From the sea of singledome, if you listen closely, you can hear the quiet cries of women everywhere – often too individually timid to talk to men about some of the most infuriating behaviors we encounter in dating – often too scared to confront these issues for fear that the man will run – often too insecure in our own identities to claim the love and care we deserve. But, if the goal of this search for love is to find someone who will truly know you and then genuinely love you, then shouldn’t we be completely authentic with ourselves and our partners?
First, I’d like to go on record as fully acknowledging that for every annoying or hurtful behavior men demonstrate, women have something equally exasperating that we bring to the table. And hear me on this – for MOST of these issues, it truly is a blind spot. It’s UNintentional. None of us (well, except for the sociopaths and meanies out there, but I’m assuming (naively?) the majority of my readership are normal and kind people who really want to live lives that bring happiness to themselves and those around them) – none of us wants to hurt other people. These are areas that, for some reason – whether because of our own past hurt/damage, or due to our unwillingness to dig inward and conduct some necessary self-reflection – have not yet been changed/honed/smoothed out – and are hurting the people around us. So – today’s installment is about men, but – if any of my male readers want to weigh in on women’s blind spots – feel free to post comments or contact me! Ok – here we go…
The Commitment Fake-Out:
Men are wont to throw around words and phrases that foreshadow a commitment they’re not actually prepared to offer. I don’t know if it’s the warm fuzzies they feel ‘in the moment,’ or if they just really don’t realize they’re doing it… but they need to know this: women take that stuff to heart. We internalize those words and ‘bank’ on them. Even when we know that men say these things without meaning them, and that we ought NOT to do that, we can’t help it – it’s like a built-in security mechanism. Our love-thirsty hearts hear something that sounds future-thinking and we let hope bubble up that the guy sees a real future with us. Sometimes these are subtle and sometimes men must just not think at all when throwing around such weighty words…
Here are a few examples. These are phrases that a man might toss out during conversation in the initial courtship phase (think – dates 1 through 7):
“Oh, I can’t wait for my mom to meet you – she’s gonna love you!”
translation: I’m significant enough to him to meet his family.
“Oh my gosh, when we visit [fill-in-the-blank-city/country], you’ll have to try the…”
translation: He likes me enough to want to travel with me.
“Your [fill-in-the-blank household appliance or electronics] stinks. Don’t worry, I have a great one we’ll end up using.”
translation: We’re going to end up living together (married) one day – so I don’t need to buy a new wifi router/flux capacitor/whatever.
“I love you.”
translation: He loves me. (weird, right?)
And you WONDER why women seem so “marriage crazy?” It’s because men go around talking as if they’re going to marry you and then act shocked when you look forward to settling down with them!?
Men – don’t say more than you actually think/feel. We’d much rather take things at a slower pace and forego a little of the fireworks/drama if we know that the messages we’re receiving from you are authentic. If you really DO see a future with us, then by all means, say so! That’s exciting to hear – duh. But, if you’re on the fence, don’t let a flirty momentary spike betray your true intentions toward us. We can handle a slower clip. We can’t handle falseness.
Any woman reading this already knows what I’m going to say. This is one of the classic blunders. The most famous of which is never get into a land war in Asia. But only slightly less well-known is this: never go against a woman when mixed messages are on the line! We may hate this more than any other thing…I’m not ready to fully commit to that statement just yet… I mean, there are spiders, bad breath, crooked gig lines and improper uses of the words you’re and your… but still – this MAY trump all of those.
This is that awkward and confusing jump from a certain level of communication or affection or generally being “into you” that waxes and wanes without explanation. And we’re left to our own internal devices to try to decipher the behavior.
One minute you’re blowin’ up our phone with flirty texts, the next – we go for days without hearing from you. One minute we’re getting “good morning” phone calls, then you fall off the map. One minute we’re hanging out at a steady rate (say, twice a week?) and then it inexplicably dies down. And the strangest part is, often it’ll pick back up without explanation. And we’re left dumbfounded. What gives? Are men this fickle? Are they waffling back and forth between being “into us” and then not? I really don’t know.
But here’s what you need to know, men. When you set a certain pattern of communication into motion, we use that to gauge the “tone” of the relationship. So, when you suddenly change it, we’re left to wonder what the HECK you’re thinking about us! And usually, we go to a pretty pessimistic place. In man speak, I think it goes something like this… don’t cruise along in 5th gear and suddenly shift to neutral and expect us not to emotionally go flying through the window.
(How’d I do on my automotive metaphor? I’m ‘gearing’ up to be able to handle a sports metaphor…but we’re still a long way off…)
This one is such a FINE line. Most well-adjusted women dig a healthy amount of jabs/trash-talk/teasing – IF it’s done in a friendly and flirtatious way. In fact, it can spice up the relational banter considerably. But it is SO easy for men to take it to a mean place without even realizing it. One minute they’re talking smack about being a better ping-pong opponent (though…to be fair, no man can actually say that about me – I’m basically a ping-pong MASTER), and the next, they’re taking it to a more personal level where teasing becomes mocking/belittling. I just had a friend ask my advice on this issue this morning. Her guy will unwittingly join in with a mutual friend and tease her to the point of bullying. He thinks he’s being funny, but she feels ganged up on.
Men, the best way to diffuse this particular blind spot is to pay attention to her non-verbal cues. If the laughter becomes less authentic sounding, if her face falls, if she avoids eye contact, if she grows quiet – she’s not into it anymore.
Here’s the great news on this one. There is a FOOLPROOF solution, men.
You CANNOT lose if you do this. Ahem…here goes… (I still can’t believe I’m just dishing these pearls out for free…):
If you even think you MAY have crossed this line… (now this gets very intricate and tricky, so try to keep up) – ask.
Ask her. Yup – that simple. And you’ll come out on top, regardless.
Soften your demeanor (always a plus in just about every encounter with a woman) and approach her kindly with something like this: “Oh, sweetie…did I go too far?” or “Oh – I’m sorry – did I upset you with my teasing?”
You have just reset the entire system here. Because of your perceptive skillz – she’s now back to being enamored with you.
This can only go one of two ways. She’ll either admit that it DID go too far, but she’ll be touched by your sensitivity and kindness.
Or she’ll assure you that you didn’t actually take it too far – that she was totally into it and having fun – but she’ll still be touched that you checked in, just in case. It’s win-win, guys!
Men have a tendency to want to to show off things that most women don’t care about as much as you all think we do! Now, some women care more than others, so I may be a bit of an outlier here… but I honestly do not care what kind of car you have. I care if it’s relatively clean (though, that’s entirely hypocritical, because my car is a disaster – it’s basically an extension of my purse… peppered with various dried-up markers, empty water bottles and a few rogue shriveled-up sweet potato fries in the mix there…), I care if it has a/c (c’mon – this is Houston, peeps – if there’s sweat dripping down my back, I don’t care HOW cute you are…love isn’t in the air), I care if there’s a working radio – I mean, how else are we supposed to have a rousing go at the radio game? But other than that, I couldn’t care less. And – to make matters worse, I pobably won’t even NOTICE if it’s something fancy. After a ride in your car, I’ll know what color it is and if it’s comfy. That’s about it it. You know when someone calls themself a “car person?” Well I’m the opposite of that. I’m a person person. (Hmm…that doesn’t sound very exciting. I’m definitely gonna have to work on that title…)
So, I don’t need you to go on and on about your car, or your watch, or your expensive trip to Italy (unless we’re going to talk about the delicious FOOD you ate when you were there – that’s fair game), or any other topic that’s solely intended to impress me based on fiscal success. If you’ve done well for yourself, it’ll show in time – let it come across organically. Don’t force that idea on me… it makes you look insecure or like you have your priorities outta whack.
Another way this issue can surface is in simply talking TOO much about yourself. And this includes false humility too. Talking too much about how you’re “not that good at ____” or about how humble you are – counts. Ugh.
This is another area where there’s a fine line. It would be overly simplistic of me to say that when a woman says no to something (and I am talking about a broad range of things here, not just physical stuff), that she definitively means no. We’re all experienced enough in the nuanced dance of man/woman relationships to know that often women say no, but hope to be chased a little. Or even when we don’t hope to be chased, if we happen to find ourselves on the receiving end of a hot pursuit, it’s exciting. If I turn someone down (say, for a date), and he doesn’t give up – it can really go either way, depending on his approach. It’s ALL in your style, guys. Having a “I see something worth fighting for” attitude can be mighty sexy. Desperately begging for us to give you another chance is like seeing a wounded animal on the side of the road and wanting to see it put out of its misery.
The two tips I can give you on this – and again, this is a tricky road, I’ll be the first to admit – are:
1. Read the room. Really. (OK, not ‘literally’ …you can’t read a room, that’s just silly). But you CAN decode the verbal AND non-verbal cues here. If you’ve asked for something (anything from “let’s grab a drink!?” to “one more kiss?” and more), and she says no – HOW did she say it? Was it coy? Was it uncertain? Was it playful? Or did she look like she’d rather be stabbed in the eye? I know it’s a gray area, but really think here – Playful? Or eye-stabbing? They are SO similar…
2. If you DO decide to press the issue, and I cannot stress this enough – do it in a winsome way. No, not a “whinesome” way…definitely don’t whine. Don’t succumb to baby talk (I’m not making this up). Don’t poke your bottom lip out. Please don’t be that guy. Be a man. Be a man who she could say no to, but just can’t say no to. You can offer up (in a charming and flirty manner) compelling reasons why she should go out with you, or stay out a little longer, or whatever it is that’s on the table. How do you do this without coming off desperate or smarmy? Be clear on the fact that you CAN accept defeat, that she CAN stick to her “no” guns, but that you have something to offer that she can’t resist. Don’t be the guy who says over and over, “please? C’mon!!?!” (and…I feel like a broken record here, but this is all coming from either personal experience or from stories close friends have related to me). Be the guy who wins her over by mentally seducing her with your charm, wit and adorable persistence. Begging is not sexy. Confidence IS.
What is it with men on the dating scene these days…it’s like pulling teeth to get a sincere compliment. I’m not suggesting that compliments should only go one way. No – I’m the queen of telling you what I like. If you’re handsome, you’re gonna know it. If you’re funny, or smart, or a great dresser, or you can recite the quadratic formula – you’re gonna be praised, don’t worry. But – we girls put a lot of thought into how we look, what we say, heck – the WAY we sit on a date even… so, throw us a bone every now and then. If you like something, say so. And here’s why. It’s not because we need our ego stroked. It’s because it shows a vulnerability and softness for someone to take a one-down approach and acknowledge a good quality. An insecure man doesn’t compliment. But a confident man can step outside of himself to recognize a characteristic that’s admirable or likeable or attractive and then has the boldness to call it what it is.
No matter how liberated we are, women want a man who will take charge and initiate spending time with us. But, so often, in this lazy, postmodern dating world, men just sit back and wait for women to chase after them. And, hey – I’m a chaser. I’m not afraid to go after something I see as potentially valuable. But, oh, man – to be pursued… and well? MMmmmm…
Whether you are a planner by nature, or you’re a take-life-as-it-comes kinda guy – you can impress and ultimately show love/care for a woman by having the forethought to make plans with her. Trust me on this. Every woman loves the spontaneous stuff too. But, give us a guy who takes the time to text/call/e-mail to ask us out – more than 24 hrs. in advance, and we may very well swoon right into a full-on fainting spell. I’ve said before that the root of real romance is effort and thoughtfulness. Planning requires both of those… hence, planning is romantic. I know, I know…in the movies, the romance always happens on the fly. And I don’t want to dismiss that kind either. If a guy I was seeing just showed up at my house with a bottle of wine and a movie – I would LOVE it. (well, as long as he was ok with the possibility of finding me with a green mask on my face in my pjs mid-self-pedicure… hey – that’s what you risk when you just show up. But if you can deal, so can I). We LOVE the spontaneous gestures. Love. But we also really love being thought of. And it lets us know that in the future, you’ll be the kind of guy who will THINK about us even when we’re not right there. Oh, that makes my heart feel smooshy just thinking about it. Finding a guy who will think about you during his day, and then take the time to make a plan with you – because he’s so excited to see you – that’s relationship butter.
And let’s not kid ourselves, …there are countless other things that people do to impede relational growth. I’m not trying to fix the whole world in one post. But these are the ones I hear or experience most often. The very fact that there are successful dating relationships happening out there is a testimony to the fact that
a. there ARE still some good guys left (there ARE some good guys left, there ARE some good guys left, there ARE… ), and
b. people (women included) are forgiving.
That oughtta keep hope alive for a while… right?