Mike Hennessy: This is Mike Hennessy and on behalf of the team at LoveEvolveandThrive.com, I’d like to welcome you to today’s interview with Dr. Pat Love. Dr. Pat Love is a distinguished professor, licensed marriage and family therapist and long-standing clinical member and approved supervisor in AAMFT. She has appeared numerous times on Oprah, The Today Show and CNN and has authored/co-authored six books; four workbooks and numerous professional articles. To know more about Dr. Pat, visit her website www.patlove.com.
Dr. Pat Love, welcome. It’s a pleasure to have you with us today.
Dr. Pat Love: I’m so pleased to be here.
Mike Hennessy: Well, Dr. Pat, we have one question that we get asked an awful by our subscribers and it’s why men pull away. Women often face situations when the man is initially interested and pursues them actively and just when things seem to be getting serious, they pull away. And that often leaves the women frustrated and worried and they begin to wonder if they did or said something that made men pull away.
And in order to find out more, they tried to reach out to him often by texting, calling, and messaging him multiples times and that often leads to the situation getting worse. Can you explain why this happens and also share some practical tips and strategies on what women can do to overcome this problem in their romantic relationships?
Dr. Pat Love: Well, here are some strategies you might think of. First of all, in a way, men date a little different than women. Research shows that a man makes a decision within 3 seconds whether he wants to approach someone for a date or to meet them say at a party, at a bar, at a grocery store. So it’s only 3 seconds. And if a man is looking at a woman as it may, then he’s thinking, “OK, she looks attractive, shiny hair, big eyes, full lips, waist to hip ratio point 7. She is young-looking or she has got clear skin and she is smiling.”
And so he makes a physical decision in a way because men look at physicality first. So he makes an advance much more quickly than the average females. Females take lot longer to decide about if I want to approach someone or if I want to encourage someone when they meet them. So the females are slower to accept the date or encourage a date but here’s where it shifts.
By the time a female makes a decision to encourage a date or accept a date or initiate a date, she really has decided she is interested. So if you just look at those two differences, that begins to explain why a man may pull away because he showed interest in the beginning but it may not be equal to interest that a woman would show.
So just assume he is as interested long term just because he showed up strong in the beginning because for men, it doesn’t predict a stronger or long term just because he approaches you. Men approach far more women than they’re going to be interested in long term. That speed dating, most people have heard of speed dating, if a man meets 20 potential partners speed dating, he wants to date 18 of them. He says, ‘Yes, I’d go out with her.”
Females are far more selective. But when they do make a selection, they’re a lot more invested in that person for a longer period of time.
So first of all, you have to accept that men date and show interest a little bit different than women do.
Secondly, men tend to use two primary coping strategies, fight and flight. So when he takes flight, what that means is why does he pull away? He usually pulls away because he’s not – he’s lost interest, he’s not as interested, or he has a new interest and he doesn’t want to hurt your feelings and he doesn’t want to talk about it.
First of all, he’s smart in a way not to talk about it because females have so much more developed verbal skills when it comes to relationship talk, because women use talking about problems as a primary coping strategy and relate – we also use forming and keeping relationship, of cementing relationship as a primary coping strategy. So in a way, females are a lot better at convincing somebody in a relationship or building bridges where there may have been a breach in the relationship.
And I think men intuitively know, “If I start this conversation, I’m not going to win it. I’m not going to – if I really want to pull away, I just need to pull away because I know she will be able to talk me into staying against my will and then I’m just going to disappoint her further down the line.”
So I think it’s a strong statement when a man starts to pull away. And I think the best strategy is to think of it as a friend. If you had a friend that was an acquaintance and maybe you had been friends and you met them around a particular activity. But then the friend didn’t – the friend stopped calling and even when you texted, the friend didn’t respond to your text or when you sent a message, there was no response and there was this really big silence, you would get the message this friend isn’t interested anymore.
Now, I’m not saying that’s a hundred percent. He could have gotten involved at work or et cetera, et cetera. But if you keep trying, if you tried three times and you don’t get a response, three strikes you’re out. Take the hint. Move on. And because more contact is just going to make him feel worse and you feel worse.
So I think it’s important not just to know that men date different but their coping strategies might be a little different than yours and their verbal skills are a little bit different than yours. And to think of, “OK, if I had a friend that did this, what would that mean?” if you can put it in a different context.
And also, when you keep initiating contact, it starts to feel like pressure. And then he starts to feel embarrassed. Then he starts to feel like, “Uh-uh, you must be a lot more invested. Therefore, if I tell you I’m not interested, youre going to be a lot more hurt.”
So oftentimes, if you can see a man’s silence as a way of protecting you and even though it might be what you would prefer, but think about it. If you have a conversation and how often is he going to say you, “You know, I just don’t think we’re a good match. I’m just not that interested. I’m not as attracted to you.” I mean is that really what you want to hear? And maybe it is.
But on the other hand, most of us who continue that contact do it because we’re interested not because we want to hear the truth which maybe, “I’m not very attracted to you. I’m not very interested in you. And I didn’t have that good of a time last time I was with you.” If that’s what you want to hear, then you might try to force him into that position, if he would do that at all.
But secondly, I think most of us keep up that contact because we believe that ultimately, because I had a good time, surely you must have – he must have had a good time. And I think that’s a mistake we often make.
Just because – my perception maybe very different than your perception and especially if this is a nice guy, if this is a guy who doesn’t want to hurt your feelings and even when he’s with you, he’s not going to act like he had a horrible time and so it’s easy to be misled and thinking, “Well, I had a great time. He acted like he had a great time. He was there with me the whole time. He came early. He had conversations. He bought dinner or he talked about the future,” or you can make up all kinds of reasons why you thought he may have had a good time. But the point is, when he pulls away, that’s a pretty clear signal.
There had been many, many books sold on the concept he’s just not that into you. And even though that’s harsh and none of us likes to hear that, I think that’s the most common reason why men pull away.
Also, you have to make sure that you read the signals right to begin with because there are guys as well as gals, women as well as men, who are friendly and we can mistake friendliness for romantic interest. So you have to make sure that you read the signals right. But maybe you did read him right and that little short burst of romance ran its course because romantic love, that whole little romantic love episode, even a full blown infatuation is time-limited. It’s a stage.
And you probably had the experience of that wonderful eyes across the crowded room and you see this stranger and you have this wonderful fantasy. And after the first conversation, the fantasy goes away because this attraction stage is time-limited and even in a long term relationship, that infatuation is time-limited.
So you have to realize that it’s going to be time-limited and it may have ran its course and that’s probably the most common reason why he’s pulling away.
Mike Hennessy: Dr. Pat Love, thank you so much for joining us today. It was a pleasure to hear from you and very interesting conversation. One more time, would you mind repeating your website for us?
Dr. Pat Love: It’s simply PatLove.com, P-A-T-L-O-V-E.com. Everything is right there waiting for you.
Mike Hennessy: And this is Mike Hennessy. And on behalf of the team at LoveEvolveandThrive.com, I would like to thank you for listening to our interview with Dr. Pat Love and we wish you the very best in your relationships.
For free tips and insights on relationship advice for women from hundreds of experts and authors, please visit our website at www.LoveEvolveandThrive.com.