I was a close follower of your blog for a couple of years, and bought two products along the way. Unfortunately, I have to say I’m no longer a fan.
After reading advice from you (and I paraphrase here), to “be smart but not too smart, speak up but don’t speak too much, be funny but not funnier than him,” or something along those lines, I’m reminded of the movie “The Ugly Truth.” If you haven’t seen the movie, the Gerard Butler character advises a woman to toe the line in every way to get her man. But at the end of the movie, she realizes she has indeed gotten her man, but has been a fake the entire time.
Once you get the man, are you supposed to change your personality, wants, needs, in order to keep him?
I was also offended when you wrote recently about your current wife. You referred to “thinking you could do better” when you two were still dating. Does your wife read your blog? I cannot believe she could read some of the things you’ve written about her and not get her feelings hurt.
Here’s the thing. As I get older, I realize I would love to have a life partner. But what is equally important to me these days is creating a life I truly enjoy. And having to play an intricate game that seemingly doesn’t end even when you’ve “landed your man” is just not appealing to me.
Yes, I would be sad if I didn’t find the “one” and have a family. But I’m not willing to give up a sense of myself and look to the man as some kind of savior. I know many, many women give up a lot of themselves to get and stay married. I may be in the minority in not wanting to cut away pieces of myself to form a partnership, but I’m okay with that.
I think you have some intelligent things to say, but many of the things you say come across as downright sexist.
A Former Reader
Dear Amy (my former reader, who may not be reading this),
Thanks for taking the time to write. I usually don’t respond to negative criticism because, as you know, there’s not much of a point. You’re entitled to your feelings and I do not assume that I will be able to change your mind. At the same time, if you’re voicing these feelings, I can only suppose you’re not the only one. So against my better judgment, I’m going to engage you on your claims and do my best to explain myself.
But first, I want to grant one thing. Everyone is entitled to her own feelings. I will never tell you that you’re “wrong” for feeling what you’re feeling. All I can attempt to do is clarify my language, express my intention, and hope that you can acknowledge the nuance between what you’re interpreting and what I’m actually saying.
You begin with an assertion, which I believe to be a false one, “After reading advice from you (and I paraphrase here), to “be smart but not too smart, speak up but don’t speak too much, be funny but not funnier than him,” or something along those lines.”
Who you think I am and who I really am are two different things.
I can understand why you’d feel that way about my work; it just isn’t something I’ve ever actually said. I have never told you to not be too smart and am candid about finding intelligence to be the greatest aphrodisiac. I have never told you to not speak, since I talk a lot and have a wife who talks just as much. I have never told you to not be funnier than him, since, as a former comedy writer, I value a sense of humor extremely highly, and tend to surround myself with funny women, including my wife, mom and sister. So before we go any further, let’s establish this: who you think I am and who I really am are two different things.
Your whole email stems from the premise that you are correct – that I, in fact, tell women to dumb it down, keep quiet, and not shine. This is an inaccurate representation of my philosophy, but it’s a very common one. I’ve often wondered how I could avoid being misinterpreted, but then, just this morning, I put a meme up on my Facebook page, which said, “If you’re interested in him, act interested.” The first comment was: “Why be fake?” as if I was telling you to act interested in a man you’re NOT interested in. So if I can be misunderstood in one simple, declarative sentence, I need to come to terms with the fact that I will be repeatedly misunderstood somewhere in my 1000 blog posts.
So why is it that, in my estimation, so many people aren’t understanding what I’m saying and meaning? Well, I have to take responsibility for that. I write quickly, and never revise. After all, I’m not a professional blogger; I’m a dating and relationship coach who has a blog. So if I wanted to spend more than a half-hour on any given blog post in order to be more subtle and clear, I probably could. But I don’t and I have to own that, because it’s the only thing I can control. What I can’t control is what you, the reader, bring to the table. And if you are listening to all the women’s magazines who are telling you that you have to change to find love, my message might sound really similar. Except it’s not. Here’s why:
My coaching philosophy is not about “right and wrong,” but rather about “effective and ineffective.” If what you’re doing is working for you, if you find that people of the opposite sex flock to you, and if you are in a safe, happy, long-term relationship of your own choosing, by all means, keep up the great work. I don’t know why you’d be reading this blog, which is intended for people who are looking for advice, but if you’re happy, I’m happy. That goes for everything under the sun. If you want to be single for the rest of your life, I’m fine with it. If you want to sleep with guys on the first date, I’m fine with it. If you want to write “I hate men” in your online dating profile, I’m fine with it. But let’s not pretend for a second that all behaviors – however well-intentioned – are equally effective.
It’s very easy for a woman to understand the concept of ineffective when she goes out with a bunch of dolts.
A guy who doesn’t pick up the check is ineffective. A guy who doesn’t ask any questions is ineffective. A guy who only communicates by text is ineffective. A guy who thinks he deserves to get laid on the first date is ineffective. A guy who wants to marry you on the first date is ineffective. And so on. This is so obvious that it doesn’t seem to be worthy of mention, and yet millions of men continue to behave as described above. Why? Because they’re doing what comes naturally. They are being themselves – a little selfish, a little insecure, a little clueless, a little tone-deaf. It’s not a crime, but it’s all too common. If I were a dating coach for men, I’d spend all my time trying to get those men to “change” their behaviors, not because their actions are inherently evil, but because, for the most part, women don’t respond to them.
This was the starting point of one of my more popular blog posts, “Why Men Don’t Like Smart, Strong, Successful Women.” It’s not that men don’t like smart, strong, successful women. We do. We don’t, however, like the negative qualities that often come with those positive traits. In that post, I used myself as an example of a smart, strong, successful guy who inadvertently alienated people with his honesty, his arrogance, his sarcasm, his impatience, etc. I simply posited what would seem to be empirically undeniable:
a) Just because you’re smart, strong, and successful doesn’t make you a great catch for everyone.
b) Good qualities often come with bad qualities.
c) What men value in a partner is often different from what women value in a partner.
And THAT is the thing that most of my detractors, including Amy, I’d assume, don’t want to admit. Many women (not all of them, of course), want men who are taller, smarter, richer, funnier, stronger, braver, more educated. On the other hand, while men very much appreciate impressive women; we have also concluded that impressive traits are secondary to one thing: how he FEELS around his partner. And if she’s so busy that she doesn’t have time for him, he’s not going to feel good. And if she’s so smart that she’s constantly second-guessing him and telling him how he can improve, he’s not going to feel good. And if she’s so strong that she seems invulnerable and he can’t find a way to contribute to her life, he’s not going to feel good. And so on.
So the crux of the disconnect between you and me, Amy, is that I’m not telling you to be stupid, weak and silent. I’m simply saying what lots of men haven’t been able to articulate on their own; your greater value to him comes in your ability to make him feel smart, funny, sexy, interesting, and loyal. Thus, it’s not that your ability to speak in French isn’t attractive; it’s that it’s largely irrelevant to why he wants to date you. Same with your summer home in the Hamptons or your ability to analyze the Middle East conflict. This isn’t about him being intimidated by you; this is simply about how he feels when he’s with you.
I am not telling you, or anyone else to be fake. I am showing you how to be effective, the same way you’d tell a guy friend to listen to his date and pick up the check.
Some people are naturally good at making others feel important. They are good listeners. They ask questions. They don’t look at their iPhones. They don’t make you feel like a low priority. They are available, emotionally and physically. They don’t criticize or micromanage. They assume the best rather than the worst in you. These are the women that men want to date – whether they work at Target or run a venture capital firm. Both women can be 100% themselves, as long as they are evoking these feelings in their partner.
Which is why when you accuse me of telling women to “change their personality, wants and needs,” I have to refute it, unequivocally. I am not telling you, or anyone else to be fake. I am showing you how to be effective, the same way you’d tell a guy friend to listen to his date and pick up the check.
Furthermore, what you seem to be very willing to overlook in your “sexist” criticism of me is my target audience: smart, strong, successful women. Check out this page of smiling women, a small sample of happy clients who have worked with me. Do you think that they’ve all been brainwashed? Do you think that all their smiles are fake? Do you think that they all lied in order to “land a guy”? Do you think that these grateful women hired a man whose whole business is centered on their happiness, but secretly hates women? C’mon. I love women. I love my clients. I love getting emails when they meet a great guy.
These women read the same stuff that you read, but instead of assuming that I want to subjugate women (which couldn’t be further from the truth), they were open to the idea that they weren’t very effective in their dating and relationship decisions. Did any of them change their personalities? Not one bit. They are the exact same women they were when they came to me. All that changed was their choice in men. Instead of deifying men who are taller, smarter, and richer, they’ve started to value consistency, kindness, communication and commitment. In doing so, they finally understood what I mean by compromising. Now, I’ve been at this long enough to know that when I say compromise, you hear “settle”. But here’s the difference between compromising and settling: People who compromise are happy. People who settle are not. I would never tell you to do something that made you unhappy. Yet some people – once again, my detractors – think that compromising will do just that.
My happiest clients – doctors, lawyers, CEOs, etc – came to terms with the idea that dominant, assertive, difficult, “masculine” energy is not appealing to traditionally masculine men, and if they wanted to continue to always get their way at home, they’d be better off choosing an easygoing guy who will not fight with them. He may not make as much money. He may not be as charismatic. But he will be the one guy who lets everything roll off his back. Easygoing is one of most valuable and underrated traits in a partner (not just according to me, but according to studies on marriage). Who is a better long-term partner – the one who fights you, tooth and nail, on everything? Or the one whose default setting is “Yes”? This brings me to your mention of my wife, who is, fundamentally, a yes person. By the way, this does not make her a doormat, as has been suggested by readers in the past. You’re a doormat if you’re unhappy. You’re a doormat if your husband doesn’t respect you. You’re a doormat if he walks all over you. You’re a doormat if you lack self-esteem and you never get your way. My wife ALWAYS gets her way, because I greatly appreciate her easygoing nature and therefore do everything in my power to make sure she’s happy. That’s how love works.
All men want is to be accepted for who they are. And if you can do that, you won’t have to change a single thing about your smart, strong, successful self.
My wife is beautiful. My wife is smart. My wife is funny. My wife is kind and selfless and an incredible mom. But the reason I married her is because I can be myself around her. There are no lies in our relationship. She doesn’t take offense at things that aren’t inherently offensive. Let’s be honest here – not everyone is equal at all things. I am argumentative. I am short-tempered. I have a low sex drive. I like to talk about myself a lot. So if my wife were to say to me that she’s dated men who were less argumentative, more easygoing, had a higher sex drive, and were better listeners, is that an insult to me? Or is it simply a fact? And if we’ve been happily married for six years now, should that fact undermine our relationship? Should I pick a fight with her to tell her that she SHOULD think that I’m the best guy she’s ever met in every category? Or would it make more sense to assume that if she chose me over all other men, has borne me two children, and spends every waking moment making my life better that she probably loves me and respects me, even if she thinks I’m less than perfect?
I think the answer is obvious. In strong relationships, two people can speak their truth without drama, without ego, and largely without conflict. In a weak relationship, you need your husband to either believe (or to lie) that you are the smartest woman he’s ever met, the nicest woman he’s ever met, the sexiest woman he’s ever met, and so on. Sorry, but that just sounds tiring. Reality is much easier to navigate. And that’s what I choose. Reality. Where I can own my strengths and weaknesses, my wife can own hers, and we don’t have to pretend that we’re perfect.
Yes, I DID think I could do better when I was dating my wife. Why? Because I didn’t understand what was important. It wasn’t whether she read Philip Roth, whether she earned six figures, or whether she was a secular liberal. It was that she was the only person I’ve ever met that I didn’t make me bite my tongue, walk on eggshells, or apologize to her ten times a day. My wife accepts me, 100%, and for that, she gets the full-force of my love and devotion.
All men want is to be accepted for who they are.
And if you can do that, Amy, you won’t have to change a single thing about your smart, strong, successful self.