Should You Ever Call a Guy? Why “The Rules” Aren’t Meant to Be Followed.


A former client emailed me yesterday to say that he’s planning on getting engaged. With his note, he sent a link to this article, from the New York Times’ Modern Love series. The gist of it, if you’re impatient, is that the author got so caught up in playing by “The Rules” but found it all to be a bit inauthentic for her tastes. It wasn’t until she started taking control of her love life that she actually found true love.

It’s a cute piece, and I linked to it on Facebook (become my friend!) to get the reactions of some friends. Reliable reader Cheri wrote this on my Facebook page in response:

Ok while I understand “The Rules” are a bunch of folly, the article flies in the face of your advice that tells women to sit back and see what he does; if we like it stay, if we don’t go. So how to resolved the two?

Great question, Cheri – and suitable fodder for my blog. In short, The Rules is a good concept, taken too far. Your goal is not to feign permanent indifference and make him beg for you – lots of good guys won’t be up for begging. Your goal is to assess how serious he is about you by allowing him to make an effort on his own accord.

So while I wouldn’t advocate the exact regimen of the author – phoning him regularly, for example, isn’t a recommended move – the spirit of her article is correct.

The easiest way to do this is by mirroring – giving back the same effort you get from him. That way, you never put yourself out there to “chase”: no “miss u” texts or “when are we getting together?” phone calls. You just allow him to reveal himself to you with his actions.

Sure, you can go out to a bar and smile at a cute guy to get him to approach you. You can write a flirty confident first email that lets him know that it’s HIS lucky day if he writes back. This isn’t needy – this isn’t Sadie Hawkins – this is getting you in the game.

But after that, it’s ALL up to him. Your best move is to sit back and let him win you over.

If he doesn’t try hard enough or consistently enough, it’s pretty obvious what you should do next.

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  1. 31
    Evan Marc Katz

    It’s not a matter of “flawed”. Fact is, if you’re doing something that 90% of other people find irritating, it’s probably wise to learn about it.

  2. 32

    My point was that women tend to overly blame ourselves for things, I think more than men do, and we’re more open to working on ourselves. While it might be the women’s fault in some cases, it probably has more to do with the guy’s perspective and what he’s looking for. And it works the other way around as well.

    I dated this guy once who pulled the disappearing act, only to find out afterwards through mutual friends that this was a pattern with HIM.

    the bottom line is that if someone goes MIA, move on.

  3. 33


    I dated this guy I met through his best friend – who called him “Flake”. After 3 weeks of things seemingly going well, he disappeared without a trace. Can’t say I wasn’t warned. LOL. Oh well, – better 3 weeks than 3 months I suppose.

  4. 34
    Isabelle Archer

    I agree with Evan’s advice that after initially getting things rolling “it’s ALL up to him. Your best move is to sit back and let him win you over. If he doesn’t try hard enough or consistently enough, it’s pretty obvious what you should do next.” But the “let him win you over” phase cannot last that long — at some point, a girl has to have some confidence and security that the relationship is underway and now it’s a game of equals, with equal effort being made. In all my relationships, it hasn’t taken more than a few weeks to get to that point. You just *know* when he’s into you — and then you can call whenever you want.

  5. 35


    You’re right, better 3 weeks. I like your attitude.

    Feeback is helpful (like finding out that 3 gys you dated didn’t like how you spoke to the waiter while you special-ordered your food), but at some point you can’t go around trying to please everyone (he’s looking for a foodie and you only enjoy salads).

  6. 36

    I agree with Nick #5. Are there really guys sitting around saying that they met a great woman, and they had or have a wonderful time with her, and she is smart, attractive, etc., but then she CALLED him, and now he doesn’t want to see her anymore? I highly doubt it. I think you need to be yourself and follow your instincts.

  7. 37

    I don’t ever call my boyfriend. He calls me (every night, when we’re doing LDR), and i don’t think he’d have it any other way. It makes him feel like a man, I suspect. It’s interesting because I pursued him more than he pursued me early on. Now he’s doing his thing. 🙂

    The Rules has to be modified to the type of guy you’re dealing with. I think they are the least effective with shy, less emotionally mature guys, who are lacking a bit in the confidence department. Being super sweet and attentive without acting desperate or needy towards the kind of guy has worked well for me.

  8. 38

    It’s a miracle anyone gets involved at this rate.  How depressing. 

  9. 39

    #34, Right on Isabelle!  I agree wholeheartedly with your complete post and Evan’s orignal response.  There is a tempo and timing to relationships.

    There’s male energy which is DOING, learning forward, then there’s female energy which is FEELING. If the woman is doing by calling, she’s being the boy energy by doing. 

    Then there’s the whole ‘chase’ thing men seem to love :).  If a woman has her own life, her own interests and her own friends, she’s off doing her thing and he needs to make her interested enough to spend time with him.  If she’s calling him right up front, takes away that aspect as well.

    Not to mention that I like when a man calls me, it boosts my femininity.  I live by “His job is to pursue, my job it to be receptive to that pursuit”.

    I know others will disagree, but after life experience where I initiated the relationship with my ex husband, and I look back and see why that wasn’t to my benefit in multiple ways.

  10. 40

    I dont know if I I should because I don’t wanna be naggy

  11. 41

    With all due respect, I completely disagree that a woman should “get the ball rolling”. I tried to do that many times when I was in my early twenties. I would ask guys out (never worked), try to get mutual friends of my crushes to arrange group dates (never worked), memorize coworkers’ schedules so I could arrange to “run into” them, hoping to get them to go to lunch (never worked), give random guys my phone number if I thought they were cute (Never. Worked). You get my drift? None of these actions ever resulted in dates. All that happened was that I would cry myself to sleep at night wondering why in God’s name I couldn’t attract any of the men I liked. I constantly wondered what was so wrong with me that they weren’t interested. I made a fool of myself chasing guys but never will I EVER make those same mistakes again. I’m now in my thirties and have been online dating for the past 10 months. I’ve been sticking like glue to The Rules and while nothing’s panned out for me yet as far as having a relationship, I know with certainty that it isn’t because I’m doing anything wrong. I feel so much more confident and better about myself now than I have in years because I am trusting in this process. I’ve already seen results because of it and will continue to use this approach because IT WORKS. If anything, doing The Rules has made me much calmer and less desperate than I otherwise would be. I know that the right man for me will come along soon. As long as I do everything I need to in order to make myself available to him, that’s all I need to worry about.

  12. 42

    I met this guy recently and we went out on a couple of dates,but lately it seems like he is not trying to go out of his way to talk to me.I mean,I don’t expect him to call me and text me everyday,but it would be nice if he initiated a phone conversation or text message with me at least once every few days,so we can get to know each other better.I met him about two weeks ago,and so far I texted him a few times and called him once.He said that he enjoyed our two dates, and he did talk with me for a while,after I called him,and he replied back to my text,but I just want him to call me or ask me out again,so I get to know him better.Thanks for writing this article,because I was just thinking about calling him again,but I looked for advice online,because the last guy I dated went MIA,after only a few dates.I know now that it is because I was pursuing him instead of letting him pursue me,because I was so hung up on getting a boyfriend and fast. I really think that dating is easier for women(unlike me) who had fathers in their lives to help them with the dating process. Thank you to everyone who wrote comments!!!! I read some of them and decided that I will not call or text him until after he calls or txt me again, and if he doesn’t, that must mean he is not interested in me anymore and that I need to move on.It can be so hard for many of us women to go on dates and think that it might lead to a relationship,and then suddenly you’re left wondering why he isn’t pursuing you much anymore.Now I know that the article is so right about how it said that men don’t like to rush into a relationship,so all of us women just need to be very very patient.

  13. 43

    From reading these recent posts, I have three words to respond to each one:  THINK ABOUT IT.  What didn’t work out for one may work out for someone else, or vice versa.  So, if “The Rules” did work out for you, great.  If it didn’t, well, just realize that God made you uniquely different, and to be honest, I would just let nature take its course when it comes to dating and relationships.  Some don’t even date randomly–like me!–because it is a wracking waste of time (a little sarcasm here, but you see my point).  Furthermore, I have a reason which is between me and God, and I rather wait on God to bring the right one and I together.  From then, I will make sure I do my part.  I have been through too many oddities of so-called relationships, crushes, and encounters to learn this valuable lesson.  So this is my aha moment in a nutshell; hopefully, everyone will see this as well…

  14. 44

    The guitarist of the band I saw with a friend pursued me after the last set.  He had me put my number in his phone and then told me to call myself so I’d have his number.  When we’re leaving he said to give him a call.  I said no, he should call me.  Nothing yet, but it’s only been two days.  
    Reading these comments has helped me realize something.  If I wait for him to call, it’s because he is interested in me.  If he doesn’t call, well maybe he isn’t.  But if I make first contact, he may act pleased, or even ask me out, because he feels ‘obligated’.   Besides, I would have a phone conversation to pick apart; one that I initiated.  My having made the that first call would underscore every interaction.  

    1. 44.1

      You’re exactly right: “My having made the first call would underscore every action”.
      That’s exactly what The Rules authors are saying. If you were to call him (or email him, or text him) first, you might be starting a relationship or interaction which was never meant to be, and consequently would only end up wasting your time and possibly getting your heart broken. All because you made the first move. And yes, I consider emailing first to be making the first move. He might respond favorably at first, and be interested for a while. You might even get a relationship out of it for a while. But what if he just responded because he’s bored and hasn’t come across anyone he’s really liked in a while? He might just choose to bide his time with you until someone he really likes comes along. Sure, maybe he’s not consciously thinking, “Hehe, I’ll just see if I can get somewhere with this chick until the girl I really want appears”. I don’t think men are that calculating, on the whole. But he might just be bored, or frustrated with the dating process and think, hey, she’s cute and she likes me so I’ll just hook up with her. You’re smart to hold out for a guy who really likes you, because the guy who really wants you will show it. He won’t put you on his list of 100 favorites and then never contact you because you’re number 99. He won’t wait for you to call or text first, he’ll beat you to it. If you are number one to a guy, you’ll know it.

      1. 44.1.1

        The person to say, “hi,” first, made the first move….

  15. 45

    Hmmm…somewhat disagree…I think both parties should make equal effort. If a guy was just sitting there waiting for me to make the first move all the time I’d get sick of him and move on. Why would a man feel any differently to how I do? You have to show some interest, for God’s sake.

    I think the “real rules” are actually very simple. Treat a prospective date the exact same way as you would treat a prospective friend. If you want to hang out with them, ask them to meet you. It’s up to them to say yes or no. If you find that you’re always the person asking, walk away. 

    My male friends have exactly the same complaint about women every time – that they don’t make any moves and this makes the man feel that they are disinterested. If you met a new friend you wouldn’t sit around waiting for them to contact you, you’d just contact them without thinking about it. Dating is just socialising, it’s the same concept, and it won’t be enjoyable for anybody if you get hung up on rules. 

  16. 46

    Ladies, I feel the need to contribute just because i think you all have so many misconseptions about men,

    I know the rules are for women, but has anyone here stopped to think about what it’s like for the man in such a situation?  You can never really tell if a (rules) girl is interested so you never let yourself get emotionally invested.  In the back of your mind you know she could dump you anytime for someone else.  Contrary to popular belief most guys don’t like the ‘chase’ at all.  Its been a long time since I’ve dated, but pursuing women never got me anywhere.  When I did, once, I just came across a needy and undesirable.  Not just to her, but the rest of my social circle.   If a girl never initiated anything I’d assume, correctly I think, that she wasn’t interested.  The male version of “she’s not into you”.

     All my long term relationships, including my current marriage to my beautiful wife, were initiated by women.  They were close friends who went out on a limb and said something to me.  I suspect this is the case with most relationships between mature adults nowadays..  Another big issue is that most men do not want to come off as creepy, especially around women they already now, so don’t expect guys to initiate anything something that could be perceived as unwelcome and inappropriate.

    1. 46.1

      …you got lucky…

    2. 46.2

      nice to know…and refreshing to hear

  17. 47

    Why do people leave such lengthy, debate-y replies? I don’t get it. Evan, your advice is crystal clear. I read your blog when I’m um-ing and ah-ing over what to do in a situation or when I don’t want to hear/acknowledge the truth. You give it to us without any BS. Pretty hard to miss the point! Maybe not everyone wants that, but I just wanted to say thank you for your tough love. It’s just what I need.

    I also listened to your TED talk over the weekend explaining the 2/2/2 rule. Awesome!

    Never give up your no-nonsense approach to this subject. Love can make us blind and deaf – you are our guide dog! Thank you

    1. 47.1

      marika, you didn’t know it takes a woman two paragraphs or more to say what she wants to say, when, a man can say the same in two sentences?……

  18. 48

    I am a man, and women should ALWAYS call a guy if they are truly interested. I’m tired if women who show an initial interest, and I pursue them, and there’s no response back, ever. Personally, after 2-3 weeks, if I’ve done all the calling, and she still doesn’t show the effort to reach out to me, she’s going to get blown off, period. Guys don’t like to be ignored either.

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