She’s ‘pulling herself together’

Dear Meredith,

I am a woman in my early 30s. Six months after amicably splitting with my fiance of four years, I felt ready to try dating again and signed up with a website. A woman I had known casually for years came up as a potential match. She is smart, creative, and funny, so I sent her a message asking her out. She was extremely receptive, and we dated for about two weeks before she called it off. She explained she felt very serious about me, and had an enormous crush on me the entire time we had known each other, but that she realized that she wasn't ready to date so soon after her own breakup. She claimed she wanted to date me seriously in the future, but needed time to pull herself together. After she laid it out there and I had time to think about it, I decided that I wanted to give things with her a real shot once she was ready. I told her that, and she seemed relieved and excited.

Three months passed without contact. I've casually dated a handful of other people in the meantime. She reactivated her profile on the dating website, and I received a notification because of our previous interactions. After a few weeks, I sent her a message saying I would like to reconnect, but she didn't respond. Since then, we have run into each other multiple times. All I get is the cold shoulder. We're talking wicked cold. Like, tonight she waited until I'd gone up to the bar, then ran over to say hi to our mutual friends, then fled back to her posse when she saw me on my way back.
I (almost) accept at this point that she has no interest in having anything to do with me. What I am struggling with is the fact that she spent years flirting with me, then gave me this huge speech about how much she wanted to be with me. At the time, when she was going on in great detail about how much she cares for me, I told her (and meant it genuinely) that she didn't need to feel obligated to say that stuff, and that in fact it was fine to be honest if she wasn't feeling it. She vigorously insisted that she simply needed a brief break so that she could fully commit to the kind of relationship with me that she wanted.

Perhaps it is because I have been out of the dating scene for so long, but I find this bewildering. What is the purpose of leading someone on when you know you don't want to see them again? Is there a way I can improve the situation so that it is not totally awkward when we inevitably run into each other? Finally (and pathetically), do you think there is a chance that she is still "pulling herself together" and she will eventually be ready to date me again?

– Frustrated to the Hilt, Boston

This woman is bewildering, FTTH. And immature. This isn't how adults are supposed to behave ... but dating can be like this.

My guess is that she knows she came on too strong, decided that she couldn't live up to her own hype, gave you a less-than-honest breakup speech, and is now trying to undo it by making it clear that she's not interested.

My advice is to lead by example and be kind when you see her. Assume that you will never (ever) get back together because she's simply incapable. Instead of waiting to find out what she'll be like when she pulls herself together, take the reins and decide that no matter what, you don't want to be with someone who's this wishy-washy. You're ready for something real. She doesn't know how to handle herself.

She'll probably resurface in a few months to make more speeches and promises. At that point you'll have to decide whether any of it matters. For now you should be back on that dating website looking for women who know how to communicate.

I'm sorry that this didn't work out, but it sounds like you were spared a relationship with someone who fears honesty. All you can do is clean up the mess by defining what happened, making peace with it, letting it go, and showing her how to behave among friends.

Readers? Is there any hope here? Is this woman still "pulling herself together"? Why did she say all of those things if she wasn't interested? Is this just what dating is like? Help.

– Meredith