In Dating and Relationships, Actions Speak Louder than Words

actions speak louder than wordsOne of the most insidious problems in dating, particularly online, is the frequent mismatch between words and actions. While it’s easy to write off huge numbers of daters as liars  the reality is not quite so simple. People often say things with the best of intentions, and their actions then don’t match standards that they have set. While this is an explanation, it’s not an excuse for why far too many are wildly inconsistent in their words and actions.

While it’s simply reality that this problem exists, what can you do to keep yourself from wasting time with someone who’s being inconsistent? Let’s start by looking at some of the ways that the action-words-mismatch often pops up in the dating and relationship scene.

When an online dating profile bears little resemblance to reality

This is often the first place you will run into problems. Frankly, people can talk a really good story on their profiles. If their pictures are attractive, it’s that much easier to believe them. While some might be lying outright, far more are just a bit delusional. I don’t mean that in a bad way. A lot of us experience a mismatch between who we’d like to be and who we really are.

If you don’t feel as old as you are, you might be deluding yourself a bit. None of us feel as old as we are (except for on the days when I feel much, much older). It’s not a huge leap for someone who was a jock in high school to still think of himself as athletic, even if he hasn’t been near a ball, court or field in two decades. Twenty pounds or a few gray hairs can creep on without being noticed.

We like to think that we’re smarter, funnier, and more easygoing than we are sometimes. Since we want to put our best foot forward on a profile, we might overstate things just a teensy bit. And so the deception is born.

I love you, I just don’t act like I do

Once you’ve overcome the online profile hurdles and are actually dating, a new set of problems arises. There are some people who are great talkers. They know exactly what you like to hear, and make sure you hear it a lot. They are good at flattery. And let’s face it; flattery feels good.

And to be fair, it’s easy to get excited about someone new, and easy to express your excitement with just a wee bit of hyperbole. Sometimes more than a wee bit.

Before long, you’re faced with someone who professes to be crazy about you, but treats you like a distant cousin. Perhaps he’s claimed you have an incredible connection that he’s never felt with anyone. Maybe you’re the most amazing person she’s ever met. But for all that, you’re lucky to get a few texts a week, and you’ll see him when he isn’t doing anything else, which is about once every six weeks, or when football season is over.

Another thing that comes up often is the behavior after the “I don’t want a relationship” talk. I’ve mostly heard of men doing this, but I’ve known of a few women who did it too. Confusingly to the one who does want a relationship, the one who professes not to keeps acting like your girlfriend or boyfriend. The only thing that’s missing is the label. In this case, it’s often comforting to think that actions speak louder than words. Don’t they?

Well, maybe we should take it a step further and say that actions and words should match. If there’s wild inconsistency between the two, then things definitely aren’t right. For some people, it’s simply convenient to have all of the trappings of a boyfriend or girlfriend without the commitment. It’s called keeping your options open.

So, how do you go about spotting someone whose words are unlikely to be followed by corresponding action?

You can start by catching some signs on profiles.

One thing we’ve noticed is that those who “protest too much” are frequently guilty of the very thing they’re trumpeting.

So, if you’re a guy who claims to hate high-maintenance golddiggers, guess what you’re probably drawn to? Yup, high-maintenance “expensive” types.

Or, you’re a woman who states very specifically that you’re not here just for sex and you are definitely not having sex on the first date. Guess what our “sources” say? Women who spell it out like that are MOST likely to give it up soon.

Those are just a few examples. Anytime you see someone making a very emphatic statement about anything, beware. We’re not saying you shouldn’t go out with them; just be on special alert for inconsistent behavior.

Also keep an eye on anyone who makes any particular claim as to what they’re like. In my experience, just about every guy who’s claimed to be a gentleman on his profile ended up being anything but. Ditto for the self-proclaimed “nice guy.”

A woman stating she is avoiding all cheaters and “players,” (whatever that means) is usually sending out the signal that she tends to fall for all of the above. Over and over again, in fact.

The same holds true for anyone claiming to be “laid-back” or “drama free.” We don’t know if it’s wishful thinking or flat-out delusion, but no one who has to state they are these things, are ever in fact, those things.

Oh, and don’t get me started on the “honest” types. If you have to go on at length about how honest you are and how you won’t tolerate dishonesty in anyone else, you are quite possibly full of it. The “honest” types hold up about as well as “gentlemen” when it comes to closer scrutiny. Honesty is no big deal to the truly honest. It just goes without saying that they expect it from themselves and from others.

A lot of inconsistencies on profiles can often be uncovered within a few email exchanges. Most people are not accomplished con artists, and are really bad at pretending to be something they’re not. The self-proclaimed nice guys usually turned passive-aggressive or outright hostile the very first time I was an hour “late” in replying to a message.

The “drama-free” woman will probably tell you all about her dramatic day, week and life in the first half hour.

The problem is that a great many of us are so excited to be communicating with someone we find attractive, that we overlook all of that.

Of course, we’re big fans of giving everyone the benefit of the doubt, so it’s probably better to not turn into Sherlock Holmes with every profile you look at. Just note inconsistencies when they turn up. If you decide to go ahead and date them anyway, it becomes easier to discover an actions-words mismatch.

Keep in mind that some people simply aren’t great talkers. Many aren’t particularly good at expressing themselves. If that’s the case, actions will be the most valuable indicator of how they feel about you.

A lot of dating relationships start out hot and heavy in the first weeks, with one or both parties effusively gushing over each other. That’s nice, but it usually doesn’t last. The real test happens after those first weeks, when you get a chance to see if the actions match the gushiness. They should. If they don’t, then the actions, or lack of them, will tell you that the talk was cheap. It’s a bummer when it happens, but it usually happens early on, so you can make a decision before you’re in too deep.

The problem is, far too many people keep waiting for that gushy mushy person from the beginning to reappear and they seldom do. If that initial excitement wasn’t based in anything real, action is not going to follow.

If some of this seems confusing, then keep in mind that what really matters is how you are feeling in your relationship.

Are you always confused? Feel like you’re being jerked around?

Or are you happy and feel secure that this is going in a direction that you like?

Are you being treated well? And by that we include things like regular, unambiguous communication, the ability to trust your partner, and the feeling that they have your best interests at heart.

Seen that way, it’s pretty easy to tell when someone is just blowing a lot of hot air, or is actually providing evidence that they mean the things they say.

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