Dealing With The Passive Aggressive Email Dater


When is it okay to say something about how long it takes for a guy to respond to a text or email? I’ve been out with the guy in question twice. He sometimes takes a whole day (as in 24 hrs) to reply to emails. – Georgia, 38, NYC


I’d need a little more to go on here. In general, I find a long lapse in response to an email to be a not so good sign. There’s just no excuse for someone to not be able to reply to a message within a few hours at least. I can’t stand when people say that they’re “so busy!” and that’s why they haven’t sent a response. Orly? That busy? Wow. You’re so important! I’ll just sit here eagerly awaiting your response while you carve out the 38 seconds it would take to write a reply.

There’s usually an underlying message to the lack of a message. They’re trying to tell you something without telling you while probably trying to maintain their image as a “good person.” They’re hoping you get the hint and go away quietly.

Passive aggression. I hate it. I hate it more than I hate Facebook status updates about what someone had for lunch.

The most frustrating part of being on the receiving end of that behavior is that if you speak up and say anything, it just gets worse. You become the “crazy” one. You’re not sympathetic to their situation. You’re selfish.

The lapse in response time and disappearing during a conversation is done to create a sense of urgency and incite confusion and insecurity. It’s often a power play, and it’s really, really destructive to someone’s self-esteem. It’s especially unhealthy if, like me, you’re confrontational. I only had to be involved with one passive aggressive guy to learn very quickly that a relationship with someone like that will not end well for me. It just becomes this ongoing pissing contest.

The true sign of passive aggression is that when a person is called on it they will respond with something particularly hurtful. The goal in such cases is to subdue you. You’re on to them, they know it, and now they feel trapped. Ignore whatever it is that they say. Remember, it’s said with the intention of slicing your psychological Achilles heel. They’ll identify your weakness and exploit it to your advantage. Especially if you’ve constructed a well informed argument. That’s why I hate to see you or anybody else put yourself in a vulnerable position so early in the game. Some things men and women just have to suck up for a bit until there’s a genuine comfort level.

My honest advice to you is to stop contacting this guy all together. By not replying in a timely fashion, he’s telling you where you fall on the priority list. That’s not to imply that you should be high a top the list after two dates. That’s an unreasonable expectation. However, if he was genuinely interested in keeping you around in some way he’d at least do I what I refer to as “investing.” Investing can take many forms. It can be the weekly text from someone you met online, sent “just to say hi”, but never leads to setting up an actual date. It can be a few word response to an email you sent. Investing involves making the bare minimum of effort just to maintain a line of communication and contact.

At best, I would think this guy is moderately interested. I’d suggest sitting back and waiting to see if he follows up with you at some point. In the interim, hop online or go out and meet other people.




Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
, , , , , , , ,

36 Responses to “Dealing With The Passive Aggressive Email Dater”

  1. Valley Forge Lady Says:

    Great Advice. I am dealing with a guy who always apologizes for last minute dates under the guise of being so rushed at work, his divorce, healthi issues, bla bla. Another form of passive aggressive behavior.

    My guess is that I am going to have to put on the big girl pants and refuse the next last minute date. Hate playing that game when I like the guy…..but he needs to respect my position as a decent human being.

    This guy is becoming a NEXT! Perhaps this is why he has been married three times!

    • LaMotta Says:

      If he keeps making dates like this, I would tend to think he’s interested, he’s just very disorganized. This is a different scenario than the OP, methinks.

      • Valley Forge Lady Says:

        You may be right! It is passive aggressive of me not to tell him that I need more notice, I will give it a try! Thank you! I am really here to try to fair!

  2. LostSailor Says:

    I agree that he’s probably minimally invested, but more information is needed.

    Georgia says he “sometimes” takes 24 hours to respond. Does that mean at other times he responds more quickly?

    More to the point, is she the one initiating contact most of the time, or is he initiating it and just taking time to get back when she replies?

    I don’t agree that taking “too long” to reply is necessarily passive-aggressive. If he’s still interested in dating at all, calling it passive-aggressive implies too much investment; more likely he’s only marginally into her. If it’s more of a brush-off, then, yeah, it’s a dickish passive-aggressive move…

  3. Joey Giraud Says:

    Not returning emails or saying hurtful things when put on the spot isn’t what “passive-aggressive” means. It’s more like sabotage or back-stabbing, being aggressive with plausible deniability.

    Psychobabble is too easy to toss around, but I’m probably just projecting.

    • The D-man Says:

      This is true. In this case he’s just slow, which could be a sign of lack of investment or other options.

  4. D'Alias Says:

    Or maybe he really is just busy. I think you should stop contacting him so eagerly and see what happens. If he likes you, he’ll find time for you and reach out.

  5. Speedy Says:

    I have to disagree with this. I think a day is quite reasonable. I think more than a day isn’t. If someone complained about that I’d consider them a bit crazy and needy frankly.

    For a text or something maybe not but not everyone has time on their hands for this kind of thing and I’m assuming we’re writing proper thought out interesting emails here not “OMG LOL”.

    You can’t do it at work, you work late, its now 1am you have to be up at 6, its unreasonable to leave it until the morning? Meh.

    • M Says:

      You’d consider them needy? If you need that response within 24 hours, sounds to me like you’re the one that’s needy.

      • Speedy Says:

        Yeah ok cleverclogs, I didn’t phrase that very well. Still, next week in advanced reading comprehension class you’ll discover that where statements are ambiguous, context may also be a helpful guide.

  6. Max Says:

    We just don’t have enough information here to be judging. Details here matter. This advice is making a lot of assumptions that are not at all supported by the tiny amount of evidence we have. Lets examine just a few of MANY possible scenarios here.

    If she is replying to emails initiated by him then his taking so long to answer her reply may be an issue. He is expecting or should be expecting a message from her and ought to be interested enough to read and reply fairly fast. But even here honestly a day doesn’t seem at all unreasonable to me. What’s the rush? Why’s everyone so uptight?

    If she is initiating these emails it is potentially different scenario. Not everyone checks their email several times a day, or even every day. Mail, any version “e” or otherwise, is not meant as a fast communication method requiring an immediate reply. That’s what phones are for, be it a text message or an actual voice call. I check my email every 2 to 4 days or so because I’m not expecting anything to come in there that needs quick attention, but my phone gets checked quite often. I know people who only check their email every few weeks. One has to ask, if a quick response is wanted why in this day and age is the message being sent by email and not by phone?

    Even if he read her emails depending on their content he might want to think about how he wants to respond. Not everyone just spouts out whatever immediately comes to their mind. What was the nature of those emails she sent? Even if its as simple as scheduling a date he might need to go to work and check a schedule to be sure he’s free, or perhaps contact others that he already has plans with to reschedule to free up time, or any number of things that might be needed to be done before committing to a specific date/time. His occasional “late” replies might be roundly understood and approved by all if we knew more, or we might all know for sure he’s a manipulative jerk. But we just don’t know.

    The advice given is jumping the gun substantially unless she knows more than we do. A real human connection with someone is not something to be tossed aside on a whim. Misunderstandings over communication at the start of a relationship is a flimsy reason to give up on him.

  7. fuzzilla Says:

    I agree that we don’t have enough information. Twenty four hours to respond doesn’t seem that unreasonable to me. The whole situation is new enough that it could simply be a matter of different communication styles rather than the guy buying uninterested or a jerko or whatever. Moxie’s advice is solid, I just think it jumps the gun a bit on assuming bad intentions of the guy. Whatever the details, the behavior is clearly bothering the OP, so should definitely chill out on contacting him and flirt with others a bit, if only to help her chill out and not get too invested too soon. “It all means nothing until it means something.”

  8. Eliza Says:

    The bottom line is – if someone is “too busy” to respond to an email within a day…they are 1) not serious about meeting you 2) are too busy to get to know you period. These online sites are packed with people who are looking to boost their frail egos. This is why I prefer to just go out, smile, make a little eye contact, if someone reciprocates and a conversation ensues and it goes well, both parties have already seen each other, have a sense of each other’s humor and personality and communication level, repour, that “chemistry” thing. All that – in one instance. no back and forth stupid “hi” messages, or email marathoning involved.

  9. D. Says:

    I think it really depends on the nature of the communication and what’s going on in someone’s life.

    Taking time to respond to someone’s email, but sending an actual thought-out, lengthy response is far different from taking 12+ hours to write back a two or three line response. That said, if someone’s schedule really IS slammed, then it’s more of a question of what you’re willing to put up with rather than whether they’re intentionally dragging their feet or prioritizing you lower.

    Texts are similar, but I think the time frame is a LOT tighter. You can send a text while sitting on the can for God’s sake. I’m not saying carry on some lengthy dialogue, but a quick back and forth should not take multiple hours in most cases. Sure, sometimes it’ll take a while, but if you’ve got 15 seconds to update your Facebook status or surf your OKCupid account or check your personal email or whatever, you’ve got 15 seconds to write someone back.

  10. fuzzilla Says:

    I’m vaguely reminded of a comment I read in another blog. I think the situation was that a guy ‘n gal “met” online but lived far apart from each other and there were a lot of debates as to who should travel to whom and just hammering out the details of meeting in the first place. The woman wanted several conditions in place to feel comfortable and the guy (rightly or wrongly) got fed up with her and called the whole thing off.

    Anyway, the comment was: “Often it’s not so much the questions we ask or even the answers we get as much as how the person responds to being asked.” In other words, regardless of the little details, how does the situation make the OP *feel*? Not so hot it seems, but why? Is she overly needy? Is he not that invested and she’s right to be annoyed/feel like he’s wasting her time? If they didn’t talk as often as she liked, but there was a great connection and enthusiasm when they did, she’d probably feel differently.

    Anyway, sit back and wait for now, OP.

  11. hammersandnails Says:

    I guess sorry to all the people I’ve been passive aggressively attacking with my delayed responses. I just have no real interest in chit chat. If we know we aren’t seeing each other for a few days, and the messages are just banter, I see no reason to bore both of us by small talk emails/texts, and will certainly not keep up with multiple small talk messages a day.

    24 hours seems like a reasonable window to me. I usually give 24 hours for text and 48 for email before I think anything of it, unless it was something needing an obvious practical response.

    • fuzzilla Says:

      I would tend to agree. A “Hey, how’s your day, cutie?” is nice, but how long are you supposed to lobby that back and forth? It’s like – just call me on the phone or talk to me when you see me. (Also, the little “thinking of you” messages are for relationships longer than two dates).

  12. DrivingMeNutes Says:

    We have all the information we need,I think. They have been on two dates. At that stage, both she and he should be dating and communicating with multiple people and should expect the other to be doing the same. After two dates, you are not entitled to a response at all let alone a response within a specified time frame. If you’re only communicating with one person, and worried about what their intentions are, you’re doing it wrong.

    • DumbFace Says:

      Doing it wrong or doing it how you want to do it? Dating multiple people at the same time is certainly not my style, and if I’m dating you, I don’t want it to be yours either. Neither of us have to put up with the other one though, so if I don’t like it, you get tossed.

  13. RC Says:

    I usually agree with Moxie but here I am going to say – whoa! stop, relax & breathe. You have seen the guy all of two times, you don’t know him, he has a LIFE and that’s okay. Actually, most women want a guy who is interesting and has something going for him – well, that requires time commitment…
    I honestly find guys who constantly text and email me after 1 or 2 dates annoying….
    Dating is a game and please do not misunderstand me, one doesn’t need to be secretive, vindictive or passive-aggressive, but honestly, if I met a guy once or twice, even if I really like him, I have full time job, friends, family, other stuff and sometimes, I am just too tired to put mental energy into a short reply (I would rather wait 8 hours, get some sleep, feel fresh and respond with a nice text / email rather than something short that will be misunderstood).

    People invest too much too soon and push potential mentally healthy partners away.
    I don’t believe in love at first sight. Sure, there is lust at first sight but if you are looking to get to know a person, it takes time. I don’t see an issue with a 24 delay on an email after 1 or 2 dates. You are not in a relationship. Not even close.

  14. Jesse Says:

    This whole deal sounds nutty to me. I check my email once or twice a day. If something is immediately pressing, well, then make a phone call already. To say I’m insensitive because I’m not leashed to my computer anxiously monitoring it for your potential email sounds most extreme on your part. And borderline neurotic.

    • Speedy Says:

      Its solipsism actually. I’m waiting for your reply, you must be making me wait. My feelings explain your actions, then its a hop skip and a jump to your actions caused my feelings, on purpose. My feelings are something you are doing to me! Bunny-Pot-Stove.

      That and, in practice, this would turn into a shit test about answering emails within a time frame anyway.

  15. La Luz Says:

    I disagree with the blogger. I think that the blogger here is making assumptions on the man here and his priorities. To go all the way into a diatribe about passive-aggression is not helpful either.

    In dating, two dates is really nothing and it is difficult to see where things are. My suggestion would be to not to pin all of your hopes on this person and take it for what it is for now which is harmless flirtation. It could evolve into something else, but patience is the key with this because you never know what could happen.

    • Andthatswhyyouresingle Says:

      I think that the blogger here is making assumptions on the man here and his priorities.

      Which was why that whole section started off with the phrase “In general.” And in general, if you’re dating someone and it takes them 24 hours to reply to an email, they’re not terribly interested.

      To the people who say they only check emails twice a day, that’s fine, but that’s not typical of people with iphones or smart phones. We know right away when we get our email because we set it up to get it on our phone.

      • D'Alias Says:

        Sort of – I have an iPhone and the emails come through but I still have to check them. I don’t know about everyone else but I have to keep the sound off my personal phone during the day or the buzzing and beeping would be incessant and distracting to whatever else I’m doing. Also, you can’t. Heck email from the train.

      • Jesse Says:

        And that is exactly why I have no plans to ever own a smart phone.

      • La Luz Says:

        Sorry about missing out with the in general portion, but still in disagreement.

        If you have only been on two dates, I still think that it is dangerous to write that person off. Very early on, I find it pretty normal that people will be more guarded and probably against investing too much time into something which is in the early stages. I know that we live in an age of instant gratification, but to pass judgement so soon is not the best advise.

        Now if you are talking about two dates over the course of a month, then you probably have a point.

      • M Says:

        Totally agree with D’Alias. Also, where I work, Im not allowed to have my phone on at my desk.

    • DumbFace Says:

      I’d say patience leads to wasted time. What exactly are you losing? Someone who doesn’t communicate with you in a way you’re comfortable with, right? After two dates? Poof! See ya!

  16. Walter Walrus Says:

    If he doesn’t like you, he has two choices: either tell you immediately, and then have the girl pull the, “I just wanted to be good friends” bit in order to save face (which is certainly fine), making himself look like somebody who is full of himself for assuming that you were interested (which you clearly are), or he can – as you said – be passive aggressive and cowardly. As a guy who has done both, he is choosing correctly. If you can’t take the hint, then YOU are the problem. He is TRYING to allow you dignity in moving on, while avoiding the needless trap of being accused of being a narcissist. The only way the situation ends well is if you take the hint quickly and move on, with dignity intact. If he comes out and says something, he’ll be a crazy person. If she waits too long, she’s the crazy person. So take the hint and move on. If he’s interested, he’ll find you.

  17. M Says:

    I dont believe this. You’re 38 and complaining about somebody taking a whole 24 hours to respond to your email? Grow up! This is the kind of behavior I expect from a 22 year old. You’ve been out twice – hardly long enough to really know someone. Since you dont really know him, you dont know what his schedule is. Its not that he’s necessarily busy, it could be you didnt email him at a good time. Suppose I was this guy and you email me at 9:30 PM. If Im not on my computer at the moment, I probably wont see your email that night. I dont check email in the morning before work, and once I get to work, I cant check email there, so your email waits until I get home. By the time that happens, 20 hours have gone by and you’re complaining that Im taking forever to respond when I dont even know you sent me something. Beyond that, here’s another thing to consider – maybe he wants to put a little thought into what he says to you. When I get an email from someone I want to date/am dating, I typically wait to respond to the email. This gives me a little time to think about what I want to say. It just seems to me like the OP wants what she wants when she wants it and wont be happy unless she gets it. If the guy is still contacting you, he’s interested – be grateful.

  18. CG Says:

    I just broke up with an extremely passive aggressive man and this is exactly the post I needed to read right now. Thank you for always being a voice of reason, Moxie.

  19. DumbFace Says:

    Ehh, here’s the thing. Does it really matter WHY he’s doing what he’s doing? What’s more important is whether or not what he’s doing works for YOU. And after two dates, if it’s not working, just throw it in the garbage. You don’t have to hate him for it, but you don’t have to deal with it either. Just make his mind up for him.

    I run into this “pissing contest/neediness” thing from time-to-time myself. The reason is that if I’m trying to date you, the act of doing that in any respectable way would be completely impossible if I didn’t break plans to afford time for you. Now, if you’re busy too, I get it. I’ve been to grad school full-time while working full-time. I’ve started a business while running another business. I’m also handsome, intelligent, and have loving friends. And sometimes, sleeping/reading/watching sports is what I feel like doing: no company necessary thank you. But I’m not going to wait around forever, and if you can’t reciprocate on a level I’m comfortable with –regardless of your reasoning/sensibility/perceived sincerity– I’m closing up shop.

© 2013-2018 And That's Why You're Single All Rights Reserved