The Daily Telegraph - The Telegraph Magazine

Asking for a friend

— Deflated

- Annabel Rivkin and Emilie Mcmeekan

Your problems solved by The Midults

Q:Dear A&E, I’ve been on four dates with a man I met online who I’m madly attracted to, but he hasn’t kissed me. He’s divorced and said he was looking for something serious and didn’t want to rush things. But I’m finding it confusing as he’s a terrific flirt. On our third date he held my hand and put his arms around me. The next date lasted hours, but still nothing! Texts initially came thick and fast, but now they’re less regular. Part of me just wants to cut it off as I hate uncertaint­y – and have a suspicion he’s seeing someone else – but I also want to give it a proper shot.

Dear Deflated, oh, we know this feeling. This slightly powerless, bewildered, bordering-on-desperate disease whereby you have your eye on the alluring prize, but you don’t know if you’ll get your hands on it. It’s an exhausting pendulum that swings between hope and defeat because – as you say – for most of us, the uncertaint­y is the killer.

Mixed signals are always destabilis­ing and frustratin­g and we share your need to know what the hell is going on, but let us lay our depressing cards on the table: when things change gear in the wrong direction it is rarely a good sign. Sorry, darling Deflated. It feels cruel to say so, but we might as well share our (ahem, seasoned?) instincts or we would be doing you a disservice. If a friend of yours was recounting this tale, we suspect that you might worry for her, too. We make so many bargains with ourselves when we want a certain result and it’s particular­ly hard when we are madly drawn to someone.

Allow us to congratula­te you, though – you haven’t dissolved into the kind of fantasy where we would imagine a paramour to be unable to text us because he was trapped under something heavy. Or those times when a well-meaning friend would say, ‘He hasn’t called because he likes you too much.’ That kind of magical thinking is nonsense, but can feel easier than accepting that a person just might not be that into us.

Divorced men can be slippery suckers. They’ve got their freedom and are often determined to roll around in it, but their taxi light isn’t really on. To add to the confusion they are trained – by a marriage – to speak the language of commitment when they’re not ready for anything meaningful. So that could be happening here. There’s a difference between taking things slowly and changing the pace all the time. We don’t like the dwindling text messages. Maybe he has met someone else. Your suspicions could be right.

Listen, hand-holding can be, in some ways, more intimate than kissing because it’s a public declaratio­n of comfortabl­e coupledom rather than merely a sexy moment. So that tells us that his intentions towards you were romantic. You didn’t make it up. Even though it’s easy to feel mad around this stuff, we rarely imagine a romantic vibe when there is only friendship in the room.

Our advice? We feel you could go one of two ways: go floppy and a little bit quiet to see if you can passively stimulate his chase instinct. That is the rather depressing old-fashioned way. Or lay your cards on the table: tell him you are interested and ask how he is feeling about this situation because you are more comfortabl­e with clarity. Online dating can be tricky for many reasons, not least because no one is really accountabl­e for their behaviour – not in the same way as if you had met through friends, for example.

It is time to take some power back. You are not merely a submissive creature, waiting for him to make a decision. You are amazing and he would be very lucky to be with you. Men do not go on four, long, languorous dates with women they are not interested in – life is too busy. But this waiting game is getting heavy for you, so take some action. Book in some dates with other people, know that you are an absolute sensation and move forward.

He rises up to meet you or he doesn’t. You, Deflated, will be fine.

Divorced men can be slippery suckers. They’ve got their freedom and are often determined to roll around in it

Do you have a dilemma that you’re grappling with? Email Annabel and Emilie on themidults@telegraph.co.uk. All questions are kept anonymous. They are unable to reply to emails personally

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