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Online Dating Magazine > Columns > Office Hours with Dr. Jim > Male Dating Habits

Office Hours With Dr. Jim
by James Houran, Ph.D

In this column, "Dr. Jim" honestly and candidly answers your questions about dating, love and sexuality. He doesn’t tell you what you want to hear – he tells you what you need to hear. Dr. Jim is committed to offering you guidance based on responsible clinical practice and hard data from the latest scientific studies. Send Dr. Jim your questions today for consideration in an upcoming issue.

Demystifying the Dating Habits of Men

Quick Access:
Dating Habits of Men

There can be different motivations for a guy’s behavior, so don’t jump to conclusions when he does something that makes you go “Huh?!”  Instead, ask for clarification or give him the benefit of the doubt. Of times, a man’s dating behavior reflects uncertainty or insecurity on his part. Other times it reflects insensitivity and ambivalence. Let’s look at some common scenarios…

Why (oh WHY!?!) do they wait up to a week to call after a great date?
Some guys don’t call because the date was not that great for them – often times men and women have conflicting conclusions about a date. However, more times than not the situation boils down to one of two issues: first, “the guy is afraid to be pushy and appear overeager, so he waits to appear calm, cool and collected “ or  second, “the guy does not want to pain himself into a corner – that is, he’s interested but he doesn’t want things to move fast and lead her on.”  The grass is greener on the other side” phenomenon is not confined to men but for me it usually involve a number of separate or entangled mindsets.

  1. Fear of intimacy
  2. Fear of losing control
  3. Fear of settling
  4. Fear of living up to social norms
  5. Fear of letting your partner down
  6. Fear that your partner will not meet your expectations

What about the guy who calls you (or texts or emails) that very same night after a date to say he had fun?
He’s either very insecure and wants to “feel you out” to see where he stands, or he’s a very secure guy who doesn’t want to play games and beat around the bush – but rather he wants to keep the positive momentum going and possibly set up another date as soon as possible. 

What about the guy who only calls you when he’s on the go—like in a plane about to take off or from the grocery store?\
“Talking on the go” can truly reflect a man’s busy schedule and his attempt to show you that he cares enough to call whenever there’s the opportunity. Of course, talking on the go is also a way for a man to have an easy “out” of a conversation; or to keep the conservation light and insulated from becoming too serious or involved. This means it gives him flexibility to keep you hanging on but without offering any firm commitments – all while maintaining a sense of decency and respectability. In other words, sometimes this behavior reflects a need for the man to maintain control in how he interacts with you. It might also mean that the man is married (or otherwise in a committed relationship) and can only call safely when he is on the road away from his family and friends. If a man only calls you “on the go,” then something is definitely not right and you should drop him if there’s no logical reason.

What about the man who makes very vague plans—or plans to “talk later” and figure out plans? (Or who texts “What’s up?” on short notice but never makes an actual date.)
Again, this is usually a sign of ambivalence. He either wants to pursue something with you but can’t find the nerve or opportunity to ask directly (and so he drops hints like this to see if you take the bait or the lead!), or he wants to be polite or keep you hanging on without having to make any commitments or obligations. This really amounts to stringing the woman along, and that might be nice to guys who are preoccupied with keeping their options open, but it actually makes it worse for both people in the long run. Women prefer a polite and sensitive “not interested” to an impolite and insensitive “I might be interested, but give me some time to think about it.”

Why do some guys go on and on about their job or how important they are?
This is a common vice for men, who naturally and frequently seek out approval and respect from people. Receiving admiration and respect is arguably the greatest aphrodisiac for a guy. Also, guys play the “power” card, because women usually respond to it. Research clearly shows that while looks are among the top features men seek in women, social status and money (that is economic and emotional security) is among the top features women look for in men. Men know this and play to it. This is evolutionary psychology at work here.

What if he introduces you to his friends—a test or just being polite?

Could be either; it depends on the circumstances. Mostly this is a good sign if he touches you (holds your hand or puts his arm around you) while he makes the introduction. You can usually tell in his voice and mannerisms whether he positions you and him as a “couple” when he makes the introduction or if he portrays you more as a friend.

What if he says he’s mentioned you to his family members—idle conversation or is he trying to tell you he likes you?

He could be lying about this just to gauge your reaction and see if you have told your family about him. Remember, guys fish for compliments all the time (probably more than women) as well as fish for information on where they stand with you. But if he sincerely did mention you to his family, that is typically a sign that he thinking of you as long-term relationship material.

What’s with making off-handed remarks about doing things together—like “Oh, we’ll have to see that movie sometime!”--and then not following up?
More ambivalence! But, from my experience working with men I find this usually reflects the fact that the man is fishing for feedback from the woman. It’s wrongly assumed in our society that men take the lead and pace a relationship. Research reveals that women actually set the pace by giving “stop and go” signals. These signals are so powerful that men will approach a less physically attractive woman over a more physically attractive if the less attractive woman gives “go” signals” and the attractive woman does not. So, women should always give immediate feedback to men when they make offhanded comments or vague plans – it might well be the case that the man is trying to come across as casual as a defense mechanism against rejection from you. Therefore, women should take the lead and follow up with such as:

Man: “Oh, we’ll have to see that movie sometime!”
Woman: “What a great idea for this weekend, if you’re free to take me”

Here, the woman plays to the man’s ago (“great idea’) and then she takes the lead by signaling interest and offering a specific time for a date (“this weekend if you’re free to take me”). If the man is truly interested, he’ll jump on the opportunity and make the date. If he’s being coy or gamey, then he’ll still show ambivalence. In this case, it’s best the woman not hold her breath to see that movie with him!

What about the habit of talking about the dating life in general—things like “Geez, sometimes it seems like there’s no one normal out there, huh?”
This is a lot like the above. Most of the time in these situations the guy is feeling out the woman for a compliment or he is trying to create an opportunity with her. He’s looking for her to say something back that gives him a proverbial foot in the door. Other times, but more rarely in my experience, the guy is trying to tell the woman that he’s not interested by making an impersonal remark that he hopes she will read between the lines.

If a guy seemed to like you and called afterward, but didn’t try to kiss you on the date, what does that say?
That usually says he’s a polite person who doesn’t want to come across as too forward or intrusive. Guys are usually not shy about being physical with women they see as casual dates, but they’re more reserved when they actually sense there could be potential there for something more. Guys don’t want to scare away real love prospects. Also, the guy may have wanted to kiss the woman but he didn’t sense enough “go” signals to make the move. Ladies, if you want the guy to kiss you on the date, then give him the “kiss me look” and maintain eye contact for as long as possible. He’ll get the message!

When a guy doesn’t want to see you again but you have plans, why do they sometimes postpone a date—and leave you hanging on—instead of just canceling it?
Contrary to what some people say, guys have souls and they can be made to feel guilty. Men hate to hurt women feelings. And they really hate strong shows of what they perceive as “negative” emotions. Men like to be problem solvers, not problem creators. So sometimes men try to do what they see as the honorable thing and keep a date. Here again, it’s up to the woman to take the lead and give the guy a clear out without being made to feel guilty or bad.

Following up with a text instead of a phone call—what’s that say about a guy?
Women text as much as men, but men are usually neither hardwired biologically nor raised to be verbally expressive. Women are. Men like communication tools that are direct, efficient and almost business like. “Texting” is simply short hand version of email. It also removes a guy emotionally from an interaction – no awkward pauses, body language or chances to make a fool of oneself. It would seem often to be an expression of insecurity. Women can handle this simply by texting back, “Call me, I miss your voice” or “Call me, I want to hear your sexy voice.” That sends the message that you want a call and it does it by playing to the guy’s ego. Men love that.

Do any other behaviors come to mind that guys consider normal but women sometimes interpret as “gamey”?
I would add that sometimes women feel men act differently when they are alone versus with their guy friends. And this change in attitude and behavior can be quite dramatic, obnoxious and confusing to women. Guys can act irrationally when they’re around their friends – male bonding can involve grandstanding and posturing and certainly not strong displays of certain emotions. However, when a guy is with you privately, his sensitive side shows itself. Women need to know that men are not always acting; they’re showing different sides of themselves. Men have different sides to them – at work, at play and on a date. Each side emphasizes a different aspect of their personality, so they can appear to be chameleons.

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