He Said He Met Another Woman Before Our Big Date and I Don’t Believe Him.

doubtful pretty woman wearing gray sleeves

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.


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.

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  1. 1

    That’s a really weird coincidence, but I think Evan’s right and that’s just what it is. Probably the letter writer wouldn’t have even noticed anything if the three guys had gone out with her and then AFTER the date said they were sorry but liked someone else better. She’d probably have brushed it off like she has every other date that didn’t go past the first or second date. Just like we all have to. We move on to the next one, hoping to find the right one.

    It’s only the fact they wrote BEFORE meeting her that she thinks it’s odd. Instead of deciding they liked another woman better after the date, they decided BEFORE the date and didn’t wish to date anyone else.

    Sure, it’s possible they’re all using the same excuse because they decided for whatever reason that they don’t want to go out with her. But it’s doubtful. And as the man says, who cares? Whether they are lying or telling the truth the result is the same: They’re Just Not That Into You. So move on. Find the one who is TOTALLY into you and this will turn into just another weird date story to tell at dinner parties.
    .-= FrogPrincess´s last blog ..How Much Weirdness Can One Girl Take? =-.

  2. 2

    “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.”

    This is all that really matters…..

    It may be frustrating, but clearly, God, the universe, luck, coincidence or whatever has kept the these men from you because the fact is…..they weren’t your guy.

  3. 3

    BH, I know it stings so I’m sorry you’ve had to deal with that. I would refer to a recent post of Evan’s that sometimes there’s nothing to learn. Sometimes it is what it is and there’s no sense trying to use the mental and emotional energy thinking about it. Maybe these are all three good guys that just weren’t meant for you; conversely, maybe they’re all jerks and you just dodged 3 bullets? It doesn’t make much sense now, but I’ll be when you meet the right guy, then it will make perfect sense. Hang in there!

  4. 4

    I believe that everything happens for a reason, and though it may feel disheartening and perplexing, it’s likely a blessing in disguise. I am inclined to think that one or two of the guys did meet another person they found more initially appealing. A string of bad luck or good, depending on how you want to view the situation. They were likely corresponding with a few women and chose to close a few out for whatever reason(s).

    Though everyone will say “who cares,” “forget about it,” etc., I know it’s not always that easy, especially when you have spent precious and perhaps, considerable time creating the initial dating stage. So hang in there … feel what you feel, then let go and find someone who won’t bail out. One positive note: at least they didn’t stand you up.

  5. 5

    Unlike Evan, I think these guys could easily be lying. But like Evan, I don’t think they are.

    And like Evan and others have said, itdoesn’t matter if they were lying or not. They changed their mind about going out with you. There is no sweeping conclusion you can draw about men at large because of it, even if that might be comforting. And hey, better that they stop showing interest earlier than later right?

  6. 6

    And it took me a minute to believe it was true, especially since my eyes tricked me once before, but the old commenting system is back. Thanks Evan 🙂

  7. 7

    I agree with the others that this was probably just a coincidence and that it’s no reflection on the OP.

    I do wonder, though, if these events were really close in terms of time (ie, one date on Tuesday, one on Friday, and another on Saturday, all of the same week) that perhaps she said something in an e-mail or phone conversation that scared the guys off. Perhaps she said something seemingly innocuous but the guy interpreted it as some kind of potential golddigger remark and bailed before the date. I think these boards show that many smart, professional men are on high-alert for any possible golddigging tendencies (or any other red flags) and that maybe these dates were too.

  8. 8

    It’s hard. No matter whether they were lying or telling the truth-it’s still a case of they just weren’t that into. I think that many guys have specific types and more often than not were not it. However there are the right guys out there, it’s just a matter of finding them.

  9. 9
    Relationship Advice From Penny

    Evan…this is great, thorough advice! Coincidence or not, like most of you said, why would it matter at this point. But it is interesting to ponder or dissect such a coincidence – just for the heck of it! 🙂 Good thing she didn’t yet invest a huge amount of time or emotion with these men (as in a relationship). So all is a blessing in disguise… Anything that happens effortlessly or naturally is meant to be. And these men cancelled without any additional effort on her behalf, which means, naturally, they weren’t meant to be – they wouldn’t have been the right men for her anyway. So in a way, she could be thankful for them saving her the time.

    For me, a big part of what I find attractive in a man is when he finds me attractive and wants to be with me. If he didn’t have this kind of interest in me, somehow, I just won’t find him that attractive no matter who he is! lol (I’m sure some of you can agree?…)
    .-= Relationship Advice From Penny´s last blog ..Can any 2 people be truly happy in a relationship? =-.

  10. 10

    @A-L post #7

    I don’t agree with you. In my experience most women do care how much a guy earns and where he is at in his career, but that is different from being a “gold digger”.

    The former is looking for someone from a compatible social class and is looking for signs that a man has his life together.

    The latter is looking for money, either through being the recipient of gifts, hoping to be the recipient of future alimony/divorce settlements or a being the future beneficiary of a will.

  11. 11

    I had this happen to me recently with one man – it happened after I had gotten a babysitter and had confirmed the date with him the evening before. He then emailed me to say he had met someone “over the weekend” – 3-4 days earlier – and that he didn’t think it would be “fair” to “start something” with me while dating her. Then he continued to peruse my photo daily for quite awhile afterwards even though we never communicated again.

    I just looked at it like it was HIS LOSS because it is. Onward!

    Dating is not for the faint-hearted!

  12. 12

    When I was on Match I met numerous guys who would cut off communication with all other women after one good date. I wasn’t like that (or maybe I just never had a really good date off Match…I definitely cut off all other dating activities as soon as I met the BF), so I thought it was a little strange, but there’s nothing you can do about it except move on.

    Vino, perhaps the woman your buddy was e-mailing didn’t drink, either for religious reasons or because she’d had drinking problems in the past. I could understand not wanting to have a wine date and also not wanting to divulge that type of information prior to a first meet. Of course, inflexibility’s an option, too, and there are MANY women out there who feel their safety is in jeopardy in certain types of environments (esp. when alcohol’s involved). Could’ve been anything, but like the other posters are saying here, she probably wouldn’t have been the one for him in any case.
    .-= Honey´s last blog ..Accomplish Something to Become More Attractive =-.

  13. 13

    Brenda, I forgot to say, I think your example is weird! But what can you do…
    .-= Honey´s last blog ..Accomplish Something to Become More Attractive =-.

  14. 14

    I don’t think you start to call someone a liar, or think someone might be lying until they’ve given you a reason. That’s living life on the defense and I know some do that, but it’s generally not healthy. I live life on the offense. There is no ulterior motive here…when I’ve met someone I really click with, I totally forget all of the women in my inbox that are in various stages of communication. I’m too busy honing in on that one! Men are more to the point and we know how to get our needs met better…ie…”I’m hungry, lets eat”…as opposed to “when was the last time we ate”?

  15. 15

    I’m guessing at least one of the OP’s prospective dates lied about meeting someone else.

    The key to remember is that these guys, like the OP are likely trying the buffet that is today’s dating. Maybe 1, 2, or all 3 simply decided they’d prefer to focus on someone else. After all, this dating thing is time-consuming.

    That said, I do think you have to examine the steps leading to the bail-out. I’ll tell my buddy’s story (I know – I saw the emails). He met woman online – match.com. After the requisite email exchange, the discussion turned into where to meet. It became the friggin’ Middle East peace negotiations. Him – Let’s go grab a glass of wine. Her – Coffee during the Sunday day. Him – ha ha. Grab wine or something where we can relax & let hair down. Her – Coffee. Sunday day. Him – forget it. See ya.

    That’s a boiled down version clearly. But he was waaaay put off by the inflexibility and ‘my way or the highway’ tendencies. That and he hates coffee dates (I agree w/him) as an unromantic, pre-interview screening where she doesn’t have to waste any time.

    Not to say the OP did any of that at all. Just that occurring twice is easy say a coincidence, but three times may be a pattern. May be. So you have to look to see if you contributed…

  16. 16

    To the letter writer: if you had set up three dates with these fellows and really hit it off with the first of them you met with, to the point where you knew he was The One (for now), would you go through the motions of going on your other two dates?

  17. 17
    Relationship Advice From Penny

    Thanks for explaining what you meant to say, A-L. Now that you’ve clarified (which I think you did a good job), your suggestion that there may have been an offhanded comment made, can be quite possible in this case… It’s a very good point to raise!

    I also like JM’s comment that:
    “I wouldn’t be so quick to take the victim route, instead I would take some time for self-reflection.”

    Good point here too…
    .-= Relationship Advice From Penny´s last blog ..Can any 2 people be truly happy in a relationship? =-.

  18. 18

    Re: Steve’s #9

    I apologize if my post made it out to be that the OP was a golddigger for looking for a financially stable guy. That was not my intention at all. In fact, I totally agree with your post about the difference between responsible women and golddiggers.

    What I was trying to say was that the OP may have made an offhanded comment in an e-mail or phone conversation (which she may have said to more than one guy; when I’m in contact with multiple people I tend to relay similar info). This offhanded comment might have been interpreted by the guys to be a red flag, even though it wasn’t meant at all that way.

    For example, maybe she just had to buy new tires for her car, get a new water heater, and pay for emergency surgery for her dog. She may have made a comment like, “Gosh, I feel poor this month!” or “Gee, I’m not looking forward to this month’s Visa bill.” She just feels she’s sharing about her life as she totally has the funds to pay for everything but it’s just an annoyance when you have to spend money and it’s not on anything fun. But the guys might not know what the money’s spent on (or even if they do) they feel like she might be looking for a wallet rather than a man, and bail.

    Though this isn’t the best example (I doubt someone would bring up finances in this way prior to meeting someone) there have been plenty of examples in various threads where men and women have interpreted the same comment in totally different ways. I’m just saying that was a possibility in this situation.

  19. 19

    I think I have to beg to differ with most of you. While I think it’s horrible that BH hit the trifecta with three men cancelling before the first date, the common denominator here is BH. So I guess I’m left to wonder what is said in the emails and phone calls that might prompt three totally different strangers to cancel plans. I think that begs the question, more than just writing it off as coincidence. I think we all see ourselves in one light, yet we might be giving off signals or communicating things that aren’t true representations of ourselves. I’ve learned the most about myself from the tough love I’ve gotten from friends, or even men I’ve gone out with. So if I were BH, I wouldn’t be so quick to take the victim route, instead I would take some time for self-reflection.

  20. 20

    If this happened after meeting these men in person, then there might be a reason to re-evaluate her interactions with men in general. But there is neither rhyme nor reason to what happens in the world of online dating. People get scared, they review your profile a third, fourth, and fifth time and decide you’re not for them for any number of reasons, or they actually DO meet someone else they want to pursue.

    I’ve had women from dating sites cancel on me at the last minute with the lamest excuses – from “a friend suddenly showed up from out of town” to “I’m not feeling well.” Some have cancelled with no explanation at all – just a “sorry, can’t make it tonight.”

    If she’s looking for a rationale explanation for why people she meets online do what they do, she’ll never find it, and would be best served, as EMK suggested, not to bother trying.
    .-= Marc´s last blog ..SPEAKING OF VAGINAS =-.

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