Why Do Men Date If They’re Not Ready for a Relationship?

Evan, is it a good idea to date a guy who is in the final stages of a divorce or even right after his divorce is final? A guy in the final stage of his divorce pursued me every time I ran into him and called and said he’s so into me and hasn’t been attracted to any other woman. I was apprehensive to become involved because I thought he would need time and space and to be out there on his own for a while. We haven’t slept together, but still have become emotionally involved and the chemistry is intense. I thought it was time to make the connection physical and intimate… Now, he’s saying he doesn’t know what he wants and doesn’t think he’s ready to make any kind of commitment and if we become intimate, then what? He feels I would have some expectations and I’m not into casual sex, so I’m sure I would. Why would he lead me on to begin with, even when I was hesitant to become involved when I knew his situation? —Donna

I dated a guy for 6 weeks; after a casual conversation to ensure that we were on the same page, he apologized to me for being so detached because it was never his intention. He said he wished that his life was more stable and that he felt it would be unfair to bring me in any further when he felt like he was in a world of uncertainty and physically & emotionally numb/exhausted. He also informed me that he was at a crossroads in his career and that he felt like he may be going thru a midlife crisis. I believe he is honest and sincere about these things because those things are hard for any man to admit. We have remained friends who occasionally meet up for happy hour (nothing more!!) However, I see him online ALL THE TIME. So my question is…. Why do men remain active on online dating sites when they know they are not in an emotionally available place? Is it something to boost ego and fill their alone time at home? Is online dating a hard to break habit? Are they opportunists hoping to “get some” until they are at a better place in life? Or was he blowing smoke up my ass and I believed it? Regardless, I know when to stay and when to go, but I’m curious to hear your opinion on emotionally unavailable/available men! -Stephanne

Dear Donna and Stephanne,

Perhaps this story will lend some clarity to why men seem to be emotionally available, but aren’t really ready for a serious relationship:

Shana is 46 and has been divorced for six months, following a 15-year marriage.

She and her husband fell out of love and they parted ways, but there’s no denying that there’s a tremendous void in her life after spending most of her adulthood with one man.

Furthermore, Shana hasn’t dated since her mid-20’s and feels woefully inexperienced. She’s slept with fewer than 5 men. She’s never tried online dating. She’s trying to put her life back together, trying to figure out how she’ll keep her upper middle-class lifestyle post-divorce, trying to get happy and be a good role model for her children.

She knows, intellectually, that she’d like to fall in love and get married again someday…

She knows, intellectually, that she’d like to fall in love and get married again someday, and likes to think that she would be receptive should a good man enter her life.

Ready for Lasting Love?
Ready for Lasting Love?

In fact, Shana is so serious about not making any big mistakes with this important aspect of her life that she hires a dating coach for smart, strong, successful women!

She can’t even believe that such a thing exists, and she’s definitely not breathing a word of this to her friends, but what this guy writes seems to make sense. If Shana’s going to get back out there at all, she wants to be prudent and make effective long-term decisions.

Shana and I were only working together for about four weeks when she met Allan.

Allan’s 50, cute, balding, a divorced dad, an advertising exec, and leaps and bounds more thoughtful and generous than Shana’s ex-husband ever was.

He’s been alone for 5 years and has been through all the ups and downs of online dating. He’s had some intense one-month flings. He’s had a one-year relationship. He’s ready for the real deal, and the moment he meets Shana, he’s got this gut feeling that she might be “the one”.

She followed her heart because she wanted to be ready.

Careful not to smother her, Allan does everything right.

He calls her the day after the first date to say he had fun.

He sends her the occasional flirty text.

He makes plans in advance to book her for the weekend.

He hints that he’s falling for her and talks about what they’re doing to do for the holidays.

Shana is swept up, having the time of her life, feeling a way she hasn’t felt since she was 20, and thoroughly enjoying the attentions of this kind, decent man.

After their fifth date at a nice restaurant, following a bottle of wine, Shana sleeps with Allan. It’s good. He’s good. In fact, he’s too good.

The second they’re finished, Shana starts to panic.

Out of respect for Allan, she tries not to let it show. But she can’t fall asleep, and after a half hour of snuggling, tells him that she has to get home (even though her kids are with their dad).


The next day, Allan calls her, as he always does.

She lets it go to voice mail.

Later that night, she sends Allan a text to say that she had a hard day and that she hopes he’s well. But the process has begun.

Shana is pulling away from Allan. Sweet, generous, consistent, emotionally available Allan, who didn’t do a single thing wrong in his courtship of my client Shana.

Shana genuinely cared about Allan.
She definitely didn’t mean to lead him on.
She certainly never wanted to hurt him.
She very much enjoyed the conversation, the connection, the attention, and the affection.
She followed her heart because she wanted to be ready.

But when she found herself staring down the prospect of being in another serious relationship, she just couldn’t take it.

Instead of giving Allan more of a chance, instead of stringing him along in a casual relationship for six months, Shana had to do the right thing and break up with him.

He deserved someone who was available and, despite her desires, she realized that she wasn’t even close to being available. Not for the real thing, anyway.

Online flirtation, maybe. First dates, sure. A regular booty call, possibly.

But she’ll determine that later.

Right now, Shana just needs to sort things out and make things right.

If only she knew what would make things right…