My name is Carrie and I’m 37 years old, no kids and never married. I’m tall, blonde and work as an attorney for victims of domestic violence. I have been online dating for several months now and have met some really cool guys. But I have noticed a pattern that I’m hoping you can help me sort out. Even before our first date, almost every guy I’m in contact with starts off saying things like “you’re every man’s dream” or “you’re perfect” or “I can’t believe you’re single,” just when we are starting to get to know each other. After our first few dates, those statements evolve into “I can’t wait for you to meet my family,” “you should start looking at rings,”, or “when we get married . . . etc.” My friends say that every guy I meet gives me “the bum’s rush” immediately. Some girls may be flattered, but I can tell you it has led to a lot of confusion and hurt on my part when the guys then suddenly vanish. I have read your book “Why He Disappeared” and I understand the principle of paying attention to what a guy does and not to what he says. However, I feel like my situation is extreme because it’s like guys fall in “lust” with the image of who they think I am, but not with the real person (trust me, I have just as many flaws as the next person!).
My question is two parts: First, why do guys say such extreme, out of this world things and then never follow through? I understand getting caught up in the moment, but it’s really hurtful going from “I can’t wait to make you my wife” to never hearing from them again. These seem like such extreme things to say just because a guy gets caught up. Second, what can I do to avoid guys who do this and to recover from the rejection? I want men to see me as a real person, flaws and all, and to stop proposing on our first date! Thank you for your help. I know if anyone would have the answer, it would be you!
So much time is spent complaining about men who never call, never plan, never pay, push for sex, and are completely uninterested in marriage that we tend to give short shrift to the men on the other extreme: those wide-eyed puppy dogs who think, in 10 minutes, that you’d be willing to commit to a total stranger.
I recently worked with a client who had the same exact problem — except she was in her early 50’s. In fact, I think this is even MORE prevalent in older men, for a number of reasons, which I’ll get to in a second. But before I pile on these guys, I want to invite you to consider whether you’ve ever BEEN like these guys. I have.
This is about chemistry — that strong, irrational, chemical pull towards someone that defies logical behavior.
Not often. But I can probably remember a half-dozen times over the course of my prolific dating career that I either turned into mush around a woman or was intent on procuring a commitment right away. And remember, I’m a confident guy who’s generally good at this sort of stuff. So if I can be afflicted, I want to remind you that you can, too. Which brings us back to the why: why do guys say such extreme out-of-this world things?
- 1. Chemistry
We can be logical about how weird and offputting it is when a stranger puts you up on a pedestal without knowing the real you, but ultimately, this is bigger than logic. This is about chemistry — that strong, irrational, chemical pull towards someone that defies logical behavior.
Which is to say that people don’t “choose” to act this way; they act this way in spite of themselves. In other words, if the same men who are throwing themselves at you went out with a woman who was pledging marriage over appetizers, he’d run in the opposite direction, too. These guys just can’t help it.
They may be able to try to spin it in a positive way: “It’s a compliment! You should be flattered!” but the truth is: it’s one of the greatest turnoffs one can experience in dating.
The fact that it happens at all is a testament to the power of brain chemicals, as opposed to a conscious decision that a man makes on a date to act as creepy as possible.
- 2. Fantasy
When those feelings come on strongly, the guy is not grounded in reality. He is projecting what he wants to happen. He’s been around the block. He’s met a lot of women. And, for whatever reason, the minute he meets you, he knows you’re different. Put aside whether this is true or not (it’s not). Just ask yourself if you’ve ever put a guy on a pedestal because he was cute, smart, funny, sexy, similar to you, or you just FELT something — like he was different, like he knew you forever, like he was your soulmate. This is all fantasy — and it plays out in your head a lot faster than reality. We can instantly imagine a life with someone and make it sound great in our head. Unfortunately, reality has a funny way of bringing us down to earth.
- a. Your fantasy will likely drive your date running in the opposite direction.
b. If you both have the same fantasy — and instantly hop into bed/commit/get married too quickly — real life will likely teach you that your fantastic chemistry wasn’t such a great predictor of your future.
- 3. Loneliness/Desperation
Whether you have gone on hundreds of online dates (like I have), or just got out of a twenty-year marriage (like many of my clients have), there is a strong pull to want to couple up quickly. You’re burned out on dating. You’re tired of the disappearing people, the disappointing people, the people with potential who didn’t pan out. You just want to have a partner — to have regular sex, to have a go-to companion, to share a life with someone, the same way 100 million other people get to. So when you meet someone with potential, you want to LOCK IT IN right away — even when that’s not appealing to the person you’re trying to lock in.
As I said, this happens even more when men get older. They’re divorced, they’re widowed, they have no friends, their kids are grown up, their friends are married and they are looking to shack up FAST.
If a guy disappears after saying you’re his soulmate, he’s not the kind of guy you want to keep.
- 4. Inexperience
I already mentioned how I fell victim to this a handful of times in my late 20’s and early 30’s, but I’d like to think that even if I felt that irrational, chemical-driven pull towards a woman, I would have the wisdom to check myself. In other words, you can’t always help how you feel, but you can control your reaction to a given situation. People who are more experienced at dating are more likely to not get too high with a promising prospect or too low at a disappointing one.
- 5. Hope
In the back of the mind of any of these men is the possibility that you might just feel the same exact way. And that if he puts his (poorly considered, irrational) feelings out on the table, you will let him know that you also think you’re soulmates and should run off to Vegas right now. To be fair, if I’ve met six women who made me feel this way, I did get three of them to become girlfriends (and scared the other three far, far away).
As for the other parts of your question, I don’t want to sound dismissive, but you shouldn’t concern yourself all that much:
Why do guys not follow through on things that they said? Probably because they were in the moment and weren’t thinking things through. Hell, I have a full book about why men act the way they do called “Why He Disappeared.” But you really don’t have to worry about the why. If a guy disappears after saying you’re his soulmate, he’s not the kind of guy you want to keep.
Similarly, you can’t do anything to avoid guys like this, since neither you nor they know that they’re going to pull this over-the-top act. It’s spontaneous and chemistry-driven. I suppose you can pay attention to his email/texts and see if he sounds like a needy stalker, but generally, level headed people don’t act that way too soon. It’s not until you show up on the date that you know. As such, asking about how to avoid guys who act this way is like asking how to avoid car accidents. You have to be careful and aware, but you can’t control what other drivers do.
Any man who demands you commit to him without knowing him is not a man you want as a boyfriend.
Finally, I have two tangible pieces of advice for you:
First, don’t think of it as “hurtful” when a guy doesn’t act with consistency. It has nothing to do with you and everything to do with him. And since this happens to you a lot, you should probably just make peace with the fact that a percentage of men are going to be this way, whether you like it or not. It’s like getting angry at rainy weather in Seattle. You can do it, but what’s the point? You’re better off not getting too excited about any one guy until you’ve been dating for a month and you’ve both committed to being boyfriend/girlfriend.
Finally, if there’s a good guy who acts this way, then I think you should actually coach him. Tell him that you like him but think it’s too much/too soon. Give him the example of the woman who is overpraising him and naming their kids on the first date and ask how he’d respond. Tell him that you need time for your feelings to catch up and you’d really like it if he courted you in a more normal fashion — a text a day, a phone call every couple of days, a date or two a week — rather than pushing you into a commitment you’re not ready for. It may or may not change his behavior, but any man who demands you commit to him without knowing him is not a man you want as a boyfriend.