Dating Advice That Might Make You Mad

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I was going to post this in the comments for my last blog, but felt it was worth its own post. It’s in response to another ad nauseum debate between two camps on this blog:

Women who think that everything is someone else’s fault and that everyone else should change. And women who understand that you can’t control anyone else’s behavior, all you can do is adjust to the world as it is.

Suggesting that all of you don’t value yourselves because you’re asking for dating advice? Suggesting that if you are happy with yourself, your romantic relationships should just fall into place?

A reader wrote:

If a woman values herself she doesn’t need a man—hence she doesn’t need a matchmaker or dating advice.

If a woman is happy in herself she doesn’t need a man—and her relationship decisions spring organically from who she is at her best.

And then all of her relationships—with her lover or husband, her friends, her kids, her coworkers, whomever—will just fall into place.

As a dating coach, this set me off. A regular reader is insulting all of my other regular readers?

Suggesting that all of you don’t value yourselves because you’re asking for dating advice? Suggesting that if you are happy with yourself, your romantic relationships should just fall into place?

I’m sorry, but my entire CAREER is proof that this is not true.

My clients are amazing. Smart, strong, successful, happy, confident. Relationship-oriented. Content being alone; would prefer to find a partner. Know that something’s not working. Want to learn what they can do differently. Reach out for my help in this most important of arenas.

How can you say that there’s something wrong with these folks?

Good, smart, self-aware people with high self-esteem can want a relationship and seek dating advice. That’s why I have a job, as do dozens of other dating coaches and matchmakers, many of whom are my good friends. If you think we’re preying on the weak, you don’t really understand what I do here. I’m not sure why I care about this, but I’m always baffled when people take offense to my reality-based dating coaching.

I realized recently that, as much as I write about dating and relationships, I’m not really expressing my opinions on how the world should be. I’m issuing my observations about how it IS.

It would be great if the hottest, youngest women on Match.com weren’t so self-centered and flaky. But they are. It would be amazing if short, fat, balding men with no money could have an equal shot at dating one of these women. In my experience, they don’t. I could spend all my time trying to change hot, young women into mature, soulful, generous and empathetic adults, but I’m powerless to do so. I could spend all my time railing against them for being judgmental about men’s looks and wallets, but I don’t.

I simply point out what I see.

So, if you, as a reader, feel personally indicted by anything I write, do me a favor:

Ask yourself exactly why you’re getting angry.

Chances are it’s not because I’ve lied or said something that’s factually untrue. It’s probably because I’ve pointed out some way in which the world works that you don’t like. Yet I don’t see what there is to get mad about.

I simply point out what I see. So, if you, as a reader, feel personally indicted by anything I write, do me a favor:Ask yourself exactly why you’re getting angry.

Observation: Men won’t always call after sex.

What You Can Learn From This: Don’t be surprised if 50% of guys don’t follow up. Stop sleeping with men if you can’t handle the consequences. That’s all you can control.

What You Yell at Me For: Men have no integrity. What’s wrong with them? Sex means something to me and it should mean something to him. Tell men to change because it’s really not cool to sleep with someone and not call her again. Men suck and you shouldn’t defend them for sucking. You should make them not suck.

Observation: Men don’t respond to women who are critical and boss them around.

What You Can Learn From This: The things that make you successful at work aren’t always effective in love. Alpha males usually don’t want alpha females. You get more with honey than you do with vinegar. Men like a soft place to land when they get home from work.

What You Yell at Me For: That’s not fair! Why do women have to change? What’s wrong with society? I’d rather be alone than be with a man who can’t take the fact that I’m strong and have strong opinions. I’m not somebody’s Stepford Wife. Why are men so intimidated by me? Men need to learn to change with the times because I’m not going to be subservient to a man. I’m not changing for anyone.

Observation: Men aren’t always commitment-minded

What You Can Learn From This: Men reveal themselves in their efforts. They don’t always know where a relationship is headed. You have to be patient and allow him to choose you. Trying to define your future too soon will invariably backfire since men don’t like receiving pressure. It only makes you look weak and doesn’t make him want to commit to you. Commitment is a great goal, but men like to buy – they don’t want to be sold.

What You Yell at Me For: I don’t want to waste my time on a man who isn’t marriage minded. He should know after 3 dates if he wants to be my boyfriend. He should know after 6 months if he wants to marry me. And I have a right to learn this information as soon as possible. If he doesn’t like the fact that I’m asking about “us” too early, he’s not the guy for me. Why are no guys sticking around?

The simple fact is that all of the free advice I dole out on this blog is simply observations about male behavior. I don’t endorse or condone it. I observe it.

We can go on and on with this, but the simple fact is that all of the free advice I dole out on this blog is simply observations about male behavior. I don’t endorse or condone it. I observe it. Yet all of the things about which we argue are things that you CAN’T CHANGE.

Don’t forget: I am a dating coach for smart, strong, successful women – most of whom are 35-55 and are serious about finding love.

The ones who do are the ones who are open to changing. The ones who don’t are the ones who complain that life is unfair.

Which one are you going to be?

Join our conversation (122 Comments).
Click Here To Leave Your Comment Below.

Comments:

  1. 41
    Evan Marc Katz

    Isabelle,

    I talk about what many men want. If you, like Amy, choose to ignore it because “you don’t do that”, it’s perfectly respectable. It just means there will be a smaller pool of potential dates. Remember, we’re not talking right vs. wrong. We’re talking effective vs. ineffective. The man who has a beer gut, puts football over romance, and puts “honesty” over kindness will not do well with women. He is not wrong for prioritizing these things; he is just ineffective in understanding what women want.

    Read Amy’s letter again. Ask yourself, “If I were a guy, would I want to date her? What am I getting out of this relationship?”

    I think you’ll see my point.

  2. 42
    Sayanta

    Amy-

    Actually, kind of in sync with Evan’s response- I’m curious as well. I’ve asked before- why DO you read this blog if you’ve already made the decision that men are too much bother and you want to live alone?

  3. 43
    amy

    Evan, you’re missing the point. There’s no heckling going on here. Thicken up the skin and listen again, because I’m telling you about something real that happens to women who live by the advice you’re giving.

    I’m sure your wife has self-respect in spades. Self-respect, though, is not what this story’s about. It’s about the respect granted by the rest of the world, and the status, money, and power that travel with it. You guys, as I recall, don’t have kids yet. When you do, the odds are tremendous that she will be the one to do the bulk of the childcare. And with that will go many other things, and a significant shift in the sexual politics in your household. Because when one takes care of the kids, it’s not just about the kids. It’s about family. So here’s how it’ll probably go, if your family is like most dual-income families after kids:

    She’ll be the one taking care of family and home, and that’ll have real costs in terms of time, freedom, and how she’s regarded by others. Yes, I’m sure you’ll do some. But it’ll be her bag, which you’ll defend by saying it’s what she wants, and she’ll be the one scrambling to make arrangements when you both have somewhere else to be.

    You won’t notice what there is to do at home, because you won’t regard that kind of noticing as necessary, although if it were necessary for paid work, you’d do it. So she’ll take on the manager job, too; she’ll do the work of spelling it out and asking you to do some of it, and following up and making the saves without appearing to manage or criticize. If she follows your advice, she’ll refrain from criticism, nagging, all the rest. She’ll just suck it up. And then you’ll talk about how you share the parenting work equally, which will be far from true.

    Her new extra work will take time — a surprising amount of it — and for a while she’ll twist and turn and try to make it all fit. You, trying to help her, will say, “Babe, relax, you don’t have to make that much, I got it covered.” And she will essentially mommy-track herself at work, if she doesn’t give it up completely. Respect from others and money, including her retirement and security should something happen to your marriage, will take a hit. You won’t see this; you’ll claim that people respect her as a mother. Unfortunately, in the scheme of things, mothers don’t get a lot of respect. And yes, it’s a subject that’s studied. Mothers are viewed as being about as capable as the mentally retarded, overall. Her status will rely on yours, and if you divorce, it’ll drop precipitously.

    Anyway. As soon as she lets go of the bucks, doing things “just for herself” becomes expensive. How can she justify childcare or cleaning services when she’s not bringing in the money? Isn’t that selfish? You’re working, and she’s getting a massage or learning Swedish? So maybe she won’t follow this interest or that. Your leisure, on the other hand, will become important, because you have to be rested so you can bring home the bacon. Yes, she’ll be overworked, but she won’t complain to you, if she’s following your advice.

    This is why, in general, men are more happily married than women are. Marriage costs women more, particularly if they’re well-educated and have talents and interests beyond family. Now, if taking care of a family is your calling and you’ve got nothing else on the line, tremendous. But it’ll run you big otherwise.

    Nor is this about “being right”. It’s about being oneself and maintaining the freedom and power to do one’s own work, live one’s own life, and retire without relying on someone else’s income. I do not think you recognize that the little shifts and tweaks you recommend lead somewhere for women, and not just to dates and marriage. That’s why I suggest that, instead of reacting defensively to what I’m saying, you open yourself to the experiences of long-married women, particularly women who are “smart and successful”, and women who divorce after long marriages. You’ll have to listen carefully. They’ve got great training in being the soft shoulder, in not criticizing, in being positive, in all the rest. But if you listen and are patient, and don’t go in with the intent of proving yourself right, eventually they may tell you what they paid for a happy marriage. Some will be sincerely happy they made the trade. But others, if they had it to over, would not. For more or less the reasons I’ve laid out here.

    The take-home: You endorse taking men as they are and meeting them there, which I applaud. Unfortunately, doing that also means recognizing that if you marry them, they won’t do much of the family and home work. You, the woman, will. And over decades, it’ll run ya big — big enough that it’s worth listening to the experiences of older women and looking at the numbers before you jump in. That’s the part I’d say you’re neglecting to think about.

    I will also thank you not to call my grandma “miserable”. But marriage and the kind of behavior you endorse cost her a great deal of herself. It was really just little things, little changes, daily. It added up to something considerable, though, over 50 years.

  4. 44
    Lee

    I am so glad I didn’t bother wasting my time giving a real life example. Please refer to Amy #33 who was kind enough to do so for me.

    “So someone who sees things differently than Evan is plagued by inner demons?”

    Uh, no. Re-read my post. The whole thing, not just the one line. #23

    PERFECT example of someone running something through her own warped filter and coming out with something totally different than was obviously intended.

    Amy, let me share with you MY difference of opinion with you.
    If you are happy, great, because I don’t really care what you do. But where I come from, and based on my values, being tactless, self absorbed, and unkempt are not things you brag about, or apparently in your case, espouse as a lifestyle that women should strive for.

  5. 45
    isabelle_archer

    “Read Amy’s letter again. Ask yourself, If I were a guy, would I want to date her? What am I getting out of this relationship? ”

    HA!! the answer is yes! Amy kind of sounds like my perfect guy. What do you say, Amy?

  6. 46
    isabelle_archer

    Also, Evan, I wonder why you think your advice has to be grounded in a single, universal concept of men to be effective. Why can’t it also be about being sensitive to what individuals like, and how they’re individually reacting? I agree that you can’t control others behaviors, but it seems to me that it’s an equally big problem if you pre-judge people based on rigid notions of what they’re like rather than looking for actual evidence about how they’re acting.

    My big example of this is being a girly-girl. I have it on excellent authority that many men (in fact all of the men I’ve loved) affirmatively don’t like girly girls. And I attract those men, because I act like myself instead of something I’m not. It works out best for all involved. If I operated from the rigid belief that all men want me to wear heels … I would be attracting the men who like heels, instead of the ones who don’t. Then I would be left with a bad relationship…and bunions.

  7. 47
    Donna

    Paul or Evan,

    What is the date of the letter/posting that Paul in #9 referred to? I’d like to read that. Couldn’t find it doing a search. Thanks!

  8. 48
    Ruby

    Compromise should work both ways. In general, I think women bend over backwards to accommodate men. We’re taught to do that. Look at all the women who write in about men they are dating who refuse to compromise, who won’t spend more time with them, who string them along, who are commitment-phobic, who behave disrespectfully towards them.

    It seems to me that so many men feel a sense of entitlement. It’s another mixed message for women. We’re told that if he doesn’t treat you right, move on, but we’re also told that we’re going to have to do more to accommodate him, be more feminine, less pushy and demanding. Yes, most women DO want to be in relationships. Look at the success of books like The Rules and He’s Just Not That Into You, if you doubt that. But women are constantly told to walk a fine line between “playing it cool” and being assertive. Maybe for someone like Amy, she’d rather not have to navigate that particular minefield anymore.

    I know, men have challenges too. Men do get mixed messages also, but I think there is still a sense that the woman will be the one to acquiesce, while the man keeps control. How many relationship books are out there for men? The dating advice for men is often radically different. For example, I just read an email from a popular dating adviser for men. In it, he tells men not to take a woman out for dinner or to a movie in the beginning. A man should take her out for a cup of tea, and split the check! He shouldn’t try to hard to impress her because that makes him look too needy. Again, it’s about the man staying in control. (Evan’s advice to a man in the early stages of dating would be quite the opposite, I think).

    Certainly, I think that if you’re not girly-girl you can find a man who loves a tomboy. Being successful at dating involves finding someone who loves you for who you are. It may not be the norm, but we don’t all want that. (Evan has often talked about how he married a woman who wasn’t everything he thought he wanted).

    I think some of us women are a little tired of being told that we have to compromise, and twist ourselves into pretzels to get the guy, not in small ways, but in ways that compromise our identity and integrity.

  9. 49
    Honey

    I am picking up what you are putting down, Amy 🙂

    It is why I kept searching until I found a guy who (among other things) is an atheist who doesn’t want kids and isn’t close with his family. I don’t have time for god, babies, or someone else’s relatives – I barely talk to mine.

    We’ve been blissfully happy for 3.5 years now, largely because we didn’t have to give up the things that were most important to us. There was definitely an element of luck, because we’re both so unusual in our values that the odds of us finding each other are fractional, percentage-wise. But I think both of us would have kept looking had we not found each other when we did, rather than give up on the beliefs outlined above. And despite our many similarities, we have each sacrificed/compromised on huge, HUGE issues in order to remain together.

    Interestingly, the social (and potentially financial) consequences for NOT having kids are also significant for a woman, and arguably just as great:

    You’re not compassionate or trustworthy enough to hire.

    You’ll never be on the “mommy” track so you’re just as expensive as hiring a man, but you won’t do the work as well as a man would so why not just skip it all and hire the guy?

    No matter how many times you say you don’t want kids, no one believes you, so you get passed over for some of the better jobs because everyone assumes you’re just saying you don’t want kids to get in the door, and as soon as you’re hired you’ll have a baby and ruin everything.

    Even if you do get hired at an excellent job with a great salary, no one wants to be friends with you because you don’t share their values – you can’t even talk about how you don’t want kids because there’s no way to do it without insulting what is, for many people, the most important and rewarding decision that they’ve made in their lives.

    This is all a bit of an aside to romantic relationships, though it does demonstrate that the issue of how much you should “be yourself” and how much you should “sell yourself” is hardly confined to romantic relationships. Since we all have to sacrifice/compromise so much to live in the world anyway, though, the argument is there to be made that your romantic relationship should be the one place where you are sacrificing/compromising the least.

  10. 50
    amy

    🙂 Isabelle, coffee’s on me. Henry James doesn’t get enough love these days anyway.

    Evan, I don’t claim that all women want what I want. Never did. But that cost I’m talking about is real and well-discussed by many, many women, so it seems to me that something in the strategy doesn’t work so well long-term.

    As for who might want to date me, you’d be surprised, I think. I mean apart from the jerks just looking for a screw. (I’ve been surprised. I hadn’t thought a middle-aged single mom in a small town in the middle of nowhere would be of much interest.) On the whole, it’s very bright professional men — scholars, doctors, a lawyer, a rabbi (!). People who are well-established in their careers, starting to think about retirement, and looking most of all for a woman they can talk to and who’ll understand — emotionally, intellectually. Someone who maybe can say something they haven’t heard before, and who doesn’t want something from them, because if you’ve survived that long in the rat race, it’s nonstop; there are no conversations that aren’t about a quid pro quo. And that’s wearying & doesn’t leave you with the best taste in your mouth about humanity. At this late date, they appreciate the value of all this, esp if it comes with a sense of humor.

    It takes a little while for them to understand that I don’t want a husband, and that really does throw them. Some figure I’m holding out for more of something, and try to up the ante. Others take it personally at first, but eventually see where I’m coming from, and say they don’t blame me. But really, that’s where it ends — they’re smart enough to know they want wives who’ll take care of them, and they know they’re too old to waste time, so off they go. Pleasure knowing them, though, on the whole.

    Are these guys gorgeous? Oh, Christ, no. I’ll tell you, it’s all been downhill from my first college boyfriend, who looked like a model. You should see the teeth on the one I’ve been going to lunch with lately. You know, you head for 50, and gravity is winning. I don’t care how much you work out and what kind of dumb non-food you eat. (I do this P90X thing — these are, by the way, the best video workouts I’ve ever seen, and I say that as a former aerobics instructor & track girl — and that almost-50 Tony Horton guy is in hella fine shape, but my God, how much makeup is he wearing? And this is a guy who spends his whole life working out.) But so what? They look their age, I see nothing wrong with that. I look mine, stringy neck and all. A guy who’s big and fat, well, that by itself doesn’t bother me, but I’ve learned that unfortunately there are usually other problems, psychological problems, that go along with it, so I avoid. But a gut by itself — no, this doesn’t bother me.

    Incidentally, I notice a lot of married, blunt, football-watching guys with beer guts. And kids. About 10,000 of them descend on my town several weekends each fall. Somebody likes ’em.

    Sayanta, I’ve been reading/posting because I showed up here in a morose moment, read what there was, had something to say in return, and love a good debate on a subject I feel.

  11. 51
    Curly Girl

    Isabelle and Amy: Thank you so much. So very well said. And Honey, too.

    Yes, EMK, you might be surprised by how many men are interested in a woman who doesn’t follow the girly-girl rules of entrapment. And how fulfilling is the love between this kind of woman and the kind of man you never seem to describe.

  12. 52
    Sayanta

    Evan and Amy-

    You two shoulda been lawyers. I would pay to see you go at each other in a courtroom.

  13. 53
    Erika

    Amy, I think you are confusing behavior with personality. I do not think Evan is suggesting we change who we are. He is suggesting we change our behavior. He is not saying that we have to pretend to be someone else. He is saying that we have to change our behavior to get different results. I don’t think there’s anything so radical about that.
    There is a really intersting book on this subject called, “What Shamu Taught Me About Love, Life, and Marriage” by Amy Sutherland. You can read about it here:
    http://www.nytimes.com/2006/06/25/fashion/25love.html
    Have you ever been in a relationship with someone who constantly criticizes you? Or complains about all the things you’re not doing? And never praises you for the things you do do? Well, I have, and believe me, there’s no better demotivator than constant criticism. I had a boss who was never happy. Nothing was ever good enough. It was completely demoralizing. I quit that job after 6 months.

  14. 54
    Jennifer

    @Sayanta #18, gotta represent for LoA sometimes 🙂

    @Steve #14, excellent point; I totally get why it happens, still doesn’t strike me as the most reasonable/fruitful course of action though

  15. 55
    JerseyGirl

    Ruby,
    I absolutely loved your #49 post and can’t express enough how much I agree with EVERYTHING you said so articulatly becaue it just said everything I feel.
    Currently, I feel all twisted up on what is expected of me as a woman just to have some masculine companionship. I’m certainly not asking for perfection. But I would like a man who wants to put as much effort into a relationship that benefits us both hopefully.
    What am I suppose to get out of trying to make deeper connections with men when the advice given to me is, “suck it up. Men are selfish. Deal with it if you even wish to have any form of compaionship because men aren’t going to change and all the responsiblity is on you to be the more giving partner if you want any kind of male affection “. Men want this and they want that and you better be young and have a hot body while you do it. Otherwise, your less worthy of their time and affection. My head is in over-load on the expectations placed on me to fulfill his every whim and make consessions on my own natural needs as a woman.
    We are suppose to work so hard just to get some masculine companionship and in return we are told that men are selfish and that’s okay because that’s who men really are? I don’t even know what man would want men in general to be described that way. Last time I checked, being selfish wasn’t a a gender issue.
    I enjoy reading this blog but often the advice that is given, or at least how the advice comes off to me as a woman, is that I am suppose to make all these allowances about what a man *needs* or what makes up a man and I am not allowed that same. My needs are secondary. He can be selfish and I need to be giving, warm , bubbly and hot all at the same time.
    And this isn’t meant as a slight against Evan. But all too often the advice given here on this subject is that men are allowed to do anything they want because they aren’t going to change and women need to be quite and accept it and do a little pandering to men and STILL feel warm, loving and motivated to be with them. His needs are more important.
    I think it does a huge disservice to wrap men up in negative traits but then expect women to feel motivated to want to cater to those traits. For one thing, you are telling men that they aren’t that good to begin with and are the sum of their more selfish and negative desires. And two, women should cater to these negative desires because men can’t be any better…the message is all very confusing and not complementary to men or women.

  16. 56
    Sayanta

    Jersey Girl-

    You said it way better than I did- your last paragraph is pretty close to what I was trying to get at in my former rambling post.

  17. 57
    JerseyGirl

    Sayanta, I totally got that from your post and picked it up a little myself. I was going to comment in agreement to your post too but I just focused on Ruby’s so I wouldn’t get too wordy. And I was really happy to see that you felt that way as a guy. 🙂

  18. 58
    Honey

    The bottom line, I think, is this:
    Most people aren’t right for you. Some will even act in ways that hurt you, either deliberately or accidentally. All that means is that they aren’t the person for you. It does not mean that you have to a) stay with them, b) lash out at them, or c) give up hope that the fact that some guys are jerks means that they all are. All you can do is judge people by their actions, and how those actions make you feel, and then decide whether you want that specific person in your life. If you don’t, you can always move on gracefully.
    Indulging in your own worst qualities is hardly likely to bring out the best in someone else, after all.

  19. 59
    Adel

    Spot on, Evan!

  20. 60
    Adel

    In regards to what Amy posted about women bearing most of the work later down the track, yeah she has got a point. I do get mothers/women older/more experienced than me who have said the same thing. BUT most have also said that they have had no regrets whatsoever. Yes, they would probably sacrifice more (than the man) with kids etc but at the end of the day they are deeply respected, appreciated and loved by their husbands and kids for the sacrifices they have made.

    And that makes all these worthwhile in the end.

    And as Evan pointed out, in a happy partnership both the man and woman reaches a happy medium in compromise.

    1. 60.1
      lily

      Yes, I sacrificed my career to raise my children. In the end, three people appreciated what I did:   my two children and the judge who awarded me spousal support. I spend a great deal of that spousal support to help my children through college since their father will not help, even though his income is three times my income. Amy is spot on.

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