I rarely write posts for just one gender but this one is mostly for women.
When I was a practicing therapist working with women moving on from a relationship and getting ready to date again, I would encourage them to be a little less available than they had been in their last relationship. Women, inevitably, would say to me, “I don’t want to play games. I want to be who I am.”
Okay, well why are you an always available, no-life person? Why would anyone in his or her right mind find that attractive?
But that’s a simplistic answer. This is the real reason why:
1. Having your own life and your own interests makes you an attractive person. This is true when you’re dating or when you’re married 10 years. You do not want to advertise a person with a great life who isn’t ever going to be a burden or a weepy “you never pay attention to me” girlfriend and then give it all up for a relationship. That’s bait and switch and not fair to the relationship or to you.
2. If it doesn’t work out, whether next week, next year or 5 years from now, you have a life and friends and good things to go back to.
3. Men and women bond at very different places on the bonding spectrum. This is biological and innate and nothing you can do about it. The bonding spectrum goes from complete attachment to complete separation.
Think of it as a 100 degree line with 0 being complete separation and 100 being complete attachment.
Women bond at about 80-90 percent on the bonding spectrum. The closer they can get to complete attachment, the better they feel.
Men bond at about 50 percent on the bonding spectrum. They fear engulfment and enmeshment any higher and they fear abandonment and insignificance on the lower end of the spectrum.
So what’s the answer? For men and women to be in complete conflict forever and ever over where on the bonding spectrum they should fall…therefore never bonding?
Will men forever be commitmentphobes?
Will women forever feel abandoned?
No. There are plenty of couples who just naturally fall into the “come here/go away” rhythm that makes for a happy relationship. But they are not the ones that have engulfment/abandonment issues. This is for those who do:
I don’t know how else to explain it but when a man is secure that he will not be engulfed if he goes higher than 50 percent, he WILL go higher than 50 percent…even to 80 or 90 percent…but it has to be for a finite period of time and it helps if the woman breaks the bond and goes back to separation than if he feels as if he’s running away or needs to pull himself away in the face of tears and recriminations.
When his visit to the higher end of the spectrum turns ugly when he tries to move back to his 50 percent, he’s going to be less inclined, next time to visit you at 80 percent. You will feel abandoned and unloved and run down to get him and try to DRAG him up to 80 but now he is running toward 30 and eventually to 0, trying to get away from this engulfing crazy person. And you’ll either breakup or be doing this dance forever.
I also know women who say, “Well why do I have to orchestrate all this? Why can’t he move closer to me?”
Well, dear, he WILL move closer to you as long as he knows he can move away when the time comes. Even better, if he knows you will get bored with your intimacy first, he’ll be back for more in no time.
So how is this NOT a game?
It’s not a game because it recognizes that the differing bonding zones are biological and there is really no reason to try to fight it.
So why do women have to work on separation? Why can’t men work more on attachment?
Because there’s really no payoff for men to be more attached. There’s nothing THERE for them on the higher end of the bonding spectrum. Even if you, as a woman, wanted to be bonded and attachment at 80 percent all the time, what exactly do you do and how does it remain special?
Answer: it doesn’t. You’ll both get bored and/or dysfunctional and it will be a mess.
So what is the payoff for women to work harder on being on the separation end of the spectrum? Well, when you are not always trying to DRAG your guy to the closer end of the spectrum, he won’t rebel against it…and then he will WANT to be intimate and will want to get closer when you are on the higher end. So your bonding will be deeper and richer and nicer and better.
Second, whole people have whole relationships. Healthy people have healthy relationships. Having separate issues and your own friends and time apart is HEALTHY. So if you both separate and go do your thing and have your own interests and friends, you are healthy people and whole people and when you come back together it will be BLAM! Seriously.
And this starts when you’re dating and continues until you’re married 50 years. ALWAYS have your own friends, ALWAYS have your own interests, ALWAYS take time for you: alone time and time to be good to yourself, ALWAYS take some time away from the guy and the relationship that he isn’t totally crazy about (they’ll learn that it’s okay and you and him will still be okay), and ALWAYS work on yourself and the things in you that need attention. (if you have trouble being alone, you can start there).
So the idea is to not always be available when you are dating. Do not answer every call, text or email. Do not accept every invitation to every day. And do not act like this person is the be all end all of all time. Pull back a bit, physically, mentally and emotionally. When you do bond and things are good, leave sooner than you would like. Leave it good.
Leave when you really want to stay longer. Don’t linger. Be upbeat about leaving and think of it in a positive way. It’s important to not leave too early and not leave too late. It’s important to leave them wanting more.
Also if YOU leave before the guy or you start to pull away first, YOU won’t feel abandoned and instinctively try to make him come closer. If he starts to end a great evening or weekend or event earlier than you’re ready to end it, your first instinct is to get him to stay longer because you’re feeling insecure and/or abandoned.
He senses your tugging and it makes him want to RUN, not walk, to his nice little “not engulfed” corner and when he’s nervous, it’s not about 50 percent…it’s about 30 or 20 or 10 percent. This is when guys disappear and women panic.
It’s very preventable unless he has BIG issues and if he does, you need to know it’s not something YOU caused. Again, another payoff to leaving early. You’ll KNOW you did nothing wrong to cause this running off craziness.
It’s also important to go for 50 percent most of the time. You don’t want to make a man SO insecure that he loses his mind because they tend to do that on the lower end of the spectrum. You don’t want him to feel engulfed OR insignificant.
Remember, he does not want to feel abandoned or insignificant. So you can’t just disappear completely for a long period of time…but don’t be always available either. It takes practice but you begin to know what makes a guy feel at 50 percent.
When I first met my husband, he did NOT get the fact that I needed to go away, occasionally, by myself. He did not get that I wanted to leave our sweet little cocoon of new lovers. He just didn’t get it and freaked out a bit.
I liked to take a weekend now and again and go away by myself to read, relax and recharge. The first time I did it, he damn near went crazy right before I left and while I was gone. He was still beside himself the second time. Now, 11 years later, he’s perfectly fine with it. It wasn’t easy to not cave the first two times, especially since both happened in the first year of our relationship, but if I had, we’d be in big trouble today (if we were still together), instead of happily married.
On a weekly basis, I can go out for a day (six hours, eight hours, ten hours) and be completely out of touch (no cell phone, no Blackberry) and he will miss me.
He likes 50 percent which happens when he knows I’m there but not hovering and not ignoring him. He starts to feel abandoned and unimportant (dipping below that 50 percent line toward 40 and then 30 and maybe even 20! Men start to miss you and want you at 45-25, but start to think, “Screw her.” about about 20 so 20 isn’t good.) but if I come home with some food for him, he zooms right back up to 50 percent (she’s home and she has food!!!) and after he eats he’s feeling good and warm and now he wants to be close and happy…he wants his 80 percent.
So it’s a matter of figuring out how not to dip below 50 and what will get him to 80 without demand and control on your part.
This is not a game.
And you ask WHY? because to you it SOUNDS like a game.
Although the idea is to spark desire in someone else, it also gives you the bonus of having your own life (because you don’t want to pretend to go out with your friends, you want to go out with your friend) and of being able to gauge someone’s reaction to this.
If a guy doesn’t want you to leave and shows signs of controlling or being a big baby, you want to know that too.
If a guy has objections about you retaining your friends and your interests, you want to know that.
If a guy wants you to be a no-life nobody who is only interested in you being available to him, you want to know that.
And you want to steer clear of this guy.
Being unavailable sometimes and being in control of your time actually works MORE for women than for men. Although it seems like capitulating to the way men naturally like things, it isn’t. There is a HUGE payoff for women.
A better life.
More interested men.
The ability to pull back and see your own life as well as your budding relationship.
Nicer and deeper intimacy.
This is NOT about playing a game. It’s about understanding the innate and biological differences between men and women and capitalizing on that instead of being a victim complaining about men who won’t commit.
And don’t stop doing these things no matter how committed or how long-term the relationship is. ________________________