I came across a great advice column written by Marc Evan Katz, a single dating expert (“Because who knows more about dating than a guy who’s still dating?”). A woman wanted to know when she should ask the man she was dating about his future plans. After one month? Three months? Every time she asked in the past, she said, the guy went running in the other direction. So how and when should she broach the subject without scaring the guy off?
I knew how I would answer: that stuff should have come up at the first meeting, otherwise what are you both wasting your time for? (I still think that’s a pragmatic approach.) But what would a guy say?
Katz’s answer, while completely obvious, shocked me, because it’s so simple and so clearly correct.
(I can tell, like me, you are waiting anxiously for this life-changing answer. Sorry to keep you in such suspense.)
His answer? Don’t do anything.
This was his answer to anything having to do with dating. You’re waiting for a guy to call, and he doesn’t…do you call? No. You wait; he calls, or doesn’t. You want to know where the relationship is going? You don’t ask, you wait. He does or doesn’t escalate the relationship; if he doesn’t you leave. If he doesn’t follow, you have your answer.
This stopped me in my tracks, because this is not the advice women give each other. Not only would we say it’s okay to ask, push, call, we’d help perform the analysis to make that decision, formulate the question, determine the timing, and apparently be an eager accomplice in driving the guy away.
It’s comical to think how wrong we get it. A classic situation is when we haven’t heard from a guy after a date. This one gets a lot of talk among the girls. Why didn’t he, what do you think, should I, shouldn’t I. Or this (totally classic): Maybe he didn’t realize I was interested.
“Sure, give him one last try. What have you got to lose?”
I’m certain I’ve uttered those words, and I’ve used that argument on myself. And it’s true: there is nothing to lose, except the energy you waste waiting to see if he responds. But there’s also nothing to gain. Because unless you are very, very bad at flirting, if he’s into you, he was looking for the vibe to see if you were into him. You smiled. You made eye contact. You did the hair flip. You know you did. He knows you’re interested. He is not.
Look, too, at what happens with “the shy guy.” He seems interested, but he doesn’t ask you out. So you think maybe you should ask him to meet for a drink or a coffee.
“Why not?” your friends say. “Do it!”
I know how wrong this is, because I’ve done it. I even ended up dating the guy, so you might think I’d say that Mr. Advice Guy was wrong. But that relationship didn’t last, and when I think back and apply the “do nothing” advice instead, I realize how my asking him out was directly linked to that relationship’s failure.
A shy guy will ask a woman out if he feels comfortable with her. Didn’t ask you out? He’s not comfortable with you. Mine wasn’t with me.
A guy who is too shy to ask you out—even when you’re sending all the right signals—will be too shy to speak his mind when he’s seeing you. Mine sure was.
And a guy who needs to be pulled into a relationship probably has reservations (okay, I’m a complete idiot—my shy-guy actually voiced the reservations). Your wonderful existence will not make him overcome them. Mine didn’t.
I’m particularly grateful to have read this advice before I struck again. I have been thinking about asking a guy I’ve been e-mailing with to get together. But now, I know I shouldn’t do that. He’s met me. He knows a ton about me. He knows if he thinks I’m cute and dateable. And he’s a guy; he’s programmed to pursue. I don’t think he’d run the other way if I asked, but it’s just wrong-thinking on my part. I’ve put it out of my head.
The reason I like Marc Evan Katz’s advice is I believe him, because it comes from the inside. I also like his advice because I wouldn’t call it game playing. What I would call it is controlling your very wrong female impulses.