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Have you ever been into a guy who seems to be giving you nothing but mixed signals? Alright, alright, you don’t have to roll your eyes so hard. I get it. Apparently women everywhere experience this phenomenon, some more often than not. So, what’s the deal?

A common response I hear is that men just need to “man up.” But what are we really talking about? Well, from what I can tell, that typically means he is acting weakly, and he needs to do the opposite. Be strong, do the right thing. When we’re talking about romantic relationships, that means be assertive. If you like her, ask her out. If you like the way things are going, commit to her. If you’re on the fence, make a decision one way or the other. If you’re not into it, bow out respectfully.

While those simple ideas are all well and good—and appealing, as we men like to think of ourselves as simple creatures—that doesn’t mean there’s a simple answer. Sure, if a man is ambiguous in his interactions with a woman, it could very well mean that he just needs to grow a pair. But it also could be all sorts of other reasons—from being clueless to being too smart for his own good and everything in between. And, to make the matter even less simple, it might be a combination of things.

But don’t just take my word for it. I took your questions to real men near and far and asked them point-blank: Do men need to man up? Or is there more going on? You might be surprised by some of the answers.

So without further ado, here’s some male perspective on what you might call the crisis of the assertive gentleman.

He could have good reasons for taking it slow.

“There's a lot of truth to the statement ‘man up,’” Lewis says. “But some men may be struggling internally with various issues that prevent them from asking a classy dame out on a date.” While it may be a surprise to some women, I’ve seen firsthand how other factors can negatively affect our confidence with women, namely professional frustration. For me, I would have been happy to pursue a woman if I knew she wouldn’t get hung up on my career advancement (or lack thereof) at the time.

It could also be that the guy is just gun shy from past rebuffs. “Yes, men can do a better job,” my buddy Mark says. “But there are also some who try very hard only to get rejected over and over again from even first dates.” He might be lacking in confidence because the last woman (or women) he went after gave him the cold shoulder—or worse. “I think we spend a lot of wasted time trying to be someone the woman wants,” Charles says, “And lose confidence when it doesn't work.”

He could just be missing his cue.

“Most guys struggle to communicate (worse now with media/texting),” Mark says. ”And so the fear seems to be greater.” It can be hard enough to decide to make a move, let alone find the right words to say.

It’s possible that he’s not going full-throttle after a woman because he’s not sure she’s all that into him. Maybe he thinks you’re giving him as many mixed messages as you feel like you’re receiving. How to be sure? Remove all uncertainty from the equation. Make it clear you want him to ask you out on a date or be more committed to moving forward in the relationship, and see what happens.

He may not be that into you.

Ask men if they (and/or their fellow man) just need to “man up,” and some of them become somewhat defensive. “Ladies, if you've got a problem with a man thinking twice about dating you,” my buddy Jeff says, “he's probably just not as interested as you think he should be.” “I second that,” Tim says. “I've seen too many young women complain that Mr. X needs to take more initiative and man up, and knowing them both, I've had to explain he's 'just not that in to you.'"

It’s painful to admit, but if you are exasperated by some fool who is not making the moves on your friend, consider the fact that he may just not be into her and move on.

You could be overlooking the manly men.

There’s a sentiment among the guys I know that the same women who are complaining about men based on a few bad apples are also the same ones who reject the good ones before they even give them a chance. “I think the problem is more that they don't see that many of us good guys actually exist,” my buddy Jimmy said. “The bad ones make the news.”

From what I can tell, the men who are most skilled in showing interest in women (but not too much interest) are the guys who are also the ones who are most skilled at keeping them at arm’s length. And the guys who are most worthy of women’s attention are the guys who are straightforwardly (if sometime awkwardly) asking girls out, only to be declined, however politely. The good guys end up not getting enough credit while the bad guys dominate their thoughts.

So do men need to “man up”? Sure. But if I’m reading the men in my life correctly, there’s a sense from them that women need to “women up” a bit themselves—or at least help a brother out, if you know what I mean. The real “good guys” I know are more than happy to be straightforward and assertive with women they’re into.

The bottom line though is, if he’s flirty, if he’s slinging compliments, if he’s wanting to “hang out” with no one else around, and especially if he wants to be physically intimate, a woman has every right to expect some sort of commitment to come before proceeding any further.

If all the signs point to him being interested save for him saying that, have an honest conversation, and find out for real where he’s at. He might just man up with a little nudge from you.

Photo Credit: Erynn Christine Photography