The Dating Game

We’ve all been there.  Sitting by the phone waiting for a call, or as I suppose these days, a text.  Hoping for some inkling from our new beau that he cares or is thinking of us.  Dating can be fun but it is also very nerve wracking and not fit for the impatient.  Sure it is entertaining to go out with different people, have a nice meal and some good conversations, and get to know people to see if there is a connection, but it gets old fast.  What’s not so enjoyable about the dating world, however, is when you finally meet someone you like and there is all that time spent waiting.  Waiting for the phone to ring, for a text to come, to find out if you are exclusive, for sex, for the discovery of the unknown about each other.  It is why I prefer relationships to dating, the comfort level that you attain when with someone after a longer period of time is what I crave, not the anxiety riddled world of fear and rejection that is dating.

A friend of mine recently met a guy and they have begun dating.  They are not in a relationship yet but they have had sex a few times and are presently in that uncomfortable limbo period where you need to have the safe sex talk without awkwardly asking if the other person is with other people and where you aren’t sure where things are going yet but you are in deep enough to get really hurt.  She analyzes every text, awaits his next move, and carefully plots their next conversation.  Well, he has been sending some mixed signals and the entire topic of the early stages of dating inspired me to write.

Men and women are so different early in the game.  Later, when a serious relationship has transpired, both people are pretty similar in their feelings and both have a lot invested and something to lose but in the beginning, men and woman have different expectations and play the game in assorted ways.  Men, no matter how much they like the girl, will play the “cool and aloof” game where they text enough to keep you interested but not enough to lead on that they like you.  Girls, however, expect more communication after sex has occurred , desire exclusivity sooner rather than later, and are ready to progress to the next step more expediently.  My friend just wants to know what they are already and I’ve been there before too, just waiting to see if it all works out and you become Facebook official.  But if there is anything I’ve learned it’s that despite my impatient nature it is best to wait and not rush things because men freak out when things move to fast.  They can be all for the quick progression of sexual relations but when things get too comfortable too soon, they back off or cut ties and will ultimately blame you.

Men view sex differently.  For them it is purely a physical relief, or they can at least separate it from emotions.  Women, no matter how hard they try, are hard wired to feel a connection to a person after sex.  It’s part of our biology (men wanting to plant their seed as much as possible and women needing someone to help care for the young).  Sure women can become accustomed to casual sex but that doesn’t make rejection sting any less when the guy decides he wants to end relations.  Men don’ t feel that internal change post sexual intercourse like women do.  When a girl likes a guy and finally sleeps with him, she expects things to change.  He needs to fight to keep himself in the running, needs to put more effort in to be with her.  Just because they’ve had sex doesn’t mean he can get lax or comfortable or slack on his game if he ever wants to sleep with her again.  In fact, he needs to up  his game or she could move on to someone else.  Conversely, women feel a connection after sex with someone they like and crave more–more texts, more calls, more dates, more sex.  Now that sex has happened, things need to change in their eyes.  They can’t just stay the same because something major has happened, while to guys, nothing has changed and what happened was nice but not major.

Let’s return for a moment to the story about my friend.   After she slept with this guy–nothing changed.  He texts her the same amount, still doesn’t always have the next date planned, and sends out mixed signals.  He seems to like her, texts her like clock-work on his lunch hour and when he gets out of work with a “thinking of you” type text but he hasn’t upped his game or eluded to the fact that he feels things have gotten any more serious.  He was supposed to have a date with her this weekend and she went all out to cook for him.  He had  been away in Maine and was going to show up at around dinner time but hadn’t given her a specific time.  At 9:30pm he finally texts and informs her that he’s really tired and won’t be coming over–after she slaved over a hot stove and got all dressed up for a nice dinner date with him.  While at first upset, she tried to make light of the situation and showed him the the next day that there were no hard feelings.  However, he still has not booked the next date and is playing it very cool.  She isn’t sure that he likes her but he  must if he texts her daily and often says sweet things.  Yet, guys don’t understand that they have to up their game post sex, not get comfortable and stay the same.

Women expect more, expect some deeper conversations and for some emotion to show through.  You can only play it close to the vest for so long before the woman will get fed up and back away.  This is partially because women are more analytical of their communications with men than vice versa and can be very insecure about their standing and unsure of his desires.  If a guy doesn’t make it clear what he wants, we are not mind readers and we don’t know his inner needs.  But sometimes I think guys play it so cool because even they do not know what they want.  They like to take their time and see where things go–play it by ear.  While women are more planners and organizers.  They need to know when the next date is so they aren’t holding off on plans all week in case he wants to see them.  They need constant reassurance that he likes them and that she didn’t give it up for nothing.   Women need to know what the next step is and what his intentions are very early on as they have relationship goals and expectations.  Men have long term relationship goals too (such as ultimately wanting to get married and have kids) but they don’t have that same biological clock ticking inside or that same motivation to make that goal a reality in the now.  For women these desires are often at the forefront of their minds while men would like a relationship but place other priorities higher on the list.

The fact is, women are more needy after sex occurs.  I don’t mean this in a negative way, just in a sense that they need more than the status quo.  Guys always seek to rush sex, hormones racing, but they’d be wiser to wait a little bit until they are prepared for the aftermath.  If they are open to the possibility of a relationship then they should never try to have sex too soon.  While things may not change for them, they always change for the woman and she will not be satisfied with the level of commitment and communication pre-intercourse.  Men like to rush the sex  because they are attracted to the girl and because it feels good yet women see sex as a serious thing and most girls won’t sleep with someone just because he’s interested–they have to like the guy and be thinking there is some potential.  Plus, it’s a biological fact that things change for women post sex.  A chemical called oxytocin is released, also known as the “love hormone.”  It changes how women feel about the guy and can make them develop feelings for him.

Ultimately men and women view dating and sex differently.  They have varying expectations and understandings and in order to be a better dater you would be wise to take into consideration your partner’s stance on things.  Women should be less critical of themselves when men don’t text back right away or talk to them for a day or two.  Men need to understand that women need more and if they are interested in a girl, they need to express that.  It is ok to show that you like her because if she likes you too she won’t go running and will in fact appreciate it.  Women and men should be wiser about sex and not sleep with someone until they are ready for the aftermath.  Women, if you know you get attached to a guy after sex, hold off a bit.  Men, if you know you are looking for something casual, be up front about it.  Sure holding off on sex may piss off a guy and make him stop seeing you or telling a girl you don’t want anything serious may hinder your chances at sleeping with her but ultimately if you are honest and self-aware you will be more happy in the long run and end up in a relationship (sexual, emotional, or both) that fits your needs and desires.

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