How do I tell if a guy is a liar?
How do I avoid the guys who only want sex?
What are the signs that a guy is likely to cheat on you?
I know. You want answers. But how are these questions affecting your love life?
The above are all questions that indicate a pain-minimisation approach to dating. They focus on avoiding the worst outcomes, instead of getting the best from someone else.
There are, of course, answers to all of them. But are those answers 100% fool-proof? Will they ensure that, if only the correct precepts are followed, one can navigate the entire dating world without ever stumbling across a bad guy? Of course not. No more than one could follow a set of principles to ensure that they’ll never meet a manipulative, self-serving friend or be stuck with a work colleague that drives them insane.
There is nothing wrong with wondering about the questions above. There is something wrong with being preoccupied with these questions early on during (or before) a date.
If these questions are at the forefront of your mind when meeting men, it can ruin the chances of you ever getting truly close to a good guy. Here’s why: Good guys resent being treated as objects of suspicion – it causes them to close themselves off emotionally and screen their thoughts, as they fear every word they utter is being filed in your encyclopaedic mind only to be deployed as evidence against them later.
Why the pain-minimisation approach to dating is so dangerous
Below are some of the common, and to be avoided, indicators of this unhealthy approach to dating:
• You focus more on trying to ‘catch him out’ than you do trying to connect with him
This can often come in the form of interview-style questions, like asking whether he has ever cheated on a girlfriend, or grilling him on precisely when he plans to settle down. Or it might come in the form of intimidating questions that he can’t really answer like “How do I know I can trust you?” (if anyone has the faintest idea of what a good answer to this question would constitute, please email it to me.
• You accuse him of being interested only in sex, not because of anything he has said but just because he’s a guy.
• You demand reassurance of his desire for a serious relationship BEFORE he has had a chance to fall for your personality.
• You immediately assume the worst about him when he gives an answer that is ambiguous or when he suggests he isn’t sure what he’s looking for yet.
• You tell him about your many bad experiences with men and outline your grand theories about ‘what all men are like’- You might even be tempted to say “I’m done with men, they’re all the same” in the hope that he’ll protest otherwise.
All of these are attraction-killers. But it’s worse than that. Often they have the exact opposite effect of their intention. Instead of getting a good guy to reassure you and reveal himself to you, they simply make him close up – He focuses less on telling you who he is, and more on what he thinks you want to hear.
He will now filter all of his conversation in an attempt to avoid making any statements that you might construe as ‘wrong’ or ‘offensive’.
Fortunately, there are some solutions to this problem. Here are a few simple ways to help overcome this mindset:
1. Get out of ‘test’ mode – come from a place of intense curiosity instead
First dates are only for connection – the only thing that should matter initially is whether you have a unique attraction to the guy and whether you both enjoy each other’s company for a few hours. Until you know that, nothing else matters.
The only way to discern that is to be intensely curious and let him bring out his best self on the first date. Ask him questions that get to his values, not questions that require him to offer banal platitudes about what a loyal boyfriend he is capable of being.
2. Don’t expect one guy to overcome all of your beliefs about men and relationships
It’s too much to ask and it’s not fair. Our beliefs about the opposite sex are our own business to change. It’s not up to anyone to right the wrongs of the past for us, or to prove us wrong about their entire gender.
3. Make him feel comfortable expressing his honest beliefs
A guy will feel much more comfortable expressing who he is if he feels like he won’t be judged for it. The best way to do this is to not react dramatically or emotionally when he gives you his opinion on relationships.
By all means, log away all kinds of conclusions about what he says in your own mind. If you want to make him feel comfortable even when you disagree, just show that you understand where he’s coming from. Even before you disagree, just say, “I understand that” and he’ll feel safe telling you what he really thinks.
If a guy feels like you will listen to him instead of judge him, he will reveal himself to you much quicker. But remember, words you can get from anyone. If a guy really is a bad guy, he’ll feed you any empty fluff-talk if he thinks it’s what you want to hear.
Men reveal much more about themselves through their actions over time than their words. It’s more important to look at those subtle indications that he is making an effort, or proving that he respects your time and feelings, or that he is investing in pursuing you beyond a first date.
Unfortunately, this can’t all be discerned within one hour-long conversation. It requires you to see the guy in several different scenarios, when he’s not in first-date mode, adopting the persona of ‘best-behaved and most gentlemanly suitor you’ve ever met in your life’.
As all good employers know, one meeting isn’t enough. It’s much better to filter out the promising candidates and give them a fair ‘trial-run’ to see how they act on a day-to-day basis.
You reserve the right to cut it off if he screws it up, but you also give yourself the chance to see how he acts when his guard is down. All candidates reveal much more about their suitability when they don’t think they’re being tested.
*Photo Credit: Jason1elkins