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Two Sense: How Do You Avoid Getting Burned?

This scenario has happened to me and several other smart, cool, normal women I know. You date, cautiously at first. But the guy is all about it. He pushes to see you, says serious things. Then, out of the blue, he runs away. I know it’s his innate fear-of-commitment, must-spread-my-seed caveman crap, but how do I avoid it in the future? A girl can’t tread carefully forever.

He Said: There’s another force driving men who are worthy partners: The chase. One way to avoid this make it/break it scenario is to keep more of your current life intact. Too many women (and men) abandon the very things that make them attractive individuals when they get into a relationship. We all change the longer we’re in a relationship, but there’s no need to rush the process.

Continue to make plans with friends. This isn’t gamesmanship; it’s your life. If you value it and believe it’s worth sharing, make a new boyfriend earn access to your social life. Second, don’t award him platinum status to your inner life too soon. Take your time before sharing your interests, beliefs, accomplishments, stories, and fears. A good man will recognize there’s more depth to you than he’s currently seeing, and if he’s already attracted, he’ll keep digging.

She Said: I think these guys’ sudden escape behavior is in direct correlation to how quickly they’ve developed feelings of attachment. In my experience, couples bond in a process governed by actual physical laws: Get too close too fast, and you’ll have no choice but to regain your balance by running away—otherwise, it’s too disorienting.

There are only two ways to weather the natural ebb and flow of bonding, and in tandem they work quite well: Try to slow the process down so that the “bounce back” response is less intense, and don’t overreact to the distancing phase. Just like you exercise your body and then take a day off, we all need a break after exercising our intimacy muscles. Some create time off via a huge fight, others by disappearing.

Go into your next relationship expecting the guy to freak out. It’ll be painful and scary when he does, but hold onto your center, saying things (to him and to yourself) like, “This can happen when two people get close. Why don’t we take a little space to think things over?” Then watch and see what happens.

If there’s enough potential there and he’s mature, he’ll be back. If he’s one of those people who is in it for the contact high, diving in hard repeatedly with no desire to stick it out, then he probably won’t. So date and have sex as much as you want, but keep a little piece of your heart to yourself until you’ve been through enough distancing phases to see he has the wherewithal needed for the long run. Love isn’t created in a smooth linear progression. For most of us, it’s built in fits and starts, made of pieces of desire and fear. There’s no way to build it without experiencing both.