When a Man Tells You He Doesn't Want a Relationship, Believe Him

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Recently, I went to dinner with a friend, who expressed disappointment after the man she’d been dating for two months ended things. While he expressly told her on the first date that he wasn’t looking for a relationship, she somehow got it in her head that his feelings would change as time went on and their connection deepened. 

“I wasn’t looking for a relationship either,” she told me, “but we spent so much time together, and we became so close. It was the next logical step.”

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but she’s wrong. When a man is brave enough to be honest in the early stages of dating, and he says that he’s not looking for anything serious, the only thing to do is to take what he says at face value and accept it as true. If you’re in a similar place in your romantic life, where you’re dating men casually, but you hope to find a partner, you need to do the same: When a man tells you that he’s not interested in a relationship, believe him. Too often, women play it cool; they think that if they wait long enough and go on enough dates, they can convince the man that they’re the woman of his dreams, but in reality, they’re just in for heartache.

So here’s the key: When you’re not willing to be upfront with a man, to tell him that you’re interested in casually dating, but only until you find someone who you can become more serious with, then you’re being deceptive. You’re withholding the truth from your date (and maybe even from yourself). It’s okay to want a relationship, and it’s okay to refuse to date a man who doesn’t. If someone isn’t looking for anything serious, but you are, don’t play it cool; speak your truth.

It can feel awkward, uncomfortable even, to be honest, and it’s easier to say what we think our date wants to hear, because you don’t want to scare him off. You spend our time and energy scanning online dating profiles, exchanging messages, and getting ready to meet this person, who you hope will turn out to be your future partner. Before you even meet face-to-face, you’re invested: You’ve gotten your hopes up; you’ve studied his profile, told your friends how excited you are to meet Stewart, the stockbroker who loves dogs and traveling. When you meet, you can’t help but notice Stewart’s green eyes and musky cologne. When he says that he’s not looking for a relationship, you play it coy, giggle, and say something about how you’re fine with keeping things light and breezy. You pretend because that’s what you’re used to: dressing up, putting on a face, and playing the game.

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Two months later, you’re crying on the phone to your mom and stuffing your face with ice cream. You’ve decided that all men are jerks, and love is dead. You make hyperbolic statements with complete certainty, and decide that you actually don’t need a relationship at all. You can learn how to cook like Julia Childs, or you can get a Labrador and spend our free time at the dog park. Meanwhile, even though it’s easy to blame Stewart, he wasn’t the jerk in this situation. He was upfront and honest from the get-go. You just didn’t want to believe him. You stuck your head in the sand.

The truth is, when you meet your perfect match, the partner who you’re meant to be with, you won’t have to guess as to what his intentions are. He’ll want to be with you, and you’ll want to be with him. You won’t have to convince him, or hope that with enough time you’ll change his mind. When you meet your perfect match, it will be obvious. You don’t have to settle for less. You don’t have to play it cool because you think there’s a shortage of good men. 

If you’re looking for partnership, own it. Say it. Be honest with your dates, and most importantly, when a man says that he’s not looking for a relationship, listen. Spare yourself of the heartbreak. Decide that you’r e worthy of a committed love. You’re worthy of more than you’ve been allowing yourself to receive.