Can He Really Be a Good Guy Who Just Got Scared and Bolted, or I am I Right to Wonder About the Strength of His Character?


Dear Evan,

About 2 1/2 years ago I dated a man whom I thought was perfect for me. We clicked on all levels from the moment we met and I had never felt so comfortable with anyone as I did with him. It felt like we had known each other forever. He pursued me intensely and wanted to see only me. After a month of seeing each other he simply disappeared. I tried to contact him a couple of times but he didn’t return my calls. I was hurt but somehow not surprised since this had been a pattern in my life since my divorce. Reading your books and blog made me realize the mistakes I’d been making with men; namely falling into the pursuing role or coming off as desperate for a relationship.

As you know, people don’t change. Maybe someone will drop some weight if the doctor says it’s healthy, or someone will go to therapy when depressed, but, for the most part, we are who we are.

Two months later this man wrote to me and apologized. Since then he has contacted me repeatedly, asking for another chance. He says that walking out on me was a huge mistake and that he hasn’t been able to forget me. He insists that I didn’t do anything wrong but can’t really give me a straight answer as to why he disappeared, except that he was under an incredible amount of stress at work at the time and shut a lot of people out. A short time ago he asked me for another chance yet again, and I finally succumbed because I haven’t been able to forget him either. I saw him again and it was wonderful. I can tell he’s a lot more emotionally “there” than he was before. He’s saying and doing all the right things, but the past haunts me. Although he is great in many ways, I question his integrity. I would never do to someone what he did to me. Evan, can he really be a good guy who just got scared and bolted, or I am I right to wonder about the strength of his character?

Dee Anna

Dear Dee Anna,

You’re right to wonder about the strength of his character.

But that doesn’t mean that I couldn’t be wrong about him.

As you know, people don’t change. Maybe someone will drop some weight if the doctor says it’s healthy, or someone will go to therapy when depressed, but, for the most part, we are who we are.

We are not judged on our intentions or our heart, but our actions. Actions, we are told, speak louder than words.

I spent nearly TWENTY YEARS pining for a woman whom I put on a pedestal, only to find out that, in fact, she wasn’t as great as I thought she was. She’d come through half the time — kissing me in New York City, consoling me after my father’s death, intimating about moving to LA; the other half of the time, she’d shut me down, refuse to share her feelings, disappear for years on end. I always forgave her. Why? Because of my deep-seated, thoroughly irrational feeling that we were meant to be together. We had so much history! So much in common! So much chemistry! The fact that our communication styles never meshed seemed like an afterthought. Which is kind of silly, because if you can’t communicate, there IS no relationship, no matter how strong your feelings.

These are the same people who were cold, callous and clueless enough to disappear in the first place. Chances are, they regret that they lost you, NOT necessarily their behavior.

This past week, I’ve coached two clients through similar situations with exes who came back. Is it possible that the exes are sincere? Sure. People make mistakes. People want to atone. But let’s not forget: these are the same people who were cold, callous and clueless enough to disappear in the first place. Chances are, they regret that they lost you, NOT necessarily their behavior.

I mean really, who DOES that? What adult thinks a situation over and says: “Hmm, I could a) have an uncomfortable conversation letting her know that I’m under stress right now and not ready for a relationship…or b) I could disappear from the face of the earth, refuse to return her calls, and leave her wondering what she did wrong? I think I’ll choose B.”

For all I know, Dee Anna, he could be completely reformed. But if I were a betting man, I’d bet he’s no different than people who want to lose weight but lapse on their diets, want to stay clean, but go back to drugs, or want to stay monogamous, but can’t help but cheat. That very thing that allowed him to treat you that way the first time is still a part of him.

Only you can decide if you’re willing to take the risk that it resurfaces again.

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  1. 41

    RE: #22: If you don’t give the guy another chance, you’re un-American.


    “Clarification from a Communist:”
    LOL!   …..thanks for breaking up the heavy.. : >
    EMK..”People change mostly because THEY want to change, not because someone else is telling them to change.”….


  2. 42

    Anna said..“rubbing his nose” in the past when I brought up some of my concerns, and found ways to blame everything on me.
    That is … in a nutshell why I divorced .. the ex would not own up to his very very serious mistakes.. he thought one quick apology was enough.. even when it was very very serious

  3. 43

    I’m sorry that it didn’t work out Dee Anna! I also had a man poof on me then come back- we actually dated longer the 2nd time but guess what, he pulled his Houdini act again. I would be VERY wary of giving a man a 2nd chance who pulled something like this. He is very likely to do it again.

  4. 44

    I truly appreciate having found this thread, as a similar situation just happened to me with a mature, professional man who is in one of the ‘helping’ fields and old enough to know better. This helped get me straight: Basically, a leopard doesn’t change its spots, and his failures are not a reflection of me at all. It’s a tough situation when the chemistry feels right, but who wants to start a relationship based on apologies and failure to exhibit empathy?  

  5. 45

    ..”old enough to know better”?…..a mans mind does not grow with age(not your fault)..

  6. 46

    As a man if I ever just stop talking to a woman that means its over. In retrospect, i’ve adopted the 1 strike and your out rule. If she flakes even once then I never talk to her again romantically. She gets put in my friends zone for good. No time for stupidity, if your serious your serious. End of story.

    1. 46.1

      “if she flakes even once?”…….the first three dates are anxiety ridden…at least three dates is the norm….

  7. 47

    Anna did what she needed to do.   Satisfied her “wondering” and proceeded with caution.   after seeing him with eyes wide open she didn’t allow herself to be “played” again and recognized the red flags and walked away.   She took care of herself.   Good job.   
    I also agree with Mark.   If I had listened to my first instincts and left the I got scared   & disappearing act guys aka “flakes” alone the first time, I would have avoided a second and in some cases a third disappointment.   
    No second chances on people who disappear . If they are that inconsiderate, that’s already a red flag….   Dating can hand you some tough experiences and choices but we have to respect ourselves and have healthy boundaries.  
    When people show you who they are believe them… Maya Angelou   

  8. 48

    love the comments and feedback, Evan you got some explaining to do my friend……give the guy a chance seems more positive because at the end of it all its what the lady wants whether the heart will be broken, it will heal again like before so why not.

  9. 49

    If a person is really afraid of intimacy it takes a long long time to overcome this fear. I have been in therapy for two years now and I still struggle with the fear. I have gotte much better I attract better men, communicate better and kniow when the fear is speaking, but Im not completely cured.  

  10. 50

    I think Evan definitely has good points.

    We are all creatures of habit.

    BUT we also grow from experiences.

    Seeing someone for a month is not a lot of time to truly get to know someone.

    I would ask you – how many dates did you go on? Was there exclusivity? IF there was exclusivity, then I would say his behavior is completely UNacceptable.   Either way, if the feelings were mutual, it would still be unacceptable.   Because if he cared enough, he would still be communicating with you.   He’d be AFRAID of losing you every minute he was without you or afraid of losing you to someone else!   He would let you know what’s going on, not disappear.   That’s not what a grown adult does.   No matter how scared he is or whatever the case may be, its inexcusable.   He should have said something – anything, to let you know that he’s dealing with whatever. A good communicator does not disappear the moment problems arrise – that doesn’t make for good partnership.

    In my personal opinion, you gave him too much too soon.   

    You can give him a chance again, but NOT make him a priority. See other people simultaneously and let him WORK for it. The more   he has to work for you, the more he will VALUE you.   If you value yourself, he will too.

    Maybe  he has changed given how much time has passed – you’ll just have to feel him out BUT  
    Let him pursue you.   A guy knows whether you’re interested or not- you don’t need to reassure him.  

    Let a man be a man,   not a child.  

  11. 51
    naive dumb girl

    I fell head over heals for this guy. We clicked on every level and I had never been so happy. He disappeared after being together for 8 months. I was crushed, confused and really blamed myself. ..clearly I felt that I must of done something wrong for him to just disappear. I made a few attempts to reach out to him, and sadly gave up. It hurt worse to hit send on my message and receive no response. I moved on as best as I could, but what he did really did a number on me. I also still loved him, which made me so mad, and I couldn’t understand why I cared about somebody who discarded me like that.

    Three months later I received a lengthy email from him explaining why he did what he did. He claimed that he cared so much for me that it scared him away. He just got divorced and his world had been turned upside down.    Everything from finances to work. He made a mistake,   he was so sorry, and he missed me more then anything.
    We met to talk things out, and he asked for another chance
      I loved him, I was scared and hurt and he understood and promised he would never do it again.
    He lied.
    We spent the summer together. Went on vacation together. Spent every available moment together. Then he went AWOL. I attempted to contact him one day and he did not reply. 2 days later I tried to contact him again with the same result. This was 10 days ago.
    I am so mad, mostly at myself.   I feel stupid to of given him that chance, because I now have to start the healing process all over again. I am sad. I refuse to contact him anymore.   He is alive, he updates facebook every other day.  
    Unfortunately I have some of his stuff here, things that he will want back. I am afraid that when I see him I will buckle.  

    1. 51.1

      Exact same thing happened to me although thankfully they guy did a runner much quicker. But I was still hurt as believed he had changed and it would go somewhere second time around. He came back into my life in October after 18 months apart and asked for a second chance. Told me everything a girl would want to hear. Was so sorry for what he had done, wanted to make amends, wanted a future with me. I didn’t meet him for 2 months as wanted to make sure he was serious. Met him in December and we had 2 great weeks together then he pulls away.  I left  him be for a few weeks then contacted him. He replies and says he has a lot of stuff going on and might be moving country for work. Why couldn’t he just communicate with me? I guess if he said he was leaving after telling me so much to make me give him another chance he would look like an a**hole so its better to completely ignore me and not be answerable for what he had done. Lesson learnt, people do not change. If he is a flaky guy who thinks it is ok to disrespect you and disappear then he will always be that kind of guy.

  12. 52

    Hey Evan,  

    You know–In the past, I’ve been a total a**hole. I left a guy in the lurch for someone else. I stood the poor shlepp up on a night that we had plans. I wasn’t all that into him as a lover, but at the time I was not in a good place in my life, and the company was at least comforting.   What I did was completely, and totally inexcusable and I’m totally ashamed of my behavior to this day. I ended up apologizing and telling him I’d understand if he didn’t want to even be friends. The thing is, I would never, ever do something like that to someone now. However, I’d hope that if I really f*cked up and pulled something inconsiderate or cowardly, that if I owned up to what I did and sincerely apologized, that I might be forgiven. No one is immune to being a selfish a**hole from time to time.

  13. 53

    Thank you for this.. A similar thing had happened to me recently. I met someone on line. We clicked felt like we had known each other for an age. He pursued me, I did nothing but accept say yes.. held back on full intamacy until exclusively and he deleted his profile so a few days later I did mine. Then poof gone.. got a text message saying he thinks we are not a ‘true ‘match. I was shocked and so baffled as the morning prior he even asked me to join him on his hols with his teenage boys. I tried to call him to talk it through I felt I felt at least deserved that. He ignored me. Cold, callous and clueless… and I was blaming myself.

  14. 54

    I’ve often wondered if someone really does change. I am not spotless by no means and use to engage in behavior that would not be acceptable when I didn’t feel loved or valued in the relationship. I resented my husband because I had to navigate, correct, and bare the burden of the relationship when trouble came.   I did decide to change though,   because I no longer wanted to avenge my hurt feelings when my partner would not be fully present. I will admit, however, that now when things get tough, I find myself wanting to resort back to old habits. But I don’t. Because avenging my hurt feelings through any inappropriare ‘feel good’ thing is a betrayal against myself.

  15. 55

    WOW. You folks are b-r-u-t-a-l.
    God forbid any of you ever make any mistakes, you’ll find yourselves alone on a noose.

    Come on people, seriously? Have you never done anything wrong where you thought about it and then went, “Holy crap – what was I thinking??? I wonder if its too late for me to fix my mistake?”

    Some people are perfectly capable of being responsible adults, admitting to making a mistake, and genuinely deserve the chance. Will it be a risk? Of course. But what isn’t? Wouldn’t you be taking the same kind of risk venturing on a new gamble of love with a stranger? (think…think…think…)
    Exactly. The key is to be HONEST straight from the start and establish your boundaries that under no circumstances, are you willing to flounder. You tell him why you have reservations and be sincere about it. Take control of yourself and your emotions, the ball is not in his court anymore, it is in yours.

    Those of you with no forgiveness better check your own closets of those you have hurt in the past and point a “shame on you” finger at yourself before ever telling someone that second chances aren’t worth it.

  16. 56

    1. He cut you off for whatever reason. 2. He is unable to be honest with you by skirting the issue. 3. You continue to question his integrity.  

    Based on these 3 major relationship factors you can either talk about starting fresh and tell him he has to be honest about his past (he could lie through his teeth though) or not talk about his past OR you could talk to him about letting him go because of an attachment violation, this being your absolute right.

    Honestly, if it were me and he really meant that much to me, I would process with lots of caution and make it clear that if he ever did it again, it would over. I would also let him know he hurt me and trusting him again is going to take a long time, but if he is willing to walk it with me than I am willing to take the chance. The only thing is not bringing that up everytime he makes minor mistakes because he could be trying his everything to make it up but see he will never be able to overcome that mistake and then leave for sure.

    It really all depends on you. What do you want? Him or just someone you have great chemistry with? If it is him, how much do you want him?

  17. 57

    Hello guys!

    I am maybe straight to the point ( as well as harsh 😊) but, learning the hard way, i rather choose to be harsh and tell the truth than put things in pink clouds.

    Think about it- if you really like someone would you go a day without call him/her ? Hm? Would you be so busy?

    I think this guy probably had another girl, and when things not went his way, he remembered you.

    He didn’t care how you feel for those two months, even though he for sure knew how you felt. But he care how he felt when he got run out of intimacy. Selfishness.

    Maybe i am wrong, i don’t know all the details in this case. But girl -listen to your gut. Take care.


  18. 58
    Baby L

    You could have written my story. My ex bf and I were together for a month when he was in a car accident. Unfortunately, the guy he hit died. He was traumatized. Ge sort of faded out on me until he didnt reply to my texts and calls anymore. I was devastated because we really clicked.

    Fast forward to about 6 months after, he asked for another chance. Saying he was really bothered during that time and he needed to be alone blah… blah… I was hesitant at first but he did everything to get my trust back. I gave him a chance. We were together for 9 months until he had a big problem again that he had to deal with. And he did it again. He just left without saying goodbye. This time I am more devastated than before because I gave him my trust. It’s true what others stated here, people never change.

  19. 59
    Compassion is good

    Have you ever thought that men can have issues like depression and anxiety, and may not be able to handle life as a strong confident man?   Men are people too, and they can’t always abide by all these ridiculous rules of behaviour that are so often set out before them.   That doesn’t mean they need to be written off as soon as they don’t behave as they are expected to.   I’d rather move in kindness and compassion for people, rather than cut them off when they might not be coping with life.   All people can change and grow.

    1. 59.1

      What about the OP’s kindness and compassion for herself?
      Even if a person is depressed and anxious, these afflictions are not so terrible that they prevent a person from picking up the phone or sending a text message or having a conversation to let the other person know what is going on. Disappearing off the face of the earth? Just cutting someone off who has done nothing but open their heart to you without a word? Are you really saying that our kindness and compassion should give that kind of behaviour a pass?

      Moreover, when this guy was given a second chance by the OP, he simply treated her coldly and callously a second time.

      People can be depressed and anxious, and people can change and grow. But in my view, it is a mistake to use compassion to draw a curtain over someone’s inconsiderate and selfish behaviour and excuse it. If a second chance is given, it should be on new terms of kindness and compassion for BOTH parties.

  20. 60

    Evan is right. People don’t change, unless the change is done how beneficial to them. A guy disappeared on me a while ago. He reappeared 6 years later begging to be given another chance. He disappeared again after 2 weeks. Both times he wanted us to be intimate within days while I chose to wait a while longer. He bolted before I was ready. In both cases, no word, no call. Good riddance I say. NEXT!

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