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How to Handle "The Disappearing Act"

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Posted by Jenn Clark on June 16, 2011 at 2:22 PM

If I had to rank all the crappy things a guy can do, I’m pretty sure pulling “the disappearing act” would rate fairly high up there.  It’s one of those things that just sucks.  And I mean, it suuuuucks.  In many ways, it can be worse than a full on relationship and break up.  For reals.  So let’s examine this heinous trick.  And figure out what a goddess should do when faced with a man who’s playing like he’s a magician.

What is it?  “The disappearing act” happens when a guy drops off the face of the earth.  Suddenly, that guy who was all over you just stops calling and goes dark.  Like pitch black, midnight dark.  You’ll think things like “maybe he was killed in a freak firecracker accident?” or “maybe his phone fell into a puddle and he lost all his numbers?”  Alas, no.  What has happened is you’ve been blown off, sister.  Big time.  And by a man who didn’t have the balls to tell you to your face.  (Or over the phone.  Or even through a lousy text, goshdarnit!) 

Why does it hurt so badly? I’ve held a theory for a long time.  Here it is:  Sometimes the hardest “relationships” to get over are the ones that never had a chance to develop fully.  Think about it.  If you go out with a guy for a year or two, you have the opportunity to see it all; the good, the bad, and the downright horrific.  Even if you break up, it will because things will have run their course.  You’ll have closure.  Not so with “the disappearing act.”  Chances are great you never really got to know him.  You were just beginning to get a sense of the kind of boyfriend he’d make and dreaming about a life together.  And all you’re left with is this:  The fantasy of what it could have been and the feeling of “WTF just happened?”  Very often it’s being blindsided that knocks us upside down.

Why is it so disrespectful?  Feels that way, doesn’t it?  You’ll wonder how you could have had that minimal of an impact on his feelings that he could just walk away with no explanation.  You’ll feel dumb for caring so much for a guy who cared so little.  I get it.  But here’s what you have to remember:  Guys DON’T care the way we do.  They DON’T invest the way we do.  At least not as quickly as we do.  So what we think is serious, a man may think is casual.  What we think is potential love, a guy may think is only lust.  It’s just the way it works.

Why do they do it?  Who the hell knows.  They just do.  Maybe they get bored.  Maybe they get sick of a woman’s drama and/or demands.  Maybe they know it’s not going to go any further.  Maybe they meet someone else.  But whatever the reasons, I will promise you two things:  It happens because (1) he’s lost interest and (2) he doesn’t have the strength and/or courage to be honest and upfront with the woman in question.  Personally, I think “the disappearing act” is very cowardly.  I’d rather a guy tell me straight up he doesn’t dig me than have him “spare my feelings” and just go radio silent.

How do you handle it?  Here’s what you’ll want to do:  Call him out.  Get an explanation.  Find your “closure.”  But, as one of my readers so aptly put it in an email to me, “Sometimes your closure is just realizing that this guy is scum.”  Amen, sister.  Sadly, that is very often all the closure you’ll get.  And all you should try to get.  Attempting to force his hand to defend his actions will rarely result in anything good.  You’re not likely to get a real answer.  (Should he actually answer the phone, rest assured the following will be coming out of his mouth:  “Ummmm, I’ve been busy…”  Sound familiar?)  So here’s what you have to do:  Let him disappear.  As tough as it is, it’s really your only recourse.  Do anything else and you’ll either be the dumb chick who bought into his excuses or you’ll come off looking like a desperado, or both.  (Trust me, I’ve been both and it ain’t pretty.)

What do you do if (and when) he suddenly reappears?  Every good magic trick ends with the rabbit or the girl in the box rematerializing, doesn’t it?  Very much like these guys who disappear, as well.  It’s been my experience that unless you act like a complete nut job or it was totally 100% about sex in his mind, they very often show up again.  One day you’ll just be sitting there, minding your own business (and very nearly over him) and poof!  There he is!  Maybe you’ll get a text (probably wouldn’t be anything as blatant as a call) or an FB friend request (yeah, you a-holes know you who are).  You’re going to have to seriously ask yourself if it’s worth it to let him back in.  Chances are it’s not.  If he can disappear once, what’s to stop him from disappearing again?

Since I embarked on this journey striving for “goddess perfection” (yes, your Jenn X is still a work in progress herself), I made a vow that I would always try to see the long term impact of my decisions.  I didn’t want to do things I would later regret.  I haven’t been perfect in this (hardly), but I’ve learned a lot of lessons and grown a lot, as well.  Here’s the deal:  If you take things slowly, keep your wits about you, and make him show you who he is before falling for him (or sleeping with him), there’s a much greater chance he will keep coming after you.  Not too many men will act like Houdini with a woman they’re pursuing.  And if he does vanish into thin air anyway?  Well, my bet is he wasn’t much of a prize to begin with.

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Jenn Clark is a relationship advice expert and author of the book “How to Be a Goddess (A Step-by-Step Guide to Becoming the Woman Men Dream About…).” You can find it on her Facebook pageTwitter or on Amazon.com.

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  • Posted by Anonymous on February 24, 2013 at 11:37 PM
Thanks a bunch this helped me decide what my next step was, nothing! I had a guy who was the one pressing me into moving super quickly with calling me his girlfriend and discussing how great our future was going to be and this was after sex. I guess I expect guys to act like this to get sex but after sex I figured he was saying it because he meant it and then poof gone like a ghost. Guess I'll just let him remain a ghost!!
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  • Posted by Anonymous on November 7, 2011 at 11:38 PM
Thank you so much for posting this. It really helped me a lot. Signed onto FB this morning, only to find that I'd been blocked and unfriended, no explanation, no email or text message, nothing, just POOF! GONE! I don't have a clue why but your article opened my eyes to: 1) He wasn't much of a prize anyway and 2) He is definitely a coward. He did me a favor by disappearing. Good Riddance!
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  • Posted by Anonymous on July 10, 2011 at 9:26 PM
Hi Jenn, I've got a guy who's totally ADD and I haven't slept with, but he doesn't call when he says he's going to. I don't call him because I don't want to seem desperado, but then a few days will go by. I feel the disappearing act in this way, we've only know each other a few weeks. Do I call him out n this? or just be "busy" for now?
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