Dear Dr. Wes and Gabe: The guy I thought I was dating had me over to his house and when I showed up he was with another girl. I already know to give up on him but can you explain why anyone would do this?
Wes: I’m going with the tried and true explanation that this guy was poorly raised. Apparently his parent(s) never sat him down and talked to him about the proper treatment of others and then held him accountable to those standards. I’d like to say this is an unusual situation, but I’ve seen different versions of it many times. It reveals in your “boyfriend” a lack of empathy that underlies so many problematic behaviors today.
From a cultural standpoint, this sort of thing is actually reinforced among young men who often seem wholly unguided by family and society on everything from simple courtesy to complex ethical choices. It certainly doesn’t help when we see a surge of overtly bad conduct every morning, noon and night in the national political spotlight, particularly with regard to attitudes and policies toward women.
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You’re quite right to get away from this dude ASAP, and I feel sorry for the girl he was hanging out with when you arrived. If she’s interested in anything other than casual hook ups, this guy isn’t a good bet.
That brings me to a good way of assessing and understanding “dating” partners in an era in which late teen and young adult relationships seem on the verge of demise. Begin by accepting the fact that some people are only good for about half a relationship. Others are good for maybe a third, usually the portion where you have a lot of sex. When getting into a thing with one of those people, do so with your eyes wide open and limit your expectations. Don’t just ignore the “half-in” vibe and hope that somehow that guy or girl will grow enough to become vested in more. Yes, that happens, especially in romantic comedies. More often, in the real world, you end up disappointed with a partner who is simply incapable of having (or at least not ready for) a whole relationship.
Remember, dating is the process of figuring out who you don’t belong with. In that regard, you actually hit the jackpot with this guy because you really don’t belong with him and he did you the favor of pointing that out in no uncertain terms. While it still hurts to be treated this way and you have a right to your outrage, be thankful he’s a transparent loser and instead of one of those whose really good at getting away with stuff like this.
Gabe: It’s easy for someone at first glance to write this off as a miscommunication, and perhaps your “boyfriend” did just mess up. But in reality, it would be hard for someone to be so casual about this and not know what they are doing and why it’s wrong. This was, at best, a shortsighted critical error. At worst it showed a malicious disregard for you and your feelings. While he was a jerk to do this, actions similar to his aren’t uncommon and they reveal a greater issue with gender roles in America.
There is nothing intrinsically wrong with a guy wanting to pursue multiple girls if everyone is in the know. Too often, however, there’s a communication gap and one or more of these multiple girls feels a connection for the guy that he simply does not return. It’s not like these guys are not ignorant — they’re often fully aware that these women want something more and they exploit it, most often to get sex. Some people just have no regard for others. This guy is one of them. You know you need to get out, but other girls in similar situations are blinded by their feelings and don’t realize these guys are manipulative rather than just ignorant.
To prevent this from happening you or others in the future, do something that is pretty useful in a relationship anyways. Define it. Be honest and forthcoming with what you want. If the guy doesn’t like what he’s hearing, he’ll usually walk. The risk of awkwardness is outweighed by a safety net against heartbreak.
— Wes Crenshaw, Ph.D., ABPP, is author of “I Always Want to Be Where I’m Not: Successful Living with ADD & ADHD.” Learn about his writing and practice at dr-wes.com. Gabe Magee is a Bishop Seabury Academy senior. Send your confidential 200-word question to firstname.lastname@example.org. Double Take opinions and advice are not a substitute for psychological services.