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.

If you think I’m giving men a free pass, you’re clearly forgetting about choice B – DUMP HIM. if I’m encouraging half the women to dump their boyfriends, how am I giving men a free pass? Oh, I got it – I’m not encouraging enough women to dump their boyfriends – many times I preach tolerance and acceptance. And in your experience, you’ve already tolerated enough.

Fair enough. Then dump him. Dump every single man who trips off your radar in some way.

What you’ll probably notice is that you will be single for a long time. Because every single man will trip off your radar in some way. (If he doesn’t trip off your radar, you’re probably not seeing him very clearly, and you’re forgiving fatal flaws like workaholism, selfishness, narcissism and commitment phobia.)

The fact is: if you’re going to be a girlfriend, you need to accept ALL of your boyfriend, warts and all, just as you’d like him to accept you. If you simply CAN’T accept him because his behavior is egregious (writing to women on Adult Friendfinder, verbally abusing you, addictions to drugs or alcohol), then leave.

I think we can agree on that, can’t we?

Good. I’m working for YOU here and it kills me when you think I’m a double agent for men. 🙂

Still, your perception persists: why does it seem that dating advice is always telling women to change and letting men off the hook?

Men may NEED help in this arena, but they don’t ASK for help.

Three reasons you might think that:

1) Women ask for dating advice, men generally don’t.

The dating advice you read is, by its very nature, “dating advice for women”. I am a dating coach who works primarily with women. The self-help section of any bookstore is 90% geared towards women. This isn’t a media conspiracy, telling women that they’re flawed and men are perfect. This is a market reaction to the demand for this kind of advice.

2) When men do ask for help, it doesn’t involve understanding women.

Want to know what men are looking for online? “Pick up girls” had 110,000 searches last month. Compare that with “understanding women”, which had 22,000 Google searches, and you can see the problem. Men may NEED help in this arena, but they don’t ASK for help. 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? YOU’d love it because it would validate your beliefs about men, but men wouldn’t be interested in reading it. That’s why my second book, “Why You’re Still Single: Things Your Friends Would Tell You If You Promised Not to Get Mad” was written for women.

3) People who give advice want to actually GIVE ADVICE.

So, if 200 women write to me and say, “My boyfriend’s a lying, cheating, scumbag who impregnated me, gave me AIDS and emptied my bank account. But I really love him, what should I do?” I’m not going to answer the question on my blog. The answer is obvious. Dump him. The questions that dating coaches and dating experts DO want to answer are the ones where the original questioner is going to have her beliefs challenged, not validated. That’s what makes for interesting reading. Believe me, if I answered a new letter every Thursday, and the answer, week after week, was “dump the toxic guy”, you’d get really, really bored. As would I.

You’ll see me playing devil’s advocate in almost everything I write, because there’s no point in giving advice that validates the original questioner.

So, to sum up:

Who asks for dating help? Women.
What do they want help on? Understanding men.
What’s the first thing to understand about men? You can’t change them, you can only change how you react to them.
Does that mean that men get a free pass because women have to change? No, it means you have to define what behavior you should and should not accept from men. That’s what I try to write about.
So is my perception that you’re biased in favor of men true? No. Not at all. 90% of my questions are from women, so 90% of my answers will be about how women can better adjust to a situation. If 90% of my questions were from men, they’d get the same exact treatment.

In fact, you’ll see me playing devil’s advocate in almost everything I write, because there’s no point in giving advice that validates the original questioner. There’s nothing to learn if your original belief system is never being challenged.

I hope this is a reasonable explanation as to why I write what I write. I spend 4 hours a day, every day, on the phone with women. I wouldn’t be able to do so if I didn’t love them, care about them, and genuinely want to help them find happy, healthy relationships.

Thank you for frequenting my blog and participating in this dialogue.

Your friend,


Join our conversation (81 Comments).
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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.

  21. 21
    Evan Marc Katz

    An interesting point, Jersey, but a poor social experiment. Try “stop caring about what your boyfriend thinks”. Try “stopping your effort” towards him. You won’t have a boyfriend for long – unless, of course, he’s a doormat.

    And it sounds to me like you are not even considering the many concessions men have to make to be with you. Honestly, this is why I encourage you to check out my new book, which should be completed in a month or so. Based on your posts, you seem to think you’re the only one getting hurt, the only one disappointed, the only one confused, the only one who has to put up with less than exemplary behavior.

    Please consider that men go through just as much as you do. I sure did over 15 years of being single. Which is why I do this for a living and spend most of my time trying to teach women how good, reasonable men think. And it’s like you don’t want to hear it because it’s easier to make men wrong. Sorry. “Men suck” doesn’t fly here. I’m firmly convinced that the inability to empathize with the opposite sex – for both men AND women – is the surest way to guarantee friction and misunderstanding when dating.

    Treat men as the “other” – as evidenced by your line, “men don’t care what we want” – and most men will have little desire to work hard to understand you. As such, negative attitudes about men function as a self-fulfilling prophecy. The good guys (Karl, Steve, etc), don’t want to have to prove themselves when they’ve done nothing wrong. And they’re sick of paying for the sins of dozens of other jerky guys who you refused to dump because you were hoping they’d “change”.

  22. 22

    What qualities are men really looking for?/em> (fun, attractive, easygoing, nurturing)
    IMHO, it really is that simple as far as men go.? In situations that don’t work the man involved simply doesn’t see the woman involved as fitting those 4 qualities.

    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)

    One of the best pieces of writing not only about dating and relationships but about ways people may be unknowingly sabotaging themselves is this gem Evan wrote a long time ago

  23. 23

    A lot of women don’t like to have their worldview challenged. Consider how much purchasing power they have, mass media pretty much caters to their point of view. ( yes, I do feel alienated from my gender). They *all* think they ***deserve*** happiness, and the world, i.e. men owes it to them.?They’ve been indulging in the distorting effects of the circus mirror of Oprah, Cosmo, Sex-in-the-City, women’s studies, etc etc.

    Advice is not so easy to take if *minor* behavior changes requires a person to reassess their relation to their own life, others, and reality. But I do have sympathy for them, the effect of aging, hormones, and the biological clock can even drive a otherwise sane woman, a bit loony. But I would like to see a bit more realism on the part of women to admit that unless they offer something in return, a man is not likely to willingly and eagerly seek out their company. I know this is a bit of a bummer. Reality sometimes is…

  24. 24

    If a woman is ranting “about how men are” maybe she should be asking herself why she refuses to dump him instead of hoping he’ll “change”.

  25. 25

    @JerseyGirl? #20
    As a guy who likes to read dating related things my subjective experiences has been a cacophony of women making complaints about and demands of men.

    I don’t like some of the attitudes men have about women, but in general it seems that men complain far less about women and it isn’t for there being lack of disappointments.


  26. 26

    @JerseyGirl? #20

    Negative generalizations are an easy way to make yourself unhappy.? If you rephrased your complaints to be as specific as possible you might find yourself feeling better.

    Telling yourself “I dated 4 men in the last 6 months and out of 10 things I cared about 3 things were routinely ignored”? versus “men don’t care about what women” want is much less of a downer and provides more useful information for someone looking to adjust her game plan for success.

  27. 27

    Some of the comments are similar to what I was thinking. If all women banded together and stopped tolerating men who are defective in some way, and also cut off the gravy train, maybe those men would start reading advice blogs and considering that maybe change is a good thing after all. And before someone comes along and says, “Well, if all men banded together …,” I’m just playing. 😉

    It’s? a given that both sexes are invested in relationships in sometimes very different ways. While I believe there are good men available, I think they are few and far between. I still give every man I meet a positive and open opportunity to show me for himself what he’s made of, rather than attaching negativity to him from the start. They seem to be primarily focused on my visuals. 😉 I am probably looking for more than they are, in terms of the kind of individual I will keep company with. I am more discerning, and I am probably wanting more sustainability.
    I know that I cannot change a man and that’s okay because it’s not my goal. And I will not change who I am either, just for the sake of knowing I have a man in my life. I will not betray myself. At the end of my days, I am all I truly have. I am hoping to find an equal.

  28. 28

    At #20 (JG) and EMK-

    Interesting point (though jaded). I don’t want to open a can of worms here, but one thing that I have noticed in the past is when I suddenly lose interest in a guy who I was crazy about before (coz he’s being an a-hole) he suddenly wants to become the bestest of friends. Of course, I don’t exactly trust my judgment in men (yet), so that’s a disclaimer right there.

  29. 29

    @EMK? Why aren’t men asking for relationship advice? BECAUSE THEY DON’T HAVE TO.? They can get what they want without working at relationships.? Women can’t, hence we’re the ones asking for advice, and we’re the ones called on to make the adjustments to make relationships possible.? We’re actually saying the same thing.
    By the way, I am not saying ALL men are like this. But you said so yourself, the majority of “advice” targeted toward men is of the “how to get laid without commitments” variety.? Why?? Because that’s what men ask for.? I’m actually agreeing with you.

  30. 30
    Karl R

    JerseyGirl said: (#20)
    “Women should stop asking for dating advice then and stop caring what men want […]. 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.”

    And if nobody in the class studies, then the curve will shift and we’ll all get better grades!

    News flash:
    Of all the women I’ve dated, only one had read any dating advice, and she applied the advice incorrectly. (The first date felt like a job interview, but at least she was asking interesting questions.)

    By making use of what I’ve learned (from this blog, other dating articles and practical experience), I’ve moved out of the middle of the curve. I now know how to stand out at the top end. It was in my best interest to change, regardless of whether anyone else did.

    If every women stops asking / following dating advice, men won’t notice (except perhaps the man you’re dating right at that moment). The impact on the dating pool will be undetectable, but the impact on you will be enormous. Your inability to change where you sit on the bell curve (due to the information provided by Evan and others) will be clearly noticeable to you.

    Feel free to test this out.

    Lorianne said: (#15)
    “If women stopped taking on 75 or 90 or even 100% of the work of maintaining a relationship,”

    How are you ending up in one relationship after another where there is this kind of imbalance? I can only think of a few scenarios where this could happen:

    1. You’re routinely dating the bottom quartile of the dating pool.

    2. You’re with men who aren’t interested in you, but you’re deluding yourself into thinking you’re actually in a relationship.

    3. You’re ignoring most (or all) of your partner’s contributions to the relationship, and solely focusing on your own contributions to the relationship.

    You get into those situations by ignoring dating advice. Do you expect to get out of those situations by ignoring it more than you were before?

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