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Dating Men: When He Says X… He Means Y

by Eharmony Editorial Team - September 11, 2009

When he says he "needs space," what does that really mean? Read on as we explore the difference between what a dating man might say -- and what he actually means!

Some time ago there was an eHarmony Advice discussion about what a woman really means when she asks to split the check after dinner on the first date. Does she REALLY want him to split the check? Most women agreed that even though she asked to split the check, what she really wants is the man to refuse to let her and pay the whole thing himself. How’s that for confusing? We thought it might be nice to examine some of the ways that men, while dating, say one thing and mean another.

1. “I’d love to come in, but I have to get up early tomorrow.”

Really means one of these two options:
• 99% – “I don’t feel great chemistry with you.”
• 1% – “I’m dog tired and I have to get up early.”

It is not unheard of for a man to be tired at 10 p.m. on a Thursday night. If you’ve been out having a dinner date, seeing some entertainment or talking all evening, fatigue can set in. But if you invite a man in and he refuses, the chances are very good he’s not feeling the strong tug of chemistry. Inviting someone in isn’t an offer for physical intimacy, certainly, but many men will interpret it that way, even if it’s only wishful thinking.

You can certainly test this by going on a weekend date, and judging his response to your offer. If he’s “got to get up early” two times in a row – you have your answer.

2. “What did you do this past weekend?”

Really Means – “Do you have a life? Do you have friends or are you looking for me to provide all your entertainment?”

eHarmony founder Neil Clark Warren is fond of saying that the best way to be attractive to potential dating partners is to have a big fun life when you’re single. We’ve all dated the person who is simply waiting to be entertained. When a man asks about your weekend and you say, “I just sat around the house,” all kinds of warning bells go off.

3. “I need some space.”

Really means one of these two options:
• 98% – “I need a new girlfriend.”
• 2% – “I think I might need a new girlfriend, and I need some distance so I can decide for sure.”

This is an interesting sentence. Most healthy relationships already have enough space and alone-time for a person to do their contemplating about how they feel. Many men use this sentence as a break-up strategy, with the idea that once they are away from you, the break-up will be easier for them to execute.

If a man is moving out to get his space, it is virtually assured that he won’t be moving back in. If a man is suggesting that you don’t see each other for a few weeks while he figures out what he wants to do, the chances are good that he’s testing the water with someone else. He may come back, but you’ll need to ask yourself if you really want to be with a man who is so unsure about his desire to be with you.

4. “I had a nice time. I’ll give you a call.”

Really Means – “The time we spent together was not unpleasant, and I don’t really know how to say goodnight without telling you I’ll call. I might call you, but don’t hold your breath.”

When it comes to how the man feels about dating you, this sentence means nothing. The fact that he had a nice time while eating, drinking and talking with you says nothing about his desire to start a relationship with you.

And the “I’ll give you a call” bit is possibly nothing more than a social nicety like, “Take Care” or “Come See Us”. Some men are trained to be so polite at all times that they can’t end a date without booking a next one. Place no expectation on this phrase.

5. “Yes, I’m interested in a serious relationship.”

Really Means – “I’m carefully assessing every woman I meet, and when I find one that feels just right. I’ll marry her.”

Men have a reputation for being commitment phobic, and this reputation is born out of what men say to women. The truth is a little harder to take. Many men will blame their disinterest in a particular woman on their commitment phobia, but they aren’t really scared of commitment. They have decided, based on what they’ve seen and heard, that this particular woman isn’t right for them. That’s not commitment phobia. That’s good, smart mate selection!

6. “You’re beautiful.”

Really Means – “You’re really beautiful.”

Sometimes men say what they mean. Sure, he’s physically attracted to you, and he probably wants to express that in some way, but there’s no reason to doubt that he thinks you’re a beautiful woman.

7. “It’s not you, It’s me.”

Really Means – “I’m doing the dumping, so technically it is me, not you. But I’m breaking up because I just don’t feel it for you. I’m sure you don’t want a personality critique so this is an easier way to end it.”

Break-ups are hard on everyone. There are men who have dated women they didn’t really like for YEARS because they can’t figure out how to break-up. When a man comes to the point of expressing his desire to end the relationship, why make it tough on him? He’s doing his best to leave. “It’s not you. It’s me,” may be old and tired but it’s really just a kinder stand-in for, “This isn’t working. Can we end it?” Some women dig for explanations and closure, but does it really matter? He wants to go, and you deserve a man who will fight Hell and half of Georgia to be with you. It’s time to move on.

8. “She’s just an old friend.”

Really means one of these two options:
• 98% “She’s someone I used to date.”
• 2% “I once made a move on her and she wasn’t interested.”

Any old female friend of your boyfriend is a potential past relationship. In fact, it’s probably safe to assume that they dated as a default. This doesn’t entitle you to any special questions or information. It is, however, good to know, because at some future time if you ever feel like there is a closeness between them that is inappropriate, you’ll be well within your rights to say, “Did you guys ever have romantic feelings? Do you think those still might be lingering?”

9. “Work is crazy right now. I just don’t have time for a relationship.”

Really Means – “I’m not interested in a relationship with you.”

Here is a simple fact about most men. If a man REALLY wants to date you, nothing in this world will keep him from you. Of course, life can be complicated. An airline pilot is constantly flying from city to city and may say to you, “You know I travel a lot,” but if he wants to pursue a relationship with you, he won’t use that as an excuse. He will work with it. He’ll explain why he can still date and be gone 4 days a week.

It’s a great litmus test to determine just how much a man is interested. When you start hearing lots of reasons why he isn’t free, you know what he’s trying to say.

10. “I’m not interested in anything serious. I just want to have fun.”

Really Means – “I just want to have a physical relationship.”

Life is a series of stages, and one of the best reasons to end a relationship early is because you determine that you and your date are at different stages. You’re ready to get serious and pursue a long-term relationship. He just got out of a 2-year serious relationship and wants to date lots of women and be casual. All the compatibility in the world isn’t going to create a lasting bond between you two. So, keep your ears perked up for the words “serious” and “fun”. “Serious” is code for long-term relationship. “Fun” is code for casual encounters.

A word of caution. Men will often cloud the water a bit with qualifiers like, “I just want to have fun and see where things go. Not put so much expectation on it all.” That’s a fine sentiment, but the people who end up in successful relationships are usually people who are ready and seeking them out. A man who wants to just have fun and see where things go is probably more into the “fun” part than the “seeing where it goes” part.

We’d like to hear your, “When He Says X, He Means Y” phrases. Post them below, and we’ll take the best of the best and publish a new article.