, though I also have very little hope of finding an enlightened guy like that in Japan. Which is why right now I’m just enjoying the single life, and can’t summon the motivation to go on a bunch of dates and attempt to get the best one to ask me to be his girlfriend. I feel like my life is pretty busy already, with not enough time for me to chill at home (and work on freelance stuff), because I have a lot of (wonderful!) friends who are always inviting me to fun things, so I don’t even know where I’d fit a boyfriend in anyway. But these articles are a reminder not to settle for (Japanese) male bullshit.

Dating Japanese guys as an American girl

I’ve been thinking a lot about my experiences dating here, and about the types of situations I want to avoid from here on out (that’d be almost everything I’ve experienced so far, ha) and how best to avoid that.

I’m really realizing that for a lot of Japanese guys, because I’m not Japanese but I’m a white girl who speaks Japanese, I was sort of an interesting and different one-time thing. They didn’t want to make me their girlfriend, but they WERE interested in sleeping with me and then making an excuse as soon as they could to never see me again. I go into every date hoping for something serious and lasting to develop (if we click), but I think a lot of these guys were not looking for the same thing. I think because I’m not Japanese, it was easier to fetishize/dehumanize me, to think “Oh, I wouldn’t date her, but I’ve never been with a white girl before, so let’s try it out. Okay, that was fun, I got my one experience I needed, bye.” And I’m not sure if it was because I’m not Japanese or because they were in a different place in their life, but I’m realizing I have kind of been taken advantage of. And while this didn’t happen a LOT, in most cases I still went along with it, I was just as curious as they were, but it’s gotten old and I’m no longer interested in helping any more Japanese guys check “sleep with white girl one time” off their life bucket lists. So I’ve attempted to institute a policy of “I only sleep with boyfriends,” but unfortunately, I still got blindsided recently. And I really don’t want that to happen again.

Remember at the end of my final breakup post when I said things seemed to be developing well with a new guy? Yeah, that just ended up leading to ANOTHER ghosting experience. Seriously, the universe could not be more cruel. I was still reeling from my breakup with Shiki, trying so hard to protect myself from anything like that happening ever again, hoping to find another relationship, and I ended up getting ghosted AGAIN.

So back in August, this guy Ryo and I had a good first date, and for our second we spent most of the day at a pool and then changed into yukata to watch fireworks. The next next weekend, we met up to watch the Tamagawa fireworks, this time in jinbei (we coordinated). After the fireworks we went drinking in Shinjuku Golden-gai (fulfilling a longtime goal of mine!), and I got a little tipsy. Our conversation over LINE had been openly flirtatious/sexual for a while up until that point, and I was getting worried that things were leading to a physical-only place, when I wanted a relationship. So I told him that I only sleep with guys I’m dating. He asked what would be necessary to constitute dating. I answered “告白 kokuhaku,” the typical love confession that prefaces a relationship. Basically telling someone “I like you, do you want to go out with me?”

Aside: It’s very refreshing that this custom exists here in Japan because in the US, you can end up in this weird limbo until one of you initiates a “DTR” (defining the relationship) talk and clarifies whether you’re boyfriend and girlfriend or just hanging out. I think that lets guys get away with being lazy and cowardly, but in Japan it’s expected that at some point the guy will let you know his intentions (or just stop contacting you, which is fine if no kokuhaku has taken place yet).

Anyway, so I told him that’s what I would need before sleeping with someone, and he then proceeded to… ask me to go out with him. He gave me a lot of compliments, said he’d been thinking that he’d like me to be his girlfriend, and I ended up a blushing mess. It was sweet. I accepted immediately, which surprised him, but I said that I had also been thinking I’d accept if he asked me.

It all kind of went downhill from there. Because I was drunk and had not been with anyone for a long time (the last time Shiki and I slept together was in March. MARCH), by the end of the night I had decided we should immediately consummate the new relationship. So yes, it was me who brought it up; he didn’t say “Okay, we’re official now, let’s go do it.” And we did. But the next morning, while I had expected we would make or get breakfast together, he left pretty soon after waking up.

And didn’t text me at all the whole rest of the day.

Or the next.

I finally texted him something like “??” since I had asked him what to do with the carton of tea he had left in my fridge. He told me I could just throw it away. Confused, I said “Oh no, you’ll drink it the next time you’re over, right? Since we’re dating now?”

No reply.

I wrote him a text saying “Oh, I forgot to tell you before, but I’m excited that we’re going out now, and よろしく and all that!” Again… nothing.

Finally, on Thursday of that week I let him know that I thought what he’d done was pretty shitty and I didn’t think he was that kind of person, but this was clearly not a relationship and it was over.

And that was it! He never responded again. I got ghosted again by someone who had allegedly asked me to be his girlfriend but in reality just peaced after sleeping with me. (Full disclosure: He was no big loss to me, I wasn’t developing real feelings or anything, but to get slapped in the face with such rude behavior–AGAIN–was really not what I needed particularly at that point in time, when I was still raw over Shiki.)

So, this isn’t happening again. After a lot of licking my wounds and trying to heal from the breakup over the past few months (I still feel upset about it, but hoping that continues to fade with time), I have a date for Sunday night with a Japanese guy who speaks English, and after we set the date/time, I messaged him this: “Oh, but I need to say something… I have gone on several dates in the past with Japanese guys who it turns out just wanted to have sex with me. I really hope you’re not like that, because I am looking for a boyfriend and I don’t sleep with guys so casually. Just so you know! Sorry to have to say this, and hopefully you still want to meet. :)”

Fortunately, he does still want to meet! He reassured me he’s looking for a girlfriend and doesn’t sleep with girls casually either. I will still be on my guard (and I will never again sleep with someone the night they ask me to be their girlfriend), but hopefully this will cut down on the phenomenon. I am very sick of Japanese men using me and throwing me away, and I’m not going to tolerate it anymore.

Other big changes have happened in my life, such as a new job (yaaaaay I finally quit my terrible boss!) and a new apartment (yaaaaay I have real space to live in now!), but I’ll expand on those later. I have a lot to say about leaving my old company and realizing my boss and I were never going to understand each other and she was never going to recognize me and my abilities…

Ghosted by my Japanese boyfriend

[Edit 9/27/17: This post ended up being fairly successful SEO-wise, so if you’ve come here looking for answers because you’ve been ghosted by your own Japanese guy or suspect you may have been, I don’t have any answers but I do have plenty of sympathy for you! I don’t know if my situation will help you feel better or not. Two years later and I never heard from Shiki again. I attempted once to reach out and just ask him how he was, and he responded by deleting his entire LINE account. If I could do it all over again, well, first I would remind myself that he was scum for treating me like that and I didn’t want him anyway. Second, I would have tried to be really patient, distract myself with my own stuff, and wait for him to contact me (but I tried that at the time, and I couldn’t do it). I definitely drove him away with my actions, and I acted too clingy and needy. So if you want to keep your guy, don’t do what I did. But also know this—he was a jerk for abandoning me like that without fully explaining the situation, which drove me to behave like that. I still have some deep wounds from this, but I feel more secure in myself now and I won’t let this happen ever again. I also suspect that Shiki was actually gay, which explains a lot (a lot).] 

Well… it’s officially over. For me, anyway. It was probably over for him back in June or even May, and while I began letting go in July, it took me until August 1 to tell him–just in case there was any doubt at all, which there probably wasn’t–that we were through. And this entry is going to be me attempting to get all of my emotions about this out, like a catharsis, so I can move on.

My last post was June 11. The last email I received from him was on June 9, in which he called me scary for saying I wanted to come over and see him in the morning before work and comfort him, and since then I did not hear from him at all. At first I continued to send supportive, lighthearted messages 1-2 times a week. At first, I told myself not to expect a response. But… I started to want some sort of reply, some sort of acknowledgment that what I was doing was helping him. And I was beginning to have a very, very bad feeling about all this; my faith was running out.

I also heard from his youngest brother during June (but only after I pestered him over various social media, honestly worried that Shiki might be depressed/suicidal because of his work situation. It turns out selective avoidance is a family trait!). His brother basically said that while he does not have contact with Shiki (and he also let me know that the middle brother is moving away from Tokyo – ??), June is also a busy month for that industry. His advice was to wait for the busy period to end. That gave me a bit of hope and around the end of June, I had one last burst of determination to wait it out and keep being patient to see if he would come around.

On July 1, I sent him this:

It’s been more than three weeks since your last email you sent to me. Is everything okay? I feel worried when you don’t respond to me at all. Worried about you (and your mental/physical health), and about us. I really hope you’re doing all right. ><
I’d really like to see you or hear from you sometime soon. I think that would help both of us.
The Japanese Language Proficiency Test is this Sunday, July 5 at noon. I’m nervous… >< If you have a chance, could you wish me luck?
I know June was also a busy month. Do you think July will be less busy for you?
….No reply… And of course he didn’t wish me luck or say anything to me on JLPT test day. (I took N1 again, and it went fairly okay, by the way. Hoping I passed.)

Anyway, the lack of response was starting to feel hurtful and/or worrisome, depending on how lenient I felt. I had asked him to wish me luck on the test he had studied with me for in February (we had a few study sessions back then where he studied for some legal certification and I studied JLPT N1), and he didn’t. No matter what, it just didn’t seem like a good sign. If he really cared about me, no matter how busy he was, he would have made some attempt to reach out by now. How hard would it have been to say “Good luck” to me on July 5? But he didn’t. It was beginning to feel deliberate, not like he was too debilitated by a busy work schedule and depression to do anything but sleep, eat, and go to work (as had been my assumption up until that point).

So, by the time my company summer vacation rolled around, I was feeling pretty done with things. I had talked to several people about the situation by that point, and everyone agreed this guy was a dud (which was hard for me to accept, but by that point I really just had to). When I protested that I still needed to get my stuff back from his place, that it couldn’t be over until I did, people told me to let the stuff go or joked that he’d already thrown it out (but I knew he wouldn’t have, it’s just not in his personality). I couldn’t let it go though because that was one of my favorite pairs of PJ pants. Anyway, I used my summer vacation to spend 10 days back in the U.S. relaxing at my parents’ house. I also ended up making about $3,800 doing freelance translation for a new client, who I hope becomes a steady client. While I was home, I couldn’t help rethinking the Shiki situation and feeling bitter. So, on July 19, I sent him this:

You are a coward.

You have hurt me deeply by just ending our relationship in the worst way – not contacting me anymore. Is that any way to treat your girlfriend of 9 months? I have cried and felt so sad and lonely over the past three months, and it is your fault. I have tried to help you and be there for you and comfort you and encourage you, and in return you have insulted me and ignored me. All I know is that work is busy, but I don’t know why, and I don’t know what your schedule is like, and I don’t know when it will end.

And you won’t even take responsibility and talk to me about it. You won’t even let me get any answers.

「はなさない」や「大好きだよ」や「Don’t move back to the U.S.」と言ってくれた優しい彼氏はどこ?(Where is the sweet boyfriend who told me “I won’t let you go” and “I love you” and “Don’t move back to the U.S.”?)
なんで消えちゃったの?本当に仕事の忙しさだけが理由? (Why did you disappear? Is work busyness really the only reason?)
なんでちゃんと向き合って話してくれないの? (Why won’t you face me properly and talk to me?)
なんで逃げてるの?なんで返事をくれないの? (Why are you running away? Why won’t you give me an answer?)

I hope you know that you can’t avoid me forever. You still have things that belong to me and until I get them back I’m not going to just fade away and leave you alone, even though I know that’s what you want.

I did decide to move back to the U.S., by the way. You told me not to, that you didn’t want me to, but then you disappeared, so what am I supposed to do?

You might as well tell me something so I know what the hell is going on with you. I suspect you’re depressed because of your work situation, but that’s no excuse for just abandoning a relationship with someone you supposedly care(d) about – with someone you led to believe you truly cherished, and who waited for you to come around for so long.
I think you need to be a man and take responsibility.

You’re the one who asked me to be your girlfriend, so you need to take responsibility for ending this relationship clearly if that’s what you want.

I want to hear an answer from you. I’m sick of waiting.

Yeah, I went into beast mode, which my ex Kirk will be quite quite familiar with, though I had never taken this tone with Shiki before. Yet again… and predictably… no reply.

I decided that once I got back to Japan (on Monday July 27), I would go over to his apartment one morning without warning, wait for the time when he normally leaves for work, and ask for my pajamas back.

So, on Wednesday July 29, I did that. I sat down in the hallway outside his apartment door (I knew based on past experience that even if I knocked, he wouldn’t open) and waited for him to come out around 8 a.m. He did come out, was clearly shocked to see me, and I walked up to him and said (in English) “You have my stuff.” He looked confused, so I said in Japanese “荷物 [stuff]” and he got it. He went back inside and dug up my pajamas and gave them to me. His hair had been cut into a spiky style at some point in the THREE MONTHS we hadn’t seen each other, and I really didn’t like it. He looked much better before. He had moved my pajamas from the hall closet where I’d put them to one of the plastic boxes under his bed (why?!), so he had to rummage around to find them. There were big, thin boxes in the hallway of his place, like for a bookshelf or something. I started crying (good thing I was wearing sunglasses), and he seemed shaken up too (well, probably also surprised to see me outside his apartment).

We walked to the station together (only 30 seconds) – although he realized he forgot his train pass (maybe proof of how unsettled he was to see me) and had to go back to his apartment to grab it, and though he told me to go on ahead I waited, and when he came out he rushed past me and I had to jog to catch up – and along the way I told him “I want to talk to you, when do you have time to do that?” After a long silence where I wasn’t even sure he was going to answer me at all, he finally said “Sunday….” and when I asked when on Sunday, trying to clarify that he had meant he’d have time to meet then, he paused for a long time again (at this point I had gone down to his platform with him, practically chasing after him, he was clearly in a hurry to get to work and/or possibly to not be near me anymore), and finally I said “Then could I come over at 9pm on Sunday?” and he nodded/said yes, so I said I would and then left – his train was coming in – and went to the platform on the other side to go to work.

It was a lot more unsettling to see him than I’d thought… and for us to interact with absolutely no affection, no physical contact whatsoever for the first time, it just really drove home that things have changed and are over between us, which was really hard to experience. I’d gone through that when Kirk and I were fighting – the interaction that’s tense and not normal, no physical affection – but this was obviously different, as we hadn’t seen each other in 3 months and he hadn’t contacted me in a month and a half and definitely seemed to be considering us over already – so it was more like having an awkward encounter with an ex, which I’d never gone through before.

I’m not sure why I set up a time for us to talk more, since I knew even then that it was likely to be even more painful and his answers don’t really matter anyway. I wasn’t even sure he’d keep the appointment, but I was hoping it would help make a clean break, and I HAVE been saying this whole time all I wanted was to talk to him. I just wanted to establish that we are, in fact, broken up and that’s what he wants.

But of course, he canceled the day of. Around 6pm on Sunday August 2, he replied to the angry email I had sent July 19 (quoted above) with this:

今日仕事でいない (I won’t be there because of work today)

The も at the end is senseless. Yet another poorly composed email from him that gives the impression that he’s too frazzled from work to even write properly. Who even knows the truth anymore, though? Does he really have to work past 9pm on a Sunday? If he does, clearly the insane schedule is still going on. But that’s his fault for not prioritizing his own mental and physical health, and also his relationship, and letting all of that be sacrificed just so he can do everything his job asks of him. If he’s been lying to me this whole time, and actually something else happened (like he got back together with an ex, or whatever), then I still deserved an explanation. In any case, he needed to make time for me and to either explain the situation or end things properly. And he failed to.

I wrote back with this:

Ok. I thought you’d cancel so I’m not surprised. Rescheduling would be pointless so I won’t try. If you ever want to talk, you can ask me. 

Just in case there is any doubt, we are broken up now. Thanks for the memories. Enjoy your work-filled life. 
P.S. Your haircut looks dumb. 

Normally, I wouldn’t have added that last dig at him, but I was drinking sake on a patio way out on the Chuo line with my friends and I had one of them push the send button for me.

It bothers me that he chose to cancel by replying to the last email I had sent him, proving that he IS aware of the emails and he’s reading them, he’s just choosing not to reply and to ignore me, knowing what that means. How could he end up being so terrible, I just don’t understand it…

Whatever. He has to live with the fact that he hurt me in this way, and I’ve made sure he knows it and knows what a terrible thing he did (regardless of how much his work schedule influenced it, if it in fact did). If he wanted to avoid facing the consequences of his hurtful actions and the proof that he’s hurt and upset me, he didn’t get to do that. I put it in his face anyway. I’m annoyed I spent so much time pitying him and coming up with excuses and rationales for his behavior.

This is easily the worst breakup I’ve ever had (but to be fair, the other two were pretty clean breaks and this is the only messy one I’ve ever experienced), and I hate that it’s like an open wound now, and it still pisses me off when I think about it. I’m actually still in shock. He was so sweet, and we were so happy spending time together, and he did and said so many things that made it clear he really cared about me and wanted to keep seeing me… I don’t understand how he could have done this, and how things got weird for good AFTER he put all that effort into our 6-month anniversary. I’m just blindsided. Yeah, it’s ghosting, but I just don’t understand. Why?

I’ll write more about my feelings about this whole thing, but I wanted to get the facts and an update out in case anyone was curious. Sympathy is MUCH appreciated!

There is hope for my dating future, however. I had a very nice first date on Friday, we hit it off and both find each other attractive and have a lot of common (or at least related) nerdy interests, and we should be seeing each other for more if everything keeps going well. If it doesn’t, I’ll just take a nice long break from dating while I lick my wounds.

I’m still feeling very hurt and rejected, even though I tried to reclaim some of the power in my last email to him and reject HIM. But it’s obvious that he was checked out since May/June, or maybe even earlier, no matter how big of a role the busy work schedule played. I know I did my best and I was a great girlfriend and I did more and hung in there for longer than most people reasonably would, and if that wasn’t enough for him then that’s on him for not appreciating what he had and honestly telling me if it wasn’t working for him anymore or if he wasn’t able to pay attention to a girlfriend anymore. He’s a coward and avoidant and he has to live with that and live being that way. I get to move on and know that I am capable of real love and a real, secure partnership with someone who thinks I’m amazing and deserving of all their love, and I will find it.

“Men are weak and easily overwhelmed.”

I don’t really even know where to begin. I didn’t want to write about what I’m going through at all until it’s over, which I was hoping would be around now, but I’m starting to think it’s going to take a while longer, so I might as well try to get some of these emotions out.

It has been a difficult year so far, overall. In January, I got a new manager of my team, who was promoted over my former team leader who I had adored. Starting in the fall (when she got back from maternity leave – previously, when I started my job, it had just been him as our team leader and I had loved it) they had worked together as team leaders, and I had not taken to her from the first. She almost gleefully informed everyone in December that he was leaving the team to go “elsewhere” (she didn’t seem to care where, as long as he was gone) and that she would be promoting a new person to be team leader while she took the manager role (which had been vacated in July). Well, in the end, my former team leader accepted a position as leader of the international localization San Francisco team (still the same company, but our subsidiary/American branch); however, no one could say when his American visa would be ready. So in the meantime, he would be hanging out with our department, essentially stripped of his team leader duties and responsibilities (but not his salary), communicating over skype with the San Francisco people as he awaited his visa and departure for the US. Today, June 10, he had his interview at the American embassy and he’ll be departing for the US in a week or so.

I am so very glad he’s stuck around these past few months because it has been really difficult for me to adjust to being under my new boss’s leadership (or should I say dictatorship). She has decided I am unworthy, and she has decided he is unworthy, so we have basically grown closer as a result. I’ve gone out for dinner with him and had lots of long conversations. For a few weeks we even got to have our desks next to each other and we talked a lot then too. I’m going to miss him and I’m glad I got this time to get to know him better.

But for a long time, I wanted to quit this job, and it was causing me a lot of anguish. I talked to several recruiters, met with one, scheduled and then canceled a couple job interviews… and I still have one eye on the market, but I’ve come to the conclusion that this is the best, highest-paying, most stable, and most fun job I can get here, and I am probably not going to find a better one, so I should make the most of it and make my peace with staying here. I can’t be fired, so I don’t have to worry about that.

In late March, Shiki and I had a hanami picnic just the two of us, and I told him about how I was going through so much difficulty with my job, it was making me question even being here in Japan at all. I said I was considering moving back to the US. He told me not to go, that he didn’t want me to go. In early March we took an overnight trip to an onsen town in Gunma together that he knew about. We stayed at a ryokan he was familiar with where all the baths could be privately reserved with your room plaque, and spent the night getting very drunk together, going to the large outdoor bath amid a snowy landscape all around us, and tumbling into each other’s arms naked in the middle of the water, giggling happily, drunk on sake and love. I recall us declaring to each other “Hanasanai!” I won’t let you go! We broke a sake glass and I scraped my knee against the concrete blocks inside the pool. It hasn’t fully healed yet. We spent the next day petting lemurs in a tropical dome and soaking our feet at a cafe with a foot bath.

From the beginning, Shiki has been possibly the best boyfriend I’ve ever had. He is always willing to listen to me, even my complaints, he contacts me every weekday, he shows me how much he adores me, he lets me get my way, and I feel happy and secure when I’m with him. We also laugh and giggle a lot about silly things both in person and over text. We text every weekday and see each other at least every weekend, sometimes on weekdays too. We spent a few weeks in February meeting up on weeknights to go running around his neighborhood and/or to a nice public bath a few stops north of his house. In one of our March chats, I had summoned up the courage to say “Daisuki.” I love you. (Well, one of the ways to say it in Japanese.) He had immediately responded “Boku mo daisuki yo.” I love you too. He speaks English fluently, but we usually fall back on Japanese. We had maybe mumbled it to each other before tipsy on his bed, but this was the first time saying it clearly. All of my friends always tell me how happy I look, how I start grinning when they ask about him and when his name comes up. Our relationship has been filled with sweet, romantic, caring gestures that make it clear how highly he thinks of me, and I’ve basked in the glow. I’m speaking in present tense, but actually almost none of that has been true for months now.

Starting in about March, Shiki’s own job ramped up in intensity. To insane levels. And I wish I could say this has a happy ending, but so far it doesn’t. It just gets worse. I found this out later, but evidently March, April, and May are the most intense months for his industry. I wish he’d told me; I wish he’d warned me. Maybe it’s worse this year than ever before and even he didn’t see it coming. But one day, he didn’t text me around 8:30 or 9 when he got home the way he always had before. Always, without fail (maybe skipping one day here and there), since we started dating he would LINE message me when he got home every weeknight and we would chat for about 30 minutes. But then he didn’t text the next day, or the next. And the last messages had been him telling me that he wasn’t feeling well. Then the weekend came, and I didn’t hear from him all weekend. Of course I sent numerous messages asking if he was okay. No response to any of it. By the end of it, I was clawing my eyes out with anxiety and worry.

I did the one thing I could think of: I went to his apartment around the time he leaves for work (8am) to see if I could run into him. This was around March 17 or so. I woke up that morning at 5am and couldn’t get back to sleep. Finally I decided to just go over there, knowing it was potentially a crazy move. I knocked on his door over and over. No answer. I texted him that I was there; nothing. I gave up, I walked back to the station (only 30 seconds away). Then my friend suggested I leave him a note to let him know I’d come by. I decided to go back and just as I was borrowing paper from the building manager, he stumbled around the corner. His skin was pallid and he was wearing a mask. He looked like the walking dead. He started stumbling towards the station; I fell into step next to him. He put an arm around my waist, almost out of habit. I asked him if he was okay, I told him he shouldn’t be going to work. He mumbled almost incoherently that he had to go, that he was going to work. Tears were streaming down my face; I was so relieved and yet worried for him. We said goodbye just inside the ticket gates and got on trains going separate directions.

I felt better having seen him; I knew why he hadn’t contacted me. He was clearly stressed and ill from feeling sick but also having to work anyway. I didn’t contact him for a few days. Sometime around the next week he contacted me, using a different method than LINE; it showed up on my phone as a text even though it came from a Gmail address. We had a long conversation in which I found out that he really wasn’t doing well. I told him I thought he was burned out. During this conversation or another, he told me he’d gone to the doctor and the doctor had recommended he take 1-3 months off. That’s how stressed he appeared. But of course he couldn’t do that; work was too busy.

I managed to see him on March 22 after the Free! voice actors event. We almost didn’t meet because even though he’d gotten the day off, he’d accidentally taken a key and had to go back to work to give it back to someone. But I insisted, and by the time I got to his place, he was back from going to give the key back. We basically just cuddled and relaxed in bed. I felt so happy and I hoped the busy period was over. He was still tired but had an attitude of “I’ve worked enough overtime this month; no more.” I didn’t bring up my issues with the decreased communication because I thought things were getting better. They sort of were. He had the next weekend off (and to my knowledge, that is the last weekend he’s had fully off since), and we met on Saturday to run the Imperial Palace loop, then we showered and had the hanami picnic for two. Then I had a friend’s birthday dinner, so I left him to go to that, then came home, then went over to his place and spent the night. Again, we just cuddled and relaxed and watched TV. In the morning, he had plans to meet a friend to go textbook shopping and I met a friend and her boyfriend for lunch.

But then in April, the decreased communication issues came back. If I texted him, he wouldn’t respond. I was having increasing frustrations with my job and I wanted to talk to him about it, but he wouldn’t reply to anything. I felt so miserable that I spent one morning just sobbing in bed about the situation, then Skyped my mom, crying the entire time. I picked myself up and went to go meet a freelance game translator who could help teach me more about breaking into that field and getting to know a wider network of other game translators in Tokyo. Then I had a friend meet me in Tokyo and we walked around Shinjuku Gyoen discussing the Shiki situation. I still felt utterly miserable, but seeing the cherry blossoms cheered me up a little.

Eventually I resorted to showing up at his door one day again. I knocked and he didn’t answer. I texted him I was outside and finally he replied and asked me to wait downstairs. I said no. He opened the door and I hugged him and started crying. We stood there for several long moments just holding each other. Then we walked to the station together and this time I went to his platform and waited with him for his train to arrive, hugging him. I left feeling that hopefully I had brightened his day a little, given him some human contact. Whenever the wind blew on me for the next few hours, it blew back some of his cologne that had gotten onto my skin and clothes.

Finally, on Friday April 17, as I was drinking with friends after a hash run, I got some messages from him saying that we might be able to meet this weekend, if not the following week. I happily made plans with him for Sunday, feeling ecstatic. Then he texted Saturday night that he was really sorry but he had to work after all. I said that’s okay and that I would come see him in the morning one day that week – Wednesday April 22, our 6-month anniversary. On Tuesday, around 9 or 10 (a rare time), he suggested that I come at night on Wednesday instead, since he thought he’d be getting off work early. Surprised and thrilled, I accepted. I came over and was treated to a steak feast. While a part of me was bitter that I was finally being let inside the apartment I had been denied access to for almost a month by that point, the rest of me was happy and grateful to learn he had gotten up early that morning to cook the carrots and potatoes for our dinner, and that he had gone out to a bakery and purchased a single-size Mont Blanc and strawberry shortcake for us to have for dessert. He pan-fried steak slices and we had a wonderful meal, complete with champagne to celebrate 6 months. After dinner, I couldn’t help getting into some of my recent difficulties with my job and the frustration I’d had with him not being around to listen to me. I told him how lonely I’d been, in a somewhat accusatory/whiny/sad tone of voice. I was crying. He hugged me tight and said he was so sorry that he’d made me feel lonely. (I couldn’t help but note that there were no promises things would be different going forward, however.) I told him again that I was thinking of moving back to the US, and he hugged me tighter and told me with emotion in his voice not to go, again.

Later we giggled over silly Youtube videos, then had a sexy shower together. He was too exhausted to do anything more, though, and we fell asleep. In the morning he made Italian coffee for us. At the station, I waited with him on his platform until his train came before going over to my platform on the other side to catch my train. While it was a great time together, and I was so grateful for all the effort he put into it, part of me felt a little unsettled for some reason as I walked to work afterwards.

That was the last time we’ve met since then. And contact is still at basically minimal levels. A week after that, I found out about the March-April-May = busy season for his industry thing. I decided I would try to just be supportive and not bother him too much all throughout May. But it was very hard to do that when he stopped sending even any responses. In March and April, if I went to his apartment at night and left a bag of healthy drinks and soup on his door, he would thank me a few days later. When I did it in May, I got no acknowledgment at all. He would not respond to any texts of any sort, whether encouragement texts (which he had thanked me for once in April) or texts asking if things were still busy and if we could meet. I told him I was proud of him, I tried not to say how much I missed him or how hard it was for me. I noticed, however, that the one way I could be guaranteed a response was if I announced I was coming over in the morning one day. He would never fail to reply the night before telling me I couldn’t, and in May the reason was that he had to go in even earlier. The replies would come at 2:15 or 2:30 am, telling me how late he’d been working. If he was working until 2:30 am and then leaving for work at 6 or 7, he cannot have been getting much sleep.

I tried to understand that he must be going through life in a stressed, overwhelmed haze, but it was also hard for me to only hear from him once a week at my instigation and to keep thinking “now it’s been two weeks since we’ve seen each other… three… now it’s been a month…” The whole issue took/has taken on the level of obsession in my mind. It is very hard for me not to be thinking about it in some form or fashion all of the time. It was hard for me to go from feeling just about perfectly fulfilled and satisfied in my relationship to frustrated, neglected, lonely, and depressed–yet not willing to give up. If time and energy, not his feelings for me, are the main roadblocks here, and I don’t even want to contemplate the Tokyo dating scene again, then why not just wait? Or rather, try to focus on myself and my own hobbies and interests, and my own mental health, and see if he’ll come along in time.

This was the opposite of the attitude I had when this exact thing happened with Mitsu over a year ago. He was already a crappy boyfriend who was overly critical of me, so when his work got busy and he disappeared and stopped contacting me as frequently as I’d gotten used to, I had much less patience and resolved to break it off the next time we met up, and I did. (I also wrote then, “I’m a little jaded now on whether [Japanese guys are] all going to be like this (shunt me aside as soon as work gets crazy, no matter what’s going on in my life)” – prophetic words, unfortunately, at least in my experience.) But in this case, I decided that because Shiki had been so amazing, and I’d been so happy, it was worth hanging on to, or at least waiting until I could talk to him, before cutting anything off. After all, my only option would be to send an email/text informing him that it’s over.

Unfortunately, my mental health crumbled around the start of May. Probably the job frustrations began it, and then losing my boyfriend’s presence in my life were the final straw. Depression with a dose of anxiety appeared in full force. I was so lonely, and yet I was turning down social invitations because even those couldn’t get my mind off this. I spent a weekend or two at home, utterly miserable, refusing to join my friends on their plans. Over Golden Week – which we had said we’d spend together; we had discussed it and agreed to remain in Tokyo, we had spent that night in April discussing potential things to do together, and then I never heard from him and can only assume he worked through it – I made a series of plans, such as seeing my host family, but I was depressed and thinking about this situation the entire time. After that I decided I would go back on my meds.

I have been on them for about a month now, and it’s still hard. It’s getting easier, and they are definitely helping, but there are still days when I wake up in the depths of despair. And they have not made my near-constant ruminations on the state of my relationship go away.

Last night, the worst happened. We didn’t break up, so maybe that’s too dramatic–or it’s too dramatic anyway–but it was like I had been dreading and worrying and fearing that our relationship would reach some sort of catastrophic climax as a result of him being too busy to contact me and me feeling so lonely and depressed about the loss of his presence in my life, however temporary, and then it more or less happened. He had told me towards the end of May in a response to one of my requests to come over in the morning that no, he had to go in early so it wasn’t possible, but “how would towards the end of next week be?” I was happy that he had suggested a potential time to meet. But when that time rolled around, I didn’t hear from him. Well, I sort of did. That Friday I got a phone call from him around 4:45 pm. I was shocked to see his name come up, as he never calls me, and certainly not in the afternoon during work hours. I picked up, but all I heard was electronics boops and beeps. It was almost certainly a butt dial. I hung up and called back; he didn’t pick up. I texted “Hey, you just called me – ???” No answer. I still don’t know for sure what happened. He has yet to explain it.

I emailed him that weekend that I was planning to come over one morning. On Monday night – this was about a week ago now – I got a reply saying that (translated) “things are busy for a while, so please be understanding, please go easy on me, please forgive me.” The one good thing is that it came on June 1, and I had suspected there was a deadline May 31, and it was at 11:30 pm, not 2:30 am, so he wasn’t working as late. But I was also disappointed as I had hoped June would herald a calmer schedule and less overtime and thus less stress. However, the message was almost entirely hiragana, he hadn’t even had the energy to convert to kanji. Another marker of stress.

I did not email him all that week, except for a photo of my cat and a short encouraging message “from” her in the middle of the week. On Sunday, I emailed that I planned to come over Wednesday morning. I had started to feel like enough was enough; it had been since April and if I could just see him, I could beam supportive, comforting, healing rays at him and show him that I can help him, that I can soothe his stress. He seems to be thinking that I’m mad at him and I wanted to show him with my calm presence that it’s not the case at all. I could give him a hug and provide him with needed human touch and contact. We could reestablish a bit of a connection to take back into our respective workdays. I told him that I wanted to hug him and I wanted to comfort him.

Last night, I received a reply. It was a flat refusal. No, tomorrow was impossible. He’s very busy with work, and didn’t he just email me recently? Why am I trying to come over? That’s scary (too intense, pushy). He’s very sorry but tomorrow is impossible. That was the gist of the email. Reading between the lines – with the help of a Japanese friend – what he is saying is “I am too busy with work right now and too stressed to even contemplate another person in my life right now. I cannot focus on my relationship at this moment. Also, I am a little annoyed that you don’t seem to understand this.”

Once I understood this, I wrote back “I understand. I’ll give you some space then. I’m sorry for bothering you while you’re busy.” And I’m not going to contact him after that. I may, further down the line depending on how much time passes, but it’s up to him now. If he values me and our connection the way I thought it was worth valuing and holding onto, then when things calm down he will reach out. And if he doesn’t after a reasonable amount of time has passed, then we will have to meet up so I can get my PJs and travel brush (which I left at his place) back and we will break up. I’ll be very, very sad to see what I thought was a good relationship and a good person for me go, but that will just be how it is. If that happens. The thing is, I can’t know that now. The uncertainty… is not something I’m good at dealing with. It makes me very uncomfortable. I want to know now – will he come back to me? Won’t he? Will we be able to have a talk about his behavior and figure out a mutually satisfactory way to communicate even when things get busy, or will he not be willing to do that? But I don’t know that, and I can’t know that now. I want to believe that he knows we have something special, and once he emerges from the fog of stress and sleep deprivation and overwork, he’ll remember that and come after me, but maybe he won’t. And even if he does, he’s going to have to prove himself. He made me very happy, but now he’s also made me very unhappy. He’s said many promising things (“I love you,” “I won’t let you go,” “Let’s talk later,” “I want to work hard to get back to a normal life where I can see you,” “Don’t move to the US,” “Please forgive me,” “How about meeting ___?”) in the past few months, but will he follow through on them, or will he just run out of energy and be content to see us fade away and me fade out of his life?

(I asked my Japanese friend if this sort of thing was common in Japan – the communication issues, contact totally ceasing once his work gets busy – knowing already that it was, but wanting confirmation. She instantly responded “Yes. Men are weak and easily overwhelmed.” She told me that she doesn’t date Japanese men for this reason.)

Part of me is annoyed that even though I tried my hardest to be supportive of him, to play the good Japanese girlfriend putting on a happy face, I still couldn’t help letting my American neediness show through at times, asking if we could meet and if he could contact me, and that may have turned him off. I’m annoyed that while I tried my hardest, tried so so so hard, it still wasn’t good enough. It could still have brought about the exact outcome I was trying to avoid–driving him away.

Too long I’ve been afraid of
Losing love I guess I’ve lost
Well, if that’s love
It comes at much too high a cost!

Well, that’s where me not contacting him for a good long time from here on out comes into play.

Part of me is curious to see whether he comes back to me or not. It doesn’t mean I’ll welcome him back with open arms and no questions. I do hope he comes back, but we will have to to talk about a lot of things.

All I know is that I don’t want to cut things off now without talking to him. There are cultural issues at play, and communication is key before I can make a decision. And until I can, I want to use that time for my own personal growth. Get new hobbies, go to therapy, keep taking my meds, reclaim my independence, go out on solo adventures around the city like I used to. Oddly, it will be better for me to have a boyfriend – even one I don’t see or talk to – during this time, because it will keep me from trawling dating sites and going on dates out of habit/desperation/boredom. I am also going to use this time to think seriously about when I want to move back to the US, and how soon in the future, and to think about what my goals for the next 5 years of my life are. I still want to find a life partner. Maybe Shiki is it, and maybe he isn’t (I admit, it doesn’t look likely now). But am I going to find that person in the US or in Japan? I just don’t know. Which is a better place for me to be in? I don’t know. Part of me wants desperately to live in my home country surrounded by family and friends again, but part of me enjoys the many perks of Japan such as safe, accessible travel and things like gyuudon, chu-hi, melon soda that I love. If I leave too soon, I might find myself desperately missing Japan and wishing to go back. But if I stay here too long, I risk losing my sanity and possibly my chances at finding the best life partner for me. At 29, with many/most of my peers engaged, married, or living with someone, I’m starting to get worried.

Last month, I had my friend do tarot for me. I asked him to look into what June would look like for me and Shiki. He pulled the Tower card. Change. Destruction to make way for change. Change from the ground up. Ultimately good change, but requires the destruction of existing, faulty systems. I was so afraid when I saw that card, and now it’s like it’s coming true. And only time will tell if the change is ultimately good or bad.

I like reading articles and stories about subjects like this, but I like to know how the story ends. I don’t know how this story ends. Probably everyone reading this is thinking “Likely not good. Likely a breakup in the end.” But who knows? Stay tuned, I guess. I wish I had a resolution to offer you, and to myself, but I don’t. I’m trying to be okay with that.