Sunday, December 21, 2008

Online Dating Dilemma

Question: This gentleman expressed interest in me via email and we began emailing to get to know each other. 3 weeks into the emails – we decided to meet. The night before our “date” – his Dad had a heart attack…needless to say the date was cancelled. We continued emailing for a couple more weeks and talking about meeting but he was different and then he just said he couldn’t do this anymore. He said it wasn’t anything I did…did he just run away…was it dealing with family issues? I just don’t know and it really shook my confidence because we had gotten very close thru our emails. Thoughts? ...Robin

Answer: From what you have told me, I see two possible reasons for your gentleman friend to have acted the way he did: 1) His whole world was thrown into an uproar because of his father’s heart attack, which caused him to re-evaluate his life, loves, career and direction. Unable to come to terms with the sudden emotional upheaval in his life, he decided to withdraw from interpersonal interaction until he could “put the pieces back together” and make sense of his current situation and his future; or 2) He enjoyed your online relationship/flirtation, but was either afraid of or uninterested in taking it to “the next level.”

Of course, both are reasonable explanations – two perfectly plausible motivations that precipitated his actions. That said, if I were a betting man (which, by the way, I am), I’d be going “all-in” on reason number 2. Why? Because I find it a bit too coincidental that his father’s heart attack occurred the night before you two were supposed to meet. Sure, it may have happened, but I believe the timing is a bit suspect. It seems far more likely that he came up with a very strong excuse to cancel your date, and then realizing that re-scheduling was an inevitability, decided to make himself scarce before he had to once again deal with actually meeting you in person.

But why would he act that way, when online he seemed so interesting and interested? Well, there are several possibilities. Perhaps he is not what he represented himself to be. Online, he could be handsome, tall, and athletic – the perfect male specimen. In person, he might be three hundred pounds, missing a few teeth, and reeking of body order and Old Spice. Online, he could be witty, insightful, and articulate. In the flesh, he could be painfully awkward, unable to string together a cogent sentence, let alone participate in meaningful conversation. Other possibilities abound. He may be significantly older or younger than he let on. He may be married or otherwise involved, and online romance is fine (in his mind, anyway), but actually meeting you is “crossing the line.” He may be having these kind of communications with many different women and is completely fulfilled by his email adventures. He may be in prison. Or he may not even be a man. The bottom line is this: Online relationships allow the participants to be whoever they want to be. In person, you are who you are. I believe that, for whatever reason, he just didn’t want you to see who he really was. Of course the irony of it all is that had he been honest with you from the start, perhaps you would have been just as attracted to the man as he actually was, warts and all. Unfortunately, you and he will never know.

On a positive note (I always try to find one – cockeyed optimist that I am), this truly appears to be a case of “it’s not you, it’s me.” It doesn’t seem like you said or did anything wrong. Thus, there is absolutely no reason to beat yourself up or lose one iota of self-confidence. He ran away – not from you, but from the truth. And that’s not your fault; it’s his…and his loss, as well.

© 2008 David M. Matthews. All Rights Reserved.


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