Mike: This is Mike Hennessy. And on behalf of the team of LoveEvolveAndThrive.com, I’d like to welcome you to today’s interview with Dr. Duana Welch. Duana Welch earned her PhD in Developmental Psychology at the University of Florida Gainesville. She is the author of Love Factually: 10 Proven Steps from I Wish to I Do as well as the popular relationship blog called Love Science, which addresses advice on how the public can benefit from empirical scientific research about successful relationships. To learn more about Dr. Duana Welch, visit her website at www.LoveScienceMedia.com.
Dr. Duana Welch: Well, thank you very much for having me on, Mike.
Mike: Dr. Welch, one of the most common questions we get from our subscribers is why men pull away. And they tell us that at first, the man pursues them actively but just when things seemed to be getting serious, they pull away. And that leaves the women frustrated and worried as they began to wonder if they did or said something that made him pull away. In order to find out more if they may try to reach out to him by texting, calling, and messaging multiple times, and that can make things worse.
Can you explain why this happens? And share some practical tips and strategies for overcoming this problem.
Dr. Duana Welch: Sure. That’s a great question. I’ve been there. I’ve done that myself. And you’re right. It usually doesn’t work out very well. So I’m going to share two big reasons that this happens and several strategies that women can use to try to find out their relationship status instead of pursuing him.
The first reason that men sometimes pursue ardently in ample way has to do with the man’s attachment style.
We all have an attachment style, men and women alike. There are basically four different attachment styles. And your attachment style is your habitual way of relating to an intimate partner. So, you actually have an attachment style starting when you are a baby and attachment style was your parents or caregivers. And odds are about two and three that you still have that style as an adult.
So what I’d like to do so that listeners can figure out their own attachment style is go ahead and read a description of the four different styles.
And listeners out there, what I’d like you to do is go ahead and ask yourselves what description fits you the best. Now, keep in mind that you may actually fit more than one of these styles but pick the one that fits you the best.
So here’s A. If you’re an A, you would say, “Yes, this is the one that most fits me.”
A. I find relatively easy to get close to others.
I am comfortable depending on them and having them depend on me. I don’t often worry about being abandoned or about someone getting too close to me. That’s A.
B. I find that others are reluctant to get as close as I would like. I worry that my partner doesn’t really love me or would not want to stay with me. I want to merge completely with another person and this desires sometimes scarce people away.
C. I am uncomfortable getting close to others. I want emotionally closed relationship but I find it difficult to trust others completely or to depend on them. I worry that I will be hurt if I allow myself to become too close to others.
And finally, D. I am comfortable without close emotional relationship. It is very important to me to feel independent and self-sufficient and I prefer not to depend on others or have others depend on me.
Science shows that most women identify as an A, which is secure or a B, which is anxious.
My own attachment style, I was surprised to find out was a B. I’m an anxious attachment style person.
If you’re an A, that’s most people.
That’s most men, most women. And I would say you won the lottery but lottery wins are really rare and about two thirds of people have style A. So if you’re an A, you are secure, you feel very comfortable getting close to others. You actually are very good at solving relationship problems. You’re good at keeping problems from escalating. You’re good as deescalating problems that your partner brings up. Yeah, you’re awesome.
But a lot of us are not A’s.
We’re B’s. And there are more women who are B’s than there are men who are B’s. So B’s are anxious. And those of us who are anxious, we tend to feel that we love the partner more than they love us. And so, we may even see someone pulling back when they’re not really pulling back.
A big problem is that a lot of those of who are anxious get involved with a guy who is a C or a D.
C’s and D’s are avoidance. Avoidance doesn’t really mean that they avoid attaching all together. It means that they attach to you but hold you at arm’s length. They’ll make problems that don’t exist. They will avoid emotional and sometimes even sexual intimacy. And these are the guys who what I call “really in and they’ll let you dangle”. And it’s very, very painful.
Securely attached people tend to either not date C’s and D’s or they tend to just accept the way it is and gradually become OK with the level of intimacy that’s offered. When you run into problems, if you’re a B, if you’re anxious and you feel like, “Oh, I love you more than you love me” and this other person is holding you at arm’s length emotionally and that that’s the habitual thing to do, you are not going to be happy in that relationship.
And I can give you some strategies for dealing with it, which I’ll do now, but they’re going to wind up amounting to learn more about attachment styles, his and yours, and if you have an anxious style and he has an avoidance style, get out of this relationship or else sign on for years and years and years of pain.
Secure people can sometimes be with an avoidant person.
Their level of security allows them to feel fairly good even if they’re with someone who is withholding emotionally. But those of us who are anxious do not handle this well and unless you can become someone who needs less intimacy, which effectively means unless you can stop being anxious and become secure, this isn’t going to work out for you. And you’re not going to become secure while you’re with an avoidant person. That’s going to push all your buttons.
So science has been done on who belongs together and who doesn’t.
And I will tell you this. If you are not secure, you must find a secure partner and avoid especially the anxious and avoidance pairing.
It’s deadly for you emotionally. Instead insist on a partner who has the same intimacy needs that you do.
If I was going to summarize the science on attachment styles, it will sound like this. Not everyone has the same capacity for intimacy. There’s a wide variability in that. So if you have a high need for intimacy as an anxious person like I do then you’ve got to either find someone else who is anxious or someone even better, someone who is secure.
And it’s amazing in my own experience, I encountered that quite a bit. Without understanding why I kept dating avoidant men, and it turns out, there are more avoidant men on the market than there are any other style because whereas secure tend to find a good mate quite easily and readily and they make it work, avoidant men tend to wind up on the market again and again and again and again. And so, they are the ones who are out there a lot.
And so, I was dating them and I was feeling a lot of pain. When I stopped dating avoidant men and started holding out for someone secure, that’s when I got my husband. And I have no insecurity anymore. None at all with him. I’m sure if he died I would feel a lot of insecurity going back out there dating again. But we’re together until death do us part and we’re very comfortable and happy together. And there’s just no arguing about intimacy levels there.
So one reason why guys sometimes pull away is you’re offering a lot more intimacy than they really want to give and they’re going to continually hold you at arm’s length.
But all that said, that’s really specific to individuals.
There is another reason that this sometimes happens and this is more species wide. It’s based on Male Inherited Mating Psychology otherwise known as Evolutionary Psychology. And in order to introduce this, I want to tell you kind of a story about a peacock and a peahen.
Charles Darwin, founder of evolution, discoverer of the evolutionary process said that whenever he saw a peacock, it made him physically ill. He couldn’t understand why an animal that had a tail that made it easy prey would have evolved that tail. It didn’t make any sense to him and it made him wonder if his whole theory was wrong.
In the 1990s, scientists actually decided to find out what was going on with the peacock’s tail. They noted that females tended to mate to males who had the most eyespots on the tail. And so what they did is, they cut eyespots off some of the well-endowed males and they looked at who the females chose. And the females stopped choosing these well-endowed males.
Then they took it a step further. They put an individual peahen into a cage with an individual peacock so that she no longer had any mating choice. She had to mate with who was there with her or else she had to forego reproduction. And so of course, she mated with the male that was with her.
It turned out that when females mated with males who did not have very many eyespots on their tails, they mated with genetically inferior males. Their chicks had twice or even higher death rate compared to chicks survival rate with the well-endowed males. So size does matter if you’re a peacock is what I’m saying.
Now, here’s the thing. Do you think that the peahen logics her way through this?
For example, do you think that she thinks to herself, “This male has many eyespots. He is therefore genetically superior. I shall mate with him and we shall have chicks that survive abundantly and thus my genes shall be carried forward.” No, she’s a bird. She doesn’t have that level of intellect. So she is not reasoning this. All she knows is, “I like it.” She just knows what she likes.
The reason I’m telling you this story is when we see them doing their mating dance, we don’t say, “Oh, look at the cute game these little peacocks and peahens are playing. Isn’t that adorable?” We know that they’re doing something that looks silly to us but it works for them.
In fact, now we know why it works for them.
Their mating psychology is unconscious just like ours is.
When we do our mating dance, we are doing something that is serious for our species too. We don’t consciously understand why we’re doing it. Science just do now. But most people don’t. And yet we know, hey, some things we like, some things we don’t.
So let’s talk about what it is men like and what they are looking for from you in that mating dance.
Men are basically seeking what I call the two F’s; fertility and fidelity.
Guys can cast their genes forward until they’re 90 but they have to have a female partner to cast their genes forward with. And of course, all of our mating psychology is really geared towards survival and reproduction even if we’re suicidal, even if we ourselves individually never want to reproduce, our mating psychology thinks that we want to do these things. And it directs our behavior in accordance with that.
So men want fertility and fidelity. They themselves can cast their genes forward forever but we can’t. They have to have one of us who is fertile. And so, they value years and beauty. The reason men value years and beauty is every single thing we think called as beautiful is a sign that we are capable of mating successfully, everything. Name any single thing that men consider beautiful and it all maps on to fertility.
Men also look at fidelity.
Meaning, let’s say that you’re married for 30 years but you have sex with other men constantly and he just doesn’t know and you have five children and none of them are his. This is the worst thing that could happen to a man from a genetic standpoint because he doesn’t cast his own genes forward. He labors to cast other guy’s genes forward.
And so, men have evolved a number of mechanisms to avoid that genetic death. And most of these mechanisms amount of, “Hey, if you are sexually easy to get for me, then you are sexually easy to get for everyone, and thus, you are not a good bet for me for future fidelity.”
Women, all of us, every one of us on this planet, when we chose a partner, we are gambling. None of us has a crystal ball. We can’t see what the future will be. And so, we have to guess based on past behavior what future behavior will be like. And men are guessing again, largely in a non-conscious level but they’re guessing based on your behavior whether you are going to put their genetic future at stake. Are you going to risk it or are you going to have all your babies be his babies?
So, how men tell that you’re fertile is that you’re beautiful. But how they tell you are faithful is that you are hard to get.
And actually, hard to get also tells something about fertility because usually only really high status women can afford to be hard to get. Women of lower status, lower youth, lower beauty usually feel that they can’t afford to be hard to get. So when you’re hard to get, you tell men, “You know what? I’ve got it going on. I can say no to you. I can say no to other men. I am fertile. I am high status.”
But you also say through being hard to get, “I’m sexually loyal. I’m not easy to get for you and I’m not easy to get for anyone else.” So what does that have to do with you calling and texting and pursuing him. Just as a lion probably really wouldn’t trust prey that run right toward it.
A guy probably isn’t really going to be emotionally investing in a woman who is running right towards him.
He is the pursuer. He is trying to get the most high status, fertile, and faithful woman he can. And if you are pursuing him, it is a turnoff. He cannot tell you why that is.
Just like the female peahen can’t say, “Well, this number of eyespots conveys greater likelihood that my chicks will survive.” He can’t say, “Well, because she is harder to get for me, it must mean that she has got other men who are interested in her but she is not having sex with any of us. Therefore, she is both fertile and faithful and I should have that.”
He doesn’t have that conscious access to his though process.
He just knows what he likes just like the female peahen just knows what she likes.
So women, what do you do?
People will tell you that you can make someone fall in love with you and they’re all lying. You cannot make anyone fall in love with you but you can create a tipping point that tells you whether or not this man really loves you.
And that tipping point is called being hard to get.
Notice I did not say being bitchy. In my book, I talk a lot about the distinctions between being hard to get which is a very positive, friendly, warm thing but it just amounts to not being as sexually available as he wants toward the beginning of the relationship.
Being bitchy involves being cold, mean-spirited, making cutting remarks. If I had to summarize all relationship science in just one sentence, that sentence would be, “If you can find and be someone kind and respectful, your relationship is very likely to work out happily. And if you can’t, it will not.”
So, don’t be bitchy. You don’t want the kind of guy you’re going to get being bitchy. But do be hard to get. What that looks like.
Don’t initiate the calls and the text messages.
Respond but sometimes delay your response. Be slightly less available than he wants. But when you are available, you are very friendly and warm and engaging and excited to hear from him.
In other words, you don’t necessarily always answer the phone but when you do, there’s a smile in your voice, there’s a come-hither note in the way that you talk with him. You flirt with him. You laugh. Get off the phone before he’s ready. Leave the date before he wants you to. Don’t be the girl who is extending the date, “Oh well, can we go dancing after this?” Or, “Can we go and get a drink after this?” Don’t be asking for more contact. He needs to be the one asking for more contact.
Sexually, hold off on various forms of sexual interaction until quite a bit after he wants them. If he wants some on the first date, he doesn’t get it on the first date. He wants it on the second or the third date, the answer is still no.
Word on the street is most women are giving it up by about the third date now.
Look, there’s really good science in the United States as well as in another culture showing that men have a short term and a long term mating program operating all the time in tandem.
So he could be thinking of you as Mrs. Right. You have sex with him, he could start thinking of you as Ms. Right Now. You do not want to get shifted from category A to category B but it happens all the time.
So stop pursuing him. Create a tipping point by being harder to get.
The tipping point, it’s as if there’s a board that’s balanced on a triangle. And if the board balances left, he tips into the relationship. If it balances right, he tips out of the relationship.
Really, both of these answers are your friend. The worst thing is for that board to stay balanced and you not to know where you stand in the relationship. A man who leaves because you were not as sexually available as he wanted was not going to commit to you anyway. Research is really clear on this. If on the other hand, you are hard to get and he stays, he falls harder and faster than he would have otherwise.
So the big picture would be follow his cues at your own pace but don’t lead.
Continue dating other people and make sure he knows about it until he requests that you be exclusive. You don’t have to again, don’t be bitchy about this but you can say something like, “I understand that we’re going out now. I need to let you know that I don’t get seriously sexually or emotionally involved with men until they have expressed a desire to be exclusive and a level of commitment. I realized you probably don’t feel that way about me but I just wanted to get this out there on the table so that you understand I’m still dating other people. I don’t want to be dishonest about that.”
And if a man wants you, this can make him crazy to have you.
And if he doesn’t want you, he’s going to think, “Oh, too much work.” But keep in mind, a man who thinks you are too much work was not going to commit anyway. He was not going to give you what you want anyway.
In other words, women, stop pursuing men and let men pursue you.
Not all men will pursue you. There may be a guy you really like or even love who does not pursue you. Guess what. When you chase him, it’s not going to make that better. It’s going to make it worse. You can’t make a man fall in love with you but you can sure as heck create a tipping point that tells you where you stand with him.
Do not have sex with a guy until he has asked you to be exclusive and he is showing you in word and in action that he loves you.
In other words, not just he says he loves you but he shows it in some way.
With my husband, and I can’t tell you what it is going to be. I can tell you what it was for me. My husband always brought a small present when he came to see me. I lived an hour and a half away and he never showed up without bringing some food or small gift for me. It could be chocolate. It could be flowers. It could be a song. But he always brought something. And that was something that a casual hookup wouldn’t have done for me. First of all, they wouldn’t have driven an hour and a half either, which he willingly did. He didn’t find me to be too much work. He found me to be – he enjoyed doing that. He tells me with sparkles in his eyes how much he loved doing that.
For Mr. Wrong, this is a way too much effort.
For Mr. Right, it tells him very quickly that certainly, “Hey, I’m enjoying this. I really like this woman. I think I might be in love.”
Another thing he did was my family was going to be passing through his city and he heard about that and he asked us would we stop by his house. And I said sure. So we all stopped by his house. My mother, my stepdad, my daughter, myself, we all stopped by his house and he had had his house cleaned. He had a table set with a table cloth. He had dessert and really nice food laid out for us.
And this is again, not the kind of thing that a man does for a casual hookup. These kinds of behaviors tell you that he’s serious about you. So look for behaviors that indicate, “Hey, he’s serious about me.” Studies show that really common behavioral cues that men give are giving gift, giving jewelry especially, especially ring, talking a lot about a shared future, and actually saying the words that indicate that he loves you. But again, there are many other things that a man can do.
So to wrap up, woman, if you are anxious and you’re with anyone avoidance, strongly consider abandoning the relationship if you cannot accept that this is how it’s going to be.
You’re going to be much, much happier with a secure partner who gives you consistent, loving signals and gives you the intimacy you crave.
If on the other hand what has happened is you started chasing him. He started running because now you seem kind of desperate and clingy in your status, stop chasing him. Start pulling back a little bit. Maybe if you are already seeing him exclusively say, “I’m not so sure where this is headed. I think I need a break.” And start seeing other men. In case you think, “Oh, that’s too risky. That never works out.” It doesn’t work out with a man who doesn’t want you. That’s right. He leaves you.
But I just want to end with a little story.
I grew up with a couple that met in high school. And they seemed very, very right for each other except that the guy had this horrible attitude about marriage and the girl really wanted to get married. And they were together all through their 20s. They lived together a number of years.
And then finally at one point, we were at a party together and he said basically, “Marriage is for chumps. Only an idiot would ever get married.”
And I saw the way she looked at him. It was like the scales had fallen from her eyes and she realized, “Oh my God! Much as I love him, he may not feel the same way about me. He doesn’t ever want to make this commitment.”
So I actually was an acquaintance of her but I’ve known her for many years but not at a very deep level. So I didn’t say anything to her. But I remember saying to a family of member, “I wish I knew her better. I love to tell her to move out and be dating by Tuesday.” Like do not spend any more time on this guy.
Well, she did it. I didn’t say anything to her but that’s exactly what she did. She took a huge risk because if he hadn’t loved her then he would had just let her go. But really, how many years do you want to spend with someone who doesn’t love you? She realized that, “Hey, you know what? If he doesn’t love me, I am done spending time on this.”
So anyway, long, long, long story short, she had not been gone long at all when he proposed with a very large, very shiny diamond ring and tears in his eyes. He created a website for the planning phase of their marriage. Never mind the actual wedding. He had a website for the planning phase. And he was as or more involved in every step of planning that wedding as anybody I’ve ever seen. And they’ve been very happily married for many years now.
So, she created a tipping point.
Woman, you cannot pursue a man into loving you but you can step back and find out how he already feels.
Mike: Dr. Duana Welch, thank you so much for joining us today. Fascinating insights.
Dr. Duana Welch: Thank you very much. I appreciate it.
Mike: And one more time that website for everybody’s information.
Dr. Duana Welch: Sure. So you can learn more about me and my book at LoveFactually.co, not dot com. I don’t know where that’s going to take you. But LoveFactually.co will take you to information about the book and about me and there’s also a way for you to get a free chapter there. Or you can just go to Amazon.com and find it. It’s available in audio, ebook, and paperback.
Mike: Thank you so much for joining us today.
Dr. Duana Welch: Thank you. I appreciate it. You all have a good day.
Mike Hennessy: This is Mike Hennessy and on behalf of the team at LoveEvolveandThrive.com, I would like to welcome you to today’s interview with Dr. Duana Welch.
For free tips and thoughts on relationship advice for women, from hundreds of experts and authors, please visit our website at www.LoveEvolveandThrive.com.