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

a happy young woman using her laptop

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. 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”.

  2. 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

  3. 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…

  4. 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”.

  5. 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.


  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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?

  11. 31
    Evan Marc Katz

    @Lorianne – “They can get what they want without working at relationships.”

    No, they can’t… unless you stay in a relationship with them. It takes two to tango, and no one can mistreat you unless you allow yourself to be mistreated.

  12. 32
    Sweet Nectar

    change is inevitable but it is up to the person whether or not they want to change. people generally want to be accepted and respected for who they are. not who you want them to be.

  13. 33

    @Karl, I appreciate the advice, but I have not wound up in “one relationship after another” where I was neglected, etc.? I don’t put up with nonsense like that,? which means I don’t date very much.? Not m preference, but WAY better than the alternative.? My comments were the product of observation, not experience.? Just sayin’.

  14. 34

    @Sayanta#9: I know you were just making a casual observation I didn’t mean it to be a dig or anything.I was just saying we (men) are here but it’s not close to 50/50.

    I’m also a little confused by the generalization that women work harder at dating & relationships?because they read and take more?dating advice.I know you?ladies aren’t going to believe this but like Karl says ALL women don’t read about?relationships or ask for dating advice unless it’s from their girlfriends or an issue of “Cosmo”?etc…? lot are just as relationship illiterate as the men.

    As far as online dating goes men have to put in 100x the effort that women do just to have minor success and we don’t have 300 things on our list of “disqualifiers” like women do.In the online realm very few if any men get?OR ?have a “free pass”?I know what Evan always says that women don’t get or hear. Most women can go?to their online dating site do a search with whatever delusional criteria (a list of 30 “must haves”)they dream up and then complain that “there’s no good men on here”…lol Where as men will search with maybe a couple of deal breakers and come up with 30 women they like and 50 “maybe’s” they’ll email and know they haven’t got an ice cubes chance in hell of getting a response from any of them because they’ve been disqualified. Free pass??? I guess it depends on the perspective and the opinion of each person’s circumstances.Too many variables.

  15. 35

    Hypergamy – women prefer alpha males, who are less likely to question (and modify) their own behavior because they do fine as is. There are other reasons, but that’s within the area of expertise and probably the main one.

  16. 36

    @mic — not this woman. Alpha males never appealed to me.

  17. 37
    Karl R

    Lorianne said: (#15)
    If women stopped taking on 75 or 90 or even 100% of the work of maintaining a relationship,
    Lorianne said: (#33)
    “My comments were the product of observation, not experience.”

    How do you observe this, if not from your own experiences? Are you getting this from what your friends say about their relationships?

    A couple weeks ago some women were quick to talk about how women vent to other women.
    Is that your main source of information? People who are venting don’t give an objective view of the situation (regardless of whether they’re male or female).

    Another possible issue arises from how men and women tend to measure effort. (This is a generalization and an oversimplification, but it brings up a useful point.) Women tend to count effort (theirs and their partner’s) by how many different things were done. Men tend to count effort (theirs and their partner’s) by how much time and energy was put into the task.

    (I realize this is a little outdated) Let’s say the husband is the breadwinner and the wife is a homemaker. He spends a full day at work, earning money for both of them. She fixes his breakfast, does his laundry, does his ironing, fixes his dinner and cleans the dishes. In her mind, she did five things for him, and he did one for her, so she put in more effort. In his mind, if her five tasks took six hours, he put in more effort than her.

    I’m not going to say that either perspective is right or wrong. But understanding this difference?is extremely useful.

    If I can do five or six things for?my girlfriend?which take minimal time and energy, we both feel like we came out ahead.

  18. 38
    Sam P.

    @ Diana

    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.

    I’m really sympathetic to women who say that the men they’ve dated don’t treat them with the respect they deserve. As a nice guy, if women valued kindness more guys like me would have better luck. As a brother and friend to women who repeatedly date a**holes, I’d be spared the pain of seeing my female friends and relatives go through crap.

    But even if it were possible to get all women to act in concert and “cut off the gravy train,” doing so wouldn’t be necessary. There ARE lots of good, respectful, kind, pro-commitment men out there, even among alpha males. Evan’s advice isn’t to change your standards of what good treatment is , it’s to change your standards for physical characteristics, geography, religion, race, age etc. He points out that initial chemistry isn’t the most important thing if what you are looking for is a long-term partner. He never says that you should put up with skipped phone calls, unkind words, and unrequited affection.

  19. 39

    Hi Sam! I visit Evan’s blog because while I have learned more about how men think and their behavior in general, his advice often resonates with my own. For ex., the chemistry you speak of. I was married for many, many years to a great man whose best and most important qualities resonated from the inside ~ a “nice” guy that most would have overlooked. I probably have one of the shortest “lists” a woman can have.

    I am discerning, but not in my preferences. I will not tolerate the kind of behavior and circumstances that many women do, and this leaves many men out of my circle.

    Glad to know you’re there for your family and friends to lean on. That’s what nice guys do. 🙂

  20. 40

    “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)”

    I’ve been thinking about this statement a lot. Did it ever occur to men that women may be independent because they’ve had no choice. They’ve had no one to take care of them, even when they were a children. They had to learn to be competent because otherwise things didn’t get done. They had to learn to protect themselves, because there was not one else to protect them.

    Or that many independent women really would like to find a man they could depend on, but that it isn’t gonna happen overnight. It takes time, patience and consistency from the man for some women to learn that she can depend on him. Often, it seems like if it takes some work from a man to earn a woman’s trust, he just bails.

    I guess it’s because there’s always some needy woman or women around the corner who will make him feel important.

    Of course, that needy woman is also probably not likely to be able to earn enough money to keep the bills paid and the household running while he takes the necessary year to recover from brain surgery…or to come up out of the car holding a maglite in such a way (as taught to her by her sensei) that the enormous guy who started a road rage incident with you on the turnpike…takes one look at you jumps back in his car and speeds off before the cops can arrive. But, apparently…those types of things just don’t make a man feel like he’s important.

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