"I can't find Mr. Right." This is the most common complaint I've heard over the last several years from friends and strangers from all walks of life. This is not a unique perspective of a particular class, race, or socioeconomic stratum but applies to college freshman as well as successful career women and everyone in between. Women are searching for acceptable male companionship and too many are having a difficult time of finding it.
As I listened to these women (many of whom are my friends who for the life of me I couldn't figure out at first why guys weren't lining up around the block to date them) something struck me as uniquely simple. The men they were dating or seeking or married to were saying one thing but the women were hearing something altogether different. I also realized that there was a big gap between the female interpretation of a man's actions or inactions and what his true intentions were.
As I went about trying to help women decode male thoughts and behaviors (many of which I still claim are mysterious to me also) I noted that despite prevailing wisdom, there were some assumptions that women should make. First, men are not the greatest of communicators (go ahead and roll your eyes), men do not want to be bogged down in drama, men tend not to have the same level of emotion attached to physical intimacy, and men often do things that are simply irrational and highly idiosyncratic.
As I began dispensing advice, I quickly realized that there were lots of myths that were sending women in completely the wrong direction. What I advised these women, as I do in my new book The Truth About Men, was to ignore a lot of what has been popularized in the media when it comes to men and their willingness to commit and what they're looking for in women. Men, in fact, are excited and looking forward to settling down and having families and being true partners with women in relationships that are full of excitement, unpredictability, adventure, and loyalty. If women want to understand men better and have a decent shot at finding that "Mr. Right," dispelling some of these myths would be a giant step in the right direction.
Myth 1: Men Are Afraid of Smart, Successful Women
Intelligent, successful, attractive people can be intimidating. They force us to hold a mirror to ourselves; we can be disappointed, jealous or inspired toward personal growth. But a man who runs away from a relationship in fear of these positive attributes is extremely insecure. But this is where it gets tricky. Women want to feel wanted. Men want to feel needed. When a man feels like he is nothing more than an accessory or that you can live completely fine without a need for him, then he is reluctant to be in that relationship or become heavily engaged in one. This has a lot to do with ego, which we have plenty to spare. But there are ways for women to still have it all, yet still convey to their man that rather than being an accessory, he can be an important puzzle piece in her life. Men don't avoid successful women because they're jealous, they often do it to avoid being in competition with her next job promotion.
Myth 2: Men Always Want to Be in Control
Society for a long time has dictated that a "real man" is the one who brings home the money, protects his family, and makes the major decisions. This "ideal" of manhood is something that is forced on men from the time their father or older brother shouts derisively, "Be a man!" But the truth of the matter is that men don't want to be in control by themselves, rather they want to share it with their significant other, in other words, have a true partnership. Men discuss this with each other in sweaty locker rooms and at the end of a bar with the ballgame silently playing on a TV screen overhead, but they are not as open to women about it, because they don't want to appear weak, unmanly, or inept. Be comfortable in knowing that most men of the modern era do not believe the criteria for entering the XY club include being the dominant partner in a relationship. In fact, you stepping up and helping to make decisions and mold the dynamics of the relationship is greatly desired and a much-welcomed relief.
Myth 3: Commitment Scares Men
Are men slower to settle into a relationship? In most cases, yes. But don't fall into the trap and draw the wrong conclusion: Men are afraid of commitment. The clichés are endless and wrong. "Men don't want to commit because they're afraid to call someone their girlfriend, or they really want to have multiple women." In some cases, this might be true. Not all men are the same. But the majority of the time, what scares men is not that they will be off the market but rather the possibility they they're making the wrong decision. It might take us a little longer to figure out if the chemistry is right for a compatible relationship, but we will get there, and it's typically best when we get there on our timeline and on our terms. Men (and women) don't like to deal with the emotional drama of a bad breakup, but this makes men move very cautiously when it comes to relationship progression. Is this frustrating to you? Absolutely. Do men know this bothers you? Absolutely. But this is one of those things where everyone is better served when the course is allowed to flow and develop naturally without ultimatums and gamesmanship. One large survey asked men what they considered to be the number one male status symbol. The top vote getter was not a fancy car or a beautiful woman. It was... drum roll... starting a family!
For more, check out Dr. Ian Smith's new book, The Truth About Men: The Secret Side of the Opposite Sex.
Follow him on twitter: @doctoriansmith
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Follow Ian K. Smith, M.D. on Twitter: www.twitter.com/doctoriansmith