Are You Dating the INVISIBLE MAN?

Seeing a guy who is so out-of-sight that your friends wonder if he's even real? Read this now...

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Are you stuck on a guy who is so out-of-sight that your pals wonder if you've turned super-imaginative? Is he competition for the Artful Dodger? Warning: Mr Vanishing Act is more dangerous than your easy-to-spot commitmentphobic, so if you answered yes to any of these queries, start reading now.

He's a Pro at Midnight Booty Calls 

He SMSes you a zillion times a day— mostly on variations of the midnight booty call. He tells you that you are a sex bomb, a breath of fresh air, a petal, a butterfly, and more. When you insist (and you don't very often), he admits that 'you're kinda special, but...'. And that's the big but on the line. Your friends don't ever get to see him. He meets you only after making sure that there won't be a knock on the door within two hours of arrival or departure. And there's an unwritten code that when he's mentioned in public, you'd acquire a most casual drawl even though your heart's racing at 200 per sec and you're sure only urgent resuscitation could save you.

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Commitmentphobia be darned, this guy has far fewer qualms about being the way he is! Your antenna should go up because he has a very specific style of operation. "I was dating this guy for about six months, when without any notice, he stopped calling me or taking my calls. Not much later, I learnt that he had started dating someone else who he was planning to marry. When I look back—the signs were all there. He was with me, but barely so. We never did any of the 'couple' things. He just didn't want to be 'seen'!" says Sohini*, 30, homemaker. According to Dr Avdesh Sharma, Delhi-based clinical psychiatrist, we are talking about men who would like to reach out when the prospect arises, but don't want to get into the land of no-return just yet. "Such people keep their relationships at a frivolous level. They'd rather not meet their partner's friends or family because that sounds the red signal of permanency," he says.

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So, he becomes invisible. Is almost impossible to crack. You can't ignore his presence but there is no tangible proof that he is there for you. And no, he doesn't have to be 30-plus, married or a criminal to be invisible. Twenty- two-year-old boys won't have any of the Valentine mush either. They're on the fast track to CEO-dom. And prefer arm candy to steady girlfriend too. Plus, they will go all out to prove just that even when they are squarely with you. Are you dating this new breed?

The Excuses They Spring

Sometimes, they have none. Without your knowing or wanting, they have created a pattern for your 'relationship'— the no-reference type—and won't have it any other way. (Of course, you think it's only been two months and soon enough he will change!) At other times, they offer evasive replies like 'What's your rush?' that make you out to be the offender and so you meekly back off. Or, whenever you plan an evening out with all your buddies they are miraculously 'busy', or they don't like the play/pub/park you have picked, or they have a golf tourny that's somehow more important than Budweising with your set.

"I've been with this guy I met in college for five years now," says Deepti, 32, schoolteacher. "We come from different backgrounds and when my family came to know of us and wanted to meet him, he simply left town and later came up with some really lame excuse. We are still together but I cannot officially call him my fiancé. I don't want to rush him, but if I as much as broach the subject, he wonders why I am in a hurry! I let it pass because I want to be with him."

Where Are You Headed, Girl?

Bedroomwards, for one. This guy sure likes your package, which is why he's with you. Rest assured that you will get sack sessions good enough to burn the ceiling with this love-bunny. What you may not get—certainly not in the short run—is a heart-to-heart, Valentine flowers, picnic in the park, and such like. Depending on how willing you are to stick it out despite obvious glitches, and the deep or not-so-deep cause of his stellar behaviour, you have the following future possibilities. You will split in six months to a year—decision yours. He will dump you for Ms Perfect in two years—decision his. He will break up with you for no specific reason in two years—decision his but somehow you will feel guilty. Five years and you are still together, and he is still trying to sort himself, his family, his job, his neighbours. Ten years, and you are married with two kids and a dog— miracle! And just how do you know the direction you're headed in? According to Peter Hector, author of Love Is No Guarantee, if your relationship falls in any of the following three categories, you have slim to zilch chances of hearing the L word: (1) You've been together too long with a man who does not have and never had any intentions to commit. (2) You're in a scary Catch-22 situation where you are afraid to bring up the subject of commitment for fear of losing your man- of-the-moment forever. (3) You get the feeling that he is ready to commit possibly with someone else, but not to you.

Getting to the Bottom of It

There's a huge closet of skeletons here. Our psychologist's list covers social fears, childhood traumas, ego trips, broken hearts, job anxiety and ambition, two- timing, shyness, biding-his-time, I'm- great-but-you-are-okay, you're-great- but-I-am-okay and so on. ID the one that fits your not-so-available beau and fix it. Social mayhem:Things are not the way they used to be in the 20th century. A long conversation with your cubicle colleague is not taboo, neither is sex. "The general permissiveness in society these days makes it easy for people to begin a relationship," says Sharma. "But you've got to remember that the changes we are looking at are only half a generation old. When the issue is permanency, a lot of Indian men still tend to fall back upon an older system of values." So do you think you are with a guy whose notions on lovin' are not as evolved as his talkin' is? If you want to net this dude for life, you are better off holding nooky with him. Because he may seem more than happy to do an all-nighter, but if you initiate it and too soon in the relationship, be warned, he will think twice before introducing you to Mama & Co.

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Past imperfect:If your beau comes from a broken home or has seen his parents claw at each other, he may have an instinctive revulsion to perma twosomes. This isn't a tough one to detect, but a pretty bad one to heal. Give him lots of TLC, be patient, and he may just come around. He could be in a similar situation if he has been through heartbreak not too long ago. "I had known Ajay for a while, but we started dating after a bad breakup. Six months into it, and he still didn't want to be known as my 'boyfriend'. I was getting irritated and decided that it was high time he made up his mind. Faced with an ultimatum, he came around and we're still together—as an item, of course!" says Mandira, 27, journalist.

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Egomania: This covers a lot of ground. If the fella can think of no one but himself, you're perhaps just another feather in his cap. He may not find it necessary to go with your plans as long as his beer buddies know you're the hottest squeeze in town and he's got you.
Egomania could also be of the I'm- great-but-you-are-okay kind. "If the two come from different backgrounds, they may hit it off one-to-one, but may feel uncomfortable bringing the partner to their extended group," points out Sharma. Two-timing could also be a spin-off of this. He doesn't think you're good enough, so he needs to meet other women. You may do for the time being, but not in the long run.

People phobia: If it's a mild I'm-okay- but-you-and-the-others-are-great issue, it may go away after he's hit a few success points or been around. But if there's a serious psychological problem, you should either run or take him to the shrink. "Fifty per cent of couples I meet have inter-personal issues rather than serious psychiatric problems," says Sharma. "So many of us live in such insulated worlds that we create our own social anxieties," he adds. Help can be had if you draw your partner into intimate conversations, urge him to open up. Gradually, he will begin to feel comfortable with larger groups as well.

Career calls:"My boyfriend had joined a new corporate firm when we started dating, and I always felt that he was making excuses to stay away from my friends—until I started working myself. Now I know about the pressures of the workplace and like him, prefer to spend the little time we get by ourselves, rather than with a whole bunch of people," says Shikha, 27, copy editor. Sharma suggests that if this seems to be the issue, you figure out if there is ample compatibility in other areas. Then, as your careers grow, so will your coupledom.

Smart Sister Solutions

Become the sleuth or the shrink. Figure out just why he is behaving the way he is. If you like the dude well enough, get to the root of things. Do you see yourself together in ten years? Then stay, and find ways to make him stay (see box). "The most important thing is to keep focussing on what your relationship stands for. Most couples seem to think about how they enjoy each other's company but do not focus on whether their relationship is evolving. You have to periodically introspect and talk to each other," advises Sharma. However, if you are pretty sure that your man is pathologically stuck on the invisibility game, he's clearly bad news, and your best option is to run, and quickly. "If your partner does not even want to hold hands with you—where is the future?" asks Sharma. "If time and again you feel that you're being used and there is no conversation, you have to get smart and get out. Alternately, you too can say to yourself, 'He's my boy toy, I'm going to have a good time here and move on when required'," suggests Sharma. Either way, you should create a strategy. Give yourself six months to a year to conquer or quit. And then, get on with the rest of your life! 

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