My question is on the ‘he’s not that into you’ theme, and in particular about how to respond appropriately.
I recently decided to try to reconnect with an old friend. We used to be flirty and have some pants and head feelings for each other, but I wasn’t ready for a relationship so nothing ever happened. As far as I know there was no animosity, but inevitably we lost touch, saw other people, blah, blah, blah. Several years on I thought it would be nice to see how he was doing and dropped him an email. Our few brief initial exchanges were very light-hearted and friendly – smileys and everything – and he suggested meeting to catch up. However, his emails about arranging a date suddenly became very abrupt and infrequent and lost any markers of enthusiasm. Going by your awesome maxim that people that are into you (both friends and dates) are easy to arrange things with, I figure he’s changed his mind and doesn’t want to meet up after all. No biggie – I’m happy to leave him be! And yet he’s still going through the motions of trying to arrange it, thus leaving an y actual decisions and responsibility about whether or not we do meet up firmly in my court.
Now if he does want to meet then I think it would be nice to catch up, but I certainly don’t want to sit through an awkward evening of small talk with someone who doesn’t want to be there but can’t admit it.
Is there a script I can use to ask him to use his words? Or even to bow out gracefully without looking like a trifler? Is ‘Actually, you don’t sound like you want to meet up’ too weird or pressurizing of an email to receive from someone you barely know any more?
It took me and Samantha about 6 months to actually break bread together, but I give most new/casual acquaintances two attempts to make plans before I write it off as not meant to be. You: Want to get together sometime? Me: Sure, howabout x? You: No, that won’t work. Me: Howabout y? You: No, that won’t work either. Me: (inside my head): Okay, cool, no hard feelings, and I will still totally hang out if you ask, but also it is now TOTALLY ON YOU to make something happen and I am done thinking about this. Me (outwardly): With a potential date? Total radio silence, because I assume it’s a no-go. With a potential friend or networking contact? ”I’d love to see you, so please do get in touch and suggest something when you are free!“
To further prove the point that a momentary hiccup will not get in the way when people actually want to hang out together, a brief story: When my now-boyfriend wrote to me on the online dating site where we met, I was a bad combination of sick, busy, and intrigued by a different dude. So I wrote some version of “You’re neat, now is not a good time, can I write to you when my sinuses/schedule clears?” and he said “Sure” and we paid each other no mind until a month or so later when I said “Hey, can we have that date now?” and he said “Sure!” He still single, and luck was on my side, but honestly it was Just. Not. That. Hard. for two people to meet up for a sandwich and a drink. He was confident enough to trust that if I was into him, I’d make the effort, and I liked that he gave off zero Nice Guy “I BET YOU’RE JUST SAYING THAT” pressure. If we’d spent a month emailing back and forth vaguely trying and failing to set up a first date it would have been off like Hasselhoff.
So, Letter Writer, I think you are very smart to realize that if this were meant to happen it would be much easier to make a plan. Someone who is perpetually too busy for you or impossible to nail down or who never takes the initiative to suggest a plan is not that motivated to hang out with you. However, emailing this guy to preemptively break things off is a bit presumptive and will leave you feeling weirder and more exposed than you do now. “It sounds like you don’t really want to meet, that’s cool, let’s bag it!” is as honest and low-pressure as it gets on the surface, but it risks turning that breezy maybe-flirting thing you had going on into unintended pressure or sour grapes, especially since you were the one who resumed contact.
So, I get that this is itching you and you’d like it to be a settled question but also remain open to possibilities. “Closure” is really hard to get from someone else but actually simple to claim for yourself if you really want it. You are allowed to say to yourself “Self, I am done worrying about whether this guy actually wants to get together, so I am done making any effort here.” BOOM.
If you want this to be resolved, decide that it’s resolved and don’t contact him to actually set anything up. A bunch of time will go by and then neither of you will worry about it any more. There is no need to do any more work than that.
If you want to give getting together one more try, write to him suggesting a specific date, time, and place. If your suggestion doesn’t work, it’s his job to suggest an alternative, not yours to continually audition options for him. So if he says “That doesn’t work for me, but I’d still like to see you” do not respond until you see something from him with a specific date/place/time. Without one of those elements, this date does not exist in time or space, ergo, it is not real, ergo, you can’t really be bothered about it. He knows how email works and he knows that meetings must take place somewhere on the space-time continuum in order to actually, like, happen.
To clear up some potential misunderstandings:
a) Despite the “He’s just not that into you” reference, gender is incidental here. I don’t think that it’s the guy’s job to make plans or do the pursuing in order to bring you down like a delicate gazelle. The same advice applies if the genders are reversed or if everyone is gay.
b) In your last communications, it may have technically been “your turn” to respond or your turn to suggest something, so it feels like it will technically be “your fault” if you fail to get together at this point. I sense this is where at least some of your frustration lies. There’s also the paradox where both people could be trying to play it ultra cool and risk having their faux coolness read as total disinterest by the other person, or maybe he really IS just that busy, or maybe he forgot, or he is naturally non-committal, or is trying to defer to you about everything, or, or, or, or….Minus the bad evo-psych and gender essentialism, the “He’s just not that into you” author is totally and utterly correct when he suggests that you stop wasting your time obsessing about those possibilities and look at the person’s actions.
As I sometimes tell my students who are having trouble keeping up with assignments, having a major crisis and not giving a fuck look completely identical if you don’t tell me what’s going on. A person who gives a fuck can tell you what is up (and set up a fucking lunch date). A person who gives a fuck wants you to know what’s going on so that you can make good decisions. They don’t make you do all the work of deciphering their intentions.
Where his head might be and whose turn it is to email back doesn’t matter. What matters is your interest level in actually making plans and remaining engaged with this person.
- Do you want to really try to make plans? Then try it a maximum of one more time. If at the end of 48 hours/3 texts or emails you do not have an actual, viable plan for meeting up, abandon ship – either he’s not interested, or he is literally too wishy-washy and irritating for you to hang out with.
- Do you really need him to make the plans in order to feel reassured of his interest? Then it’s okay to need and want that reassurance and to hang back and see if it is forthcoming.
If he doesn’t reach out, give yourself a high five for correctly reading his lukewarm interest for what it is. If you decide to stop reaching out, give yourself a high five for saving yourself the headache.
High-fives all around! Fade accompli.