It's the eternal dating mystery: "Why did he flirt with me and then disappear?" Maybe you met him at a party and enjoyed lively banter for 20 minutes, but then he walked away without asking for your contact information. Or you had a great first date with a promising guy, you thought it went well and expected to see him again… but then poof! You never heard from him again. Or a cute guy emailed you on Yahoo! Personals, you exchanged flirtatious emails, but then he vanished inexplicably. You sit around with your girlfriends and debate why he just disappeared. Was it something you said, or didn't say? You speculate, you obsess, you rationalize, you justify. You just want to know what happened.
During the past ten years, I discovered what happened during these disconnects. I interviewed 1,000 single men using a business tactic called "Exit Interviews" that I learned at Harvard Business School and adapted to the dating world. Here is one of the twelve popular reasons that men revealed about why they had initial interest in you, but then changed their minds. It's called: "The Never Ever Mistake."
He likes you, you like him, but then suddenly you say (or write) a categorical, absolute or emphatic "never ever" type statement which turns him off. He can't justify his reaction because it would sound trivial, so he doesn't even tell you what happened nor give you a chance to explain. But his energy level deflates and soon he retreats. In one case, a coaching client of mine said on a first date, "I love New York: I'd never move." Yet, the guy was from California and thought maybe one day he might-just maybe-want to move back there. He decided right then and there that she didn't have long term potential. Sure, my client really loved New York, but if he was the right guy and if they were married, she admitted she'd definitely consider moving with him.
Even for die-hard New Yorkers, consider this: what if you or your husband received an incredible job offer one day with double the salary and a career opportunity of a lifetime? Or what if a parent became ill and needed you nearby in San Francisco? It's hard to say you'd never move, right? Home is where the heart is after all, even without Times Square, Broadway, and your sister nearby. But ooops! That "never" word just gave him the wrong impression. He took it literally.
Some men described women who said: "I would never raise my children in [another] religion," "I would never give up my last name," "I would never live in a winter climate," "I would never go to a Bible Study class," "I would never date a smoker," "I would never marry someone who was divorced," and "I would never marry a man without a college degree." Some Never Ever statements were made in an online profile, some were breezy comments bantered around at a party, and sometimes the remarks were made casually to a matchmaking friend who inadvertently relayed it to the guy she intended to fix you up with (and then he never called).
Cousins of The Never Ever are absolute or emphatic "I will" or "I hate" statements. Examples in my research included: "I will live in Japan one day," "I will only have one child," "My children will go to boarding school like I did," "I will keep working full-time after I have kids," "I hate cats," "I hate camping," and "I hate the beach."
A guy may eventually accept your absolute statements and "never evers," but why put him to the test on your first date or initial email exchange before he really gets to know you? And as to how "never" will your "never" be? Don't shoot the messenger here, but let me just say that everything is negotiable when you're truly in love. Regardless of what you think or want or detest right now, you will be willing to look at things a little differently when Mr. Right comes along. In fact, I have to admit that I (a luxury spa-girl wannabe) never dreamed when I was single that I'd see the inside of a tent on any future vacation, and guess where my outdoorsy husband and I spent last Labor Day weekend? Arches National Park in Moab, UT, sleeping in a tent. And hey, it actually wasn't so bad (in fact, the beauty of our external surroundings more than made up for the rustic sleeping arrangements).
Importantly, I am not saying that you will (or should) change your values or core beliefs for a man, but for many practical and unforeseen reasons, your opinions and attitudes will be affected and expanded when you become "we." Remember, life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans.
Check out my new book Why He Didn't Call You Back to read all the other reasons men confessed about why their flirtations turned into dating disconnects, and importantly, what you can do about it next time when the right guy comes along.
By Rachel Greenwald, genConnect.com relationship expert, New York Times bestselling author, Dating Coach, Matchmaker, and Speaker. Author of "Have Him At Hello" and "Find a Husband After 35: Using What I Learned at Harvard Business School." More Magazine's online "Love Over 40: Ask Rachel" Dating Colunmist.