Dear Rosie & Sherry,
Thank you for your thoughtful response to my question about the man who backed off after our dating became too fast and intense. (See Dating Maze #305)
Here’s an update: I think you gave way too much leeway to this man's egregious behavior. In fact, this man, who contacted me via a Jewish website for serious, marriage-oriented people, has disappeared into the ether without so much as a word – in writing or by phone. One simply can't build a relationship by retreating, and not being honest and upfront is unacceptable behavior. The bottom line is that this man was/has/is rejecting me, and to try to make excuses for him (like he was wise to take a step back from "over-dating") is an oversimplification of the issue. In fact, it added to my pain more than anything.
I think any man who disappears without the decency to contact the woman with whom he's been in constant contact and whom he professed to care about, very deeply, is not a mentsh at all. This is another lie perpetrated by many men – that they "want a committed relationship and want to get married" but they don't have the backbone to follow through.
Whatever his issues, maybe he should take them up with a therapist instead of seeking a partner on a website dedicated to helping people find their mates. This seems to me like approach-avoidance and passive-aggressive behavior all rolled into one.
We understand your feelings of hurt and frustration, both from the inexcusable way this man has behaved, and by the way we responded to your first letter. We based our response on the experience we've had with many men who've engaged in the same type of approach avoidance as your e-date. We wanted to give you some possible reasons for this man backing off, so you could give him the benefit of the doubt if he followed through on his assurances to continue the courtship.
We also stated that only time would tell whether he meant what he said and could continue. We're sorry that he decided to disappear. No matter what his reason for deciding not to continue, he should have been man enough to tell you of his decision.
Why do some people behave this way – not calling or emailing someone they've dated or have communicated with for a period of time, even though they know that the other person expects to hear from them, or refusing to answer calls or emails from someone who's wondering what's going on with their relationship? We think the answer is that they're cowards. Perhaps they're afraid that when they tell the other person they don't want to continue, the “rejected” person will become upset with them. What they don't realize is that not communicating makes the situation a lot worse. So in order to spare themselves some small amount of discomfort, they wind up causing great additional pain to the other person. That is selfish, and when we see human beings treating each other that way, we begin to understand why society is breaking down in so many areas.
They wonder how to repair what went wrong.
The person who's waiting to hear something may at first worry what happened – perhaps the other person was in an accident, or experienced a death in the family. After a while, they begin to wonder if they did something wrong or misread the other person's actions or words. They wonder if there's anything they can do to repair whatever may have gone wrong. They experience anxiety, self-doubt, and stress trying to figure out how to approach the other person. They feel embarrassed, but write or call anyway because they can't stand being in limbo.
Once it becomes apparent that the other person is not returning their telephone calls or emails, they feel duped, betrayed, rejected, and taken advantage of. They view the other person much more harshly than they ever would after a straightforward break-up message.
Contrast what you're feeling now with what might have occurred if this man had telephoned you to say, "I appreciate your coming here to visit and I enjoyed meeting you. But now that we've met face-to-face, I realize that I'm not ready to continue our relationship. I'm sorry that this didn't work out."
This message might still leave you with a lot of unanswered questions, but it will at least let you know where you stand. This is the decent thing to do, anytime two people have moved past the first exchange of e-mails and/or have actually had a date. And in your case, with a month-long virtual courtship that progressed to a face-to-face intercity date, it's even more necessary. When things reach that point, the party who wants to end things has to let the other person know. It is not acceptable to leave the other person hanging.
Sometimes, the real reason can be even more hurtful than the break-up itself.
It isn't necessary for the person who is ending things to give a reason for his or her decision. Sometimes, giving the real reason for the break-up ("I'm not attracted to you" or "I need more intellectual stimulation") can be even more hurtful than the break-up itself. So even when the person ending things offers an explanation ("I have some of my own issues to work out before I can move any relationship forward"), it may be that they hope it will soften the blow, and not the real reason s/he wants to stop dating.
Often, an explanation is right on point and can help the other party understand what has happened. Nevertheless, whether an explanation is offered or not, it is likely that the recipient of the news will feel hurt and rejected.
But that is a price we have to pay when we are dating. It is an emotional activity and when a connection is generated, each party is responsible for the consequences. It is no excuse to simply say, “I can't muster the courage to continue,” or to refuse to address a fear that causes him to run away from a developing relationship.
On the other hand, when entering the dating maze, each party needs to be prepared for a potentially difficult emotional ride, which could include an “abrupt rejection.”
Sometimes, after e-daters finally meet face to face, one or both of them realizes that their personal chemistry isn't as pleasing as their online connection. Or, one remains enthusiastic and is very disappointed by the other's decision not to continue. Or, a dater struggles but can't overcome an emotional block that keeps him from moving forward with someone he cares about. We'd all like to avoid these risks, but we sometimes have to encounter painful situations on the path to meeting the right person.
We hope that this experience doesn't sour you to dating in general, and to online dating in particular. We know very many couples who met successfully through Jewish dating websites (and our article, "Maximizing Dot.com Dating,” can help avoid some of the common pitfalls of the process). Understandably, you'll need time to get over the hurt you are feeling, and you'll likely be much more cautious about your expectations in the future.
We hope that publishing this letter may be a wake-up call to the people who decide they don't want to continue after their first face-to-face meeting with an e-date, or who use the Internet as a way to “casually connect” without being ready for a real relationship. Be a mentsch. Your reluctance to hurt someone else actually causes more hurt. Don't leave someone in limbo.
We wish you success in navigating the dating maze,
Rosie & Sherry