Why Do Women Have to Change? Why Do Men Get a Free Pass?

I've been running a Relationship Survey, filled out by 720 women (and a coupla guys) so far, and the results have been astounding. So many interesting, heartfelt, vulnerable questions, which, if I didn't have a day job as a dating coach, I would love to answer, one by one.

Many of the questions come from a genuinely curious place and there are simple, straightforward answers:

"Where do I meet quality men?" (everywhere, including online)

"What qualities are men really looking for?" (fun, attractive, easygoing, nurturing)

Why do they profess to like independent women but chose women who rely on them for financial and emotional support? Why do they want a woman who is needy? (men want to feel important and needed; independent women don't provide that feeling)

But, to me, the juiciest question I received out of all of them - and I got it two or three times - is one that has been asked periodically on this blog:

Why are women expected to change the way they operate in order to be "successful" in relationships, but men get a pass?

Sigh. If you've been reading for awhile, you know how strongly I feel about this subject, how I've taken to the comment boards to defend myself, how it genuinely pains me when readers misunderstand the role of dating advice.

Dating advice is for the person who asks the question. It is not for the man who is the cause of the "problem".

So let's all get on the same page with this:

Dating advice is for the person who asks the question. It is not for the man who is the cause of the "problem".

Therefore any woman who asks me whether her boyfriend should change will be met with one of two responses: given that you can't change men (and yes, this is a given), you should either a) accept him, or b) leave him. Sometimes, there's a c) discuss your feelings with him, but mostly my advice is of the "stay or go" variety.

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  1. 1

    You can’t control other people, so the only advice a dating coach could give to a woman is how to change her behavior in response to the dating world.The dating coach can’t change the dating scene or show his/her clients how to do it.

    Basic stuff about being an adult.? Having to deal with the world as it is, “shoulds”,? “musts” and holding your breath until you turn blue not withstanding.

  2. 2

    You have to know, going in, what are dealbreakers, and what are not.? Lying, cheating, addiction, lousy character and integrity are all dealbreakers.His being conservative as opposed to you being liberal are not necessarily deal breakers (or at least I say love trumps politics). But core values are generally things people can’t compromise on.

  3. 3

    Great post- I’m thinking though- it’s weird (and interesting) that even though women are mostly the market for dating advice, so many men post on this blog (interesting, thoughtful posts on that)- it seems close to 50/50 here.

  4. 4

    @ Steve
    Amen, I’ve been telling my friends the same thing for years now.

  5. 5

    @Sayanta? #3
    I can’t speak for the other men here, but if you are a guy interested in talking about dating your choice is blogs like Evan’s? or forums for PUAs. The latter choice usually has a low ambient maturity level and if focused purely on pickup,? not anything that may come afterward.

    I’m not saying that is true of all who like to read PUA stuff, but only that is true of the majority of the lit & discussions out there.

    1. 5.1

      “low ambient maturity level” — love that phrase! I may need to re-use it in regards to some situations.

  6. 6

    Love the post Evan! I believe your point was well made.

    Although I’ve got to say, I wouldn’t be? bored reading a blog where my beliefs were constantly validated, since I’m a big fan of my current belief system and?it’s?working for me; but for me to get here someone had to challenge my old beliefs…so yeah. I get why you don’t do that. Plus, there are plenty of other venues for that.

  7. 7

    I am largely only an observer in all this, since getting married again is of absolutely no importance to me, and I pretty much decided that I am not willing to make all the sacrifices required for having children – and this is precisely the crux of the matter. Women need to adjust more simply because they want more from relationships than men do. Love and marriage (and especially children) are not nearly as important to men as they are to women. How does that saying go, the power within the relationship lies with whoever cares less? Well, there you go, even though this may be a non-traditional interpretation of it.

    As for the entire self-help genre:? I just watched The Ugly Truth recently, where one piece of advice to women was no criticism (of men), even if it is constructive. The guy then explained, “For men self-improvement ends at toilet training.” 😉

    I know things aren’t quite as bleak in reality :), but just saying…

    1. 7.1

      I agree. That seems to be my observation too.

  8. 8

    Sayanta,there are guys like myself,Steve and the other men on here that like to absorb knowledge from everywhere as well as give the men’s side of the equation on Evan’s opinion’s and those who write to him.Wouldn’t it be boring on here with no men?

  9. 9


    Forgive me if I’m mistaken, but it sounds like you (mis)interpreted my comment to mean I want this to be an all-female forum. I was just making a casual observation.

  10. 10

    @Ju Ju #7,

    I think I understand what you are saying, but just to clarify, should women stop wanting marriage, family, etc.? I’m seriously? not trying to be flip or argue. I just want to be sure I’m understanding.

  11. 11


    Re: JuJu’s comment- I can’t speak for her- but I don’t think she’s saying women should stop wanting marriage, family- but that they shouldn’t expect to be satisfied in relationships because they’re going to be the only ones to care about the relationship (or family).

    If that’s what you meant, JuJu- all I can say is, I hope I never become jaded enough to think that.

  12. 12

    No, no, I was only referring to that whole discussion that started under “Do you want advice or do you want validation?” Remember the comments? It all started from toilet seats, but then moved to a more general “Why are women given all this advice on how they are supposed to be and act in order to get a man, whereas men are not?”

  13. 13

    Sorry, should have added the following:
    because, first of all, they are the ones that ask, as Evan already pointed out, and secondly, because apparently they have a greater need of the whole thing.

  14. 14

    “So could I write a manifesto about how men need to be better listeners, more consistent, less interested in sex, more long-term thinkers, more sensitive, more strong, more fit, more flexible, etc. Sure. But who would I be writing it for?”
    Ummmmm…I’m thinking the 90% of women who write the questions to you Evan. Sometimes (like maybe once a quarter in a blog entry) it would be nice to hear you say it and know that you aren’t putting it all on us women…that you understand what we deal with on a regular basis…not just what we can do for men. It made me feel that way when I read the quote above in today’s blog entry.

  15. 15

    @JuJu — I think you hit it right on the head.? As long as women are more invested in relationships than men, then men will get away with being the way they are.? I disagree that men don’t change. Men don’t change only BECAUSE? THEY DON’T HAVE TO.? If women stopped taking on 75 or 90 or even 100% of the work of maintaining a relationship, men would have to take up the slack or (as EMK often insists to women) remain single a long time.

    I am of the same mindset as JuJu.? Relationships are wonderful, but not worth the price in a lot of cases.? Sorry, but it’s not enough to tell women “leave if he’s really a jerk.”? That still allows a lot of men to be jerks and (this is the important part) go on thinking that this sort of behavior is OK.

  16. 16

    What’s interesting about that post is, we are back to the $64K question: how does a woman be and not be at the same time? Attentive but not clingy; interested but not too interested, etc.? I tend to err on the side of caution and?maybe hold back when I should put forth a little more effort.

  17. 17
    Evan Marc Katz

    @Casey – I would refer you to my original post if you want to know why I’m “putting it on” women. Because men aren’t asking me for advice. If men asked me for advice, I’d be “putting it on” them equally. Why is this so hard to understand? I’m simply not going to answer questions that men aren’t asking me. I’m going to answer questions that women ask me – particularly ones that require them to learn, grow or change. And do you really think, Casey, that I’d be well served to write a manifesto about how men can change…so that women can read it? I could title it, “You Go, Girl! 434 Things To Hate About Men in Relationships”. And we could all nod our heads and laugh and agree that men make lots and lots of mistakes. And while the world wouldn’t change one bit (because no men are reading the book) you would at least feel validated. Sorry, darling. Not the best use of my time.

    @Lorianne – Hate to tell you, but you’re mistaken about something:

    “Sorry, but it’s not enough to tell women ‘leave if he’s really a jerk.”

    Actually, it is. Because if every time a woman dumps a guy for being a jerk, he realizes he can’t get any women by being a jerk, he has a lot of incentive to stop being a jerk. The real problem is that women DON’T walk away from these guys and thus become enablers of these jerks.

    After all, a guy can’t text message you, “What R U wearing right now?” once every two weeks, unless you bothered to write back to him.

    So seriously? Stop blaming men for being jerks. Your power lies in cutting the cord with those jerks, not in complaining about them.

    Finally, to your point: “If women stopped taking 75 or 90 or 100% of the work of maintaining a relationship…” This is a myopic and egregious miscalculation, which pits women against men in a false battle, instead of realizing that good men are working quite hard to please you. If you truly believe that women put in 75-100% of the work, it’s no surprise that you would not want to bother with a relationship.

    Thanks for your contribution to my blog.

  18. 18

    I just want to add to this: a relationship where you are doing all the work is a relationship only you want to be in.

  19. 19

    I think my point was somewhat misconstrued: I personally will not settle for anything less than love at this stage of my life – casual sex leaves me feeling unfulfilled. I just try to stay true to myself while looking for it. At the end of the day I want to be able to respect myself.

    Sometimes it’s not just outright abuse I won’t tolerate, but things like not calling back when he said he would (without a good reason). If the guy says “I’ll call you later” and then calls in three days, he pretty much made my sh*tlist.

    Starthrower, as for how to act: I doubt I am any sort of paragon in this, but I am just real when it comes to men. I am quite confident and have a busy life, so I probably won’t seem needy to anyone in any case. One former bf (the operative word being “former”) kept telling me that the seduction is never supposed to end (he was referring to playing hard to get, which was pretty much the opposite of my behavior) – I dunno, maybe that works for some people, but I don’t want to be playing games my entire life. I don’t want to never feel completely comfortable with my partner. I don’t even see any value in a relationship built on such pretenses.

    And if anything, a man who is capable of saying something like that (and that particular man was considerably older than I am) will only raise questions in my mind as to his emotional maturity and level of self-awareness.

  20. 20

    Women should stop asking for dating advice then and stop caring what men want since men don’t care what we want. Women are expected to make more of the concessions. What happens if women stop asking for advice, stop caring about what men want and stop making the effort? I bet men would start making more of an effort.

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