Learning about male magnetism from … rats

Perhaps you’ve lived this common scenario: You’ve dated a guy a few times. You hit it off and enjoy each other a lot. You feel great around him. He treats you well when you’re together. However, he calls unpredictably, emails periodically, and you see him only sporadically. If you call him, it may take him days to get back to you. Yet you anxiously anticipate the next contact.

We can only guess what’s going on with him. Is he game playing? Toying with you? Have another woman (or women) on the hook? Not that interested?

But then he calls or emails, and wants to see you — today, tonight, or now.

Since we don’t really know what’s up with him, let’s look at what’s happening with you. Many women get snared into this “hook, let out the line, then reel her in” behavior. Why do we fall for it?

ratB. F. Skinner explained it, thanks to experiments with pigeons and rats. He showed that animals (and by inference, people) are more likely to do what you want with intermittent reinforcement rather than consistent rewards. So for us dating midlife women, it means that we are more likely to be drawn in by a guy who gives us irregular reinforcement (infrequent calls, unpredictable emails, and spontaneous dates) than with a man who is consistent, regular and predictable.

I can hear you now: “Not me!” you say. “I like a man who calls me every day during lunch, has a standing Friday night date, and emails me first thing in the morning. Yep, I’m for Predictable Man, not Flake-o Guy.”

Well, good for you. You might be an anomaly if you’ve never felt yourself drawn to one of those intermittent-contact guys. Many women find something irresistible about a “bad boy” who comes and goes at his own whim, leaving you wondering when — and if — he’ll be back. But he’s so charming, attentive, exciting and smooth when you’re with him, you’re wiling to put up with some uncertainty for that hit of his musty cologne, those goose-bump inducing kisses, and his adorable crooked smile as he sweeps you off your feet.

So what to do if you become aware that you’re entranced by an Intermittent Guy? If you like the excitement of spontaneity and unpredictability, and like to be non-committal yourself, great. But if you mope around waiting for him to call, or refuse date invitations from others, this is not good. If you want some certainty, then you need to ask for it. If he’s not willing to give it and you’re not willing to perpetually be his last-minute date, then you need to let go. Invite him to be your friend, or release him entirely.

fish hookBeing hooked, no matter how delicious the bait, isn’t good for fish or women.

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21 responses to “Learning about male magnetism from … rats”

  1. Bookyone Avatar

    Hi DG,

    As usual, you’ve given me a lot to think about. I didn’t realize I was an anomaly. 🙂 Yes, I’m that rare gal who’s only attracted to stable, loving guys who don’t flake out (or pull the old disappearing act) at the drop of a hat. Unfortunately, they aren’t at all attracted to me. Instead, the only ones who ever show any interest are the unpredictable, flaky types, (the bad boys you mentioned in your article). Maybe it’s because I act differently around the guys I’m interested in; I get nervous and say and do stupid things I could kick myself for saying and doing afterwards, just to try and win their attentions and, hopefully, their affections. With the hit and miss guys, I’m pretty upfront; once I find out they’re flaky, I write them off and pretty much ignore them.

    The screwy part is that those flaky bad boys keep coming back for more. Is it true that guys LIKE being ignored by women, that it turns them on in some weird way? And, by the same token, do they DISLIKE having a gal pay attention to them and treat them with respect and affection? Maybe I should try ignoring the guys I like, (the nice, predictable guys) instead of the ones I dislike, (the bad boys), then maybe the good guys would keep coming back instead of the bad boys. What do you think?

    The above is all part of my past dating experience. I think this is why I’m still single and currently not dating or even looking for a partner any longer. It’s all too confusing and it seems like the more I try to figure out men and their bizarre behaviors, the less I understand them.

    Best wishes from bookyone 🙂

  2. LA Avatar

    I have never understood why women feel like that the men they are “seeing” have to be tied at their waist. If a man is truthful with his intentions and we have a good time together why all the fuss about him not being predictable. I have quite a few men that I see sporadically, I have know some for up to two and three years. We have fun, we laugh, and then it is time to go home. I have stuff, he has stuff. What he does when he is not with me is really none of my business. When I see them again it is as if we talked just yesterday. However, if he makes declarations to the contrary and THEN doesn’t follow through then that is where it gets devious and damaging. It is all about truth and true intention.

  3. KM Avatar

    I just learned this lesson so I will share it with you (and your readers as well).

    You are exactly right that women do not like the wussy guys who are consistent, but you are missing something.

    Wussys are the type of guys that women should go for, as they make good fathers, they aren’t violent, they are financially stable, etc., etc., etc. The problem is women don’t go for these guys. Here is why: challenge.

    Wussys are not a challenge for women and, as a result, the wussy ends up being a loser when it comes to dating.

    Let me be more precise. The woman has a high interest level in wussy, over time the woman finds out that wussy is not a challenge, the woman starts acting up and treating wussy bad because wussy is a wussy (possibly to get wussy to break up with or just be friends with her, which upsets wussy, but he does nothing about it — which further agitates the woman), woman will not just leave wussy (because she is in a good spot — a caring guy who is what she wants, but she is not romantically interested in him), woman builds up resentment for wussy over time and then woman breaks up with/divorces wussy (women initiate almost all break ups/divorces).

    Woman justifies this in her mind due to the resentment that she built up over time (which she never told wussy about, except by acting out — which wussy did not understand at the time). Woman is over wussy (and is probably already interviewing replacements); wussy is head over hills in love with woman (wussy is devistated and is thinking about suicide).

    Eventually wussy figures out this process (this may take him his entire life, or maybe two lives). If wussy figures it out, he will start fighting back. He now becomes a challenge by taking his time with woman2, not letting woman2 know very much about him, not answering every beck and call of woman2 and telling woman2 “no” often. He is also interviewing woman3, 4, 5, 6, etc. at the same time. He places each of these women on a probationary period, to test her interest level. He will not end up dating another woman whose interest level will decline to the point of separation/divorce. He will cross any woman off of the list if she acts out or at the first sign that she has a low interest level in him (one excuse for missing a date, woman’s number is in the trash). The woman with the highest interest level wins.

    Woman2 can’t figure wussy out. Woman2 now wants to chase wussy, all the while wussy inwardly is still the wussy and is just pretending not to now be in love with woman2. He now has options (as 3 thru 6 are also chasing wussy) and isn’t concerned if woman2 doesn’t work out (even though he wants it to). Its now a numbers game and the odds are now on wussys side (this is especially true if wussy is dating the early 30’s, as women feel some pressure by realizing that their looks are fading, as is the ability to raise children). Woman3 thru 6 are backups or second choices.

    Vicious cycle? Yes, but the earliest link to fix the problem lies with the women. If women would be attracted to wussy in the first place, he would not have to go to the lengths to test woman2’s interest level. Also, if women could say to a man “I have a low interest level in you (even though you have a high interest level in me)” early in the relationship, instead of holding on to someone who she has no interest in and then destroying wussy with a break up/divorce, wussy could spend his time finding someone that is interested in wussy (assuming that women would be interested in wussy).

    (yes, the male figure in this story is me and the women characters are my ex’s. At the same time it is my take on the sucess/failure of everyone of my brothers and male friends and experiences of my women friends….).

    Great blog by the way.

  4. "Darling Donna" sometimes "Daring" Avatar
    “Darling Donna” sometimes “Daring”


    I’m involved with a devistated burnt wussy who has been playing the field for the last 20 years raising his two kids who are now attending college. The funny thing is that he contacted me through Classmates.com requesting me to contact him. I ignored his first request but answered his second not all that friendly because our last encounter was a week before he tied the knot with his last wife, where he later proceeded to contact me a few weeks later wondering why I was hostile towards him. I was not aware of his engagement, therefore feeling like his last fling! A few years later, he looks me up again and wants to see me. I thought, what does this JERK want now, unknowth to me that he was divorced. Obviously, I had written him off and could not care if he lived or died. I called him names which hurt his EGO, and he called back and said all I ever was to him was a piece of A…and slammed the phone down. Then, the 20 years passed and here he is again.

    This time however, I’m not falling for his games. It took a long time to get him to devulge information concerning his private life, but with a little manipulation on my part I found out his secret concerning his significant other who has been living with him for quite some time. He travels a lot, so his “at home live in” is just beginning to learn how big of RAT he is. She must be really niave and insecure to put up with his behavior (kind of feel sorry for her). She has been kind of upset lately because she is dealing with the fact that her RAT has been conversing with me since January 2007 via Email, tex messaging on cell. He says, and I quote “I have tried to be your friend and nothing more, but you have gone in a whole other direction.” But the content of his emails and cell phone messages are more then just friendly. We have seen each other once (because he lives in another state) and the fire between us is stronger then it ever was. Mr. RAT wussy has gone out of his way to also set up a SECRET email address to use for contact because “live in” is getting even more upset with her RAT because unintentionally I used his old email address to get his attention because he would live me hanging for weeks without contact. I’m not the same pushover I was 20 years ago and he is having to deal with the NEW ME which he must find exciting because he keeps coming back for more.

    I’m just about ready to write him off again because my friends keep telling me he is just a “player” and my Divorce will be final real soon. So, I’ve decided for now just have some fun dating some others that I find interesting, and let Mr. RAT wussy play with himself.

  5. Ally Avatar

    Wow, what vitriole!

    I don’t think a man can be classified as a wussy if he’s been a ‘player’ for the past 20 years. One might like to think that one is a closeted wussy, but if it looks like a duck, and acts like a duck, I’m thinking it’s a duck.

    However, I see some parallels between the wussy and the woman who hangs around the bad boy. Both fail to see the signals of disinterest and both lack self-respect. Men like to pursue, women like a man who will ‘push back’ if she is too demanding. It’s all about the perception of self-respect.

    As Oprah said when Greg Behrendt was on about “He’s Just Not That Into You’, if you’re not getting what you want or need, Move On! There’s a definite line between ‘challenge’ and ‘lost cause.’

  6. KM Avatar

    I have to disagree with this statement: “men like to pursue.” Men hate pursuing (it is the worst thing, even worse than holding a woman’s purse as she spends three hours picking out new shoes). Put yourself in the man’s shoes for once.

    Say the man has ten women that he is interested in (i.e., they appear somewhat attractive, the personality and smarts seem so so, etc.). He asks each of the ten women out. Six or seven will reject him on the spot (rejection number one). Three or four will give out their telephone numbers – and of those one or two will accept his calls (rejection number two). Of the two that two survive, the man is using the “date” to interview the woman to see if she is interested. Most likely, the two survivors are only going out with the guy because they are bored or because they have nothing in their refrigerator to eat (or to get back at their current husband/boyfriend). These two will go out with the man once, tell the guy to call her, and then disappear (rejection number three). If the woman decides that there is something more there, then the guy will get a second, third, etc. “date” and it may lead to marriage. The woman will use the “date” or “marriage” to conclude that her interest level in the man is zero (or near zero) – and she will dump him or disappear (rejection number four). The man starts over by selecting another ten women.

    Does that sound like something that men find to be fun? He spent his time, money and put himself on the line only to be rejected four times. Because the reader quoted Oprah, I feel that I have to go the extra distance and say that the answer to this question is “NO.”

    This whole process is driven by women who can’t tell a guy to his fact “I am just not interested in you” or if the woman is interested, she will not be kind and smile at the guy, make an effort to touch him, get in touch with him without waiting for him to call, etc. – things that kind human beings do when they like being around someone.

    Underlying everything is the fact that men pick the women (by approaching them first) and women choose who to destroy and who to keep (the man has no say in the second part of this equation). Maybe we could just skip the nonsense, and women could approach the guy they like first, saving the men the repeated rejection, and if women would not go out with (and lead on) guys who they have no interest in…. But women won’t do that.

    Whose to blame here (and yes there is someone to blame)? Its Oprah, Cosmo, impossible romance novels, and all of the garbage that is out there. The world would be a much better place if we put Oprah and all copies of Cosmo and romance novels on a spaceship and shot them off into space (making sure to send a few cruse missiles after the rocket to make sure that the job is done)….

  7. LA Avatar

    People! It goes back to intention. KM is right! Women hold onto the myth. They think that men should be all, the badboy, the good boy, the porn star, the great cook. They expect so much from their men but don’t really give much in return. When the resentment starts building they don’t express and then the bitterness towards their life and husband seeps from every pore. What is the alternative? More damaged males who are out for revenge, no sex, more bills, and more time alone. It is all so stupid. I just don’t get it. We all boo about being alone but none of us, male or female, have the stones to go after who we want. Ughh!

  8. Ally Avatar

    From what I am reading here, the indication is that it is no-win. If I turn down a date with you, I am rejecting you for the planet as a whole. If I take the test drive date, and then turn down another opportunity, I am again rejecting your worthiness to the planet, and if I marry you eventually then we divorce, I am still judging you as unworthy.

    Many men drop off the face of the earth if they aren’t interested (which many men will do rather than face the possibility of a ‘scene’), while many women won’t say upfront they are not interested for fear of hurting the guy. In actuality, I doubt that we’re really afraid of hurting the other person – we’re more afraid of how we’ll feel if they react badly. Yes, it’s cowardice, and, do you really want to date a coward?

    I repeat: If you’re not getting what you need, move on. Not everyone will like you. The odds are not in your favor given KM’s analysis, and yet, people meet and marry all the time, and the idea of true love persists. It’s called Hope. Without it, you are hope-less. 🙂

  9. KM Avatar

    I wouldn’t say it is no-win. I would say that we just have a problem, and we all need to work on it (the first step is to turn off Oprah – as she is getting rich lying to you ladies, and it destroys relationships and marriages). I will bottom line one solution for you.

    Here it is: if more women just told their prospective “dates” this (meaning the woman asks the man that she has a high interest level in – why not accept a little of the rejection that men face nearly everyday they walk the face of this planet?):

    I have noticed that most men immediately have a high interest level in women that they first meet (for the most part, it doesn’t matter if she has a job, manners, family, teeth, etc. — and for most men whose egos prevent them from studying women, even if the woman has a problem verbally and physically abusing the man — do leave this parenthesis part off), I have concluded that it is just shows men’s willingness to love. I think women are a bit more cautious with love, as am I. That is why I ONLY go out with guys that I could see myself with. I consider the “date” an opportunity to have fun and it gives me the time necessary to get to know the guy to determine if we might be a match (because you want to judge his character, personality, stability, cleanliness, etc. – you can say this parenthesis part if you dare). I would love to go out with you, but you have to understand that it is to have fun and to get to know you better.

    Feel free to word that in a more feminine way, the important thing is that you are laying the ground rules so that the man has some framework to work with (Men really are like dogs in that they give unconditional love and unearned – and often undeserved – respect immediately upon meeting women that they are interested in. Then the male ego says “I have a high interest level in this woman, so she must have a high interest in me.” Its blinding for the man – trust me on this one. You need to dispel that myth up front and let the man know that you may or may not be interested in him – you need a test drive to see. Make sure he gets the point. If he doesn’t like it, he wasn’t for you anyway.).

    Then ladies, you “date” and live by these rules:

    1. If you like the guy be sure to be kind to him, ask about him (yes, that means don’t spend the whole time talking about yourself or overly girly topics – come prepared with neutral topics if necessary), look at him, touch him on the arm, smile at him, and verbally indicate a willingness to go out with him again in the future (unfortunately, unenlightened men – i.e., the majority — will want to start touching you at that point – remember the ego? — so you might have to set some rules before you do this). Be respectful (women, do you even realize how disrespectful you often are to men? E.g., woman turns to another woman and says “its just a boy thing, he doesn’t know any better.” You know you have all said worse that that with you man nearby.). Do not answer your cellphone or disappear into the women’s bathroom for a long period of time (to talk on your cellphone with your girlfriend or husband) while on the date and do offer to pay your share of the bill. If you do not like the man, do none of these things that show that you have an interest in the guy and keep the date short (and pay for your share of the bill) and do add in number two below.

    2. The minute you decide that it isn’t going to work out romantically (and I don’t care if you are married for 30+ years), you tell him so and you EXPLAIN why (you do not string him along until you find a replacement — even if that means you have to be alone — yes, that means you being alone – just like the man will most certainly be.). If he is doing something that bothers you, find a kind way to tell him. He needs to know. Do not say nothing and then build up resentment for him over time. Tell him – it is what good people do for each other. Also, saying “I just want to be friends,” “its me, not you,” etc. is not good enough. You tell him that you have a low interest level in him because _______. Say it in a kind way if necessary, but the man needs to know how to improve, otherwise he will be alone for a long time – as will the woman that he doesn’t end up with. You are not helping him by avoiding the truth. In fact, if the guy is truly a “nice guy” who is unenlightened you should take him under your wing, instruct him, and have him practice with your girlfriends. Who knows, one of your girlfriends might be interested in the new enlightened man (Relationships are where women excel – or so women claim, and women, you have claimed this as your area, so you should tutor a few men instead of just casting them off to suffer the same fate again and again. You know that this is the right thing to do, even if it is time consuming for you and takes you away from shoe shopping). Also, if you say you “just want to be friends,” you had better mean it (meaning, you and I are going to be drinkin’ and fishin’ buddies — and I can put a few back….).

    3. Do not insist that the man continually go with you to do things that are not fun for both of you, especially if you are not willing to do things that he likes (this would probably mean that you have a low interest level in him anyway, so odds are you shouldn’t be with him). Here is an example: A man does not have fun watching you shop. You will never find a man that does who is straight – I don’t care how many men you date. You shop with your girlfriends or gay man friend, not your boyfriend (maybe occasionally with your husband).

    4. Never under any circumstance start looking for a replacement before you tell the guy that he’s out. And you shouldn’t even start the prep work to find a new guy (new sheets, clean the house, buy new clothes/undergarments, start back at the gym, etc. – you will get caught by enlightened guys if you do this, as when I see a woman do this, I drop her and, if I had no clue that there was a problem – which is not that likely at this point — I won’t be nice about it and I will almost guarantee that you will beg me to stay – I’ve gotten crafty since I have become enlightened. This dog now has claws and they are sharper than yours.).

    5. By the way, I will throw this rule in too: You never give out your phone number (or a fake phone number) if you are not interested in a man. If you give out your phone number – which you will not do, you must take the call — having the roommate, sister, etc. answer the phone or your co-workers screen the calls won’t do. Women, you know you all do or have done this — and you know what, it’s mean, degrading, and makes men turn into people like me. Popular press says that women are nice and men are bad, but lets be honest here. Ladies, despite what Oprah says, you know this is true.

    As I scan my past relationships and those of my brothers and friends, I can tell you that most relationships and marriages would actually work out if women followed these rules (and yes there quite a few rules that men need to learn as well, like taking things slow, being a gentleman, being affectionate, being aware, etc. – but that is not the topic of this rant).

    There is no reason for so many women and men to be lonely today. Women, try the above rules out. Start with the man who you know that you currently think that you have the highest interest in. If he doesn’t work, try it with the next five to ten guys. Use the rules above and I bet you won’t be single very long….

  10. Dating Goddess Avatar

    For the record, I never referred to any man — nor would I — as “wussy.”
    Regarding your #2 above, I’ve never found a man who’s really interested in knowing why I”m not interested in him. And if I were to tell him the “truth” it is of course, skewed by my filter, and what is a turnoff for me may not be for other women. And unless a man is truly interested in changing, how can I tell him the things that turn me off without sounding like I’m ripping him apart? How do I tell a guy I dated who periodically suggests we get back together that he’s self-absorbed, talks about what he’s finding on the computer when he’s talking to me on the phone, licks his knife at the white-tablecloth restaurant, wears ill-fitting clothing, is a bad kisser and bad lover. “Bad” just means not to my liking, while it might be just fine to someone else.
    So, KM, enlighten us on how to give honest feedback while leaving the man’s dignity intact?

  11. KM Avatar

    Most men have no dignity when it comes to dating, so there is nothing to leave intact (think of the guys that buy presents for strangers that they date, who continue to call becuase the woman led him to believe that she would answer even after she hasn’t taken his calls for several weeks, etc.). Popular media says that men are expected to grovel to be blessed with the woman’s presence (al la Opraha et al).

    All men are interested in knowing why you separated from them. ALL men. He may not ask becuase of the blow to his ego, but if you don’t tell him (he will always wonder, and probably blame your flaws) he can never improve.

    In your example, the man NEEDS to know the truth. If you have to rip him apart, do so (if he is like most men, he has come to know rejection up close and personal). In the long run it will make him a better man. Period. Otherwise he will continue doing the things you describe — and I bet many (let me repeat, MANY) women would be turned off by the things that you mentioned. Most of the items you cite can be corrected by the guy.

    [What if you said “Here are five ways that I think you can be even more successful with women in the future, please tell me five ways that I can be more successful with men?”]

    I recently faced my own ego and it wasn’t easy. I called nearly every one of my ex’s (even the one that hurt me the most) — got them on the phone (told them that I didn’t want them back, but that I needed to learn and grow as a person) and asked what I could improve upon. I told them to be harsh, as I needed it. The resulting list was amazingly similar from woman to woman — not too far off from the list you described. None of these women ever told me outright — never — but I can see how the tried to tell me via their actions (which, I and other men just don’t understand). I have since done my best to fix each item listed — those will not be on any list in the future.

    That is a large part of the problem, this guy that you know will never make the necessary changnes becuase no one has taken the time to tell him and his ego will not let him ask or improve. Both he and you are holding him back…..

  12. Dating Goddess Avatar

    I now see the difference in you and most men (and women) I meet. You aggressively sought specific feedback in order to improve!

    I don’t think it is the other person’s responsibility to initiate feedback unless the person asks, as I’ve covered in several recent posts. When I suggested to my last sweetie that he’d look good in a type of shirt, he said, “This is how I dress. If you don’t like it, you’ll have to get used to it.” I didn’t even mention that his shirts were several sizes too big as he wore the same ones from before a 120-lb weight loss. While he said he was open to anything I thought would be an improvement, he really wasn’t, no matter how gently I thought I said it.

    So, KM, you are unique. I wouldn’t make the assumption that many men are like you. If they want to know specifics, they should ask. We shouldn’t assume they want to know.

    And, BTW, the philosophies you are blaming Oprah for are espoused in John Gray’s books, considered “the” source for relationship advice by many.

  13. nysharon Avatar

    Don’t take this the wrong way KM but I think you need to take a break from woman for a while and do some healing. You are sounding so hurt. You may have jumbed into multiple dating adventures too soon after having you hear broke.
    This was a hot topic, but the matter that no one has mentioned at this point is that woman are socialized to believe that they are less worthy if they don’t have a partner, and often we will stay with one because of that. Even if we love them and they are disappointing us. (after we tell them what is wrong)
    For the record, I have had more men not call me when i have given them my number than I have given out the wrong number (which is never).We can’t take this all so personal. Sometimes its just life and circumstances.

  14. KM Avatar

    Sharon, funny thing is, its not me that is hurt per say (at this point it would take quite a bit to hurt me — and my last pain was quite a while ago).

    The thing is that if you look at woman’s dating/relationship behavior, it so predictable (if you talk to 100 or even 1,000,000 guys about their dating experience or relationships, you will hear the exact same stories — just change the names and the stories would work for every relationship).

    Once men recognize this, dating is just a numbers game. If a man can hustle 10 phone numbers a month, then he will get one or two dates with women who may be interested in him each month. If one of those lasts into the second month, then he can add her to the number of dates he will go on in addition to the next month’s batch.

    I started down this path to have a better understanding of myself and women, and well, I have made some improvements, but I would rather go back to being the nice guy that just didn’t understand anything about relationships. I was happy believing that women were unique and unknowable (I guess my sense of challenge is gone).

    I watch the dating/relationship process via my brothers and friends and I watch women destroy them. I am torn. I can help my brothers and male friends improve their dating skills, but at the same time, it would take away their fun. On the other end of the spectrum, it would save their dignity and it would prevent them from having their hearts broken.

    I can’t help but wonder why we can’t change the process, because neither men or women are benefiting from it…. It really is silly if you look at it from a far. There has to be a better way.

    Sharon, I do think that you are right about this though, women do need to learn to be able to be alone — as that is often in their best interest. I would add that women are able to separate love and romantic love — where they end up loving a man but not loving him in a romantic sense. But that is the point. The woman should tell the man when this happens for her, so that both can find others who they might be in love with and romantically in love with (the woman deprives herself and the man). The biggest thing that hurts men, is when it is sprung upon them (in their mind) that the woman has not loved them romantically for __________ number of years/months.

    DG, I hear you (and thanks for the compliment). Here’s the rub. What would have happened in your case if some woman before you had helped your friend with 3 or 4 of the hiccups that you mentioned prior to his meeting you (assuming that he corrected them)? What if other women had fixed some of the fixable issues that afflicted your other suitors? Is there some possibility that you would not be dating/single now? Be honest.

    I think that is the heart of the problem here. Women spend a lot of time, effort and energy trying to analyze men, complain about them, etc., but women don’t take the time to roll up their sleeves and put some time into working on the problem (preferring to save face or avoid conflict).

    Women may not be able to fix a man during a relationship (i.e., the male ego gets in the way), but he is certainly in a position of wanting to improve after he is cut loose (i.e., his ego is temporarily deflated). If women would use that opportunity to help the guy improve (if they could gain the courage to do it), I would guess that there would be no need for Oprah and her anti-relationship dribble — as a lot of women would be a lot happier with the men in the dating pool and in their marriages. From my perspective, the problem has nothing to do with what men want to know – it is what they need to know. If you (i.e., women) want a better dating pool/marriages, you are going to have to build them yourself — by working on the men that are in that pool (wouldn’t the dating pool be a lot better for women if women had fixed but one hiccup in each of the men that they dated?). Only women can tell men what women want and, if they don’t, they should forfeit their right to complain, analyze, etc. about men, dating and relationships.

    Also, DG, have you noticed the absence of any male voice in the dating/relationship arena? There are a lot of women talking about what works and doesn’t work, but no one ever solicits the man’s input (and if they do, they find some old white guy that hasn’t been in the real dating world for fifty years — or some mainstream guy that talks about how important it is to buy women flowers….). I can’t say I have ever heard, read, or even suspected that anyone has called women out for doing all of the awful things that they do to men (phone numbers, leading them on, not being truthful about their feelings, etc.). I think that that is as good a place to start working on the problem as any (but I don’t read the mainstream garbage that is out there so perhaps I am missing something here).

    Tell me this, am I wrong in this regard:

    If a woman has a high (romantic) interest level in a man she will instinctively treat him good. If her interest level in him drops, she will not tell him directly; instead, she will start suggesting changes, being argumentative, etc. (things that men see as nagging, etc.). The woman will then stay with the man for a period of time until she finds someone else or she finally can’t take it anymore and the break up comes as a surprise to the man (or in the alternative, the man recognizes the low interest level and he cheats or leaves)? The woman will then not provide input unless the man expressly asks.

    Can we agree that this occurs in the great majority of relationships? If so, can we agree that one resolution would be for the woman to just speak up at the time that her interest level drops and she takes the time to help the man improve after the relationship is over?

    For once, I don’t think I have anything else to say.


  15. Ally Avatar

    I don’t this occurs in the great majority of the relationships. I don’t agree with your tenet that it is my job to ‘fix’ someone just because he was interested in me. In fact, you contradict yourself by saying that you don’t like it if a woman tries to suggest changes (2nd to last para), because by definition, she must now have less interest.

    I think you think you have it all figured out, however. You may think you can intellectually summarize dating and relationships, but you leave little room for what really drives the whole thing: emotions and chemistry, baby. I’ve wasted the bulk of my youth trying to ‘understand’ men and relationships, intellectually. The truth is, you like ’em or you don’t, and the more you behave with integrity around that knowledge, the better off everyone is.

  16. KM Avatar

    I can see that. Don’t you think that emotions, chemistry, etc. is expressed in interest level? If there is no interest level, then the guy gets the fake phone number, the phone number that no one answers (girlfriend, roommate, co-worker answers), or a simple “no.” Assuming that there is emotional, chemistry etc. then we are left with the rest — its good while it lasts, it eventually goes away for one person (probably for the woman, and she doesn’t share it with the man), and there is a split…. Both start the game over again.

    I most certainly don’t have everything figured out, but I wish I didn’t know what little I do know (if that doesn’t make sense, you know what I mean). Also, I haven’t heard anyone here say I am off in left field (which I would love to hear). Me personally, I love a woman that suggests changes (it gives me the challenge that is often missing for me — I have tried to incorporate all of the improvements that women have suggested over time.). For most guys, I would say that they will accept a woman suggesting changes after the relationship is over (but not during).

    I still say if you don’t fix him and the next woman doesn’t fix him, then he will remain unfixed, alone, and so will the woman that he would otherwise be going out with….


  17. Dating Goddess Avatar

    I’ll say it: You’re all wet!

    Not about some of your theories, but on blaming it all on women. Nearly everything you describe as being the woman’s fault can also be applied to a man. So instead of a woman not giving an accurate phone number or not answering, the man doesn’t call. Both can lose interest romantically but not say something, just withdraw. So fault can be equally on both sides.

    I think it is hard to date with integrity, which is why I’ve commented on that concept so much in this blog. I think each person needs to take responsibility to ask for what s/he needs (honest feedback, nurturing, space) and not expect the other to give it unasked. None of us has mind reading skills.

    Yes, if someone wanted the kind of feedback you suggest and aggressively sought it, they would no doubt see patterns that kept others at bay. But when I’ve asked for this feedback from former beaus, I’ve received disparate responses so no trend emerged that I could fix. What one didn’t like, another wasn’t bothered by. So I think one needs to learn to adapt to whomever they are dating at the time, without going crazy trying to be someone you’re not.

    KM, you are obviously an articulate, intelligent man, but you do seem to blame it all on women. Humans are imperfect by nature. Optimally, we do the very best we can, learn to be better, give each other some grace, and learn to love each other, warts and all.

  18. KitKat Avatar


    Following this commentary has finally gotten me to post a comment… after about a year of reading.

    I have a female take here with plenty of variable from KM’s ‘norm’:

    I have NEVER given out my number or contact info unless I wished to be contacted, and I have responded if they did so.

    I wouldn’t dream of leading a guy on, but I can be very interested in them as a person without being physically/romatically inclined- and sometimes, as a woman, you need to read the signals and help them to understand the difference without openly embarassing them.

    I will say that I have zero skills or courage to approach a guy, but I sincerely respect the nerve it takes to approach another person you are interested in dating and understand how grueling the process must be.

    I have looked past many ‘personal flaws’ to the person behind and continued the relationship.

    I am strongly in favor of monagamy, and that means that unless and until I am completely without a relationship in all senses of the word I do not even THINK about looking for another mate- and if approached by someone decline firmly without thought, hesitation, or regret later.
    Yes, having to fend for yourself as a woman, especially one raising children, is a scary thing financially in our society and we are strongly socialized against it- but ethics are ethics, IMO.

    I have always believed in being honest in relationships about ‘potential deal breakers’ early on, or ‘problem areas’ that have come up during the relationship, BUT-
    Here is the very (sadly) consistent pattern that emerges:

    Guy exhibits behavior or pattern that is repellent to you, but you see promise in them/are attracted otherwise and see a future.

    First you try the gentle, kind, explaining why it’s an issue for you approach.

    Then you point out the benefits of the change for them (if any, other than improving dynamics with you).

    Often, at this point, they will change in a flash to what you need/want and tell you how grateful they are for the honesty and that they would do anything to make you happy/keep the relationship.

    Girl takes relationship to the next level with Guy, happy and feeling loved and respected.

    Guy is delighted with early-stage mode and maintains changes for some extended period of time (say a few months to a few years, depending).

    Girl notes odd backsliding on above critical areas, keeps her own council for a bit, recognizes it is impacting her attraction level, then finally brings it back up as in step one.

    Guy repeats above flash-change, usually accompanied by grovelling apologies for failure, making Girl feel guilty for pointing out backsliding but grateful he really meant to change and wants to keep doing so.

    Sadly, women believe this line the first few (or dozen) times it repeats on the same or similar issues, and the above two steps repeat in shorter and shorter cycles.

    But, slowly but surely, the true colors come back out in force- and the ‘changes’ morph back into his norm that he is most comfortable with- with him becoming more and more resistant to your approaching him on the subject nicely.

    Then you put your foot down about it being a no-go if there is no change back to what he promised previously and seemed so willing to do.

    He resentfully tells you he is sick of being something he’s not for you when you will never be satisfied, and that he refuses to do X until you do Y regularly (usually the Y involves being as enthusiastically physical as the first few months of intimacy EVERY DAY FOREVER), and you realize that:
    One, he never really wanted to change himself, just wanted to keep the relationship going in it’s early-stages mode, and
    Two, you probably can never actually provide the level of intimacy and enthusiasm on a consistant basis that he thinks is ‘normal’.

    At this point the Girl believes he has stopped loving her since he once claimed he WANTED to change the things that are now making her crazy and seriously turned off.

    And the Guy believes you are manipulating him by withholding sex until he does what you want, which makes him even more determined to hostilely refuse to change anything.

    This usually leads to a stalemate, and spiralling downward disagreements, and in some relationships major emotional ‘breakthroughs’ involving couselling sessions or similar that stave off the final stages below.

    Finally, you are so turned off by the issue(s) at hand and their total lack of interest in correcting it you pull far back physically and emotionally- the resentment KM talks about, I suppose.

    At this point, the break-up happens for most.
    Those that are painfully stubborn and determined to tough it out, like myself, have it drag on for quite some time, still believing in some small deluded part of our brains that once some benchmark or life goal is reached then the relationship will be fixable again.

    And yes, it usually takes some terrible shock like his being unfaithful to knock some sense into us that he really DOESN’T love us anymore, it is truly past fixable, and we are worth more than this total lack of respect-

    And we file for divorce.

    And then we do it all over again most of the time!!

    What women need to learn is that if you can’t take him as he comes SAY NO to the relationship.

    And men need to learn that if you can only keep the relationship by changing SAY NO early on and break it off.

    We both need to stop deluding ourselves about who we are, what we really need from others, and what is acceptable to us in a relationship.

    Because who we are is WHO WE ARE- you may think they will mature out of it, they really just need some help, it isn’t a big deal to change small things to make someone else happy, you would rather change and have a relationship than not, etc.

    But that is the path to disappointments and failed relationships, not happy ever after.

  19. nysharon Avatar

    You could substitude man for woman in anywhere in your paragraph. A man needs to take responsibility for their own evolution, mistakes, etc. It isn’t a womans job to do this for him.

  20. Ally Avatar

    Very well said, KitKat (and nysharon).
    That’s the old saw that a male friend of mine repeated last week:
    “A woman marries a man hoping she can change him; a man marries a woman hoping she won’t change.”
    As you say, we have to accept who we, and they, ARE. That has to be good enough up front.

  21. KM Avatar

    I agree. Very insightful KK. I would add that almost any relationship can be fixed if the woman maintains a high interest level — or if the guy can change his behavior to increase the woman’s interest level (which is often not possible after time/actions — which the man will never realize) and, if the woman’s interest level is high, she will overlook any issues that the man may have (even if they need to be changed).

    As to DG’s comment, I would suggest that men don’t break up with women for any particular reason (such as bad lover, poor table manners, poor dress habbits, etc.). That is probably why it is not that beneficial for women to ask men how they can improve (besides, in the majority of cases it is the woman that pulls the break up trigger — that is just the way it is….).

    For men, it is about whether they percieve that the woman is attractive and has a high interest level. Period. Nothing else really matters. For the man, if he feels that the woman’s interest level in him drops (via nagging — his perception of it anyway, or that she is just not interested), he will stray or leave — possibly before the woman drops him for bachelor number two (but most likely, she will drop him before he has any clue — as he will be late in recognizing the lowered interest level).

    A woman that is attractive (to him) and who shows a high interest level in the man can do no wrong in his eyes (even if she is cheating on him, abusing him, etc.) — and vice versa for men.

    It is a silly game we play…. I think KK is right. If we were all just honest about what we want, what we can and can’t accept. and if we would get out of relationships early where they aren’t working instead of trying or expecting change (for those who don’t want to or see the need to change) then we would all be a lot happier….