Monday, October 14, 2013

He's Not That Into You (Or Is He?)



I'm beginning to question some of my long-held assumptions about dating. My programming about dating has been equally informed by conservative Christian active man/passive woman expectations, secular "He's Just Not That Into You" philosophy, and my relationship with my ex, who was a complete stranger to self-doubt. I've been taught, explicitly and implicitly, that men act on their romantic interests clearly and swiftly. They either go in with guns blazing or do nothing at all. If they're interested in someone, they go after her and declare their interest immediately. Therefore, if nothing's happening, that means they don't want anything to happen. The end. (Ironically, the guns-blazing approach makes me, and many of my friends, uncomfortable – I even consider it a red flag. Most modern women don't enjoy feeling like a prey animal.)

My constant refrain when discussing men vs. women, single vs. married, kids vs. no kids is, "Can't we all just be people?" (Seriously, that could be the subtitle of this blog.) Through that lens, the Tarzan programming looks kind of sexist… toward men. By ascribing one set of aggressive behaviors to all men, we dismiss their individuality and deny them the healthy option to be vulnerable. I don't like this, and I hereby confess my role in promoting it and my desire to do better. But to get there, I'm going to need more evidence. So, with trepidation, I'm requesting input from some actual men. Preferably Christian men over college age who are single, but others' thoughts are welcome too, on some or all of the following:


- Does lack of intense pursuit always equal lack of interest?

- Select all that apply: If a woman asked you out, would you
   a) feel flattered?
   b) feel horrified?
   c) think less of her for doing so?

- If a single woman is friendly toward you (e.g. initiates conversation), do you automatically assume she's romantically interested in you?

- Are you interested in having female friends regardless of whether those friendships lead to more?


That's all I have at the moment. Discuss, and please be kind.

24 comments:


  1. 1. A lack of initial interest does NOT mean that they aren't/won't be interested later. A guy that jumps at the bit is either a) really attracted to you immediately (in a mostly *physical* sense) and wants to make his move before even finding out WHO you really are or b) the type that goes for the shotgun approach with girls. They will date nearly whomever they semi-like and see if a girl says yes. These types of guys are smooth and charming, but can be fly by night seemingly interested at one minute and gone the next (aka a player). I think most girls are hoping that these guys are the former, but most of the time they are just the latter (mathematically the shotgun approach just covers more area (girls))

    My gripe with this is that girls seemingly always want a guy to be interested in who they are as opposed to being objectified by how/what they look like. If a guy truly is looking at a girl's personality (which can take weeks/months/years to get a clear picture of), how does that fit with the view of a guy who must "act on their romantic interests clearly and swiftly" or else they're uninterested? Those two views mix like water and oil to me. Based on what you're saying, it doesn't seem like you leave any room for a guy that is interested in finding out who you really are before easing into a friendship and then relationship.

    2) Flattered. I personally wouldn't have a problem with that but each guy is different. Some like the "hunt" more than the actual "meal". Once the hunt is over, they become bored. That is just ONE of the types of guy's personalities. However, many guys just want to feel wanted by the girl that they like. If a girl is constantly being coy and hard to get, then it's hard for this type of guy to feel wanted. If you don't want to feel like prey, then don't do what the prey would do in this situation, which is play hard to get. And frankly, the type of guy that's bored when the hunt ends is an ass, and you shouldn't be afraid of scaring away that type of guy away. Better to get it out of the way early than find out in the long run.

    3) No. Because I'm an adult at this point. If i were in 6th grade, then yes. If a girl is flirtatious and nice, then all that tells me is she doesn't hate me. If she's rigid, gives short one word answers, and never initiates a conversation, then i'll leave her alone because she seemingly isn't interested in even being a friend.

    4) Sure. Working in an all guy environment, I have almost zero female interaction. I need some female friends to keep a sensible view on people. If I'm around nothing but guys and lockeroom type behavior, then i won't know how to act around a girl that i'm actually interested in. The same could be said about girls that are always with girls. Gender isolated people don't know to converse with the opposite sex or reach a common ground on the type of acceptable behavior.

    I should write a book,
    Taylor

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    1. Actually, what you're describing is EXACTLY what I (and I think a lot of women) DO want - someone who wants to know you and be friends first instead of going in for the kill with a player mentality. But a lot of people act like that's a ridiculous rom-com fantasy. Plus, you know, I've lived it only to have the guy take it all back later, so that leaves a serious mark.

      I never knew you had all these opinions. :) This actually really encourages me. Thanks.

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  2. Oooh.. interesting. I'll send some of my guy friends over in case they want to comment.

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  3. - Does lack of intense pursuit always equal lack of interest?

    No. You can't lump everyone into one category; everyone's different. Some guys are shy, some may not be looking for a relationship, and some guys may be flirting with you and you actually misinterpret it. If you think "intense pursuit" is an upfront request for a date, you might want to look for subtler hints of paying you attention, seeking you out, and accepting your invitation to social events (not as a date, more as a "hey, are you going to be at...?").

    - Select all that apply: If a woman asked you out, would you
    a) feel flattered?
    b) feel horrified?
    c) think less of her for doing so?

    Um, probably flattered. I honestly wouldn't think much about the her asking me out. I would think along the lines of, "holy crap, they like me enough to ask me out."

    - If a single woman is friendly toward you (e.g. initiates conversation), do you automatically assume she's romantically interested in you?

    No, definitely not. I always went into most situations with the assumption that people were not interested in my romantically. Plus, I feel like a lot of single people band together, so they all hesitate to look at each other as romantic interests so they don't spoil the friendship.

    - Are you interested in having female friends regardless of whether those friendships lead to more?

    I have lots of female friends and I always have. I actually have relatively few close guy friends. I think our generation is much more open to men and women being friends than previous generations (i.e. men go hang out in one corner and women go hang out in the kitchen; our generation just mixes better than that).

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    1. Thank you Lance. I've always considered you a model of progressivity. :)

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  4. Okay, I'm not a man, but I can speak to the first question about lack of intense pursuit, based on my experience with my now-husband: NO! He was very slow-moving at first and I had no clue that he liked me. He moved to my town in August 2009 and I already knew him and was friends with his sister. And I had a huge crush on him. But though he had plenty of opportunity, he said nothing for quite some time. He asked to hang out as friends for the first time in January (so, five months later). We did, a few times, but then he didn't say anything to me for about six more weeks. Finally, in April 2010, he told me he liked me. He'd actually liked me for almost a year at that point (since the previous summer, when we'd first gotten to know each other a little better).

    And I have to just say, I never, ever felt "hunted" or pursued to that degree, even after we were dating, and even now that we're married. I've been around men who pursue really quickly and they always made me uncomfortable (I'm one of those who didn't like that and, as you said, just wished people could be people!). And the fact that my now-hubby is not like that is one of the reasons I was initially attracted to him (and still am). He was shy and reserved. And sweet. :)

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    1. Same song different verse.... my sweet husband had a crush on me for a while, which I apparently completely missed. We went to a college Bible Study together and since I was usually one of the first ones there, he started coming early and we would hang out. However, it wasn't until I asked him to be my date to a formal that he did anything about his crush. I somehow (without intending to) gave him an easy way to ask me out without feeling total fear of rejection. I hope this helps... I don't have a lot of answers on the other things :)

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  5. - Does lack of intense pursuit always equal lack of interest?

    No.

    - Select all that apply: If a woman asked you out, would you
    a) feel flattered?
    b) feel horrified?
    c) think less of her for doing so?


    Mostly 'a'. I can imagine situations where I would feel uncomfortable, but it would not be on account of a woman asking me out. Something else would have to be amiss. Mostly I'd just consider it, at the least, a fine compliment.

    - If a single woman is friendly toward you (e.g. initiates conversation), do you automatically assume she's romantically interested in you?

    No. This is just something one knows to whatever degree by an innate gift or the benefit of experience, or something one does not know: how to read another's affections. I'd like to think I myself, for instance, am pretty good in face-to-face conversation at reading other people (other people who actually know me might beg to differ). It's a useful talent or skill to have, discerning the difference between courtesy and romantic interest.

    - Are you interested in having female friends regardless of whether those friendships lead to more?

    A friend is a good thing to have quite regardless of the gender.

    "Can't we all just be people?" is a good question, and you're onto something by making it your refrain here, but there are so many reasons we fail to be honest with one another in these matters, and I don't say that as a pejorative to anyone who fails in this way just to be people. It's built into the complications of socializing in this world. It's no doubt made more complicated by getting a short distance into adulthood.

    Imagine, for instance, two very decent human beings, a man and a woman, each about as completely without guile as one can be. Say that the man is romantically interested in the woman, but he does not want to be ingratiating for fear of putting her off, so he modifies his behavior accordingly: not to be dishonest, but just for fear of spoiling things. He may be afraid that the woman will, as some will do, take one odd moment and reject him fully over one small thing. What if she is interested in him, and, although she thinks he's a swell guy, is afraid that he might be put off, as some men will be, if she comes across as too lonely or too affectionate, and—you guessed it—reject her out of hand over one misunderstood or ill-received gesture? Imagine any number of similar scenarios. There are countless.

    And it's a bear to admit that one is lonely, even just to give off the impression without saying it outright. Of course, we all long for one form of companionship or another. We weren't made to be alone. I said having a friend is a good thing. Being able to let someone know that you feel the way everyone should already pretty much know you feel, and counting on that person to give an honest and loving reply, is a good thing. We often have more in common in our loneliness and our longings than we are willing to admit to anyone. The person you might consider opening up to probably has the same kinds of feelings you do—even if he or she does not have them for you. And, for a while anyway, neither lonesome soul works up the nerve to say a thing about it.

    Be honest without being selfish, be attentive without being anxious, and try to trust your intuition on how to discern the balance between those, I suppose. That's the best answer I have, and I know it's not an especially good one.

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    1. Good thoughts here. I agree that it's very difficult to Just Be People - much of our culture MAKES the social "divisions" between people a big deal whether we individually want them to be or not. It thrives on keeping people in their boxes.

      Thanks for sharing!

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  6. Does lack of intense pursuit always equal lack of interest?
    >>> Absolutely not. If a man is friendly with you and gives you attention, he may be interested. He may just be the thoughtful type that likes to do things slowly and carefully.

    Select all that apply: If a woman asked you out, would you
    a) feel flattered? >>>Yes!
    b) feel horrified? >>>No.
    c) think less of her for doing so? >>>I don't think so. Of course, it depends on how she does it.

    If a single woman is friendly toward you (e.g. initiates conversation), do you automatically assume she's romantically interested in you?
    >>>No. I just assume she is naturally outgoing.

    Are you interested in having female friends regardless of whether those friendships lead to more?
    >>> Is it possible to be just friends with the opposite sex? I think the better question is: can I be just friends with members of the opposite sex? The answer to that questions varies to person to person. I have always been really good at being friends with women, more so than with guys. Unfortunately, in many of my relationships with these women a romantic interest was eventually born. Almost never was it mutual. And it did strain those relationships. Once one of the two realizes the other wants to be more than friends things get complicated.

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    1. Thanks for commenting!

      I've always believed that friendship that grows into love is the best kind. :) It just seems less and less likely or even possible as one gets older.

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    2. Yeah.
      Relationships are complicated.
      You could do everything right,
      even marry the right type of person,
      and still success is not guaranteed.

      I do believe that friendships that grow into love are usually the best.


      P.S.
      I just added your blog to my reader.
      Look forward to keeping up :P

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  7. I think it all depends on how both people want a relationship to work. There is a middle ground between being a "Tarzan" with negative "aggressive" traits, and being a healthy man who knows what he wants and how to respectfully go after it. I would say that my own relationship was in that middle ground. For myself, I wanted a man who was willing to stick his neck out and pursue because those are character traits that I valued. Perhaps if someone does not value those traits in the same way, then they wouldn't have any issues if a man was more passive. I do think those traits carry over into marriage, so if you have someone who is overly aggressive in how they pursue you, they will probably be like that in marriage as well. The same goes for very passive. If you have to do all the work or most of the pursuit in dating, it will probably translate after marriage too. That is why I think the right balance will vary couple to couple, but after being married and having kids I am so grateful for my husband's ability to go after what he wants and be able to take care of things, while at the same time viewing me as a complete equal.

    So, anyways, to answer your questions: Does lack of interest equal lack of pursuit? In my experience, yes. I think most men will pursue in a balanced way if interested, and if not, then it i was a lack of interest on my part because that is something I valued.

    Before we were dating a few girls did ask my husband out, and he was very flattered and not bothered by it at all. He did turn all of them down though because he was not interested. If was interested, he would have asked.

    My husband would never think "initiating conversation" to be a romantic interest. So being friendly, and flirting are two different things. I think men can size up the difference pretty well, just as women can.

    My husband has no problem being friends with other women, but since he is married I doubt they would ever be super close friends. I think it would make him feel uncomfortable, and currently he does not have any friendships like that. The same for me just the opposite way.

    I think what might be at the root of this is more about God's design and if He designed men and women differently enough or not. We can always say, "Can't we all be people" which, of course we can and we are, but in being the people God created us to be we also have male or female natures. I understand that this can (and has!) been distorted to extreme degrees by many groups, but that does not mean those difference do not exist at all.

    Interesting post!

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    1. I do think those traits carry over into marriage, so if you have someone who is overly aggressive in how they pursue you, they will probably be like that in marriage as well. The same goes for very passive. If you have to do all the work or most of the pursuit in dating, it will probably translate after marriage too.

      AGREED. Also agreed that there is a middle ground - I just haven't experienced it in this phase of my life. Maybe it only exists for younger people. :\

      Thanks for commenting!

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  8. I am so glad you posted this because (as I've said before) I don't understand the mindset. I will refrain from answering because I don't fall into any of the categories of requested feedback...but I want to say...it is refreshing to read the responses from those that do. :)

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    1. I love hearing that other women are interested in the responses and/or don't understand it all either. Makes me feel more normal. :)

      You should post about how you and your husband got together. I'd like to hear that story!

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  9. 1. No; however, no pursuit at all or lack of reciprocity should be obvious.

    2. d) None of the above - but it might be awkward - but it might work, too. If if works, never bring it up again ;-)

    3. Not unless it's repeated; In other words, if you are interested in him, it probably helps things to keep being friendly.

    4. I have female friends but as a cautious male, I will try to determine mutual interest before pursuing.

    Some other thoughts:

    In Christian circles I sometimes feel "passivity" have become almost too over-defined, however you want to at least be aware of it and not waste your time with obvious "passivists" as time can turn into years.

    If you have single male friends you might be interested in, my advice is twofold: always respect them and don't play games. The wise ones know when you do even if they don't always let on; the other ones will figure it out after they've been hurt. In either case, they'll have a lower opinion of you (if you disrespect or are gamey toward them).

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    1. Good points. Total passivity is just as bad as total aggression. Thanks for commenting.

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  10. >Does lack of intense pursuit always equal lack of interest?
    No – in part because I’m scared of coming on too strong and driving her away. And, for me, I didn’t know this is how I am supposed to behave – that I was supposed to pursue. (But, different culture down here, of course – we have some of the world’s most promiscuous women here in NZ.)

    - Select all that apply: If a woman asked you out, would you
    a) feel flattered?
    b) feel horrified?
    c) think less of her for doing so?

    If a woman, out of the blue, asked me out, I would probably assume it’s a joke. Once that shock wore off, I’d be flattered. (Or horribly crushed if it was a joke, of course!)

    - If a single woman is friendly toward you (e.g. initiates conversation), do you automatically assume she's romantically interested in you?

    No. Dance classes really help with that and build some outward confidence - she has to be a lot more forward than merely talking to me! (I actually do run this in reverse – if she doesn’t initiate a conversation with me, I do assume she’s not interested even if I have tried to ask her out to things. Or if she is interested, she won’t make a good partner for me anyway.)

    - Are you interested in having female friends regardless of whether those friendships lead to more?
    For me, I’ve deliberately cultivated female friendships, so if anything, the balance is too far in that direction! But that is me, in my current position in life. So, yes, I certainly was at one stage.

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    1. Although, to be honest, if a woman appears to take special steps to seek me out and talk to me and treat me differently to how I see her interacting with other guys? I might consider *THAT* a sign of interest. (She talks to me in a dance class? Only means she doesn't find me abhorrent. She sends me a message on Facebook and makes plans to see me and doesn't seem to do that to anyone else? That starts me thinking maybe, but hardly proof and would need further confirmation.)

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    2. Thanks for offering a perspective from a different culture! I think a lot of these issues are a much bigger deal in America and especially my part of the country. Oh and gold star to you for knowing how to dance! :)

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