Looking back, Tomi Tuel is appalled at how she behaved with the guy she calls Yacht Man. “I was 33 and coming out of a divorce with two small children,” says Tuel, who is the author of 101 Things I Learned After My Divorce. “This guy was wealthy and good-looking, and he was interested in me — at first. But soon, it seemed like I was calling him a lot more than he was calling me. I would leave silly notes on his door telling him to meet me at the clock tower at 8 p.m. — stuff like that — and he’d never show. I’d go to places where I knew he hung out, hoping to run into him. I figured that if he really wasn’t into me, he would be up front and honest about it.”
Yeah, like that would ever happen. We all have a hard time telling someone we’re not interested. Guys, especially, tend to avoid the direct approach, which means that, unfortunately, you have to be on red-flag alert.
You make excuses for him
Of course, the real issue is not that you don’t see the signs — it’s that you don’t want to see the signs and consequently make all kinds of excuses for the guy’s behavior. For example, if he hasn’t called in days, you try to convince yourself there’s a good reason: “Well, maybe he lost my number. Or his phone is broken. Or he lost his cell phone and that’s where my number is. Or maybe he’s really busy at work, or he’s been in an accident, or he has laryngitis, or…”
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You dismiss bad behavior
Barbara Davilman knows all about this kind of self-foolery. Davilman, who is coeditor of What Was I Thinking? 58 Bad Boyfriend Stories, became an expert at rationalizing her ex’s bad behavior. “When I was 27, I stayed with a guy for five years even though he would see me only twice a week — specifically, on Wednesday and Sunday nights,” she says. “Plus, he didn’t have his own phone, so I had to wait for him to call me when he could.”
According to Tina B. Tessina, Ph.D., author of The Unofficial Guide to Dating Again, women often have a very hard time ending relationships, even if deep down they know they’re unhealthy. “They fear change, they fear being single or they think they won’t find anyone better,” says Tessina. “So instead, a woman will remind herself of a guy’s good qualities and block out the bad.”
You believe a passionate encounter always equals love
You might think that it’s just a matter of winning the guy over — and that once that’s done, he’ll be more attentive. This is what Lisa Mann, 45, was banking on with a man she dated when she was 38. “There were warning signs from the beginning, but I figured the transformative power of love — my love — was great,” she says. “We had a lot of passionate encounters, which I assumed would tone down into a mellow sort of relationship as our bond grew — but in fact, he started wanting to see me less and less, and when we did see each other, it was mostly a physical thing.”
And that partially answers the question of why a guy who’s not that into you would stick around at all. “It’s a no-commitment way for a guy to get your attention,” Tessina says.
It’s hard to face the truth and get back out there, but if you stop settling for wishy-washy men and hold your ground, you will find the right relationship eventually. (Davilman and Tuel are both married now; Mann is currently single, but enlightened.)
How to know when he’s for real
Since it bears repeating, let’s review a few of the traits that will tell you unequivocally that a guy is into you:
His actions match his words. He doesn’t just say he loves you or wants to be with you because he thinks that’s what you want to hear; it’s obvious by the way he behaves.
He introduces you to his friends and family within a reasonable amount of time. This indicates that he’s increasingly serious about making you part of his life.
His behavior is consistent. He isn’t into you one week and then distant the next. His affection for you is something you can rely on.
He tries to please you. Because he’s genuinely interested in you as well as your thoughts and feelings, he acts on that. He knows you love the color yellow, for example, so he shows up with a bouquet of yellow flowers.
You don’t feel like you’re doing all the work, and you never find yourself making excuses for him. As psychologist Geraldine Merola Barton puts it, “The truth is, we always find time for the things we value. If he’s into you, he’ll call, period… no matter what.”
Christina Frank is a freelance writer based in New York. Her work has appeared in Glamour, Redbook and Parenting, among other publications.