by Amy Alkon
Q: I had an amazing first date with this guy: dinner, a movie, a stroll around the park and a passionate good-night kiss. That was two weeks ago. Since then, I haven’t heard a peep. How was it awesome for me but not for him? Were we, unbeknownst to me, on two different dates?—Disturbed
A: When a man disappears on you after a great first date, it’s natural to search your mind for the most plausible explanation—that is, whichever one doesn’t shred your ego and feed it to your fish. Top choices include: 1. He was kidnapped by revolutionaries. 2. His couch caught fire while he was setting up candles around a shrine to you, and he’s now homeless and, more importantly, phoneless. 3. He double-parked at 7-Eleven, and then a witch put a spell on him, turning him into a Big Gulp, and some skater kid drank him.
The reality is, maybe you and he actually were, “unbeknownst to [you], on two different dates.” We have a tendency to assume others’ thoughts, beliefs, feelings, and desires match our own, explains psychologist Nicholas Epley in Mindwise. What we forget to consider are what Epley calls “the broader contexts that influence a person’s actions.” For example, maybe smack in the middle of all that “awesome,” the guy was raking through a few thoughts—like whether he’s truly over his previous girlfriend, whether he likes the woman from Tuesday better, whether he’s straight.
And sorry, but despite the “passionate” kiss, it’s possible the attraction to you just wasn’t there. One of my guy friends, a reformed cad, explained: “I used to do this all the time with women. I’d realize I wasn’t that attracted to them, but since I was already there on the date, I’d keep moving forward and see if I could get laid, ’cause why not? So from their point of view, the date was ‘awesome,’ but what they didn’t know was that there was never going to be a second date.”
The hurt and “huh?” you feel when this sort of thing happens is a measure of the distance between expectations and reality. You can avoid this by managing your expectations, and the best way to do that is by not allowing yourself to have any. In short, until your phone rings and the guy is on the other end asking you for a date or another date, he doesn’t exist. When you’re on a first date that seems to be going well, the attitude to take is to enjoy yourself to the fullest in the moment—which is loads easier when you aren’t all up in your head figuring out what you’ll say when the little girl you two have together comes home at age 8 demanding to be allowed to have her nipples pierced.
Q: I’ve been friends with this guy for almost five years. We’ve always been attracted to each other, but we’ve never been single at the same time. Now we’re starting to date, and I have to say I feel a lot more safety and trust because we were friends first. I’m also not as concerned that he’ll take me for a ride or play games. Am I being unrealistically optimistic, or is there some truth to this?—Been Hurt Before
A: There is safety in having been friends with a person for a while, like how you can be reasonably sure that when he says, “Here, let me help you into the car,” it won’t be the trunk. And because we evolved to care deeply about maintaining our reputation, it also helps that you two have mutual friends. (A bank robber is less likely to hit a branch where all the tellers know him by name.) However, once you’re in a relationship, all sorts of emotional issues can pop up and start biting, and what prevents that is not having been friends but having done the work to fix whatever was bent or broken.
To be realistically optimistic, make yourself look at the guy’s worst qualities, and decide whether you can live with them. You should also consider what went wrong in your prior relationships. Sure, getting hurt is sometimes a random act, like a stove falling out of the sky onto your car. But often, it’s something you could have seen coming—and would have, if you hadn’t been so busy sewing all the red flags into a big quilt. Finally, even if a guy doesn’t have a skull in his kitchen cabinet labeled “Marcy,” keep in mind that there are special surprises that will only reveal themselves once you’re “more than friends”—like his superhero underwear and his habit of taking over a bed “alphabet-style” (warding off zombies by sleeping in the letter X).