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. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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…

  4. 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….

  5. 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.  

  6. 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

  7. 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?……

  8. 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.

  9. 49

    This is a very recent personal experience and I just wanted to share how liberating and empowering it felt when I made the first move on the guy I liked.

    We met at Oktoberfest several weeks ago. To cut the long story short, from the beginning, he was very forward and kept telling me that he liked me and he chased me the entire time. I had not been clear on my interest the whole night not because I was playing games, but mainly because in my mind I was thinking that he had been drinking and might not remember me the next day.  He asked me to dance, and he turned out to be such a gentleman (which I really liked about him especially since I was convinced he was drunk). I warmed up to him and felt safe/protected in his arms, and we even kissed. I wanted to get to know him better but when he was sober. He kept telling me he was the same person whether he’d been drinking or sober, and he suggested we went out on a proper date. We exchanged numbers and I was looking forward to him calling.

    He never called. I kept blaming myself because he must think I wasn’t interested. I kept looking at my phone and even lost my appetite for several days. I kept making excuses for him: maybe he was shy, maybe I scared him off etc. 10 days after we met, I decided to text him asking about the lunch/dinner he promised me. No response. Another 4 days later, I had been mustering the courage to call him, when I accidentally whatsapp-called him in my nervousness. I immediately hung up and I knew he would have received my missed call. Still, no callback from him. Finally, another week later, I gave myself an ultimatum. I really wanted a chance to get to know this guy better and I wanted him to know it. If I didn’t try to call him one last time, I would regret it. So, I called him on a Sunday afternoon…. and he didn’t pick up.

    I actually felt relieved afterwards as now I finally have my answer. It hurt of course and my pride was also wounded. Right now, he could be laughing with his friends at me for being desperate, he could be thinking I’m a manipulative game-playing b*tch who deserved it for trying to play hard-to-get etc, while he’s moved on to someone else. But, if he had taken the time and patience to get to know me, go on a proper date, he would know what a wonderful person I am. I don’t regret making the first move(s), because now I know how he feels about me and I can begin to move on. And even if he had responded and it turns out he was playing me, I would have gained an experience as putting ourselves out there and sometimes getting hurt is part of dating. No one can put up with an act for too long. If he is genuinely not interested, he would show in his actions sooner or later, so it doesn’t make a difference if the man or woman had made the first move.

    Like some of the other people who had replied, we should follow our hearts and not the countless articles/rules that specify the Do’s and Don’ts of Dating. It does feel very liberating and empowering when women are in control of when and how to contact a guy first after meeting him.

    1. 49.1



      Firstly, I admire your courage, and I would encourage you not to think that he, or other people might be “laughing with his friends at me for being desperate.” It takes courage to put oneself out there, and I hope that all the men on this blog who moan that women don’t know what it’s like to be rejected read this post of yours.


      You lost nothing in calling him, and as I said, I admire your courage. I have been in this situation myself. That said, I’d just like to call your attention to one thing. You write:  “he could be thinking I’m a manipulative game-playing b*tch who deserved it for trying to play hard-to-get etc, while he’s moved on to someone else.” In what way were you  playing hard to get? He had your number, the same way you had his. It was just as easy for him to pick up the phone and call you or text you as it was for you. Therefore, this was an equal situation, and you were not in any way playing hard to get. It’s an important mindset to have, because I think women sometimes erroneously feel that they have to step up and boldly show their interest, or the guy won’t know. This is not the case. You danced with him, you kissed him, you gave him your number and said you’d go out with him. This is all the encouragement he needs.


      The other thing I’d urge you to think about is why you felt the need to contact him three times. Knowing what I know now, the fact that he didn’t get in touch would have been enough for me. But even if I’d sent a text, and it had gone unanswered, I definitely would have left it there. I’ve contacted a guy before to “give him a nudge in the right direction” or just to satisfy myself, and, while I was glad that I had my answer, this almost never works. However, if it makes you feel better and lessens your anxiety, I’m all for it. I would caution against contacting a second or third time, though, because with each attempt, we tend to feel a little worse.

      I’d encourage you not to take any of this personally. My experience has been that men whom one drunkenly kisses at a pub/club are rarely looking for something serious. But I wanted to caution you against regarding it as liberating or empowering to contact a guy first. A masculine man with true relationship potential will not need you to do this. He will take care of business himself. 🙂

      1. 49.1.1

        Clare, I like your quote, “He will take care of business himself”…

  10. 50

    Thank you Clare – I really appreciate your support and for raising some very good points.

    I gave a shorter version of the story which left out some points. The whole night, I wasn’t clear to him that I was interested. When he asked me if I even liked him abit, I said I wasn’t sure. Even when he suggested going on a date, I said maybe. (I was convinced he was half-drunk and there was no point trying to make proper converstion until we went out on a real date when he was sober). At the end of the evening, he said he didn’t think I wanted to go out with him but he asked for my number anyway and called me immediately so I had his number and to make sure I didn’t give a fake number. I found out from my girl friend afterwards (who went with me to Oktoberfest) that he had told her he liked me but was shy on what to say to me.

    I do think that I could have given him mixed signals that evening (which was not deliberate but since alcohol was involved, I wasn’t ready to pour my heart out if he didn’t remember me the next day) and he might be thinking now that I’m playing games. This was why I felt I had to contact him 3 times to make extra sure he knew for certain that I like him, and to fully convince myself that I’ve done everything I could to give us a chance.

    I agree with you that a masculine man will make the first move, but I also think that doesn’t stop a woman from making the first move. Someone once said to me that we should treat dating like a job application. A good job doesn’t always come our way. If we really wanted a job and think it’s perfect for us, would we not apply to it? If after the interview, we were interested, would we not make the first move to follow up? Finally, would we turn down the role just because we contacted HR first rather than the other way round?

    I think human beings are innately unable to lie to ourselves in the long-run and will eventually show our true colours for our own sanity. Once in a relationship, if either party isn’t interested, it will show eventually. So what if he made the first move? If a few weeks/months/years down the road, he is no longer interested, he will still walk away. I believe the man will still behave in the same way even if the woman were to make the first move.

    1. 50.1

      tina, generally speaking, men are not attracted to women that make the first move…

    2. 50.2


      Funnily enough, I actually agree with you. I think the relationship will not sustain itself if the interest isn’t there from both parties, and in that sense, you’re right that it doesn’t matter who makes the first move. If a guy truly does like you, he’s certainly not going to turn you down just because you called him. And if he does call first, issues could still arise later on that would cause one of you to walk away later on. Absolutely agree with you on these points.

      My only point was that with a masculine man who likes you, it is not  necessary  to make the first move. Just as it isn’t  necessary  to phone a company back after an interview and ask if you’ve got the job. If they want you,  they will phone you. When I was in management, a part of me actually resented it a little when an interviewee called me and asked if they’d been successful. I appreciated that they had the right to know where they stood, but the truth is it smacked to me of a lack of confidence in their worth. I’d have let them know one way or the other if they’d been successful or not, and I usually valued confident candidates a bit more. I do actually believe that the same goes for guys. I wouldn’t go as far as Hunter and say that guys are  not  attracted to women who make the first move, but I do think there is a certain sexy confidence in waiting for someone to come to you because you know you are worth it and they would be missing out if they didn’t. Guys can sense that. Being the honey that attracts the bees.

      So, it’s not that you  can’t phone or text a guy first – you absolutely can, and in many cases it’s harmless or even desirable. But I do believe that when it comes to the first few dates, guys should be the ones doing the pursuing. Not that it will change the long-term outcome of your relationship, but it’s simply that men prefer it and it works better. As I said in my other post, if it’s truly eating you up not to text or call, then I’d say go for it, but I would not pursue the whole making the first move under normal circumstances. (Oh, and just from my point of view, I don’t think you were playing that hard to get at the Oktoberfest, though it might have felt that way to you. It’s normal to feel a bit cautious/guarded/shy of a stranger and not to know whether you like someone you barely know. Men know they have to do a bit of pursuing/winning over in the beginning.
      Also, from my point of view, the fact that he said he liked you on the night means that the reason he didn’t call probably didn’t have to do with him  not  liking you. It could have been any number of reasons from shyness or fear to not being ready to date, to being extremely busy or just not in a great place in some other way.)

      1. 50.2.1

        Thank you very much Hunter and Clare for sharing your thoughts and advice.

        I also agree with Clare that the woman could make the first call/text, but should let the man initiate the date.

        It’s so true that men are from Mars and women are from Venus. 🙂


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