Experts decipher the most frustrating, confusing things guys do when you’re dating that leave you going “WTF?”
We’ve all been there. After a few dates with a guy, you feel like this could lead to something, when suddenly he falls off the face of the earth. Or it’s been months—he’s even uttered the word “girlfriend”—and out of nowhere he says he’s not ready for a relationship. You’re left wondering what went wrong and analyzing (and reanalyzing and reanalyzing) things with your friends.
Deep breath. While we’ll never be able to fully understand guys (and we probably wouldn’t want to), you can learn from these moments. We found 10 women in your situation and asked experts to give their insights on what happened so you can dodge future dating disasters.
Her take: “I went out with a guy I met online who seemed really sweet and charming. We texted, went out on a date, and I enjoyed it. A few days later, he texts me to say that he isn't looking for a girlfriend—just casual sex. I felt cheated and hurt.” -Andrea C., 31
Expert take: Even if a guy doesn’t say straight out in his profile that he’s only looking for hook-ups, some will offer hints. Those who use phrases similar to “hoping to be friends first” are usually looking for fun rather than commitment, says Laurie Davis, founder and CEO of eFlirtExpert, and author of Love @ First Click.
You can also weed out the casual sex seekers by looking at the context around your planned date: Is he willing to set up a date for a week or so later? Meet for coffee or in a place where you can hear each other talk? If the date feels like a hook-up, that’s probably what he’s seeking. To be sure you don’t give the wrong impression, “set a date for the future, and make it the right time of day and place so the intention of getting to know each other is there in the beginning,” recommends Ian Kerner, Ph.D., co-author of The Good in Bed Guide to 52 Weeks of Amazing Sex.
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Her take: “The first guy I dated when I moved to New York let me take care of him, which I thought would lead to a relationship. I was doing things for him like baking cookies, redecorating his place, and having lots of sex, but I found out he had no intention of commitment at all.” -Kate, 28.
Expert take: A lot of guys have two categories of women they’re dating: the women they just want to have sex with and the women they’re interested in having long-term relationships with, Kerner says. In this situation, Kate might have been giving too much too soon. “The more there’s courtship and the guy is pursuing a woman he’s interested in, the more powerful the reward is of actually being with that person is. If a guy gets everything up front, it’s quite possible his interest and that reward mechanism aren’t going to kick into gear,” Kerner explains.
Men want a woman who needs them and asks things of them, Davis adds. So if you ever feel like you’re bending to his every will and aren’t getting as much out of the relationship as he is, reevaluate things.
Her take: “While out with friends, I met a guy who lived 100 miles away. We talked, texted, and connected online almost daily until we could see each other again two months later. After he arrived at my place, he got a phone call saying his grandmother was being sent to the emergency room. He left quickly, and we texted a bit for two days. When I went onto Facebook within a few days to see how his family was doing, I noticed he changed my status to ‘limited profile,’ so I couldn’t access everything on his page. After that, all communication from him died.” -Allison G., 26
Expert take: Social media can create transparency and a false sense of familiarity, Kerner says. “Allison may have had a sense of intimacy that was never there in the first place, while he was probably dating other people,” he says. Don’t assume someone is going to be committed unless you’ve talked about it.
It’s also easy to build up a fantasy of what someone is like when you’re long distance. “The weekend didn’t live up to your expectations—but what really happened is that this guy didn’t live up to the expectations that you had created over the prior few months,” says Lissa Coffey, relationship expert and author of What’s Your Dosha, Baby? Discover the Vedic Way for Compatibility in Life and Love.
Her take: “I used a dating site a few years ago and was linked up with someone that didn't have a photo on his profile. I asked him for a picture, and he sent me a video clip of him as a police officer where two of his friends shocked him with a taser gun because they thought it was funny. Why do guys post silly or inappropriate photos?” -Amy W., 39
Expert take: Men and women find different things attractive and look for different things in profiles. “He probably thought the video was cool, that he looked like a tough guy, and that Amy would see it the same way,” Davis says. While this guy was extreme, try not to be so hard on others with selfies or one odd photo—they might have potential, she adds.
Her take: “I was set up with a family friend, and we really hit it off. After two months, I invited him on a preplanned trip with friends, but he declined. After the trip, his text messages became shorter and the phone calls stopped. I asked him to hang out one weekend, and he said he was busy but didn’t initiate another hangout. I took the hint and drifted off, figuring he just wasn't ready to commit. Fast forward a few months, and the family friend let it slip that the guy was just dumped by a girl he’d been dating for months. He must have been dating her right when he got quiet with me.” -Chrissy O., 29
Expert take: Many guys are okay with dates and sex, but when it comes to weekends away or spending time with other couples, those that have a fear of intimacy can act weird. These miles tend to happen around the three-month point, so use them to see how strong your relationship is, Coffey suggests. If one of you is ready to meet the parents or take a short trip together and the other isn’t, that’s a good indication that you’re not on the same page and this might not work out, she says.
Her take: “I was dating this guy and everything seemed great, but we never established if we were serious, casual, or something in-between. I invited another guy to my friend’s birthday party who turned out to be mutual friends with the guy I was seeing. My guy was upset that he wasn’t invited because he thought we were sort of serious. After that conversation, things pretty much fell apart.” -Alex C., 23
Expert take: Clarity, communication, and openness are super important in budding relationships, Davis says. Holding back on sharing your feelings creates confusion, which can lead to a relationship’s demise. While you don’t need to have “the talk” right away, remember that actions speak louder than words.
Her take: “I met a guy last summer online and thought we hit it off. We went out twice the week before I left for vacation, and he kept in touch every day. After I returned home, we texted a bit and then things ended abruptly. I was upset because I really liked him. Flash forward a few months, and he reached out again on the dating site. I was apprehensive to go out again but decided to give it another chance. After our reconnecting date, he thanked me for a great night and told me he wanted to get together when I returned from another vacation. A few days into my vacation, he stopped returning texts and calls, and I never heard from him again.” –Kim A., 21
Expert take: Kim’s gut was telling her not to give him a second chance, but her head thought it was worth a try, Coffey says. Trust your gut, or at least be cautious. “If someone is ignoring you, not calling you back, only wants to see you at 10 p.m., or disappears for six months and then comes back into your life, as much as you want a relationship with him, go in with your eyes wide open,” Kerner says. If a guy is willing to let you go for a few months, he probably wasn’t that into you in the first place.
Her take: “I dated a man for six months, and one night he referred to me as ‘a friend’ when he introduced me to friends at dinner, even though we were having sex, behaving as a couple, and he called me his girlfriend once before and had told me I was everything he had been looking for. He later realized I was upset about the ‘friend’ comment and said, ‘Well, I guess you’re my girlfriend,’ then, ‘No, you’re my lover,’ then, ‘Let’s just hang out.’” -Julie D., 37
Expert take: Julie found herself in that blurred category between “girlfriend” and “hook-up” status with this guy, since he was telling her what she wanted to hear in private but not using that terminology around other people. Guys will say a lot of things in the heat of the moment, especially if there’s sex on the other end of that, Kerner says. If you’re in a relationship, your man will call you his girlfriend in all situations and introduce you to his friends, family, and wide social circles
Her take: “I was set up with a guy through mutual family friends. He said ‘I love you’ after three months, and I reciprocated a month later. He introduced me to his friends and family, who all told us they loved us together. But after five months of dating, and him telling he could see a future with me, he told me that he wasn't ready for a relationship and dumped me to hook up with random girls instead.” -Annamaria L., 19
Expert take: “It sounds like Annamaria’s ex deals with emotions intensely—he’s either in love or sleeping around,” Davis says. “I have a few clients who have similar dispositions, and once they make up their minds, there’s no changing it.” Many men also look more at what they’re losing than what they’re gaining when things start really getting serious, Coffey says. This guy wasn’t truly ready for a relationship.
Her take: “I met this amazing guy, we hit it off right away and soon were seeing each other three days a week. Three months into the relationship, he started acting distant, then ended things, saying he was into someone else. A few months went by, and now my ex has started posting on my Facebook and attempting to be friendly again.” -Kali R., 26
Expert take: “This behavior is indicative of things to come, so Kali’s lucky she found out early, before things got too serious,” Coffey says. While it’s possible he could have had a change of heart and there’s no harm in being friendly with an ex, if an old flame reenters your life, really think things over and don’t get sucked back in, she adds. “Chances are, this whole situation would happen again.”