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


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.

Join our conversation (47 Comments).
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  1. 31

    I am sorry about your experience and disappointment. In the grand scheme of things, the reasons the men gave you really don’t matter.
    Dating is a fluid and changeable process. It is easy to meet new people all the time, especially since there are so many options available. And the internet and social media make it very easy to meet lots of people.
    One thing is certain. We are not meant to be with everyone we meet. It is far better to know early. And it may take some time to find the one. Once we do, things fall into place almost effortlessly.
    Don’t doubt yourself. Good luck on your search!

  2. 32

    To downtowngal #30. Sure it’s easy for women to keep thier “options open” because they can date 3 or 4 men at once and never spend a penny. If we men keep our options “open” it’s going to cost a lot more to go out with and even casually court more than one woman at a time only to find out after 4 dates and 400 bucks she’s dating 3 other’s and she always knew the guy wasn’t dating anyone but her.

    I prefer dealing with one “scenario” at a time for the most part. I keep my options “open” but I’ll only deal with them one at a time.

  3. 33

    JB, from the girl’s point of view, she could meet a great guy, spend all of her time w him from the get-go only to find out he’s afraid of committment or has been dishonest/hasn’t revealed critical things about himself that can impact the relationship, like, oh, well, he’s still married. Or has a drug habit. Or his past 3 girlfriends had restraining orders against him. Or he gets complacent because he already ‘has’ her and the relationship sours.

    Meanwhile she blew off the nice guy who was trying to court he at the same time, but he’s moved onto someone else.

  4. 34
    Relationship Advice From Penny

    Daniela (post 31), It is so true what you said:
    “It is easy to meet new people all the time, especially since there are so many options available. And the internet and social media make it very easy to meet lots of people.” Very well said. I especially agree with:

    “One thing is certain. We are not meant to be with everyone we meet.”

    I was inspired by your comment and by BH’s story that I shared something that I hope will help her see light in all this. I wrote an article on my blog about: Being “turned down” is not so bad after all.
    .-= Relationship Advice From Penny’s last blog ….Being turned down is not so bad after all =-.

  5. 35
    Mikko Kemppe - Relationship Coach

    One of my favorite articles. Very nicely said Evan and great advice.
    .-= Mikko Kemppe – Relationship Coach’s last blog ….Mikko, How Do I Know Where I Stand With This Girl? =-.

  6. 36

    It’s really simple for BH if it matters that much. Put up a hot woman profile and wink at the 3 guys that flaked on you and watch who takes the bait. Then you can see for yourself who’s lying to spare your feelings or who might of “really met someone”. It works every time.

  7. 37

    For several years I’ve participated on a web site where people in troubled relationships go for advice. Something that has become increasingly common, dishearteningly so, is the number of women who have caught their partners setting up profiles on dating sites with the purpose of meeting other women to cheat with. When caught, they invariably say they were just curious, they just wanted to look, they wouldn’t have gone through with it, blah, blah, blah.

    How do you know if someone you are corresponding/ talking on phone with is really single? You’ve never been to their home. You’ve never met their friends. Or children. Admittedly this is a jaded view of HK’s experience, but I wouldn’t discount the possibility that out of 3 men breaking it off before the first meet…at least one of them might have done so because he was in a committed relationship and either got caught, or chickened out.

    That being said, I think the Occam’s Razor explanation might be more that these men HAD been dating other women, decided to either narrow it down to one, or not add any more and used the “met someone over the week-end” excuse simply thinking it sounded better than giving HK the impression they had been stringing her along.

    Or maybe any of these guys decided dating more than one woman at a time was too expensive and unfortunately HK had the coincidence to be their cut-off point when they decided this.

  8. 38

    I wouldn’t be surprised if one of them contacts her in 2 weeks to see if she’s available. What’s your advice for that? Based on the logic that men will “try” dating one woman at a time due to expense, should she allow herself to be the next experiment? Would she also be making a big deal out of nothing by feeling insulted? My take – if you weren’t that into me to keep the date, why are you so interested now?
    I’ve had men disappear for weeks due to being “busy” and then reappear to see I’m still available. The answer is always “NO”- especially if they never stopped being active on the site. Some guys are on the same dating sites for years-with the same profile and pic. They have no intention of getting serious with anyone- they like the game and the menu.

  9. 39

    To Val, that happened to me last year. I was emailing a woman whom I had planned on meeting, and in the meantime a woman I had met at a singles event a year earlier and I re-met. We had a couple of dates and it looked like it might go further, so I told the woman online the truth and she understood. It ended up not working out with the first woman after a few weeks, and since the second was still on Yahoo “looking,” I emailed her and she was receptive. I told her it didn’t work out but that’s WHY people date to see if you’re compatible. We ended up not being a match and she’s still on Yahoo with the same pic and awful profile. And yes, just like the men you describe, there are woman on every site that have been using the same profile and pics for 8 years and think that John F Kennedy Jr. is going to come back from the dead and be their “Prince Charming”,”The One”,”Their Soulmate”,”Their Best Friend” ….yadda yadda yadda. They’ll be alone forever.
    You can’t change the world…lol.

  10. 40

    I think she’s lucky the guys cancelled and were up front about it.  Better that than if they went on the date and the guy is thinking about the other woman that he met and liked before you.  That’s happened to me a couple of times.  The guy seemed distracted and distant and said that he had met someone else before me.  The date was a waste of time.  That’s way worse than the date being cancelled beforehand.  And any guy who is interested in someone else is not for me. 

    I believe I’ve done the same thing myself anyway.  If I’ve met someone I like I don’t want to be distracted by someone else.  After spending time before dating multiple people at once I’ve decided to do it one guy at a time.  It doesn’t take that long if it’s not going to work out and I don’t have to remember a bunch of life stories all at once.  If it does work out then I don’t have to hurt or disappoint all the others.   I also ask any new guy if he’s dating multiple people or if he, like me, dates one girl at a time. 

  11. 41

    But if a guy is really interested, isn’t he still likely to follow through on the date even if he has just met someone.  After all its just a date, right?  And its still too soon to tell whether the person that he just met is indeed the one.   

    The general rule is that guys are slower to commit, so why did all three suddenly decide that they were gonna be exclusive with someone they just met?  Is this by chance an  “easy let down” used by  guys to get out of following through?  

    When all is said on done these guys must be given some credit because they could have done the jerk thing and simply not shown up for the date.   This way they cancelled an arrangement that they are not keen on and at the same time eliminated any obligation to reschedule. 

    The OP may have just been spared a lot of grief.

  12. 42

    To Val #38, if the “reappearing” guy sounded interesting, I would absolutely say yes to another first-date offer. So, he tried someone else and it didn’t work out – that’s how online dating works (I’m told it’s a nimbers game). Nice of him to come back to check with me! My take on this is, unless and until we’ve met in person (and, since first dates are usually such a cluster of mutual embarrassment and misunderstanding, maybe even unless and until we’ve had at least two dates), he cannot really say if he’s “into me” or not, and vice versa. To each other, we’re just letters on the screen or voices in each other’s phone. At this point, whichever we decide regarding each other, “it’s business, nothing personal”. It’s after we’ve met several times and gotten to know each other better, and one or both of us got emotionally attached, that things get difficult. At the emails/phone calls stage, it’s still pretty impersonal to me. At this point they’re more like friends or online buddies (like someone I’d meet on an online forum) than romantic connections. As such, they have my permission to come and go as they please.
    I have to add, I’m confident enough not to feel insulted when a guy I’ve never met schedules with me, then cancels, then schedules again. So far, for some odd reason, my options IRL, on average, have been better than my average options on match, so, if some unknown guy from match cancels on me, no big deal. I probably wouldn’t have liked him anyway. Next 🙂 Talking to several people online at the same time would probably help soften the blow too – guy A canceled – hey, now I’ve got more time for guys B, C, and D. Cool! Thanks, guy A 😉

  13. 43

    I know this is an old thread, but I had a recent experience that is relevant to this:
    I emailed 3 girls a week or so ago on Match. Each one of them, when I emailed them, was “active within 24 hours”. NONE of them have been on Match since–all 3 of my emails have gone unread, and none of the 3 girls checked out my profile.
    What happened? What did I do? Was there anything in my email that could have possibly kept them away from Match since? No! Obviously. For each of them, something happened in their own lives that is keeping them away from the site. It has nothing to do with the emails I sent.
    My point is that sometimes we just have bad luck.

  14. 44

    The headline read….
    ‘He said he met another woman before our big date and I don’t believe him’
    Emphasis on BIG DATE! Most people dating on-line would not refer to a first date as such. A first date is just a starting point to get to know someone, nothing more.
    That said, perhaps, the OP scared these guys off by putting way too much importance on these first dates (after all, she also states that it isn’t easy to even get to that point), or by appearing too eager.
    Perhaps she’s relatively new to on-line dating and saw getting those dates as a sign of success – so her disappointment is understandable.
    Either way, I agree that the common denominator in this scenario is the OP, and she should examine her own role in it to see if she has maybe said something in her e-mails that would make her appear overly anxious or needy.
    Best of luck in your future dating endeavors!

  15. 45

    This may or may not be off topic, but it’s NOT difficult to get to the “meeting” point online. Maybe I’m just a bigger risk taker than most, but I really think there is nothing to lose in meeting for a drink/coffee.
    I’m 29 and have been meeting people on the internet since 2000; guys, girls, friends, boyfriends, everyone! I was way ahead on the online meeting thing. hah.
    As long as the profile is sane and cool, the person looks appealing, after a few messages you’re better off just meeting in person. Speaking on the phone and having endless e-mails is the biggest waste of time and all you are doing is wasting all the small talk ice breakers that you can use IN PERSON!
    I met my current boyfriend on OKc, to be honest, I liked him and we had fun when we first met but I wasn’t taking it seriously and didn’t think I would even want to date him (totally slept together on the 2nd date – I had no intentions of being in a relationship w/ him). He pursued me to the ends of the earth for the first month and a half, now less than a year later we are living together and we are madly in love and it’s the best relationship I have ever had – he is an amazing communicator and we literally talk about/plan everything from vacations, marriage, family, finances, buying a house, the future is CRYSTAL CLEAR.
    Point is, I have never chased a guy and would never chase a guy. It’s spot on to let them lead (like Evan says!). Unless I was sure of a guy and unless the future is crystal clear, I’ve always dated multiple people. I live in NYC and have literally had 4-5 dates with different guys in a week on the regular in the past (even if it was just a drink and would never be anything more); I would like to note I NEVER let a guy pay for me unless I’m interested and I ALWAYS offer to pay. I’ve read a lot of this blog, it’s a guilt pleasure for me for some reason even though I’m in an amazing relationship and it seems like people spend too much time talking on the phone/messaging back and forth. You don’t need to make plans a week in advance or have weeks of emailing. Stop being scared, what’s there to lose? All you will lose is about an hour of time meeting in a public place. If someone isn’t showing interest, brush it off and move on there are 6 billion people on earth! 
    It’s all a numbers game. It’s like sales; you will ask 100 people, 10 will listen, and 1 will say yes!

  16. 46

    Same thing happened to me and it is the absolute worst feeling of rejection I’ve ever had 🙁 Wad supposed to be our first date, and had a great night planned, then all of a sudden he says he went out with someone else and the connection was so great he wanted to see how it went with her. How to I get over this utterly shitty feeling about myself. So tired of being tossed aside.

  17. 47

    I did years of online dating and trust me this has nothing to do with you and unfortunately is something you need to get used to.  Just blow it off and set up more dates.  Don’t invest too much in people you have not met.  Think of it like this half these people don’t look at all like their pics, or may not even be that person so you may have not even lost what you thought you did.  Two things happened with this guys either they chickened out or they are good guys who made a connection, wanted to focus on one girl and did not want to lead you on because they are not players.  The first type I encountered a lot.  They were out of long term relationships recently or just shy or maybe in an on and off relationship and they just chickened out.  The second type will be back online looking in a few weeks because cutting off all dating so early on does not work with online dating,  inevitably that girl is seeing 20 other guys at once too and she picks another.  But in real life dating normally you do want to focus on one person so that’s what people do.  People just have so many choices online and the women have more than the men it’s a race to who can get her first. There’s a chance if you went out with these men first they may have said the same thing about you? You would have been the choice.  You just don’t know this is online dating!

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