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Permanently Passive Women

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Women stuck in the passive, choosing gender role do not move from dating into a relationship.

E.g., a woman works hard on her clothes and make-up, to attract men. She read The Rules, so plays "hard to get." She expects a man to work to please her, e.g., give her flowers and gifts and attention. After sex, she wants to be rewarded with more flowers and gifts and attention.

After sex, the man hopes that the relationship will become easier, not harder. He wants her to call and ask him out. He sees other women calling their boyfriends. He thinks that is the way relationships should be.

He is unsure whether she likes him. On the one hand, she has sex with him. On the other hand, she never calls.

He slacks off, waiting for her to call. She thinks he is a cad. He thinks she is lazy and self-centered. The relationship goes into a downward spiral.

Men reject (or cheat on) permanently passive women, no matter how beautiful such a woman is.

Permanent Pursuers

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Men stuck in the active, courting gender role do not move from dating into a relationship.

A man may enjoy the chase—and then get bored when he catches the object of his desire, and move on. Or he tries to impress women with his sports car and dining at expensive restaurants, but bores them by talking about his car and his career, and the women break off the relationships.

Switch Genders Roles for Commitment

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Instead, picture a couple reversing gender roles. She actively guides the direction of the relationship (traditionally into commitment and marriage). He intelligently makes good choices.

E.g., she calls and asks him out. She risks hurt feelings if he says no. If he says "yes," she shows up at his apartment and brings him flowers. She drives him to his softball game. She cheers whenever he hits the ball. Then they go out with his team to a steakhouse. He can drink all the beer he wants, because she is driving. She laughs at his jokes. Then they go back to her apartment, where she makes his favorite dessert. What she is doing is how men normally date women. It is not normal behavior for a woman.

Imagine that the man behaves likes a woman. All he has to do is make intelligent choices. He is thinking that the cute young waitress at the steakhouse smiled when he left a big tip. He has to decide whether to commit to a relationship with the woman he is dating, or to break it off and chase other women.

If he thinks like a man, he will chase the pretty young woman. If he gets her to come home with him, she will smoke like a chimney, drop corn chips on his carpet, and want to use his computer to read her e-mail while he is trying to seduce her.

If he thinks like a woman, he will focus on his partner's good qualities. He will recognize that she makes him happy. He will realize that her shortcomings are unimportant. This is how women normally look at men. It is not how men normally look at women.

Switching Gender Roles Is Difficult

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When dating with stereotypical gender roles, men ask women out. Men risk rejection and embarrassment. Each rejection is an emotional "direct hit." Asking women out takes courage. Courage—and controlling our emotions—is something men are good at. We can handle rejection and can figure out—most of the time—whether a woman's "no" means "not this weekend, but ask me again next weekend," or means "never in a million years."

When a woman switches gender roles and asks a man out, she is devastated if he says no. When women switch gender roles they are on unfamiliar ground and easily become lost.

Similarly, men who switch gender roles are on unfamiliar ground. Men can easily slip back into stereotyped gender roles—e.g., when seeing a pretty young woman.

When you switch gender roles, tell your partner. E.g., if a woman switches to using masculine behavior, and her man stays with masculine behavior, they will compete and the relationship will crash. If he switches to feminine behavior, sliding over to the passenger seat, but she does not get into the driver's seat, the relationship will not go anywhere.

"Our Relationship" Talks

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Have an "our relationship" conversation to make "the switch" from dating to a relationship. Agree on a time and place for the conversation. Do not surprise your partner. Do not work it in while the two of you are doing something else.

Stay in contrasexual gender roles. If you are a woman, talk about where you want to take him. Say this both literally—e.g., "I'd like to take you for a weekend at the beach"—and where you want to take the relationship—e.g., whether you want marriage.

If your man rejects your requests, handle his rejections in the masculine style by asking whether he means "not now, but maybe later" or "never in a million years." E.g., you may learn that he does not want marriage now, but he is open to the idea a few years in the future.

If you are a man, tell your woman how much you appreciate her good qualities. Discuss her faults but stay in the feminine style of saying that you can live with her faults.

If she did something that is intolerable to you, do not angrily end the relationship without telling her what she did to anger you. She will not figure out that she did something wrong. You will be so mad that you will do something to anger her. Then she will angrily end the relationship.

The conclusion of an "our relationship" talk should be ways that each partner can be an individual, yet the two of you are a couple. E.g., if your sport is running, go to track workouts together. He runs with the men. She runs with the women. They are always in sight of each other, but each does his or her own workout. For more about self-differentiation, see Passionate Marriage, by David Schnarch (1997).

Resistance to Commitment

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Poor relationship skills are a vicious circle. Poor dating skills make finding a partner difficult. When you find a partner, you are afraid of losing the person. You want a commitment. But your poor relationship skills make your partner unhappy, and unwilling to make a commitment. Your commitment is an empty promise, because no one else wants you.

If you do not have a choice of partners, do not ask for a commitment. Instead, improve your attractiveness. You might attract someone else's attention. Then you can ask your partner for a commitment. Or your partner may find you to be more attractive.

Life Stages Conflict

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Young men see life as four stages:

  1. Parents and school—no freedom—for 22 years.
  2. Freedom. Maybe he will travel around the world, working odd jobs in exotic locations. Maybe he will start his own company, taking financial risk. Maybe he will go to Hollywood, work as a waiter, and break into acting.
  3. Marriage and children—again, no freedom for 25 years. He will have to work long hours in a dull, safe career, to pay for a wife, mortgage, and mini-van.
  4. Retirement. Young men do not think that old guys climb mountains, travel around the world, or break into acting.

To men, the adolescent life stage—questing for treasure and a princess—is the most important. This is Life with a capital L. How much a man accomplishes in this act sets the stage for the rest of his life.

Women see the adult life stage—family and community—as what life is all about. A generation ago, young women skipped the adolescent life stage. They went straight from their father's house into marriage. They never received approval for individual accomplishment. This led to anger, repression, or depression.

Young women today want to have an adolescent life stage, but on a smaller scale than men. E.g., a young woman may want to work at a dot-com, when a young man wants to start the company. Young women want to graduate from college, have two or three years of fun with their boyfriends, marry by 25, have a few more years of fun, and become pregnant by 28.

Women want their adolescent life stage to last five years. Men need the adolescent life stage to last as long as it takes to accomplish everything. A man with big dreams—or a man who fails repeatedly—can spend decades in his adolescent life stage. Psychologists call such a man a puer, or flying boy (see Hermes).

Men do not settle down until they have completed their adolescent life stage. A man needs to page through Outside magazine and say, "Been there, done that." Then he needs to page through Inc., Car & Driver, and Playboy and say the same thing.

A woman who wants commitment should date older men, who have achieved their goals. Or look for a man with small dreams. Or make her man feel that he has accomplished everything he needs to. Or promise him that marriage will not restrict his freedom.

Deciding Whom to Marry vs. Deciding When to Marry

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Men, in general, decide when to marry. E.g., a man expects to marry when he is established in his career and owns a home. Whom he marries is a decision requiring less consideration—he proposes to the woman he is going out with when he is ready to marry.

Women, in general, decide whom to marry. Women expect to meet Prince Charming, fall in love, and live happily ever after.

When men choose whom to marry, they often handle the decision badly. E.g., a man who attracts many women prefers to have several casual relationships instead of switching to feminine sexuality and one monogamous relationship. Or a man who rarely attracts women is unable to tell the rare woman who wants him how much he needs her.

Conversely, men have difficulty deciding not to get involved with women that they are not seriously interested in, if the women want them.

Women have difficulty choosing when to marry. E.g., a woman who wants a family feels increasing anxiety as she approaches 30 without having met Prince Charming. Unlike a man, she does not automatically marry whomever she is going out with when she is ready to marry.

Conversely, women have difficulty choosing when to break off a relationship. E.g., a woman moves in with the first man she sort of likes, and hopes that over time he will improve (see Boyfriend Lies). Or she settles for a man whom she really likes, and accepts a suboptimal relationship—e.g., he lives in another city, or is involved with another woman—and hopes that the relationship improves. Ten years later, these women have invested so much time that they do not want to "cut their losses" and break off their relationships.

Women should instead think more about when they want to marry, and less about whom they want to marry. Women have a relatively narrow time window to marry. Marrying before 26 is unwise because most individuals develop stable adult identities only after 26 (see Developing an Adult Identity). But women who want families should marry by 30, or risk increasing infertility. Additionally, women become less attractive to men as they age (see "Youth," page 23). Because women prefer to marry older men, fewer unmarried men are available as women age (see "Man Shortage or Woman Shortage?" page 96). 28 to 30 is the ideal age for women to marry, depending on each individual woman's maturity and how many children (if any) she desires.

If you are a woman, estimate how many men you have dated in your lifetime. Set a goal to date this many men from now until the date you propose. I.e., use masculine sexuality, dating many potential partners (this does not mean having sex with many partners). Pick the best man and ask him to marry you (that is right—you propose). If you are over 25 and set at least two years for this dating period, you are statistically unlikely to meet a better partner after you have married.[1]

Men should decide whom they want to marry. Do not get involved with women whom you do not want to marry. They will try to stop you from dating other women. Wait until you meet a woman with whom you feel, "I could marry this woman." Then tell her that—even if it is on the first date. Do not try to have casual sex with her or play other games (i.e., you should use feminine sexuality, wanting a monogamous relationship). If she is hesitant, tell her that you will wait until she is ready—even if you have to wait ten years.


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  1. These statistics rely on some fuzzy-but-true assumptions. First, the average age of marriage is around 25. Each year after you are 25, fewer potential partners are unmarried (this is more true for women and less true for men, due to older men marrying younger women). Second, young people date more than older people, so the number of individuals you date before 27 is probably equal to the number of individuals you date after 27. Third, if you set a goal of dating a certain number of individuals, you date more individuals than if you do not set a goal.

Sex · Conflict

 v  d  e 
Sex · Relationships · Conflict
About This Book · Q&A · Recommended Books
The Science: The Evolution of the Human Brain · How Women Select Men · How Men Select Women · How Our Ancestors Lived · Monogamy and Polygamy · Hormones · Communication Styles
Life Stages: Childhood – Seeking Unconditional Love · Adolescence – Seeking Romantic Love · Adulthood – Families And Forgiveness · Agape – Altruistic Love
Practical Advice: Where Couples Met · Flirting · How to Write a Personal Ad · Dating · Sex · Becoming a Couple · Conflict In Relationships
Personality Types: Emotional Control Systems · Zeus-Hera · Poseidon-Athena · Apollo-Artemis · Hermes-Hestia · Ares-Hephaestus-Aphrodite · Dionysus-Demeter · Hades-Persephone