Relationship Real Talk: The Rubberband Man

We’ve all been there. You meet a great guy, go on a few dates, he calls or texts frequently, showers you with attention and affection… you think this might really be it! This could be the guy of your dreams! But then… BAM! Out of the blue, he just disappears without a trace. No warning, no reason, nothing. You’re left heartbroken and devastated. So what to do? Should you text him? Call him? Stop by his place? Or just try to wait patiently for him to contact you?

I’ve recently been in this situation. A guy I’d been seeing and having a great time with suddenly disappeared without a trace. I didn’t pursue him (I’m very stubborn and will no longer chase men). And by day 7 of silence, I figured that was it— he was pulling the coward’s way out. I was bummed, but tried not to care too much. Well, the very next day after I had deleted his number and given up, I heard from him. The text message offered no explanation as to why he disappeared. He just asked me if I was free later in the week to watch a basketball game (we are both big college hoops fans). I was pretty surprised, but decided to think about my response and I waited several hours before getting back to him.

I decided that the best way to handle it was to NOT chew him out or question his whereabouts. I just acted cool, like nothing was out of the ordinary. I decided to make plans to see him, and like always, had a great time. You see, during our “time-out” week, I did a lot of research online about male dating habits and found the “rubber band theory.” I delved a little deeper and everything I read pretty much made perfect sense in my situation.

The theory suggests that men are like rubber bands; they pull back, need to feel tension, and then snap back. Of course, one reason guys pull away is because they ARE simply not interested, which is a very rude and cowardly way out of a budding relationship, but it sadly does still happen. So that is always one possible scenario. BUT… trying to end a relationship is certainly NOT the only reason men pull a disappearing act. In fact, when a guy pulls away for a few days (or maybe a week or more), that could indicate that he’s feeling very strongly about you!

According to John Gray, the man behind “Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus,” (you’re probably too young to remember those books; but he’s basically a relationship guru), when men are overwhelmed with emotion, they need to withdraw into their “man cave” (usually a state of mind, not necessarily a specific place) and just think and be with his thoughts. He gets close to you, then needs to take a break from the intimacy to regroup and find balance. Hence, he stretched out like a rubber band. But after a period away from you, he’ll “snap back” and be ready for more. Guys need space to miss us, and for the tension and desire to build again. Men fall in love when they’re AWAY from you, when they miss you. This behavior is unlike women, whose natural instinct is to spend as much time together as possible. Women fall in love when they’re actually spending time with a man.

Gray also gave the analogy of intimacy being like an “all you can eat buffet.” Once a man gets his fill (like spends a very intense, intimate period of time with you), he needs to walk away from the buffet and stop eating. Once he’s “hungry” again, he’ll be back. And the theory suggests that the longer the relationship, the less common the “rubber banding” will be, and when/if it does happen, the intervals are usually much shorter. So, basically, according to Gray, this is NORMAL for men and a normal cycle in dating/relationships. If I’ve learned anything about men during my time of researching, it’s that they definitely think differently than us women.

Now what do you do when your man is “rubber banding?” The best thing to do is simply nothing. Don’t call or text. He’s telling you through his actions that he needs space. Respect that and allow him that space to be by himself. If you constantly call, text, email, show up unannounced, etc., he’ll never miss you. And men need to miss you. Let him go, and trust that he’ll be back. And when he does come back, don’t berate him. Don’t accuse him of anything or question him. He needs to know that you’ll welcome him back and that he can feel safe with you. I think it’s okay to let him know you’ve missed him, but giving him a tongue-lashing will backfire… and if you do that, the next time he pulls away, it might just be for good.

So when you find yourself in this situation with the guy you’ve been dating… take a deep breath and relax. If things had been going well, chances are, he just needs some space and he’ll be back in touch in a few days. And if you don’t ever hear from him again, then let him go. It’s his loss. And you wouldn’t want to be with the type of guy who would pull the permanent disappearing act. You’re better than that.

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A 16 year old fangirl trapped in the body of a 39 year old 1D AF single mom of three. Probably the only person in the world with Metallica, One Direction, Tiesto and the Beatles all in the same playlist. Loves Zayn Malik, heavy metal music, running and the Indiana University Hoosiers. Big fan of Louis CK and all things sarcastic. Freelance writer and university instructor based in the Chicago area.

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