Dating and Relationship Guide

The Houdini Effect or Men Who Disappear

Have you ever had a relationship that ended abruptly with the disappearance of your man?  He was someone who seemed just perfect for you. He led you to believe that you two are about to turn into a great couple -- until one day he just stopped calling and ignored your messages

Here is some mail I recently received from one of my customers:

Dear Naomi,

I wish to ask your advice. Here is my story: a couple of months ago, I met a great guy who gave me back my faith in men. He was charming, romantic, polite, sweet, and sensitive. During the first month we had phone conversations almost every day and saw each other at least twice a week. We had an amazing amount in common and I thought he might be “the one” although it was early in the relationship. Everything was great, until one Saturday evening he simply changed. During that evening, he complained all the time. He said the pub was noisy and overcrowded, so we went to my place. Then he said the TV show was stupid, so I suggested a movie. The movie was ‘too girly’, he said, and at that point I felt completely helpless and asked him what was going on. Was there something better to do, in his opinion? I asked. He told me that he’d better go home.  I felt terribly insecure and asked him to stay the night, but he refused. I tried to talk to him just to try and  understand what was going on, but he just kept saying he needed some ‘space’. Please note that I had always respected his ‘space’, so his attitude was offensive, to say the least. 

He went home and promised to call me the next day. But he never called again and didn’t return my calls. After a couple of weeks, I sent him a ‘Happy New Year’ SMS and he replied Thank you. I’m sorry about that. You’re great and I wish you all the love & happiness you deserve’. At least I now knew he hadn’t been  involved in a fatal accident or kidnapped by aliens.

I don’t want him back. I want nothing to do with such a man, but there’re still a couple of questions I would like answered, of which the most important are “Why did he behave this way?” and “Should I send him a letter – not to ask him back but to tell him how it makes me feel?”

What do you think, Naomi? 



Is this situation familiar to you?  Unfortunately, Nicky’s story is all too common and reminds many women of similar bewildering incidents they have experienced.. For this reason, I decided to dedicate this post to the analysis of the situation that I refer to as “The Houdini Effect” – the sudden and unpredictable disappearance of the romantic partner, either female or male (mostly male). While anyone can end a relationship at any time, “Houdini” ends it abruptly, with no explanation, and leaves the abandoned partner shocked and asking “What happened?”

To understand the phenomenon, you need to get inside the secret inner world of “Houdini Guy”. Why does end a relationship is such a weird way?  I’ll try to answer the question, but, first of all, you should know that there are a number of questions to ask:

1.     Why did he choose to disappear this way?

Because any talk of a  break-up is unpleasant one, some people prefer not to indulge in it at all. For this reason, HR interviewers usually tell unsuitable work candidates something like “Don’t call us, we’ll call you”, even if a candidate would definitely prefers a negative answer to uncertainty. For the same reason, many intimidated bosses hide themselves behind their polite secretaries. Finally, for this reason the initiator of break-up talk usually looks for way to escape the coping. While a “merciful” guy will simply explain that it’s “not you but me,” the egocentric one disappears. Basically, “Houdini Guy” is an egocentric man who is afraid of coping.

2.     Why did he choose to end such a good relationship?

While there can be many explanations for finishing a good relationship, the most common are:

#1: For him, the time you spent together was just a trial period. It is a fact that men and women are socialized to treat relationships in different ways. For a woman, a short relationship is usually perceived as her failure either to “catch” a guy or to “to compromise”. For a man, a short relationship is often perceived as a sleight on his self-evaluation and ability to attract a woman. While the man evaluates himself mainly by his power of attraction, a woman is judged by her ability to remain in a long relationship. As a result, your male partner is likely to be far less committed to a new relationship than you are.  

#2: The relationship has changed its direction. As I’ve already mentioned, men are not evaluated by their ability to remain in a long relationship. Therefore, they can treat temporary relationship as an end in itself, and not as a step on their way to anything meaningful. Consequently, when your relationship is deepening, you may assume that it is natural, but your male partner can feel like he is losing control. This is why many “Houdini” disappearances occur after “bonding” events such as meeting friends and families, or after the first romantic weekend.

#3: The situation has changed. In some cases, something has happened. For instance, his ex who broke his heart suddenly wants him back, his former classmate finally convinced him that coming out of the closet is OK, and so on. However, this is fairly uncommon.   

3.     Why now?

The timing isn’t necessarily meaningful. Usually, there is some event that has triggered his decision, such as an evening spent with his happy single friends, an afternoon spent with his unhappily married friends, meeting a beautiful woman who could be with him if only he was single, etc. The exact incident does not really matter. It is only a trigger that arouses thoughts and feelings.         

4.     Does his disappearance mean that he didn’t respect me?

This is not necessarily so. However, such behavior is certainly a sign of his tendency to prefer his own convenience to considering the feelings of others. 

5.     Should I send him a letter – not to ask him back but to tell him how it makes me feel?

There is no unequivocal answer to this question. After all, the letter’s function is quite minor, namely to close the relationship properly. My best advice is not to act impulsively. Many women who sent letters like these tend to regret it later. So if you write a letter, don’t send it immediately. Put it aside for a couple of days. If later you still feel you want to send the letter, go for it. However, in many cases the writing itself does the job.  

Many women ask me if it possible to prevent a “Houdini” incident. This depends on the characteristics of the particular situation, but there are some general rules that can definitely help:

1.      Persuade your partner that a relationship with you is not a compromise but an achievement. The more attractive you are, the greater the chances that your partner will be concerned about ensuring and strengthening a relationship with you and not about looking for better opportunities. Note that impression and attraction management skills depend on your mental abilities, so sharpen them.. The first chapter of the book Meet & Keep the Right Man is mostly dedicated to developing and enhancing these abilities.

2.      It is very important to control your negative emotions while communicating with a new partner. Your emotional self-control contributes a lot to your overall attractiveness and to the desirability of the whole relationship. In addition, if staying in a relationship does not feel right to him, he will be more likely to talk to you (rather than disappear), if you are able to control your emotional responses. Part 1.7 of the first chapter of the book Meet & Keep the Right Man, together with its fifth chapter, includes some good advice in field of emotion management.

3.      You should never insist on keeping the relationship if your partner has doubts about it. Most women who asked me for advice on the topic of their ex-partner’s disappearances admitted that at some stage the man had second thoughts about the relationship, but the woman insisted on “giving it another chance”. However, a few women who chose to end a relationship immediately after hearing of their partners’ second thoughts reported that, in most cases, the partner asked to get back together in a couple of days. Notice that the less dependent you are on your partner, the more attractive you are to him. Therefore, the best way to convince a new partner to stay in a relationship with you is to pull, not to push.

4.      Do not rush to “upgrade” your relationship too quickly. For instance, never push him to meet his or your parents and friends, and think twice before accepting such an invitation from him. For some of us, meeting parents and friends can be evidence of a serious relationship. However, it is much better to first build and to strengthen the relationship you have, and only then to let your common space merge with your personal spaces.

You can read more about attraction techniques and how to always be desirable in your partner’s eyes in the book Meet & Keep the Right Man. Its fourth and especially fifth chapters, together with part 1.7 of the first chapter, include some great advice and insights in the field of behavior, ways of life, and patterns of thinking ultimately attractive and desirable woman.

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