Category: Dating for Men & Women

Dating advice relevant to both sexes

  • Sexual dynamics in the 21st century

    This insightful article popped up on Slate last week.  Worth a read:

    Sex Is Cheap

    Why young men have the upper hand in bed, even when they’re failing in life.

    By Mark Regnerus, Posted Friday, Feb. 25, 2011, at 12:23 PM ET

    We keep hearing that young men are failing to adapt to contemporary life. Their financial prospects are impaired—earnings for 25- to 34-year-old men have fallen by 20 percent since 1971. Their college enrollment numbers trail women’s: Only 43 percent of American undergraduates today are men. Last year, women made up the majority of the work force for the first time. And yet there is one area in which men are very much in charge: premarital heterosexual relationships. Continue here

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  • Male-Female Dating Dynamics: The Graph

    Found this gem on the web, supposedly by a Bain & Co consultant with time on his hands.  Insightful, hilarious, and a brilliant summary of every article I’ve ever written.  Particularly funny is the location of the null set:best graph of dating dynamics between men and women

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  • Why long-distance relationships suck

    Aw man, I can feel a rant coming on.  Here’s one comment/letter from a reader:

    Speaking of long distance! We met on FB after many years apart, and live in different states. What about if there is loving romantic communication, and you respond in kind, in addition to calls… However, when it comes to positive communication, we do not talk often enough (for me) so the postive gaps get filled in some times w/email and text and (dare I say) messages on FB (but not on the wall). We also have had a lot of fun s/exting…as our physical relationship is also long distance, and there can be an emotional component to turning each other on via text also. Bottom line, I wish it was more intimate, more calls, more often…I just told him this, and he has been more attentive since the conversation. — Deb from a Distance

    And here’s another comment from my college blog Enter to Grow in Wisdom on a post about long distance relationships being a bad idea:

    First of all, not everybody who’s in a long-distance relationship through college breaks up. Just because you haven’t personally seen anybody make it doesn’t mean nobody does. That’s a pretty irrational attitude to take: “I haven’t seen this happen; therefore it CANNOT happen.” I’ve met and heard of plenty of people who’ve gotten married after long-distance relationships… — Miriam from Chicago

    Sometimes I feel like the climate scientist who’s trying to tell the world about the ravages of global warming and someone gets up and says, “But it was cold in Milwaukee today, so there can’t possibly be global warming.”

    So let me put this as clearly as possible, once and for all:

    A long-distance relationship is no relationship at all.

    I can hear the howls of protest already.  How can you say that, (more…)

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  • Why it is wise to worship a woman, by Arjuna Ardagh

    I was fortunate enough to come across this article by Arjuna Ardagh on the goddess on Huffington Post as I was checking up on my own article there.  This is now required reading for all my boys and girls.

    Men: this is the highest expression of the unarticulated longing inside your heart for the divine feminine.  It’s also the solution to all of your dating woes.  If this is how you see women and convey it to them, you will have throngs of goddesses adoring you wherever you go.

    Women: this is about you.  Realize that you are the goddess right here, right now.  Ease into it, live it, breathe it, and radiate it outward.  It’s also the solution to all of your dating woes.  If you show up as the goddess and gradually lead him into the inner sanctum of your divine feminine, he cannot resist. This is what the whole Tao of Dating program is about.

    That said, here’s the beginning of the article.  Blog protocol requires that I put up an excerpt and direct you to the original source, so go to it:

    “A few days ago, after a particularly exquisite evening with my wife Chameli, I put this post up on Facebook before going to bed:

    “I have had many, many great teachers in my life. A super abundance. No one and nothing comes close to the woman who is now asleep in the bedroom. My marriage has become the guru, the salvation, the muse, the crack through which the divine shines through.”

    When I woke up the next morning, (more…)

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  • Dating at Work: Perils & Opportunities

    Here’s a great letter from a reader about a budding romance at work — a very common situation:

    I’m a huge fan of the Tao of Dating, (which I’ve read 2x now), and we’ve spoken a couple of times online. I’m writing to you because I’m in a situation that’s mostly great, though a little tricky to navigate; and I’d love to get your take on the matter.

    I started at a new full-time job about 6 weeks ago. I’ve met a woman with whom I really get along. We chat online almost all day while at work. I get along with her two female office friends. We all often go to lunch together. She and I make plans during the day to take coffee breaks together. Today we had an office beach party, and she and I ended up spending a lot of the day together. We get along great and gravitate towards one another.

    If we didn’t work together, it would almost be a no-brainer. Thing is, we do, and it’s a new job. We made tentative plans to see a movie together next week. I just don’t want to rush anything or force anything. I’m trying not to invest too much into just her, but I find myself thinking about her often. I’m not afraid of being bold…I just feel like timing might be everything in this situation…(?) Any words of wisdom? It would be most appreciated.

    I continue to love your work, and I sincerely hope all is well with you.

    All the best,

    My good man Gabe.  Nice to hear from you.  Appreciate the praise.  No need to stop, really — keep it coming :)

    Awright, so this romance at work thing may seem like a sticky situation.  You meet someone you like, and you seem to get along.  But then, (more…)

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  • You, the Reality Distortion Field

    On a sunny day here in Santa Monica, I was driving down the street when I noticed a police car on the other side of the road.

    Of course, this means that I came to a complete stop at the stop sign, well behind the limit line, let all pedestrians have right of way, and smiled in the general direction of The Law — just like every other time I’ve come across a cop car.

    All of this made me wonder: what would the world look like if you were that policeman driving the squad car?

    It would look like the world is populated almost exclusively by law-abiding citizens who are very meticulous about their driving.  Think about it: as soon as people become aware of your presence, they alter their behavior.  You, the cop, are a reality distortion field.  It’s as if you send out these waves of causation, and the world conforms to it around you.

    Well, guess what, boys and girls: we’re all reality distortion fields all the time.  Any time you interact with someone, that someone is also interacting with you — that’s what interact means.  So you only see people in relationship to you.

    Just as there are different versions of you — employee, boss, child, parent, sibling, relative, lover, pedestrian, driver, friend — there are different versions of the people around you.  And you only get to see that version of that person.

    This may even be one of the central operating principles of the universe.  Quantum mechanics says that by observing something, you change it.  At the level of an electron that needs to hit a detector or be bumped by a photon before it’s “seen”, we can grasp that.

    But what if that were also true of the macroscopic world of human relations?

    Well, I already told you that it is.  It’s also one of the most empowering principles of the Tao of Dating: by controlling your attention and expectation, you can change the behavior of those close to you.

    Energy flows where attention goes.  So if you give attention to your partner’s positive qualities, your partner will grow in those areas (heard of an erection? Same idea).  Similarly, if you give attention to the negative qualities — and remember that criticism and nagging are still forms of attention — then those areas will grow.  Take your pick.

    Also, people will rise and fall to your level of expectation of them.  If you expect generosity of spirit and openness of heart, that’s what you’re going to get from your partner.  So expect the best, and ascribe positive intent to their actions whenever possible.

    This reminds me of the story of Jean Valjean in Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables.  Right after his release from prison, Valjean is taken in by the kindly Bishop Myriel, since no inn will offer shelter to an ex-convict.  In the middle of the night, Valjean leaves Myriel’s home, stealing the bishop’s silverware.  He is soon caught and brought back to Myriel, who says that he actually gave Valjean the silverware, and how dare he leave in such a hurry so as to forget the silver candleholders that he also meant for him!  Myriel then reminds Valjean of the promise to use the silver to make an honest man of himself.

    Valjean had made no such promise.  But Myriel held him to a higher ideal than the one Valjean had for himself.  Subsequently, Valjean goes on to become a wealthy industrialist and then a mayor.

    This may just be a story out of a novel, but it does describe reality.  You have enough silver in your possession to hold people to the highest vision of themselves at any time.  The silver is your attention, the expectations you have of people, and the example you set with your own behavior.  Use them wisely.

    In conclusion, I was thinking about the meaning of the expression to turn the other cheek last week.  From the Sermon on the Mount in the Book of Matthew: “If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well.”

    Is this about wimpiness, militant pacifism, or some very literal thing having to do with the time and place Jesus lived in?  Many different interpretations exist.

    Here’s mine: to turn the other cheek means to take the one action that can result in the salvation of the person who slapped you.

    If you slap back harder, you’ve got a slapfest on your hands, and neither you nor the slapper* will be ennobled by it.  Just sitting there like a potted plant won’t accomplish much either.  The only thing that’s likely to make the slapper pause and perhaps reconsider is to turn the other cheek: “What the hell was that all about?”, he’ll think.  And therein lies the shadow of a chance for evolution. It may not work every time, but it’s the only thing that can work.

    That’s what Bishop Myriel did.  It’s what a Taoist master would do — flow with force and offer no resistance.  It’s what Musashi, the legendary Japanese sword master and author of The Book of Five Rings did when challenged to a duel by some street thug who would certainly get killed at the master’s hand.

    Not only is turning the other cheek the furthest thing from wimpiness and passivity, it is also the highest expression of the human spirit: the ability to act deliberately in accordance with principle instead of reacting reflexively.  And it leaves both parties in a better spot than where they started.

    * Slapper is a bit of technical term in England, so all you snickering Brits can settle down now.  Works in this context in any case.

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  • Why people indulge in negative emotions

    Here’s one of the letters I got in response to the Are you muggable article:

    Hmm — Dr. Alex, isn’t this just another version of “blame the victim”? How about if instead of warning nice people not to be “too” nice, we point out the true nastiness (and therefore unattractiveness) of people who prey on them, and tell nice people how to spot those predators?
    Surely intelligent women would find that approach more appealing. At least, I would. I’m not a victim — I’m just an idiot. In this regard, at least.

    Gabriella from Bay Area

    Gawrsh, this opens up so many cans of worms.

    First off, for the ladies there’s the Bad Boys article on spotting what’s potentially bad for you.

    Next, let’s talk about the ‘blame the victim’ thing.  This is not about blame at all.  Blaming is a useless exercise.  Even if you’re justified in being righteously indignant, blame doesn’t accomplish anything. What’s useful is to observe what happened, notice the structure of reality, and use it to live better on an ongoing basis.  That’s responsibility — the ability to respond — not blame.

    For example, let’s say you leave your handbag open on the subway.  A few minutes later, you’re in a coffee shop trying to pay for your drink when you notice — oh crap!  My purse is gone!

    Now does it really help to stew in your own juices and say, “Omigosh, aren’t people awful?”  Sure, the person who swope (past tense of ‘swipe’, of course) your purse was a bastard.  But that doesn’t bring your purse back.  Next time, don’t be a pansy and zip up your handbag.

    If they slit the purse open with a switchblade and take the purse anyway, you can at least rest easy that you’ve done your part.  But an open, unattended handbag with wads of $100 bills sticking out from it is an invitation for bad stuff to happen.

    And that, my friend, is often what’s happening.  People are unconsciously sticking the ‘kick me’ sign on their butt, and then wondering why (more…)

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  • Are you ‘muggable’? How to not be exploited

    In 1981, Betty Grayson of Hofstra University and Morris Stein of NYU did an experiment.  The researchers videotaped 60 people as they walked down the same city block in New York City.  They then showed the videotape to 53 prison inmates convicted of violent assault.

    What they found was fascinating: the inmates showed a strong consensus for the kind of individual they would choose as a victim.  Those chosen as potential victims tended to have poor coordination, with a stride either too short or too long for their height.

    Nonvictims, in contrast, displayed a more coordinated walk and a normal stride.  Basically, the muggable victims telegraphed nonverbal cues that indicated ease of victimization — as if wearing a sign on their back saying ‘mug me’.

    Another study by two Japanese researchers looked at cues for choosing victims for inappropriate groping in public places (apparently this happens a lot on the super-crowded Japanese subways).  They consulted a group of men from Tokyo University to comment on short video clips of women walking.

    Once again, the men showed agreed on which women they would choose to grope.  Body language of prospective victims included walking slowly and having a short stride length.  In their personality inventory, these women also tended to score high on neuroticism, low on extraversion, and high on shyness.

    There’s more to these studies than that.  For now, this is what I want you to consider: If you’ve found yourself exploited in relationships before, how much were you responsible for it?  Because apparently there is such a thing as wearing an ‘exploit me’ sign on your back.

    David Buss, the author of The Evolution of Desire, wrote a fascinating paper in 2008 with his colleague Joshua Duntley entitled ‘Adaptations for Exploitation’.

    One of the points Buss makes in the paper is that there’s a lot of exploitation going on out there in the romantic realm, both by men and women.  And certain people are more exploitable than others.

    So if you’ve repeatedly been burned in relationships — honey, buddy, I hate to break it to you, but you were partially responsible for it.  You have been complicit in your suffering.

    Let me give you an example from poker.  Contrary to popular belief, I did not start out as a world-class poker player from Day 1.  In fact, I was pretty terrible.  And when I would sit down at a new table, the better players would notice immediately: “That guy is pretty terrible.  We’re going to take all his money.”

    You know why I know that?  Because now I’m that guy who takes the money (sometimes anyway), and within minutes of a new player’s sitting at a table, I know whom I’m dealing with,what his weaknesses are and how to exploit them — by cunning, intimidation, trapping, bluffing and outright bullying.  If poker is a zero-sum game, then that’s how you win it.

    You must also recognize that people like this exist in the romantic realm.  Even though love is the ultimate nonzero-sum game, a potential win for all involved, some people choose to be jerks in the realm of love.  Although there are both men and women who fit this category, the exploitative men probably outnumber the women, since they have more to gain from a short-term sexual interaction.  Also, more testosterone tends to make people behave more antisocially — go figure.

    So how do you stop wearing the ‘use me’ sign?  The first step is recognition.  Straight out of Prof Buss’s article, here are some traits he believes make you more exploitable:

    • Cheatable: Gullible, trusting, lack of allies to aid with retaliation
    • Free-ridable: Relative anonymity within larger group
    • Muggable: Uncoordinated gait, hesitant manner
    • Sexually assaultable: Shy, low self-confidence, lack of “bodyguards” in group
    • Sexually deceivable: Seems “ditzy” or “airheaded”
    • Abusable: Lacking kin in close proximity
    • Cuckoldable: Relaxation of mate guarding by partner
    • Stalkable: High on agreeableness and extraversion

    If you want to stop being used, here are some suggestions, some courtesy of Captain Obvious (that would be me), and some from the article.

    For both men and women:

    Cultivate a reputation as being nonexploitable. As Buss puts it, “refusing to accept unfair exchanges and seeking vengeance after one has been exploited are two means by which individuals cultivate a reputation as nonexploitable.”  So refuse to accept a raw deal — you always have the option to walk.  And if you do get a raw deal, get mad!  Get righteously indignant!  Out the punk so the world knows that you will not be punked.

    Expect and demand some degree of reciprocity. If you’re constantly being the giver in the relationship, the other partner will soon figure out that he or she can be a free rider.  You’re not being nice by giving all the time — you’re being naїve and, frankly, a little stupid.  You’re a human, not a charity.

    For women who don’t want to be played by players:

    Take your time in getting to know a man. Do not be taken in by early disclosures of affection.  A guy can’t possibly know enough about you to be in love with you within an hour of meeting you — or a week, or even a month.  If it sounds too good to be true, 99.8% of the time it is.  Delay your first sexual encounter with a guy until you trust him enough.  A good thing is worth waiting for, and you’re a good thing, so make him wait some before he gets some.

    Date men within your social circle. Successful exploitation hinges upon getting away with it.  If a man is embedded within your social circle, he can’t get away with doing stupid things without damaging his reputation and trustworthiness, so he’s less likely to exploit.  So, as mentioned in The Tao of Dating for Women, date only men who are networked in.  Men you meet off the internet or in a bar can and will do exploitative things with much higher frequency.

    Utilize your yang energy. In public places, walk briskly, with purpose, looking straight ahead.  Speak your mind.  Learn how to say ‘No’ emphatically.  Quit being pointlessly nice and polite to people who harass you, since they clearly don’t deserve it.

    Go out with friends and have each other’s backs. Most women already know this (much to the chagrin of men in nightclubs), but it’s extra-important that the women (and men) in the group keep tabs on the girls, making sure no one is left behind.

    For men who don’t want to be waylaid by gold-diggers, flakes and other party hazards:

    Quit paying for everything. Let her pull her own weight every once in a while.  Is she into your company or the perks of your company?  See section on ‘reciprocity’ above.

    Ask how she’s spending her time. If a romantic interest or current girlfriend suddenly starts to become a lot more scarce, start wondering if there’s another guy.  Ask point-blank: How many other men are you dating right now? That should get you useful information.

    I really wish that the Tao were all about openness, beauty, love, gods and goddesses meeting on a moonlit shore with violins in the background, with no nitty-gritty in it at all.  But even in that scenario, you’ll get sand in your shoes which you’ll have to shake out later.

    And that’s what I love about the Tao: it’s about life here, on this earth.  It’s real, it’s pragmatic, and it has your best interest in mind.  In the case of exploitative partners or suitors, it is in your enlightened self-interest to be strong and vigilant, using both yin and yang energy to protect yourself.  You use the directive and discriminating aspect of yang energy to identify and push away what’s harmful; you use the yielding aspect of yin energy to let go of what you no longer need.

    Then you can use the yang again to find what’s good for you and the yin to let it into your life joyfully — it’s a constant, dynamic process.  Sometimes the tide ebbs; sometimes it flows.  But it never stops moving.

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  • What to do when he or she goes ‘poof’

    Hi Dr. Ali,
    Boy, was this a timely article! I was pondering sending a scintillating email to a wuss of a guy who’s gone “poof” on me after 6 dates…but I won’t.
    What’s your take on these “fadeaways”? I thought it was going fine, a girl goes away for 3 weeks…then comes back, and he’s changed. Whatever the reason, JUST TELL ME STRAIGHT i.e. “it’s not working out”…instead of disappearing off planet earth for 2 weeks and leaving me wondering… And this is a 46-year old man!
    I realise you’re very busy. Maybe you’ll address this in a future article as it seems to be a common occurrence here in New York at least
    So I’m not saying anything about it at all. Clearly he doesn’t care enough to send a one line email, or call. That says it all. It’s just common courtesy, respect…
    Thanks for the advice you’re sending on, it’s very helpful.


    Thanks for the note!  Yes, it is tremendously frustrating to both the men and the women on the receiving end of The Disappearance.  I mean, what happened?  Did you get severe tendinitis in both hands so you can’t write or call?  Were you deported back to Sweden for your obvious abuse of our fabulous American health care system?  Did you die, without even having the courtesy to invite me to your funeral or give me dibs on your book collection?

    So the first thing you can do about this is: (more…)

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  • The #1 Mistake in Modern Communication

    Regret-generating ambiguous email #1056: So, I’m sorry to see that we are not on the same page when it comes to the unwritten rules of engagement with the opposite sex, and apparently not even reading the same book in terms of our relationship.  I did have fun though. :)

    Regret-generating ambiguous text #343: Ur a self-centered bastard.  Fine, maybe I was PMSing, but ur still a jerk.

    This article is going to be short.  It will contain one main message.  It’s an important one.  The message is this:

    No emotional communication via email, text, or voicemail (aka asynchronous media).  Ever.

    You should use email, text and even voicemail to transmit straight data only.  ‘What time are we meeting’, ‘what’s the address’, that kind of thing.  The occasional compliment or flirty message is okay, but even those can be subject to misunderstanding.

    Now let me explain why emotional communication via text or email is such a bad idea.

    1) Error rate in message generation is high.

    Communication has three phases:

    Message generation: Did you compose it accurately?

    Message transmission: Did it fly through the air and safely get there?

    Message interpretation: Did the recipient understand it the way you meant it?

    When you talk to someone face-t0-face, all three things (more…)

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  • Better Dating Decisions Through Game Theory

    Is there a science to making better dating decisions?

    It’s 5.30pm on Friday night, and you have a date for 8pm. You’re really eager to spend time with this new guy you’ve met. He says he’s made a reservation at the hottest new restaurant in town, and you’ve been anticipating this since Monday when you agreed to go out with him. It’s the highlight of your long week.

    You arrive home, put down your handbag and take off your jacket, wondering whether you’re going to wear that red off-the-shoulder number or the more subdued black dress. And shoes – which shoes… when the ringing of your phone interrupts your train of thought. It’s him. He says his boss called him in to help prepare for tomorrow’s client presentation. He cancels on you.

    What’s the Right Thing to Do?

    If you’ve ever dated, (more…)

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  • Why do smart people make dumb decisions?

    Meet my friend Bart. As a surgeon, every day at work he’s entrusted with the lives of others, and he handles the job well. He’s a genuinely gifted fellow. He’s also fit, healthy, and well-rounded.

    In other words, Bart has made a lot of great decisions in his life, and continues to do so every day.

    Except that some time ago, he got engaged. And none of his friends thought it was a good idea. We all predicted disaster, of the Hindenberg up-in-flames variety.

    Bart did get separated a few years later, and you probably know someone who was plenty smart who made a similarly disastrous decision. Whether it was taking the wrong job, buying a Hummer, selling off Microsoft stock in 1989 or launching into a destructive affair, (more…)

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