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Gone Juan

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I'm a 20-year-old woman, and for three months last year, I dated a 21-year-old guy. Suddenly, out of the blue, he stopped returning my calls. I spent about a month trying to find out what had happened, but he wouldn't respond to texts or email, either. Well, last week, I ran into him, and he said he'd just gotten really busy with school. He wants to date again, and I really cared about him, so I'm tempted. — Please Talk Me Out Of It

"Really busy with school," huh? When...150 years ago, when there were no phones in the one-room schoolhouse in "Little House on the Prairie"?

There's playing hard to get, and then there's being impossible to locate. The first is a canny strategy; the second is casual cruelty in action. In this case, after three months of dating, a breakup phone call (in lieu of face-to-face) would have been semi-appropriate. A text would have been better than nothing. A telegram would at least have had historical flair. Yet, there you were, repeatedly trying to track him down and getting the reception most of us give random collect calls from "guests" in the long-term bed-and-breakfasts known as federal prisons.

As for your toying with the absolutely absurd notion of dating him again, your slacker of a brain is partly to blame. Admittedly, our brains require a lot of energy to operate, so they like to take energy-saving shortcuts whenever they can. They do this with what I call "thinkpacks" — the brain's version of those Lunchables combo boxes — prepackaged thinking sets that allow us to act automatically (without thinking through every last little detail). These come in handy when, for example, we're dining and we can just pick up a fork and use it; we don't have to wonder what a fork is and whether we use the pointy bits to stab the food or the person next to us.

But in psychologically complicated situations, these mental shortcuts can get us in trouble. Take the state that social psychologist Leon Festinger named "cognitive dissonance" — our simultaneously holding contradictory beliefs, such as "He's not that into me!" and "He'd make a great boyfriend!" Well, the inconsistency makes us very uncomfortable, so our mind wants to smooth it out pronto. So, easy peasy, no problemo — it typically just up and erases whichever belief goes most poorly with our ego.

Unfortunately, reality isn't so simply dispensed with, and before long, "He's not that into me!" is back and "He'd make a great boyfriend!" is facedown in the storm drain behind the dive bar.

A way to avoid reality erasing is by getting in the habit of "metacognition" — basically, thinking about your thinking. The guy who came up with the term, developmental psychologist John Flavell, called it "a kind of quality control." In this case, you unpack your thinking about this guy: "He'd make a great boyfriend!" and your wanting to believe things could be different. Lay those out on the bed next to the facts — how he behaved — because what you do reflects who you are and what you're likely to do in the future. In other words, what you can trust about this guy is that you can't trust him to show even the most minimal concern for your feelings — not with even so much as a poop emoji goodbye.

Err Of Mystery

I'm a 28-year-old guy, newly single after the end of my relationship from college, and all of my dates have been busts. I ask girls out, and they say yes, but I must be doing something wrong on first dates, because I can't seem to score a second one. Like, ever. They go out with me once, and goodbye. I'm a gentleman, enthusiastic, complimentary, affectionate. What could be the problem? — Puzzled

There's a chance you're overdoing it in the Enthusiastic! Complimentary! Affectionate! department. (It's good to keep a woman guessing a little, but not, "Am I on a date, or is this guy trying to enroll me in a pyramid scheme?")

Consider "the principle of least interest," sociologist Willard Waller's term for how, in any relationship, the person who shows the least interest has the most power. Conversely, the person who comes on with all the subtle nonchalance of a "Cash For Gold!" sign spinner — especially before they even know the other person — has the aura of a needy suck-up.

Try something: Cool it on your next five dates. This doesn't mean acting catatonic. It just means waiting to see whether a woman actually is exciting and worth getting to know — as opposed to being excited by her mere presence: "Wow — to be out with a real woman! I usually just have candlelit dinners with a pillow with a wig on it!"

Got a problem? Write Amy Alkon, 171 Pier Ave., #280, Santa Monica, CA 90405, or email AdviceAmy@aol.com (www.advicegoddess.com). Her weekly radio show can be found at http://blogtalkradio.com/amyalkon. Her latest book is "Good Manners for Nice People Who Sometimes Say F*ck."

COPYRIGHT 2015 AMY ALKON

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Comments

4 Comments | Post Comment
LW1: Well, when you don't value yourself you'll surround yourself with people who will validate your poor opinion of yourself. I say, go for it. It's not like you're going to attract anyone better.

LW2: Based on your own description of your behavior I'm surprised your dates even last the night. You are way too desperate. Calm down. You need to give thought as to why you can't stand to be alone with yourself. If you don't like you then why would you expect anyone else to?
Comment: #1
Posted by: Diana
Tue Aug 25, 2015 1:49 PM
LW1: He didn't answer any of your calls because he'd found someone else and dropped you, but didn't want to actually tell you he'd dropped you in case the new one didn't work out. Clearly the new one has not worked out, because the emergency backup girlfriend - that's you - is now being considered again. If you take up with him again, you can expect him to do the same thing the next time someone more appealing comes along.

LW2: yes, you are probably trying too hard. You may have the whiff of desperation about you. ("I no longer have a girlfriend! I'd better get a new one as soon as possible.") Meet for coffee instead of a formal dinner "date" and just view it as a chance to meet new people that you may or may not want to hang out with in future.
Comment: #2
Posted by: Seabeast2
Wed Aug 26, 2015 1:51 PM
LW2: Gentlemanly is good, complimentary is good, enthusiastic might need to be toned down just a bit on a first date, and affectionate is just stalkery-weird. You have no reason whatsoever to feel affection toward someone you don't know well; no wonder they backed off in alarm. Don't tell me, let me guess: did your college girlfriend more or less initiate and manage the relationship? If so, the problem is that you just didn't the usual amount of practice in high school and college. You need remedial coaching. Preferably from a compassionate and good-humored sister or female cousin, if you have one available.
Comment: #3
Posted by: Khlovia
Fri Aug 28, 2015 5:17 AM
LW1--Honey, please tell me that you're not so gullible that you actually bought that bullshit line about being busy with school. This guy 'ghosted' you, probably because he met someone else. Now that he's through with that dalliance, he wants to date you again. At least until the next time he pulls a disappearing act. In this day and age where practically EVERYONE has a cell phone glued to his or her hand 24/7 there is no reason whatsoever why anyone can't be reached at a moment's notice via text, e-mail, voicemail or social media. Missing a phone call is one thing, but this guy rudely ignored and avoided you. Please tell this deuchbag that you're not buying what he's selling and suggest he take a long walk off a short pier. You can (and should) expect better.

LW2--I don't know why Amy is jumping to the conclusion that you are indeed somehow turning off these women and not that perhaps you're simply dating a bunch of pop tarts! Has it occurred to you that you might be interested in a type of girl whose not interested in you? Where are you meeting these girls? Hint! Bars and nightclubs aren't fertile grounds for meeting Mrs. Right. Neither are on-line profiles where people seem to have an unnatural sense of entitlement in expecting perfection. My advice is to join a group or two involving your hobbies or other interests or volunteer for a cause that you're passionate about. My guess is you'll meet plenty of like-minded women who share your interests or passion and are therefore likely to stick around after the first date.
Comment: #4
Posted by: Chris
Sat Aug 29, 2015 8:37 AM
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