What You Can Do When Things Go Wrong In Love

What You Can Do When Things Go Wrong In Love

I know you don’t read this blog to hear about me or my family.

You read this blog to learn something about men. Something about the human condition. Something that explains why bad things happen to good people.

But to me, any story can be extrapolated to something universal. It doesn’t matter if it’s an anecdote about me, my wife, or my private coaching clients — it all has to do with YOU.

So ask yourself what you would do, say, or think after getting suddenly axed by the same guy who wanted to commit to you only 10 days earlier?

If you’re like ANYBODY, you’d be pretty darned surprised and disappointed.

Given that 99% of men are definitely NOT your future husband, getting upset when this proves to be true is like getting upset that you didn’t win the Powerball.

But if you’re me, a professional dating coach who sees this every day, you’re not at all surprised or disappointed by what happened.

Before you accuse me of being callous, allow me to explain:

How many times in your life have you been in love? Two? Three? Four?

How many of those relationships lasted? Um, zero. (Widows are excused from this exercise.)

What percent of men are cute, successful, smart, kind, funny, compatible and emotionally available for a relationship? (I’ll let you answer yourself.)

What percent of those amazing men also think YOU’RE cute, smart, kind, funny, compatible and emotionally available for a relationship? (Not as many as you’d like.)

When you look at all of these things together, without any emotion, you’ll see exactly what I see: the fact that ANY relationship gets off the ground is remarkable.

And, to the naked eye, FAILURE is the default setting in dating.

You heard me. Failure.

Now, to be clear: I’ve failed a LOT more than you have.

I’ve gone on over 300 dates and committed to probably fifteen “girlfriends” before getting married. Which is why I’m not too fazed by failure.

You shouldn’t be, either.

Given that 99% of men are definitely NOT your future husband, getting upset when this proves to be true is like getting upset that you didn’t win the Powerball. Yeah, it’s unfortunate, but it’s also quite predictable.

Which is why I want you to write this down on a post-it right this very second:

“No man is real until he’s your boyfriend.”

A cute photo, a winning profile, flirty emails, an incredible first date, intense chemistry, mind-blowing sex… NONE of these things mean he’s your boyfriend.

It’s not that you’re “wrong” to get excited about a promising man; it’s that, in 99% of instances, it’s premature and you set yourself up for heartbreak.

No man is real until he’s your boyfriend.

Your takeaway is to not get too emotionally involved when it comes to a guy with “potential”. Start getting excited when he’s taken his profile down, called you his girlfriend, met your family, and started making vacation plans for the summer.

The other bit of perspective I want to give you about the disappearing man is that his disappearance should not be all that disappointing.

a) This wasn’t personal
b) You didn’t lose your future husband, so why be disappointed?

Although your man initially pushed for immediate commitment, he had second thoughts. Reasonable second thoughts, I might add.

His flaking doesn’t mean he’s evil.

It means he leaped before he looked.

He shot first and asked questions later.

He over-promised and under-delivered.

In short, he screwed up and ended up hurting an innocent woman.

No one is at fault.

And if no one is at fault, there’s no value in beating yourself up about what you did “wrong”. The answer is nothing.

There’s no value in getting pissed at the disappearing man. He’s like a guy who was driving 90 mph on the freeway and missed his exit. He was so enthusiastic that he was oblivious to the fact that he wasn’t really ready to commit after 4 dates.

Finally, there’s no value in lamenting what “could have been”. It’s over. Move along.

The right guy will come along soon enough — and he will certainly not disappear the way the last guy did.

But the only way for this to happen is for my you to let go of your negativity, to let go of your fear of getting hurt, to let go of your frustration at the men who don’t write to you online, and to embrace the unknown of the dating process.

Put another way: if you quit dating, you don’t meet ANYBODY.

If you persevere, another cute man may waltz into your life this summer — and never want to leave.

“Never, never, never quit,” said Winston Churchill, and he’s 100% right.

The only thing you can do when things go wrong in love is to keep going.

Join our conversation (134 Comments).
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  1. 41
    Karmic Equation

    I have a simple rule…Don’t tell a guy you love him until he says it first. You can feel the love, act on the love WITHOUT BEING CLINGY…but don’t ever say it until he says it first. For two reasons:
    1) when you say it first, you’ll never know if he said it because he felt that way or only said it because he felt obliged by politeness/awkwardness/etc to say it
    2) When he says “I love you” first, it means it’s been on his mind for a while and he couldn’t hold it in!

    So how does one extrapolate this rule and apply it to handle men who may disappear? Simple…Don’t be more emotionally vested in the man/relationship than the man at any stage of the relationship. Leave him alone and LET HIM MISS YOU. Text him only when he texts you. Assume that when he’s not with you he’s NOT thinking about a future with you…so DON’T spend a lot of time thinking about a future with him.

    There was a one-liner that I always repeat to myself when I’m so intoxicated by a man that all I want is to stay in constant contact with him…”How can I miss you if you don’t go away?”

    I think Evan said it once, men figure out their feelings for you when you’re not around. If you’re always around, they don’t have any opportunity to notice they miss you and so they don’t expend any energy to examine their feelings as there are no feelings to examine. You HAVE to give men the opportunity to miss you if you really want to know how they feel about you. Stay away from them and don’t contact them when you most want be in contact with them. While this lack of contact can be *excruciating* and it can be almost physically painful to abstain from initiating contact, if you can resist that temptation, you will reap the benefits!

    I know because I recently ended a 6-yr relationship with a guy with whom I started the relationship as per above. He calls me every day apologizing for the bad behavior that forced me to end the relationship, begging for me to give him another chance. I won’t.

    I know because the “playah” that I decided to rebound from this LTR with offered to be my boyfriend after 7 wks.

    I wasn’t looking for a relationship with the playah (I just wanted to be distracted from the end of my 6yr LTR). Yet I employed the same behaviors with this playah as I would have were I looking for a “real” relationship with him: While you can allow yourself to feel the feelings, you need to employ the DON’T ASK – DON’T TELL – DON’T SHOW strategy about your feelings until he’s your BF. You can be feminine, friendly, flirtatious, approachable WITHOUT showing how you feel. If he disappears, you have have your dignity intact. If he stays, you have your reward. It’s a no-lose situation. It simply requires steely discipline and practicing deferred gratification to get a guy to the point where he wants to offer a relationship. THEN you can decide how much to tell or show. Just don’t tell or show until he offers the relationship you’re interested in.

  2. 42

    Karl #5: I agree. This advice holds true for men as well.

    Susan #10: I DISagree. I agree on the one hand that dating is difficult for women. Dating is no easier for men though. It might even be more challenging for us, because it is on us to initiate things and to pursue the woman in the relationship.

    I get that women have had men end it with them at all stages of dating. Well, we as men have had women ending it with us at all stages too. And usually it is NOT due to us being jerks. It is instead because the woman just wasn’t feeling it. Hey, ask all the Nice Guys who can’t seem to get past the first date because the girl isn’t feeling “The Chemistry” (whatever THAT means).

    I’ve read somewhere that over 70% of all breakups are initiated by women. Hmmm….

    And I’m not convinced that the WAY women end relationships is any kinder than the way men end them. We as men have had women end it with us by doing things such as disappearing (one day she just stops returning our calls and texts) or even cheating on us. This after not only lots of sex, but after a lot of effort and a decent amount of money spent on our part in planning and paying for dates and trips and whatnot.

    My point: Dating IS tough for women too, but it is just as tough for men. Our gender doesn’t have it any easier by any means.

  3. 43

    Love you writing, Evan. Seriously, why aren’t you in Hollywood writing scripts…you’ve got a talent.

  4. 44

    One thing where I disagree thought. When you “justify” actions of men who overshoot and under delivered as something trivial. A mature, responsible person should THINK before he or she acts. Mistakes are part of living, but certainly they can be avoided. I had never hurt a man, even though i did my share of breaks up, because i was very honest with them throughout the relationship so we both knew where we stood. If men attempt to do similar, instead of reacting to hormones first and thinking last – me thinks we got a future.

  5. 45

    Yay! My boyfriend has done everything on your list Evan. It’s always nice to get confirmation from a professional that I have a wonderful boyfriend.

    It’s also good to know that it was natural for me to get as excited as I did. Frankly, though, the getting excited (falling in love, chemically) was a bit annoying. I thought we were very compatible and I was excited, but rational. Then ‘love’ hit, hard and it really threw me off balance. I don’t know if it’s b/c I’ve read so much about ‘the dangers of mistaking chemistry for love’ or if it’s because I’ve never fallen in love like this before, but it was a bit scary! I don’t know who would want to feel like vomiting from giddy excitement forever, but it’s not me! I’m so glad that only lasted a couple weeks. I also found myself feeling more insecure, which is normal when you allow yourself to be vulnerable with another person, but I’m glad I had the sage advice from you, your wife and other posters to keep me grounded and focused on compatibility.

    Still, I worry about making mistakes in this early dating period when I’m still high on love (just not nauseaus anymore).

    Never mind. I just received flowers at work again. Literally, at this moment. He’s such a great boyfriend!

    Thanks Evan!

  6. 46

    Fusee – I agree. I don’t rely heavily on online dating, and see it as more of a backup option. Especially since I recently moved to a less diverse area; being half white and half Asian when I lived on the East Coast, my match account was still flooded with responses. Now hardly anyone emails me though I’m considered sufficiently good looking in real life by white guys here. Annoying.

    Anyway, the Western dating system is just dysfunctional. I find it reprehensible that people could disappear on others, have sex with no feeling, that people with no big deal breakers to the mainstream population – being fat, ugly, overly annoying/pushy/controlling, slutty, unemployed – are still forced to date hundreds of people.

    I have family that comes from an Asian country where arranged marriage was common, and even those now in this country basically have their parents/ family friends set them up. They meet that person a couple times and decide whether their life goals are compatible. If not, they’ll get set up again, but they’re generally not meeting more than 6-8 people before deciding, and not going out more than 4-5 times before deciding on an engagement. It usually works out, and it’s not about these stupid ideas like fireworks, chemistry, hard to get, strategies, etc. It should not have to be as complicated as these stories convey.

  7. 47

    Michael17, I agree that dating can be difficult for men too. Some women can be incredibly cruel in how they deal with us and other women sometimes don’t appreciate this because they don’t date women, but in general I find most women are decent and reasonable.

    However, on balance I think women in their late 20’s and 30’s who want to get married and have a family have it a bit more difficult because of the inherent inequality in fertility. It’s like buying a house; each party wants to get the best deal possible. But if one party knows that the other has a time-limit in which the sale can be agreed, they’ll wait as long as necessary to get the best price. I think the men in their 30’s that the posters here have discussed are subconsciously doing that. This scenario obviously doesn’t apply when having children isn’t an issue.

    As well as that, men usually don’t mind the number of sexual partners increasing ad infinitum until they meet someone, whereas many women are uncomfortable with doing the same.

  8. 48

    Dating is difficult for everyone, no one is immune.

    The table can be turned very easily by saying that men who reject a woman on looks or body type are just as harsh as women who reject men because they don’t feel chemistry. I don’t think it’s fair to blame women for men’s daing woes because they want to feel a connection.

    Men are NOTORIOUS for just disappearing or cheating, that behavior is not reserved for just men or women. That’s a character thing.

    Also, when dating a woman for longer than a few dates, a good woman will return favors by the man in kind. It may not be exactly has he expects, but she may make dinner, buy tickets for an event, etc. (Not to mention the time, effort and energy she takes to get ready for dates–totally disregarded.) Again, if she’s not doing that, it’s a character issue. Anyway who wants to keep score? I know that’s a huge turnoff for me.

    I agree with Tom, I choose to believe most people are ‘good’. As Evan said, it’s VERY rare for all the planets to align and a relationship to start AND continue for a long period of time. It’s the risk we all take.

  9. 49

    Well, wise words and good mindset to have, but after each heartbreak I be able to implement this mindset only after at least two month of crying… What can I do? I’m a human being…

  10. 50

    Not sure if this will help, however, after each breakup, I spend a lot of mental time thinking about what my part was in the breakup and what I learned–even if it’s one thing. I find the agonizing time after each breakup becomes less and less because I know I’m getting closer to what I desire.

    Regardless, so what :), we’re sad for a little time after a breakup, nothing wrong with wallowing in that for a LITTLE while, then picking ourselves up and persevering on. Persistance and patience.

  11. 51
    David T

    @H_Int 50 and Michelle 51

    Wise points Michelle and H. Let yourself be human. As long as heartbreak doesn’t include not getting a second or third date and as long as you are not wallowing excessively (2 months is kind of long unless it was an LTR) sadness is normal and OK!

    @Michelle 49 “Men are NOTORIOUS for just disappearing or cheating, that behavior is not reserved for just men or women. That’s a character thing.”

    Men may be notorious, but there is some evidence women think about it and do it at about the same rate.

    Percentage of men who admit to committing infidelity in any relationship they’ve had: 57%
    Percentage of women who admit to committing infidelity in any relationship they’ve had: 54%
    Percentage of men who say they would have an affair if they knew they would never get caught: 74%
    Percentage of women who say they would have an affair if they knew they would never get caught: 68%

    (no references to these stats, so they could be fabricated, but they do agree with other things I have read and heard).

  12. 52

    Tom #48: Good point. Women do feel more urgency to find “the one” than we as men do. Women tend to be much more attuned to emotional energy than we as men are. Which might explain why as a guy, I’ve seen both (a) women wanting to tie me down ASAP and (b) women not wanting to go on a second date with me because “The Chemistry” (i.e., this invisible energy that women feel strongly and that many men have a tough time sensing and that has little to do with things such as emotional stability, career success or even looks) wasn’t there for them on the first date. This behavior from women seems crazy to many of us as guys (“what’s this girl’s rush for commitment??” “what does she mean “The Chemistry” wasn’t there?? Why can’t women actually give things a chance and go on a second date instead of expecting life to be a rom-com??”) but when you think about it, it makes sense. Women are looking for a guy who satisfies them emotionally too, and as they don’t have much time, they feel they have to weed through guys quickly.

    It might also explain why women complain about dating more than we men do. The clock is ticking for them in a way that it isn’t for us. Our preferred way of dating—let’s hang out a few times and hook up and then see if we are right for each other—doesn’t really work for women. Women feel the need to screen through guys fast. And so they might be pushing guys away with their urgency to settle down, or not be giving guys a fair chance, which might be why they might see the dating world as mostly either charming rogues who won’t commit, or boring Nice Guys whom they don’t want to see again.

    EMK is I think, pushing women to (a) give certain guys a chance—maybe the fellow in front of her isn’t a boring Nice Guy but someone who needs time to warm up, and (b) stop pressing guys for commitment—many of us aren’t rogues so much as we need to see she’s a great woman before she commits.

    That said, I am learning a lot from the opposite gender from reading the women’s comments on here!

  13. 53

    What about when the guy is your boyfriend, has talked about getting married end of year, goes on about a place where he wants your reception to be…then disappears and ends up marrying someone else after 4 months?

    Finding it very hard to persevere and be positive after that!

  14. 54

    @Mia #47: You say: “Anyway, the Western dating system is just dysfunctional.”

    I totally agree with you. The whole system has become a shopping experience. You now click on tick boxes to make your selection, you read some description, you try, you don’t like, you return, you start over. Soon they are going to add the possibly to write reviews on your online dates!

    If you become emotionally devastated by the process, you are encouraged to look at it as if you were simply practising playing darts. You miss the target. Oh well, try again. Persevere. No doubt that some of us can approach it that way. Some are more resilient than others. Some see it with more humor than others. Not all of us though. Emotional investments take their toll on more sensitive people. But wait a minute! We must not become emotionally invested before months in the process, possibly not before marriage which has to be waited for for three years…

    So now we have a whole culture practising very hard at deshumanizing a process that should be about mutual respect and appreciation. And we are teaching other cutures to do the same…

    Let’s be clear: I’m glad the feminists fought for more equality, I’m grateful for the freedom I enjoy that my grandparents – and parents to some degree – did not have. But the loss of societal pressure to feel content by sharing life with a decent companion and honor commitments will also have a negative effect on humanity.

    For me, meeting my man and growing a solid friendship-based relationship with him happened when I opted out of the “dating culture” and chose a middle way between this ridiculous system and the more traditional old-fashioned ways. Instead of keeping accepting dates right and left and going the “trial-and-error route”, I focused instead on aligning everything in my life with my values and investing my energy in less but more promising options. I was ready to go for years without a date. I was not going to kiss without being in a relationship. I was not going to have sex without the goal of evaluating the relationship for marriage (I made friend with the vibrator : ). I had to be patient for sure, but there was no more burn-out, no more wasted time, money, and energy, and much more respect and love to give to my man when he found me. I was totally refreshed.

    1. 54.1
      Dina Strange

      Totally loved your response. What a great comment.

  15. 55

    @Michael17 #53 “what does she mean “The Chemistry” wasn’t there??”

    I think we all know what THAT means….lol SHE doesn’t find HIM attractive enough(usually physically) to want to kiss him now or ever no matter what happens in the future.

    Men are a little more flexible in this area. I date women I’m only vaguely or hardly attracted to all the time that I have very little “chemistry” with. It’s either that or nothing so I take what I can get or go without (as I do a lot of the time). For women it’s mostly all or nothing. Just my observation.

  16. 56

    JB # 56: Physical attractiveness actually matters less to women than it does to men. Or should I say, it is easier for us as guys to make up for whatever we are lacking in the looks department if we have a terrific personality. A guy will be more likely to be open to a second date with a woman who is just his type physically but the conversation is only “average” than a woman would be with an extremely handsome man in a likewise situation.

  17. 57

    Thank you for the encouragement Amy and Fusee! I’m trying my best not to become bitter and just enjoy my time being single, while remaining open to love at the same time. I really value that input. Interesting you say that JB, I have often said the exact same thing. I’ve dated a ton of men who I was not immediately attracted to, hoping that something more would develop once I got to know them better (including this brilliant and educated but socially awkward scientist–think of a real life version of Sheldon Cooper from “The Big Bang Theory”). However, often times, these guys weren’t willing to try a second date because they didn’t instantly hear violins and get instant fireworks. I guess there’s enough of that “all or nothing” thinking on both sides. In terms of chemistry, I’m trying to learn to balance between crazy hormonal attraction that clouds your judgment (I’ve had that too!), and being repelled by someone (which I had with “real life Sheldon”). After making all those mistakes and swinging from one extreme to the next, I’ll keep trying until I find the right balance.

  18. 58

    Fusee #55

    You are blaming feminism because some people aren’t “content with sharing life with a decent companion and honoring commitments??????”

    I ve always considered myself a feminist but was married for 20 years Your correlation that feminism is to blame doesn’t make sense to me.

  19. 59

    Fusee, I might have said this before, but I totally agree with you and what you did… I basically did the same. I know, I know, everyone would say that limited the number of possibilities I had, but you know what? That was a good thing. Because no matter what might be said about understanding men, there are some things that an individual has to decide she’s not going to compromise on. Compromise is fine if we’re talking about certain physical characteristics or a set dollar amount he must make (which is totally different from understandably wanting a guy with a good work ethic). But when you’re talking about general values, beliefs and ethics, then no, I don’t think it’s healthy to surrender those.

    I did not want to fully operate under today’s “dating culture,” and luckily, the guy I found abhorred it as well… I think that helped us easily transition into a relationship and later a marriage. We knew we wanted something more than the “shopping” experience that modern dating often can be.

  20. 60

    Thank you, Clare, Fusee and SS for sharing how you found your loves. These are the stories I come to this blog to read and be inspired by! You may have found love in similar ways or different ways but what I heard in all three posts is that you were happy with yourself when you met the right guy.

    Evan says men like women who seem happy and are fun to be around. (At least I think that’s what he says.) I know he says men like women who make them feel good. Women feel good when they find a way to attract men while still liking themselves. When a woman feel good she can make a man feel good. There you go. For some it’s being open and receptive, for others it’s narrowing choices and holding out for that one right guy.

    Both ways are valid! All that matters is that you find that right person and are happy and open to that person when you meet. I’m glad to hear success stories from people who find that in all different ways.

    Thank you.

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