Methinks You Doth Protest Too Much, Dear Date

a snapshot of actors playing the role of Hamlet and his mother
Image by Phil Kalina for Stan Hywet Hall & Gardens / CC BY

One woman pushed hard for labels.

The other didn’t even want to go there. Wasn’t looking for anything serious, she said.

They sounded like they were looking for drastically different things. And yet they both dropped off the face of the earth so easily.

One abruptly sent a breakup text full of cliches — a soup of “it’s not you, it’s me, I hope we can be friends.” Just with a bit more filler, sentences that seemed lifted from an overheard therapist office conversation. But when you boiled everything down, it was just cliches. What you’re supposed to say when you break up with someone. Very impersonal.

The other ghosted without explanation. Blocked and unfriended on a variety of platforms. When only a few hours before they’d been actively chatting with me, pleasant. Well okay, then.

When Reassurance and Clarity-Hungry People Ghost

Nothing’s permanent. You have to make peace with it. Especially with new people, strangers you’ve met on a dating app or who have randomly crashed into your world by chance, there are no guarantees.

And yet, people try. They try to make things feel solid on such shaky ground.

Both of these women were hungry for certainty, albeit in different ways. One wanted formal commitment. I gave it. The other wanted reassurance. Clarity. A lack of ambiguity. She was given it.

And yet… the commitment-hungry woman was quick to flake and cancel. Wasting my time and making seeing her exponentially more difficult. And she thought nothing of ending things abruptly, quickly, after insisting what she wanted was a formal commitment (which she was given, publicly).

The reassurance and clarity-hungry woman paradoxically ghosted.

“Isn’t that always the way?” I tell a friend. “People railing against something just going on to do it themselves to other people.”

“I’m starting to think that when someone expresses a fear about a behavior, I need to watch them for that behavior,” my friend answers.

Maybe My Friend Has a Point

Maybe my friend has a point. I can’t honestly think of a single behavior that I fear universally. When I look at my last half-dozen or so past relationships, they all failed or were unsatisfactory for different reasons. I carry unique disappointments from each experience. One former partner drank too much and was proto abusive during their alcoholic blackouts. Another always kept me at arm’s length in a way where we never really established deep intimacy. A different one lied to me a lot, making it so I could never trust what they were telling me. Still another completely lacked self-awareness so nothing they ever said was based in reality, even when they thought it was true.

All very different scenarios.

And yet, I keep running into other people who have a single concern about their past relationships. A behavior that they are afraid of seeing in new people they date. One that they can and do express readily.

Maybe it’s a sign when it’s that easy to come up with something, that it’s projection. Maybe my friend is right.

But I Don’t Want to Take Fears Where They Don’t Belong

But I want to be careful here. I don’t want to learn the wrong lesson. To develop a singular fear that I take everywhere with me, into every new relationship.

I don’t want to take the energy from these disappointing experiences into what should be a clean slate. A safe place for attachment for someone new to grow. Unfettered by someone else’s irrelevant emotional baggage.

I don’t think I have dating in the age of swiping right down yet. But I feel like I have to figure it out. How to navigate the apparent double standard of a wide field of people who insist they want commitment and clarity from others yet have no problem flaking out or just blinking out of existence themselves when it suits them.

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My new book is out!

Dealing with Difficult Metamours, the first book devoted solely to metamour relationships, full of strategies to help you get along better with your partners’ other partner(s).

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