“It’s not you, it’s me” may be the most common breakup excuse of all time, but what’s the real reason your date suddenly got spooked and hit the relationship “eject” button? Here’s the scoop on why some relationships abruptly go bust, straight from the men themselves...
Reason #1: “She was a little too hard to get, so I stopped pursuing her”
Playing hard-to-get can be an extremely effective device, but you might scare a guy away entirely if you abide too strictly by the outdated guidelines in The Rules. “I went on several dates with this woman my buddy set me up with and we had an awesome time: great conversations, great kisses... but then she wouldn’t return my calls or emails for a couple of days, and it seemed like she always had other plans if I didn’t book a date with her pretty far in advance,” says Jim, 29, from Bennington, VT. “My buddy kept telling me that she was into me, but I couldn’t help but feel like she was stringing me along until she found someone better. So, I stopped calling her. She called me a week later to make sure everything was cool between us, but I broke it off before she could dump me.”
Tip: A vital part of the playing hard-to-get game right is dropping enough clues (especially to shy types) that you can eventually, well, be gotten. When you do go out with someone, ladies, let him know that you had an amazing time. That way, when you don’t jump all over his offer for a last-minute date, he won’t think that you’re really just blowing him off.
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Reason #2: He feels like there’s some chemistry, but not the right kind (or that it isn’t completely mutual)
The truth is, men have lots of issues with mutual compatibility, including when, where and how they prefer a woman to show her affection from a physical standpoint. “When you jump right into sleeping with someone, you skip a lot of the bonding behaviors that intensify a budding relationship,” explains Dr. Pat Love, author of The Truth About Love: The Highs, the Lows, and How You Can Make It Last Forever. “I tell people to try and enjoy the ride a little. Don’t skip over that romantic, electrifying bonding period.” James, 47, from New Braunfels, TX once left a woman after six months of dating due to her proclivity for PDA: “I loved her, sure, but the fact that she became more grabby and insisted on kissing and hanging all over me in front of my coworkers, family and kids eventually drove me away,” he admits. “It just felt slightly forced and unnatural to me.”
Beyond bypassing the bonding period or putting your affections too publicly on display, holding out for too long to spend the night with your boyfriend can throw a different set obstacles into a new relationship. Chris, 32, from New Haven, CT, broke things off because, he explains, “My ex-girlfriend and I were compatible in every way except in the bedroom. After a while, I just felt rejected. It all went downhill from there.”
Tip: If you are presented with a maneuver you’re not comfortable with, don’t just say “no,” suggests Dr. Love, “say what.” Meaning, to avoid making your guy feel rejected or smothered, suggest an alternative that would be pleasing to you (and be willing to negotiate until you can both happily agree where your boundaries lie, affection-wise). This way, he knows that you’re not put off by him or marking your territory like he’s an inanimate object.
Reason #3: “I felt like I could never measure up to her level of success, and my ego couldn’t handle it”
Ask a room full of single men if they’d be interested in dating a successful woman with a gas-guzzling SUV in the driveway and an offshore bank account, and 9 out of 10 will trample you just to meet her. But while the fantasy of having a woman who takes you to fancy restaurants and picks up checks bigger than your weekly salary might sound nice, lots of men can’t handle the emasculating feelings that arise. Says Kevin, 30, from New York City: “I met someone at a friend’s wedding and we really hit it off. She was a financial executive; I was, and still am, a production assistant just barely scraping by. She said it didn’t matter to her and I tried not to let it matter to me, but whenever she slapped down her platinum card, it just made me feel kind of pathetic.”
Tip: So what is an upwardly mobile single woman to do? Dr. Love advises talking about it with him honestly — but keep the discussion brief. “If you want to go out somewhere you know is out of his reach, just say, ‘I would like to treat you,’ and try not to make a big deal out of it. The more you talk about it, the more he will feel emasculated,” explains Dr. Love. And remember, you’re not his financial advisor, so let him grab the check every now and again. It might not be good for his bank account, but it’ll do wonders for his ego and your budding relationship.
Reason #4: He feels like he now has another mother to answer to instead of a girlfriend
He already spent more than half his life listening to one woman tell him the brown belt doesn’t go with the black pants, and he doesn’t need you to keep nagging him about the exact same things. “A woman might think she’s taking care of her man, but instead, he often feels like he’s being controlled,” says Dr. Love. “When men feel like they are being mothered or being talked down to by a partner, it can be very demeaning and lead to the demise of the relationship.”
Tip: Want to improve your guy’s taste in clothes or take a different approach in his career? The key to success is properly phrasing your request so it doesn’t come across as if you’re policing all of his lifestyle choices. Don’t say, “Honey, you’d look so much nicer in an Oxford shirt than that ratty old tee;” say, “Wow, you’d look so hot in this — I’d love you to try it on for me!” If he thinks buttoning-up equals sex appeal, you can be sure he’ll do it. The same tactic works for any request, so long as you focus on the positive net results he’ll achieve afterwards instead of the negative ones you're obsessed with pointing out to him now.
Reason #5: “I ended it because she was pressuring me to move our relationship forward way too quickly”
When men feel as though a new relationship is going from zero to “let’s move in together” at light speed, most of them will try to slam on the brakes. “There is a biological reason why men and women move at different speeds in relationships,” says Dr. Love. “Sexual contact causes both men and women secrete a hormone called oxytocin, which intensifies feelings of love and the desire to nest. But in men, testosterone counteracts its effects. So afterwards, the woman is lying there feeling like they’ve bonded for life, while he’s wondering what’s on ESPN.” In other words, a woman may feel so connected to her guy as a relationship blossoms that she immediately starts thinking long-term; he, however, may not feel quite as committed to planning a future together.
Tip: How best to handle this chemical imbalance? Lay off the Martha Stewart Weddings subscription for a while and try following his lead. “Let him refer to you as his girlfriend before you call him your boyfriend, or at least wait for him to tell you he loves you before you start imagining what your kids might look like,” suggests Laurie N. from Little Rock, AK. “After my divorce, all I could think of was remarriage and I drove away two very nice guys before eventually settling down with my second husband,” she recalls. “Not everyone has the same relationship goals, and it’s best to let things develop over time organically.” If you’re with the right guy, his heart will eventually catch up with his hormones. In the meantime, try to relax and simply have fun while you’re spending time together.
Dan Bova is a writer and editor based in New York.