Going dark

Ugh, I *hate* when life gets in the way of my normal communication and business patterns, ya know? Like when you’re trapped at a boring conference with lots of down time and no Wi-Fi. :) I’ve been in recovery (aka sleeping a lot, idly web browsing while zonked out on painkillers, and Netflix binging in bed) for the past week now, and I miss being in better touch with y’all!

I did manage to produce this Vicodin-infused personal blog post about couches and stuff, but really, let’s talk about this whole phenomenon of going dark communication-wise. This stuff is SO CRUCIAL in the early stages of relationships, before you’ve even met. Let me tell you a story.

Way back when Grant and I first met, we had been super communicative over IM and email before our in-person meetup. (Like, more so than I advise clients to do nowadays, since the climate has shifted a lot in the past decade.) But we were in touch frequently—texting wasn’t yet a big thing, so those were our media. And then, one day, the day after we’d first, um, gone to “home base,” Grant went silent. Totally dark. No emails, no IMs, no nothing. I’m not a particularly freakout-prone person, but well, I kinda freaked out. Wouldn’t you? It was a serious shift in tone. I worked up the nerve to briefly address it, just to check in, and he basically said NO OMG I’m not ignoring you or pushing you away, banish the thought, but then nothing more. Silence. It gnawed at my silly little 25-year-old mind, despite his assurances.

We met up to hang out for dinner at his place that night, and I gently asked if he wanted to say what was up. I might not have been all that gentle, come to think of it. (Remember: I was 25.) And he said he hadn’t really wanted to bitch and moan about it to me, because his ex always whined about her job and he hated that constant theme and negativity, but then he proceeded to enlighten me as to how the shit had COMPLETELY hit the fan at his entire company that day, and like, his job was maybe on the line and everything was on fire and it was all-consuming and totally Suck City. And you know what? No wonder he wasn’t thinking about IMing his hot new girlfriend whom he assumed everything was A-OK with! He had bigger things to focus on in that moment. But, of course, I had no idea about everything that was going on; all I could see on my end was a guy who was totally smitten and communicative suddenly going dark.

The lesson, lovebirds, is that a smaller version of this happens ALL THE TIME with online dating. That space between when you send a message and someone sends a reply, or that space between when you go on a date and you follow up about it… both parties, no matter what gender or orientation, have a tendency to kind of psych themselves out about those silences. We already talked about The Silence that is never broken, but even La Petite Silence (go ahead and say it all Frenchy-like) can really disrupt your flow, and make your potential date think you’ve lost interest. After all, it’s VERY common for communication to drop off and never resume in this new digital world.

We often don’t realize we’re being rude or even cruel by withholding stuff like that—after all, we might post a Facebook message or something indicating that we’re out of town for a family medical emergency or some such, and assume that those closest to us know what’s up—but keep in mind that new potential dates aren’t hooked into your usual communication channels yet, especially if you’re still kinda vetting each other.

So if you really dig someone, but shit’s crazy at work or your grandfather just passed away, do that potentially great match a favor and let them know. Just drop a super-quick line like “Just so you know, some family stuff came up and I’ll probably be out of touch for several days. But I’m really looking forward to another date when things settle down!” It’ll make a HUGE difference, and it’s so much more respectful than just going blank. Under normal life circumstances, I tell clients that 24 hours is the maximum amount someone should have to wait to be acknowledged (assuming you’re in touch at all). If you have to break the 24-hour rule, just be up front about it and everyone will be less fretful and more excited to see you when you resurface!

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