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Dating, Poofing and the Summer ‘Vacation Effect’

Call it the “Vacation Effect.” You went on a couple dates with a great guy. Then he announced he was off to Europe for two weeks. No big deal, you thought. You would pick up where you left off. Then came the kicker: As soon as you logged in another fantastic date, you had to leave for a weeklong family reunion in Colorado. Then he was off to his college roommate’s wedding in Atlanta. Now it’s the end of August. You’re pretty sure he’s been back in town for a while, but he hasn’t called. Did the attraction fade? Did he meet someone else? Or did your vacation schedules wreck your dating momentum?

Even though summer seems like a romantic time of the year, it can be hard on your dating life. People are often hesitant to start communicating with someone if they know they’ll be out of town and won’t be able to set up dates. And while absence makes the heart grow fonder, that’s mostly true for established relationships. During those delicate early days, mismatched travel timelines can throw a monkey wrench into dating pacing.

That’s what happened to my friend, Kevin. When I saw him in July, he told me that he’d finally met a woman he really liked and had been dating her for a month. Everything seemed to be chugging along nicely when he went to Oregon for his nephew’s baptism – and then his annual guys’ houseboat trip at Lake Powell. They spent two weeks together before she left for her family’s annual trip to the Outer Banks of North Carolina. The last time I saw him, I watched him text “How’s your trip going?” and then nervously check his phone the rest of the evening.

Of course, budding romances survive busy summer schedules all the time. But it helps to follow a few guidelines, especially as summer winds down and you wonder, “Where did all my dates go?”

Keep in Touch … But Not Too Much

If you’re the person going away, hopefully your holiday is jam-packed with interesting activities. But often you’re stuck with a lot of time on your hands, and it’s tempting to blog about your family reunion or send your new sweetie pictures of your giant mango margarita. Stop! Not only is it annoying to be bombarded with someone’s vacation updates while you’re trying to get work done, all this concentrated communication creates a false sense of intimacy that you can’t maintain when you get back. If you’ve been dating a while and you’ve already established a daily habit of chatting or texting, stick with that. Otherwise, sending a “Greetings from Greece!” e-mail every few days with some highlights about your island-hopping is perfect.

Out of Sight, Out of Mind

On the other hand, if you’re the one left behind, it can be agony wondering what the other person is doing. Worse, your imagination often gets the best of you. You picture him at his high school reunion reconnecting with his old girlfriend who just signed her divorce papers earlier that afternoon. Or you think about her getting swarmed at a beach bar by men who are bragging about their last Ironman times. Why can’t they send one tiny text to say “Hi”?

They might not. They’re busy on vacation. Also, some people have different ideas about what it means to unplug while they’re away. When they get back, they’ll catch up on emails, do their laundry and resume their dating life. So try to forget about them for a while and focus on other people and hobbies. Keep your expectations low. And when you do hear from them, keep it friendly, along the lines of “Nice to hear from you! Hope you’re having a wonderful trip.” Even if you do feel ignored, resist the urge to be sarcastic. That means no emails with “Hey stranger! Must be nice to be on a beach while I’m slaving away at home.” They’re not funny – just bitter.

Pick up the Momentum

Usually when someone stops communicating with you, it’s best to take a hint. But vacations are special circumstances. That’s especially the case if you’re meeting a lot of different people, and it’s hard to keep track of who’s coming and going. I’ll never forget overhearing a conversation in which a guy admitted he would have liked to ask someone on a third date but worried that too much time had gone by. Keep the door open by sending a short note: “Hey! How was Ireland? I bet you’ve got some great stories.”

If you haven’t been consistent about keeping in touch, the fact that you’ve been away gives you a good excuse. You can send this email: “Hope you’ve been having an awesome summer. What a crazy few months I’ve had! Back in town now and remembering what a fun first date we had. You up for a second?”

Look Forward to Fall

It’s sad to see summer go. But the good news is that people tend to get back to “real life” after Labor Day. That includes becoming more focused on dating and more serious about finding a Richards-book coverrelationship. So enjoy the last few days of summer. Post your best vacation pics to your profile. And get ready for a fresh crop of new matches.


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.