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dating coach for smart, strong, successful women Evan Marc Katz
Hey Evan,

I’ve had three similar experiences right in a row and quite frankly I’m baffled. All three involve smart professional men. I was asked out by three men after the usual process of emails and phone conversations (it’s not easy to get to that point!) only to have the date canceled (they were all made about a week in advance) because each said they had met someone over the weekend! I find this incredulous. As any smart dater knows (as does anyone who is job hunting) that just because you have a good first date/job interview doesn’t mean you should cancel all your other scheduled dates/interviews. What gives? I’m feeling a bit crestfallen.

BH

The truth is that events happen independently, and, after the fact, we try to find meaning in it all.

Dear BH,

In 2002, Lisa Belkin wrote an incredible piece for The New York Times Magazine about coincidence. Coincidence, is, literally “the occurrence of events that happen at the same time by accident, but seem to have some connection”.

Go and read the 11 page article later, but keep that definition in your head for a moment.

Is it possible that all three smart, professional men actually met other women over the weekend? I don’t know.

Is it possible that you roll a die and it comes up 6 three straight times?

Is it possible to run into your high school best friend on a mountaintop cabin in Switzerland where there are only 8 other people?

Is it possible to have two brothers killed by the same taxi driver in accidents one year apart?

The Switzerland thing happened to me, so I know it’s possible. The truth is that events happen independently, and, after the fact, we try to find meaning in it all. We look for “signs” and things that are “meant to be”, when, in fact, it is often no more than coincidence – separate events that we link in our mind to try and explain what happened.

When we do things like that, we filter the information through our own personal worldview. In this instance, your worldview tells you that “As any smart dater knows (as does anyone who is job hunting) that just because you have a good first date/job interview doesn’t mean you should cancel all your other scheduled dates/interviews.”

No, but if you’ve been hired by a company, it doesn’t make sense to continue to make your rounds. I hate to break it to you, HK, but it’s entirely possible that yes, each man fell for another woman before he got a chance to meet you. It’s far more logical than the alternative, which involves coming up with a theory about how successful men, if they’re tepid about going on a first date, are more apt to lie to unsuspecting women. Or something like that.

This reminds me of another logical principle: Occam’s Razor: “Of several acceptable explanations for a phenomenon, the simplest is preferable.” What’s more likely: that all three men coincidentally lied to you or that all three men told the truth?

Still, you’re contorting yourself looking for the hidden “why” when a) the most obvious answer is usually the correct one and b) you can never possibly know the correct answer, so who cares?

What I will say about men – something that you can take to the bank – is this: We usually mean what we say.

What I will say about men – something that you can take to the bank – is this:

We usually mean what we say.

This may not seem revelatory, but it is, since women are notorious for NOT saying what they mean. So when you expect men to be like you, you’re often surprised. For example:

When a man says, “I don’t want to talk about it,” he generally means “I don’t want to talk about it”.

When a woman says, “I don’t want to talk about it,” she generally means, “Show me you how much you care by asking me five times whether I want to talk about it, until I finally relent and decide to that I want to talk about it.”

This isn’t a character flaw. This is an observation.

Men are direct. Women are nuanced. Deborah Tannen has written extensively about this, and I recall a similar example from a college linguistics course:

If the window is open and the wind is blowing in and it’s uncomfortable in the room, a woman will likely say something like, “Do you think it’s cold in here?”, hoping that the person will agree and close the window.

Men will just say, “Close the window!”

Men are results oriented. Women are process and relationship oriented.

But there is one big exception to “men say what they mean”: when he’s using a woman for a casual relationship.

That’s when you have to learn to read between the lines. “I’m busy” doesn’t mean “I’m busy” but rather “I’m not willing to make the effort to see you”. “Let’s just see where this relationship goes” means “This relationship is going to stay exactly as it is today”. Thankfully, it’s pretty easy to see through. Why? Because his words don’t mean nearly as much as his ACTIONS. If he doesn’t make an effort to see you, commit to you, or treat you well, you have all the evidence you need to walk away with your head held high.

In this instance, HK, there’s nothing to interpret. The men’s actions and words are aligned. They said they met other women; they stopped dating you. Now all you have to do is find a guy who does want to stick around – and forget about the guys who don’t.