As I mentioned last week, I've had a few experiences lately in which I've felt forced to tell certain female friends, despite their elaborate and intriguing hypotheses about why certain men they were dating were not being more attentive, that the guys in question were probably just not that into them.
And I do think that even now — half a decade after a certain best-seller-turned-blockbuster-flick tried to tell us to stop doing this — we women often do go out of our way to make up excuses about why a man isn't responding the way we'd like him to. We tell ourselves, "Oh, he's just really busy at work — that's why I haven't heard from him." Or, "He got out of that serious relationship so recently — he's probably not up for anything too serious yet. I'll give him time." When, in fact, often, he's just stringing us along until he finds a person who's a better match for him, or else being too cowardly to tell us he doesn't feel the same level of interest we do.
On the other hand, I think it does occasionally happen that a guy really does like us — but he really is just too busy at work to respond to our sweet-nothing e-mails or texts. Or he really is taking things slowly because he's a little shell-shocked from the failure of his last relationship. The question is: How can you tell if he's legitimately just not that into you?
I asked my male friends for some advice on the matter.
1. Do not make excuses for him he hasn't made for himself.
He may work in an industry that keeps most people crazily busy — in finance or law. He may have a high-pressure job — as a staff writer for Saturday Night Live, perhaps! — that will not brook any slacking off during the day. But don't assume his job is keeping him from writing to you or responding to a question you asked, unless he explicitly offers that as an explanation. Similarly, if he doesn't tell you he's kinda gun-shy since the break-up of some serious relationship, don't make that excuse for him, either.
2. If you know when you will see him again, relax.
If you're not hearing from him much but the two of you already have a date planned — meaning, you've already picked a date, an approximate time, and you have some sense of what you're going to do — try to chill out. Chances are he doesn't think it's necessary to communicate again until the day of the date, when you'll figure out where you want to dine, or what movie you'd like to see. (That said, if it's 3 p.m. on date day, and you still don't know where you're meeting him, I think it's more than fair to text, e-mail, or even call him so you can make a plan.)
3. Go with your gut.
As my pal Adrian Colesberry (author of How to Make Love to Adrian Colesberry) says: "Just because a guy is very communicative, that doesn't mean he's into you. He could just be playing you along for sex. Men who have figured out that girls try to gauge a man's true interest by some ham-handed arithmetic about how many texts they exchange get laid like maniacs — even though a lot of times they're texting, like, five girls at once." So, he says, the best way to figure out if he's into you is to go with your gut. ("Not," he adds, "the collective gut of your girlfriends — your own gut.") Another friend — whose porn-star name is Pepe LeGrand — agrees: "If he's saying he's too busy, and you think it's a lie or a flimsy excuse, it probably is."
4. Feel free to ask for clarification.
If, advice above notwithstanding, you're still not sure where you stand with him, ask for clarification. I think most women assume this will come off as needy, but it doesn't have to. Don't ask in anger or in tears. Just seek the facts. Say something like: "I've noticed you aren't e-mailing me as much as you used to — why is that?" Or say, "If you think you will be too busy this week to respond to e-mails, let me know." Or, "Why do you respond so rarely to my texts?" As my friend, porn-star name Barry Sackett points out, this is often the simplest, most effective, most efficient way of getting to the heart of the matter and understanding where you stand.
5. Remember that no one is ever too busy to follow up in some way.
My friend Pepe — who is a big shot lawyer — says that, bottom-line, if he's into a girl, he will do his best to send her some signal of that, no matter how busy he is. "Of course, if I'm stuck in meetings — for hours or for a full day! — then there will be a delay in responding to her e-mails or texts," he says. "And if I'm in the middle of a big deal or I haven't had any substantial sleep in days then I probably don't want to sit down and craft an e-mail. But no one is ever too busy to at least send one text message at some point over the course of the day, even if it is at 4 a.m. in the taxi home. If you don't want to make at least that much effort then it means you're just not that into it."