Time to blow the whistle on some bad dating advice: dating advice that is based on over emphasised, under researched sex differences.
How many times have you heard dating advice that tells you, ‘scientific research proves men and women think differently so you have to remember men aren’t as good with emotions as women…’ (and probably that we have serious problems reading a map etc?)
I used to buy into this. I used to actually tell my dating coaching clients, ‘now as we all know men aren’t as good at reading emotions so you have to talk to him in his language…’ I wasn’t sure where this idea came from but I was pretty sure there was a scientific study, a brain scan, a hormone profile that meant men were just not so empathetic: and on the flip side we as women of course weren’t so good at ‘logic’. (One look at the fantastic female founders I have speaking at my next Dating Summit says that women are not just designed to sympathise and swoon.)
Only after doing some research and reading some great books (Cordelia Fine, thank you) did I start to realise that dating experts were sighting scientific evidence for their advice that either didn’t really exist, or had been largely discredited. Then I started to think: hang on, if men and women are in fact much more similar than they are different how does dating advice have to change? What have you been taught about men and women that is misleading, that’s causing you to over think your dating life, or have low expectations of men?
Of course there are some differences we know about between men and women: if I look down at my achy pre-menstrual body right now I can see a pretty big one. But a lot of differences that we’re taught to expect aren’t real factual differences, as much as they are socially constructed ones. Right now you may expect men to be:
- Less good at reading emotions.
- In greater need of sexual variety.
- More logical and direct.
- A bit insensitive.
- More likely to forget a special occasion.
All of this paints a picture where you start to have lower and lower expectations of the men in your life (which is quite unfair to the men of this world.) If we base dating advice too heavily around sex differences we start to rationalise plenty of just general red flag behaviour as some kind of natural difference between men and women:
“I got really upset, and he just withdrew, I think I scared him off with my emotion as he didn’t know how to handle it…”
“When I said I needed some support he told me to stop being ‘needy’ – I don’t think he’s learned how to deal with emotions…”
“He didn’t remember to call as he was so focused on work, I thought I better not disturb him…”
“He was seeing someone else, but I think at that point he was still ‘sowing his wild oats’ he’s a very sexual guy…”
S-E-R-I-O-U-S-L-Y how many times have you justified staying in some dodgy relationship with some emotionally unavailable PERSON because you think ‘he’s just being a man’. Dating advice that tells you to expect sex differences and constantly accommodate for them (based on unnamed ‘scientific research’) could be setting you up to lower your standards for how someone treats you.
How about we think about this differently? Here’s how I see it: we are a colourful world full of individual characters. Our upbringing, cultural background, gender and genes all form who we are today as an individual. It is simply not true that all men are, for instance, ‘bad’ at dealing with emotions. Some people may be emotionally closed off, may choose to neglect your emotional needs, and have some way to go on their communication skills. But, heck, if you need a man who has emotional intelligence you’re not looking for some anomalous needle in a haystack, you are simply looking for a person who (from the get go) demonstrates an ability to listen, consider, and relate. You are looking for a good partner. You are looking for what everyone should be looking for in someone they’re going to invest their time in.
Do not excuse people’s behaviour with ‘he’s just a man…’ or equally, ‘she’s just being a woman…’ instead look for people that you relate to well and who you can communicate easily. And no just because a man has emotional intelligence doesn’t mean he’s any less sexy, any less ‘a man’. Emotional intelligence and sex appeal are not mutually exclusive qualities – in fact in my opinion they enhance the other.
All this ‘emotions are for girls, logic is for boys’ mumbo jumbo needs to stop. It is a back step, it is poorly thought through, and it keeps us all stuck. We need to encourage men that they don’t always have to be a super macho stereotype to be loved. So next time you hear someone’s shoddy behaviour passed off as ‘well he’s just being…’ remember we are all human and it is our own personal responsibility to choose to spend our time with people who treat us with respect, regardless of who they are, where they come from, or whether their nursery was painted pink or blue.
If you are down with ripping up the dating rulebook and taking a fresh look at dating advice as how we relate to ourselves and other humans take a look at my Dating Summit for women on December 2nd. We will be pushing back on conventional dating wisdom and giving you a fresh take on how you can approach love as a modern, self aware woman.