To help women tackle the well-known problems they have in their relationships with men, there are a number of popular TV shows, websites, newsletters, and self-help books that attempt to discuss what men are all about, and purport to help women understand men better. Women—generally being the more insightful and self-effacing gender—write the majority of these self-help tomes, so a man’s perspective on his thoughts and actions is conspicuously missing. In my opinion (and with no disrespect intended toward those female writers), it doesn’t matter how a woman analyzes and assesses men’s societal ills, or how many focus groups she holds; she is still not a man… and she never will be. She is attempting to interpret men; her data-driven research is internalized and offered solely from a woman’s point of view, and thus incomplete. There is no choice but for her views to be skewed, because they’re based on the following societal program/lie: Women are responsible for the problems in relationships, and must fix them. But that is completely inaccurate, and is one of the reasons I offer the following insights into the world of men from a man's point of view... as a man who has been on both side of the fence—womanizer turned dedicated husband and father.
I'm asked by women (and some men) constantly to assess their romantic situations. Aside from wanting personal validation (read: "Charles, am I 'right' that [insert guy's name here] is a jerk because [insert reason here]?"), most want to know if what they are experiencing are warning signs of: 1) Issues that can harm a relationship long-term; 2) Problems that can be solved quickly; 3) Behaviors that are going to end a relationship.
These issues rear their heads at different times during a relationship, and analyzing the challenges of an established relationship is very different than issues that appear during dating/courtship. But after speaking with a couple thousand people over the past seven years, there are some universal warning signs that occur at the beginning of a relationship—and then (most of the time) get worse as time marches on.
Let's address the Top Five:
5. No thought into the date. Venues for first dates should follow three basic guidelines: public, conservative, and casual... but they should also reflect some notion of planning (even if it's a blind date). Whether you go for coffee, head to the beach, or declare paintball war, points should be given to men who plan, think, and stay focused on the date itself, not on what they might want to happen at the conclusion of it (hint-hint, nudge-nudge). However, keep in mind: Early dates are the standard by which your entire relationship will be measured subconsciously as it matures. Set the bar high, and keep the bar high. If he starts strong and peters off (usually after you hit the bedroom a couple of times), it might be time to reassess things.
4. Confidence. Successful relationships are built on equality, to be sure, but men should still come with a confidence that shows them as a leader. This may sound basic, but many men seem to have missed this boat—perhaps through insecurity, a checkered romantic past, or (the worst offender) indifference—and aren't able to make a decision, react correctly in social situations, or even plan a date. He doesn't need to have all the answers, but he needs to bring at least 50% of things to the table. If you find yourself putting more into the relationship than you planned, talk about it. If it doesn't change, pack your bags.
3. The Little Things. Small behaviors are sometimes the biggest telltale signs. Ordering for you at a restaurant is nice, but not if he hasn't asked you what you want first. Being half-a-step ahead of you as you walk holding hands, visually coping a feel by staring at your breasts as he talks to you, or automatically interpreting your first kiss as a precursor for sex are all red flags.
2. Communication. Definition: " The imparting or exchanging of information or news". But, please note a key word in that definition: exchange. Men who talk about themselves a majority of the time when you're dating might be trying to impress, but more than likely they are also self-absorbed. "Communication" also means active listening... and if he's not listening to you upfront, he probably won't later.
1. Courtesy. When dating, the one thing that is noticeable right away is courtesy. Yes, pulling out chairs, opening doors, and paying the check are all signs of a gentleman (and hopefully that behavior stays throughout the relationship). However, one of the biggest red flags often isn't addressed: How does he treat other people in your presence? Bashing ex-girlfriends, talking trash about friends, snide remarks about your friends... these are all warning signs. And men who need to show their masculinity by insulting/abusing service personnel—food/cocktail servers, coffee shop cashiers, whatever—aren't worth your time. Period. How he treats others is a direct reflection of how he will treat you.
Ladies: There are some great men out there, but you won't find them if you ignore the warning signs and sacrifice your self-worth and settle for someone's second-best efforts. Keep in mind that no matter how good he looks on the dance floor or how sweetly he pulled out your chair for you on your first date, some other woman has most likely told him (recently) that she was sick and tired of his bullshit. Stay vigilant, hold your ground and demand more from the men in your life.