The Secret To Understanding Men: They Don’t Go Both Ways

The Best Boyfriends Are a Bit Thirsty

Hi Evan,

I finally met an emotionally available, nice guy after going through my fair share of emotionally unavailable men. We’ve been dating for about two months now and have hit a rough patch. I am starting to feel like the man in the relationship. He reacts emotionally instead of rationally all the time. He wants to talk about feelings all the time. I find he is emotionally needy.

I am an independent woman, and I like my time to myself. I do not need to talk about feelings.

Sometimes I feel like he says things in a passive-aggressive way just to see how I will react. I feel like I have to always reassure him. This is really stressing me out and turning me off. I told him that it would be best for him to keep his emotions to himself right now and once things get more serious, then we could talk more about feelings. At first he said that I was right and that this behavior has ruined his past relationships, but then he says that it turns him off that I don’t want to talk about feelings.

He feels like he has to hold back with me. I feel like all this talk about feelings is just too much too soon.

My dilemma is that he’s a nice guy that I can trust, he treats me like no man has ever treated me, we have common interest and goals, but I’m turned off by his neediness. I just don’t want to feel like the man in the relationship. He has already cried four times when we have discussions where I tell him that all of it is just too much for me. I’m wondering if I should just call it a loss and move on? I want a nice guy, but not an emotionally needy one. Is this a deal breaker, or is this something I should just give more time to see if he can overcome it?


Dear Katie,

My second book, Why You’re Still Single, contains a chapter called “Men Don’t Go Both Ways” which addresses your question directly. The short version is this:

But your constant frustration that Marlboro Man “doesn’t open up” or that Sensitive Artist is “too needy” is pretty futile.

There are two poles that women find attractive: The Marlboro Man and the Sensitive Artist. The Marlboro Man is traditional, doesn’t like to talk about his problems, doesn’t like to listen to yours, but he is a MAN. He’s a stoic, and if he has any emotional needs, you’ll never know it. Problem is that it’s hard to feel CONNECTED to a guy like this. Sharing information is what makes us close, and if you have a guy who really doesn’t roll like that, you’re going to constantly wonder where you stand and what he’s thinking.

Then there’s the Sensitive Artist, who is as much of an open book as your best girlfriend.

You share everything with him and he shares everything with you. You truly understand each other. Problem is, when a person shares everything with you, there will be times where he will seem weak and vulnerable. This doesn’t always inspire confidence like the Marlboro Man.

Men Don’t Go Both Ways means that whether you’re expecting the Marlboro Man to start sharing or expecting the Sensitive Artist to stop sharing, you’re wasting your time. They’re DIFFERENT guys with different strengths and weaknesses. Thus, as a woman, you have a choice: put up with the stoicism of a traditional man’s man, or put up with the emotional rollercoaster of a sensitive guy.

But your constant frustration that Marlboro Man “doesn’t open up” or that Sensitive Artist is “too needy” is pretty futile.

As a sensitive artist guy myself, I don’t blindly defend the type. I know how exhausting it can be to date a man who wants to hash every little issue out like, well, a woman. I know that you can burn out on that kind of thing pretty quickly the way, well, we get burned out on overemotional women. But the reason that I’m writing this is that, at some point, you’re going to have to make a CHOICE.

And as a dating coach whose job is to help men and women understand each other, that’s the thing that I see more than anything: nobody wants to make a choice between different people. No, we want our dates to be all things at all times.

But don’t expect guys to be all things at all times. That’s just wishful thinking.

The ideal man should be:

Strong and stoic, but sensitive and open to sharing.
Successful and ambitious, but not a workaholic.
Charismatic and charming, but not a player.

Realize that these are all contradictions. Sensitive artists want to talk. Entrepreneurs will work past six. Charmers will exploit their skills with women. Expecting otherwise is useless.

So Katie, this isn’t about your boyfriend “overcoming” his emotional neediness for your sake. Nope. He’s a nice guy who treats you like gold and wants to know where he stands. The only person who has to overcome anything is YOU.

You need to make a choice: to put up with his emotional neediness (as so many men do with so many women), OR to break up with him and find a new guy, knowing full well that the new guy may not be as emotionally available as the current guy. It’s not a clear-cut decision, nor should it be. But don’t expect guys to be all things at all times. That’s just wishful thinking.

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  1. 1
    Evan Marc Katz

    Hope you enjoyed today’s post.

    I’ll be back with a new-looking blog and website in early 2009.

    I appreciate your readership and wish you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

    Your friend,


  2. 2

    Merry Christmas Evan! But aren’t you Jewish? Happy Hanukkah, as well, if so!

    I have to say, I find men run on a continuum, as do women. The Marlboro Man can and does share feelings and occasionally tears comes with them. Some are more forthcoming than others; I think it matters how much they trust you. The Sensitive Artist can suck it up and be the man, for sure. There is a whole range…sounds like this gal has a weeper.

    Listen. Validate. That’s about all you can do. Time will tell if this is just a rough patch or if professional counseling is in order (I say this only because he mentioned he’s ruined past relationships with this behavior.) But, as an emotional woman myself…who is also very independent…being HEARD is so validating. The sooner you are able to practice reflective listening and let your man know he is heard and validated, the less tears you will have. There is a great book about (called?) “Non-Violent Communication,” that has a section on empathic listening that might help. If you are pushing your own agenda, you are not listening. Find out what he wants, and even if you can’t offer it right now, affirm it. Just my two cents…

    Happy Holidays!


    1. 2.1
      John Go

      excellent wisdom

  3. 3

    Thanks for not just playing up the virtues of a “needy” nice guy Evan, it’s not surprising that there are women who aren’t necessarily attracted to guys who are so “in touch with their feelings.” Having feelings while being able to emote and expound on them is one thing but doing so at the detriment of a relationship is always questionable.

    I completely agree that both men and women should be certain about the type of partner that they would prefer as well as understand the type of partner that they would be in a relationship; who they would authentically be. Too many time people present themselves as the perfect partner just to settle into their true selves after time. Until people are able to embrace who they are while feeling comfortable in presenting their true selves to a partner there will be a chance of relationships suffering after time has past to allow each partner to “settle in.”

  4. 4

    Evan delineated two extremes. There are men who fall between those two extremes. I’m not saying the one that is on the right point of the continuum for you is out there in quantity and easy to find. I think the important point that Evan made is that you will be less likely to find happiness by expecting somebody to be someone that they are not.

    You wrote yourself that your boyfriend has a pattern of neediness. 2 months can feel like 2 centuries when you have been dating someone you really like, but still it is only 2 months. Take Evan’s good advice, assume he isn’t going to change that much and decide if you want him the way he is.

  5. 5


    I know you are an atheist with a Jewish background, similar to me. Have a happy Solstice!

  6. 6

    I agree with “moonsical”. If you listen to this guy he might gradually change.

    I feel that although this guy does really seem to be needy and has issues. But its also true that if you sometime you want your guy to hear you out when you want to went your feelings you should be ready to do that for him too.. Listening to your partner’s feelings is what makes relationships stronger. If you think the problem will be solved by just ignoring then it is just going to increase.

    You have to know that no one is perfect.. you aren’t too. Maybe you dont feel the need to share your emotions but you might have other problems that might irritate your future partner and if he leaves you for them he is not worth it either.

    What i want to say is that if you cant live with this aspect of his behaviour then leave him rather than expecting him to change.

  7. 7

    A lot of people fall in between these two archetypes, but Evan is right, no one is all things. I used to be the sensitive artist, and now I’m completely on the other side in Marlboro Man territory (although I don’t smoke). I have occasional bouts of talkiness and feelings sharing. When in doubt I err on the side of manliness. This gets me in trouble sometimes but it’s being true to my core.

    Katie’s guy sounds like a big wussy and he needs to man up. No one should be that needy and unattractive. Take a shot and try getting him to read some books, like David Deida, and maybe having a heart-to-heart with his manly friends. I have a couple of old guy friends that give me tough love whenever I start to screw up with the ladies. I can even call them up and request these reality checks. Breaking up is the ultimate solution and not necessary right off the bat. Get creative.

  8. 8

    Well, I agree with Shalini and Moon–sort of. This guy will change all right, but it probably won’t be for the better. Think about it: if this is what he’s comfortable showing you at 2 months, imagine what’s waiting down the line. Sorry, I’m as attracted to the sensitive artist type as much as the next gal, but weeping 4 times already since you’ve started dating? That would be a red flag to me that this guy has more deep seated psychological issues waiting to surface (remember all those relationships he ruined in the past?). I say follow Steve’s advice and think about finding someone who is more of a happy medium between the two personality extremes.

  9. 9

    I am with Lance , Cilla, Steve on this one. Major red flags. I had a friend who married someone like this because he was “nice” and treated her like gold. We all tried to warn her. Seven precious years of her life wasted, she finally divorced him. Within a year, she was remarried to someone who was a much better fit, and she is much happier.

    This man’s behavior would be a MAJOR turn off to me. He is being a wuss and manipulative with the tears and other orchestrations. I disagree that it has to be Marlboro or Artist. There has to be a happy medium somewhere.

    Run, Katie, run!

  10. 10

    If this situation was flipped on its head, if a guy was complaining about a needy woman weeping about relationship issues, 4 times, in a two month old relationship I think people would say the same thing. 2 months is too soon to be crying over relationship issues, or even having relationship issues.

  11. 11

    Depends on how fast a relationship progresses. Sleeping together, intimate sharing…gets people mighty attached and pulls up a lot of their, “stuff.” It’s all relative…does he just get misty, or is he sobbing? On what topics? For how long? What are you doing that contributes to the problem? (Such a hard one to ask ourselves.)

    I think two months is about the right time to find a fly in the ointment.

    Only Katie can be the judge as to what next to do. Some people are, “keepers,” but need help to get over something they’re stuck on. I did mention a while back a (male) friend who is great but apparently gets anxious in relationships…starts calling his girl on a girl’s night out and so on. He is not a bad man, but he seems unable to help himself. Draw your boundaries and suggest outside help. This may turn into something you joke about down the road…

    It’s true: there is something, “wrong,” with everyone. Hold ’em or fold ’em…but it’s always going to be something.


  12. 12

    This is much more disturbing to me than just tears: “Sometimes I feel like he says things in a passive-aggressive way just to see how I will react. I feel like I have to always reassure him.”

    But again…what’s your part in all this?

    Personally (also being independent) I have noted in myself that I likely don’t give enough prompts as to how I feel about someone…so they really don’t know. Though so far no weepers. Some outbursts, though, from time to time, when the man is stressed out… Gosh, why *can’t* they read our minds? Well…probably for the best! ;~)


  13. 13
    Seductress Within


    He’s cried 4 times in 2 months when you tell him “all of it is just too much for me.”

    It sounds like he wants YOU to be different than you are which isn’t likely to happen is it? So don’t expect HIM to be different either. This is who he is. He is emotional, very emotional and it’s not going to change.

    Because you are naturally so different from him and he’s not getting whatever it is he needs from you (I assume more emotional and verbal displays) it’s probably making him feel vunerable and insecure thereby making his already needy personality worse.

    You two don’t sound like a good fit at all. It sounds like you both really like some other qualities in each other and are hoping and trying to change the ones you don’t like.
    Follow your gut, you have your answer.

    Good Luck!

  14. 14

    Great post- I think Evan is right about not expecting the Marlboro Man/Sensitive Artist to come together in one package (but is it impossible? Look at the Stones- or Beatles, or Dylan or any other tobacco-hoarding rocker ladykiller who sings sweet sensitive words the next minute).

    But I am in agreement with the posters above- that the Marlboro/Sensitive are two extremes, and it’s more usual for men (and women) to fall within a range. Everyone has both masculine and feminine energy, depending on the situation, one kind of energy tends to dominate at a certain time- I’ve met executive types who go to martial arts classes one minute and tear up during an intense personal conversation the next. I’ve met army men who have no problem listening to a woman’s problems and sharing feelings, and speaking gently. Yes, and these are straight men I’m talking about. lol. I’ve also met (and dated) talented artistic men with the emotional brutality of a Marlboro man.

    Someone used the word ‘continuum’ above, and it describes the range of human emotion and experience, for both men and women, perfectly.

    But all that aside, the post-er’s boyfriend doesn’t sound ‘sensitive’ to me at this point. He sounds emotionally unstable, immature, and manipulative, and I believe she should deeply consider whether she wants a relationship with a person like this.

  15. 15

    I just heard a great analogy from Esther and Jerry Hicks for looking for a mate who has the traits you want vs. settling for only a few points of commonality: you can either go to a restaurant you love and get meals prepared the way you like them or you can go to the worst restaurant in town and try to teach them how to prepare meals that appeal to you, hoping that eventually they’ll get it right. The OP’s boyfriend sounds like the worst restaurant in town, and she’s wasting her time trying to get him to cook the way she likes.

  16. 16

    Sounds to me like Katie is the Marlboro Woman. Or should that be Virginia Slim?

  17. 17

    Just like there are some men who are the sensitive, emotional, crying types, there are women out there who like that type. My ex was very needy emotionally; I was put off by it because I ended up feeling like the man in the relationship ninety-nine percent of the time. His current wife is perfectly fine with it. It sounds two me like the op and her SO have a personality clash.

  18. 18

    Evan, the only thing I like about trait theory is that it always comes wrapped up in a neat and tidy package. Your two archetypes “Marlborough Man” and “Sensitive Artist” sit conveniently at opposite ends of the sensitivity trait continuum along with the underlying assumption that most men fall somewhere towards the guy in the middle of the bell curve. If there is such a guy his name is Bi-polar Man.

    If however, we were to interpret sensitivity as a behavioural dynamic communicated between people rather than a personality trait within a person we can then appreciate sensitivity within the context for which it really exists; namely a constant feedback dynamic–a reciprocating cycle of trust, openness and faith.

    If the sensitivity feedback cycle is interpreted as non-reciprocal or not being reinforced by some or all parties to a relationship then those elements of trust, openness and faith in the value proposition that is “sensitivity” begin to break down.

    This is happening for both Katie and her boyfriend. Katie needs her boyfriend to be sensitive to her needs for some emotional distance. Unfortunately, her needs are at odds with those of her boyfriend’s for Katie to be emotionally accessible. Both parties are crying out for sensitivity to their respective albeit incompatible needs and both probably labelling each other as insensitive in the process. If not addressed they will not only harm their existing relationship irreparably but also risk transferring their perceived sensitivity deficits onto the balance sheet of their future relationships.

    The need to talk but more importantly, they need someone to help them to listen to each other.


    John´s last blog post…Self-portrait #2

  19. 19

    John, you make some compelling points, and I would tend to agree with you except for one thing. Most people in dating situations don’t go that deep into the “psychology” of it. More often than not, we view a dating situation as temporary, so we don’t take the time to work through things with the other person. If their behavior turns us off, we bail. Sometimes the other person doesn’t even have to do anything we dislike, we just bail anyway. Again, I’m not being critical of your view, John, because I think you’re correct. But we humans can be fickle, silly, petty creatures.

  20. 20

    John, I agree with you except for one thing: most of us aren’t willing to invest that much in someone who’s behaving in a way we find off-putting, especially when it comes to dating. We don’t get that deep into the psychology of why someone is how he/she is, nor do we take the time to work it through. Sometimes the other person doesn’t even do anything and we bail anyway. I don’t mean to criticize what you say because I believe you are correct. I’m just saying that humans can be fickle, silly, petty creatures.

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