Q: Dear Meredith,
I am a woman in my early 30s. I started dating this year after my marriage to my high school boyfriend ended and I have never really experienced dating before now. So far, I have only dated people from online dating websites. I have met some really nice guys with whom there just wasn't a connection and I have also met some real losers. The problem comes from the guys in the middle. I will start dating a seemingly great guy who says he is interested and then seems to lose interest without ever telling me. Just to be clear, I'm not talking about the guys I go out with once who I never hear from. It's the ones that act like they like me and I like them. Often, they act more interested than I would expect them to so early. For example, they will text me every day, talk about future plans like meeting friends and parents, call me baby or honey, or in some cases even discuss exclusivity very early.
Then I quickly start getting the hint that they have changed their mind or lost interest. For example, they stop initiating calls/texts, they cancel planned dates, they stop using their pet name for me, they say they are too busy to hang out when I suggest something, or when I do see them they don't act happy to see me and don't initiate kisses or hand holding anymore. They never tell me that they don't want to see me anymore. Eventually I either have to pull it out of them, end things myself, or just stop contacting them.
I think of myself as an intelligent person, but I also give people the benefit of the doubt, so I usually believe that they are "really busy" or "too tired" a few times before I get the hint. In the end, I find myself feeling like a fool on top of the disappointment of finding out that someone I liked didn't like me back. I've only gotten to the physical relationship stage with one of them and it hurt a lot to get there and then have him lose interest fast. What's worse is that he stayed with me for weeks afterwards until I finally confronted him and forced him to admit that he really didn't want to be with me anymore. He said that he didn't tell me earlier because he was afraid to hurt me since I had been hurt so much when my marriage ended. That's what he said, but getting cut loose would have hurt a lot less than the weeks of trying to figure out what was happening. I'm pretty cautious now and I don't want to move forward physically unless I feel like the guy actually likes me. So far, I haven't found one because they all start strong and then disappear, so to speak.
I'm not a model by any measure, but I'm an average-looking, nice, sweet person with a great, stable career; amazing friends and family; hobbies; a decent sense of humor; and interesting things to talk about. Most of the guys I am talking about don't have as much education as I do or don't make much money, but they have all been intelligent, interesting guys that I was excited about. They have told me that their past girlfriends were volatile, irresponsible, or just really immature, and have mentioned that they are happy to be dating someone who is responsible and communicates like an adult for a change. I'm starting to wonder if guys want to like me more than they actually do because on paper I seem to be the right kind of girl, but then they realize that I'm not really what they want.
Whatever their reason for losing interest, why don't they just come clean? I'm interested in hearing from you and your readers. Are guys just afraid to be honest because they don't want to hurt me? Are they just cowards who want to avoid an uncomfortable situation hoping it will just go away?
– Feeling Foolish in Boston
A: It's not just a guy thing, FFIB. No one wants to end a relationship if it means hurting a nice person. It takes maturity to get a breakup done right.
I don't know why you've had this run of passive relationships. Maybe it's just bad luck. Maybe it has something to do with how these guys are responding to your past. Regardless, all you can do about it is to look for signs and take things slow. Pet names are kind of unnecessary after a few months, right? Do you really want one so soon?
Also consider that some of these guys might not know what they want. They could be taking their time with the breakup because they're still thinking about what comes next. I get the sense that your suitors are not very self-aware about their needs. You might know it's over before they do.
The bottom line is that dating is strange (sometimes in a good way, I promise). If you're having this much trouble after just starting the process, you're probably doing it right. You'll eventually date some assertive people. Maybe there will be a passive guy who falls madly in love with you for all the right reasons.
You just have to keep going and remember that this isn't a guy thing. It's a human thing. And humans are weird.
Readers? Is it a male thing -- to wait out a breakup so that the other person delivers the bad news? Is this about online dating? Is she allowing these relationships to move too quickly? Is her past relevant? Advise.
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Meredith Goldstein is a Boston Globe columnist who follows relationship trends and entertainment. She offers daily advice on Love Letters — and welcomes your comments. Meredith is also the author of "The Singles," a new novel about complicated relationships. Follow Meredith here and on Twitter. Love Letters can be found in the print edition of The Boston Globe every Saturday in the G section.