He just cancelled our plans.
He hasn’t made time for me this week.
He keeps wanting to hang out with me at the last minute.
As a therapist, I see a lot of clients in their 20s and 30s struggling with the desire for a committed relationship but not being able to find someone who meets their needs. So many intelligent, kind, strong, courageous people put themselves out there only to be met with a lack of follow through on the other person’s end.
They may feel connected in person, but somehow in between dates, the other person doesn’t know how to show up.
It is important to notice how someone shows up not only on a date but also how they are following up between dates.
And it’s tempting to go down the rabbit hole of analyzing all the potential reasons why he isn’t texting you, calling you or being as engaging as you’d like.
The truth is, it doesn’t matter WHY he’s not showing up for you. You can go ahead and analyze the crap out of him and come up with a bunch of explanations for why he can’t seem to cut it. But here’s what does matter:
1. Check in with yourself
If you feel connected on the date but disconnected between dates, ask yourself, “Is this how I want to feel?” Then observe what thoughts or emotions are coming up for you. The first step is always self-awareness.
2. Engage in self-care
Feeling sad, angry, confused and rejected due to the lack of follow through? These difficult emotions jack up our nervous system. Focus on soothing the body first with a meditation, massage, yoga, exercise, deep breathing, or journaling- you know you’re ready for step three when you are calm and centered.
3. Get clear on what you’re willing to tolerate
Everyone has a different level of tolerance for what they are willing to put up with. Ask yourself, “Am I willing to deal with this behavior? Am I willing to figure out if this was a one time thing or a pattern? If it is a pattern, am I willing to deal with it long-term?”
4. Ask yourself what you need
What behavior are you not seeing from him that you want or need? Maybe you need him to call you everyday. Maybe you need him to not run away when things get hard. Maybe you need a hug when you are in the middle of an argument. Maybe you need him to learn how to be a better communicator about his emotions. Maybe you need him to seek counseling.
5. Communicate your need
Ask them when they are available to chat and set a time to chat. Express what you would want or need. For example: “Hey, I’m so enjoying spending time with you and I’m noticing that I really value connection. Sometimes, it can be tough for me to be available if you suggest a date the day of. I would like it if we could plan our dates a few days in advance.” Another example: “Hey, I love you so much and I am noticing I don’t enjoy when you get scared of commitment and cancel our plans at the last minute. I understand you are scared but what I need from you is to show up anyway and communicate your fears in person.”
6. Allow them to respond
See if they are willing to meet your need. If they agree that they are going to meet your need, then continue to observe whether their words match their actions. If they express that they are not willing to meet your need, then it’s better to realize this now rather than later.
Being honest with yourself about what you need and having the courage to communicate it to another person is an exercise in self-worth. Relationships will test your self-worth because dating requires us to constantly ask ourselves, “Am I willing to tolerate this?”
The lower your tolerance for bullshit, the higher your self-worth.
Best of all, by expressing your wants and needs, you are opening the door for your partner to do the same and in that space may await the connection you’ve both been wanting all along.