Does Being Good at Dating Prevent You From Emotional Intimacy?


Hi, Evan. This question is inspired by the Does Acting Like A Man Mean Acting Like A Jackass? post on your blog. I’m a woman, and I’m a stud. Anyway, I always kind of felt that I was. I am/was good-looking, bright, charming, witty, successful with “the boys,” etc. Over the years, my intelligence and emotional unavailability have separated me from the sluts – male and female. No shocker, I was raised in a volatile, withholding environment and am most comfortable in superficial relationships. In fact, I run into the sunset when confronted with the possibility of commitment. Yes, I am a prize. 🙂 Before I get a pat on the back for my self-awareness, though, I need to confess that it’s taken me decades to recognize this stuff about myself, and, over those decades, I’ve hurt some very good men (and some real assholes, which is tough to regret, but which I do regret in a kind of Buddhist way). And I’ve hurt myself. What’s saddest, and what I think is sad for so many of us “studs”, is that we may never know true intimacy. What a waste of a life. I remember from a college psych class that Freud wrote life was comprised only of “love and work, work and love”, so us illustrious studs basically suck. My question: have you or your wife known any women who, at a late date, wanted to mend their ways, and actually managed to do so? —Lynn

Dear Lynn,

Even though you told me not to, I’m going to pat you on the back for your self-awareness.

It doesn’t mean that you’ve conquered the problem, but at least you admitted you had one, which puts you far ahead of all of the women who simply blame men for everything that goes wrong in a relationship. Check out the comments below. You’re sure to see them there.

I wish more men would start realizing that they’re the own source of their unhappiness.

Although your question is very similar to this one, which I wrote a few years back, I wanted to see if I could shed some new light on your situation.

First of all, I think it’s brave of you to throw yourself on the sword and admit that you’ve been — in essence — dating like a guy, and committing the same emotional crimes as men regularly commit. I only wish more men would start realizing that they’re the own source of their unhappiness, with their relentless pursuit of younger, thinner, prettier, at the neglect of their own long-term self interests. It’s not until something clicks in men and they realize that finding a woman who makes them feel good is paramount that love is possible.

Otherwise it’s simply chemistry and a list of impressive credentials chasing chemistry and a list of impressive credentials.

My friend Onna said something to me the other day that blew me away, so I wrote it down. Onna’s 39 and has been through tons of ups and downs with men since I’ve known her. She’s become very close with my wife and I — and through our conversations and her devotion to my material, she’s transformed herself into one very happy woman, complete with an alpha boyfriend.

Here’s what she said that really blew me away: “I found Mr. Right when I stopped making men wrong.”

And if there’s one thing I rail against on this blog — even while I’m giving advice to women — it’s making blanket statements about what’s wrong with men and how they “should” be a certain way – presumably doing everything that YOU want them to do.

(The same thing, by the way, could be said about men who cling to the “women are crazy” line and choose not to date the many sane ones out there.)

Until we all start choosing partners based on their character, kindness, integrity and emotional generosity, we’re pretty much doomed to repeat these cycles over and over.

Back to you, Lynn, because you want to know if there’s a chance in hell that you’re going to be able to turn this ship around before it’s too late.


Because as much as we proclaim things like “I can’t help how I feel”, at the end of the day, love is a choice. A choice that we make every day and with every interaction. We all have our self interests at heart and make decisions that should, ostensibly, lead us to happiness. The problem, of course, is that we’re irrational decision makers. Men try to hold onto the hot, charismatic woman who makes his life a living hell. Women try to hold onto the hot, charismatic man who will never commit. And in between, we have interludes with the nicest, purest, most earnest partners who could completely make us happy, if we’d ever actually let them.

Instead we say, “it’s too easy” or “it’s too boring” or “I like more of a challenge” or “I don’t feel the ‘spark’” or “I love him but I’m not ‘in love’ with him”.

Once you make the decision to stop being lonely and start being vulnerable and authentic, everything comes a lot easier.

Once you make the decision to stop being lonely and start being vulnerable and authentic, everything comes a lot easier.

The best example I have at my access is a new client in her early 60’s. She’s a tough woman — whip smart, driven, opinionated — with a very clear idea about how the world should work.

After one week of working together, she wanted to quit.

I didn’t let her. I reminded her why she came to me in the first place. I let her know she was running from the challenge to see into her blind spots and would miss out on something really valuable.

She gave me another chance.

Four weeks later, she told me that something had shifted in her, based on something I said.

The man she’d been seeing for 6 months — the man about whom she was ambivalent — the man she was figuring out how to dump so she could put up her online dating profile… that man was finally finding his way into her heart.

The moment she knew something had shifted was when he said that he wanted to go to church and understand her spiritual life. If he didn’t, it would be hard for them to be truly intimate.

No man had ever spoken to her like that before.

No man had ever taken in interest in her like that before.

And now she stood on the precipice of true love, debating whether she should run and hide or walk into the light.

On our phone conversation, I told her it was a no-brainer.

“You finally found a man who makes you feel heard, understood and safe. That’s what it’s all about. Just let him in and you’ll have a beautiful life together. He loves you. He’s not going to hurt you.”

She instantly started crying.

This was something that she’d been avoiding for her entire life — finding a man who made her feel heard, understood and safe. Instead, she chose men who were more man than she was — the 5% of guys who had bigger balls, bigger egos and bigger wallets. And she had nothing but heartbreak to show for it.

If you’re ready to mend your ways, Lynn, the opportunity is yours for the taking. It just might mean letting go of your idea of how it’s supposed to look, and discovering how amazing life can be when you find a partner whose greatest trait isn’t his square jaw, tireless ambition, or brilliant writing skills, but, rather, his desire to love you unconditionally, despite your flaws.

Let me know how it goes for you.

Join our conversation (32 Comments).
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  1. 1

    I totally believe ANYONE can change – but only when they are ready.
    To Evan:
    I am divorced because my ex cheated.   While going through the divorce, my kids were really angry at me.   Why?   Because their father was telling them the reason we were divorcing is because I was manipulative and controlling.   He didn’t tell them it was because he was having sex with someone else.   AND I didn’t tell them about that either.   When they accused me of being manipulative and controlling, I stood silent because it seemed better to take that than to hurt my kids with the truth.   Because I wasn’t participating in his battle, he stopped his attacks and now considers me one of his closest friends.   He actually would like to put our live back together but I won’t return.  
    The point is it is really hard to stand back and take accusations when they are thrown at you.   I did it – and I had my reasons for it.   But I believe people are allowed to defend themselves.       You wrote in this blog about the comments of women who just want to bash men.   I am not trying to speak for anyone but myself.   I am not looking to bash men in any way.   I feel that some of the comments by  some of the   women are because we are trying to defend ourselves (and yes, you do have some women are extrememly anti men).   When some of your male commentors  (thank god not all do –   you have a lot of really good male commentors) make sweeping derogatory comments about women especially if this isn’t a way  I  behave    how do I not feel a little defensive?   Should I just  accept that because the comments  are coming from  men, they are  making these comments about women, as I am a woman  about me,  and that they are right?          

    I love to learn.    But when I am constantly being told I am wrong, the learning ceases.          

    1. 1.1
      Evan Marc Katz

      @JustMe: I agree with you. And I think there are some male commenters who are too pro-men/anti-women to take very seriously. However, I’m not one of them.

      Which is why I always find it an annoyance to argue/defend myself on here, especially when my original point is misinterpreted and mangled.

      Honestly, I don’t care if you pay attention to any of the other men on here, but I would definitely pay heed to what I write because it’s a mainstream interpretation of male desires, beliefs and mindset.

  2. 2

    Here’s the thing – on the one hand, love is a noun.   It is the name of a feeling that we have when we are around another person or think about them.   This is often what we think love is,  but the truth of the matter is that this feeling can be elicited in any number of situations, as a response to a variety of stimuli.   It is also a feeling that can  be deliberately provoked in us by someone who  doesn’t necessarily feel the  same way.

    On the other hand, love is a verb.   It is a thing that you do.   It is the way you treat someone even when you disagree with them.   It is overlooking the small stuff because you have the things that matter.     It is fidelity when you’re bored, forgiveness when you’re still irritated, the recognition that you’re not a perfect partner all the time, either.   It is doing your best because you know they are.

    If you have the feeling, but aren’t willing to perform the action, you don’t really love the person,  do you?   And if someone says they have the feeling for you, but don’t take the actions that matter, they don’t really love you, do they?

    To be  satisfied with having the feeling but not be willing to perform the actions is to have  a juvenile, self-centered definition of love, isn’t it?   To perform the action when you know you will not receive a feeling of safety and being cherished in return is kind of an abuse-oriented, victim’s mentality, isn’t it?

    The biggest  mistake people have with love is to assume the  noun is enough.   It’s not.   The second biggest mistake people have with love is to assume that the verb will automatically  inspire the other person to reciprocate.   It won’t.

    When you find yourself in a situation where you’re unhappy, ask yourself, what’s missing – the noun, or the verb?   Who’s missing it?   Then remember,  if the other person is the one who’s  deficient, you can’t change other people.   If he’s not feeling it, if  he won’t take action for you, you can’t make him.   You can only leave.   OTOH, if he’s doing  everything right, is there really something wrong with him?   Or are you standing in the way of your own happiness?  

  3. 3

    “Does Being Good at Dating Prevent You From Emotional Intimacy?” That title really caught my eye.
    When I first started dating, I found that I was VERY good at the first few dates. It was only a few dates in, when I finally decided I really liked the guy, that they lost interest. I couldn’t figure out why but knew that it had to be something I was doing (or not doing) wrong. When I read Evan’s book “Why He Disappeared” and then Dr. Gray’s Mars and Venus on a Date, I had my Ah Ha moment. Since then, I’ve been extremely successful at dating.
    So what did I learn about how to be a great dater? The first thing I realized was that the skill set for successful dating is different from that needed to be a good partner in a long term relationship. The second thing I learned that has made all the difference in the world for me is a little more complicated to explain.  
    There have been men in my past that I’ve gone out with but that I wasn’t excited about.   I was trying to give them a chance but was always on the verge of breaking it off for one reason or another.   I would be polite but at the same time not make any extra effort to answer phone calls, save time for them, etc.   Although it would have been pretty obvious to most females that I really wasn’t interested in them, the men wouldn’t leave me alone until I finally, in no uncertain terms, told them that I absolutely didn’t want to be with them EVER.   So what I’ve found has made me incredibly successful in dating is to treat ALL guys like this.   But, as Evan and others have mentioned, I can’t fake it because that comes through.   So I have to really feel this way about the guy.   Meaning I have to not allow myself to feel emotional intimacy with them.   (By the way, it explains so much about why guys are attracted to gold-diggers and truly bitchy women.)   So now the trick is to know when it’s “safe” to allow myself to become emotionally invested.  
    By the way, I’ve been with the current guy for 11 months, he’s already talked about marriage.   Last night he told me how he was “crazy” about me.   He treats me well.   Unfortunately, there is one issue that is likely a deal-breaker for me.
    Bottom line, I think it’s unfortunate but true that emotional distance is a key to being a successful FEMALE dater.   That’s why Dr. Gray says that if a man feels chemistry towards a woman, he should go after her, but if a woman feels chemistry towards a man, she should run the other way, FAST.

    1. 3.1

      WOW, great post and so true. That is why after being married 22 years and divorced 4 I had been lost. Just read Gray’s book as well, and it almost doesn’t make sense. But, I keep reading this….starting to wake up. How do you create this balance, please respond?  

  4. 4

    Evan and others:
    I am alone because I had to take a job out West (health insurance coverage is a really good idea when you have had breast cancer) and my (wonderful) partner of 12 years did not want to live here due to a lack of any social/environmental community. I grew up in a situation very similar to the subject of this column. It made me become very independant at a young age and urged me to break free of the multigenerational cycle of failure and get three college degrees. Ironically, my dealing with that experience also made me the writers opposite; I am great at relationships but suck at dating. “Superficial” does not exist in my world at all. Either feel things fully, being totally aware, or do not feel at all. Feelings, words, actions all should be in line with one another. Dating on-line has been a misery as the “play, play , play” mentality of this region (lots of ski resorts and mountains) selects for men whose core values and reasons for being in the area are very different from mine (I am big on social and environmental responsibility, abhor drug and alcohol abuse, live sustainably and have a serious work ethic). It is both time and money consuming to plod through the profiles of the guys that contact you and feel dissappointment after dissappointment. The few that I have actually met with were obviously on a different lifes path than mine; they are after the superficial relationship although that is not what they stated on their profiles. It makes me incredibly sad as I KNOW from past experience that I am able to be in a committed relationship given the opportunity to meet someone whose values are in line with mine. Right now, I cannot leave where I live due to financial responsibilities. Should I change? I do not think so; to change and accept values that are against my own is to throw myself away. Evan, this is an example of why some of us driven, successful women feel so defensive. If I am not strong and independent, living according to who I am, doing everything for myself, nothing gets done (I have almost no support network here and am without family). Yet I am often berated for this very independance. I do not like being totally alone, but if one “settles” for someone who cannot respect you (and vice versa) due to incompatable values, one is going to feel just as alone with this person as without them. Dating would be a much less problematic experience if everyone acted with the same criteria as they would (or should) being in an actual relationship. Know truly who you are, what you want, and target only people who share your values. That, and actually read the other persons profile before responding, eh?

    1. 4.1
      Evan Marc Katz

      @Miskswa “I am often berated for this very independance. I do not like being totally alone, but if one “settles” for someone who cannot respect you (and vice versa) due to incompatable values, one is going to feel just as alone with this person as without them.”

      I certainly hope that you don’t feel “berated” for your independence here. All of my clients are independent and I’m very supportive of them…until their independence undermines their relationship goals (working too hard, being too hard-edged, being too critical, always being right, not making time for dating, not allowing oneself to be vulnerable, not opening up to good men).

      Similarly, there is a ton of middle ground between making compromises for love and “settling for someone who can’t respect you”. I highly emphasize the former and highly decry the latter. All good relationships are in the middle – compromising into happiness, not loneliness.

  5. 5

    I think Lynn’s understanding the root of her problem, and how it originated is a great first step. Maybe a little work with a therapist about her childhood would also be beneficial and help with the intimacy issues.

    I also think it’s great to look within when something doesn’t work out. I mean, we can be angry for sure when someone lies to get what they want, but I’ve seen women behave this way as well, some who are my friends. In the end we can only control our own behaviors. Albeit easier said than done!

  6. 6

    Hi Lynn,
    You should google “Avoidant” personality types and read up on Attachment Theory.
    Avoidant people tend to still be happy people, as individuals… They just tend to act as you do, as far as relating to others.   From my understanding, it’s nothing that can’t be fixed or changed, now that you are aware of it.   Avoidants do best with Secure people, just because.
    (PS, I don’t usually psychoanalyze people, but I can really relate to this post as I spent a lot of time doing the exact same thing.   It gets easier as you accept that you may be the problem).

    1. 6.1

      Thanks for saying that, Angie. I am realizing right now that this is a real problem for me, and it’s good to hear that you were able to make progress with it. It would be awful to be stuck in this place forever now that I know how difficult avoidance has made my adult life!

  7. 7

    I think that most men are utterly confused about women liking jerks. Men hear that women like jerks and they start treating women like crap. Women do not like men who are jerks they just don’t like men that behave like a wuss.

  8. 8

    Excellent post Evan I am a great dater, I know exactly what men respond too, I smile alot and i’m good at creating that sense of chemistry and to top it off I  am chronically emotionally unavailable. Which of course is the icing on the cake for most men. I have noticed the more emotionally detached I am from a guy, the stronger his feelings will become toward me. The problem is that I am not faking the detachment, I really don’t care one way or the other about the budding relationship and I usually brush off the poor guy before any we can get anywhere close to  being vulnerable. I  know that i have the same problem that many intelligent women have — looking for my perfect match. Ya’know the guy that  meets every requirement on my checklist. And unfortunately for me that is also a man that has more masculine energy than I have… that 5% of the population that would probably prefer a woman with way more feminine energy than what I have to offer.  However, the first step to recovery begins with identifying and  acknowledging the problem. And your post has really inspired me to open my eyes and heart to the other 95%.   

  9. 9

    @Kimby. That’s what I was trying to point out in my post. My success at this point is due to learning how to remain emotionally detached from the man. Sad but true.

  10. 10

    I see the same in my short dating experience. When I get emotionally attached, I get burned (even if, before that, the guy was extremely interested and did every thing in the book to win me over). When I am not emotionally attached, I attract better quality people, who stick around for longer, push for a relationship, and are OK with remaining friends if things do not work out. But my questions are, one, when (if ever) is it okay to let my guard down? Is any guy going to run for the hills the moment I stop acting indifferent? And two, if that’s the case, why bother? I don’t want a family, I don’t want kids, I support myself. Why bother spending time with the guy if you’re not even allowed to like him? I like my job, my kids, my dog, my household work, my hobbies – I cannot function unless I enjoy what I do. So why do something you’re not allowed to enjoy? What’s the end goal of it, if I’m not looking to get married? It’s not a rhetorical question, I’m really getting confused here 🙂 A little help?

  11. 11

    Goldie #12

    I know what you and Better Dating mean, but I also feel like this contradicts what EMK says about being supportive and making time for the guy. Or are we just supposed to act indifferent  until we’re actually in a relationship? Then we’re supposed to flip the switch and become super-nurturing and vulnerable?

    1. 11.1
      Evan Marc Katz

      It’s not “indiferent”. It’s emotionally detached from the long-term outcome. You don’t worry about whether a movie’s going to be great, or whether each week at work is going to be the best one ever. You just show up, do your thing and go home. That’s dating. Detach from the meaning of each and every guy and sit back and watch whether he steps up to the plate. You should ALWAYS be enthusiastic, happy to see him, make him feel like a million bucks… when he calls you, pays for you, follows through for second dates, calls you in between dates, etc.

      This isn’t contradictory. Make dating FUN and your guys will stick around. If they don’t stick around, don’t get too hurt or surprised because you were emotionally detached and you didn’t expect much anyway.

  12. 12

    Goldie 12 (and BetterDating and kimby), everything you wrote about how guys disappear when you become emotionally attached, I wrote in some fashion in my diary way back when I was still dating. Funny how some things never change.

    You asked for advice – I’m not a dating expert, but here’s my take on it. You might ask yourself: “How am I specifically acting differently  toward this guy when I become emotionally attached, compared with how I acted before?”  If you can pinpoint it specifically, then you have a better chance of catching yourself when it happens again, and stopping it in its tracks.

    It’s something different for every woman. Some women, when they become emotionally attached, become too possessive of the guy. They resent when he goes out with his friends or wants to spend the night alone. Or they mother him excessively, telling him what to eat  or what to wear. In my case, I became a pain in the  neck by taking everything  the poor guy  said too seriously and turning it over and over in my mind – and then the next day would say to him something like: “What did you mean when you said that? Did you mean this or did you mean that? I didn’t like that…” And it usually ended up being me who broke up with the guy, when  in all likelihood  he did nothing wrong (and nothing differently) in the first place.

    So maybe if you can figure out what that action is in your case, you’ll realize you may be overreacting and  can actively work to control that aspect of your behavior.   

  13. 13

    Hah! Good point, Helen! I know exactly what I do when I’m emotionally attached… I turn into a doormat. Only happened to me twice in the past year… Guy #1, I actually broke up with after he started planning ALL our times together along the lines of “let’s go to my place/let’s go to your place” and then, if neither place was available because both had the kids that weekend, he’d just not make any plans whatsoever. Oh yeah, he definitely wanted to be exclusive. I told him I wanted more than that from an exclusive relationship, … then got back together two weeks later and accepted all his terms cuz I missed him so much. Yep, doormat, that’s me 🙂 But wait, it gets worse! With the second guy, for our last date, I drove 45 miles one way… on a weekday evening… on a one hour notice. He’s sitting at home texting “come on out” and, just like that, I feed the dog, tell the kids I’ll be out late, and hop to it. And then I spent the rest of the week beating myself up for having told him at midnight that night that I had to leave because I had an hour drive home and work the next morning… in my deranged mind it was, OMG if I hadn’t been so stubborn and had stuck around for another hour instead, he’d probably be dating me still… eh… NOT.  
    Needless to say, both times after things ended, I felt majorly used. Not a happy feeling. First time it happened, I sat home for three months straight, thinking, Why did my close friend use me like that?… Because I let him, that’s why!
    I guess I need to force myself to say “no” when I normally would say “no” to a random guy off the street… even if I want to bend the rules for this one, because I like him… say “no” and stick to it. This way, if things don’t work out, I’m still in a good position, because I haven’t done anything for that guy that I wouldn’t normally do… we had fun together, now it’s time to go and have fun with someone new. The end.
    Then again, I have the same problem with my kids, my dog, and my parents. Mystery solved.

  14. 14

    Oh Goldie, I think we need to take a poll on here. Will any woman who has never acted like a doormat in her life please raise her hand… I’d be keeping my hand down.

    I wonder if it’s  as common for men to feel like doormats, or if it’s just us women.  

  15. 15

    My hand is down.  

  16. 16
    Saint Stephen

    This is true. The more a woman acts stud-like, the more it reduces her chances of bonding and emotional intimacy. These are the kind of women who wind up lacking enthusiasm for a real relationship.

  17. 17

    Justme…I have heard head shrinks say, it is perfectly healthy for a woman to be controlling and manipulative….

  18. 18


    I think the issue here with the emotional Detatchment, is that it isn’t really you being your authentic self. It’s almost like “faking it”. The key that I have learned is  that I needed to change myself in a permanent way, and not just my behaviour till a guy liked me.

    If you are finding yourself becoming a doormat, then you may need “something” in your life so badly, that you are willing to lose yourself to get it(perhaps love?). I think that is really important to address. It’s not the “doormat” behaviour one should focus on or try to stop, but try and understand  the reason why that happens and address that reason.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if you may have a small abandonment issue.  I think many people have  abandonment issues. For anyone that is struggling to remain really true to yourselves for fear of losing a loved one, I would read up on this. It’s entirely possible to overcome it, build very healthy boundaries and really learn how to be intimate with some-one in an authentic way without paralyzing fear.

    It really helped me.  I don’t change anymore no matter how I like the guy, because I can handle being without him and find it far beneficial to behave in an authentic way. I know that he is the man that actually cares about me..and not the other, more polished me.

    Does that make any sense at all?

  19. 19
    Lucy McBees

    Hi, my hand is down.

    I agree with you completely  I need to force myself to say “no” when I normally would say “no” to a random guy off the street… even if I want to bend the rules for this one, because I like him… say “no” and stick to it. Well. I will completely make yourself remake,  

    Thank   you.  

  20. 20

    god this thread is so sad imo. Ive held back emotionally but can never do it for very long. I try to go at the guy`s pace though. To me if the guy is that withholding emotionally it doesnt bode well longterm. I guess everyone is cautious in the beginning but I prefer men with heart who, like me, cant & won`t keep up the charade.

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