How long is too long of no contact while dating?
April 21, 2009 8:55 AM   Subscribe

How long is too long of no contact while dating?

So I feel like a real jerk right now. I just got out of a serious relationship and am in that period of "what does it all mean/finding my footing while dating" period.

Now the question, I'd been dating a nice girl for a month or two we got along well but not very serious, no sex yet and no real full day dates [just evening dinners and makeout seshes and stuff]

I went through a rough patch and kind of disconnected from everything for a bit, about 3 weeks. I recently contacted her again apologetically saying that I'd been a jerk, but it was something I just had to figure out... to find her somewhat hurt and angry, and seeing each other again entirely out of the question.

Was I that cold? Whats the proper timeframe for casual dating? I know it wasn't a good move on my part, but I guess I didn't see it as that bad. The more I think about it, the more I think I'd be bummed if it happened to me. So hive mind let me have it so I don't make these mistakes again in the future.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (32 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Did she make attempts to contact you during that time which you ignored? Did you break dates/plans that you made before-hand? I can definitely see how completely disconnecting for 3 weeks would lead someone to not want to date you anymore.

It's not so much about a specific time frame as it is about the level of communication. At least saying, "Hey, I'm alive and thinking about you, but really really busy" once a week might be enough to keep the interest going on her side.
posted by muddgirl at 8:58 AM on April 21, 2009 [1 favorite]

The more I think about it, the more I think I'd be bummed if it happened to me.

There you go. Question answered. After two months of dating you disappeared for three weeks with no explanation. You crossed her point of no return. Don't do that again to your future partners.

Explain yourself to the other humans. They will often understand.
posted by pixlboi at 9:00 AM on April 21, 2009 [8 favorites]

So...within a month of starting to see someone you've already managed to disappear for three weeks? That's not ever going to be read as anything less than a total blowoff.

If you're ever in this situation again, it is at least courteous to say, "Hey, I'm on the rebound and I'm overwhelmed and I need some space for a bit; I'm sorry, this is just bad timing."
posted by kittyprecious at 9:01 AM on April 21, 2009 [3 favorites]

So, you were seeing her for a couple of months and then you disappeared for almost another month. That's enough time for her to develop some feelings for you, which means it's enough time for her to get hurt by something like this. Sounds to me like maybe you weren't ready to start dating again.
posted by katillathehun at 9:06 AM on April 21, 2009 [1 favorite]

Yeah...this is the kind of behavior that women often interpret as jerk-like (not saying you are one, just saying it's this type of behavior that gets interpreted that way). Nthing everyone above: just telling her would have been helpful. Taking things a bit farther, when this kind of behavior happens after some making out but pre-sexual encounter, we females sometimes interpret this as, "I didn't put out, so he bailed."
posted by December at 9:07 AM on April 21, 2009

She didn't try to contact you? Or did you just ignore her? if you were ignoring her for three weeks, that's kind of a big deal...
posted by delmoi at 9:08 AM on April 21, 2009 [1 favorite]

Yeah, as someone who occasionally cuts himself off because of whatever reasons (mental, and or otherwise), if I were just seeing someone, and then dropped all contact for 3 weeks, it would be bad. Capital letters B-A-D.

From her point of view, it was a completely blow off.

What you should have done was told her that you needed to mentally take care of some stuff, and let her KNOW that you were going to cut yourself off for a while. Then, with that information, she could have made a choice about whether to keep you in mind, or drop you right there.

What you did, though, was give her no information. And when presented with no information, the human brain tries to draw conclusions based on 1) past experiences, and 2) probable outcomes. It looked like you just stopped being interested, and didn't have the guts to break it off.

Even though that wasn't your thought process, that was her's. And when you show back up, that doesn't heal her.

I've got a feeling you've burned this bridge far too thoroughly. Take this as a lesson learned, and move on, unfortunately.
posted by SNWidget at 9:09 AM on April 21, 2009

Was I that cold? Whats the proper timeframe for casual dating?

There's a somewhat overplayed metaphor about "the cave and the wave" that people mention in situations like these and you might want ot give it a look and see if it applies.

To answer your direct question, if I was seeing someone casually, I'd expect that there would be some sort of regular interval creating itself after a few months. Whatever that interval is [we touch base every few days, we see each other on weekends, we get together after big projects are over] I'd basically expect to at least hear from the person after maybe the interval + 1/2 [so if we see e4ach other every weekend and ten days had gone by, I'd assume I was getting a not so subtle message, take a hint and stop calling] especially if I'd tried to make contact.

Sure, sometimes you're both really busy but basic relationship maintenance to me says that if you're seeing someone and want to keep seeing them you'll at least let them know if you're going incommunicado for some period of time. Granted I also know people who disconnect like you do for whom the idea of letting someone know that you're doing this is just totally antithetical to what they're actually doing. That said, it's a bit of a burden on their partners who are used to basic social norms of asking themselves "Is this guy trying to give me a hint? Am I calling too much? What is going on?" and it seems pretty one-sided (i.e. you're disconneccting for your own reasons, which is fine, but you're not extending the courtesy of letting someone know, which is less fine). In the cases I mention usually there is an explicit "Hey I sometimes disappear for a little bit but if you're worried, just text me and I'll let you know a) that I'm okay b) that we're still cool" This would not be something I would personally be into, but it seems to work pretty well for them, maybe you can work that into the earlier stages of your next relationship?
posted by jessamyn at 9:12 AM on April 21, 2009 [5 favorites]

After a month or two of dating, I would totally perceive anything more than a week of no contact as "He's just not that into me". Especially if I tried to get in touch with you and was ignored. I would be pissed, hurt, and move right along.

It's just too easy today to send a text or email or Facebook message that "I've been really busy, but still thinking about you, hope to hang out soon!" You almost have to consciously avoid reaching out to someone to have no contact with them for three weeks.
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 9:29 AM on April 21, 2009 [2 favorites]

"How long is too long of no contact while dating?"

"About 3 weeks."
posted by jon_kill at 9:38 AM on April 21, 2009 [3 favorites]

From what I can glean from your question, neither of you communicated with each other at all for 3 weeks, and this was after a couple months of dating. So you both sent the message you weren't that into each other.

You're wasting energy trying to come up with excuses that it didn't mean what it meant. Oh, it was just "casual" (whatever that means), there were no full-day dates, there was no sex ... You don't even need to ask us whether these facts insulate you from criticism, because you're seeing the result: they don't.

But I find her reaction and the reaction of some in this thread to be bizarrely asymmetrical, assuming that you were both doing the exact same thing. Why is it solely anonymous's responsibility?
posted by Jaltcoh at 9:40 AM on April 21, 2009

If I was dating someone for a little while and they dropped out of contact for 3 weeks I would assume they were seeing someone else. If they re-appeared, apologetic and wanting to try again, I would assume it didn't work out with the other person and I would be pissed to be considered a "second choice." Maybe that's what your nice girl thought, anon. It happens!
posted by cranberrymonger at 9:55 AM on April 21, 2009 [5 favorites]

Less helpful, but completely true, answer: You acted like a complete jerk. Disappearing for three weeks is unacceptable in any intimate relationship where feelings and expectations are fragile and people are wondering where they stand and where the relationship is going.

More helpful, and also true, answer: To be less of a jerk in the future, just communicate, as SNWidget said. If you're not going to talk to her for more than 36 hours or so, just give her a call and say, "Look - I'm still getting over this other relationship. I really like you and I don't want to lose what we seem to be building here, but at the same time I need to take a break. Is that even possible?" She'll let you know if she can deal with that kind of thing or not -- if not, then you have a decision to make, but at least you're both on the same page.
posted by crapples at 9:58 AM on April 21, 2009 [1 favorite]

After a week, I'd wonder if he didn't want to be with me. After two weeks, I'd know it for sure. After three weeks, he'd be all but forgotten.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 10:00 AM on April 21, 2009 [4 favorites]

You can try this if you're looking for a save:

Dear lady,
I had a really crappy couple of weeks and totally disconnected from everything, including, and unfairly, you. I'm really sorry. Please believe it had nothing at all to do with you, or my interest in you- I was just overwhelmed and dealt with it really badly. It's not at all characteristic behaviour for me and I'm feeling more stable now. I actually really like you, had been having a great time with you, and would really appreciate a second chance to show it. I understand that I was inconsiderate and I won't treat you like that again- you deserve much much better. Could I buy you dinner on Friday and apologize in person?

That might work on me, depending on how things had been going before the rift.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 10:18 AM on April 21, 2009 [1 favorite]

There is no rule. It is her call.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:44 AM on April 21, 2009

If she attempted to contact you during this time, "too long" would be a day or two after that. That would have been the time to write things off, unless something major had happened. As important as it may be to take time to reflect on things, it tends to push people away unless they already know you well.

If she didn't make any attempt to contact you, no need to worry about it. Relationships are mutual, so is communication. If she wouldn't call within three weeks, you really didn't lose much.
posted by Saydur at 10:46 AM on April 21, 2009

Good lord, I would have put the limit at two days incommunicado, tops, for a person I had been seeing for a month or two. I think you took the one-way express train to Dicksburg, there. If I were her, I'd have long since put you out of my mind.

But on the plus side, hopefully you got through what you needed to get through. Live and learn.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 10:49 AM on April 21, 2009 [2 favorites] for a save (with all due respect to pseudostrabismus), I've been on the receiving end of one of those emails and it just made me angrier. My thought pattern took the following trajectory: What am I, Dr. Phil? Go work out your stuff on your own time, not mine. If you can't handle communicating with me over a relatively minor issue (e.g., your need to have some me time) how are you gonna respond when the shit really comes down? Just no.

It sounds like you already apologized to her and she reacted in a hurt and angry manner. So any further attempts at apologies have high probability of igniting her piss off fuse. Sleeping dogs and all that.

An interesting angle that several posters have raised is whether she got in touch with you during your check-out time period. Either (a) she did and you ignored her or (b) she didn't. In either case, a nascent relationship is a delicate dance of timing and avoiding stalkerish behavior. So if she contacted you and you ignored her, well...that's just fucking rude. If she didn't contact you during that time, she may very well have been respecting the typical behavior of a woman in a new male/female relationship, that is, letting you drive the rig. There's certainly nothing wrong with a woman initiating contact, but bear in mind that we women are often schooled by experience that waiting for the man to initiate is often the better option. Guys don't like to be pressured and we know that and often give that some deference by not calling.
posted by December at 10:52 AM on April 21, 2009 [4 favorites]

After two months of casual dating, it would actually only take a week of silence for me to lift a brow. Eight weeks in, you're deciding whether the attraction that first drew you together is a) going to start to fizzle out with the next fart he deliberately unleashes, or b) is going to start developing into Something So Good That You Will Gladly Shun All Other Menfolk To Pursue It. A week of silence? Not even a text or email? I'd start wondering if maybe we weren't on the same page about how excited we were about this connection.

After two weeks of silence, I'd disengage entirely -- not because you fucked up, so much as because I wouldn't to invest additional hopes and emotion in someone who felt perfectly okay with not talking to me for two weeks. I mean, there are men out there who WOULD be excited to talk to me more often (among other things), and I like to talk (among other things). So, yeah. Two weeks and I'd be out for good. Unless of course I found out later you'd landed in the hospital from a concussion that rendered you a temporary amnesiac.

I imagine three weeks would be out of the bounds of anyone you'd actually care to date. Ladies who don't get upset when their beau disappears for three weeks are not operating from a place of high self-esteem.
posted by artemisia at 10:56 AM on April 21, 2009 [5 favorites]

Well, ideally, if you guys like each other, you'd want to talk almost every day, because that's what people do when they enjoy each other's company and are excited about each other. You not talking to her probably made her realize "oh, I guess he doesn't like me that much if he doesn't miss my company after a week," and it makes sense that she was hurt.

3 weeks is too long, unless both of you don't like each other much and can pick up right where you started without either of you caring about not talking for so long. But the fact that you didn't bother talking to her much means you probably didn't care much for her company. It doesn't matter whether you're on the rebound or not, if you liked her you'd have called her.

In the future, if you want to disappear but try to secure seeing her in a few weeks you can try explaining the "sorry I'm on a rebound and I'm all confused thing" and maybe the girl will buy it, or maybe she won't want her time wasted either.
posted by KateHasQuestions at 10:57 AM on April 21, 2009 [2 favorites]

In my opinion, 3 weeks is WAY too long if you had been having regular dates and contact for 2 months. But I would think one week is too long and rude if she made contact with you during that time and you wholly failed to respond. The PinkSuperHero said it best.

Pseudostrabismus' suggested "save attempt" may work if it is sincere. But don't expect an immediate return to the status quo prior to falling off the face of the earth. I might give you a second chance. But I would never give a third.

Oh...and if you are really luke warm on this girl (and that is the reason --why I suspect-- you went AWOL), leave her alone. Don't lead her on again.
posted by murrey at 10:58 AM on April 21, 2009

First off, I really recommend you get off the everything-must-lead-to-a-relationship path if that's not what you really want. If you're not looking for anything serious, say "Hey, I just want you to know that I definitely do like hanging out with you, but I'm not looking for anything serious. Are you okay with that?" Simple as that.

Especially if you're used to being in relationships (i.e., on the rebound), you may be surprised at how many women are completely fine with this. Actually I've never once had a woman balk at this. Use protection, have fun with each other, and allow each other to live your lives. Just don't rub in her face the fact that you're seeing other women (if you are), and don't get jealous if she hangs out with other guys!

And, yeah, zero contact is the socially accepted of saying "I'm just not that into you." Most people understand it as such. Even though it's a little vague, it's way less pointed and hurtful than saying to somebody's face "I'm just not that into you." -- which pretty much requires a big argument, confrontation, crying, thrown shoes... *cough* not that I would know...

And if you ask me, "no sex" = "just friends", but still... zero contact pretty much means "I am no longer interested in being friends with you." unless you have a history of communication gaps like that.

No worries, man, lots of great girls out there. Explain yourself if you like, but don't expect her to want you back. Just chalk it up as a learning experience.
posted by LordSludge at 11:12 AM on April 21, 2009 [2 favorites]

I am sorry but if things were soooo great why didnt she call YOU? I think a lot of the people here are seeing things in one side......I think the reason why you stop calling her is because you werent THAT close to her in the first place, if you were she could have picked up and called you various times......
posted by The1andonly at 11:21 AM on April 21, 2009 [1 favorite]

a three week ice = death to relationship.
posted by stratastar at 11:28 AM on April 21, 2009

Not talking to her after 3 weeks communicates to her that you don't want to see her anymore and are not even willing to honor the time you have spent together with the courtesy of calling and telling her that you don't want to see her.

You seem to want to know how often you should contact someone you are casually dating. It depends on how often you have been in contact already. If it's been every day, two or three days might be too long. For once a week, obviously not talking to the person for three days wouldn't be a problem. 10 days might be OK, but if you are only in contact on weekends it might not be. Deviation from the established pattern will be perceived as slowing things down or a rejection. Not returning someone's calls is usually seen as ignoring them and thus as rejecting them.
posted by yohko at 11:37 AM on April 21, 2009 [2 favorites]

You've had a lot of great responses, so I just wanted to chime in to say that when she didn't hear from you at all for three weeks, the only sane conclusion to draw was that it was over. If I heard a girl say that she was dating a great guy but she missed him because he hadn't contacted her for three weeks - I'd think she was missing an Important Clue Boat.
posted by moxiedoll at 11:38 AM on April 21, 2009 [8 favorites]

Basically, you just pulled on her what every other jerk she's dated has done when he gives her the silent treatment as a method of dumping.
posted by jenfullmoon at 1:35 PM on April 21, 2009 [2 favorites]

Quoth The Eagles:
Well, I heard some people talkin’ just the other day
And they said you were gonna put me on a shelf
But let me tell you I got some news for you
And you’ll soon find out it’s true
And then you’ll have to eat your lunch all by yourself
I had someone do this to me last year; we went from near-daily phone calls and making plans for me to visit her (yep, another online dating unsuccess story) to her telling me that she needed some alone time and that she'd let me know when she felt like communicating again. My response? Hey, no worries, and good luck with your next relationship.
posted by Halloween Jack at 3:30 PM on April 21, 2009 [1 favorite]

Whether 3 weeks is long or not depends on how often you were talking to each other. Everyday? Yes, it's long! Every other week? Not so much.

When you are on the receiving end, this comes across as the classic jerky behaviour. Everyone is busy and everyone goes through a "rough patch" so drop those excuses already. If you were seriously interested in this woman and for whatever reason she fell off the face of the earth for three weeks, what would do? You already tried talking to her. Perhaps it is time to learn and move on.
posted by xm at 6:05 PM on April 21, 2009

I think it's interesting you left out whether she tried to call you or not. That's a CRUCIAL part of this equation.

If she did try to call you and you just ignored her, you were dead wrong and I don't buy your innocent "I needed time" thing. As Peanut stated, "You almost have to consciously avoid reaching out to someone to have no contact with them for three weeks."

If on the other hand, she didn't try to call you, I still call b.s., but for a different reason. You were looking for her to contact you and she didn't, so you felt rejected and in an effort to ease that rejection you turn it around and ask this question in an effort to make yourself believe that you were not really the rejectee but the rejector.

So either you're a thougthless jerk or a sensitive person hurt because someone you liked could move on without contacting you for a month.

That was for free. As to your question, if you're thinking about getting serious with a person, two days without any communication is about at the too-long mark. If it's still in the early pre-makeout stages and very casual and as Jessamyn stated there's already a pattern of long pauses set, then going longer than two days is okay. But again, if it's someone you think might have staying power, that is, if you are really into her and she you, you probably won't even attempt to go two days without contact anyway. So yeah...
posted by GeniPalm at 9:00 PM on April 21, 2009

I think you should have said something to her about needing to drop out for a while before hand, but if it happened to me and I was told the reason and I had no reason not to believe you, I would take you at your word and start up again. If she liked you 3 weeks ago and accepts your disappearing act as legit, she should like you now.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 9:48 PM on April 21, 2009

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