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Maybe he is that into you.

Seriously, Tiffany, THIS is your argument? I just want to point out that Greg Behrendt, author of He’s Just Not That Into You, is a comedian. The book is a comedy written by a comedian and not a self-help book written by a psychologist who might actually have some facts or studies to back up their findings. And yet, this book was hailed as being the Holy Bible of the dating world because Greg worked as a consultant on “Sex and the city”. It’s the need to ease the frustrations of dating with comedy that is really feeding the relationship delusions. And this is a big part of the reason why both men and women have their misconceptions about dating baked right in.

The advice that people get on dating, whether it’s from a comedy writer or friends, is typically what causes relationships to fail or not develop in the first place. We’ve all heard these little gems of wisdom but we don’t think about the message they really send. The most popular advice for when someone gives you their number is, “Don’t call too soon, it makes you seem desperate” which send the message, “Their just not that into you”. Or the ever popular, “You have to play hard to get” which send the message, “Their just not that into you”. The advice that I hear from my guy friends on how to get a woman is, “You have to be a little mean to her, women like that” which sends the message, “He’s just not that into you”. Are you starting to see a pattern here?

So, the truth is not that if a guy wants to call…he calls. He probably wants to but the majority of advice that he gets is to play hard to get or don’t act like you are interested. Women do the same thing. It’s beautiful irony that we think the best way to show someone that you are interested is to act like you are not. Heck, I could write a whole book about that and call it, “He’s just not that into you”. Women would buy up every copy trying to figure out where they went wrong after doing exactly what their friends advised them to do. “I acted like I wasn’t interested and he still never called”, …Duh. Now go brush yourself off and get back in the saddle so you can repeat this process and wonder why it didn’t work THIS time.

I’ve actually had a few women tell me that they wanted to call me but didn’t because they were taking advice from their friends. What am I supposed to think when I ask a woman out and she says that she is too busy but will call me when she is free and she never calls? I think that she is telling the truth, she is too busy and I would just be bothering her by calling. Honesty is simply not a widely accepted concept when it comes to dating. It’s asinine but we are taught that we have to play the game rather than just communicate honestly. With this in mind, it doesn’t matter what I say because her natural assumption is going to be that I am lying.

Oh, please, Mike.  It’s true that most women don’t ask the questions you mention, but it isn’t because they’re too quick to write a guy off.  It’s because they’re too quick to make excuses for him.  There’s a reason that He’s Just Not That Into You was the literary version of a shot heard ’round the world: “It’s hopeless” is the absolute last possibility that most women entertain.

We don’t have to ask you whether you’re hesitant because you’ve been hurt before–most of us ASSUME that if a man doesn’t say “I love you” it’s because he’s frightened or had a bad experience in the past or thinks it shows weakness or…almost anything except the almost-absurdly-obviously “maybe he doesn’t love me”.

The failure to ask those questions, in most cases, isn’t because a woman doesn’t entertain those possibilities, but because she’s entirely confident in them.  The poor baby.  He’s really a great guy, but he’s been compelled to act like a jerk or withhold himself or fear commitment or any of a hundred other flaws because of his last girlfriend or his family or because he’s really stressed out at work or he’s having a mid-life crisis or his left knee sort of hurts today.

The truth–and on some level we all know it–is that a guy who wants to call…calls.  A guy who wants to be close opens himself up.  And in those rare cases where a guy really wants to open himself up and just can’t because of all this baggage from some past damage, he needs to do some serious internal work before he tries to get close to you anyway, so he’s not a candidate for a serious relationship.

The last thing we need is one more way for women to explain away the truth and justifying the endless wait for something that is never going to happen.

I met this guy who was funny and charming and cute. He made me laugh and smile and I just felt comfortable around him. His thick outer shell and edgy sense of humor made it hard for me to get close to him as quickly as I would have liked so I moved on after a few weeks.

I never bothered to ask why he was funny. Was it because he simply wasn’t serious and didn’t care about anything? Maybe it was because…deep down…he was hurt, damaged by women who he had trusted…loved. Maybe humor was his way of hiding that pain and deflecting the possibility of more pain.

I never bothered to ask if I had made any progress in getting what I wanted…him. I assumed that he wouldn’t give me his heart because he felt I didn’t deserve it. Or maybe he was an insensitive jerk who was incapable of love. It didn’t occur to me that he couldn’t give me his heart because he didn’t have it at the moment…it was broken and still being repaired.

I never bothered to ask if he had given up forever or was simply on vacation. Maybe he was simply cautious. Maybe, if I was more patient, I could have shown him that it is okay to love again…to trust…to be vulnerable. If I had that kind of time, I might have shown him that it was safe to let people in again…to care and allow someone to care about you. I may have shown him that he is safe with me and not all women are out to hurt him. Maybe, if I had that kind of time.

I never bothered to ask if I was going to reinforce his belief that love hurts…That caring for someone is simply not worth the risk. It had already been three weeks and my time was up, if he really wanted to be with me he wouldn’t have been so guarded. Did he really want to be with me? I never bothered to ask.
Read Tiffany’s Response:  Feeding the Relationship Delusion

The downside to juggling dates

I find that I am unreasonably bothered by those reality television shows where one person will date twenty members of the opposite sex and narrow it down each week until they find “The one”. It’s an absurd concept that has no practical purpose in the real world.

Sure, there are people who do this, both men and women, but what are they really accomplishing? How can you possibly see this as a precursor to a real relationship? If anything, it may be a great tutorial on how to become a cheater or a player. You might be able to justify it by saying that you wouldn’t buy pants without trying on a couple pairs first. But pants don’t have feelings and people are not a commodity that can be bought and sold.

I had a friend who decided that he was ready to settle down and find a wife. He had just turned thirty and his plan was to date six women in hopes that one of them would make a perfect partner. He ended up finding himself in a rotation pattern where one or two women would drop out of the running and he would have to replace them with a new contestant. His theory sounded good, dating six women would make him six times more likely to find a wife. The reality was that dating six women made him six times more likely to NOT be taken seriously by six different women.

There’s nothing wrong with juggling but let’s face it, clowns juggle. If you are looking to have fun and not get serious then this may be a good way to accomplish that. But if you are actually dating with the intention of finding someone to share your life with, you might want to think about dating one person at a time. What message are you really sending by rationing out a small piece of your time to someone who your are treating like a pair of pants that will eventually end up in the garbage or at the thrift store?

Mike, I think this whole “too many choices” thing takes us right back to the issue of how we look at other people.  You’ve made the argument in favor of weeding people out in advance, but I think that’s the very same mentality that leads people to think of one another as “choices” rather than as other people who can play varying roles in their lives.

If we encounter members of the opposite sex as options to choose among to fill an empty slot in our lives, of course we start fearing buyer’s remorse…sure, this one might look good, but I haven’t checked all the shelves yet.  I don’t really know whether I’m getting the best deal.

If, however, we take people as they come–if we interact with them naturally and view them as humans instead of prospects and don’t start sizing them up to see whether or not we might want to “buy” the moment we lay eyes on them–then there’s no reason to make any kind of choice at all in those early days when we don’t have enough information to choose in a way that makes sense and lends itself to certainty.  We can get to know a variety of people in a variety of contexts and explore moving one toward a romantic relationship if and when our inclinations have grown in that direction based on the relationship we already have.

It frees us from having to line up virtual strangers and try to guess which one might or might not be a good “prospect”.  It frees us from interview-style dates and it frees us from circumstances in which we feel compelled to start crossing off rules to make a “relationship” that was never a relationship at all “keep” working.

Too many choices

Tiffany,

I can’t help but notice that some people have a difficult time making decisions in life if they are faced with too many choices.  They delay the decision making process to carefully weight the pros and cons, putting off making a final decision in case something better comes along.  Ultimately what ends up happening is that they will lose out on one opportunity whose patience has worn too thin.

I’ve seen people miss out on good job opportunities because they had several interviews or bids that they went to and as the calls came in, they held out for a better offer.  I’m sure that you’ve heard the expression, “A bird in hand is worth two in the bush”.

This also applies to the dating scene.  The expression in this case is that there are, “Plenty of fish in the sea”.  And that seems to be the problem, at least that I notice.  I think it’s tenfold with online dating and possibly worse if you are a man seeking a woman.  I’m sure that you’ve noticed that women are literally inundated with emails from men, variety abounds.  And with so many fish available, how can you be certain that you’ve found the right one?

So, what’s a guy supposed to do to stand out?  To be the clear choice?  Or is there anything he CAN do.  Are there simply women out there who may never make a decision and pass up great opportunity after great opportunity?  The best advice I have for men is to just be yourself.  And the best advice I have for women is to not pass up Mr. Right in your quest to find Mr. Perfect.

I originally wanted to call this post “Lying Sucks”, but I figured that Mike had more or less conveyed that with his story about “Glitter”.  There are vast differences of opinion on the issue of lying, but there doesn’t seem to be a gender divide.  It seems to me more a question of character.

As Mike pointed out, giving someone a fake phone number or saying you’ll call when you have no intention of ever seeing or talking to that person again doesn’t spare her feelings (or his)–it only spares you the discomfort of being around when her feelings (or his) are hurt.  It’s a purely selfish move because it doesn’t do a thing for the person who is being lied to except draw out the pain, but it does a lot for the liar.  Not only does he escape seeing the other person hurt by the truth, but he manages to make himself feel virtuous by reassuring himself that he “let her down easy”.

Bullshit.

Many men, when the lying discussion arises, pull out the old “Do these pants make me look fat?” discussion.  Every man I’ve ever heard this from is entirely confident in his assumption that a woman who asks that question is simply looking for reassurance, and does not want the truth. Do these pants make me look fat?As a woman, I’m here to tell you:  that’s just stupid.  If I ask a question like that, it’s because I’m concerned; I think there might be a problem and if there is, I want to correct it before I go out.  If you “tell me what I want to hear”, all you’ve done is set me up to go out looking bad. There’s nothing kind or loving about that.

Consider a slightly different but very closely related scenario:  you’re out to dinner with your wife and she asks you whether or not she has spinach between her teeth.  She does, in fact, have a big, dark wad of bunched up leaf right between her two front teeth.  Do you tell her about it so that she can remove it, or do you smile and say, “No, honey, you look great,” and let her walk around for the rest of the evening flashing spinach at everyone she greets?

Answers may vary, of course, but we both know that if the answer is the latter, you’re a jerk.  You might be having some good laughs or you might just be a coward, but it’s clear to everyone that you should have told her.  Why would you imagine that the pants question would be any different?

Photo credit: aleks from morguefile.com