Everyone loves to complain about flakes in dating. You’ll probably come across someone who doesn’t return texts or goes MIA just as you were gaining momentum. That’s definitely disappointing. The bigger grievance? When they attempt to make plans with you.
Under no circumstances is not showing up on a date acceptable. This post focuses on the grayer area of how to handle plans that are non-committal or evaporate into thin air. (Be a person of your word! There’s the noble reason: You have integrity and respect other people and their time. There’s also a practical one: The world is small, and karma truly is a bitch.)
Side note: Don’t blame geography, either. When I moved from New York City to San Diego a few years ago, I heard a lot of people claiming that flaking was a California thing. It’s not. It’s a jerk thing.
I shouldn’t have to explain this, but I’ll review why flaking matters: Other people have planned their lives around the assumption they have plans with you.
–Perhaps they organized childcare to spend time with you
–They planned their workweek around the idea of a date with you. (If they had planned to meet on a Wednesday evening – and thought they might be out late – they might not have scheduled an early meeting the following day.)
–They did not make other plans with other dates.
–They organized their day with the anticipation of seeing you. (That means working out in the morning and packing date clothes. Perhaps they planned their meals accordingly or cleaned their house.)
How should you handle a flake? At some point, you can’t make someone follow through, if they’re not interested. (And you wouldn’t want to.) But you are not powerless! You can clarify your expectations so you’ll less likely to be flaked on. You don’t sound over-eager. You sound like you love and respect yourself.
Here are some common scenarios:
1) Someone says “Let’s do something next week.”
It’s annoyingly noncommittal, especially if you like to plan out your week in advance. However, the other person might not know his or her schedule yet. What you can do: Instead of responding with a vague “Sounds good,” use the opportunity to show your interest. “I’d love to. I have more free time later in the week. Lemme when you want to lock down a day.”
2) Your date says “Let’s plan on getting together for Happy Hour next Thursday” (made five days earlier).
This is a date. If you don’t hear from someone, you can send a note that Wednesday. “Look forward to seeing you tomorrow. Just wanted to touch base on details.” (I prefer the “Look forward!” approach, which appears more confident than asking, “Did you still want to get together?” Assume they do!)
3) Your date says “How about tomorrow?”
This is a clear date. If you don’t hear from the inviter by that morning, you can send the “Look forward” text. But if you don’t receive details by noon that day, feel free to make other plans. Occasionally the flaker will resurface with the excuse “We never had made actual plans.” That’s why confirming works in your favor. You prompt them to make actual plans. If the inviter says “Well, I never heard from you,” that’s a sign this person doesn’t take responsibility for his or her actions. Run!
Should you try to make another plan with this person? Ask yourself three questions:
1) Are they sincere in making another date with clear details?
2) Have they acted consistently in other ways, such as responding to texts in a timely way?
3) What would you have done in the situation? (This will depend on how loose the plans were. My anxiety would be through the roof, if I thought someone had set aside time to be with me, and I hadn’t officially canceled.)
The bottom line:
People will flake, and sometimes there’s little you can do about it. In some ways, being flaked on is a blessing because you’re given a preview of someone’s behavior. But as Eleanor Roosevelt said, “Teach others how to treat you.” This is especially critical during the early days of dating when you’re setting your standards. Plan-making is a form of courtship. You’re also communicating to someone that you’re a keeper. You don’t accept flaky behavior because you’re not a flake. You’re saying, “I’m reliable. I show up when I say I will. You can count on me.”
Hope you are, too.
About the Author:
Sarah Elizabeth Richards is a journalist and the author of Motherhood, Rescheduled: The New Frontier of Egg Freezing and the Women Who Tried It. Her writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Marie Claire, Elle, Cosmopolitan, Slate, and Salon.