Men don’t know what they want. We hear it all the time. And we hear men say that women don’t know what they want.
Sometimes this is the case. But often the issue is not understanding where the other person is coming from.
I once dated a woman who wasted no time in stating that marriage was her goal. I made it just as clear that I don’t want to get married again. But she was persistent. It was an impasse, so I broke up with her.
Which led to the inevitable accusation, “You don’t know what you want!”
I was baffled. The only thing I ever said about marriage was no. Why would she think I don’t know what I want?
Obviously, what follows are generalisations. There are exceptions. Sometimes women want sex on the first date, and sometimes men are quick to propose. But in my opinion, relationships usually progress like this:
Men are required to ask women for dates, so women have the final deciding power. Thus, women tend to say yes when they’re very interested in getting to know him better. But because men must ask out, say, ten women to get one date, a man must ask a woman out even if he’s not sure if he’s interested – he wants to find out if he’s interested. But women often don’t understand that he’s just taking the the first step to deciding what he does want.
On the first date the man decides whether he’s sexually attracted to her; and while the woman is also deciding whether she’s attracted to him, this attraction is multi-faceted because she’s also evaluating his personality, communication style, career and finances, etc. while keeping a sharp eye out for any red flags.
As such, the man is more likely to think the first date went well, and if he asks her out again she’s likely to overestimate how interested he is in her. He will eventually evaluate her personality, communication style, etc. and look for red flags – but this will happen later. But again, many women don’t realize this.
If they continue seeing each other, perhaps becoming de facto exclusive (but not yet explicitly so), it’s because she has decided she’s attracted to him in a holistic way and hasn’t (yet) seen any major red flags. But for him the attraction is likely still physical, and generally men want to have sex sooner than women. She may decide to have sex once she’s determined that her attraction is more than just physical, and she might mistakenly think he feels the same way.
But note that usually they have sex when the woman decides it’s the right time. This means that she has much more power early in the relationship.
At this point, because her attraction is probably more holistic than his, she might want commitment sooner than he does. But maybe he hasn’t decided yet whether his attraction to her is holistic. If she has assumed otherwise, however, she may allege that he doesn’t know what he wants.
This is true in the sense that he’s taking longer to decide; but it is false in the way that most women think of it, namely that he’s pulling back from commitment. He’s not pulling back, he’s still deciding.
I’ve heard people say that women are pickier than men, but I don’t think this is true overall. It is often the case, however, at different points in the relationship. Women are more selective at the beginning, but men are equally selective when making a long-term commitment. Again, I think many women don’t realize that men are this selective, but at a different point in the relationship.
Because men often take longer to decide on a long-term commitment, men have more power later in the relationship.
To repeat, these are generalisations. But I want to highlight another relationship dynamic: maintaining the commitment. Women initiate two-thirds of divorces. Typically men are blamed for this. But hold on a minute. Several studies of long-term gay and lesbian relationships find that lesbians are twice as likely to split up compared to gay men.
The pattern is with women, not men. It appears that while men are generally slower to commit, they are more likely to remain committed.