Men Don’t Like the Word No, So Why Say It?

husband lifting his wife at the kitchen

I want to ask you a personal question — one that I’ll bet no one has ever asked you before.

Of all the traits that make you a great catch, what do you think is at the top of the list?

You can make an argument for kindness.

After all, your ability to give to a relationship will largely determine a guy’s satisfaction with it.

You can make an argument for intelligence.

You probably take great pride in how you’ve succeeded at work, how you’re always reading, growing, and learning. Men do like interesting women.

The one trait that makes you the greatest catch of all is something you probably haven’t even considered.

You can make an argument for youth and beauty.

God knows, enough has been written about men’s desire to be with model-types, even if they don’t have a shot in hell.

You can even make a case for confidence.

The 2006 Harlequin Books Romance Report stated that both women and men put confidence at the top of the list for desirable traits in a partner.

Yet the one trait that makes you the greatest catch of all is something you probably haven’t even considered.

Being easygoing.

It’s hard to put a price on being easy, but it’s easy to put a price on being difficult. And what most men have determined is that difficult women are WAY too expensive.

In case you’re feeling your blood start to boil, let’s do a quick definition of easy.

An easy person says yes.

A difficult person says no.

That’s all there is to it.

I am a difficult person and I’ve been working on it for years.

My wife, on the other hand, is a “Yes” person. What she fundamentally gets is that, in relationships, there are a million little decisions to make together — so why get bogged down in micromanaging all the details?

Being easy doesn’t require anything more than the desire to spend time, have fun, and eliminate any unnecessary friction in your relationship.

Insisting that a charismatic, intelligent, successful man do everything your way is an exercise in futility.

And my wife has it down to a science.

When I ask her to join me for a midnight movie, she says yes.
When I ask her if we can skip cooking and eat leftovers, she says yes.
When I ask her to give me a couple extra hours to work before dinner, she says yes.
When I ask her if she’s okay with visiting my Mom for the weekend, she says yes.
When I ask her if she’s open to doing something naughty on an airplane, she says yes.
When I ask her to forgive me for being an opinionated know-it-all, she says yes.

Do you get the idea?

So when she DOES insist that something is important to her, I’m sure to pay attention.

Contrast her with my client, Erica. Late-30s. Super. Bright, witty, self-deprecating, successful, interesting. But she has so many rules in her life that I would think it would be impossible to please her.

She doesn’t like loud noises. She doesn’t like cold weather.
She doesn’t like most animals. She doesn’t like many foods.
She has very definite ideas about how men are supposed to dress, when they’re supposed to call, and how they should be allocating their time.

And the list goes on.

Now, I’m not saying that you have to like EVERYTHING. “No” is a perfect word to say when he says that he wants to see other women, or when he says he’s not sure he ever wants to get married, or when he says that he’s only doing drugs and gambling “casually”.

What determines whether you’re easygoing is not how you handle those no-brainer situations, but how often you INSIST that he conform to your preferences on everything else.

Because, as you already know, insisting that a charismatic, intelligent, successful man do everything your way is an exercise in futility.

After all, being easygoing — especially when you’re bright and opinionated — does NOT come easy. We want what we want. And we’re going to express every single opinion we have to make sure we get it. Believe me, I can be that way myself.

But it doesn’t mean it’s a good thing.

Face it: if you’ve been single for a long time, you probably have some very strong opinions on how the world should work. I sure do.

Ironically, the more you mature, the LESS you’re willing to compromise. After years of experience, you refuse to settle on so many things that there’s little wiggle room for a second opinion.

Soon, every little decision becomes a disagreement.

Disagreements become arguments.

Arguments become deal breakers.

He wants to be with you, but he also wants to be himself. His whole world can’t revolve around conforming to your rules.

How can a man connect with you if all you’re doing is focusing on what YOU want?

What about what HE wants?

What if he wants to go to a bachelor party at a strip club in Vegas?
What if he wants to spend his Sundays watching football with his college friends?

What if he wants to keep the photos of his ex-girlfriend in a box under the bed?

You can say no to all of these things, but “no” doesn’t get you anywhere. All it does is make him feel suffocated and judged. He wants to be with you, but he also wants to be himself. His whole world can’t revolve around conforming to your rules. (No more than your world should revolve around conforming to HIS rules!)

So, is it more important to be “right” or to get along? Because that’s what relationships are all about. Figuring out how to think as a couple — not just getting everything you want.

When you’re easygoing, you have a lot less conflict in your life. Things that bother other people don’t bother you as much. And when something is really important to you, you’re almost always going to get your way.

But if EVERYTHING is important to you — if you put up a fight instead of going along with him on totally inconsequential decisions – you’ll never have a moment of peace.

Hey, if you always want to have your way, you can. All you have to do is go out with a doormat who will agree to always let you win.

But if you want to be with a man you respect, you’d better be prepared to drop your rules quick.

Because we men aren’t too fond of drama. We’re not too big on being told what to do.

And we certainly don’t like the word “no”.

So instead of trying to get him to your point of view, try saying “yes” instead.

It’s fast, it’s easy, it’s fun.

And most importantly, it works like a charm.

Join our conversation (92 Comments).
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  1. 21

    @ Karl R.   #9

    My definition of easy-going:
    1. Not forcing the other person to do something they don’t want to do.
    2. Not giving the other person a hard time about something unless it’s really important.

    I like your definition of easy-going.  

  2. 22

    My mother used to tell me “Choose your battles wisely.”   A friend of mine put it this way “This is not the hill I want to die on.”
    The way I interact with my husband is whoever feels more strongly about the issue, gets his or her way.   This usually works out well for us, not always, but most of the time!           🙂

  3. 23

    I think Evan is suggesting being a go-with-the-flow kind of gal.

    Easy-going and agreeable  doesn’t mean  doing something you REALLY don’t want to do or allowing yourself to be disrespected. But it may mean stepping out of your comfort zone for your partner and not getting your way sometimes.

    I have strong opinions about important issues: my faith, my values, my morals, politics, finances. No one would consider me a doormat…but for the day to day stuff like food, entertainment, hobbies, music, how I spend down-time….I’m a big “yes” girl because I’m happy in most any situation I’m placed in. I’ll go along if my partner suggests something I normally wouldn’t choose for myself or even care to do.

    Unless a man is a disrespectful, domineering ass, he won’t take advantage and the good guys would appreciate it and return the favor.

  4. 24
    zeus panthera

    Most men don’t like to hear the word no because deep down inside they lack confidence and they take the no as an attack against them. They hear the word no and they start thinking that it’s because they aren’t good enough, or she doesn’t love him.

    If you’re dating a guy or lacks confidence or meet one that does, don’t say yes just to make him feel good. By making him feel good you will be making yourself feel lousy and miserable. It’s not your fault he has no confidence and he’ll either get over it or become a dating dinosaur.

  5. 25

    Hmm… I get where you are going with this Evan, but I think there is a fine line between being “open-minded” and being “easy-going”.

    You say “Arguments become dealbreakers”… well, maybe some of these things are dealbreakers.   I think a good man can listen to a “No”.   In the early stages of dating someone, I think saying “Yes” to things you wouldn’t normally do on your own (say, going on a challenging hike or seeing a movie that isn’t your typical style) is positive and keeping an open mind.

    But even some of the things you listed about your wife…
    *seeing a midnight movie… what if I have work at 8 in the morning?
    *fooling around on an airplane… might be embarassing?

    If a guy can’t handle “Sorry, I’m waking up early for work and don’t want to get home from a movie at 2am”, then there is something wrong with him.

    I think there are a great deal of men out there who act like spoiled children.   There is the male equivalent of your client, Erica.   No person, man or woman, should be so high maintenance that they always need their way, and no person should be desperate enough for “love” that they never get their way – both parties should COMPROMISE some of the time, and neither should just sacrifice always.

  6. 26

    I have to agree in part with Angie, what if saying yes goes against something that respects your own health and well-being?  

    Also, I’ve read numerous times before that men like opinionated women and don’t want to date a push-over or someone who just says yes at everything.

    I can understand not saying no to everything and being extremely difficult all the time, but I think having your own preferences and making sure your needs are met is important as well.

    1. 26.1
      Evan Marc Katz

      There’s not a word in the above article that says that you should say yes to something that goes against your health and well-being. Similarly, there’s nothing in the above article that says that men shouldn’t be similarly easygoing with you. So please don’t make those suggestions. You don’t want to be with a man who isn’t thoughtful, generous, and largely acquiescent to your needs. Why would a man want to be with a woman whose default setting is “no”?

  7. 27

    If it is a minor matter that will make him happy and not result in any major inconvenience to me, then “yes” is an easy and mutually rewarding answer.       If it’s something that I have some reservation about, then a discussion is in order.   The answer may still be yes, but I need to have my concerns allayed.   Major decisions, forget yes.   We are talking about this.    

    A relationship is about two people,   to keep it balanced those easy “yeses” should go both ways.  

  8. 28
    Karl R

    zeus panthera said: (#26)
    “Most men don’t like to hear the word no because deep down inside they lack confidence and they take the no as an attack against them.”

    You’ve got it backward.

    If a man has no confidence, he will believe that he needs to acquiesce to his significant other or else he’ll never find a woman as good as her again.

    If a man has confidence, he knows he can find a woman who is as good (provided he’s willing to spend the time and effort). There will be some trade-offs, but the principle is true.

    I expect my fiancée to say “No” sometimes. (Because sometimes I’ll say “No,” and I don’t expect her to behave that differently than me.) But overall, I expect her to be easy to get along with. If she wasn’t, I’d keep looking.

    Sherell said: (#16)
    “There are guys  dumping women every day because they are too easy and accomodating.”

    That’s not the reason why the woman is being dumped.

    Perhaps he doesn’t find her physically attractive. Perhaps he finds her boring. There’s some other reason he’s breaking up with her (even if he’s not willing to mention the reason to other people.)

    Do you really think I’m looking for “difficult to get along with” in the woman I’m going to spend several decades married to?

    If that’s what you’re looking for in a spouse, you’re a masochist.

    1. 28.1

      Actually, when my first LTR dumped me, one of the reasons he said was because I was a doormat. I guess I didn’t know the fine line between being easygoing and being a doormat. What I was trying to do was avoid arguments by just going with the flow, because he had told me he and his ex argued a lot, so I wanted to be better. I was actually a people-pleaser. I was immature for my age though, so that’s why I didn’t know the difference. So you’re right, Karl, there was more to the story. That relationship opened my eyes to how immature I was so that I could start to grow and change. I’ve come a long way, but have been having setbacks recently. I still am no where near assertive enough as is healthy.

  9. 29

    Evan, while I understand and agree with your overall message, and I do enjoy your direct style of writing, sometimes it drives me buggy. 🙂 I’m sure my writing drives people buggy, too.
    You have a client (or many) who seems to be on the extreme end with all of her dislikes and opinions, and you take off with it [I know; it’s your job 🙂 ], writing to ALL women how you’d best be a near 100% “yes,” pleasing kind of girl (unless he’s cheating on you or something extreme) or guess what? But that’s not the key to a truly happy, lasting and successful relationship, particularly marriage. In fact, that could create the risk of making one or the other feel miserable. Yes (no pun intended), being easy going is important, but it’s not about being a yes or no person. It’s about equally and amicably compromising between both parties. It’s the ying and the yang. It’s based in the fine art of communication (verbally and physically), in it’s execution and delivery.
    I can only speak honestly about my life experiences, of course. I have witnessed far more men than women who always want it their own, their opinions, their needs, etc. You even give yourself as an example. Even in today’s society with young women gaining more power, assertiveness, etc. girls are still raised to be the more easy going, caring, nurturing, “put your needs second” of the species. Sure, there are women who are bossy, harsh, opinionated, “take it or leave it” types, but the answer isn’t to concede to your guy’s near every wish. It’s somewhere in between. And as others have pointed out … sometimes you can be “too” easy going.
    Karl’s statement about what is easy going is spot on to me. At the end of the day, men and women both want someone who’s easy to get along with. And does anyone really like the word, “no?” I’m sorry, but our world as a whole tells us no all the time. It’s called growing up and realizing that the world doesn’t revolve around you.

    1. 29.1
      Evan Marc Katz

      @Diana: “In fact, that could create the risk of making one or the other feel miserable.”

      If you feel miserable that he wants to have sushi when you want pizza…
      If you feel miserable that he wants to go kayaking with his guy friends and leave you at home…
      If you feel miserable that sometimes he just doesn’t want to talk about his day…

      Then yes, you will be miserable. But you shouldn’t be. Because he’s not asking for anything unreasonable. And that’s my point.

  10. 30
    Twilight Princess

    I think Evan meant men like a challenge in a different way. In the beginning, don’t make yourself too available. Only respond to him when he takes the initiative, but when you’re actually boyfriend/girlfriend be easygoing. Don’t be so stubborn. I get it. It is good advice. I am a strong believer that you can’t be a selfish person and be in a relationship. My partner’s happiness comes before my own, and hopefully they would do the same for me. I think that balance comes naturally once they see how willing you are to give like Evan said. 🙂

  11. 31

    This is good old fashioned common sense.   I think most folks are naturally accomodating and acquiescent.   And just to prove how acquiescent I am, I honestly not trying to twist your words or slam men in my earlier comments.

  12. 32

    Evan, I almost always agree with your posts and respect your perspective as a man. However, I think what you may have been trying to say here got lost in translation.

    There’s a big difference between being easygoing and being a “yes” girl. To me, a “yes” girl has a negative connotation —— one that’s synonymous with “doormat.” As some have stated above, men like a challenge. I think you’ve said that before yourself. If you’re always quick to say “yes” to everything, it might get you into the bedroom, but not too far beyond it. Where’s the mystery if he can always bank on you saying “yes”?

    And, at the end of the day, I think the true test of a healthy relationship is when you shouldn’t have to ask these yes or no questions at all. Go to the strip club. Go watch the game with your boys. You don’t need my permission, and shoot, I shouldn’t need yours. It’s about compromise and knowing that each of you has your own unique wants and needs.

    1. 32.1
      Evan Marc Katz

      LS – Shh, don’t tell anyone, but you’re a “yes girl”. You just don’t call it that. I think we’re all in agreement here.

      Except those who actually think that being generally agreeable = being a doormat. 🙂

      Seriously, why does every moderate point have to be taken to the extremes?

      “You shouldn’t be blinded by chemistry” becomes “Oh, I should just go out with a guy I’m completely unattracted to?!”
      “You shouldn’t be too upset if a guy disappears after a few dates” becomes “Oh, so it’s cool if a guy is rude to me?”
      “You shouldn’t be surprised if a man doesn’t call after sleeping with you on the first date” becomes “Oh, so you’re telling men it’s okay to be jerks?”
      “You shouldn’t expect a guy to know if he wants to marry you for at least a year” becomes “Oh, so it’s okay if a guy uses me for five years without proposing?”

      This is why I get “touchy”.

      Because sometimes what you’re reading is not what I’m writing.

      Okay, I’m done for the night. And for the weekend. Thanks for your contributions, as always. Have a good one.

  13. 33

    Hey Evan. I do agree with you. As for myself, I am an extremely easy going person; very calm and serene, too. The things you wrote about are superficial to me. On those occasions when I felt unhappy in my former marriage, they had absolutely nothing to do with this kind of frivolity. If someone’s feeling miserable over sushi vs. pizza, what can I say? I am big on respecting a man’s individual need for a life of his own, as well as one with me, too. I like it that way for myself as well. 🙂

  14. 34

    Great post! It needed to be said. There is a big BIG difference between being easy-going and being a doormat. Difficult, picky, high-maintenance people are no fun to be around. (Trust me, I was married to one for 12 years- never again!)
    Being accommodating and choosing your battles wisely is also very different from not ever voicing your opinions. That should never even be an issue if your relationship is based on mutual respect.
    In a healthy relationship, there   is nothing more wonderful than saying “yes” to each other as often as possible. I like making him happy because he makes me so happy. It’s a happy cycle. 🙂

  15. 35

    This thread is on fire this afternoon.   Time to wade in with some observations about the thread, rather than the topic.
    @Evan Seriously, why does every moderate point have to be taken to the extremes?
    The discussion is rife with generalizations, and the same people who seem to think one simple “rule” is meant to apply to everything are ones taking your point to extremes.
    Generalizations: I’ve read numerous times before that men like opinionated women and don’t want to date a push-over
    if  I’m saying  YES to things, [I don’t] get my way
    it seems to me that a lot of guys have a mentality that difficult = more desireable.
    The point is, stop looking for a simple “always do this literally” rule when all Evan is doing is illustrating a point. The point is don’t insist on always getting your way, and in fact try to enjoy your partner’s way as compatible with your way or close enough. A real partner will be doing the same for you. (Evan points out how he is a yes man for his wife, eh?) Over interpret Evan’s point (or ANY point for that matter) and of course you will soon find yourself in the bizarro world.

  16. 36

    Honestly, I don’t know too many single women who are like EMK’s client, Erica, but  I do know some uber-demanding women (like her) who just happen to be married. In most healthy relationships, though, being easy-going is a plus. A willingness to compromise is a plus. For both people. I think so many women on this blog are bristling about the suggestion that we should be yes-women because many of us have been too accommodating, and have had trouble asserting ourselves. At least this has been my personal experience, and something that I’ve had to work on.  

  17. 37

    Thought you might like more male perspectives. FYI: I am 59 and starting dating again after quite a few years. I would agree that I am certainly more set in my ways then when I was 50. That is both undeniable and somewhat surprising to me. I am also more accepting of that in women.

    Opinion: Saying “no” to a man is direct and is often not as much a problem as, “oh, when did you last clean in here?”, or “I didn’t know you were such a homebody.” It’s not “no” so much as the veiled criticism that is annoying on two levels. One, it says a man’s way or circumstance or preference is not OK. Secondly, it is indirect, like a sucker punch you can’t call out and address directly without seeming to be overreacting.

  18. 38

    Evan: “Because sometimes what you’re reading is not what I’m writing.”

    Here’s what you wrote:   that “no” is a “perfect word” when he wants to cheat, do drugs, or never get married.

    Otherwise — when he wants you to stay out until 2:00 a.m., when he wants sex in a public place, when he wants to pant after strippers, when he wants to keep photos of the ex under the bed, and I can’t imagine what else, if all this is on the table — then “no” is “being right instead of getting along,” and making “his whole world revolve around conforming to YOUR rules and  making him feel “suffocated and judged.”  

    Someone pointed out your tendency to argue only from the most extreme points; I’ve noticed this as well.   OF COURSE  you don’t say that someone  should say “yes” to anything that compromises their health or safety.   That’s not the point; if you’re saying “yes” to that kind of stuff, then you’ve got some serious mental problems that aren’t going to be solved by a dating advisor.   Let’s stop knocking down the strawmen.   So what about those non-extreme questions that you tend to evade?   Somebody asked it earlier — what about the “Hey, I have to get up at 6:00 a.m. to get to work, I’m going to say . . . NO . . . to that midnight movie?”

    This particular thread  is a bit frustrating to read, because there is a strong kernel of truth at the  root of  your  post  — very few people, male OR female, truly enjoy being with somebody who is angst-ridden, full of drama, and makes every simple outing into the Normandy invasion.   My rant above aside — I do have the rare-but-occasional outburst — I *am* in fact very easy-going and open to spontaneous fun, something that many of my friends have remarked upon, and almost all of my men have told me they appreciated.   But none of them expects that I’m going to automatically say “yes” to virtually anything.

    By the way — if you don’t want to answer specific questions about your very healthy marriage (which I can completely appreciate), you should probably stop constantly using  your interactions with your wife to illustrate your points.   Just sayin’ . . .

  19. 39

    I’m extremely easygoing – to a fault. I’m very attractive too, but still single at 32 after a string of bad luck – long relationships that ended for big reasons. I’ve been here a couple years, and the knowledge I’ve gained has been golden (thanks!). I just met the guy I’m going to marry – he wasn’t what I expected, he has a decade on me, and two lovely daughters, but he’s exactly the right guy for me. With me he’s the most attentive & romantic man I’ve ever met. I think everything can be reduced to easy with the right person. At the end of the day, life should be made easier by your friends/family. Never accept anyone who makes your life harder.

  20. 40

    I’m having deja vu… didn’t we have this discussion at least five times on here in the past year?
    Anyhow, two things. One, I don’t care what the guy does on his own, he’s a big boy, if he wants to have pizza for dinner or play shooters all night, it’s his choice. I really do not mind. It’s what he expects me and my family to do that I may have problems with. If I have to get up at 5:30 every morning, and he wants to text and chat until 2 AM every night, I’m going to push back. If I like hiking, exhibits, and concerts, and he wants our every date to be “let’s go to my place, watch a DVD and sleep over”, I will have to push back. I’ll try to meet him halfway and propose new solutions that can work for both of us, but I will have to push back on what he wants. Keep in mind, I do not care if he stays up till two in the morning. I just cannot do the same for him.
    Second thing that comes to mind, at least in my experience, it’s pretty easy to say yes to someone you like. And this can actually lead to you saying “yes” too many times and agreeing to things that make your life more difficult in the long run. Personally in these situations, I’ve been known to say “oops, sorry, I thought this would work, but it doesn’t. Can we try something else?”
    As an example, someone mentioned coffee a while back in this thread. I’m one of those crazy creatures who like their coffee freshly ground and brewed. Last guy I dated loved to make coffee for the two of us in the morning, in his drip coffeemaker, I still don’t know the brand of coffee he used, except that it came from Walmart, but it made me awfully sick. But he looked so proud of himself, poor guy, I never had the heart to say something. I would usually thank him, praise his barista skills, pop a Pepto-Bismol when I got back home, and forget about it. If we’d stayed together longer, I would’ve probably brought it up eventually, because you can only have your Sunday breakfasts make you sick for so long. I would’ve probably bought him a grinder and some decent beans. Is that being difficult? I don’t know, I think if something the two of you do together makes you sick to the stomach (literally or metaphorically, doesn’t matter), you’ve got to work it out if you two are in it for the long run.

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