Hello, Readers. As always, welcome back to this week’s installment of the blog not about The Bachelor Pad. I hope those of you who are still managing to read this and continue to watch that masterpiece are enjoying it as much as I’m enjoying not watching it. Let me guess: Vienna’s a pain, Kasey is still nuts, and Jake is a bigger peckerhead than he’s ever been. Am I close?
As the careful readers among you know, Some Guy was in Vegas this weekend. Considering the fact that for the past three days I’ve had the same eating and drinking habits as Snooki, it’s nothing short of a miracle that I’ve retained the ability to type. I found myself constantly reminding myself that when in Vegas it is imperative to pay close attention to Temperance and Chastity. Well, not too much attention. If you pay too much attention to Temperance and Chastity, the other strippers tend to get jealous. Annnnyyhooo . . . .
From what I recall about the trip, I had a lot of fun. Thanks to all of you who sent me questions. As is my custom, I try and cull the emails down into themes and then globally answer. If your question didn’t make the cut, email me if you’re still committed to the question and I’ll answer it as fast I can.
Before we get started, this week’s shout out goes to one of my longest, most loyal readers, Stacey in Florida. Stacey has been reading and commenting faithfully for years now and she was nice enough to take time out from dilating and delivering to send me two pictures of her gorgeous new born baby girl, Addison. Addison weighed in at a healthy 8 pounds and 9 ounces. Thank you for taking the time to send those pictures. Congratulations. Oh, and since you’re in Florida, you may want to invite Derek and the Boys to the baby shower. I’ll bet they throw a hell of a party. Just think of the diaper cake. With that said, let’s get to Relationship Advice 201.
WHY DO MEN CHEAT?
Man, you people aren’t wasting any time this week. This was actually the very first email question I received. I’m certain that the reader who sent this is probably pacing aggressively around her bedroom gripping tightly to the end of a butcher knife in anticipation of my answer, so I’ll get to this one quickly.
Let me preface this answer by saying that I think it’s important to note two extremely relevant points before addressing this understandably sensitive issue. First of all, any issue can be defined in extremes. There is always the fringe element composing the exception to the general rule.
In other words, there is a certain portion of the male population that will cheat under any circumstance in any type of relationship. It’s simply true. A portion of that portion is literally diagnosable with some sort of deep psychological flaw or condition (see Madonna-Whore Syndrome, Narcissism, Bi-polar Disorder, Borderline Personality Disorder). Any host of traumatic childhood experiences from alcoholic parents to sexual abuse can contribute to serial addictive behaviors or poor choices such as infidelity. Anyone with any experience in the field knows that self-destructive behaviors (infidelity included) are more complicated than simply chalking it up to being a jerk. The other portion of this population watches Jersey Shore and that new show about being single in Dallas and thinks it’s perfectly acceptable to be a promiscuous jerk.
The second point is that all of the above points are also true for women; they just don’t get the kind of press men do and when they have those types of issues they often focus on other behaviors like binging and purging, for instance. My answer below is not about this element; rather, it’s about the Regular Guy who cheats.
The short answer to why men cheat is “The same reason women cheat.” The perception, even today, when any man cheats is that he does it simply for sex or for some sort of male validation that his loins still work or whatever. That’s simply false—even in the John Edwards and Tiger Woods-type cases. Before you log out and go to Oprah.com, allow me to explain.
Most infidelity occurs in any relationship because the cheater is not getting something that he (or she) needs from the other person in the relationship. Yes, you heard that right. Again, with the exceptions above noted, infidelity is also the “fault” of the party being cheated upon. Granted, for any of us (me included) who have been cheated on that is a difficult pill to swallow because the choice to cheat on a partner is indeed one of the most selfish things another person can do.
Let’s face it, it hurts and, while the vast responsibility lies upon the cheater, it’s the lack of “something” in the relationship itself that causes a normal, loving, decent guy to go and cheat. The woman is not “responsible” in the sense that she forced her guy to cheat; rather, it’s a problem with the relationship of which she is an equal part. Top that off with the Cool Hand Luke problem (a failure to communicate) and Cheater Stew is brewing on the stovetop.
Here’s the difference between men and women, though. That “missing something” that pushes men into affairs is often sex. Considering the fact that men walk around in a perpetual, albeit mostly controlled, state of arousal on any given day it’s not surprising. The other thing that men need in a relationship that often goes missing like a Joren Van Der Sloot girlfriend is, well, feeling like The Man.
Just like women want to feel pretty and have all of the plucking, waxing, painting, shaving, and primping appreciated by a man, men want to feel important too. When the sex declines over time and he only gets what he wants on his birthday and Arbor Day in addition to not having his ego stroked, resentment can build. Throw in a twenty-something who thinks he hung the moon and trouble occurs. In short, it’s never ONLY about sex.
Honestly, it’s the same scenario when a woman cheats. The difference is that she’s usually looking for a different “something” and that doesn’t always entail sex; rather, it’s usually intimacy. In today’s climate, I think that women are more often cheating because of sex, but that’s a different answer. I think what’s so shocking to a lot of women who have either been cheated on or are helping a friend who has is that the answer from the cheater when he gets caught is often that he does not want their relationship to end.
How can a man cheat and then not want to end the relationship with the person he cheated on? That answer is not as complicated as it may seem. Men have the ability to compartmentalize their emotions a hell of a lot more than women do. Women (generally speaking) are “done” when they decide to cheat. Women want intimacy, friendship, and companionship all in one partner. Men, however, are more “flexible” in this regard. As messed up as it sounds, if a man can meet all of his needs, he’s happy. If those needs are met in different places, he can still love the person he’s with for her companionship, etc. and compartmentalize the sexual relationship with another person. Crazy sounding, yes? True? Also yes.
The bottom line to all of this is that with the exception of that fringe element and what can probably be characterized as one time severe lapses in judgment, infidelity is a cancer rather than a shot to the heart. The seed gets planted, watered, and grows a long time before it blossoms into an affair. Two people in a relationship need to recognize these pitfalls and address them. The signs are always there. Always.
A man needs to have the courage and the trust in his partner in order to sit her down and say, “Listen, I have been tempted to have an affair. I don’t want that to happen and I’d like to address our problems.” That’s a hard thing to hear, but it’s better than finding lipstick on his collar and a hidden bottle of Axe Body Spray in his car. Hair plugs and a sports car will soon follow and that can get very messy around Christmas time. Real people in real relationships have the courage to share difficult feelings and problems in order to resolve their issues. Those who can’t or won’t are simply at a huge disadvantage and risk the pitfalls of an unfulfilling relationship.
HOW DO I TELL MY MAN HE’S GAINED TOO MUCH WEIGHT ESPECIALLY WHEN THE RELATIONSHIP IS OTHERWISE GREAT?
This one cuts both ways. I assume this question came from a married person who has watched a once oiled, perfectly shaped six pack turn into a well-rounded keg. Let’s face it, as we age, we all lose a bit of our appearance and that’s a difficult thing to discuss with an otherwise wonderful partner. Physical attraction is important, as is staying healthy.
Remember the paragraph in my last answer about sharing difficult feelings? The same applies here. If the reason for the weight gain is uncontrollable—accident, medical issue---then kid gloves are probably needed. If your husband is the great guy you say, then he’ll be receptive to you sharing your fears about his health and your desire to see him happy. Approaching it from that perspective rather then hitting him with, “You’re so fat that when we make love I have a hard time hearing the stereo” is probably a better way to get the result you want. If the weight gain is due to laziness, then that’s a health issue that needs to be addressed.
Here’s some other advice. I dated a woman years ago who was a college athlete and blew out her knee several years later while we were hiking. She had surgery and a great deal of pain. Although she didn’t let herself go, the stress and inactivity took a toll and she gained about 25 pounds on a 5’4” frame. If I admit it, I’d have to say that I found her considerably less attractive physically and the stress she felt because of the weight gain made her a lot less tolerable to be around. In short, she was a chubby pain in the ass.
Knowing she was competitive and extremely athletic, I suggested we train for a triathlon in Austin that was about 6 months down the road. I went online for training schedules and bought a book and a CD-Rom where we could get tips and record our results. We started slow and often argued, but we both ended up getting in great shape and doing the triathlon. In fact, it was my first one. She lost the weight (and then some) and we were able to spend a lot of time together when training.
Find something that you can do together in order to help him lose the weight. Set realistic goals and support him by helping him. Rewards are important and I’ll let you decide what those should be. My suggestions would likely get this blog censored via your office’s IT Department. It’s a lot easier to accomplish something if a person has a support system. Be that support system, talk to him about the weight gain, and then join him in reaching his goal. If you’re not willing to do any of those for him, then I suppose his lack of interest in his physical appearance might just have been explained. Good luck.
WHAT ARE RED FLAGS THAT WOMEN TYPICALLY OVERLOOK OR RATIONALIZE AWAY?
Wow, no one is throwing any softballs at me this week. You’re making me work after a long weekend in Vegas. Here’s my best answer.
All unsuccessful relationships are frustrating. If I had to guess, I’d bet that the person who sent this question has had a series of unsuccessful relationships and is now at the point of being frustrated with all men to the extent that she believes she can seek an honest response from a guy like me in order to have a hard and fast rule to generally assess all men she’ll date in the future with the hopes of weeding out the jerks and finding Prince Charming.
Incidentally, if you haven’t watched Snow White in a while, pop it in or see what you can find on YouTube. Prince Charming looks like a gay flamenco dancer when he shows up at the end to kiss a catatonic waif who’s been known to cavort with seven male dwarves. Annyyhoo. . ., back to the question at hand.
Here’s the answer: While there is no general answer to the “red flag” issue I’d be willing to bet that we all know what they are. Like a woman’s daddy issues, men are susceptible to a series of pitfalls that make relationships with them difficult. Men are often unemotional and have a difficult time with feelings, for instance. If those things are too out of whack, he’ll be distant and inattentive and you’ll feel lonely and insignificant.
Here’s the big “however.” However, I think the mistake many women make is that they have “a type.” They have an idea of the kind of man they want to be with and they search high and low often ignoring huge exceptions to their own standards in the name of hooking the fish they want.
I’d be willing to bet that he person who sent this can find the exact same flaws in all of the people she’s unsuccessfully dated over her entire life. The “red flag,” in short, is your own inability to move beyond men with incompatible or unhealthy characteristics and find a man who has what you truly need. Breaking that cycle and choosing what’s healthy for you is a difficult, humbling thing to do, but if you don’t do it you’re going to pick the same guy over and over . . . and over.
Figure out what’s broken by searching for the pattern. You’ll be surprised how quickly one materializes. Realize that the poor choices stem not from “ignoring” red flags but from your own inability to set a standard and stick to it. Realize that there is no “right” and “wrong” but only what makes you fulfilled. If you’re needy, find someone who will cater to that characteristic. If you’re fiercely independent, then find someone who is also. It’s about meshing your own strengths and flaws with another person’s strengths and flaws rather than ignoring your own needs for the sake of a relationship. Oh, and don’t be afraid to dump a guy early if after a reasonable chance he isn’t what you need. Work on yourself and you’ll find that you attract fewer red flags.
MEN I DATE LOSE INTEREST AFTER “THE CHASE” PHASE. WHY? IS IT ALL ABOUT THE CHASE?
Yes and no. Again, the paragraph above is probably a good place to start. Of course the initial phase of any relationship is exciting. We grin when the phone rings, laugh a bit too hard at his text haiku, and annoy the hell out of our friends at the wine bar by regaling them with stories of our new man’s wonderfulness. We’ve all been there.
Incidentally, with respect to the cheating question above, it is usually during this phase of the relationship that a man feels most like The Man. You pay attention to us, unconditionally accept us, allow us to take care of things, accept our wardrobes, and never complain about the condition of our living rooms. Once you settle us down and start nesting, things can change quickly. Keeping that respect we’re shown from you during the “Chase Phase” alive is a key to long term success. No man wants his testicles cut off and placed carefully in your clutch purse where they reside for months at a time only to be set out for a limited viewing time to time like the Shroud of Turin.
A man in search of a committed relationship will not lose interest if he’s allowed to progress at his own pace. Perhaps the person who sent this is seeking a big commitment too quickly or trying to “fix” the man she dates. A man dates a woman with the expectation that she won’t change. A woman often dates a man with the expectation that he will. Again, what I see in this question is a pattern, rather than an example of one guy who lost interest. If there is a pattern you need to ask yourself what you are doing to contribute to that pattern. After all, barring the fact that you’re not dating the entire NFL like a Kardashian sister, the only common denominator that all of the men you date share is YOU. Perhaps looking in the mirror first would yield the most constructive answer.
I THINK MY BOYFRIEND MIGHT BE GAY OR BISEXUAL BUT I’M AFRAID TO ASK HIM. WHAT SHOULD I DO?
Put on a Streisand album and see if he knows the words. Alright, that’s a joke.
Holy sh*t. What happened to questions about my anatomy? Here are my thoughts on this one. Oh, and I assume something bigger than the fact that he loves Maroon 5 and sips sangria at the sports bar is contributing to your suspicions.
I suppose this one might be in line with the Red Flag question above; however, it sounds like we may have a Pink Flag issue here. My general sense of this one from personal experience—we all know one couple like this—is that it’s patently obvious to everyone around when a man has a “beard.”
It’s often the man himself who is struggling either with his own definition of his sexual identity or with some other outside expectation of that identity. Rather than sit down and tell mom and dad he’s gay, he’ll get date women or even get married. It’s usually something in his background that contributes to denial that deep. If you know him well, the signs will be there. Be mindful that sexual identity issues run as deep as any issue and if not handled properly can literally ruin a person’s life. After your conversation, perhaps some professional help would be well worth seeking depending on the answer.
We can all say what we want about sexuality, but your boyfriend is a human being, which means that he has feelings, vulnerabilities, and flaws like all of us. If he’s not gay or bisexual but simply feminine or androgynous, then it’s an injustice to him as a person and as someone who is currently investing time in a relationship with you for you not to address the issue. If he is truly gay or bisexual then it’s an injustice to you as a person and someone currently investing time in a relationship with him for him not to address the issue. That’s a difficult conversation to have, but you need to have it. Good luck.
HOW CAN I GET MY BOYFRIEND TO LISTEN TO ME?
Wow. Who sent this, Hedda Gabler (Google it)?
Look, I’ll make this short and sweet, but I’ll answer it like a lawyer. It depends on what you mean by “listen.” If, for instance, you mean that your boyfriend has a poor habit of playing golf with his buddies or texting away on his iPhone while you’re trying to share your deepest, most intimate feelings with him, then try getting him in a setting with no distractions at a time when he will not feel the pressure of a deadline or some other obligation in his life. Tell him in a non-confrontational, sincere way that it’s important to you that he addresses the issue because it’s contributing to some real problems with your feelings for him. He will either choose to act or he won’t.
Incidentally, if you can put your issue into terms that he’ll relate to by way of analogy a non-listener will often get the point. If he likes football, tell him that it’s fourth down and he’ll need a Hail Mary to get the win. You get the picture. Make it simple. Guys who have trouble with feelings and listening don’t like to feel backed into a corner. Put it into language he’ll understand and you’ll get a better result.
Important point: Listening, like being on time or having a sense of direction, is not always a choice. Listening is a skill that can be sharpened and even faked, but what you’re probably seeking from him is more akin to empathy rather than the actual act of hearing what you say. You want a result when you speak, not just a nod of the head or even an acknowledgment of what you said.
Understand that true empathy is like a sense of humor or the ability to sing: you’re either born with it or you aren’t. Again, empathy exists to an extent in us all, but some people just don’t have it in the quantities necessary for it to be evident without significant effort. For example, I can run but if someone asked me to run 100 meters in 9 seconds it would be physically impossible for me to do so.
In short, you can ask your boyfriend to be a good listener but he might not be able to listen for 100 meters. If that’s the case and he’s willing to try then you’ll have to accept what he’s willing to give as long has he’s trying his best. You too, after all, have limitations. If being a good listener is a must have and he doesn’t have it, then you have to either accept it or—more likely—have the courage to walk away.
If by “listen” you mean “obey,” then good luck with that. If you solve that problem, you’re likely to get a primetime slot on the OWN network. You can’t force someone to obey you and expect a good result. Open a history book and you’ll see that a lot of people who were once considered kings and queens lost their heads for the very same thing.
HOW DO YOU GET A MAN TO COMMIT LONG TERM?
Another question from an Ibsen fan. Good Lord. The short answer is that you can’t “get” a man to do anything. Hatching a plan to get engaged is a bad idea. Attempting to force another person—male or female—into any situation breeds resentment and is certain to end up poorly.
The best you can do is to share your desire to be in a long term relationship with the man you’re interested in having as your partner. Be clear and make sure he understands that you do not want to simply date casually and that you expect him to respect you enough to tell you if his expectations are not the same. Men are no more commitment or marriage averse than women are; they just don’t like to be told when those things are going to happen. However, if you tell him your expectations without demanding an instant result, then the metaphorical ball is in his court.
Now here’s the rub.
The mistake that women make after having the wherewithal to have the above conversation with the man they want to marry is that the above conversation has no consequences attached. I’m not suggesting ultimatums or deadlines. That’s the last thing that needs to happen. He’ll run away faster than O.J. from a murder scene.
However, AND LISTEN TO ME HERE LADIES—if you are not getting the result you want in a relationship and you’ve done everything within your power to communicate what it is that you need in order to feel fulfilled within that relationship then it’s your own fault if you do not walk away from that relationship.
Simply choosing to exist in a bad relationship where you’re not working together to accomplish a common goal—whatever that goal is--is tantamount to beating your head into a wall. It’s like wearing the wrong sized bra. If the relationship is unhealthy, then try your best to communicate why it’s not working for you to the other person in that relationship. If you don’t share a common goal (marriage) and you want to share that goal, then tell him without demanding it happen and, again, if he’s not on board, it’s difficult decision time.
Well, there it is. That’s my best advice. Although the subject matter was pretty heavy this week, I do appreciate the questions and the comments. I suppose it’s fun to get a new perspective. Thanks again for tuning in this week. I’ve got a good idea for next week’s post and I’ll try and make that as funny as I can in light of the ominous tone of this week’s post. Take care of yourselves and I’ll see you next week. In the meantime, if you need me, I’ll be working on my feelings. DP