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How To Avoid Dating App Ghosts & Flakes

Laura asks:

I'm relatively new to dating apps. Still navigating these waters mostly, but so far my experience seems to be pretty universal - some good dates, a few bad dates, but mostly they've been just "OK". Also, ghosting, flaking, guys insisting we exchange our phone numbers before we've set a date, those who just want to chat aimlessly to no end... I always appreciate an opportunity to go out on a date, even if it's not, like, mindblowingly amazing (and let's face it, it rarely is) as I see it as a new experience and a chance to learn something. And at the end of the day, at least it means you've made an effort.

Anyway, a couple of, uhm, non-dates have stuck up in my mind and I'd like to hear your assessment of the situation and what I took out of it.

One is a guy that was among the very first I contacted. I swiped on his profile, he swiped back, we started talking, it all seemed to be going well. He was upfront about his working hours being weird on occasion and that he didn't always have a lot of free time on his hands. I figured it wasn't that important, we're all caught up in our work sometimes. Eventually he admitted that he's actually a couple of years older than what he stated in his profile and apologized for it. Now, me being inexperienced and naive at the time, I thought "Wow, a guy owning up to his misdeeds! That's refreshing!", and I let it slide. He was still within my preferred age range anyway. Now I realize it could have well been a move to impress women with his "honesty".

So, we have a really nice chat and we agree to get back the next day and establish a date. Except that he wasn't around the following day. I see him online a couple of days later and hit him up. No response. A few more days go by and I become a bit irritated. I didn't want to sound clingy, passive-aggressive or anything, so I just sent him a message saying that I thought we had a nice conversation and was still interesting in meeting. If he was up for it, fine, if not, no biggie. I also said he didn't have to respond if he didn't feel like it, I'd understand. He replied almost immediately, apologizing for not getting back earlier and he said that he just had  too much stuff going on in his life at the moment and didn't have the time or energy to dedicate himself to dating. I said it was fine and wished him luck. He thanked me for being understanding. A few weeks went by without me seeing him online, I figured he might really be just too busy. Eventually he pops up again, and I thought I might as well hit him up again, just to see how he's doing. What I got in return was that uncomfortable "Uhm, yeah, no, you're just not my type, sorry" message that I never responded to.

I did think it sucked a bit. I guess I didn't understand why someone would say that they're interested if they're really not, especially after you've clearly given them a way out. I mean, I still don't understand it, but I've learned to accept that it's just the way it is. And I felt stupid because this guy was clearly not into me and I thought I should have seen it coming earlier.

The other guy. In this case I was somewhat pleasantly surprised how quickly and easily we managed to click. The conversation was effortless and spontaneous, I knew what to say, he knew what to say. He wasn't a unicorn, impossibly good looking, too good to be true, way out of my league or anything like that - he was just a guy I thought I could be attracted to (and seemingly he thought the same of me) and whose personality matched mine rather well, at least as far as you can deduct from an online conversation.

We agreed to meet, set up time and place, exchanged our phone numbers, texted each other just to confirm we got it right. So far, so good. The day before we were supposed to meet, I texted him to confirm the date. No response until late at night, which did raise my eyebrows. But he texted back eventually and said the date was still up and he was looking forward to it. On to the next day, I was about to start getting ready when I get a text from him. He says he got caught up with something (a close friend asked for help with his computer) and he wasn't sure he'd make it on time, so he asked if we could possibly reschedule the date for the next day. I wasn't sure what to think of it, but I figured something like that wasn't completely outside the realms of possibility, so I agreed. He apologized once again.

So, the next day I was getting ready, almost finished and about to leave, when suspicion starts creeping in, big time. Where we were supposed to meet was closer to my place and I knew he would have to leave earlier. I text him asking if he's on his way. No response. I wait a few minutes and decide to call him. Of course, his phone is switched off. I knew what was going on, of course I did. I called him again half an hour later just for the hell of it, the phone was still off. And there I was, all dressed up ready to go and feeling like an idiot. I'm now actually thinking he's married or in a serious relationship and only gave me the number he uses when he wants something on the side. He hasn't contacted me again. Of course, I haven't tried to get in touch with him either.

I'd like to clarify that I'm NOT still hung up on these guys or whining whyyyyy it's all happening to meeeee. Those things happen. I'm aware of that. What I'd like is your take on what I got out of these situations. As far as the first guy is concerned, I've decided that if someone shows interest in you and then starts actively avoiding you, there's really no point in pursuing it any further, no matter what they said previously. What they said could have been plain BS for whatever reason, and actions always speak louder than words, right?

I'm more in doubt about the guys like the second one. Can you ever be sure that a guy is not going to stand you up like that, other than learning from experience and trusting your instincts? I did start to feel something was off when it took him that long to confirm the date. Also, is it ever really worth it to reschedule the date after the guy cancels at pretty much the last moment over anything that's not a clear emergency, or it's something that you have to decide on a case to case basis?

Sorry if it all sounds like Online Dating 101. :)

One very overlook skill that rarely gets discussed on dating advice blogs is about knowing how to read the room.

When the first guy launched into his speech about how busy his life was, he was trying to tell you he wasn't interested. At least, not interested enough to meet. When that reveal didn't discourage you, he took it another step further and admitted he'd lied to you. Now, maybe he did, maybe he didn't. An admission like that isn't necessarily a red flag. Like most things, it's all about context. The point is, he told you this after already telling you he had a very busy schedule that made him hard to date. It sounds to me like he was trying to back out of the conversation gracefully without having to tell you point blank that he wasn't interested. Why would he exchange messages with you, you ask? Well, let's see. There's boredom, a desire for attention, a need for an ego stroke. I could go on, but you get the picture. The most likely answer is that he was just looking for a casual hook-up and sensed you were looking for something more, so he bailed. When you followed up that final time, he realized you weren't picking up what he was throwing down and was abrupt in the hopes you'd stop contacting him.

To be clear, this isn't about whether or not he found you attractive. I'm sure he did. He just wasn't looking to put in much work of effort.

As for the second guy, that last minute cancellation is all you needed to know. Last minute cancellations are the height of rudeness. Someone looking to impress you would not treat you or your time with such disrespect. Also a bad sign was the late response to your text. I don't care what anyone says, when there's a long (several hour) lag between communications - emails, texts, whatever - and the other person hasn't mentioned anything that could explain said lag ie they're traveling, be wary. There is no excuse for someone not to respond to an email or text requesting a quick yes or no answer within a few hours. I don't want to hear about how busy they might be.

I noticed in the first example, you contacted him first. You looked at his profile first. You messaged first. You were driving the situation. Where was his participation? If there was any, I'm not seeing it. If the second guy was also a man with whom you made the first move, I would strongly advise you to be more discriminate with such efforts. This has nothing to do with gender roles. I'd give a man the exact same advice. This isn't about establishing a power dynamic or making them chase you. This is about giving them an opportunity to meet you half-way. Let them show you they're not just going along to get along. This is another reason why I suggest only focusing your efforts on people who initiate interest first.

My personal feeling is that if you have to do all the heavy lifting - contacting them, suggesting you two meet, planning the date, confirming the date - there's a reason. If they don't get as good as they give in the effort department, there's a really good chance they're going to ghost you. Worse, they might end up expecting you to do all the work should you and they actually date.

Good luck!

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