How much blame should we take when relationships go pear-shaped?
I will never forget the one episode of Sex and The City where Miranda Hobbs was obsessing over why her date declined the invitation to come up to her apartment after an evening out. Her entourage, much like most women, justified the behaviour: “Maybe he’s trying to play it cool, maybe it’s a test, maybe he’s not straight”.
The excuses were endless, until Miranda was liberated by one simple remark from a male friend: “He’s just not that into you.” The remark was subsequently penned as the title of a self-help book for single women. The premise of the book, as stated in the title, tells female readers that if a man in whom you are interested is not making the effort to pursue you, he is simply “just not that into you”. With that revelation, we are faced with the insatiable question as to why?
After a particularly messy breakup which involved infidelity, I found myself engrossed in Sherry Argov’s Why Men Love Bitches, which enlightened me on the many mistakes I had made in my dating life. We can’t always sit back and simply blame somebody else for a failed relationship when it takes two to tango. I have subsequently lent the book to countless female friends, each of whom have raved about the positive changes it has brought to their love lives after reading it.
The book delves into psychological concepts such as the Madonna/Whore complex using witty banter and elaborates on common scenarios that put men off, particularly falling into the trap of pursuing the man, rather than allowing the man to pursue you. This involves being too eager and trying too hard.
An example given by Argov is cooking a homemade roast before the third date, believing “the way to his heart is through the stomach.” But Argov believes that this is laying your cards on the table far too soon and appears too desperate for approval in the early stages, sending a man packing due to lack of a challenge.
We may argue that surely in this “gender equal” Western society, the need for these games is obsolete. But we are fooling ourselves since men are psychologically programmed to pursue women. As much as we fight for equal roles in a relationship, we cannot fight psychological drivers that have naturally been programmed into the opposite sex.
By no means do the revelations of the book suggest that you should play the damsel in distress to keep a man interested in pursuing you; to the contrary, the book enforces the idea that some women place themselves in the role of being a doormat due to not having enough backbone.
He doesn’t like your favourite lipstick? Wear it anyway. He doesn’t allow you to spend time with your friends for no good reason? Spend time with them anyway. He doesn’t support your ambitions? Keep aspiring regardless.
The most poignant lesson learned from the book is that when we disagree with a man or believe he may be losing interest, some women change aspects of themselves that didn’t need to be changed. We make excuses for bad behaviour, turn a blind eye to red flags and accept ill treatment until the situation mushrooms into something we can no longer tolerate.
By this point we may have cried at the notion that “all men are pigs” without realising that our own actions may have contributed to his perception of whether we were a doormat or a dream girl. Whether in the context of relationships or friendships, one observation that we can all take away from Argov’s guide is that we accept the love we think we deserve and we teach people how to treat us by what we allow.
Image: Lauren Matthews