Blindsided by Houdini
September 26, 2010 2:18 PM   Subscribe

How can I better learn to recognize the signs that a guy is losing interest?

For the past three months, I've been talking to a guy I met on a dating site. At first, we wrote long emails back and forth, then moved on to weekly phone calls. We met in person about a month ago and had a really wonderful, day-long first date. No sex, but we made out a little bit. He told me he liked me. After that, he asked when he could see me again and we made plans to meet next week. (He is in another country and our schedules made it impossible to meet before then.) In between, we continued to email and talk on the phone several times a week. He told me to call him anytime, said that he looked forward to seeing me again and told me that all of his friends were asking about me. He talked about what we could do if I visited him, and what movie we would see next. He forgot to call me one night (when we had planned to talk) because he was out with his brother, but apologized immediately and again encouraged me not to hesitate to call him whenever I wanted.

I talked to him earlier this week; he was tired from work, but everything seemed normal. He mentioned talking to me this weekend. I left the next day for a business trip. When I returned on Friday, I sent him a quick "I'm back, hope you're well" email. He never responded. He had mentioned that this was a busy work weekend for him, so I tried again that evening and left a "hey, hope you had a good week, if you get a chance call me back" message. Again, no response. On Saturday night, he removed his profile from the site.

I haven't dated a lot, due to being in a few long term relationships, but I can usually tell when a guy is losing interest. In this case, it honestly didn't seem to be headed that way. I am quite sad and confused--he had plenty of chances to be evasive or start to avoid me, but instead he continued to be encouraging. I'm not holding out hope that he will call, but I also feel heartbroken over losing that "hopefulness." We were very compatible in many ways, and I find it hard to have that connection with most men. I also really, really liked him and was looking forward to seeing him again. Instead I feel crushed, and honestly, maybe that's a sign that I was too emotionally involved too soon.

Moving ahead, how can I recognize the warning signs? How do I know how attentive a man should be, especially in a new relationship? I am not someone who needs a lot of attention and I don't bombard men with calls and emails, but I have a feeling that I put up with a lot of nonsense that other women would recognize right away. He was flaky in other areas of his life and there were some "odd" things about him, but I saw them more as cute quirks than possible warning signs.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (28 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
my gut instinct - his wife or girlfriend learned about his profile or they got home from their extended trip. when you enter into dating someone from out of town, who travels a lot, or if you travel a lot - it's easier to find a creep who's stepping out on his primary relationship. the internet makes this even more true.

from your telling, i don't think it was you.
posted by nadawi at 2:24 PM on September 26, 2010 [9 favorites]

Aw, I am sorry for you; this is sucky.

But the biggest warning sign in my life has always been reduced responding time, period. Sure, there's always a reason, but it's usually the beginning of the end.

When they used to text 10 times daily and now it's 5; they're losing interest.

Not returning emails as frequently as usual, not that interested.

That's about it.
posted by dzaz at 2:33 PM on September 26, 2010 [10 favorites]

It sounds like you had very little warning. His removing his profile abruptly from the site makes me agree with nadawi's suspicion that he's already in a relationship and the primary found out.

So yeah, this probably wasn't you.
posted by tel3path at 2:49 PM on September 26, 2010

I think you're already on the right track - perhaps more-so than you think. Pay less attention to what someone says and more attention to what they actually do. The wider the discrepancy, the more likely it is that something is amiss in their intentions towards you.

At the same time, understand that the more you're into someone, the more likely you're going to want to focus more on what they say (I like you, look forward to seeing you etc.) and gloss over what they do (not call, not follow through). Don't beat yourself up over this, it's just how we're built. We get crushed out, we get hopeful, we get disappointed and over time get better at being crushed out on the right person - the person who says they're into you and treats you like they are.

Like I said, you're already onto this so you're doing better than you probably think you are.
posted by space_cookie at 2:52 PM on September 26, 2010 [10 favorites]

Read the book "He's Just Not That Into You: The No-Excuses Truth to Understanding Guys" by Greg Behrendt. You will never wonder again. You'll know. The not knowing is the worst part. Just like us, I'm sure men find it just horrible trying to extricate themselves from something, regardless of the reason.

My theory is, the sooner you get to the point of knowing he's not into you, the sooner you're over it and out there potentially bumping into another wonderful man. Wonderful men abound! Yurrah!
posted by TheOceanRefusesNoRiver at 2:54 PM on September 26, 2010 [2 favorites]

For what it's worth I've removed my profile from dating sites not because I was in a relationship but because I was inundated with emails/IMs from people whenever I went onto the dating site.

Presumably I could have handled the situation better regarding the women I wanted to stay in contact with my sending them a message "Hey, I'm leaving this site, email me at ....

Alas, I didn't. But not all people who leave dating sites do so because they are cheating on their significant other.
posted by dfriedman at 3:01 PM on September 26, 2010

You met the guy once. I know it feels like you know him, but you really didn't.
If he hadn't been into you after meeting you - which happens a depressing amount of time and why ALWAYS MEET ASAP OMG CRUCIAL - he would have blown you off after the meet. But he didn't. So we can surmise something else happened and it wasn't you.

My guesses: either his girlfriend found out he was messing around online, or he met some new girl.

Online romances seem so real, but there is so much about them that isn't.
posted by CunningLinguist at 3:05 PM on September 26, 2010 [2 favorites]

I don't think he was already in a relationship. I'll bet dollars to donuts he was plenty into you, but was also dating a couple other girls from the site at the same time. When it came time to pick one, he decided it was easier to just drop communication with you than explain that he was also dating someone else (and there's little chance of consequences since you're in another town).

This is a dick move, for sure. But I don't think it's one you can guard against. From everything you said, it sounds like he liked you plenty; he just may have found someone else in his own town. Chalk it up to immaturity on his part and hope that you find a better man next time.
posted by auto-correct at 3:21 PM on September 26, 2010 [1 favorite]

I also feel heartbroken over losing that "hopefulness."

Oouf, I've been there. It sucks. :(

But I agree: it wasn't necessarily that you were bad at catching "the signs". It's entirely possible that he was also dating someone else (in the more casual, non-committed way that many internet daters do) who asked him to stop seeing other people.

Granted, he handled the situation poorly. And it's definitely possible that he had a girlfriend/wife. But I wouldn't immediately think you missed some critical sign, or that he was cheating on someone when he spent time with you.
posted by miss_kitty_fantastico at 3:23 PM on September 26, 2010

(or, what auto-correct said.)
posted by miss_kitty_fantastico at 3:24 PM on September 26, 2010

Hello, I'm the OP. I don't know why I bothered to post anonymously; he doesn't read the site and at this point I don't really care.

A few extra details, not that it matters:

- From the time he joined to closing his account last night, he was on the site for two months. We were using our personal email. I just happened to log in and see that his profile was gone; otherwise, I wouldn't have known. He said that he wasn't actively using the site and he was open about what he did on the weekends, but there were a few "meeting a friend for a drink" moments that made me wonder if it was another girl. We hadn't discussed being exclusive yet, because we had only been on one date, even though we talked every week.

- We had confirmed plans to get together again last Friday and had discussed possible dates for several weeks prior to that. So within a week he went from "Okay, we'll meet next Saturday" to radio silence and taking down his profile. I know it's stupid, but I keep thinking "If he strongly preferred another girl over me, why was he still making plans with me so recently? Why didn't he start to pull away?"

Thank you so much for the responses. I don't have a lot of friends in town to hang out with right now, and I usually spent my Sunday night talking to him, so I'm home feeling really anxious and sad. It makes me feel a little more in control to vent and get this out of my head, because I liked him so, so much and did not expect this to happen.
posted by lucysparrow at 3:48 PM on September 26, 2010

I keep thinking "If he strongly preferred another girl over me, why was he still making plans with me so recently? Why didn't he start to pull away?"

My guess is that he had several possible women going at once -- all women who seemed like there were real potential for a connection. One of those possibles worked out, and he bailed on the others, one of which was you.

It's not a guy thing -- I've been on the receiving end of this from women. It's a quirk of online dating, in that it is super easy to communicate with multiple people at once and keep all of your options open. But for many people there comes a moment where things are going well and you agree to become exclusive, which usually means yanking the dating profile and cutting off communication with all the other people you've been talking to.
posted by Forktine at 4:00 PM on September 26, 2010

OR: an ex he wasn't over called him to try again, and he dropped everyone else. There were no signs, as you tell it: just bad luck.
posted by uans at 4:02 PM on September 26, 2010

As a bit of a serial internet dater, couple of things:

1) if the person can't meet you in the next week or two, tell them to get in touch when they are in town. SERIOUSLY. I've done this 3 month back and forth thing a couple of times and it's always ended up horribly. People are entirely different online than they are in person, and you can get very attached to someone when you are writing to them and then have it all fizzle in person. It feels awful.

2) One date is one date. It really sucks, but if you can develop just enough callousness to accept that even a great first date is sort of meaningless, it can help you survive the process. What you think is going great might be really bad for your date, or vice versa. My ex-gf thought we were having an awesome first date, I thought she was sort of emotionally constipated (she ended up being effing awesome). Anyway, point being that if you can avoid letting too much of your heart out early on, you will be better off. And I think, more attractive in general.

Just my $.02. Hope you feel better soon.
posted by sully75 at 4:07 PM on September 26, 2010 [10 favorites]

Actions speak louder than words. Forget anything he tells you, what is he doing with his actions? IS he calling? Is he responding like he used to? It is that simple.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 4:25 PM on September 26, 2010

Guess what... he just emailed. He's been away all weekend and will give me a call tomorrow. I was not expecting this. Maybe I jumped the gun?
posted by lucysparrow at 4:59 PM on September 26, 2010

I don't know anything about the online dating community so I can't help you out too much.

BUT, I would caution against reading "He's Just Not That Into You." or the like. Men are not a homogeneous group that thinks in any sort of easily identifiable pattern any more than women are. There is no manual to decode whether a person of any gender is into you or not, unfortunately - part of being human is that we are all complex and difficult to understand, and not always honest about our intentions.

I think what helps the most when you start seeing someone is to remember that you can't read the other person's mind, and you can't see into the future. You can't set your heart on anyone until you've built up some level of mutual trust.
posted by vanitas at 5:11 PM on September 26, 2010 [5 favorites]

Yay! (maybe)
posted by John Cohen at 5:51 PM on September 26, 2010

lucysparrow: "Guess what... he just emailed. He's been away all weekend and will give me a call tomorrow. I was not expecting this. Maybe I jumped the gun?"

Proceed cautiously, sister. Nobody wants to feel rejected, but... hard is it to email someone? It takes days?

Nobody is that busy.

Stick with your instincts...this is a guy who cannot be bothered to even email when he says he will; this is a guy who is "working things out" with you and at least one other person, is my guess.

I'd move on.
posted by dzaz at 6:08 PM on September 26, 2010 [2 favorites]

Proceed cautiously, sister.

Yes. Absolutely.
posted by lucysparrow at 6:27 PM on September 26, 2010

I'll go one better than all the people saying look to actions.

Look to how his actions make you feel.

You feel anxious. You are worrying that he's not interested. You're not sure how he feels about you. You're no longer hopeful about the relationship.

He'd want you to know how he feels, because if you thought he weren't interested, you might go off and start looking for other guys. And that's the last thing he'd want.
posted by thebazilist at 9:25 PM on September 26, 2010 [8 favorites]

I have a really strict policy when it comes to the question posed in the OP, so my opinion is doubtless slanted toward the extreme end of the spectrum, but for what it's worth (and this applies to men and women equally):

I'm a 100% person. All or nothing. Straight shooter. Eat dessert first, because life is short. More is more. I don't play cool and hedge my bets, I let my freak flag fly.

And you know what, life is approximately 10,000x better for it.

Apply this to relationships, and you will be so much happier. Think about it for a moment. Let's assume you really, really dig some hot thang of the appropriate gender. You want to shower them with compliments. They make you laugh. They're just totally radical. Are you going to send this person mixed signals? Fuq no, you're not.

And neither should your hypothetical imaginary ideal lovers. They just shouldn't. When you're wondering about some guy or gal and if they're into you or not, stop, because they suck. If you even have to wonder for more than 3 seconds how someone feels about you, they ain't worth those 3 seconds. Seriously.

You should know. They should make it bloody obvious. They should shout it from the rooftops. I don't care if this isn't the serious adult thing to do. You should know, because if someone really digs you, they will be painfully aware that you could both die tomorrow, and they won't want to waste your time, not even 3 seconds worth.

So fuq mixed signals and waffling and maybe somedays and if onlys. Good movies are not made about Romeo and Juliet wondering for 90 minutes if they're actually that into each other. Good movies are made about hard, roaring, real, seriously 110% obvious love coming smack up against boring old life.

If you find yourself needing to invent obstacles, you aren't trying hard enough. Run into some real walls and get out of your head. We're all gonna die someday, and I intend to deserve it!

Kidding. But the moral of the story is, if you aren't sure you like someone, you don't really like them. Demand nothing less.

This is just my policy. If you're a much less emotional, more rational, cautious person, well, there you go. But in that case you probably wouldn't be as hurt by mixed signals to begin with, so.
posted by Nixy at 10:07 PM on September 26, 2010 [35 favorites] hard is it to email someone? It takes days?

I was seeing this girl who was organising a music festival. Lots of their staff are volunteers, but I didn't know if I'd be free when the festival was on. Well, I was, so I sent her an e-mail two days before the festival, asking if I should come along. No response.

Well, half way through the festival there was an act on I wanted to see, so I figured I'd go along and volunteer if they wanted me to, get a day pass if they didn't. When I got there they were super-keen to have volunteers and she was really glad I'd arrived when I did.

Turns out the festival organisers are busy from early morning to late at night while the festival is running, and there was no wifi on the festival site, and she hadn't taken a laptop because she didn't think she'd need it.

When you're wondering about some guy or gal and if they're into you or not, stop, because they suck. If you even have to wonder for more than 3 seconds how someone feels about you, they ain't worth those 3 seconds.

The girl in my anecdote was worth a few days of waiting for an e-mail. If I'd broken up with her over it I'd have missed out on some good times.
posted by Mike1024 at 1:38 AM on September 27, 2010 [4 favorites]

A moment of perspective: about eleven years ago, I met this guy at a weekend party. We lived in different states, 1000 miles apart. We emailed furiously for a few weeks. Then. . . he didn't reply to an email. I was in a mad panic. I posted sad things in internet fora. I asked all my friends if I was going mad and WHAT DID IT MEAN that he hadn't gotten back to me for daaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaays.

Turns out, he was visiting friends in another (third) state. And had spent that whole time talking about me and how MADE OF AWESOME I am. Then he moved to my city and then we got married and we're still married.

One ongoing problem for me in long-distance relationships is forgetting to keep ones partner in the loop about travel plans. It's easy to think they must "know" about that trip you've been planning for months, but you forgot to directly inform them. That goes both ways. So, if you keep on with this guy, keep that in mind as a potential source of hiccups.
posted by endless_forms at 7:41 AM on September 27, 2010


Since you don't really know the guy and don't know what he's ACTUALLY up to when he's not communicating with you.....(and the cast of reasons could be myriad)

And it sounds like you are someone who "lives in your head" a bit (worrying, creating worst-case scenarios, hoping and dreaming about the possibilities)

You really have to watch the patterns. As someone who is in your boat, I'm also learning to pay more attention to the realities, the actions, the smaller red flags. They are critical.

A person can be wonderful when he/she wants to be. And deeply inconsistent and untrustworthy in between. And hide the deeper inconsistencies REALLY, REALLY well.

If I could encourage you to live in YOUR present (not the wishful fantasy of him being in your present)...that's what I'm learning to do. And not wait around for romance to happen through someone only intermittently available to me.

Get some other things going in your own life. Talk or flirt with someone at the coffee shop today. Don't wait for this guy to fulfill your romantic needs. Make it happen for yourself in your daily reality.

Good advice from thebazilist. I JUST decided the "Houdini" in my life is too avoidant and I don't want to be feeling insecure and going on a "wondering trip" in my head all the time. I deserve better. If he doesn't display some consistency soon, drop him. You deserve better.
posted by sleeping beauty at 7:57 AM on September 27, 2010 [5 favorites]

Nixy: "I don't play cool and hedge my bets, I let my freak flag fly."

I object to the notion that being involved with more than one person is a calculated strategic move and not living life to the fullest. We all have notions about human relations that are mostly informed from the culture we grew up in, but there's very little that I think is necessarily universal.

Sorry if that's a bit of a derail. My point is that it's very hard to intuit what's going on with someone's romantic life outside of their interactions with you. As someone who's done a fair amount on dating online, I think it's foolish to try to assume what's happening based on communication you don't get from someone. If you care, it's your responsibility to bring it up. You can't know their mind, so running hypotheticals is just going to drive you crazy.

One point of anecdata: I had a bit of preliminary interaction going with a girl online and it seemed we were about to meet up. Then suddenly I heard no response from her. About a month went by and when we finally did get together it turned out that her brother had died. I'm glad I didn't assume she had merely lost interest.
posted by Cogito at 1:46 PM on September 27, 2010

Bearing in mind that the guy has now been in touch, I wouldn't draw conclusions of any kind. I would do whatever googling and background checking you can to make sure (to the extent it's possible) that he's not married or living with someone, but other than that, the worst case scenario is that he's dating other people. Which is fair enough since this is only his second date with you - it's his private business at this point.

I'd just keep my cool and silently watch to see how he behaves. Until he gives you a reason to distrust him, trust him (but keep the "odd" stuff in your mental filing cabinet for future reference). And if you are not dating other people yourself, you should probably be lining some dates up so you don't fixate on this one guy.
posted by tel3path at 4:37 PM on September 27, 2010

I'm not sure that anyone is following this anymore, but I wanted to post a follow up:

He did end up calling the other night, but it was late and he, of course, had an excuse: unexpected company! But then things seemed back to normal. I asked if he still wanted to get together this weekend (figuring I was giving him a way to back out if he was no longer interested) and he said yes, he still wanted to see me. He had planned on visiting me, but asked if I wanted to come up to his place--there was an art festival that he thought I would really like. I said, "Sure, if you'd really like me to go with you," and he said yes, of course. We talked for about two hours: what we would do on Saturday, he was going to bake me a pie, we'd talk again later this week, etc.

I still felt uneasy for the next few days, but also felt a little bit of hope. Yeah, big mistake. I emailed him yesterday morning to firm up the details. Late last night, he sent an email that basically said "This is awkward; this week I met someone and things sparked romantically, so it's probably best that we cancel our plans. I'm glad we met, you're really intelligent and interesting and attractive and I would be interested in keeping in touch but will understand if you don't want to."

I just wish he would have told me that when he emailed back after days of silence, rather than keeping up the facade and lying about everything. It's almost worse this way. Plus, I can look back and kind of figure out when he probably met this other girl, because that's when his communication started to wane. I wish so, so, much that I could just say "fuck him, he didn't deserve me" and really believe it. I have a bad pattern of falling for men too fast and want to figure out how I can change that about myself.

So. I feel pretty crushed at the moment, but I truly appreciate everyone's advice and kind words. Most everyone was spot on and I know in the future that I need to listen to my gut, even if it's not telling me what I want to hear.
posted by lucysparrow at 9:36 AM on October 1, 2010

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