The other day I was walking down Broadway Street in Santa Monica, California with a friend of mine who drove up to visit from San Diego. If you walk west on Broadway you will run right into the Santa Monica pier. From my apartment the walk is just under a mile, which gave us plenty of time to talk.
My friend is thirteen years younger than me, putting him in his mid-twenties. He knows one of my areas of study and interest is in relationships and attraction (little known fact, I took three shifts in couples counseling when in graduate school).
He asked me a question that began like this: “There is this girl I hooked up with prior to moving out to LA. I like her and she definitely seemed to like me. We did not realize it, but when we met we were both making a move out to Southern California.”
I am like, “Wow bro, what are the chances?” He goes on, “Yeah, but shortly after we got together, I was a little eager. I obviously liked her and she called me on it.”
Now I am a little confused. I guess I have forgotten some of the “games” played when you are in the dating pool. I seek to clarify and he said, “Well, she told me she was not looking for anything serious and that I was coming on strong. So, I backed off. But, since I have been out in San Diego, she is the one that got in touch with me to hang out. What do you think?”
I love this kind stuff, but before I launched into what I think or offered advice, I made sure he wanted to hear what I had to say. So, I explained, “I have plenty of thoughts on this, and think I can offer some insight. Just understand, I am much older, and it’s been awhile since I have been in the dating world. You want to hear it?”
He was like, “Yeah man, hit me with it.”
Now, before I go into this, I want to explain a few things. My opinion on these things is an opinion. That being said, it is an informed and educated opinion. I read attraction research all of the time; even studies on the truth about what women think about penis size (see one study here), characteristics of male attractiveness (see one study here), or what men find most attractive about a female body (see research here) and what attracts people to people period.
I also have a small amount of couples counseling hours under my belt, as well as a ton of life coaching hours, which are almost always having to do with money-stress or relationship-stress.
Perhaps the biggest aid to me in giving him advice came from a recent 2 and a half-year “study” I did on women’s perceptions of men in the modern dating world. For this work, I interviewed just over 100 women from all the dating sites including Bumble, Tinder, Match, Plenty of Fish, and even the infamous Ashley Madison (yep, that is how interested I am in this stuff, and in addition, I am working on a book about it).
So here was my advice. I said, “Look man, there is one thing women hate more than anything else on the planet and that is a needy guy. They may call it different things, but it all comes down to neediness.”
I explained that when he started calling and texting and wanting to hang out every second so soon after their hook up, she maybe tagged him as a needy man. This made her want to put the brakes on or run for the hills.
But, after the “talk” he essentially backed off completely. That may have been all that was required for her to give him a second look. Perhaps she thought, “Oh, maybe he is not so needy after all.”
Of course, most of this stuff is subconscious behavior. I explained that she is probably not literally thinking this stuff out loud or even aware of it. She is a girl just out of college and wants her autonomy. It makes sense she would not want a guy to try to lock her down. At the same time, she is human and wants connection like the next guy or girl.
This must have made sense, because his next question was, “So, what do you think I should do then?”
First, I asked a question: “Do you really like this girl and want to date her? Or do you just want to be physical with no strings?”
His answer tells me, and him, the exact approach to take. He essentially says something along the lines of, “I definitely would love to date her, but if it is just physical, I can live with that too”
“That is it man. That is all you need to say. It is what I call confident detachment. All you need to do is tell her that and see how she handles it.”
He looked a little confused, so I went on. “Look bro, I am 42. If I were dating it would be real easy. I would know what I want and I would just state that plain and clear. Then I would detach and let her decide.”
“I would tell her, ‘Look, I really dig you and would like to see much more of you. I also realize you just finished school and moved across the country, and may not be looking for anything serious; and this is also perfectly fine with me. I just want you to know how I feel. After our talk a few weeks ago, I know you were a little worried about my overtures and I get that. I just want to be 100% clear how I feel, because I don’t want you getting the wrong idea if I seem distant. My preference is to be closer, but I want to make sure you have your space and realize I am perfectly fine with whatever.’”
In a sense, I am modeling for him exactly what he was conveying to me. He really likes her and has his preference, but also is totally fine if she does not want to go in that direction.
I asked, “Could you say that to her, bro?”
He said, “I never thought of saying that but, yeah, I could.”
This approach works incredibly well for so many reasons. First off, it is mature. It establishes, right up front, that he is an open, honest and very confident man. Only a confident guy would be able to articulate his feelings this way.
It also displays his lack of neediness; because he communicated he is fine with whatever.
The approach is the best policy for two other reasons: First, it is very much a weaning out process. If he is looking for a relationship, he wants a mature, well-adjusted woman; who is not an emotional scrub. Second, if the two of them do start a more serious relationship, they are already developing one of the best skills of good relationships: authentic, honest and thorough communication.
Part of the reason I took the time to do this blog is my nieces and nephews. They are 18, 17, 15 and 13. The boys often ask me about girls and relationships. I have mentioned the neediness issue to them before, but now, there is a blog for them to read too. J
Here are some of the questions they have asked, and you might be asking as well.
“What about for woman? Is neediness in a woman also a turnoff for men?”
Yes. It definitely is, and much of this holds true. Neediness appears to be more repellent to women though.
“Won’t I look weak?”
One worry is, that if you tell a woman exactly how you feel about her, you will look weak, and she will take advantage of this. She might, but that says way more about her dysfunction than it does yours. A woman who can’t just be straight up with you about how she feels by saying, “That is really sweet, but I just don’t feel the same.” Or thinks less of you. Or takes advantage of you is NOT a woman you want to spend time with, unless you enjoy dating women with the emotional maturity of a thirteen-year-old.
This “confident detachment” essentially works to not only signal your self-esteem & maturity, but also as a perfect proving ground to assess hers as well. Remember, you need to really be unattached to the outcome. You can want her, but also realize she may not feel the same or it’s not the right time, place, or circumstance. That’s life. When you are confident and detached, you quickly discover the quality of the woman you are talking to. This tells you if she is a good romantic partner, just a friend, or not a very mature person at this point in her life.
“What else should I know?”
The most critical point about using this “confident detachment” approach is your actions after the fact. You can’t say these things and then text, call, and nag her all the time. After you have had this conversation, you essentially left the ball in her court. You should have made it clear that: a) you like her a lot, and b) she is going to, now need to take some initiative.
Obviously, there are many circumstances where you would hang around, especially if you considered her a good friend, but barring a long-standing friendship, after this conversation, you need to cut your communication at least, in half. It is not a game, you told her you were going to do just this and you made it clear why. Her actions, after this conversation, tell you everything you need to know about her availability and/or attraction towards you.