Mailbag: How to be ready for love + shooing men away accidentally

Reading time: 9min

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We’ve got a good batch of letters today. Let’s see what the ladies have to say:

Dear Dr. Ali — A couple of weeks ago I was at an event with my family and I saw a man that I was very attracted to. I noticed him because he was staring at me intensely the whole day and would move close to me in the crowd and smile repeatedly. I would smile back but I was too nervous to approach him and I think he was too so I went home with regrets. But later I went home and was able to find him online via LinkedIn.

I proceeded to ‘poke’ him on Facebook and he messaged me saying “Hey good-looking! How did you find me?! :)” We talked back and forth for a couple of days, I told him I was in the middle of finals and he asked if we could go for coffee when I was free. I responded sure, and if he would be okay with the end of exams 3 weeks from now. He read my message and never responded and this was 5 days ago. I feel quite upset and confused as this act of ‘ghosting’ is not the first time this has happened to me.

I have read your post about why men lose interest, but how is it possible to ask someone out and lose interest in the span of 12 hours?? I’m wondering what could I be doing/saying that makes a man change his mind after asking me out? Should I not have looked for him when I saw him on the dating site? I know I am overthinking this – I know deep down the simple answer is he just wasn’t interested enough… I am just feeling a bit hopeless in the game of dating and wondering if you have any words of advice for a 23 year old like me? — Lily in LA

Great one, Lily! Well, you’ve done many right things here. You’ve taken the initiative to look him up and establish contact (after being too chicken to say hi to him when he was right there in front of you, but hey, baby steps here). And he was eager enough to see you to ask you out – and then you postponed him for three weeks. And you’re surprised why he lost interest?

As a guy, this has happened to me a lot. Both parties show interest – heck, sometimes the woman even initiates contact, as in this case. So I ask her out. And then she says, “Ooh ooh, I’d really love to get together, but I’m kinda slammed right now. How’s third quarter of fiscal year 2019 looking for you?”

Y’know the pfffffftttt sound a beach ball makes when it’s punctured? That is precisely the sound my ego makes when a woman postpones me like that. Now it could very well be that she’s very busy, or maybe going on a 3-week trip to Bhutan. Cool, no problem – we can get together upon her return. But as a guy, the notion that a woman doesn’t have 45min to spare because of some emergency that goes on for 3+ weeks just says to me that she’s not that interested. Either that, or she’s just not very good at managing her time. What, like she’s not eating 3 meals a day? Working out? Going for a walk? Noodling on Facebook? Reading emails from some random guy dispensing dubious dating advice? You could be spending that time with him.

The other reason why it’s important to say yes to a guy’s request for your company sooner rather than later is that after a long enough lag, both parties are liable to lose interest. Like radioactive waste, memories and feelings undergo exponential decay. My rule of thumb is to get together with someone you’ve met within seven days. Longer than that, and both parties will have forgotten why they were interested in one another in the first place. Then that first meeting may never happen, which would be tragique indeed.

The third thing to keep in mind is that he may not have lost interest at all. But if you gave him a timeline of 3 weeks from now, it’s perfectly reasonable for him to get back to you three weeks from now. You’ve made it very clear that there’s no urgency, so he’s going to saunter off, do his thing, and maybe get back to you later. Waaay later.

In the end, a plea. It seems as if everyone is super busy these days, all the time. And yet, at the same time, sociologists tell us that people have never been lonelier. What is up with that? It’s enough of an epidemic to be parodied (to hilarious effect) in The New Yorker piece “Let’s Get Drinks.” Hell, I even stopped asking my friends out to stuff because it just became pointless to be told “sorry so bizzy can’t this century” so many times. I have since retired to a cave, adopted the name “Trog”, and respond only in grunts. Come see my bison paintings sometime.

But onward! Let me make this really clear. The quality of your relationships is the centerpiece of your existence and the #1 determinant of your long-term health and happiness. This means that you should make it a priority – over exams, reports, bogus deadlines, everything.

I’m not saying that you should flunk out of school, quit your job and live in a cardboard box on the street so you have more time to hang with your friends. I am saying that your life is probably not the perpetual state of emergency you’re making it out to be. In med school, we learned about the ABCs – airway, breathing, circulation. So if your airway ain’t blocked, your lungs are functioning, and you aren’t bleeding out, it’s not an emergency. By definition.

So make time, walk slowly, smell the roses, actually answer the phone, get together with people, chuck the Soylent and share a real meal. We’re all gonna die anyway, so what’s the point of rushing to the finish line?

Okay, done with that rant. I’ve been working on this new course called Happiness Engineering: The 5 Pillars of Authentic Success, and it’s all about redefining what living well means these days and how we can design happiness into our lives, versus leaving it to chance. If you think this is a) a good idea or b) it stinks, let me know via this 5sec QuickSurvey. More on this later.

The overall point for Lily is that you can either blame guys for being lame and losing interest, or you can take responsibility for your own actions and fate. The latter tends to be more empowering, which brings us to the next question:

Dear Dr Ali: You often talk about fit being important in a relationship. How can I tell if I have fit with a guy? What are the signs? – Betsy, 28, San Francisco

A most excellent question, Betsy! I’m not sure which guy you’re talking about, and I don’t know you that well either, so I can’t give you a whole lot of specifics. What I can give you are some tips for making yourself fit – as in, fit for a partnership. Because the fitter you are, the more likely you are to have a good fit with a partner.

Let me explain it this way. What does it take to run a marathon? Well, you need to prepare for it, preferably for months. This allows you to develop the cardiovascular fitness, bone mass and endurance to run a 42km race without keeling over like Phidippides, the first guy who did it, whose tale somehow became the opposite of a cautionary one.

It would also be good to have a support crew – people to hand you water, food, clothes, IV saline, performance-enhancing drugs, whatever you need. You should also have a plan for the race. How fast are you going to run the first half? What if you get a blister? How to handle Heartbreak Hill? What if you bonk and start hallucinating leprechauns?

The point is that you do not leave the running of a marathon to chance. You prepare and plan ahead. It would be silly and mildly suicidal to run a marathon cold.

And yet, that is exactly what most people do when it comes to intimate relationships. And this ain’t just some vaguely masochistic hobby where you wear a tin medal and post brag shots of your finish. As we just discussed, relationships are the centerpiece of your existence. And somehow, people think that they merit less preparation than a footrace.

If you happen to be looking for a long-term partnership, then the marathon metaphor is particularly apt. Gotta get ready for the long haul, baby! How do you make yourself fit for partnership and ready for love? Here are some suggestions for getting your own house in order:

1) Make time for it.

As we discussed above, if your life is one long Operation Rolling Thunder, we have a problem. You may think that being perpetually busy means you’re important, but it really means that you don’t have a life. Cut back on hours, switch careers, take a lower-paying position in the same company, take a sabbatical – do whatever it takes to make room to allow people in. You could be the most talented, wonderful, amazing person in the world, but if you don’t have time for a partner, it’s as if you don’t exist. Time is the canvas upon which life is painted. Make room for the painting.

2) Recognize your demons and tame them.

Nobody’s perfect, and we’ve all had some kind of weird stuff happen to us growing up. The good news is that we did grow up, and now we have the tools at our disposal to take care of said stuff. We do not have the luxury of saying “I was an out of shape kid, so I’m going to be out of shape for the rest of my life.” The same way you can exercise a body, you can exercise a mind and improve it. Some suggestions: Take up meditation and do it every day. Practice compassion and gratitude. Look up someone who does cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) or hypnotherapy to help you dissolve old blocks – they both work. Join Alcoholics Anonymous if that’s what you need. Come to one of my “This Is How You Heal Yourself” workshops in LA or SF. The science is coming out on the mental health benefits of exercise, so get moving every day. Read The Tools (paperback and ebook) and use them. If you’re a hot mess yourself, you’re in no position to support someone else, so get help and get strong.

3) Be a supportive person.

We seem to be living in an age of self-absorption. But the point of partnership is not selfishness but something more like mutual support. The two practices above are about giving you the space and ability to be a supportive person. This third one is about making that a part of your identity.

There’s also a side benefit to this: true happiness is not about what you can get out of the world, but what you can contribute to it. So in addition to being good for your relationships, being supportive is its own reward.

Okay, that’s all I’ve got for now. In other news, I’ve got a few speaking engagements coming up:

1) I’ll be speaking May 6 on “The New Way to Date” teleseminar series put on by my friend and colleague Alicia Ashley. She’s got a bunch of great dating coaches giving free talks, and it already started this week! Check it out.

2) Apparently I just said yes to TEDx Echo Park: Paradigm Shift in LA on Sat May 14, so that’s happening. If you LA people want me to do a live event when I’m there, now’s a good time to chime in with an email saying “Make stuff happen in LA please!”

That’s it for now. If you’ve got a question, say “Question” in the subject line and zap it to me at drali(at) Make it under 200 words, make sure it has an actual question in there, and I’ll do my best to get to it.

You rock, Dr Ali

PS: Want to get the $19.95 audiobook of The Tao of Dating for free? If you’re not already an Audible subscriber, you can score my audiobook when you sign up for their free 30-day trial. You can quit before 30 days, or if you’re as big a book addict as me, you can stay on for years…

1 Comment on “Mailbag: How to be ready for love + shooing men away accidentally”

  1. Amanda

    Hi Dr Ali

    I absolutely love getting your newsletters and think your straight forward advice is fantastic!

    Thank you for doing what you do.


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