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


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.

Join our conversation (98 Comments).
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  1. 31

    Seriously, though, this kind of guy would drive me nuts. But then again, some women like guys who are more sensitive and don’t mind being more of the stoic ‘guy’ in a relationship.

    On the other hand, the things that attract us to the opposite sex are the things that drive us nuts. Men can’t stand when women rattle on & on, and women wish that men would open up more.

    And because you’ve been through so much heartache you’re psyched to have found someone with whom you connect, who’s emotionally available. So you want to make this work.

    You mentioned he said his behavior has cost him in previous relationships. This tells me two things: (1) he’s not going to change, and (2) he may have a serious issue preventing him from dealing w things in an emotionally mature manner. In other words, it might be more than ‘just the way he is’, he could have some type of post-traumatic separation anxiety or something.

    So if you find yourself walking on eggshells because you’re afraid he’s going to cry, then you’re probably not being w someone who’s meeting YOUR emotional needs.

  2. 32

    Woman who state men who display emtions as needy,have issues in my personal opinion.It is a good thing to share feelings as that makes the relationship strong.These females don’t want to share their feelings ,because they want to A-be in control B-afriad of what their partner might think.

    If we have these emtions,why cant we share them?
    I think that she doesn’t deserve a guy like him.
    In a normal matured relationship,both parties have emotions and talk about it.

    She is not being her true self,while he is being 100% himself.
    It might get a little “too much”,but the question is why does she have to reasure him?

    There must be a few things which she did or does…
    The other problem is that woman don’t know what they want and they want the perfect guy in every way,but they themselves are not perfect!

    This couple seem to both like each other,but need a little work.
    He needs to find a way to display his emtions besides talking about it all the time.she needs to give him the opportunity to share his feeling and also share hers.

    That is just one tip though ,but there are many more…

    David´s last blog post…Having sex in the clubs toilet while drunk

  3. 33
    Patricia Hogenes

    I once dated a man who wanted to have a two-conversation on any issue he felt hurt his feelings. He claimed that I had to talk to him in a certain way and to always avoid sarcasm. He hated wit and humor in people and said that if everyone was in therapy, then he wouldn’t have to worry about his feelings all the time. He was overly sensitive and overly needy. Made me want to run for the hills, leaving that dust in the wind, if you will. So I did and I’ll never forget that morning I left.

    I woke up that morning (spent the night at his house) and went to make myself a cup of tea. When I came back into the room, he said he was very upset that I did not say good morning to him when waking up (he was still sleeping) and that I thought about myself first and not him. He stressed that I should address him before I was to do anything for the day. That was it for me. I moved on. The kicker? When I told him that morning it wouldn’t work out after he gave me his little speech, he wanted to discuss every avenue as to why it wouldn’t work as well as how I made him feel about that statement. He said because he was a man of wealth (inherited) he is able to demand a woman to do as he says. Yeah right – Like I would stay. Any woman who would stay for this, either can’t make money on her own or just doesn’t know what she wants.

  4. 34

    The reason why this guy’s neediness bothers you is because you are uncomfortable with your own neediness. Seeing it in others reminds us of our own flaws.

    Chances are you won’t be able to accept this guy until you can accept these qualities in yourself. Best to find someone else and save yourself–and the guy–any more heartache.

  5. 35

    Patricia (post #33)-
    LOL!!! Are you serious? I just read your post in complete amazement- it seemed like something from a weirdly comical movie. An indie, maybe. The fact that men like this exist blows my mind. Where on earth did you meet him?

  6. 36

    PH, this guy sounds arrogant and selfish. Not to mention high maintenance.

    And David, you’re beeing too general. There’s a difference between opening up and having your partner be overly sensitive to every little thing.

    Life can be tough and we all cry at times, but if you find you end up crying over every little thing that happens to you, maybe it’s you.

  7. 37

    @David, post #32

    Katie wasn’t complaining about her boyfriend sharing emotions in general.

    She was complaining about him being insecure, baiting her to get a response and she was complaining about him getting inappropriately emotional over situations that don’t warrant it. Frequently.

  8. 38

    Hi Sayanta,
    Believe it or not, I met him through that agency It’s Just Lunch. That agency is a whole other story in itself! We didn’t last long at all. I just couldn’t see this as a long-term relationship – too high maintenance, like ‘downtowngal’ said. She hit a bullseye with that statement! He just wanted to spend so much time together (as well as calling me 3 to 4 times a day), I didn’t look forward to seeing him. And, if I was going to see him that night, why call me so many times during the day?

    Hi Erika,
    Don’t know if your post was in reference to ‘my story’ but I have to disagree with what you wrote, ‘The reason why this guy’s neediness bothers you is because you are uncomfortable with your own neediness. Seeing it in others reminds us of our own flaws.’

    This man’s needs were way over the top for me. When I told him that I still wanted ‘me’ time (he wanted to spend so much of our time together) he responded with, ‘I don’t need alone time. I want to be with people around the clock.’ Sorry, but I need that alone time to regroup. I just don’t have the desire to spend 24/7 with someone I just met – that wouldn’t be healthy or lead to a balanced relationship, for anyone. I do have needs, as everyone does, but not in this form. I know myself well enough to realize what I do and do not want in a partner and he did not fit the characteristics of what I’m looking for. And to be honest, I didn’t fit the picture of what he wanted either. There are women who like the ‘high maintenance’ man. I know I am not one of them. It was best he find someone who could relate to him in a way I know I never could. Better we both found out sooner than later.

    Happy New Year everyone!

  9. 39

    Often with the stories submitted, I’d like to know how it works out. It’d be interesting if Katie checked in and let the blog know.


  10. 40
    Miami Dating Coach

    Excellent stuff!!

  11. 41

    Hey Patricia,

    I wonder – if you were really into this guy, woud you have minded as much if he called you so frequently? I ask because I’ve seen this topic discussed on this and other boards about how often guys should call.

    In my experience, if a guy is into you he’ll call often, and can come on strong at the beginning. When we first started dating, one of my ex’s called me frequently throughout the day, it was overwhelming and smothering. But I was into him and loved hearing from him. I also set some boundaries, which he respected, and he didn’t get all wigged out if I didn’t reply to him soon, if at all, he just wanted to express how much he wanted me in his life.

    Getting off topic here, and I’m not trying to put words in your mouth, as it sounds as if there were other issues with this guy you dated. You seem to have a good sense of yourself, which this other guy didn’t.

  12. 42

    Hey Dating Coach from Miami,

    This is excellent material isn’t it? As a woman who has utilized on-line dating sites, a match-matching agency, the personal ads (they’re fossil-like now, I know) and the occasional fix-up from family members and friends, it’s amazing not only the men I’ve met and dated, but the other single women who were more than happy to relate to me their comical dating disaster stories, especially once learning I was a writer and researching material for a future project.

    The odd men they encountered when out in the field gave me enough to go on and complete the final step to complete my second book, Single Women and Dating: Laughter and Humor Linked to Surviving the Process. Selecting the worst of the worst dating disaster stories was the key so other single women could realize they may not have it that bad. I included some of the tale I wrote about in this blog in another section of the book. Yet, for my dating disaster story, I used another one titled, Mr. Not So Clean. Ugh, what a guy!

    The point here is I did have a participant from Florida with a very similar dating experience as I had with the man I wrote about on this blog so I used her story in the book instead titled, Mr. I Want to Spend ALL my Free Time With You. Let me tell you, it was a dandy and much worse than the man I described on this blog! Regardless of her experience with this particular male, however, she’s still going strong in the dating world and diligently looking for The One kudos to her these are the kind of participants I deliberately polled and interviewed those who learned a lesson and are not giving up on the dating process.

    Anyways, though I can’t reveal her real name due to confidentiality issues in our contract, she did allow me to share that she had used a dating coach in Florida. It could have been you. If so, she loved your work! Keep it up!

    All the best,

  13. 43

    Hey downtowngal,

    Good question! I have to say no. Being into a guy I’m dating and having him call so many times a day is still too much for me, especially if I’m going to see him that night. Remember, this guy had more time on his hands than I did. I don’t like to take so many breaks when I’m working (I’m a writer) and that’s when he would call. This is especially true when I’m starting on a new project and conducting research and interviews with people. Though my phones were off during the time, he left messages and wanted call backs just not my cup of tea.

    I like the method you chose in speaking to your ex and setting the boundaries when you were first dating. I agree with you that it’s very important to do this in the beginning of a relationship so it doesn’t get out of hand. It helps even more when they listen!

    All the best,

  14. 44

    Hey Patricia,

    Thanks for your response. So you’re saying that ‘no’ you would NOT have minded his frequent calling if you were into him?

    I only ask because I’ve often had this conversation with guys – and have seen this topic posted – on whether women get turned off by frequent calling. Some guys think this will make a bad impression so they hold off on calling, which turns into a game and turning off women.

    I think we all have our tolerance levels, and you’re right, it’s all a matter of communicating. I find that a guy who’s into a woman will want to contact her frequenty. But if the guy respects your boundaries he’ll be cool. If not, then see-ya!

    And good luck w your book – believe me, I can provide you with a ton of material 🙂

  15. 45

    Woman don’t find it very attractive if a man is too needy and insecure.Insecurity is never a good thing,but there is a logical explanation as to why he is insecure.

    This could be due to the fact that she cant be trusted or maybe he as been hurt in the past is now trying to protect himself by being emotionally aware of the current relatonship status.

    Men like this usually need to confirm every emotion in order to be at peace.The actual cure if for them to tust their woman and to let go,because if she really wants to be with you,she will.

    The woman should be honest with the man and if she really wants t be with him,she should show him.Thus making it easier for him to trust her,which will also result in faster results.

    David´s last blog post…Having sex in the clubs toilet while drunk

  16. 46

    Hey downtowngal,

    I apologize for not being clear enough in the post. My correct answer is I would mind if he called me so many times, even if I was into him. For me, there needs to be room to breathe and the opportunity to look forward to seeing him again. Not all women will feel this way as it’s always a personal preference as to what one favors.

    Wish I had spoken with you before my book came out last week! Sounds like you have some very interesting material to offer. I will definitely keep you in mind for the next one!

    Thanks for the luck! The book is already doing very well for just being on the market such a short time. This book came to fruition after speaking with so many women who’ve had one bad date after another, including myself, so I contributed one of my own stories. I wanted to do my part on keeping the humor and inspiration alive when one is in the dating process this worked well when I polled and interviewed dating disasters from others around the U.S. who were more than willing to share. How could I have missed you???? I deliberately chose the worst of the worst stories and, in turn, produced, Single Women and Dating: Laughter and Humor Linked to Surviving the Process. If you decide to purchase it, I would love to have your feedback. You can see some comments from other buyers who posted on my blog through my website, if you’re interested.

    All the best,

  17. 47

    Sometimes you can’t have everything. No one is perfect and if you want a husband or good father then that is what matters.

  18. 48


    Try to talk to him tell him that you appreciate everything that he does for you but remind him as well that he doesn’t own your world and that you still need freedom to do your own thing and you’re giving him the equal right also, for him to understand you better. Relationship is a give and take after all. Maybe he just loves you and he just doesn’t know that he is loving you way too much.

  19. 49

    Crying 4 times in a relationship of only 2 mos.? Good grief!

    That’s supposed to be the fun, infatuation, getting to know each other, honeymoon period. Seems like you and he skipped right over this magical part of relationship Katie.

    All that crying over you not being as emotionally available to him as he wants in the very beginning of a relationship IS a red flag. It IS passive-aggressive, and it IS manipulative. You’re trying to get to know him and see if the two of you fit–he’s desperate to make you into “instant life partner”. No, he’s not going to get any better with heartfelt conversations. He’s showing you exactly who he is right from the get-go. Look at it as a blessing. It is saving you wasted time.

    He may be a nice guy, but he is a bad match.

  20. 50

    Another thing,

    I’ve always fallen for someone within 10 weeks of dating. Or not. And the men in question with (or not) me also. How about you?

    Could it be that you haven’t fallen for this guy, you know it, he feels it, but you keep this going hoping you WILL fall for him because he’s a “nice guy”? After relationships with some not so nice guys, I can see why you might not want to give up quickly. Yet, your sensitivity to HIS sensitivity might just be a reaction to what you know is true, but don’t want to come right out and say…you just don’t feel it for him. And he knows it, but doesn’t want it to be so. Hence, the crying, neediness, etc.


  21. 51

    So for all of you who are curious as to what is now going on between me and this guy, we ended our relationship about a month ago. We actually ended it before I got a response from Evan. I have to admit that I am much less stressed now and realize that we just weren’t meant for each other. I wanted it to work so badly because I’ve dated quite a lot of assholes, and I had finally met a nice guy. Our needs were just too different. I’m the first to admit that I am not perfect, and I know no one is. I just couldn’t deal with his emotions and super sensitivity. He was stressing me out way too much. I knew that this wasn’t something that he was going to be able to change. I couldn’t give him what he needed, and he couldn’t give me what I needed.

    For those who were curious at to what he was crying about….the first time he cried was after maybe a month of us knowing each other. He started crying when he was trying to explain his last relationship and how it didn’t work because she couldn’t give him what he needed. I told him that it sounded like he wasn’t completely over his ex and he got very emotional. The second was the very next day when he called to apologize for all the drama. The next time was after he met my friends for the first time. After they left, he got really paranoid that for some reason they didn’t like him. He did nothing for my friends not to like him. I explained to him that he did fine meeting them and that they liked him. I told him to have more confidence and not worry about what everyone else thinks. When trying to explain why he was that way he cried. He was always wanting to talk about his feelings and every emotion he felt and why he felt it. It just got so draining. Most of the time he was confused to how he felt so he’d say one thing and then turn around and say something opposite. Then the next day he’d say something totally different. He said that he was trying to figure his own feelings out and the way he does that is to talk to someone. I just couldn’t handle all the back and forth of his feelings all the time.

    After spending 3 days in a row with each other, he would tell me he missed me the next day and get upset if I didn’t miss him. He would text me, at the very least, 30 times a day and, most of the time, over 100 times a day (That is not an exaggeration. I actually counted one day). I told him that I did really like him but that he was overwhelming me, and I needed some space. After that, things progressively got worse. Every 2 weeks, I’d get text from him saying that maybe we weren’t right for each other because I wasn’t as in to him as he was into me. I tried explaining that I did really like him but I’m just the type of person who needs space and can go a day without speaking to him. He never gave me time to miss him. I kept reassuring him that I did like him and I just needed more time before I could completely open up my emotions to him like he was to me. After all, we only knew each other for 3 months. After 3 times in one month of him saying maybe we shouldn’t be together, I gave up and agreed and said that we should end it. Of course, he took it back and said he didn’t want to. I told him that I did though. Every time he’d say he didn’t think we should date, I’m almost positive it was because he wanted to see what my reaction would be.

    Patricia, I’m wondering if we dated the same guy! This guy wanted to discuss in detail why things didn’t work too. He also wanted me to tell him what he could do to change so that he could be a better person. I told him never to change himself for anyone and just be happy and confident for who he is.

  22. 52

    Katie, thanks for the update. Sounds like you made the right decision for yourself!

  23. 53

    Hey Evan,

    I agree with a lot of the respondents here–although you make some good points, men fall in more categories than these two extremes in my experience. This guy sounds to me like he may have some emotional issues and that he could benefit from psychotherapy.

  24. 54

    Yes, thanks for the update – we get curious here about how things turn out.

    30 to 100 texts a day? You must be a very patient person Katie – I could never deal with that.

    Has this guy ever tried therapy? Sounds like he might benefit from some.

  25. 55

    well i guess this guy really needs therapy!! He has soem serious issues.. and i can really relate to you. I have friend who does the same! Sending 20 messages in a day and telling me every minute detail of her life when she calls. It can be pretty stressful!

  26. 56

    In the first 3 weeks I had fallen for him. Things were going great and I really liked him. I think I overlooked his constant need for attention because I liked him so much. After a while, the constant need for attention just got to me, and I couldn’t overlook it anymore. It’s all I saw, and I got turned off. He flat out told me that he needs to be with someone all the time, and he hates being alone. He said his entire life he’s yearned to be with someone who needed him and couldn’t live without him. I don’t know about you, but I need my alone time. I don’t think I “need” anyone. I’m perfectly happy being single and can take care of myself. It’s nice to have someone to share my life with, but I don’t need to be with them 24/7. Maybe I just never met anyone who has made me feel that way…i dunno. I would think it would take time to feel that way about someone, but I haven’t had much success finding the right men so I could be wrong.

  27. 57


    I have a good friend who got involved once with someone much like you described this man. He was extremely handsome, and very attentive. After only 3 weeks, she mused that he might be “the one”– she didn’t see any red flags.

    *I* saw one big red tent. He had to spend all his time with her. He basically moved in with her shortly after they met. From what she told me he wanted her total attention all the time. She could hardly ever be alone. If she tried to even read a book in his presense, he got whiny because he wasn’t getting her attention. He told a neighbor in their apt. complex that her daughter (a toddler) was his. He talked of their (would be) marriage, after only a few weeks of dating. She also told me he cried several times when he got the idea that she didn’t care about him as much as he cared about her. Despite reassurance on her part.

    All this within less than 3 months of dating.

    My friend, who initially thought he was Mr. Wonderful couldn’t take it. As she put it, “He’s always up my butt. ” “If you looked up needy in the dictonary you would see his picture.” She told him she couldn’t take it anymore and broke it off.

    Most people DO need some amount of alone time. I know I do. I know my friend who had two young children needed what little she could get back then. (Even if it was reading a novel in the same room with an adult for an hour.) Anyone who doesn’t understand that, who feels a need, “compelled” to be with another person AT ALL TIMES, has a psychological issue they need to address.

    I don’t think there is any more kind of “understanding” you could do with the guy you dated. He just didn’t get it, and it seems that his previous girlfriends had tried to get him to see it as well–to no avail.

    You, like most of us, are looking, hoping, to find balance in our lives. NEEDING to spend 24/7 with someone is not balance.

    Don’t beat yourself up.


  28. 58

    Sorry it took so long for the update! I work all week long on a computer and rarely get online after work. Anyways, he actually was in therapy trying to deal with his issues. I wanted to give him a chance because the majority of people have issues and he had a good heart. I now know that these things are red flags for sure!

  29. 59

    Hi Katie,
    Yes, it sounds as if these two are cut from the same mold. Better to be out than deal with it – it’s just so over the top. Yet, for women who like this kind of man – kudos to you!

    All the best,

  30. 60
    David Stone

    Neediness and insecurity is not good and should be in any relationship.This is something many couples deal with and is often hard for them to fix.

    The guys needs to let and remember one thing!
    His woman is with him and if she wanted to be with someone she would have.

    She might not like a lot of woman displays her emotions verbally ,but definitely in body language or any other way,the key is to look for the nonverbal clues.

    Use her tactics ,she does not like to speak ,so therefore you should not speak about your emotions either.Make her wonder what has changed and then she will ask you.

    When she do ask,try to keep your emotions to minimum,but sooner or later she will start to open up more and respect you ,because you consider her emotions and feelings and not just your own.

    When the woman feels that you care more about your feelings than hers ,she will return the favor and start to attend to your needs.Obviously with time and some effort this situation can be resolved.

    1. 60.1

      I’m sorry but I think it’s the wrong way to go. A guy did that to me once and the sudden change made me question if he liked me or not. Because I knew what he was doing and what reaction he wanted, I resisted and rebelled.
      Just be yourself. Consider her feelings, her personality and question if there’s something you can improve in yourself but trust me mind games are going to get you nowhere. Sometimes differences are needed because if she doesn’t speak and you stop speaking… well… *cricket noise*
      If you love her these things should come naturally.

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