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|Dear Dating Coach-
I have been dating a woman for almost three months. Lately, I have been
confused about her behavior and need help to understand what is going
on with us and what I can (should) do about it. Our relationship has
gone from her calling me "sweetie" and asking for more intimacy; to
telling me that I am pressuring her and need to stop pushing so hard. I
have no problem going at whatever pace she is comfortable with, and I
have told her this. In the past few weeks she has cancelled plans on
several occasions, saying that she needs time to think because she
feels afraid and uncertain about things. When I ask her to share her
feelings with me, she becomes defensive and asks me to leave her alone.
I have told her to do what she needs to and I will be here when she is
ready. After several days of no contact she did call and ask me about
my weekend plans. This is becoming very confusing. Do you have any
ideas about what I could do to break this cycle and/or what she may be
afraid or concerned about?
When I received this email, my first thought was that the problem
seemed obvious- at least to me. Her feelings had changed. The reasons
were unclear, and somehow they didn't seem to be as important as the
simple truth that it was over. But perhaps they really were. After all,
if he could gain some understanding of what went wrong it could help
him to make the right decisions now and avoid repeating this pattern in
future relationships. Therefore, my advice to him included a
recommendation that he ask her for honest feedback regarding her
feelings about him and the relationship. Armed with a carefully
scripted and thought out approach to the subject, he was increasing his
chances of opening up a useful dialogue with her that at the very
least, could offer him the insight and closure he needed. After careful
preparation, he arranged for a talk about "them". Things got off to an
ok start, however she soon began to act defensively and then shut down,
essentially refusing to discuss her feelings or answer his questions
directly and/or with candor. This left him with a decision. Should he
step back from pursing this discussion with her, just maintaining the
status quo; or should he take action based on what he believed was the
problem and what would be in his best interest over time. He struggled
with making this choice because he was able to rationalize her behavior
and make up plausible excuses for what was happening. This left him
with (false) hope and a feeling of powerlessness.
As a dating coach, I receive (and answer) many emails from men like the
one above. My advice is based on the knowledge and expertise gained
from years of experience in working with the complex dynamics that
occur between people. However, as the world of meeting and dating
continues to evolve; I have found it useful to talk to the people who
are out there living it, and gather their insights and observations. I
asked a group of 20-30 something, professional, single women to share
their thoughts and reactions to the above email. Our discussion also
covered their likes/dislikes, turn-ons and offs and the qualities they
look for in a potential partner. I wanted candid, unedited comments
that I could share with this writer and with all the guys out there who
are confused by the behavior of the women they are meeting and dating.
Their feedback on the email question was fairly consistent. His
girlfriend's feelings had changed. They believed she wanted to break
things off but didn't know how to or was uncomfortable being the bad
guy. One woman shared that in at least one of her past relationships,
she had behaved very badly towards him, hoping HE would end it. Another
woman stated, "There are women out there who act very lovingly in order
to get a guy, then become who they really are once they have him." All
agreed that he should end it and give himself the chance to meet
someone who is ready for a relationship and truly wants one with him.
On the subject of men who turn them on, the women came up with similar
attributes and ranked them in order of importance. Sense of humor and
intelligence topped the list. We discussed these as critical components
in friendship and compatibility. Attributes such as stable, mature,
positive, loving and good father material all weighed in equally as
close seconds with the 30 somethings. The younger women stated that
they have not given much thought to the importance of those things yet.
All of the woman said that their ideal guy had to be the right type,
even though the two groups differed somewhat in their preferred type.
Adjectives like clean cut, polished, conservative, not too
conservative, very confident and with a certain style of dress- were
used to describe Mr. Right. All of the women said that it was important
to them that their man be assertive, ambitious and able to earn a good
living. They felt this was important in order to have a family someday
and/or have more lifestyle options available to them. When one of the
women shared her need for a good listener, who "doesn't try to fix the
problem", all of the women said, "yes" in a strong chorus.
When I asked for their list(s) of turn-off's and pet peeves; the
conversation turned to physical attraction, which had little mention in
the first part of our discussion. All stressed the importance of good
sexual (and overall) chemistry. They cited attributes such as "too
frail", "crooked teeth" and "overly muscled" as deal breakers for them.
The younger group of women placed a greater emphasis on looks and a
need for excitement in their relationships. All agreed that they would
not choose a partner who was lacking in ambition and/or who was
egotistical and (most likely) unable to be the other half of a giving
and supportive union. The subject of dating brought up the greatest
difference in views between the two age groups. The younger women had a
less defined view of what a date is. Meeting at a bar, a last minute
get together and sharing the tab were all seen dating, when out with a
non-platonic friend. However, the 30 somethings felt a date should be
arranged ahead of time with one person (formally) asking the other one
out. All felt that the woman should at least offer to split the tab,
but that the man should always pick up the check. All agreed that
"hooking-up" and "booty calls" are not dates.
The women all said that when they really like a guy their feelings are
expressed in the way they treat him. One woman stated that words are
not the way women usually express their interest- especially early in a
relationship. Everyone agreed that a man can know how a woman feels by
the nice things she does for him. If she shows a lot of interest in
him, cares about what he has to say, and wants to know what is going on
in his life- she really likes him.
Lastly, we discussed the telltale signs of a woman's lack- or loss- of
interest. They will not answer (or return) calls, say they are
busy/unavailable or use some indirect way to communicate their
disinterest. The key point they all agreed on is that women "are taught
to be nice, not mean." This is probably why you guys out there are so
confused when a woman says one thing and does another.
The differences between men and woman have been talked about in books,
portrayed in film and used in some of the best punch lines. This
us/them emphasis seems to have contributed to the misinterpretations
and poor communication that so many singles lament. This dating coach
thinks that dating and relationship communication will be improved when
men and women learn to listen to, and really hear, what each other are
saying (verbally and non-verbally). Deep listening without an
assumption that interpretation and translation is required should help
to bring clarity, openness and candor. Imagine a dating game where
everyone speaks the same language and there are rules for fair play.
I'm already imagining an inbox that is not constantly overflowing.
About the author
Married first and only time at age 35, 4 kids, love sports, reading the arts and working with singles.
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|As a dating coach, I receive many emails from single guys who are confused and frustrated by the mixed messages they are receiving from the women they date. For this article, I recruited a group of 20-30 something, professional females for a candid and no-holes barred discussion about men, dating and relationship making.
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