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

angry woman holding her hair back

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. 21

    I also don’t think the writer from the Times broke the “Rules” in spirit. I’ll bet when she approached the guy it was in a flirty, non-threatening way, like “Hey, are you xyz?” rather than “Hey, xyz, why’d you not call?”.

    Who knows why he didn’t call….couldn’t been burned out on bad online dating experiences but when he saw her in person he realized what a gem she was.

    I’ve had and seen experiences where women pick up on a vibe, make a little effort and it clicks. This is different from agressively pursuing a guy.

  2. 22

    I’ve read the Rules (and the Secret and The Pearl as well and you are right Curly Girl, the Pearl was straight depressing!) and if I remember correctly the authors did not present the Rules as something to be followed ‘in spirit’ but rather literally.

    I think that is one of the reasons the Rules was so offputting to some, because it implied that they were meant to be followed to the letter, not allowing for much flexibility. That’s why i felt it was a decent concept taken too far.

    I think the best self-help/dating books push the theory that you set boundaries and don’t settle for disrespect because you care about and respect yourself too much to put yourself in a compromising position, not to simply ‘appear’ aloof. Of course, it’s a lot easier to get people to act a certain way than to really feel it inside.

  3. 23
    Karl R

    starthrower68 said: (#3)
    “when a guy has disappeared, I always think it’s my fault; that I must have said or done something to scare him off because I came across as needy or desperate. So now I really hesistate to take the initiative for that reason.”

    Based on my experience, I think it’s highly unlikely that this is the case. The few women who “scared me off” did so by telling me the gory details of their life stories within 30 minutes of meeting them. As long as you’re sharing details about yourself at roughly the same rate that the other person is, then you’re unlikely to have this problem.

    Thinking back over the last several years, I can’t think of a single woman that I exchanged phone numbers with where that was a factor in me breaking things off (or not starting things in the first place). The real reasons included:
    1) Not attractive enough
    2) I was more interested in another woman
    3) Too young/immature
    4) She wanted kids (or had them already)
    5) I believed she wasn’t that interested in me
    6) We didn’t have enough in common (values or interests)
    7) She was too reserved / not that fun to be around

    It’s entirely possible to come across badly, but “needy” and “desperate” just aren’t common problems in my experience.

  4. 24

    Karl, thanks for the insight. Starthrower’s comment is all too common among women. When something doesn’t go wrong we tend to blame ourselves. Truth is, 99% of the time it has nothing to do w them.

  5. 25

    Well in a sense it is our fault, according to the reasons Karl lists, with maybe the exception of 2. The rest of it we may or may not be able to do something about. I’m not being critical of women by saying that. But everything Karl lists are things I think were wrong with me when the disappearing act is pulled.

  6. 26

    I am with Starthrower – those are all things I would conclude were things that were wrong with me. I tend to be very reserved when I meet someone new and it’s not until I feel comfortable that I really start be show my personality. Take this blog, for example, I’ve been reading your comments for a year and have only recently started to add my own.

    This is an interesting topic because I’ve always acted on my feelings, calling someone just to say “hi” or if I saw some little thing that reminded me of someone, i’d pick it up and give it to them and I never worried about how my actions would be construed. Of course, I was married and my actions – to me – only indicated friendship. Now, though, I’m not suppose to call guys or I have to be careful about what I say in case I scare them off. Although really, I have trouble picturing anyone scared of me. I’d like to be able to be myself – that is really what I want. To call a guy if I want to without them thinking I was chasing them, or too forward or anything other than just a call. Can’t we just be friends? Does it have to mean more?

  7. 27

    That’s a great article, def. recommend that everyone read it. I love the sense of excitement the author gets as she breaks all the rules and “empowers” herself. I agree with everything her therapist said, especially this part:
    ”Stop living in a women’s magazine version of the world,” he would plead, trying to prod me into action. ”Start being real — and having needs. You won’t have a satisfying relationship until you do.”

    Man, I wish my last girlfriend realized that.

    Coupla things. Online dating is the wild west and anything can happen. If he disappears, that usually means SOMETHING else is going on, whether it’s a dead grandma or another chick. I never take it personally and generally I won’t hold it against the other person because I do the EXACT SAME THING. Also, view the initial contact as an investment vs. an actual relationship. She established contact and then, via the fates, they actually met, and it took off from there. There’s no need to shut that door early on.

    Lance´s last blog post…Vegas Memorial Weekend Sextacular: Preview

  8. 28

    Or sometimes the man expresses interest and when you feel safe enough to return it, that’s when they choose to disappear. But again, I guess those are the ones that are flaky and why would we want them anyway?

  9. 29
    Karl R

    starthrower68 said: (#25)
    “everything Karl lists are things I think were wrong with me when the disappearing act is pulled.”
    Kristyn said: (#26)
    “those are all things I would conclude were things that were wrong with me.”

    Half of them could easily be considered flaws with the guy (me):
    3) She’s young and immature, but from her perspective I’m old and uptight.
    4) She wants/has kids; I don’t want/have kids.
    6) If we don’t share values/interests, that involves my values/interests as much as hers (provided we both have values and interests).
    7) She’s reserved and not much fun, because I’m an extrovert who likes other extroverts.

    Whose flaw is it? It’s a matter of perspective.

    Even when we get to things like attractiveness, there’s no single standard of beauty. I don’t like bleach-blond sun-worshippers. Lance prefers thin women with small breasts. Attractiveness has as much to do with personal preferences as any unified standards.

    And even if I call things off because the woman was “flawed” (in my opinion), the woman didn’t “scare me off” by being assertive. And when I bail because the woman seems disinterested, that’s the exact opposite situation. If the two women had showed initiative in calling me or asking me out on dates, I would have assumed they were interested and continued to date them.

    For some perverse reason, everyone wants to internalize the blame when the other person vanishes. Usually it’s just not about us.

  10. 30

    In the book “Why He Didn’t Call You Back,” that author argues that when men vanish or don’t call, more often that not, it IS the woman’s fault. And she provides a whole list of things women can do to stop turning guys off so early on in the dating process. Lots of women really liked her advice.

    I personally prefer Karl’s point of view that it’s just as likely to be the guy’s issue as it is the woman’s issue. Or better yet, why can’t it simply be that the woman and the man just aren’t compatible and NEITHER person is flawed?

  11. 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.

  12. 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.

  13. 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.

  14. 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.

  15. 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).

  16. 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.

  17. 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.

  18. 38

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

  19. 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.

  20. 40

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

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