THE BLOG

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

Srinivasan Pillay Headshot

'He's Just Not That Into You' Really?

Posted: Updated:
Print

We live at a time when frankness has tremendous virtue. It is brief. It is clear. It is to the point. But what if it were just plain wrong?

Several circumstances of "he's just not that into you" came to my attention recently, and they were all curiously similar even though on the surface they looked different. For the purpose of confidentiality, the names do not reflect the real names of people in these circumstances.

In the first situation, Kate and Andy were good friends at first and then started to "hang out" together. To Kate, what developed seemed to be a mutual attraction, but no matter how many times she indicated her interest, Andy would not "make a move." Eventually, she went out with him one night, and rather than pursue her usual indirect line of inquiry, she got incredibly drunk and started to make advances. Andy, despite spending three nights a week with Kate, complimenting her on the way she looked, laughing with her, loving her and having no other person in his life he could trust more, responded with shock: "Kate, what are you doing?" he asked. Needless to say, Kate was embarrassed by her apparently appalling lack of insight, and to make a long story short, when she spoke to her friends about this, they said: "He's just not that into you". Was Kate really completely off the mark, or was there some other phenomenon at play here?

Same story-different sex, when Jake and Mark, two close friends started to hang out together a lot. Nobody noticed since they hid under the heterosexual umbrella of "bromance" and "metrosexual" and "I love you man". Two guys who like hanging out together, have common interests, love and trust each other and really don't like spending that much time with anyone else. But when Jake's turn came to behave like Kate, Mark was suitably shocked. "I love you man, but not like that". Again, Mark's argument (much like Andy's) was that he was not "sexually stimulated" or "attracted" to Jake. He was more "attracted to girls".

In both of these cases, there are some serious questions that hide under the "he's just not that into you" story. What does "not being into you" mean? People assume that it is just about sexual attraction, but is it just this? I would like to propose an alternative, inspired in part by the sometimes absurd claims of "bromance" and in part by men who are afraid of their strong feelings toward women they can't feel sexual about.

The alternate theory is this: that in order to be sexually attracted to someone, and to maintain long-term sexual relations, you need to feel some form of trust and comfort that brings you together. But what if women you truly loved were threatening because they made you feel trapped? Or if a same sex friend brought up primitive and unconscious fears of being ostracized? With that degree of fear or internalized threat, how could you possibly feel trust?

The same areas of the brain that light up with fear are turned down by trust. So if you have a fear of intimacy with someone you really love, that fear is going to turn down the trust and not allow you to form a long-term commitment. Similarly, if you have strongly internalized homophobia- if you have "learned" that your life's vision was that you were not "gay" but if people saw you this way, you would be judged, there would be no chance that you could easily develop trust because the fear would overwhelm this.

In these circumstances, people often form love connections with people who are more socially acceptable: in Andy's case, a more emotionally distant but good-looking woman, and in Mark's case, with someone with whom he could have an erection. (I have noticed that even when men in this situation have erections, they account for them in other ways). After all, his erection (or acknowledgment of it) would forever be prevented by his intense fear of social rejection, even if Jake was the love of his life.

Now, I'm not saying this is always the case. I am just making a case for: "he's not just that into you" being not that great an answer, especially if it masks real fear and prevents real love that needs just a little (okay, maybe not a little) more introspection. If all other dimensions of intimacy are great but there is just no sexual attraction, you may want to consider that it is the very closeness that prevents you from committing to a bond that you could enjoy and benefit from for the rest of your life.

From Our Partners