How does deactivation look like?

Last Saturday, I was on a fantastic date.

The backstory

I matched this woman, let’s call her Samantha, on Bumble.

I had not been too enthusiastic about Samantha initially – we had had two video dates, and had texted nearly every day before our in-real-life date. In the two video dates, both times she brought up something about another person behaving in a negative way towards her.

In the first video date, her PhD thesis adviser had come up in the conversation, and how she had suffered. I was sympathetic – after all, a bad thesis advisor is something which can happen to anyone. Also I enjoyed how we connected, and that she trusted me and talked about these very personal topics.

I prefer to date women locally – so I assumed that Samantha was living in Leipzig, like myself. It turned out, that she had been travelling – and actually lived in Dresden.

In the second video date, she mentioned how her boss had said something inappropriate (while being drunk) two times to her. I started to see a pattern (“Samantha the victim”) – and became a bit more wary. Could Samantha be a kind of drama queen?

Also, interestingly, she suggested that we could spend a couple of days in Paris together – as she was going there for a conference. Although flattered by this invitation, I suggested that we should see each other in real life first before going to Paris.

I felt that in the video date, she didn’t look as attractive as on her profile picture.

Finally, I found out that she is a social smoker – and I try to avoid smokers as dates. We even had a little discussion, whether there was still a point to see each other. She suggested that she still wanted to see me in real life, and to try it.

I agreed to see her on my way back from Munich (I was travelling for my 20 year class reunion), and to come down to Dresden. I suggested a rather romantical venue – the Dresdner Schlössernacht (Dresdner night of the castles), which would have food, music, and nice lights. I figured, even if the date would turn out to be a disappointment, I could still enjoy the castles and the scenery.

A big plus was also, that Samantha was putting in effort to stay in touch from her side, for example she had suggested the second video date herself – I would have waited until our actual in real-life date. Generally, before the date Samantha was putting in more effort than me.

The date

Samantha turned up in a little black dress, and she was much shorter than me. I could have easily put my chin on her head. And in real life, she looked even more attractive than in her profile picture. Maybe it was the little dress, maybe it was that she was small and cute. I felt an attraction to her.

We went to buy ear plugs for me (I was spending the night in Dresden, so we would not be under time pressure), and had an ice cream afterwards.

I let her lead the way, as she had been living in Dresden for a while. We started talking, and I enjoyed our conversation.

It seemed that for every topic we touched, we both could continue talking about it and enjoy each other’s company.

I paid for the ice cream, and we went to the event. We were walking around the grounds, and visited different spots. I mentioned my love of sunsets, and later on we tried to find a spot to watch it.

Only at one point did I feel she became negative (and continued the pattern I saw from our video dates) – she mentioned that people in East Germany, specifically in Dresden, tended to mistrust her as a foreigner. Samantha is from Iran, and she was annoyed that people would think that she is out to steal from them or cheat them in some way. She mentioned that this had not been the case in Hamburg, which she had visited recently.

Later on I mentioned to her that our date is a really pleasant surprise and I was really enjoying her company.

After we both had had a glass of wine and started to look for a nice place to sit down, we held hands while walking (I had taken her hand). We did find a bench, but were attacked by gnats. On the bench, she shared a bit more about her family, we also discussed other things, like how I was (again) living with my family in Leipzig, and running my company under the roof of my parent’s house. When we couldn’t bear the gnats any longer, we continued on the path – to get another drink, and finally to sit down on steps facing the river.

On my request, we went down a bit further, so we didn’t see other people in front of us. It was a quite romantic spot! We sat close next to each other, and again held hands. I also had my hand around her shoulder.

When she felt cold, I put my sweater around her shoulders. She felt cared for, I could tell. At one point, she gently stroked my cheek and smiled at me. A perfect moment for a kiss – but: Earlier on, she had shared that she wanted to wait with kissing – as she tended to become very quickly attached. So, being a gentleman, I hugged her instead.

Suddenly, there were fireworks in front of us, across the river. It was Samantha’s favorite moment of the evening, watching the fireworks

My favorite moment was when, after the fireworks she became tired, but wanted to stay and continue the date. She put her head on my shoulder, and we sat there in silence, just enjoying the evening and each other’s company. I held her hand between my thumb and index finger, she let go to cross our fingers instead, which gave me a little warm glow inside.

Since about halfway in through the date, I had started to consider Samantha as a possible girlfriend – I was really enjoying the date and our connection. This does not happen often to me, that I enjoy the date so much that I can potentially see myself in a relationship with the woman. In the last two years, it has happened three times in total, including Samantha.

We switched back to another bench, while I was having some food. Samantha didn’t want any. There was a little banter about gnats, she said she was feeling them on her legs – I said she was imagining things, as the gnats were already sleeping.

Going home

Eventually, I suggested that we go home as Samantha was really becoming tired and sleepy. Apparently many other people had the same idea, so the bus was chock full of people. I put my hand around Samantha’s back, protectively, and turned her a bit towards me, so that she would not be squeezed against random people. That was also a really nice moment for me, riding back in the bus with her, feeling her close. I could not see her face, as she was turned towards me, and I was looking down on her head. I felt a lot of care for her, and was again imagining how we could be a couple, and how finally, I have found someone, potentially someone for life.

We switched to a tram, and Samantha advised me to stay on the line, as it would bring me close to the hostel which I was sleeping in. It was wrong advice, as I found out eventually – I had to backtrack, until I finally arrived in the hostel, at 2 am. I had asked Samantha to let me know when she was home and safe, and she had texted me to also ask whether I was already back in the hostel. She was sorry that she had sent me on the wrong way, I told her not to worry.

That is the result of my work on myself, about not getting triggered anymore. People make mistakes, in full innocence. Samantha was experiencing me as a calm, reliable type of person, who didn’t overreact. Maybe I’m putting this point in here, because that’s what I’m looking for myself, a person who doesn’t get triggered easily. A woman, who is essentially calm and tries to solve problems by talking, rather than becoming upset, accusing people, etc.

In any case, I went to bed thinking of the nice date, and looking forward to see more of Samantha.

In the morning I offered her to meet again while I was still in Dresden, but she apologized saying that she wanted to have breakfast with a friend who was going away for a month. It was OK for me, too – I didn’t want to rush things, and go at Samanthas pace.

On my way back, I browsed in the magazine shop. Knowing my penchant for deactivating myself, looking for problems in a woman, I bought a magazine with the title “Beziehungsfähig” (capable of relationships / relationship-ready). It was supposed to be a reminder for myself, to work on my deactivation side, which I had experienced coming up even with the most wonderful dates (for example with T., which had been the two most fantastic dates in my life so far).

Historically, I have a fearful avoidant attachment style. My anxious side had come out in a big way with N., I have written in other blogposts about that at length. Today, I can say – with some pride – that the anxious side has been resolved. But the dismissive side is still a work in progress. With Samantha, I had already seen how I had started to focus on “she’s not as pretty in the video as on the pictures” and “she’s a smoker”, etc.

By the way, I even found the idea of Samantha smoking sweet in a certain way. As I’m writing this, I can still feel the positive, sweet, sweet energy of our date. Our connection, the way I enjoyed how Samantha really wanted to get to know me and listened attentively.

When leaving the hostel and going back to Leipzig, I had had the thought that I shall be seeing more of this hostel probably, as I would become a regular visitor.

Sadly, this is not what happened – our beautiful date will now stay just a memory. Read on to find out how it all happened, and how the deactivation came about.

A two day date next?

Samantha and I agreed to speak on Tuesday evening. I was a changed man after our date. I was enthusiastic about seeing Samantha again, and I shared openly with her that I was ready for the next step, but wanted to take things at her pace. She said she was really happy to hear that and smiled. She said she also had some questions for me, but things which we could discuss in real life. I assumed that this would possibly be a discussion about kissing or getting closer with each other.

I suggested that I would come over the coming weekend (Saturday and Sunday, 22.7.2023 + 23.7.2023), if that would work for her as well, we could spend one and a half days together.

I figured, I would stay at the hostel again. Samantha surprised me by suggesting that I could stay at her place (“but no funny business!”). We planned what we would be doing – renting a canoo, for a boat ride on the Elbe. Having food, taking a stroll through the city. Cooking together, and then watching the series FRIENDS, which she said “can transform your life”, and is a huge fan of. Samantha didn’t want to watch Bollywood movies, which I’m a huge fan of, but offered to switch to something on Netflix or Amazon Prime instead.

Just like a couple, I thought. Strangely enough, no deactivation was coming in for me at this point. I was really open to see where things go with Samantha, and I was really grateful that we had found each other. That we vibed so well, that there was no chasing, no convincing. Just a lot of curiosity about the other, opennness, and tolerance.

Samantha and I agreed that I would remind her about organizing the canoo the next day, and said our goodbyes.

After our call, I started to imagine how we would cook together, enjoy a glass of wine while sitting close next to each other, watching FRIENDS. How maybe we would sleep in the same bed, cuddling at night. How possibly Samantha might even change her mind about the kissing, but how I would be respectful towards her, and give her the time she needed.


Gentle reader, be honest – do you think this failed because of yours truly?

The next day, I sent Samantha the message about the canoo, as agreed. She left the message on unread until the evening, and said she had a very stressful day at work. She promised to take care of the canoo the following day. Again my next messages were not read and replied to until the evening. I didn’t push her or double-text.

It didn’t hurt me, that she wasn’t reading the messages, but I was already seeing the “signature of doom” in it – it had happened before with T. in a similar way. And, also, through using the emotional processing tool, I know that sometimes it’s just “life” which gets in the way of answering.

When she replied yesterday, Samantha also requested that we have a quick call in the evening. I spoke to a friend before the call, and mentioned that she might break off the date.

That’s what she did. She said, that she had seen some red flags, and didn’t want to go further.

The red flags

Obviously, this was a huge surprise to me. I questioned her, and tried to find out what she was afraid of in particular.

She said that since I was living with my parents, I was not independent enough for her. And she knew her own character, and from experience she knew that she would be toxic for me.

I said that as an entrepreneur, someone who had extensively travelled, and lived on my own in Munich, I didn’t agree with her statement. Also that she was projecting things onto me.

I mentioned that I know this self-sabotaging from my own experience, and that she is taking the wrong choice from my perspective. I said that I would be able to bring a lot of joy into her life, and a lot of emotional maturity. I said that I really enjoyed our date, and felt connected to her – she agreed that she had also enjoyed the date very much. Those signs of tenderness and trust from her side were real, and these were the things which touched me most – her putting her head on my shoulder, taking my hand, standing close to me in the bus.

I told Samantha that she was one of the few women I would be open to having a relationship with.

That being said, I accepted her decision fully, and mentioned that there is no point in chasing someone, as I have learned from bitter experience (with N. and two other women before her), and that was my recommendation to her, to not chase anyone in life as well.

She said this is really hard for her, and I replied: “OK, let’s not make this harder than necessary and say our goodbye now. Take care.” So we did. After our call, I immediately archived our WhatsApp conversation, as a sign for myself, that I’m moving on.

Aftermath, thoughts

Note that this shift came about very suddenly – at one point we were in close touch, talking, planning a really nice date, and even sleeping over at her place. In the next moment, Samantha was seeing red flags, and calling off dating entirely.

She broke off the date because it was getting too close for her – she was afraid of “falling in love with the wrong man”. She was afraid of being hurt.

If she would have used the emotional processing tool, she would have recognized that a lot of her fears were built on unjustified grounds. She had had some experience with an immature man in the past, and was trying to avoid recreating this experience. Could she really make the assumption that I was immature, that I would not be pulling my own weight? We had even discussed having kids on our date, and I had said I wanted to wait for about two years, of living together, to understand whether we’re a good fit. Does that sound like an immature man to you?

In fact, thanks to the emotional processing tool, I believe I am a very well-balanced, mature person. My whole reaction during the break-up call was a testament to this – I gave her an alternative point of view, I even gave her some positive feedback, but ultimately accepted her choice, as the one which was genuinely something she was choosing. I didn’t chase, I didn’t deactivate, I didn’t rage.

The “red flags” she was seeing were things used as post-hoc argumentation after an emotional decision (due to fear of closeness) had been made. I know this from my own experience, where a woman would get too close, I would start to find fault and reject her. For example, due to “smoking”. Funnily enough, before T. ended things between us, I had been working on processing “she is not an independent enough person” in my deactivation … similar to Samantha.

I told Samantha she would be missing out on a great relationship, and I fully believe this. Maybe, maybe she is right that she would have been toxic towards me. Maybe there’s another man, who doesn’t allow as much closeness as I do – who is always a bit distant, who would push Samantha into her anxious side, and make her chase him. Hence my parting words to her, to “never chase”. I wish I could have gone much more into the tools, but it was not my place to do. I hope Samantha will find her way, and her happiness in life.

Wrong advice: “don’t share anything about yourself”

After my call with Samantha, I shared this with my friend F., and my family. They tried to give me advice along the lines that I should share less, and be less open and honest in the initial dating stages.

To this I say: Bullshit.

A woman who wants to find fault, will find fault. A woman who wants a great relationship will be flexible, and accept some things she is not too happy about, or actually discuss them. She’ll give it a go, if there is a great connection.

In retrospect, that is what Samantha probably was initially planning to do – to discuss some things which were worrying her with me. When the “danger” of getting into a relationship with me was becoming more pronounced, these things “became” red flags to her – things which we both could have solved, discussed. Maybe some of these things would have even been a real mismatch, maybe we would have discovered that down the line.

Samantha did not react to me sharing these things during our date, and did not bring it up / discuss it. Instead we discussed, whether we could imagine us having one or two kids, or adopting some (as Samantha was planning).

This is what deactivation looks like for fearful avoidants – it’s sudden, and a complete shift from interested, close, to dismissive and distant, wanting to break up. Samantha’s past is causing this.

Samantha, you deserve to be in a healthy relationship with a great person, not worrying that you would be “toxic” for them. You deserve to be in a relationship where you can trust the partner not to hurt you, to respect your boundaries. To be there when you need them, and give you the kind of space you need.

Photo by Khamkéo Vilaysing on Unsplash (no this is not me and Samantha :-))

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