“I like you.”
The last time a boy told me that, we were on our third date. We were sitting on stools at the bar facing each other, he leaned in to kiss me, and then made the most adorable, bashful face I’d ever seen. “Peter is so my boyfriend,” I thought, and commended myself on being so awesome.
It was clear, wasn’t it? He’d already started using terms of endearment (“kiddo,” “my girl,” “cutie”), made intense eye contact during sex (and insisted on cuddling afterward), and referenced events way down the road that he said, “we should go to.” We.
Then, it was if a light switch went off in his brain. By week four, he was done. And not because anything went wrong. He just lost interest.
At first, I thought this phenomenon was specific to Peter. Unfortunately, I found this love-and-drop thing to happen frequently, and eventually coined it the “Boyfriend Syndrome,” a behavior in which men become insta-boyfriends only to abruptly drop all affection.
As a result, I deal with it, but keep my guard up. I’d like to believe such affection is indicative of true feelings, or a sign of a budding relationship, but I’ve been proved wrong too many times.
Yet, there’s something unnerving about it. Why on earth would a guy act so lovey-dovey when most of them are such relationship-phobes? I tried to develop theories about the Boyfriend Syndrome. But if I’ve learned anything about guys, it’s whatever I think I know about them is completely wrong. So, I questioned a few male friends about this weird behavior.
I was surprised when my 24-year-old single friend, Brian, insisted that BF Syndrome dudes aren’t, in fact, romantics. “No one who’s a romantic would ever say that so soon. Anyone with relationship experience knows it’s going to take a while to know if things will work,” he told me.
“So then, why the romantic flair for the non-romantics?”
“If he’s all about you for three weeks and then drops your ass, he’s obviously using you for the poon. He probably has one strategy, and that’s to be all about you until he gets bored.”
“Kind of like he thinks, Our time together isn’t going to last, why not play it up?”
It still seemed weird to me. After all, there’s the whole “don’t scare him off” bit when you first start dating someone. If I’m so worried about scaring off men with premature affection, why weren’t these guys thinking about scaring me away?
My 35-year-old friend Michael managed to put a few things in perspective to me. What it all came down to, he explained, was impulsive thinking, oftentimes without rationale: “
Brian offered a more sensitive take: “He’s never emotionally involved, but he depends on that false sense of love or compassion to fulfill something inside that’s missing.”
I walked away from both conversations with some definitive outliers—those affected by the Boyfriend Syndrome are lost, confused, and act on impulse.
Wait…this kind of sounds a lot like myself.
Would this mean that men aren’t really that different from women? Perhaps, but at least I have a little more pity for them.