DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: I’ve been an avid reader for a while and your advice has helped me understand some things about relationships. My current issue basically boils down to some miscommunication that ultimately led to 1.5 years of going after a girl (yeah, I know) ending quite abruptly.
So I met this girl (who happens to be Indian and I’m white) when she joined my workplace which is already a dicey situation for romance. I quickly developed an interest in her and it seemed like we hit it off pretty well. Normally, I would just ask her out on a date but with the workplace situation I was concerned with the possible career ramifications if things go awry or she bristled at the notion of me asking her out. So I foolishly decided that it would be an okay idea to play the long game.
We hung out with others more in the beginning but she then asked me if I wanted to go on a day trip hiking with her. Of course I’m thinking, “Hmm, does she just want to go with someone on the hike or was she asking me specifically?” Things went well but never really took off from there (which is difficult what with me making very oblique references to my interest in her).
After some time she stopped asking me out and it was just me trying to keep things alive. Furthermore, while should used to respond quickly to my texts to hang out with a resounding yes (I’m always looking for that “soft no” but didn’t believe I could find it), hours would now pass before a response. This then got to a weird situation where I would ask her to hang out, she would say yes, and then repeatedly flake on me the day of with some excuse which didn’t seem probable given how many times it happened (why does she do this? Couldn’t she give me a soft no instead of blowing my plans on the weekend? Or did she change her mind after the fact?).
Fast forward to last week where we had made plans again (which I had finally decided to ask her out after moving to separate teams) only to have her say that, in fact, she was moving out of her apartment that day and couldn’t go. She’s says, “Let’s try next weekend!”. The next weekend (yeah, I can’t help myself) I take her up on that offer and she says she can’t because her relatives are in town to help her with wedding shopping because she is getting married! Well, that felt like the most powerful sucker punch I’d ever taken. The wedding planning had apparently been going on for several months and I was just informed via canceling our plans.
Now, I don’t know if there were cultural aspects at play that really tripped me up in concert with the fact that I’m not experienced in the dating game myself. Can you help me put this whole thing in perspective? Did it ever seem like there was a chance with us or did she always see me as a friend at best? How did the whole work situation influence things? What was the deal with the flaking; that’s not okay, right? Why did she wait so long to tell me she was getting married? Did I blow this whole thing up in my head much bigger than it was?
– Mystifyingly Mixed Messages
DEAR MYSTIFYINGLY MIXED MESSAGES: You made this into a bigger deal than it was, M3.
Here’s what happened in a nutshell: she most likely saw you as a friend at first. She asked you out on an outing – whether it was a date or not (hey, hiking can make an excellent first date!) is up in the air, since likely neither of you really attempted to clarify the situation – but it’s pretty clear you saw this as more than she did. After the hike, she apparently decided that she wasn’t into you for some reason. She just may have decided she wasn’t attracted to you. She may have gotten the hint that you were more into her than she was. Or who knows, maybe she got into a relationship with someone else around the same time.
Regardless, she was trying to give you the wave-off without being direct about it. Hence the delays in responses to your texts, the last-minute flakes, etc. She was trying to do a version of The Fade-Out and hoping that you were going to get the hint. Whether she was doing it well is another question entirely, but the fact remains that she was telling you she wasn’t interested without actually coming out and saying it.
Making plans you have no intention of following up on and flaking at the last minute is almost cartoonishly rude. Like, to the point of bad sitcom character levels of antisocial behavior. Better to just say “no, thanks,” or “Hey, I’m seeing someone” or “I’m clinically dead and infested by lizards” than to constantly say “ok, sure” and then pull a no-show on the day of.
Why was she doing this? She could be just that inconsiderate. I doubt it, but it’s a possibility. My rule of thumb, however, is to not attribute to malice that which could equally be attributed to social awkwardness. And believe me, women can be just as socially awkward as men can.
What I suspect is that she’s severely conflict averse under the best of circumstances. It’s entirely possible – likely even – that when you’d ask her out in person, she felt like she couldn’t refuse gracefully or didn’t know how to. When in a situation where you’re constantly up in each other’s business, such as when you work closely together, it’s a little harder to do the “I’m too busy” line when it’s entirely possible that you’ll hear about her real plans through the company grapevine. It can also feel more difficult to take a hard-line refusal with someone you have to see every day; you may worry that it’d directly impact your work life.
So: seriously rude behavior… but I doubt there was any ill-intent behind it, just someone being bad at handling conflict and confrontation no matter how mild.
TL;DR: she wasn’t interested and you weren’t getting the hint. It would’ve been much better all around for her to be direct (or at least more overt) and not constantly blowing you off. But what’s done is done. There wasn’t much you could do to prevent her flaking on you. The best thing you could’ve done is to simply move on.
Just remember: flaking is like unreturned messages. Once is happenstance. Twice is coincidence. Three times is enemy action her sending you a message.
Better luck next time, M3.
Please send your questions to Dr. NerdLove at his website (www.doctornerdlove.com/contact); or to his email, firstname.lastname@example.org)