Why men go “poof”

David CopperfieldVanish. Disappear. Do a David Copperfield.

I’ve pondered this a lot, as it’s happened often. I’ve interviewed men friends. The following is what I’ve gleaned.

If you don’t hear from a guy after one date, it’s clear he’s not interested. No problem, even though it’s classier to send a nice email stating such. But what if you’ve gone out 2, 3 or more times? You seem to enjoy each others’ company. You have fun. Laugh. Good conversation. Some hand holding. Maybe some kissing. Maybe more. Then poof. He’s gone. Without a word.

Here are my theories on why he disappears. He goes poof without so much as an “I’m not feeling it,” “I thought we were a match, but now I don’t think so,” “I’m looking for casual dating and it seems you want more,” “We want different things, so I don’t think we should continue seeing each other,” “I’ve decided to focus on someone else (or get back with my ex),” “You’re a wonderful woman, but I’m not feeling chemistry,” or “I just wanted a booty call.”

  • He doesn’t want to hurt your feelings, and doesn’t know how to say (in person, phone or writing) any of the above. So he thinks it’s best to stop contact and hope you’ll get the message.
  • He doesn’t want any drama. He’s had experience — or heard stories — of otherwise reasonable women going ballistic when a guy cuts her loose. Lots of yelling, crying, blaming, name calling, insulting his manhood or ancestors, perhaps throwing items — at him, down stairwells, out windows.
  • He doesn’t feel connected enough to you to feel he owes you any explanation.
  • This is his pattern and it’s worked for him in the past, so he sees no reason to actually communicate with a woman he’s been seeing and now decides to drop.
  • He doesn’t like something fundamental about you (your shape, kiss, laugh, personality) and he’s afraid if he tells you he’s moving on, you’ll ask why. He doesn’t want to have to tell you are a bad kisser/lover, have bad breath/BO, don’t dress sexily, aren’t smart enough, are too smart, etc. So to avoid an uncomfortable conversation, he disappears. (See “Broaching tough conversations.”)
  • He doesn’t feel he can satisfy you sexually. One man told me that if there have been a few attempts and a man hasn’t satisfied the woman he will leave, as he feels it reflects on him. So rather than face the possibility that he is a bad lover, or be humiliated if she tells him or tries to suggest changes, he’ll leave. (See “An excuse to seduce or how important is sexual compatibility?“)
  • He doesn’t think you can satisfy him sexually. He has ED and wants you to put everything back the way it used to be. When he can’t perform, you are history. He thinks there must be a sexy woman out there who can get it working again.
  • He doesn’t think he can make you happy. You have (or desire) a champagne lifestyle and he has a beer-budget job. He knows he can’t give you what you want or expect, so disappears into the night.
  • He prefers other priorities/activities (work, sports, kicking with the guys) to hanging out with you.
  • He’s involved with someone else. He’s auditioning you for spare gal (for when his alpha woman isn’t available) or to replace his current one. He decides he’s happier with his current squeeze. How would he possibly say that to you?

I’m sure women must vanish for similar reasons, but since I don’t date women, I don’t know.

Why do you think men disappear without letting you know they’re moving on?

(For suggestions on how you can say goodbye with class, see “50 ways to leave your lover? 4 ways NOT to leave your suitor” and “Hello — goodbye: How to say no thanks after meeting.”)

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35 responses to “Why men go “poof””

  1. uewoso Avatar

    Got your list of requirements for “he’s baaack.”
    Good to get your list out front.
    BTW, what do you bring to the table by way of reciprocity? We live in a time of equality, so, what do you offer in the way of opening doors, calling every day, etc?

  2. Dating Goddess Avatar

    Hi Joel:

    I list some of what I offer in the job description posting I referred to. In my research, it seems men don’t want tit for tat reciprocity. They don’t want me to open the door, and in fact, most don’t like it if I do. However, I am always appreciative for any acts of thoughtfulness and respond with a “thank you,” smile, touch on the arm, kiss and other affection. I am verbally affirmative and encouraging. I cook them homecooked meals. I laugh at their attempts to be funny. And I make ’em laugh!

    Also, I learn what behaviors mean for them that I care. If they don’t care that I cook, but really care that I acknowledge them, I focus more on that. It’s different for each of us, and I want to find out what they interpret as caring behaviors.

  3. Sandy Avatar

    Why do men disappear? I believe because they can’t handle any type of drama little or big. They don’t want to deal with guilt, tears, or what ever their imagination tells them a woman is going to do. Most women over 40 can graciously accept I just don’t “fill in the blank” for you, they don’t need to exhibit any signs of drama. Disappointment sure, but hey, that is what dating is all about, you try it, if it works great, if not you move on. No sense in dwelling over a what if. Life is too short to wonder why some guy didn’t think you were the one. Ladies at this stage of our lives letting go is truly one thing that should be done.

  4. Bruce Daley Avatar

    This is just one of the ways men are different than women. Most typically men will not call back because they don’t know their real reasons not wanting to see a woman. (And it is also true they don’t usually know why they want to see a woman) At some level they just decide these women are not for them. I know this is hard to for women to understand and from a female perspective is extremely rude. To a male perspective it is much more efficient that way – he avoids introspection, confrontation, drama, and leaves the door open in the future. One way to handle it might be to email him “if you ever want to see me again, I need to hear from you in X days”. That might do the trick!

  5. Dating Goddess Avatar

    Sandy — thanks for sharing your views. It seems we’re pretty much in agreement.

    I don’t think we “dwell” on it — we just wonder how we could have had such different impressions of what was happening. She (I) thought it was going fine — perhaps even great — then he poofs. Although I think I’m a good reader of people, obviously I’m not (and I think many women are not) in this area.

    And yes, letting go is good. See my posting “They come, they go” for a zen take on dating.

  6. Dating Goddess Avatar

    Bruce — “from a female perspective is extremely rude. ” I’m afraid you’re right — it does seem rude.

    «To a male perspective it is much more efficient that way – he avoids introspection, confrontation, drama, and leaves the door open in the future.»

    Yes, that open door policy. But doesn’t he realize that when he poofs he nearly always slams that door shut, with few exceptions? Or perhaps he doesn’t care.

    «One way to handle it might be to email him “if you ever want to see me again, I need to hear from you in X days”.

    Interesting. I thought guys didn’t like ultimatums?

  7. Liz Avatar

    I am a woman, and more than once after one or two dates I have just stopped returning phone calls if I wasn’t interested. I didn’t see the point in calling somebody to say, “Hi. I just called to say I don’t want to date you anymore.”

  8. Dating Goddess Avatar

    Hi Liz — I always at least email them if I don’t want to continue or shift to friends. I like completion and don’t like being left hanging so don’t want to do that to others.

  9. Bruce Daley Avatar

    No one likes ultimatums, but because the power is in hands of the person being called (or emailed) letting him know that he will have to declare an interest in order to maintain his position does not strike me as unreasonable. Don’t be surprised after X days if he never calls, but then again that is the point of the exercise — to know where you stand.
    * Which Merriam-Webster defines as a “final proposition, condition, or demand; especially : one whose rejection will end negotiations and cause a resort to force or other direct action”

  10. Liz Avatar

    Dating Goddess, I really can’t say that I have done this recently. I am actually thinking back a few years, and I don’t know that email was quite as prevalent at the time that I did this. I had email, but I don’t know that it was a normal means of communication at the time. I actually agree with you that at least an email should be sent. And I probably should have made a quick phone call or at least answered the phone. I mentioned it to point out that sometimes women think that way, not to say that what I did was actually the right thing.

  11. Dating Goddess Avatar

    Liz — yes, I know what you mean. I work to consistently do what I know is right, but am not 100%.

    Thanks for reading and sharing.


  12. Mitsy Avatar

    I think this is the #1 most disappointing thing about online dating for me. I am 46 and continue to believe that men should not play games with women like they did in their 20’s or even 30’s. Doing a disappearing act after so many dates is just not very chic in my opinion. In fact, it’s downright tacky. No wonder there are many discussion boards online which talk about online dating and the “ghosting” of these very men who claim to want long-term relationships. I am here to tell you that the majority of the men I’ve met online don’t know what the hell they want. Too many have unfinished business with their ex’s, have too many demands in their parenting roles, money issues, or they simply get bored with a woman once they are sure she’s interested. I swear once they know you might be a keeper, you don’t look nearly as enticing to them, so they quit trying very hard. This has happened to me more than a couple times. I think games are for kids and if a man cannot decide what he wants BEFORE putting his profile online, then he needs some therapy. I wish there were a better screening process for women to know before they get involved with one of these types. If I had known beforehand about some things, I would not have gone on even one date with some of them.

  13. Dating Goddess Avatar


    Help us know what questions you would have asked before you met a guy for coffee or at the first date to help determine if he was ready for a relationship.

  14. Mitsy Avatar

    I think I would have found out a bit more about his status with the ex-wife or about his parenting style/responsibilities. I remember asking the train engineer guy if he actually had time to date and he replied that he did. Turns out that his work schedule (not my work schedule) was a constant obstacle. I’m not saying a whacky schedule can never work–it just proves a lot harder and I’m finding a lot of men not willing to work around that in order to have a semi-normal dating life.

    I also believe it is paramount, and I can’t emphasize this enough…that the guy is completely divorced from his ex. Not in the process, separated, or waiting on the final papers to be signed. They need to be divorced completely and preferably at least have this a few months (or more) behind them. I don’t want to be a guy’s rebound woman.

    Since my bad experience with the train engineer, I won’t go near a guy’s profile after I see “separated” in the marital status column.

  15. Mitsy Avatar

    Also on the parenting issue, if the kid is underage, that makes the odds of having time to date much harder. I don’t want a guy who isn’t going to live up to his parenting duties, but I also realize that “dating” might not be a priority for him either. Train engineer guy had custody of his daughter, but proved to be a pretty poor excuse as a father and as a dating partner. He could do neither well.

  16. I think he "poofed" on me, but... Avatar
    I think he “poofed” on me, but…

    I think the man I was getting close to from work has disappeared on me now.
    We worked together for 2 years, and the last year, 06, I thought we were getting closer. I say thought because now he’s just disappeared. We spent huge amounts of time talking after work, or just walking around on our breaks talking, even emailing each other outside of work. I thought we were connecting and we even hooked up after all this time talking and getting to know each other. I thought we both enjoyed ourselves, and that we could continue on.
    Then in Dec. 06 our company shut down and we were laid off. He said he needed some time to get things together, okay, he said to be patient, okay, he said to trust him, okay, he explained that things were complicated in his life right now and he needed to take care of things, okay, I knew about his past pretty much so I understood where he was coming from on that, then he said he knew he was asking a lot of me, okay, and wanted me to stay loyal to him, okay, and not to be jealous, okay, and that he wouldn’t cheat on me, okay, and he really liked me…etc. You get the picture I’m sure. Needless to say, a few emails here and there since Dec. 06 is about the sum of our contact since. And I honestly don’t know why he even bothered since for the most part they were pretty much generic. I haven’t called him, I haven’t hounded him with emails, I haven’t even gone to his house. I’ve just been waiting.
    I don’t know if I’ve been played or I’m being tested. Either way he’s disappeared and I feel hurt and disappointed to say the least. Why do some men feel the need to put on such a display just to get out of hurting your feelings if they really aren’t into you? Why put so much effort into knowing you just to disappear? I just don’t get it.

    Anyway thanks for a great site, it’s become a daily stop for me now. 🙂

  17. Gatti Avatar

    “Some time to get things together” was the big clue. Whenever anyone says this, man or woman, it means “I am giving you the gentle drop”. And it does hurt when it happens.

    I think you’re doing the right thing to not contact him. The best thing to do now is to get out and do stuff that is fun, even if you don’t feel like it. Waiting for that call or email to come will hurt. Trust me, I’m speaking from VAST experience here!

    And as we say…”Next!!” Good luck and I agree with you, great stuff here at DG’s, I stop in most days myself.

  18. Shawn Avatar

    Oh, please. I am a man, and only one thing stood out to me that made sense in your list.

    Think about this: 90% of men have an affair because the woman does not satisfy him.

    75% of women have an affair because of an emotional need for closeness.

    #1 reason a man goes poof: The woman he is seeing just does not do it for him in the bedroom. This is assuming that it is a good man that can “bring it on!” in the bedroom.

    #2 reason: This particular woman is bringing all the typical woman problems: No job, or low paying job, health problems, does not take care of herself (how could she possibly take any care of a man?), medical problems, emtional problems, mental problems from past relationships, etc, etc.

    If you want a really good man, then work on yourself, bring something to the relationship,

  19. Gatti Avatar

    I have to disagree with you, Shawn. Sometimes a woman thinks that everything is fine, and then he’s gone. No reason.

    For your reason number one: gee, you mean he just noticed that she isn’t hot in bed? What was happening before? And is it only she who is the keeper of the flame? Isn’t this a two way street, keeping passion alive? And what about the fellow who doesn’t take care of himself, doesn’t wash, gets out of shape, is too tired, is more interested in his mates or sport?

    And as for number two: ask the Dating Goddess about women with high salaried jobs, perfect health, good grooming, sorted emotions and STILL the guy goes -poof-, due to cold feet, commitment issues, or the many other reasons that DG listed in her post.

    If you want a really good woman, then work on your yourself, bring something to the relationship.

  20. Mari Avatar

    This is my first time visiting the site but found it helpful in my quest for answers to the misteries of the male mind. I’m not over 40, I’m actually 30 but I’ve found that no matter what age men are most, if not all, act the same. I was recently dating someone for a little over two weeks. He was 6 years younger than I but I thought he was very mature for his age. We spent countless nights on the phone, went out on dates frequently, he was a gentlemen, he was attentive, and every comment that came out of his mouth was how great I was and how great each evening was. He even made me promise not to cheat on him and that if I ever found someone better than him to let him know and to be honest. I agreed and asked the same from him. We even spoke about not wanting just booty calls, that we wanted to continue to date, have fun, and let things evolve on their own. During this time, his recently separated father is dating my friend. He was happy to see his father happy but didn’t approve of their PDA in front of him and his father’s constant conversation about my friend. Needless to say, the last time we were all together he almost got into an agrument with his father regarding his needing to man up and not get taken advantage of by women. I asked him not to argue with his father at the restaurant and for him to wait until everyone was sober and clear minded. He agreed but was still steaming. Before and after the “almost” agrument, he was great with me. He was starring at me lovingly, huged, and kissed me. But right before I dropped him off at home he turned and told me he didn’t want to get into a serious relationship with me right now. I then reminded him of our previous conversation and that we both agreed to take it slow. He then said he has always been in a serious relationship and that right now he didn’t want to get tied down. Which he told me of, he was with his ex for four years and was engaged to her but they broke up at the end of 2005. He then exits the car but before he gets out gives me a kiss and tells me to call him. I called him the next morning to discuss conversation from the night before but to my surprise, did not answer nor has he called. I was assured by others that he’s not with another girl. So what went wrong? What in the world happend? How could he go from hot to cold in a matter of hours? Earlier that day he was making plans for us to go out the following weekend. I just don’t understand. I’m so confused, not to mention hurt.

  21. Gatti Avatar

    Good luck, DG….

  22. Gatti Avatar

    Maybe because he’s only 24 and has, by your accounts, been in a relationship since he was 19? Maybe he’s just too young for you…

  23. TAS Avatar

    Maybe he freaked out a little seeing his Dad date a woman your age. I’m assuming she’s close to your age since she’s a friend and most likely in your age group.
    Maybe there’s issues between him and his Dad you don’t know about. Maybe something he saw that night or was said really got to him. It’s hard to say. Age can play a huge part in relationships too. Even though we deny it in the beginning, a lot of relationships end because of it. I would give him some more time, email him and let him know you are concerned. Give him the ball, it’s his move. You’ve done your part. It’s just a thought. I’m not an expert either…

    In my case he just disappeared after we had known each other for 2 years (friends & lovers). I haven’t given up yet, but it’s not easy. Sometimes they are beyond our control. I hope in my case he comes back soon.

    Good luck, remember to breath.

  24. Mari Avatar

    Thanks for the insight and I have thought about it, a lot, and I’ve finally come to terms with this whole situation. I just need to let it go..another bites the dust. The age difference was a huge issue with me but he kept telling me that it didn’t matter and to give him a chance. I do know that there are other personal issues going on with his family. As for my friend, she’s 43 and his dad is 46. I know that his dad getting serious with her this early was bothering him because he kept telling me it was. But whatever the case may be, I thought he would “man-up” and just text, email, or call me and just end things on a good note. I did leave the ball in his hands. I told him that if he was still interested that I would be happy to give us another chance to date slowly. As of yet, one week later, I haven’t heard a thing. All I was looking for was closure and to know what in the world happened. If I did or said something then I want to correct it so that I won’t do it with the next guy I meet. That’s all but I guess that’s too much to ask for. Although, I must say I do feel much better now that I’ve vented a little. Thanks.

  25. jules Avatar

    I just had a confusing “poof” experience as well and I can’t quit wondering what went wrong.

    A couple of months ago I reconnected online with my boyfriend of 13 years ago. I broke up with him when we were 21 and I had always thought about him alot. Turns out, he never married or had kids. (I’m divorced with 2 kids)

    We began emailing and then IMing and it was going great. He was definitely the one pursueing and he said so many nice things and how he wished he was with me, we had so much fun dating long ago. (He lives 700 miles away.) He was near me for business and begged me to come see him, but I didn’t have a babysitter, it was short notice and I just couldn’t.

    We made plans to meet in a week and we were both extremely excited. Out of the blue, he IMed me “could you deal with someone who has to travel a lot, but always came home and gave you lots of attention and respect and made you a priority? I said yes, he said that’s good, I’ll talk to you tomorrow.

    That was 3 weeks ago and the last time we IMed. He did send me an email a few days later explaining that he had to go to Japan on business and he’d try to email me, he even told me when he’d be home and said maybe he’ll get a break soon and we can meet. But his business is all of the sudden beginning to take off and he needs to take advantage of that while he can.

    I know he is a total workaholic, travels all the time, works 18 hour days, but to not have time to email someone in almost 3 weeks seems like a “poof” to me! I don’t know why he couldn’t just be honest and say he doesn’t have time for a relationship.

    This is a very unsatisfying ending to something I dreamed about for 13 years. I have not contacted except to say initially “have a nice trip, email me if you get a chance, if not, it’s ok, I know your life is hectic right now. ”

    I don’t know if I should just let it go, keep hoping, or email him myself?

  26. Dating Goddess Avatar

    Jules — I think when some men get a confirmation that a woman will be there, as you told him you would be OK with his travel, they stop “wooing.” I’ve seen this. Once they think everything is hunky dorey, like if you aren’t seeing others, they get complacent and stop trying.

    So, keep going out with others. And if you’re available when he gets back, pick up. But don’t wait for him.

  27. NY Sharon Avatar
    NY Sharon

    To Mari: “I did leave the ball in his hands.”> I think that you handed him his “balls” in front of his father. He probably felt critcized or that you were acting like his mother.Depending on how that went down. The only way to find out is to ask specifically about this and apologize if you think he was
    To:’I think he went poof on me’>> Sorry but I think he is probably seeing someone else and you are on the back burner for awhile in case it dosen’t work out with the other/others. Also, no seeing you so much at work may have reduced the flame. It is good you don’t call him. You are worth being on the front burner after all the history with him.
    From my experience it is usually that they think there is something better out there and want to keep that door open, or that they are avoiding an uncomfortable discussion. In my personal policy is if I don’t hear from them after 10 days, I cerimonisly delete them from my mobile phone, email list, and im buddy list. If they want to get together or communitcate, it will beup to them. Sometimes they do.

    My own exp

  28. […] truth is, most of them have just gone poof, even after seeing each other 5-7 weeks. Very few men officially “break up” by […]

  29. […] truth is, most of them have just gone poof, even after seeing each other 5-7 weeks. Very few men officially “break up” by […]

  30. Nikki Avatar

    i just discovered this site, quite by accident, and it is fascinating. i just had a “poof” experience that has left me feeling disheartened. It was via an internet dating site. we communicated a few times via email and then made plans to meet. the date went GREAT (at least, it seemed to). At the end, I said, “This was fun. thank you.” He said, “Me too. Can we do it again?” I said: Yes. That nite, I emailed him through the Internet dating service’s website simply thanking him for lunch (he paid) and saying it was great to meet him. He wrote back: “Same goes for me. let me check my schedule to see when we can do it again.” That was 10 days ago. no word, nothing. why would a man SAY he wants to see a woman again to her face and then PUT IT IN WRITING and THEN disappear – he just found a profile he liked better on line? I was not only surprised, but i also found it pretty rude.

  31. walt Avatar

    I’m a guy, and I wonder if women should be able to tell if the guy they are on a date with is potentially a “poof” kind of guy. While I have broken up with women, I’ve never “gone poof.” Generally, if things aren’t working out on a first date, both of you know it, and there’s no need for any further explanations. But once things have gone to a second date, I think that some conversation, however brief, is necessary if one of you doesn’t want to go further. But I know that a lot of guys don’t observe that rule. It doesn’t matter why he doesn’t want to see you again, it could be for any one of a number of reasons, disappearing without a word is rude and insensitive. So, what is a “poof” guy like? If you cut through any chemistry that may exist between you to try to take an objective look at him, does he seem insincere? Does he look you in the eye? Does he seem self-centered? Is he more interested in talking about himself than knowing you? Has there been an absence of long-term relationships in his past? Does he seem “stable? Is he very into going out drinking with the boys? What say you ladies, is there any way to tell?

  32. Christine Avatar

    Walt, if you find the answer to this one, you can start your own talk show!!! How can you tell when a man is a coward? Or when he has learned to avoid conflict at all costs? Or when he feels acting respectfully isn’t edgy enough? These guys come in many fine disguises and fool some of us all of the time.

  33. elyse Avatar

    This is a great site… I just came upon this site, & found the input/thoughts on dating interesting/intelligent/helpful.

    I recently had a ‘poof’ dating experience – 1st time in my life – and was a bit blindsided. We had only 3 dates – 1st 2 dates he was 100% into me, 3rd date he was into me, but also seemed a bit in ‘thinking’ mode. After reading a few of the articles here, & thinking about my ‘poof’ experience – I think that at least part of what happened was that I CHANGED in my behavior/manner on the 3rd date – out of fear. Here is what I think happened, in my case – would like to know what others think, overall, about this:

    By the 3rd date, I became overwhelmed by the chemistry/attraction. (mutual attraction)
    This made it difficult to get to the friendship; 2 things happened:
    1. I couldn’t think as well in words (attraction ‘flooded’ my brain), I felt like I was losing my boundaries, in a way (attraction ‘flooded’ my body)
    2. I felt I needed to put up walls, a bit, to slow down/lessen what I felt

    As a result, I started to ‘constrict’, feel smaller/dwarfed by emotion.
    And as result, I found it difficult to ‘take up space’ in a naturally positive way – was less comfortable talking about what engages me, good things – and started to say the negative version of things instead…. Even when the negative version was less than authentic – just as a way to ‘ward off’/slow down the attraction.

    And as a result, I came across as somewhat complaining, not involved in doing life-affirming kinds of things.

    And as a result, I wasn’t someone fun to be around.

    End of story.

    Moral of the story (for me, at least):
    Try not to get too attracted, too soon
    If you do, then still be willing and able to be fully yourself – without putting up false walls to retreat and hide behind.

    What do you think?

  34. hunter Avatar

    ……..most men know that, it takes a woman 3-4 dates to warm up to him. He may, not have much dating experience…..

  35. Care Avatar

    This happened to me by a “male friend” who flirts still, and uses pet names, so its very confusing. Maybe he calls all women that ?

    I’m taking the advice of no contact and then i dont make a mistake or come off needy, but it is difficult when a guy turns away without explanation.

    The posts about some not wanting conflict or however the writing went above seems helpful and like what I had happen. It is a good match in my mind because of shared ideas, attraction at first, but then, poof!