There is so much written about how you can change your man. How you can…
Why You’re Still Single
Last updated: Mar. 29 2018 | 6 min read
Evan Marc Katz in the Martini Lounge. A woman in the back raises her hand.
You have a question ma’am?
“Yes. Why are men such assholes?”
Great question. I’m afraid we’re running out of time, but we will be conducting a three-day seminar with that very title on Valentine’s Day. Anybody else?
Yes, you, in the back, with the glasses.
“How do you know if a guy is being sincere when he shows interest?”
Well, as you know, there are many levels of interest. There’s the idle compliment: “Gee, you look great today.” There’s the compliment with overtones: “What’s that scent you’re wearing? I love it.” There’s the request for face time that indicates it’s just face time: “Let’s grab lunch.” There’s the request for face time that indicates greater potential: “Let’s grab drinks.” Just know that none of these things mean diddly-squat. What does matter is what happens afterward. That’s where you can tell where a guy’s true intentions lie.
“What do you mean ‘diddly-squat’? I don’t compliment men on their clothes or ask them to hang out just to be nice. Surely, a guy has to have some level of interest to say such things.”
Granted, few men make overtures to the skinny girl with the buckteeth and the hair-net, but just asking for a date says little about his long term intentions. Stretched even further, he can sleep with you regularly and have absolutely no level of serious interest.
“Huh?! So a man invests time, energy, and money in somebody he doesn’t even care about?”
“Wait, are you telling me that we can’t even trust a guy who is thoughtful, funny, attentive, a good listener, and talks frequently about his desire for love and marriage?”
That’s right. Just because a guy shows you a great time and seems sincere about finding a woman with whom he can share his life doesn’t mean that he’s interested in sharing his life with you.
“So if everything that he says means absolutely nothing, then how can a woman know where she stands with a guy?”
Friends, this is the heart of the matter. All that buttery stuff that he says every time you get together? Disregard it. It’s what he does when he’s not with you that counts most. Any guy can turn on the charm and tell you what you want to hear in the heat of the moment. Any guy can take the time to dial you at eight o’clock on a Friday night on the off-chance that you’re around. Any guy can drop you an e-mail from time to time to keep his investment in you alive for just a little while longer. What separates the men from the boys — or rather, the boyfriends from the players — is the effort he makes to follow up. Guys who are interested in you will call the next day to tell you they had a great time. They will not get off the phone until they’ve set another date to get together. Sure, there are exceptions. But even if he’s going on a two-week business trip, his last question to you should be “What night are you available when I get back?” If, for some inexplicable reason, you’re waiting for him to ask you out, and he hasn’t, the writing is on the wall.
“Maybe it’s just me, but you’re missing something essential here, Evan. It’s not like I’m completely in the dark and think that a guy is in love with me when he isn’t. It’s more that I think he could be one day. If we have a great connection, isn’t it possible that it’s just a matter of time?”
Listen, it’s not my place to suggest that every unrequited love will remain unrequited forever. It’s not my place to suggest that the women who actually have a clue are as foolish as the women who are clueless. All I can say is that, regardless of your level of self-awareness, the solution is the same when it comes to the guy who isn’t stepping to the plate. Move on.
If you dropped an apple fifty times and it fell every time, you’d probably expect it to hit the ground on the fifty-first try as well. Women who harbor hopes for a future with a man who doesn’t share her desire are hoping, in essence, that gravity takes a holiday. They steadfastly refuse to look at the situation as an objective observer, all because they don’t truly want to face the facts. It’s a shame.
To borrow two clich’s: The truth hurts. But it will also set you free.
Oh, the gift of perseverance is such a pain in the ass, isn’t it?
I could open this chapter with a hundred different “let me tell you about a time when I was extremely stupid” stories, but here’s one executive summary: I adored a deeply screwed-up guy for a number of years whose version of eventually confessing his feelings for me was to drunkenly tell me (in front of a room full of people) that he had been battling his attraction to me for long enough that he certainly wasn’t going to give in to it now. And because life is not an Ethan Hawke movie, he never did. Instead, he drifted away, got arrested, vanished . . . but you can imagine how much better I felt after attaining the brass ring by waiting around until he finally confessed. Yeah . . . not really.
There’s a certain irony, I think, in concluding a years-long march through a hopeless, depressing nightmare of a non-relationship by telling yourself that at least you know you’re not crazy. Because in reality, it’s exactly crazy, hanging around forever, knowing at some level that the game you’re playing just isn’t going to pay off, ever. You can play this one out in a number of ways. They all look different, but they’re all the same. The married guy, the compulsive dater who uses you as the emergency backup girl, the guy who screwed you over a long time ago who you are convinced will one day wake up and figure out that he never should have let you get away . . . these are games you are doomed to lose before you start playing.
So why do you keep it up? For one thing, after a certain amount of figurative blood has been spilled, your investment is such that you want something. You just want something. I mean, in the end, what I got from the guy in that story, whether he was telling the truth or screwing with me, was a kick in the teeth. I would have been much better off with nothing. But because I wouldn’t sit down, do the math, and cut my losses, I waited around until I got the kick. You could argue that in all likelihood, nothing but the kick was going to end it, because of the way my heels were dug in.
Furthermore, the fact that the situation will never pay off doesn’t mean the guy isn’t playing. While some guys in these situations are pretty much blameless, others are haunted by plenty of bullshit of their own, and once they learn (from you) what it takes to keep you on the hook, they’re going to keep squeaking out that minimum effort, expending as little energy as possible because that’s all it takes. And every time you think about cutting them loose, they’ll again cough up a pitiful little scrap that’s perfectly calibrated to keep the dance going and make sure you don’t leave. So knowing that, if you like the dance, then by all means, keep doing it. But what you shouldn’t do is convince yourself that all that dancing means he has any degree of genuine affection for you, because it doesn’t. The fact that the guy doesn’t want you to get any farther away than you are doesn’t mean he’s ever going to let you any closer, either. He may just leave you in that very lonely place, right where you’ve been for months or years, for as long as you’re willing to stay.
And unlike a lot of things you’ll confront, it doesn’t matter why. You’re going to want to understand it. “I can tell that he . . . so why won’t he . . . because he . . . and then he . . . ” Yeah. Just stop. It’s a seductive game, trying to figure out what’s going on in somebody else’s head, but it’s a drop-dead terrible idea. First of all, your odds of ever really cracking anybody else’s code are relatively small. Even if you do, your insight doesn’t give you options as when you have it about yourself. Figuring out how you operate is — up to a point — useful, because if you figure out what you’re doing wrong, you can make different choices. But let’s say your hard-fought insight is actually correct, and the compulsive dater treats you like the emergency backup girl only because he’s insecure, and thus constantly needs new girlfriends to pump up his ego, despite the fact that somewhere in the dark recesses of his mind, he wants you desperately. Let’s say you’re right. So what? What are you going to do about it? “I’ll tell him!” Yeah, that’ll teach him. And if you’re very lucky, you’ll “win” the affections of someone so emotionally underdeveloped that he’s terrified to acknowledge his own feelings without the intervention of a cattle prod. What a treat.
It should be obvious by now that I’m not against trying to understand other people. What I am against is lingering in a situation that does nothing but make you miserable just because you’ve figured out that it’s all his mom’s fault, or his old girlfriend’s fault, or the fault of the fact that he’s a frustrated poet. Whatever the reason, someone who gives you nothing will probably continue to give you nothing, right up until the point where you walk away. And you have to walk away. Not to teach him a lesson, not to drive him to an epiphany, and not to provoke a resolution. You walk away because he gives you nothing, and by definition, a relationship with him is a losing proposition for you. Hang around waiting for the kick in the teeth, and you’ll probably get it.