Hello, Die Hard Readers, and welcome to the second installment of my off-season posts. As we enter this week, it’s clear that the Bachelor publicity machine is in full swing. Brad is still touring the country denying the rumors of his break up with Emily. I suspect that, like me, you’re all sick of hearing about it by now. Like you, I wish them the best, but expect the worst . . . or is it the other way around? Regardless, you’re stuck with me on another Tuesday. It’s time to strategically move your computer screens so the nosey people walking by your office or cubicle can’t see that you’re wasting valuable company time reading this. Have fun stifling chuckles into your coffee mugs for the next 20 minutes.
As is my custom, I asked all of you to send in questions or suggestions for off-season blog posts over the past couple of weeks. Thanks to all of you who have taken the time to email or write. While I received many suggestions, the ones that were most prevalent sought general relationship advice. Look, I’m not Dr. Phil and I’m certainly not that latently gay guy who wrote that Men are from Mars and Women Never Think about Your Penis book, but I’ll give it a shot.
Experience has taught me a lot in relationships and I also have the requisite chromosomes to answer from a male perspective. That’s the extent of my “wisdom.” I’ll disclaim the following advice by saying that if you don’t agree with it, that’s fine. It has no basis in medical fact, research, or theory. It’s just my opinion. With that said, let’s get to it.
My guy is acting distant. What are signs that he might be ready to end the relationship?
I suppose we need to define the word “distant” in order to adequately answer this inquiry. If by “distant” you mean that he stays out until 4am and comes home covered in jasmine scented glitter wreaking of bourbon with the phone number of someone named “Strawberry” written on a matchbook then he’s already checked out. If you’ve been putting up with that for any amount of time, then it’s time for you to check out. However, if by “distant” you mean that he’s uninvolved in your life, not present when he’s with you, and indifferent about the bedroom, then there are a couple of possibilities.
First, figure out what’s going on in his life. Work, school, kids, and life in general can weigh on a person and men—especially the type that have a difficult time expressing feelings in the first place—will often retreat into a sort of protective cocoon in times of emotional crisis. When that happens, it is incredibly difficult to squeeze anything other than a grunt or a nod out of him. Start talking about your best friend’s wedding shower or the wonderful color ideas for the guest bathroom that you’d like to run by him and you’re bound to be disappointed with his less-than-enthusiastic response. Even on your best day, would you want to discuss the benefits of the Cover Two Defense? I doubt it.
Contrary to popular belief, men are not unemotional people. However, men often don’t see the benefit of sharing difficult emotions or making themselves vulnerable—especially to someone they feel either looks to them for support or might potentially judge them. Like an abused puppy, men often need to be coaxed out of the corner. Like that puppy, sometimes we have to be left alone in order to come out on our own volition. Pushing too hard only makes the puppy more afraid. Eventually, it makes the puppy very mad. Eventually, the puppy will call Strawberry.
For men, I suppose some of that is hard-wired. After all, you can’t leave the cave and go hunting for dinner if you’re super sensitive and emotionally vulnerable. Sabre-toothed tigers and Tyrannosauruses are not exactly good sounding boards and it’s difficult to think about feelings when you’re running naked across a field in search of a meal. The rest of the problem is cultural, I think.
Despite the fact that literally entire sections of large book stores are filled with the latest self-help work on how to succeed in any relationship, how to get the love you need, how to speak the correct love language, or how to get married in a year or less, the truth is still the truth.
What is that truth?
It’s like the old joke, “how many psychiatrists does it take to change a light bulb?” Answer: “One, but the light bulb has to admit to itself that it wants to change.” The same is true with men. Women can follow “The Rules” or whatever the current state of manipulative female conventional wisdom may be; however, if a man does not want to “change” then you’re out of luck. There’s only one person to ever walk the face of the Earth who could change stuff into other stuff and He never got married. You might as well be trying to change a lump of coal into a diamond.
Notwithstanding the fact that I know a few women who are so uptight that if you put that piece of coal up a certain orifice you would indeed have a diamond inside of a week, the point is that if a man is removed, there is nothing you can do to unremove him. He has to want to reengage. Trying to change that only pushes him further into said cocoon. Ergo, the famous, “I need space” and “it’s not you, it’s me” discussion. It’s like Lenny in Of Mice and Men squeezing the bunny he loved so hard he killed it. A lot of women squeeze the bunny. Instead of dying, the bunny calls Strawberry. Push too hard and you’ll drive him away.
If you’re feeling neglected or uneasy in a relationship, try talking to him about the way YOU actually feel and not the way you think HE should feel. Pick a non-threatening time. Note: this weekend during the Final Four is NOT a non-threatening time. I don’t care if he didn’t attend Virginia Commonwealth and has no idea where Butler University is located. It’s not a good time. That’s like me calling you and wanting to discuss the finer points of the WWE Monday Night Smackdown during Oprah’s final episode.
Do whatever you have to do to communicate EXACTLY what you need in order to feel secure and loved in the relationship. Make notes, write a letter, rehearse a speech, etc. Men are terrible guessers. Be specific without being unreasonable. Some men hate to hold hands. Some men are not huggers. If either is the case, for example, then you have to be willing to weigh the sum of the parts and see if you’re willing to accept that about him. If you don’t ask, he won’t know it’s an issue. You can’t have every single thing you want in a relationship. No one can. However, know your deal breakers and if he’s teetering on one of them, tell him.
Then what? You see how he responds. By telling him how you interpret his actions and what emotions those actions invoke in you, you move away from an offensive stance while at the same time asking him to take responsibility for those actions. Subtlety is an art and the content of the message it’s just as important how that message is delivered. Men don’t like to feel challenged or attacked. Getting confrontational creates, well, conflict. Approaching him in a genuine, sincere matter is the way to be heard.
Additionally, men and women don’t interpret emotions the same way. Example: I had a woman tell me once that I was yelling during a disagreement (not an argument) and that she felt intimidated because of it. Surprised, I paid attention the next time we argued and I realized that my voice became much louder when I was trying to communicate to her. I had no idea that sounded or was interpreted as “yelling.”
Any good man will validate your feelings and, if he’s serious about you, he’ll reevaluate his behavior. The ones who won’t are either too dense to get it or simply not worth keeping around. You can’t “force” a man to feel a certain way. Stop trying. It’s literally like rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic or trying to ignore Justin Bieber. Also, if you’re going to insist that your man listen, evaluate, and adjust, then be prepared to do exactly the same thing. Relationships, after all, are two way streets.
Final word of wisdom on this. If he responds and you don’t get the answer you are looking for then you have to have the courage to walk away from the relationship. Depending upon the nature of the relationship (newly dating, long term, married) you should give him a reasonable amount of time to reengage or to “change” what’s bothering you. What’s reasonable depends on the relationship.
Once that time is exhausted, you have to have the courage to walk away or you risk repeating the cycle and becoming more miserable each time it repeats. This, I think, is the lynch pin of every major relationship problem. Being stuck in this cycle leads to misplaced anger, resentment, infidelity, and a whole other host of problems. The problem with repressed emotions is that they eventually explode. If it isn’t working and you’re not getting what you need, communicate, give it some time, and if it doesn’t work, get out. Period. There’s nothing to prevent a reconciliation, but beating a dead horse is like beating a dead horse. The cure for the fear of being alone is often being alone. It’s not the worst thing in the world; it’s temporary; and it’s a hell of a lot better than wallowing in the quicksand of an unhealthy relationship.
Guys are always interested in my girlfriends. What can I do to get the attention?
Get some uglier friends. Alright, that was a joke. Women are like coyotes. They travel in packs . . . appropriately accessorized packs. There’s no getting around that. In the pack, there’s always one attention seeker and sometimes there’s an Emily in the bunch too. It’s difficult to stand out with an Emily in the bunch and quieter, more reserved girls often get shoved out of the way by attention seekers. The really pretty girls often get more attention. The same is true in groups of men; although women tend to migrate away from appearance more quickly than men do. Of course, I’m not suggesting that the person who sent this is not lovely. What I’m saying is that men are drawn to appearance first and personality later. The squeaky girl usually gets the grease.
A man would carry around a rock forever if he became infatuated with it. A woman would throw the same rock in the trash can if it didn’t make her laugh. Sure, she might let that rock pick her up in his sports car, buy her a few dinners, and take her dancing a few times, but if the rock doesn’t get it done between the ears there’s no way that rock is getting her between the sheets, unless of course she’s an unapologetic tramp. That’s just the way it is.
Rejection in any form is frustrating, if not difficult to take. I had a college roommate that refused to introduce me to girls he met for fear of them being interested in me over him. I always found that a little extreme, but the point is that if you really want the attention then you might have to go it alone with a guy. Incidentally, it’s better to know up front if a guy is interested in your friend rather than dating him for a while and finding out he’s been texting her in the middle of the night. Be thankful for that. Oh, and if you have a friend that makes it a habit to compete for guys she knows you’re interested in, then she’s not really a friend, is she?
Is there ever a time when honesty is not the best policy?
Frankly, yes. I can think of a lot of times. Let me first say what I don’t mean so I’m not mistaken for endorsing dishonesty. Without disinterring the gruesome details of my own past, I can represent to you that I’ve learned this lesson—the hard way--from both sides of the coin. Deliberate lying or lying by omission is never an acceptable way to exist in a relationship. It is a horrible, stressful way to live. Eventually, all lines become blurred and what was once an honest, open existence becomes a daily effort to juggle each lie. Every lie begets another lie and eventually, all the balls can not be kept in the air.
Every lie will eventually see the light of day and big lies have far more ramifications than simply upsetting the balance in a relationship, particularly when the relationship is one that is supported by family, friends, and even children.
Let’s face it, though. Every person toes the line in a relationship from time to time and sometimes there is someone behind that person who pushes that person over it. There are also uncontrollable circumstances that occur in the context of a relationship that will cause great damage if shared. Mistakes are made—big and small—and generally, honesty is the best policy. However, there are things that are better left unsaid for the sake of a healthy relationship. Allow me to elaborate.
Example: Woman goes to lunch at a local café and strikes up a flirtatious conversation with the man in front of her in line. Man in line likes her and they flirt for the five minutes in line, eat lunch together, and eventually part ways, but man leaves his business card with her. After a bad day in her current relationship she calls him a few days later, but discards the card and any desire to talk to him again. Improper behavior if she’s in a relationship? Probably. It’s not a deal breaker, but certainly not appropriate. That’s a little more than looking at the groceries on the shelf but a lot less than paying for them and taking them home and sleeping with them.
My belief is that telling her significant other about this in the name of “honesty” is likely to create more trouble than it’s worth. No harm, no foul. Let sleeping dogs lie or whatever cliché applies here. Volunteering this sort of information is neither necessary nor healthy.
More controversial example: Husband and wife go through a terrible, trying time in their marriage. They spend a lot of time apart and become distant for months. Wife meets stranger on an airplane, things progress, and she has an affair. She boards the plane home and in light of the affair decides to sincerely rededicate herself to her marriage as she’s seen what she could lose if she doesn’t. The affair and all contact with the other person ends. Husband wants to reconcile unconditionally as well.
IF, and I mean IF, the affair is truly and completely over AND the wife’s intentions are true, then I believe revealing the affair is the wrong thing to do. The only purpose that revelation accomplishes is to unburden her of the guilt of the affair and place it squarely upon the shoulders of the husband. The pain and betrayal that he then has to bear will literally define his life and marriage indefinitely.
A mistake that big is difficult to process and live with, but placing the burden of that mistake upon the husband is just as selfish as having the affair in the first place. For anyone who has ever been betrayed in this way, you know how painful it is. Knowing is not constructive in this scenario. Bearing the burden and responsibility of the affair in this instance is something better done by the person who had it.
Incidentally, I don’t believe that infidelity in this scenario is grounds for dissolving a marriage. Cheating is a horrible thing but taking that “till death do us part” and the “for better or worse” thing seriously means that you’re in 100%--in theory anyway. Trust can be earned back and people can atone for big mistakes in the context of a marriage, but forgiveness—real forgiveness—from the other party is eventually necessary. Making her pay for that mistake indefinitely will never work. It has to be let go over time. Those things may take years of work to happen and it takes a dedication that most people, frankly, do not possess in a marriage these days. If two people truly love one another, then a relationship can overcome just about anything. See my two way street comment above.
Now that you’re all disgusted with me, let me say this. Serial infidelity or serial lying is never acceptable. If one party is not on equal footing with the other party, then the relationship won’t work. A person who cheats and wants to reconcile should expect to agree to a big loss of freedom in order to earn forgiveness. A cheater should expect to eat crow for breakfast, lunch, and dinner for quite a while. That person must unconditionally accept the consequences of the infidelity and it is that person’s burden to make things right again. I’ve seen couples go through this and emerge on the other side of it in a much better place. I’ve also seen couples go through it and hate each other. Incidentally, while I know more men who have cheated, I also know plenty of women who have done it as well. Perhaps a “why men cheat” post is in order?
The short answer to the question is that absolute and unfettered honesty in any relationship, friendship, employment scenario, or whatever is not ALWAYS the best policy. With that said, admitting a mistake in an immediate fashion and owning the consequences is also essential to gaining the respect and trust of your partner.
Like Watergate or cruising for gay sex in a Minneapolis airport restroom, it’s not the act that gets a person in trouble, it’s the cover up. Honesty is overwhelmingly the best policy. It is incumbent upon any person in a relationship to be truthful; however, it is not necessary to share every detail of every experience. After all, as my father used to tell me, “if you tell the truth, you don’t have to worry about changing your story.”
If you had to narrow it down to one trait, what is a guy looking for when it comes to dating?
Is a pair of boobs one trait? Alright, that’s a joke too. One trait is hard to pick. Obviously, every man is different. However, here are some global thoughts.
First date? Appreciate the effort a man puts into planning a first date and keep in mind he doesn’t know you yet. I, for one, put some thought into a first date. I try to keep it simple and flexible. Expectations run high, I think, on the ladies’ side of the first date equation and small disappointments can submarine a potential relationship.
Women call their girlfriends or text them from the bathroom when a date is going poorly. That’s not fair to the guy picking up the bill and sitting alone at the table waiting on you to return. A bad date is a bad date but have the consideration to see it through. Knocking off points because the guy missed the mark by taking the initiative to plan a date he thought you’d enjoy is like telling your 6 year old that the pony he colored for you is not very neat.
Want to guarantee a good date? Make suggestions before the date and tell him what you like to do. See if he pays attention but don’t be bummed out if you don’t get your way. Relax. Communicate. A man wants to feel like he’s, well, The Man on a date. The good ones put forth the effort to make sure you have a good time. However, even a good man will miss the mark sometimes.
Example: planning a nice dinner at a newly opened seafood restaurant as a surprise but not realizing you’re allergic to seafood. If that happened to me and a woman gave me “you should have asked me” speech, I’d never ask her out again. Recognize the effort and politely tell him you’d love to have a drink and see the menu. If they don’t offer something that won’t make you’re face puff up like Jerry Lewis on Prednisone, then suggest a different venue. We can’t read minds and a first date is a lot to plan on our own. It also tends to be expensive.
The “trait” I look for in any relationship in my life is an appreciation of who I am and a mutual respect. Even if a woman is not “into” me, if she shows me the same respect that she would expect in turn, then I’m alright with that. That respect is the proper groundwork for building any relationship. The Golden Rule comes to mind here as well. Incidentally, I can’t imagine a woman not being into me, but that’s an entirely different post.
My boyfriend is a bad kisser. What do I do?
Get a new boyfriend. Another poor attempt at humor.
If your boyfriend is a bad anything, here’s a way to solve the problem. Communicate your feelings in a respectful way and realize that you can make some changes too. Kissing is like ordering a sandwich at Subway. If you don’t specifically tell the “Sandwich Artist” what you want on it, it stalls the whole process and you’ll wind up settling for something you don’t want. Sure, it might fill you up, but it won’t be satisfying.
By the way, why is the guy that puts on the plastic gloves and drags my sandwich across that dirty, white cutting board an “artist?” I think Leonardo or Cezanne might feel differently. Annyyyhoooo. . . .
This formula also goes for other “activities” he might be less than adept at performing. Remember, it’s not about “right” or “wrong” as much as it’s about compatibility. One woman’s bore is another woman’s Lothario. Just because he’s not doing what you want doesn’t mean he’s not doing it “right.” Work together and find what works for both of you. That means setting an ego aside and making yourself vulnerable. That’s not easy to do all the time, but the payoff is huge. After all, relationships are tit for tat. There’s nothing more frustrating for a guy than doing a lot of tatting and never seeing any tits.
Sometimes I make myself laugh. That last sentence was one of those times. Oh, and don’t expect him to do anything that you wouldn’t do in return. Two way street, remember? Incidentally, Subway’s new flat bread is delicious.
I want to impress my guy for his birthday by taking him out on a fabulous date that he will love. Any ideas?
I’ll keep my Hooters and nudie bar jokes to a minimum here. The short answer is ask him what he wants to do and then do it. Throw in a surprise and a unique gift and you have a good evening. Including his friends in part of the plan is always a good thing, but make some time for you to be alone. As far as I’m concerned, I’d prefer the alone time at the front of the date and then want to meet up with friends later, but do what you know your guy likes.
One of my best friends (the now infamous Lenny) once hired his fiance’s favorite singer to show up at a restaurant and play her three of her favorite songs. He’s still reaping the benefits of that little stunt. Get creative. Get inside his head. He’ll appreciate the effort. Oh, and La Perla teddies don’t hurt either.
I need new flirting techniques. What has worked on you?
I have an issue with the word “technique.” To me, that term implies a person who likes to play games. I have many faults, but I was given the gift of being able to read people and I realized that from a very young age. For me, sincerity and openness are the best qualities that a woman can possess when I first meet her. Pretension doesn’t work with me. I like simple, sincere, and sexy.
With that said, most men appreciate the break that comes from a woman confident enough to approach them rather than having to approach you. Many times a man chooses not to approach an attractive woman, not for fear of rejection, but for fear that he’ll look like a complete chach for doing it.
If you’re interested, offer to buy him a drink, compliment him on his whatever, or simply say “hello, I noticed you.” Sure, popping out of a cake with pasties on will get his attention, but if you want to make a lasting impression beyond that, take the time to focus on him. Oh, and smile a lot. That’s nice. Get back to me and let me know how that works.
Well, there you have it. Some words of wisdom straight out of DP’s Chicktionary. I hope that sheds some light on the male species. God knows we all could use a flashlight every now and then. For next week’s post I plan to share a few stories with you. However, if you have any feedback or suggestions, feel free to shoot me an email or post a comment on the site. Thanks again for taking the time to read what’s in my head.
Take care of yourselves and good luck with the opposite sex. In the meantime, if you need me I’ll be practicing my kissing. DP