A client recently reached out to me to ask for advice on a dating situation. (This is not news… it’s my job!) After a “great” first date, the man told my client that he’d be interested in connecting again but noted that he was looking for “something casual” because he was recently divorced. She said that despite looking for a long-term relationship, she thought she was okay with something casual since she liked this guy and had other family-related responsibilities to take care of at the time.

They continued messaging each other, trying to find out a time to get together again — but had trouble finding a day that worked for both of them. When they finally agreed on meeting the next day, she suggested playing mini golf, to which he asked to do something less active since he had a hectic day and another busy one tomorrow. When she responded by asking for a good location for him to meet, she was surprised when he replied by saying that their time had passed and wished her luck.

“I can’t help but feel like he took his bad day out on me,” she said. “I am curious what changed in such a short window.”

Here’s what I told her: “I understand your frustration, but casual to him meant easy, and when the planning became more complicated, he decided it wasn’t worth it to him.”

I added that this might have been a blessing in disguise. While she wanted a long-term relationship, at least ultimately, he made it clear that he couldn’t (or wasn’t willing to) provide that. I told my client that I was glad that he cut things off because she wants more than he can give — even if it does feel confusing and disappointing in the short term.

People often say they want honesty, both in a relationship and before that in the dating stage. But when someone is truthful about what they want, you have little choice but to believe them — and then it’s up to you to decide if that’s what you’re truly looking for. 

The seriousness of a relationship is just one thing that people may not see eye-to-eye about. If a person isn’t willing to travel for dates, then you have to be okay with being the one to make some extra effort to see them. Or not. If someone says they can’t afford certain things, then you have to take that into consideration. The bottom line is this: if someone says they can’t or won’t do something, you can’t expect them to do it.

I believe that dating shouldn’t be a matter of convenience — just because someone is easy to spend time with doesn’t mean they’re worth that time. Back to my client from the beginning: She was clearly putting more effort into the situation, and as soon as things weren’t simple (despite her best efforts to accommodate him), he called it off. While she could have had a nice time with this man for a few months, he made it clear that he wasn’t ready for a full-blown relationship. After a few months of dating, he still might not want to take things to the next level (after all, he did say that). Therefore, the time she continued spending with him — maybe had they lived closer or if their schedules aligned better — she could have instead been with someone looking for the same thing as her (and someone who jumped at the chance to play mini golf!). I know there is someone out there who is ready for a strong relationship and will happily join her at mini golf — and that’s who is worth putting the time and effort into.

“I Can’t” Means “I Can’t” & “I Won’t” Means “I Won’t”

2 thoughts on ““I Can’t” Means “I Can’t” & “I Won’t” Means “I Won’t”

  • June 19, 2023 at 10:23 pm

    Online dating opens up a world of possibilities, allowing people to connect with potential partners from all walks of life. It’s exciting to see how technology has made finding love more accessible and convenient.

  • February 14, 2024 at 11:54 pm

    Your “I Can’t Means I Can’t” piece on alittlenudge.com? Spot on! Your take on ditching the “I can’t” attitude really resonated. It’s like you peeked into my brain – guilty as charged! Swapping it with “I’ll give it a shot” from now on. Your personal touch made it feel like a chat with a friend. Cheers for the wake-up call!


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