This is the first in a series of articles I'll be writing debunking some commonly-held myths about dating, society and life.
Myths are beliefs - widely-held but false and erroneous conclusions. They make sense, they're convenient, they seem to fit... but they are simply not true.
First up: "Girls don't know what they want."
I'll give you some latitude here, men, because:
1. It's complicated
2. Sometimes it's true
3. You're the ones with most of the direct experience dating women
You think they're fickle, emotional, irrational, constantly changing their minds, and moving the goal posts. But you're only seeing the surface. You don't see the reasons beneath. You want to simplify women, simplify life, get down to the nuts and bolts, but some things just cannot be simplified. So here are...
Some of the Real Reasons Behind What Appears to be Female Indecision in Romantic Relationships:
I can't cover all scenarios here, but I included some from the beginning of relationships, some middle, and some end. So bear with me.
1. She Didn't Know Your Interest Was Romantic
Call it dense, call it self-deprecation, or self-doubt, but sometimes, she just doesn't know. You reached out to her, made a suggestion, but was it clear you had romantic interest in her? "But it's obvious." No, it's not. Why? Because you didn't say it. You didn't want to proclaim your interest too directly because 1. You were protecting yourself and didn't exactly want to get hurt either, or 2. You didn't know what it/she was yet, or could be, or 3. You thought it might scare her away. But "Hey, want to grab a cup of coffee sometime?" is less than clear. It's good, in that it doesn't put pressure on her, but it also leaves the interpretation very wide open. If you met on a dating app, it's clear. If you are colleagues through work, or any number of other contexts, it's not.
And it begs the question, can men and women be friends? That debate will likely continue until the end of time, but my personal opinion is that the answer is a resounding "Yes." I know some of you take the 'We're all just animals, essentially', more primal view of mankind, and I don't deny it makes up a significant portion of who we are and how we behave, but I'll continue to argue that it is where we may have begun, but not where we have ended up.
Our brains are massive, unparalleled in the animal kingdom (our only other comparison, thus far), and our higher-thinking, grey matter, cerebral cortexes take up a hell of a lot of real estate up there, so while evolution does take time, we have had over 500,000 years (in this general form), to evolve. It is my view that it is the men of the world who long for those olden, 'golden,' more primal days, where it was more acceptable, more the norm, to act on impulse, and satisfy one's urges, and they are not too happy about all this comparative, civilized, 'walking on eggshells' of today.
When men see women not as equals and partners and fellow, more-similar-than-different human beings, they can only be relegated to conquests and fuck buddies. It is they who believe 'Men and women can't be friends' because to them, sex will always be the primary benefit of commingling. And to them I say, come out of the water, boys. Stand on those two legs. Time is marching on... without you.
Takeaway: When you don't make your intentions known, she will be guessing whether your interest is romantic, or something else. The less you appear to invest into her, the more she will wonder.
2. She's Trying to Assess Whether Your Interest is Hookup or Relationship-Based
I'm not going to say that all females are ultimately seeking committed relationships, but I do know that the majority are.
Now on the male side, in the first poll, 59% of males are seeking a committed relationship; which leaves 41% of males causing the 82% of females to have to question, "Is this guy just trying to use me for sex?" Answer? Statistically speaking, yes.
Is it any wonder, then, that she's coming at you with her magnifying glass, analyzing everything you do, in order to come to a conclusion about your intentions? She knows you're interested... for now... but will you disappear after you get her into bed? That's the million-dollar question.
And yes, there is a growing number of females who are just looking for casual flings (even if they are not accurately represented in these particular polls.) We should not dismiss this latest incarnation of women's sexual liberation. But no matter how I phrase the question, the numbers are consistently lower than what many people think. Here, as an example, only 3% of females answered that they want #hookups and nothing more.
Takeaway: If you are one of the relationship-seeking guys, and you are frustrated, what appears as indecision on her part, is actually her being cautious, and not wanting to be used sexually then discarded.
3. She's Still Collecting More Data Points
You base your initial interest in a girl on primarily your physical attraction to her. Later, you care about other (all) aspects of her, but in the beginning, it's mostly physical appearance. She, on the other hand, is taking everything in, from the very beginning. She's assessing all aspects of you. You want to go with your gut, have fun, and worry about investing and wasting too much time and getting #friendzoned. But she's still in the data-collection phase. You think she's being indecisive, because she doesn't make decisions as quickly as you, and to some extent this is true, but all things are relative.
Consider this a holding pattern while she decides, not that she'll never decide.
4. It's a Number's Game for You, and She Knows It
In today's dating world filled with dating apps galore, countless social media options for communicating, a globalized, interconnected world, and travel and airfare being relatively affordable, the dating pool is the largest it's ever been, and your male counterparts are pinging like there's no tomorrow. They have created the competition, with their wide-net, non-discerning approach.
If I have to hear one more time on here, 'If you want to know how to fish, don't ask the fish' I might just scream (although to be fair, I suspect it is one anonymous guy who is responsible for close to every instance of this phrase.) The fish know what type of bait they like, what type of boat, when they want to feed, and just how many other fish are in the pond. They also talk to the other fish (often in detail, way more than you do - this level of analysis is off the charts compared to yours); they study their competitors, watch lesbian porn for body, technique, and beauty standards comparisons, and they assume, as a precautionary, defensive strategy, that you only want them for one thing. So your 'hey' doesn't mean much of anything to them. And there's a hundred more where that came from.
So if you really wanted to stack the decks more in your favour, you'd have to all collectively decide not to swipe yes on every. single. girl. (Blame Sean Rad, original Founder and CEO of Tinder for changing the face of internet dating, irreparably, for that one.)
"But we have to." I know. It's a raw deal. And you guys have been staring at your empty inboxes, and have learned efficiency and about being proactive, and lowering your standards, "Because if we don't, we won't get any action or interest at all." Yes, but that's only because you're all doing it. (Can you really call it a strategy when everyone's doing it?) (And yes, I've chatted with some of you about this, and the experimenters have concluded that volume works best, but I notice some very distinct differences in those who are successful, and those who are not. So don't think a 'hey' is ever going to work. Period.)
But let's be realistic. All the men of the world are simply not going to have a meeting and say, "Hey, let's all not slide into all their DMs anymore. Let's choose more carefully." This is not going to happen. You're going to continue doing what you do, get crickets, periodically crawl into a depressed hole over their lack of mutual interest, and the pattern will continue.
5. The Attention is an Ego Boost to Her Self-Esteem
She's not interested in you romantically, but the attention sure does feel nice. Let's face it - you like boobs, she likes Likes.
The lower her self-esteem, the more she may act in accordance with boosting it, and that often means via quantity, not quality. The more men praise, the more it temporarily fills the well.
Or, by contrast, a narcissist who is full of confidence (albeit a bastardized version of it), will think she deserves a never-ending supply of suitors.
The challenge is differentiating between the genuinely sweet and insecure (or confident but still appreciative of praise), and the narcissist who's simply masquerading as sweet. Choose wisely, and you could help build up a girl who could use a little support. Choose poorly, and you're helping to create an ever-increasing population of narcissists.
6. The Rise of the Narcissist, and Illusion of Higher SMV
#SMV = Social/sexual Market Value
She thinks her market value is higher than it actually is. Because of you, thirsty boys. Because of all your Follows, DMs, Likes, 'Tips' and affirmations that, in fact, her "boobs are not too big." (Are you still falling for that one? Uh, she already knows the answer.) She feels like she's in high-demand, but hasn't yet figured out that all those don't translate into an actual relationship, or partnership; and that's where the true value is, in someone making a commitment, forsaking all others. That's the big ticket item that is so often just out of reach. To be loved, and to love someone as much as you love yourself. (Fyi, the phrase used to be 'to love someone more than you love yourself', but that one is not so popular nowadays, in this age of self-love, dignity, and 'confidence.')
As they say, 'If you want to kill this beast, you can't just chop the tail. You have to cut the head.' Okay, that's a big dramatic, but you get the point. Feeding into #narcissism only emboldens the ego.
7. It's a Game: She Thinks She's the Prize, and Wants You to Try and Win Her
It's not indecision. She's playing you. She wants you to think she's in high-demand, because for a select few males, this strategy works. She wants to instill a sense of competition in you. Problem is, she doesn't know that the vast majority of men hate game-playing. They end the game.
Again, it's not indecision, it's strategy.
8. The Paradox of Choice
Look at all these lovely ladies. How to pick just one?
The Paradox is essentially about anxiety which is created as a byproduct by an abundance of choice. Studies have concluded that choices numbering more than three cause 'decision paralysis.' This applies to everything, all products, etc., not just people.
In a sea of choices (in this case, men) the mind becomes frantic and instead of choosing one and making a committed and concerted effort to see where it goes, the decider chooses nothing, because nothing is less stressful than making 'the wrong choice', or having to juggle multiple choices.
9. Supply & Demand
The illusion of a seemingly unlimited supply does turn people into greedy gophers. (That's not a medical term, I know. Is it Canadian? I have no idea. But I like to keep some of these fun, old-timey phrases alive.) The dating marketplace is filled to capacity right now. There are more singles, fewer marrieds, than ever before. So, the more choice, the more competition. Sorry if you're not rising to the top, but that's basic supply and demand. It takes something special to be noticed, and chosen, in times of bounty.
10. She Doesn't Want to Hurt You
Most of you would rather, "Just tell me if you're not interested," but she doesn't see it that way. She's very, very afraid of hurting your feelings, and in her mind, it's way more hurtful to be direct and say what, specifically, she doesn't like about you and to give a flat out "no." She will do everything to avoid this, because although you say you want the truth, it's extremely difficult to give just the right amount of truth.
11. She Wants to Avoid Conflict
Just like girls, guys might demand specifics, and specifics lead to awkwardness and conflict. Directness is not how females typically prefer to communicate. Conflict, differences of opinion, debates, all stress them out (much more than you.) Her sensitivity expands to others, not just herself, and an intense back-and-forth is the last thing she wants to do (just like men, when facing a woman.) Thus, the internet tools of #blocking and #ghosting are all too common.
But these truths about where a person's head is at, are really the one thing which can bring closure, and closure is what ultimately allows people to move on with their life. It's something we should all strive to give to those we have any care for at all.
12. She's Thinking Not Only of Herself, But of Her Future Potential Offspring
Birth control options are plentiful. Many adults are choosing not to have children. The middle class has shrunk in numbers yet continues to bear the biggest brunt of economic responsibility, globally, making having and raising children a very costly venture. Yet despite all of these sea changes, pregnancies still do happen, and all logic and planning aside, if a woman gets pregnant, it is she that will ultimately be responsible for birthing and raising that child. Some men leave. Many men leave. And there's no point in the good, responsible men arguing about paternal rights, court injustices, pro-choice, etc. etc. in this particular context (I know they're all true, they're just not relevant here), as in this context, it is still, and will always remain, a key reason in her tentativeness to pursue a relationship, particularly a sexual one.
13. Her Expectations Are [Too] High
She knows what she wants, but she also knows she can't seem to find it in one tidy package. Men are no different. The most important question people face, often, is, 'Is this person the one?'
Arguments can be made in both directions. A person who settles for much less than what they had always hoped and waited for, may end up ultimately feeling discontented, unfulfilled, walking away. That could be considered a waste by both people. (Although how many years is a waste? Perhaps relationships should be assigned more than pass/fail, success/failure.)
Yet a person who never settles at all can find themselves wasting the best years of their life unnecessarily alone, lonely. (This is not directed towards those who are single and content. It is for those who lament what they never had, nor could find.)
No one ever truly knows who is the right person and when is the right time. It's anyone's guess, and the only way to find out for sure is to take the leap. The name of the game is compromise. Give more than your 'fair share', never count to 50% or stop there. Recognize that no one is perfect, not even you, and commitment is a choice. Any expectations beyond this are probably going to end in disappointment. The best anyone can do (and especially women) is temper their expectations for what a relationship, and another person, can be. Seeking another person to make you whole, feel complete, and happy forever more, is a tall order. Making you smile, feel loved - those are simpler, realistic, goals, that are more attainable, and everyone deserves.
I might as well bring it up, since I know some of you will. There's no disputing it - some females are opportunists. Some guys are always looking for their next lay; some girls are always looking to level-up their lifestyle. For them, it's a bit less about the man, than what the man provides for them. This makes both women and men seem fickle, and they are. But more so, it's about being an opportunist.
Spoiler: The most likely to do this are the ones who base their initial attraction to the other on the externals - for men, that's the woman's body and the sex they have with them; for women, it's the money, status, power, and anything that brings a more comfortable lifestyle. When these are the main markers of choice, partners are seen as easily replaceable. Both partners.
15. She Changed
Uh, yeah, people do. Life is often long, and the more we experience, the more we touch, the more chance there is of change. Sometimes it's for the better, sometimes for the worse, but progress and wisdom are more likely with age. And this, of course, applies to both genders, and all people.
Sometimes time makes one lose appreciation for what once satisfied them. Sometimes more aspects of their partner's personality were revealed, and it just became intolerable. Or life kicked them in the ass, and the stress of their experience drove them apart, instead of together. Some people choose not to stay together, when they have grown apart, and really, that's their prerogative. We are all human, all flawed, and all subject to the ravages of experience and time.
I'm not justifying or defending these reasons or actions. I could say that some of them are inexcusable; some are wrong; some should not exist (all true), but they are also not things I wish to argue (I've written on them elsewhere already, and I don't believe this is the context for that.) My point in writing this is merely to counter and add some explanation as to why the 'Girls don't know what they want' idea prevails (amongst men.)
I believe this myth exists because shallow analyses are the norm. Why?
- Lack of personal accountability and deflection of blame (everyone does it, it's not gender-specific. Humans are naturally defensive)
- Lack of knowledge and life experience (attention economy distraction, stress, low intellectual curiosity; anti-intellectualism; stunted maturity/growth rates; looser parenting styles; more focus on carefree childhoods and teenage years' responsibility focused on only schoolwork and most other time is allotted for leisure; rising student debt, young adults living longer with parents)
- Overpopulation creating a highly competitive world without enough resources and opportunities to meet all citizens (ex: 'Nice guys finish last', the '80/20' myth, 'I just can't catch a break here')
- Lack of equity in a biased, hierarchical world where opportunities are not equally distributed to all
- The internet (#groupthink; tribalism; self-made, opportunistic youtube influencers spouting unsubstantiated advice for profit)
- Low intelligence (declining global intelligence scores; de-prioritizing of educational system; machine automation; outsourcing of problems and challenges)
- In short, people seem to be forgetting how to think
But mostly... yes, women are complicated. They are like the riddle that just won't quit. Sorry, guys. You want shortcuts, but there aren't really any. The short answer to this long take, is that there are no short answers. You just have to remain curious, open, and try and ride the wave. It'll (she'll) drive you nuts sometimes, but it won't be boring (probably.) We add spice to each other's life. But don't worry, they'll be some nice, fun, chill times, in between the chaos.