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).
Click Here To Leave Your Comment Below.


  1. 41

    Casey, I have also given Evan’s comment some thought. I didn’t think men wanted women who were needy. I thought they ran the other way. 🙂 Maybe I have a different understanding of the word “needy.”

    I am not sure where the balance is. To a man who would meet me today, he would find a healthy, independent woman on many levels. I ask myself, “Do I ‘need’ a man?” No. Do I “want” to find someone to spend time with as an equal who would care about me, maybe even love me, and me for him? Yes.

    I am not sure where need would enter the picture or how I would show him that I needed him, if that is what he would be searching for. My position in life is such that I had no other choice but to become stronger and completely independent. There is no fall back plan. I had to rise to the occasion. My children and I would not be in the healthy place we are in life without my ability to be successfully independent.

    “Need” implies a necessity. I spent many years thinking I needed my former husband and he needed me. In the end, he proved me wrong.

  2. 42

    Re: Casey #40 and “independence”

    Once you understand that relationships of any kind cannot stand when both people are “independent”, then you’ll see why a woman who waves her independence like a flag of freedom is not attractive to many men.

    Relationships are about *interdependence*.

    If either person in the relationship is completely independent of the other, than what purpose does the *other* person serve (regardless of gender)? I’d even go so far as to say that so long as either person is independent of the other, there is *no relationship*.

    To plagiarize Stephen Covey…as people mature, they typically start out being dependent on their parents. As teenagers, we rebel against that dependence, striving for independence from everyone/everything. Then, if we’re lucky, we’ll continue to mature from dependence, to independence, to *interdependence*. This interdependence is why trust is paramount, because we are willingly enabling another person to have some sway over us, for the benefit of a stable relationship.

    All my relationships are interdependent…with my family and friends, we all rely on each other…that takes trust and interdependence.

    When a woman wears the independence chip on her shoulder, I walk the other way, because it tells me she doesn’t understand what it takes to have meaningful, fulfilling relationships.

  3. 43

    Bob @ 40 – are you saying you think I wave my independence like a flag? If not, then what are you trying to say?

    I asked if it ever occurred to men that some women are independent because they’ve had no choice because they have never had anyone to take care of and/or protect them, even as a child. Did it ever occur to men to invest a little time to earn that trust and interdependence instead of expecting it immediately? Those are the questions I wanted answered.

    If you took my examples as waving my independence as a flag in your face then you couldn’t be more wrong. I used those examples, because to me…that is what you do when you care and love someone, and he/she is important to you…you do whatever it takes to make sure that person is cared for and protected. You bring all of your considerable talents and abilities to bear and help. No matter what. Even if it means working 60 hours a week to put food on the table and use that food to make breakfast before you go, come home to make lunch, go back to work and make dinner when you get home…because he/she can’t do it for themselves…no matter how tired you are. Even if it means taking a bullet for that person. Ideas of male/female gender roles are meaningless.

    If that doesn’t make a person, male or female, feel needed and important, then I don’t know what would. Or said another way…why that would make the other person feel diminished, unimportant or unneeded, I have no idea. But, I won’t apologize for being strong, competent and independent…and caring for and protecting the people, men and women alike, that I love. And to me, that level of trust, care and protection a person (even me…even my family) has to earn, and should just be handed to someone because…

  4. 44

    Steve Apr 1st 2010 at 03:31 am 24

    @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.

    Men tend to interanlize more no?) I don’t think your experience is because men have happier attitudes toward women. B) Maybe?we are both biased to our retrospective genders and tend to pay more attention to what the opposite sex is saying then our own. Because I’ve heard men have their own list of complaints.
    All I am saying is women should put the same effort in relationships men do. If we did, you would see how fast the relationship progress would deteriorate. Sure, they put effort in sex. But beyond that, it’s like pulling teeth. ?You have women that are in relationships with men for years and these men still can’t buckle down and marry the girl. Men are less commitment minded today more then ever.
    And as Casey said, in today’s world you have to learn to be an independent woman. You have to take care of yourself and protect yourself. You can’t relay on a man for those things anymore.? It doesn’t even seem like lot of men even want that role. Women have made themselves less vulnerable?and I do think that ‘s sad. But the reason it’s happened is because we live in a world that if we left ourselves be vulnerable all the time, we would get abused or taken advantage of.? And no white knight is there to save the day. Maybe men today want to feel like the heros but many of them don’t want to do the hard work that it entitles to really be the hero.

  5. 45
    Karl R

    JerseyGirl said: (#44)
    “All I am saying is women should put the same effort in relationships men do.”

    That’s what Evan has been saying for years. If the man isn’t putting effort into the relationship, then woman shouldn’t be either.

    JerseyGirl said: (#44)
    “If we did, you would see how fast the relationship progress would deteriorate.”

    You’re dead wrong with that.

    If you stop putting effort into the men who aren’t sufficiently interested in a relationship to exert effort themselves, you will no longer be wasting your time and effort on dead-end relationships.

    JerseyGirl said: (#44)
    “You have women that are in relationships with men for years and these men still can’t buckle down and marry the girl.”

    The men can do that … but they don’t want to marry that woman. But these women delude themselves into think he will. Either the man is putting effort into moving that direction, or he’s not.

  6. 46

    My friend was with a man for 10 years and they got married two years ago. Are you saying he didn’t really want to be with her?

  7. 47

    Jersey Girl-
    Wow. You seem absolutely intent on construing everyone's comments to suit your worldview. Okay. But I'd ask yourself if this much anger is doing you any good.
    On a side note, I think we should define "independence"- like the word feminism, it seems to have gotten an undeserved bad rap and means god-knows-what to different people.

  8. 48

    Sayanta #47
    This makes me think of a couple of short-lived relationships I've had over the past couple of years. One guy, who thought he wanted a serious relationship, would kid me about being so independent and not saying "we" enough. He ended up getting scared and overwhelmed and breaking up with me. The other, who was petrified of getting into a really serious relationship, told me I wasn't independent enough. Eventually, I figured out that when this man used the word "independent", what he really meant was "detached". I ended that one.
    I wouldn't mind giving up some of my "independence" if I could find a guy truly willing to give up some of HIS. Hasn't happened so far.

  9. 49


    Don’t we all construe people’s comments based on our personal world view? Sorry, that’s not particular to only me. And what anger? How about talking about the topic instead of making personal critisms about me.

  10. 50

    @Casey #43

    I’m trying to say EXACTLY what I said. Stop twisting what I say into what you want it to be so you can argue against what I have to say.

    I’m a very smart, rather articulate man who usually chooses his words very carefully, and I would venture darn few people mis-construed what I said.

    I CARE that people, both men and women struggle through relationships, and have difficulty understanding the opposite sex.

    I come here to hear what other people see, and to offer what I’ve gleaned from my years of dating. To present what I’ve learned about myself, and others. To hopefully provide to women (and the men who come here) some insight into how some men (those who are like me) think and view the world.

    I’m sorry you feel the need to repeatedly tell me my point of view is wrong.

    Your questions are argumentative, and you repeatedly mis-represent what others have said.

    This is my last missive to you Casey. Intelligent discussion is predicated upon using others’ words with respect, not twisting them in an attempt to prove women’s perspective is more right than mens. I’ll not be drawn into debate with you when it’s clear you don’t respect what the men on this blog contribute.

    The battle of the sexes doesn’t fly here.

  11. 51

    @JerseyGirl #46 – Well, he couldn’t have been that anxious to lock her down if he waited 10 years to marry her. Jeez.

  12. 52

    Terrible advice Evan:   The problem with this advice is that you are not seeing why women are asking this question, its because they DON’T want to leave their boyfriends/husbands.   Women aren’t conditioned to be lonely or independent (financially or emotionally) and are stuck in these relationships for better and worse.   Sadly, their men realize they have their girlfriend/wife trapped and can stay the same selfish humans without changing.   Women NEED Men more than Men need women.   Single Men can be independent financially and emotionally, but single women cannot do this especially if they have children.   Women do not want to be lonely.   Women cannot find quality men in normal every day situations – rich, stable, responsible men.   Certainly not the Drunk Men at bars or Frat Guys.   They want Doctors, Lawyers, Engineers, Teachers, etc.   Lastly, since women are stuck in these situations, they want to learn how to manipulate their boyfriends/husbands to become better men and spouses.   Its not a take or leave it game, its a chess match where the best player gets what She wants.

    1. 52.1

      “Women NEED Men more than Men need women.   Single Men can be independent financially and emotionally, but single women cannot do this especially if they have children”
      haha … that’s pretty funny.        You’ll have to explain to me why my ex husband is still unemployed after 3 years and can’t “financially” support himself or his kids.           No amount of manipulating will change those kinds of situations.          
      After the great recession rich,stable, responsible people (men or women) are far and few in between.        

  13. 53


    Oh my God, you are so wrong, it’s shocking.

    In this day and age, women do NOT need men to be support themselves and DON’T   have to put up with men’s crap (because many do does not change this fact).   Women have more choices today than at any time in history, to stay or not stay.   Women do NOT need men more than men need women–women can have children without a man in their lives, ANY woman can get sex from a man basically any time she wants, she just has to go after it and can support herself and her children if need be.   And she can do this with no commitment from a man.     Women are much more likely to NOT be lonely as we are driven biologically to connect withi others and to create support networks around us.   Mature women do not look for men’s pocketbooks as a measure if they would be a good partner.     I find quality men in every day life every day, that’s crap.   It’s not about manipulating anyone, each person comes to a relationship of their own free will and can leave at any time too.  

    As in everything, there are exceptions.   There ARE women who are obsessed with a man’s financial resources and status in life.   Just like there ARE men who are obsessed with getting sex from women as much as they can or having some eye candy on their arm.

    Wow, hope you are married  or committed  to a mature woman already, because with your world view, I think you are going to be mightedly challenged to find one.

  14. 54

    To Joe #52, are these the kinds of women you’ve known? There are women who do not need a man for emotional or financial support, and when they do find themselves in an unhealthy relationship, they have the strength and wisdom to move on.
    I have raised my daughter to know that you do not need a man to be happy, or to take care of you, and to never allow herself to be in the position of having to depend on a man or heaven forbid, feel that she is at their mercy. I want her to be happy, and if that includes marriage and/or children with a man who compliments her life, that’s wonderful. Just always be able to stand on her own.

  15. 55
    Karl R

    Joe said: (#52)
    “since women are stuck in these situations, they want to learn how to manipulate their boyfriends/husbands to become better men and spouses.”

    Since you brought it up, and you’re a man, why don’t you give the women an example of how they could manipulate a man to become a better man and/or husband.

    It should be simple. Choose some way in which you are less then ideal (as a husband/potential husband/man) and in which you are not inclined to change. Then give us some examples of what a woman could do to manipulate you, examples that would motivate you to change, even though you really don’t want to change.

    This is outside my expertise. I hate being manipulated, so if I notice a woman making a serious attempt to manipulate me, I’ll dump her. And if a woman doesn’t want to leave me, then she doesn’t want to drive me away either.

    Since you’re recommending manipulation, I’m forced to assume that you don’t mind being manipulated. Please let the female readers know what type of manipulation works well on you.

  16. 56

    Evan is right that Men don’t change, but its because Men are too embarrassed to ask for help.   All our lives, Men have been told to be tough, play sports, never cry, never be weak or show emotion.   Men do not know how to ask for help when it comes to relationships or emotion.   That’s when you change from being a “dating coach” to a “relationship coach” and helping these women work on their relationship to determine if there is any hope at all for a long term future.   It may be seen as manipulation or compromise, but a relationship is all about giving and taking and treating your partner right.

    For the strong, independent women, who don’t need men, good luck.   Its good to see everyone woman out there being strong independent and alone.   But that is not the question at hand, which is “How to keep a Man and make him a better spouse” – there are a lot of men who are clueless, socially awkward, and have no idea how to make a woman happy.   They just don’t know how to ask or seek help.   A lot of Men are also players and cheaters, who are selfish, and need a woman to kick their butts to be a better Husband.   A cheater can change if he sees its better to be monogamous, otherwise most men would cheat if there were no repercussions.

    The women asking for dating help because they don’t know how to find quality men.   Maybe they can’t find Men at their work, they don’t work with single men.   Maybe they can’t meet successful men at Church.   But a strong-minded woman knows how to get a Man to do what She wants.   A strong-minded woman knows how to have an adult conversation with a boyfriend about their relationship, and make changes through either positive or negative reinforcement.

    The “Take it or Leave” philosophy is the easy way out.   Women WANT to get married and be in relationships.   If a Woman wants to be Single and Childless all her life, that is perfectly fine, but that is not the question being asked in a Dating and Lovelife column.   These Women Readers want Marriage with a stable Man, and their is NOTHING WRONG WITH THAT.

  17. 57

    “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).”
    So what’s a financially independent woman supposed to do if she wants to find a man to share her life with? Give up her job and go live from welfare money because no man will want her because she is too independent? Wouldn’t you think that in these economically difficult times it would be a relief for a man to have a woman who also brings home some bacon? I don’t see how being financially independent prevents a woman from loving a man… In most couples I know both man and woman have a job, sometimes he earns more, sometimes she does. The men also take care of the kids and do some household work. I am in western Europe where most women with children work.  
    While dating I have met men who seemed to have a problem with my job (I happen to have a good one). I am not the bragging type but if you ask me what I do for a living I will not lie about it, why would I? If hearing about my job somehow crushes a man’s ego, he is not the one for me.  
    I hope to meet someone who is actually proud that his woman has professional succes…

  18. 58
    Karl R

    Rosa asked: (#57)
    “So what’s a financially independent woman supposed to do if she wants to find a man to share her life with? Give up her job and go live from welfare money because no man will want her because she is too independent?”
    The man doesn’t have to feel needed (some men do, but there are plenty that don’t). However, it was always important to me that I feel wanted. If a woman seemed ambivalent about me, or treated me like a low priority, I left and found a better relationship.
    This isn’t about how you feel about the man. It’s about what he perceives. And that’s going to depend heavily on what you express.
    My wife doesn’t need me. She’d get along just fine without me. But it was very clear from the beginning of the relationship that she liked being with me.
    Rosa asked:  (#57)
    “I hope to meet someone who is actually proud that his woman has professional succes…”
    I’m happy for my wife when she achieves professional success, but it’s not a point of pride for me. It doesn’t affect my self-esteem either way (unless one of my suggestions somehow led to her success).
    If you expect your success to be a strong selling point in your favor, you’re going to be disappointed. My wife’s professional success is a convenience that I appreciate. As long as she could support herself, she was sufficiently successful for me.

  19. 59

    @Karl R, thanks for your opinion. It’s not because a woman is financially independent/has a good job that she does not want her man or makes him a low priority. There is absolutely no link between the two. Now as for wanting a man who is proud of my professional success, this is important for me. I see it as follows: I am a complete package of heart, brains and body and want to be loved for the whole package. I have my job because I have good brains and I want this to be as much appreciated by my partner as my big heart and my great body :-)…

  20. 60
    Sparkling Emerald

    Karl R (and general response to this thread) I get that men aren’t particularly “proud” of their woman’s successes.   However, after being a long time reader of this blog, from what has been expressed in numerous comments, articles, etc. it seems that men RESENT any success a woman has.   Re: the article about how men’s self esteem (explicit and implicit) plummets if they discover she scored in the top 10% of a particular test.   One male commenter called such women (who do well on a test) “ersatz men” or some such thing.   (having trouble navigating this new site so I can’t link to or reference the blog post, so I might not be giving an EXACT account of the article, just a general idea)
    Bottom line:   I don’t have a fancy, schmancy job, I’m not in charge of anything or anyone at my work, so there is no “career hat” that I have to take off after work. My education consists of a HS diploma and a certificate of completion in my field, and my latest work accomplishment was winning a game of Bingo at the office Halloween party,   so I have very few accomplishments for a man to resent.   In my next relationship, I won’t look to my man to be proud of any of my minor successes such as a work promotion, or getting cast in a film or play.   I won’t expect a man to express any pride in me other than “You look nice” or “Thanks for dinner, that was delicious”.   I know that ALL men care about is how we make HIM feel.
    So . . . I won’t expect a man to be proud of anything I accomplish, major or minor BUT, is it to much to ask that he not RESENT it ?   (and no, I don’t peacock or brag about any of my little life’s success’s) I don’t think MENTIONING a minor success in answer to “How was your day” is boasting.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *