I’m not looking for advice so much as an explanation about something I’ve encountered a few times.
I’m a woman who dates men, and more than once, I’ve ended up in a sort-of-ghosting situation immediately after checking in to see if buddy is still into hanging out (and him telling me he totally is).
This is how it pans out:
We’ve been hanging out/hooking up for more than one month but fewer than 3. He seems like a nice, normal guy (ie: has passed my weirdo/creep/asshole filter). Things feel mutual, and pretty relaxed. We’re chatting regularly and getting together maybe once or twice a week.
Then things start to feel different. I realize I’ve made the last one or two sets of plans and he hasn’t made an effort to make more, it’s been maybe 2 weeks since we last hung out (ie: it’s a break in the pattern). But he’s still initiating nearly daily text conversations.
Rather than continue to suggest hangouts and get shot down, but also not wanting to spend a bunch of time texting with someone I never actually see, I ask something along the lines of, “Hey, we haven’t hung out in awhile – is that something you’re still into? It seems lately like maybe not.” And he replies, inevitably, “Oh, I’ve just been busy, I totally still want to hang out.” So I say, “Ok cool, let me know when you’re free.” Or something along those lines.
And then, also inevitably, I NEVER HEAR FROM HIM AGAIN. (With one exception, where he made a plan to meet, then stood me up, THEN I never heard from him again.) WTF?
Why do guys who are otherwise nice do this?
And maybe I do want advice – is there anything I could be doing differently? I don’t want to be someone’s texting buddy forevermore, whether or not I’m wanting something casual. But it feels weird to just vanish out of a thing that’s been going on for over a month without a basic – “Hey, are we still doing this? No? Cool, best of luck,” convo. But it feels way worse trying to have an honest convo, and being ghosted for it.
Every time it happens I get a bit angrier with Men-In-General (an also, warier), and I’d like to not become a Bitter Old Hag (TM). Help?
Just Don’t Get It
The first part of your question is easy, JDGI: they’re taking the path of least resistance. Or rather, the path of least conflict. They’ve decided that, for whatever reason, they’ve decided that they don’t want to see you again, but they don’t necessarily want to have to say that to you. So instead of actually having a conversation that ends with “Hey, I’m just not feeling it”, they’re doing The Fade instead in hopes that they can quietly exit this relationship without having to have what they imagine to be an ugly or awkward scene.
Here’s the disconnect: you know that all you need to hear is “yeah, we’re not doing this any more”. No fuss, no muss, no harm, no foul. But what they’re expecting is something far more dramatic. Maybe they think you’ll be loud or angry. Maybe they are expecting you to… I dunno, yell, call them names, refuse to exit the relationship gracefully, who knows. But whether that conflict they’re imagining is real or just a fantasy, they’ve decided they don’t want to take the risk on it becoming real. So they just try to quietly fade into being an ex in hopes that if they do it slow enough you won’t see it happen. Because women evidently are like T-rexes and track by motion.
It’s rude, it’s inconsiderate and once you’ve been hanging out that long and dating on the regular, you deserve the courtesy of a “hey, this isn’t working for me, peace out, cub scout” call or text. But unfortunately, ghosting and the fade seem to have become a permanent part of the modern dating landscape.
Unfortunately, because the reason why people do this is to avoid conflict – even if there isn’t likely to be conflict – there’s very little that you can do about it. You’re essentially dealing with the scenario in somebody else’s head and unless you’re secretly Professor X or Eleven, there’s not much to be done there. You can try to preempt the idea that breaking up with you is a huge drama-fest by bringing up how very low drama you are. You can talk about how your (fictional) previous relationship ended with a “hey are we still doing this? No? Cool” convo in hopes of conveying the message that yes, you’re The Cool One who isn’t going to make a big deal out of this. Or you could just straight up ask them to be straight with you if they’re not feeling it.
But again: that’s trying to pre-empt somebody else’s issues and you can’t do that without actually getting into their head. You can say all the right things, lead by example and otherwise give every indication that no, you really ARE as low-key as you seem to be. But if they’re that conflict avoidant? They’re still going to try to sneak out the back door without you noticing.
Sadly the only thing to do is focus on what you can control… and that’s the kind of guy you’re dating. If you’re into a certain personality type – say, shy, conflict avoidant nerds – then you may want to see about filtering them out and going for guys who’re more straightforward and open about what they’re looking for.
You know those questions from guys where the answer is basically “get your life together before you start thinking about dating”? Well, I think I may have the opposite problem;
Over the last 18 months I went from basically a call center operator to a senior software developer. During that time I’ve fixed my credit, started saving, got to the gym, and generally leveled up my life.
Now I feel like I am completely undateable. The more put together my life gets, the harder it is for me to connect with anyone. My life seems completely incompatible with people who I knew two years ago and to people I’m meeting now, I’m still too far behind in life to catch up.
Is this just what finally getting a your life together in your 30s is like?
New Money Same Problems
First of all: congratulations on all the work you’ve put in. You’ve made a lot of progress and you should feel proud about everything you’ve accomplished. It says a lot about you that you were able to make all of this happen.
Now let’s talk about your problem. The issue here is that you’re looking at things the wrong way, NMSP. Your problem isn’t that you’re too far behind in life. Your problem is that you’ve leveled up.
Think of MMOs or JRPGs. As you level up your character, you’ll find that the mobs in the area you’re in give you less and less experience… often to the point where you’ll stop getting any XP for having fought them. This is because you’ve outleveled the region; you’ve outgrown that area and the enemies and quest lines are all for people who aren’t as far along as you are. As a result: none of it is going to be meaningful or satisfying to you; trying to grind in that area is going to be the experience equivalent of a car spinning its wheels while it’s stuck in the mud.
I strongly suspect that your biggest issue here is that while you’ve done some amazing work and gotten your life to an awesome place, you’re still falling on old routines. You may be going to the same bars, approaching the same women and expecting the same results. The problem is, now that you’ve developed this awesome new life, they’re just not right for you any more. You’re a different person than you were two years ago, and that person needs to stop living in the past. It’s time to move out of the starting area and start pursuing the new opportunities you have… opportunities that you may have previously thought were just out of your reach or otherwise off-limits.
This doesn’t mean you have to stop what you’re doing; it just means you need to shift expectations to your new reality. If you’ve been a bar guy, it may be time to move up to cocktail bars and lounges instead of shot bars and dives. If you’ve been mostly a dating app kind of dude, then it’s high time that you revise your profiles and start setting your sights higher and more sophisticated.
Honestly, NMSP, you have what we in the dating advice business call “a quality problem”. The only issue is in how you’re looking at it.
Hi Dr. NerdLove,
I have an ongoing issue with continually attracting men that turn out to act like huge jerks. I must be part of the problem because I’m attracted to them and keep going through the same cycle of professional bullshitters over and over. It’s like I have “big hearted empathetic sucker” invisibly stamped on my forehead, but that type can see it a mile away.
I’m fairly successful, attractive, maintain myself well, intelligent, fun, witty… I’ve been a geek since Star Trek TNG was brand new and I’ve been playing video games since before there was internet. I have a regular day job and secondarily I write science fiction and stream on Twitch.
I’d really like a loving solid partnership. I know I’m worthy of what I want and can be that kind of partner for someone else. My experiences have made me want to give up though.
How do I break out of this cycle and fix this problem for good?
As the (inaccurate, kinda ableist) saying goes: the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. If you keep dating the same kinds of guys, you’re going to keep getting the same kind of bullshit you’re dealing with now. So the obvious starting point is to look at just who it is you’re attracted to and why. The why part is important, because presumably you’re not aroused by people treating you like shit. So you need to look over these relationships in your past and figure out what kind of Venn diagram they’re creating.
What I would suggest is that you start looking for commonalities in these guys – beyond being jerks – and see if you can zoom in on precisely what it is that they have going for them that pulls you in like a fly to a Venus fly trap. It could well be that these guys represent or fulfill some lack that you feel in your life. Identifying that and resolving that lack so that you don’t look for it elsewhere will mean that you’re no longer drawn to the guys who are hot but toxic for you.
Or maybe it’s an issue of traits you find attractive that just so happens to be comorbid with being a trash fire of a human being. Maybe there’s a certain level of cocky confidence that you dig. Maybe it’s that you’re going for guys with a certain level of status in their community, status that leads to them having swelled heads and overdeveloped senses of entitlement. Or maybe the problem are the dating pools that you’ve been pulling your partners from. It could well be that what you need is to look further afield and see about finding men who’re your type but less likely to treat you like yet another mark.
Be methodical about this FL; the more you can winnow out potential causes, the more you can zero in on the reason you keep going through the same patterns in your relationship. Once you recognize the pattern and the trigger, the easier it’ll be to break the sequence and find somebody who’s right for you.