Online dating and rejection - is it uncool to ask 'why?'
February 17, 2013 9:11 AM   Subscribe

Don't worry, I'm not about to ask anyone 'But whyyyyy don't you like meeeee??'. I totally get that someone can be not-into-me for the colour of my t-shirt if they want: no harm, no foul. But I would like to know how much follow-up is normal after a first date, and also if anyone has any idea how I could get this so wrong?

Okay, so...late 30s, female, been internet dating for a couple of months. I met a guy I really liked last week, but the outcome has thrown me.

We had communicated online a bit before we met, so I knew we had similar values, education, lifestyle, etc, but I also know that that counts for nothing if you don't 'click' in person. Well, in this case, it was probably the best vibe I've ever felt on a first date. We had planned to meet for a quick drink and maybe tapas, and ended up being kicked out of the bar at closing time after a 5 hour date. Our senses of humour totally clicked, we bounced off each other all night and the conversation never faltered. I could also tell, from some things he said, that he was pretty physically attracted to me. He was also extremely polite, fun and non-creepy. He asked if he could see me again when he got back from a business trip the following week, and I said yes. Before I'd even got home, I had a text message saying 'Thank you for an awesome night, drive safely. I will speak to you soon!'. Well, that was over a week ago, and you guessed it...nada. (I waited five days and then sent a 'hi, hope your trip went well! :)' -type text message. *Crickets*)

Sorry for the long background - now for the questions. Assume, for the sake of argument, that the trip was real, and that he's not seeing anyone else. (I am pretty confident, for various reasons, of both these things). Firstly: is this normal online dating etiquette, or would other people find this weird/rude? Of course I don't expect (or even want) some big explanation of why he doesn't want to see me again, but is it not just courtesy to reply to my text, saying 'Hey, it was nice to meet you but don't think I'll take it any further'? Would it be inappropriate for me to message him and just ask...I dunno, something (polite and non-accusatory, of course) that might elicit a response? And does anyone have any idea why someone would change their mind without any further interaction, after an awesome first date? (Pure guesswork, I know, but I'm clutching at straws here.)

Besides the fact that I'm disappointed, it's made me doubt my dating intuition altogether. :(
posted by Salamander to Human Relations (37 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
No, there's no point to feedback. Just get used to knowing that there are people who can mirror back and cause you to think everything's cool.

Also, don't be disappointed. That person has problems. You dodged a bullet. It happens.
posted by discopolo at 9:14 AM on February 17, 2013 [15 favorites]

It's not rude, really, because you never really want to hear, "I dont think I want to get with you." Don't dwell. It was one date and a nice time. He's probably found someone he liked better for reasons Ypu won't be able to understand.
posted by discopolo at 9:16 AM on February 17, 2013

Do you know how long the business trip was? The timeline's a little unclear, since you say you met him last week.

If it went Awesome Date (+ speak soon text from him), then business trip lasting 3-5 days, then a text from you at some point this weekend, then nothing from him yet...

I'd give him a few days. It can take a bit to get back into the swing of things from a business trip, and he may have had other plans this weekend.

Alternatively, I've definitely been on dates that seemed like they went awesomely for me, lasted a long time, etc. and it turned out the other person was just enjoying being out, being in contact with another human (but not specifically me), whatever, and I never heard from them again.

"Dating intuition", I finally decided, meant I was experiencing the date entirely too much inside my head instead of, you know, "out there" with the other person.
posted by brentajones at 9:19 AM on February 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Knowing about the insanity, insecurities, snap judgments, reassessments, and general freak-outs happening in the other person's mind probably won't do a thing to help you.
posted by 1adam12 at 9:24 AM on February 17, 2013 [25 favorites]

There are some people who bring that kind of intensity to first encounters, but have no follow-through - they can't actually sustain it for a real relationship. If this dude is like that, there may be a wake of women in his past that have had similar experiences.

If he doesn't respond ala brentajones suggestion, I'd just chalk it up to one of those things.

It doesn't have much to do with you - how could it? He doesn't really know you at this point. Just keep trucking along looking for someone who is looking for real intimacy.
posted by paddingtonb at 9:29 AM on February 17, 2013 [2 favorites]

If he's not polite enough to reply to your queries about getting together for a promised second date, why would you trust his responses to questions about what he thinks about you?
posted by xingcat at 9:31 AM on February 17, 2013 [2 favorites]

I feel like if there was post-date followup that got no response, there's really no point in "asking for feedback" or whatever. If this dude wanted to talk to you, he would have responded to your "how was your trip?" text.

There are any number of explanations for what happened. None of them are likely personal.

At this point I consider it about par if I go on a date via the internet and we hit it off pleasantly but I never hear from them again. It happens A LOT. My sense of it is that this means that it wasn't a love connection. So it makes sense that it would happen a lot -- there are a lot more people in this world that you'd enjoy lingering over tapas with than there are people in this world you want to start a relationship with.
posted by Sara C. at 9:32 AM on February 17, 2013 [2 favorites]

Like Sara C. said, there are n number reasons why he's not responding, but none of them are your fault. You took your shot, put the ball in his court, and he's left the court. The best thing for you to do is find another court to play on.
posted by krakus at 9:41 AM on February 17, 2013 [2 favorites]

This happened to me while internet dating once -- great guy, clicked intensely, loaned each other CDs that were in our cars at the time, had flirty chemistry all night, made tentative plans for a second date, a lovely goodnight kiss, me going home on Cloud 9, and then... radio silence.

I can't remember if I dropped him a line or not, but he did eventually email me (after a week or so) to say that he enjoyed meeting me and wished me well, but that in the meantime he'd met someone he actually felt "real" chemistry with, so if I wanted my CD back, he'd leave it at the box office of the comedy theater where he performed.

So while I was glad to have an answer as to what happened, this did not make me feel any better. It didn't necessarily make me feel any worse, either; it just wasn't something I could do anything with, besides chalk it up to one of those things, you know?

In other words: there's no feedback he can give you that is likely to help. These things just happen. Internet dating is a numbers game, and I went through a lot of numbers for a year or two before my partner and I found each other.

as for the CD: I just bought a new one.
posted by scody at 9:44 AM on February 17, 2013 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: Do you know how long the business trip was? The timeline's a little unclear, since you say you met him last week.

Yes, sorry: he invited me out for the night of Friday the 15th. Before we even met, he had said that he would then be travelling until 'late next week'. That would take us up to Sunday night at the latest. It's now the early hours of Monday morning.

At this point I consider it about par if I go on a date via the internet and we hit it off pleasantly but I never hear from them again.

Oh, if neither of us initiate more contact, that's fine. But I wouldn't suggest a second date and then totally ignore the other person when they followed up. I'd at least bother to reply, telling a white lie about why I didn't want to see them again, if necessary. I thought that was the polite, mutual-face-saving thing to do?

(I won't threadsit any further: just to say, I'm very new to this so regardless of this particular guy, it's really helpful to know if my general expectations are realistic, going forward.)
posted by Salamander at 9:48 AM on February 17, 2013

Best answer: Aside from the possibility that he was insincere, has poor follow through, found someone else, etc.: some people have insecurities about relationships that override attraction. I can speak to this a bit. Even when I knew that I liked my wife when we started dating, some issues crept in that affected my follow-through, but they were really about me more than my wife. Fortunately I got over this and realized the issues for what they were, but I'm not sure that all guys do.

People's issues can run deep, and they can manifest in conflicting and weird ways.
posted by SpacemanStix at 9:51 AM on February 17, 2013 [3 favorites]

> Yes, sorry: he invited me out for the night of Friday the 15th. Before we even met, he had said that he would then be travelling until 'late next week'. That would take us up to Sunday night at the latest. It's now the early hours of Monday morning.

I think your math is a bit off there. If I'd met someone on Friday 15th (which was 2/3 days ago timezone depending) and told them I'd be travelling until late next week I'd mean that I'd be back around the 22nd. 'Next Week' hasn't even started yet!
posted by MrBear at 9:54 AM on February 17, 2013 [13 favorites]

Yes, sorry: he invited me out for the night of Friday the 15th. Before we even met, he had said that he would then be travelling until 'late next week'. That would take us up to Sunday night at the latest. It's now the early hours of Monday morning.

Now I'm more confused than I was before. The 15th was just this past Friday. "Late next week," to me, is the 21st or 22nd.

In any case, I'd give a text message at least two full days before getting disappointed, and three or four before losing hope altogether.
posted by brentajones at 9:55 AM on February 17, 2013

Response by poster: I think your math is a bit off there. If I'd met someone on Friday 15th (which was 2/3 days ago timezone depending) and told them I'd be travelling until late next week I'd mean that I'd be back around the 22nd. 'Next Week' hasn't even started yet!

Oh, good grief - sorry, sorry! I messed that up. It was Friday 8th!!

(And I know he hasn't physically been here to be able to meet anyone else, or otherwise I'd be chalking it up to 'had another date he liked better.)
posted by Salamander at 9:57 AM on February 17, 2013

Best answer: So in that case, I'd be about 35-40% hopeful that it was a long, rigorous trip that he either needed time to decompress from over the weekend, or he already had plans for the weekend and therefore just hasn't had time to get back to you yet but will.

And 60-65% thinking that, you know, it doesn't take that long to reply to a text message, and it's kind of a bummer that he hasn't done that yet.

(and obviously 100% still looking for other opportunities with other awesome people).
posted by brentajones at 10:02 AM on February 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Ha, easy enough to do!

From my own experience of online dating, I'd point out that it's perfectly possible to have a great time with someone but also not feel any sort of spark for. I've certainly met plenty of people who, in other circumstances, I could be really good friends with and we've hit it off in terms of sense of humour and just having a good time together but I've not wanted to date them. Still, in all but the cases where it was really clear that neither of us was interested, I'd always follow up the next day with a text to say something along the lines of "It was great to meet you, I had a good time, but I don't think there was a spark there." It's just polite!
posted by MrBear at 10:07 AM on February 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

Don't rule out the fact that he may be married or living with someone. This happened to me we saw each other once or twice a week for 3 months before I knew. His wife worked for the airlines and was out of town consistantly weekly, the times she was home he told me he was busy with work. He was a skeeze some men are...keep looking but more importantly live life, find stuff you like and do it...being with a man...being in love is dandy but it isn't everything.

I get your curiosity...but really ...a year from now will you care? you'll stop caring once you go on another swell date...forget him.
posted by gypseefire at 10:16 AM on February 17, 2013 [4 favorites]

First off, even if he got back Friday or Saturday, he may have taken the weekend to decompress or do his own thing, and he may have fully intended to get back to you once he settled down to normal life again. Not necessarily, but that was really far too soon to be freaking out about it. Someone you met online and had one date with, however good a date, is NOT call-as-soon-as-my-plane-touches-ground priority; it's not a long-term relationship, it's "I will call this person again once I feel like going on another date." I would have given it at least another week (while, of course, still looking, because again ONE DATE = SUPER SUPER BEYOND CASUAL.)

Second, if he never calls again there are plenty of options that are not really anything abnormal. He sincerely intended to call again, but got sidetracked and eventually met someone. He didn't meet someone, just didn't really think of it until it had been a while and then was like eh, that would be awkward after this much time. Maybe he didn't really mean to follow up. Probably he did. Who knows, but no, absolutely asking about this would be a very bad idea. If he's blowing you off, he'll blow off your question just as much - but with an added dose of "thank goodness I dodged THAT bullet, yikes." I know I would, if a person was asking me for reasons after a SINGLE DATE. (Actually, I had one of those. I continued to avoid him while he continued texting me for a MONTH and even had to avoid him at the grocery store in our mutual neighborhood, because he was borderline weird-stalkery and I had already said "no thanks" two or three times. I know you aren't going to act like that, but when someone follows up a silence with "why?" on such a casual thing, most people's instinct is going to be to run screaming.)
posted by celtalitha at 10:21 AM on February 17, 2013 [3 favorites]

Guy here, have seen this a time or few, came to learn that the person was far from over their last relationship. There is an old line that for some people, the only thing worse than not liking the person is... liking them.
posted by ambient2 at 10:25 AM on February 17, 2013 [2 favorites]

Essentially, someone you have dated once, twice or thrice owes you no social obligations, nor vice versa. Perceived chemistry for one evening =/= relationship. Sure, if your boyfriend of two years decides to break up, you're justified in wanting a reason. If a guy you dated once or twice moves on... not so much. No harm. No foul. Let it go. Not worth the energy.

You can be bummed, of course! He was a nice guy, dammit - but anything really beyond that is sending out huge red clingy-flags to whoever sees or hears it.
posted by celtalitha at 10:32 AM on February 17, 2013

The advice to not waste time trying to get answers from him is sound, I think, for all the reasons already given. I wish I could go back to my younger self and give him that same advice. But I think it's a little premature to jump to conclusion that he's not interested.

Someone you met online and had one date with, however good a date, is NOT call-as-soon-as-my-plane-touches-ground priority; it's not a long-term relationship, it's "I will call this person again once I feel like going on another date.

This is a definite possibility. I personally wouldn't want to date someone who thought that way, but it's not the same thing as being rejected.

Another possibility is that he might just have missed the message. I've missed e-mails when they've been mistakenly sent to the spam folder, for example. And I've missed texts and voicemails when I've had a lot of them to wade through, and some got skipped over by accident. Also, sometimes a message hasn't even been sent to my phone until a day or two after it was sent (very annoying! and especially likely to happen when I'm traveling). And it has happened that I've missed something by accident, only to get accused of being rude and ignoring the person later. So while I know it's a long shot, I don't think there's any reason to not try to contact him one more time in a few days, and maybe by a different method.

"Hey! How ya been? Want to [specific activity on specific date] with me?",

I think that's just the right tone. If he doesn't respond to that, then I think it's time to move on with grace and dignity.
posted by MrOlenCanter at 10:40 AM on February 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

Yeah, I would not bother to ask him why, I don't think you're going to get a response back that serves any purpose for you, particularly after only one date with the guy. It is completely possible to think you click with a guy and then have it fall through for no discernable reason. For instance, I went out with this guy I met online a couple of years ago. Similar to what you describe, plus we conincidentally knew a bunch of the same people because it turned out that he worked in the same office I had worked in a couple of years earlier - so we had similar interests, values, and great conversation. We went on three really nice dates in one week and he seemed very interested in me, but then called me a couple of days after the third one and gave me some lame speech about how he hadn't dated in a while and hadn't clicked with anyone in a while and therefore couldn't see me anymore. I know, this statement just doesn't make any sense whatsoever; I think he was just trying to avoid having to say that he had decided that he just wasn't that into me for some reason. I have wondered of course what it was that made him pull away, but really I don't know what purpose it would have served to have pushed him for something more specific. He could have said something hurtful, or he could have said something that would maybe have made me laugh, but either way the asking would just prolongue a relationship that wasn't going to go anywhere with a guy who was not for me and put me in a position of subordinating myself to his opinion of me. If there is one thing that I have learned through past relationships with men (and it took me a long time to learn this), it is that if they pull away or seem otherwise unavailable, it's time to move on to the next.
posted by thesnowyslaps at 10:41 AM on February 17, 2013 [3 favorites]

Oh, and also I agree that with the time frame you gave it is still possible that he will call you back. Could be any number of things that postponed the response.
posted by thesnowyslaps at 10:44 AM on February 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

One txt? It's not 100% reliable, could be up to 5% are lost. Why not try one message with the previous method you were using?
posted by Sophont at 10:46 AM on February 17, 2013 [7 favorites]

IME it's par for the course for dating period, not just online -- I think it's just more likely with online dates because you probably don't have friends in common or something that makes a total poofing awkward, but it happens/I've done it, because I have had some pretty awesome chemistry and good times with guys that I ultimately would not want to actually date.

I'd wait to see if this turns into a pattern before doubting my intuition. One guy doesn't mean jack.
posted by sm1tten at 11:18 AM on February 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

This is a normal side-effect of online dating. There exist those who, for better or worse, get very wrapped up in the excitement of meeting someone new, hearing about their life, joking around with them, and then, once the date is over, realizes as much as they liked spending time together they didn't actually want to date them. They like people, but not that specific person in a romantic way.

There are also a million other reasons he could've dropped off the face of the earth: found a long-lost sweetheart, realized he was gay, broke his leg, family member died, joined a cult, stuck in airport, forgot his phone charger, etc etc. Doesn't do you any good to worry about it.
posted by schroedinger at 12:13 PM on February 17, 2013 [3 favorites]

Next time, instead of sending a text that says "hope your trip was okay", send one that says what you really mean: "hope your trip was okay, I'd love to see you, what are you doing Friday night?"
posted by Specklet at 12:15 PM on February 17, 2013 [10 favorites]


I'd also add that if it's a date from online, the first date isn't really a first date. It's a first meeting.

This is sort of the equivalent of meeting a friend of a friend at a party, and really having a great time, and then agreeing to try to hang out after the person returns from a business trip. It's not like you're going to pick them up at the airport, you know?
posted by Sara C. at 12:27 PM on February 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

Do you have his number? Why not actually speak to him, per specklet's script, or send an email?

Technology is still imperfect, says the woman who has accidentally deleted voicemails about a zillion times. (And on my old phone, when a call went to voicemail the number did NOT show up as a missed call, so no phone number saved in history, so.....)
posted by cyndigo at 12:29 PM on February 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

Yeah, I wouldn't write this guy off until you've sent another text inviting him to get together again.
posted by ottereroticist at 12:30 PM on February 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

Online dating is like a fucking second job. It's a completely worthwhile way to get to know someone, but oy, the work. As many have said, it's a numbers game. If you've heard crickets, I think the best approach would be to shrug and send some more guys some messages.
posted by angrycat at 12:50 PM on February 17, 2013

Best answer: He asked if he could see me again when he got back from a business trip the following week

Wait, you went on a date a week plus ago, he said he was going on a business trip the following week, and now a week has elapsed? Give it at least another week before you assume that he's not digging you. Frankly, I'd cut out the electronic middleman and just send him a text. "Hope your trip went well - I'm thinking about going to the farmer's market/surfing championships/that great movie on Xday, want to join me?"

Then forget about it. Who knows why he isn't responding? Maybe his cat died, his aunt is sick, work just handed him a huge project and unmeetable deadlines, or he got sent to Asia to deal with that huge project. Or, maybe he didn't have the emotional maturity to be able to say "I'm actually not that interested". Whatever the case, it isn't about you. It is hard to remember that, but try to remind yourself - his behavior is not about you.
posted by arnicae at 1:29 PM on February 17, 2013 [2 favorites]

Best answer: UGH, dating. Welcome to it. :)

I personally never ignore texts or emails, but the fade out is common. Just remember that it isn't personal. Maybe his ex is back. Maybe he got fired. Maybe he thought you were cool, but he only dates 5'2 redheads -- and you looked more like 5'4. The point is that it doesn't matter why he flaked, and if you keeping thinking about it you will drive yourself cray cray.

My advice? Avoid expectations as much as you can for as long as you can, and go on lots of dates so you're less likely to get prematurely hung up on one person.

(+1 for following up with him, by the way. It likely didn't work out this time, but a willingness to be a little vulnerable will take you far.)
posted by jessca84 at 2:24 PM on February 17, 2013 [3 favorites]

I'm still trying to understand the the timeline...
You went on a date with him Friday the 8th. Then you say you texted him 5 days later, which would be Wednesday the 13th? If that's the correct timeframe, I'd venture to say that he was still on his trip (and busy!) when he got the text. If I got a text saying "hi, hope your trip went well" not even a week after I'd said I'd be on a week long trip, I'd kinda wonder if the girl I'd gone on a date with had paid attention to the things I said. Not to say that I would end contact after that text, but I'd probably wait till I was well back and settled before I contacted her again. I think it's way too early to consider this a rejection.

In terms of moving forward, I'd suggest waiting another few days for him to text you before you take any action. If you do not hear from him by say Friday, I'd take the advice of MrOlenCanter and send a text asking if he wants to join you for a specific relatively chill activity the following week. If he doesn't respond after that, then it's time to move on. Anyone who would make a point of asking whether you wanted to go on a second date, and sending a sweet follow-up text, either really did want to hang out with you again, or is Trouble.

I don't think there's anything wrong with your dating intuition per se (it sounds like it was a great date), but I think it would be wise to adjust your expectations regarding the timeframe in which you are supposed to hear from internet dates after a first offline meeting. People lead busy lives even if they don't have to go away on business trips.
posted by emoemu at 2:34 PM on February 17, 2013 [8 favorites]

The point is that it doesn't matter why he flaked

This x1,000. Listen, there are only two things that could be motivating your desire to know more: pure curiosity and/or wanting to "fix" whatever was wrong.

The former is going to cause you way more trouble than satisfaction 99% of the time. The latter is pointless, because being more like the person this guy wants isn't necessarily going to make you more like the person the next guy wants.

If he flakes on the date, be thankful that he at least had the decency to not lead you on when he knew he wasn't interested.
posted by toomuchpete at 9:47 PM on February 17, 2013 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks for all the answers! They have really helped me to get this clear in my head.

I'm trying really hard to follow the 'golden rule' with this whole internet dating thing. Of course I understand that one date = nowhere in the same galaxy as a relationship. I wasn't deluded that we had a thang going on. But taking the internet/date-y thing out of it: it's the same as if I'd corresponded with someone a few times, and then hung out platonically for a few hours. I absolutely would think good manners required me to respond if they contacted me again, even if it was to politely brush them off.

Seeing the different perspectives on this will help me in the future, so thanks.
posted by Salamander at 1:11 AM on February 18, 2013

Best answer: I would say: it is rude, but there's no point to trying to get a "reason". Not responding to an initial message on a dating site is totally normal and reasonable. Once you've actually been on a date, especially if there is a suggestion of a followup, a quick "no thanks" text/message/whatever is absolutely "required" in my view.

Otherwise, you're in the situation you're in now --- whats going on, is it still going to happen, is he/she just busy, etc. The other way, its clear and you move on.

Now as for the reason thing --- the thing there is, very rarely will you get an _actual_ reason at this stage of dating. Most likely you'll get some excuse about being busy, life being crazy, whatever. Most people aren't going to want to offend you, and the relationship is not intimate enough yet to discuss "true" feelings.

And frankly, the kind of people who pull the disappearing act are even LESS likely to give you anything resembling the actual reason, since they're particularly conflict averse.
posted by wildcrdj at 4:38 PM on February 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

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