The Problem With Saying “He’s Just Not That Into You”

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For a while now, I have assumed that liking me (caring about me, loving me, whatever the degree) is mutually exclusive from hurting me. Of course, you get into fights with friends and are crabby to people you love when you’re hungry, but when it comes to the big stuff, like dating, it’s very simple. If you really like me like you say, you would want to be with me. If you really love me like you say, you would prioritize me.

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It’s basically “He’s just not that into you” and I thought it enlightened because of its clarity. If he says he loves you or likes you but can’t be with you because for whatever reason, that really just means he didn’t love you or like you to begin with. And so you move on.

I love hearing “the chemistry isn’t there”—in theory. I have actually never heard anyone say that, but I’ve gone on dates with people where neither of us felt it, didn’t really need to say it and that was fine. It was so uncomplicated and not painful because the reason made sense and is actually very fair. You can’t have chemistry with everyone. And the best part is, you can’t argue against it. You can’t make someone like you and that’s that.

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What I do hear all the time is “I really like you and I could see this getting serious” but this isn’t going to work out for an entirely different reason. And the guy, whether we’ve seen each other just a few times or for a year, is usually pretty emphatic about having feelings for me. It could be for a million reasons—guys don’t like to sound like jerks so they’ll say it thinking it’s the more considerate move or they do objectively like you on paper but for a reason they can’t put their finger on, just don’t like you enough, etc.

And whether you believe it because you really want to or you believe it because it’s true, it gives you a reason to fight for the relationship. The initial challenge of finding someone you like who likes you (some find this more difficult than others, I find it near impossible) is over, so let’s just work on whatever is keeping us apart! You’re immature? Let’s mature you! You’re moving away? Let’s talk travel options! You’re in a band that you really need to succeed or your life’s dreams will be a farce so you need to focus on that? I will accept lower levels of attention from you just to keep you semi-close to me! Basically, once we establish that we’re into each other, prepare to have me claw and kick my way to a solution.

Nowadays, I try to spread the word as much as I can to men I’m starting things with: If you don’t like me or love me, spare me the trouble and don’t say that you do. You will end things much faster if you don’t tell me this while breaking up. But people say it anyway and I am left with the unpleasant job of trying to rescue myself from that impulse to make you stick around. I repeat to myself unconvincingly, “He’s just not that into you” and click my heels three times.

It’s a catchy slogan, but it’s not as universally true as they say it is. A lot of the time, it could be “He’s just not into you enough to love you as much as he loves himself.” But what I’ve found to be the best and truest dating mantra is “Whether he’s into you or not it doesn’t matter because you will never, ever be together.” That is the title of my dating book.

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Sure, he likes you. What is there not to like? He loves to touch your butt and cuddle you in the morning and sit on a park bench sharing a cigarette talking about family stuff. But contrary to what I thought when I was 18, that isn’t all a real relationship is. You can like each other and love to do those things together, but he or she will still think of love as a gilded cage, or be unhappy with himself until he takes a big risky adventure like moving to Vietnam or need the mental time and space of a single man to write his poetry. Those are real human emotions and needs that aren’t fake excuses for not loving you. If it was just about whether someone liked you, dating would be so much easier.

He is into you, but you will never, ever be together.