Why He Disappeared: Understanding Duality in Dating

January 9, 2018
▪ 6 mins read

Why He Disappeared: Understanding Duality in Dating

Ever thought you were dating someone great, only for them to suddenly change their behaviour?

Or were you blindsided by how someone, who seemed so into you, could just vanish? And end up wondering why he disappeared?  

(Occasionally to reappear with zombie-like powers of regeneration on WhatsApp.)  

What is the explanation for this? Did you do something wrong? Act weird? Did they meet someone else? Are they a narcissist? Did they never really care?

Why he disappeared

These questions hurt and make you exhume your memories to be re-inspected. You do a double-take over the time you spent together. You find it hard to trust and this was just too much.  

I had a bit of a binge on why he disappeared’ style advice videos on YouTube earlier in the week. (Apologies for my use of the `he’ pronoun here it’s just easier to write it this way but that’s not to say women don’t disappear too.) The dating advice generally went as follows:

  • When someone works out that they can’t please you, or turn up for you in the way that you want, they take the `easy’ road out by just disappearing. Their lack of accountability is couched in a people-pleasing desire to not upset you. How noble.
  • That people (okay this video I’m thinking of said `men’, but I don’t necessarily think it’s just one gender that experiences this) struggle with `commitment’ and so over commit themselves and then bail. Like they’re halfway down a road and then realize that this road is heading to a destination they didn’t sign up for and do an almighty turnaround.

The list goes on.


This was all bubbling in my brain, then I did what my introvert self loves to do on a Sunday and had a good meditate. Weirdly one word kept popping up for me and that was `duality’.  

So I want to share with you how I think `duality’ connects with dating and why it is relevant to you, and the reasons why he disappeared.  

A wise man once told me that we are not a single `self’. We are a committee of selves. So as you get to know someone they don’t `change’ so much as you get to know them better. You reveal more of the map of who they are. Sometimes that map has a big fat tear in it or significant regions where someone spilt ink on the paper. By this I mean there’s no consistency, there’s a lack of clarity around their motivations.  

Of course, half of the wisdom here is to spend time with people who are aware of their internal map - or in layman’s terms - have their shit together enough to turn up in some vaguely consistent way for you.  

What sucks is when you think that the ultra feet-sweeping mode they were in when you first met them is the whole map and that they’re going to be in the `pursuant’ mode forever. Why? Because it is just so validating and exciting! It is (human nature again) to catch an impression of someone on the first few times we meet them, particularly if these are romantic, and to fill in the blanks believing we have just seen the whole person. Then when someone `withdraws’ we feel cheated because the image we had created of who this person is begins to twist and shatter. Then we experience disappointment. Your friends will tell you to not build expectations - but that’s hard when someone is doing some feet sweeping. It feels like a catch 22.

The addiction to excitement

The rub of why he disappeared is that as much as we all know long run we are better supported by people who are grounded and consistent; someone who is inconsistent is sometimes very erotic. There I said it. The `who knows what’s going to happen next?’ `when will I ever see them again?’, `that man!’ is the stuff that dodgy romance movies are built on. When someone behaves this way towards you it is an edge-of-your-seat `I feel so alive’ experience that is addictive and sexy.  

I think the truth is we want both. We want the stable and the grounding; and the electric and exciting, all at once.  

When someone goes all out in pursuing you it is incredibly (if only temporarily) validating. It is 24/7 electric for a time. However, this level of romantic intensity is unsustainable. It is like expecting yourself to be happy all the time. It’s not going to happen. Feelings come in waves, but somehow we expect another person to be more emotionally consistent than we can be to ourselves.

Duality and you

So how do you approach this? First of all, I want you to take a look at the duality in you. I am writing this aware of how your personality is not a consolidated whole but a mosaic of many parts that show up at different points in my life.  

Are you an introvert or an extrovert?  

Shy or sexy?  

Reserved or playful?  

Or are you all of the above? When we stop expecting perfect consistency from ourselves, or others, it gets easier to not be destabilized by someone’s ebb and flow. You expect it. For every forward swing, you expect a backswing.  

When you don’t take the backswing as a personal affront to you it makes it easier to `check out’ with someone why he disappeared, with a curiosity for how they are, and not a judgement.  

For instance instead of going in all guns blazing with a `you disappeared?’ `I take it that you don’t respect me’ etc. You can say, `Hey I’m a little curious to have not heard from you, how have you been?’ or `Nice little bit of radio silence here ;-) how have you been?’ You effectively meet their inconsistency with your grounding and consistency - because damn girl you got self-esteem!

You might now yourself, but this does not mean they do too

This opens up space for the other person to talk to you about their duality - the part of them that felt vulnerable or in need of space, that YES sits alongside the part of them that wants to be close to you, that is more sure of their direction.  

You are hoping that they know their map well enough, and yes respect you enough, to be clear here. That clarity may not be a message you like but you hope that they’re going to say, `Hey I’ve been thinking and DISAPPOINTING STATEMENT - sorry if I lead you on at all I do respect you so wanted to be upfront etc.’ Or `Hey thanks for checking in I think I got a bit afraid and I needed a few days to clear my head but I’d like to see you. How’s your schedule this weekend?’

What you don’t want at this stage some fuzzy, woolly, no roadmap response, `hey stranger! I’m great thanks! How are you?’  

Give the other person a chance to show that they have self-awareness around their own ebb/flow, their own confident/insecure, bold/ afraid selves. If there’s no connector ability to know when they’re just freaking out, at this stage, then it’s probably time for you to flow backwards yourself.

Meet in the middle

Give people space and consistency to show up and meet you in a concrete place. If you get the emotional sensation that someone can’t do this and is being slippery, it’s probably not personal, but they are showing you that right now they can’t be there for you in the way you need. As it is not your job to save someone or build a bridge from one side, the smart option here is to gather your emotional and mental resources back up and give them back to yourself. You decide how firmly you close that door and look for someone prepared to meet you on your level, they do exist ;-)  

And the more strong, consolidated, and self-aware you become the clearer it is to navigate the complexities of other people entering your life.  

As you can tell my blog isn’t the home of simple dating advice - because life isn’t straightforward. It’s not `just dump him!’ or `don’t reply to his text!’ that’s a pretty limited way of looking at human interactions. If you’d like to talk to me about a situation of mixed signals you’re experiencing, or whether you should even date at all... I would encourage you to email me and my team at hello@hayleyquinn.com to see how we can help you.

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About the author

Hayley Quinn is a leading dating and relationship coach, with 3 million views of her TEDx talk and 18 million YouTube views. She is spokesperson for Match, a columnist for Cosmopolitan, a regular contributor to international media, and has been published by Harper Collins (“The Last First Date”, 2022) and Simon & Schuster (“Do This, Not That: Dating”, 2023).

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