Coupled With D&S

Real, nonjudgmental advice about dating, sex, love, and life from a thirty-something couple that has seen it all over thirteen years.

Trust us. We live in Brooklyn. (Joking. Kind of.)

Disappearing Drummer Disorder: An FWB Goes AWOL

The Question

Where'd you go?

Where’d you go?

A woman in her 20’s from the Bay Area who identifies as poly and bi wrote, “I was in a FWB situation for almost 8 months with this guy. We never went on real dates and mostly met at his drum studio or apartment, talked, and had sex. For me anyway, it was a rare intellectual connection combined with great chemistry. Sex was great, conversations were great, and time passed so quickly with hi. He was not OK with the polyamorous thing and didn’t want to get emotionally involved but was OK with having sex since it was out in the open. I was OK with simply enjoying the times we had together. So, that was working well until one day he just dropped out in the middle of rescheduling one of our meetups because the schedule that day didn’t work out. Like all of a sudden, gone. To this day I’m just still extremely puzzled by this. I’ve moved on and I’m not mad or anything, but just deeply curious. Like, what the hell happened?”

Sally Says

He doesn’t care. That might be it. He met someone. His grandma died. He got run over by a truck. He got an STD and didn’t want to tell you. The truth is that life is very complicated. Light relationships can be really fun, but sex often makes a relationship feel more emotionally intimate than it really is. You two had no overt commitment to each other, and if something life-altering happened to him, your hookups could reasonably be the first thing to go. Don’t take it personally. Just remember for next time that these things can fall apart quickly. If you want to feel more stable about this kind of hookup, go ahead and have a conversation with the person about what kind of communication you’d like to have and how often, so you’re less likely to get burned (but it might happen anyway). As far as the drummer goes, why not send one last text telling him you’d like to know what happened to him? If he answers, it will give you closure. If not, so what?

David Says

Guys disappear all the time without explanation, and I’m going to snitch on my brethren by telling our secrets. The truth is that, even though we’re supposed to be more straightforward and practical than women, many of us hate confrontation, conflict, and facing hurt feelings and disappointment. We hate them so much that we’re more likely to cause conflict, disappointment, and hurt feelings by fading out, even in situations where things could have ended well. Call it cowardice or childishness. The flipside of the same impulse is angry confrontation and accusation out of the blue. Either approach is a convenient way to get out of things without taking basic responsibility, but going AWOL seems kinder and gentler to us sensitive urban men. I actually hear a lot of complaints from women in New York that men will disappear and then, when the woman texts to find out what happened, he calls her a clingy bitch and says that’s why he disappeared, even if she’d shown no sign before. Despite my analysis, if it’s really gnawing at you, I do recommend that text. You probably won’t get an answer, or maybe you’ll get an annoyed answer, but in the economics of relationships, he owes you that much, and it’s OK to collect. Eight months is a significant amount of time. Even an FWB implies basic standards of human decency, courtesy, empathy, and kindness, not to mention an even exchange–albeit with low stakes and low levels of involvement outside the bedroom. He didn’t treat you like an FWB or even a Fuck Buddy, which kind of sucks. I’m glad you don’t feel too bad. Not knowing can be a blessing in some cases, especially if the truth might devastate you, but that doesn’t seem like it will be an issue here.

The Consensus

If we had to venture a guess as to why he disappeared, he probably realized that you were incompatible and decided consciously or subconsciously to pull the plug. If he was developing feelings for you, if he met someone he was serious about, or even if he just thought about the consequences of continuing with you, he would have run up against the fact that he could never be OK with your need to be polyamorous. You say that he was OK with sex only because it was out in the open, but it sounds like he kept you pretty much locked up in his soundproof drum room, where you could both bang away to your mutual contentment. But anything that could have really brought things out in the open would have been a threat. We believe in communication. You shouldn’t necessarily talk all your romantic flings to death. A hookup deserves talk about protection and boundaries and making sure everyone is safe and comfortable in the moment. Months and months of hookups probably needs a good conversation setting the parameters of the FWB situation, including expectations for how you plan liaisons or how one of you might end it. This doesn’t have to be heart wrenching, e.g. “I’m OK with ending it whenever you need to, with no strings attached; I just prefer to be clear.” The other person might not follow through in the end, but they’re more likely to do so once you’ve requested it ahead of time, and the conversation you have well before things end will also help you decide if it’s better to cut and run yourself … with a fair explanation, of course.