As someone who develops education programs about relationships for medical professionals, I get all kinds of questions. Sometimes they're technical, related to the lessons, but other times they're the real frustrated kind—as if the lessons are an opportunity to vent about the current dating culture. Recently, a young lady in the back row challenged me with a series of pointed inquiries: “Why can’t men take more action in dating? Why aren’t men more proactive? Why don’t they ask women out more?”
Ah, where do I even begin? Because I cannot directly answer these questions, at least without making swooping generalities, I simply try and describe common feelings, turnoffs, and preferences men experience when dating.
This is a more eloquent and organized version of what I told her. And hopefully, this will clarify why a lot of guys do what we do.
01. Men get tired of asking women out.
The James Bond idea of a guy who can approach a beautiful woman on the beach and have her swooning within a few lines is rare—but you don't need me to tell you this. As you've probably noticed, the overwhelming majority of men aren’t perfect at asking women out—and even the ones who are OK at it get tired after a while. After all, it takes energy and courage to ask a woman on a date. This definitely goes for the first times—but it applies to the girl you've just started dating, too. In fact, I even know married men who have trouble asking their wives out on dates.
Because these tasks usually don't fall on women, this might seem surprising. But for a moment, think about it. From brainstorming good date ideas to the logistics, to finding something witty to say, to the expense, it's honestly a lot of effort. And the repetition of taking these actions again and again and sometimes not even receiving a genuine thank you, dating can take a serious toll (and expense) on a man. Just add on a demanding full-time job, and it's easy to feel defeated and tired. A little understanding and a show of appreciation can go a long way in making a guy feel like the effort was worth it and make it more likely he will ask you (or any other girl) out again.
02. Guys get turned off by ice queens or enigmas.
I know every woman has been told at some time in their lives to play hard to get and maybe once upon a time this was good advice. But dating culture has changed—and men need signs to know if a woman is interested. As Monica Marshall explains, "Playing the ice queen or being evasive is not enticing to men; it's confusing or just plain off-putting."
In today’s dating field, people have more options than ever before. This goes for both men and women. Giving a signal is imperative or the guy you like will probably just go after someone else who is showing more interest.
What qualifies as too hard to get? I wouldn’t overthink it. Just be authentic and show men you like that you are like them. Sure, even today certain men can sometimes take pride in “the chase” to get a girl they are interested in, but I’ve never heard of a guy say he loves chasing girls who don't seem like they are into it.
03. Guys like things to grow.
We lift weights because we want our muscles fatter, and we work hard so our paycheck can swell. This doesn’t mean we must see a relationship moving toward marriage or something serious—but a guy will want to see that the relationship is progressing. So if after a couple dates if it doesn’t seem like his interest in you is equally reciprocated, he may just assume you aren't into him and move on.
If you think this may be happening with a guy you are dating and you do like him, it's probably not too late to turn things around. Just think of a fun date idea, and throw it out there. By taking just a little bit of initiative, it's a sign that shows you like spending time with him, and shows that you are willing to put some effort and creativity into dating, too. Commitment will come eventually, if you are right for each other, but for now, just try to escalate the enjoyment. Let it grow.
04. Men need to feel admired.
Most guys would rather go out with a cute girl who appreciates them than a gorgeous movie star who can only muster an indifferent thank you at the end of a well-planned evening. Men get excited when ladies show excitement in being with them and are interested in them, not just the idea of a boyfriend.
I'm not saying you need to get overly emotional. Just tell him he’s as funny as Johnny Depp or smarter than the latest article you’ve read. If compliments don't feel authentic—or you think they may make things awkward—simply tell him you enjoy spending time with him, and that you'd be interested in spending more time with him.
Dating can be frustrating for both sexes. Of course, there are those stories of couples who instantly feel magical chemistry the second they meet. But most good relationships are built slowly—by a little understanding and effort from both sides.