You walk out of a coffee shop onto a bright, sunny street.
That’s when you first see her.
She’s just standing there, your idealized image of a woman.
You’ve been dreaming about this girl for years. She is physically perfect.
But before you can do or say anything, the clouds part and the booming voice of God asks you the following question.
How long do you want to spend with her?
It seems simple enough. You could say a lifetime, a second, or anything in between, but the answer is binding.
Meaning, if you say five years, you’ll have to spend at least five years with her. You may try to spend more, but you can’t spend less.
I’ve asked hundreds of men this very same question. Their answers reveal a pattern that ultimately cuts right to the heart of what it means to be good with women.
What I’ve noticed about men who are good with women is that they are often puzzled by my thought experiment.
“Do I know her?” they ask. “Who is she?”
They may want to know–among other things–if a woman is funny, smart, kind, or honest.
Before they know, they are willing to commit a few minutes–or, at most, a few hours–to find out.
Men who are bad with women seldom ask these questions.
They don’t care.
If a woman is beautiful enough, they are willing to commit to months, years, or even a lifetime with her.
Put simply, they objectify women.
There are two types of interest–emotional and sexual.
Men who have little experience with women often confuse the two.
Sexual interest is physical attraction. It’s what makes a man want to talk to woman, a complete stranger, in the first place.
Emotional interest is what gets a man to commit, possibly for a lifetime.
Until there is more information–until a man knows more about a woman’s character–he should not feel, and certainly should not express emotional interest. What he should express is sexual interest.
Men who are bad with women are willing to commit prematurely because they care about the outcome before they should care about the outcome.
The effect of this misplaced emotional interest is disastrous.
First, it puts too much pressure on these men.
Imagine walking over to a person who you already believe has all of the qualities that you seek in a partner for life.
Can you be your best in the face of such pressure?
Can you be confident, funny, charming, smart, spontaneous, and engaging with so much at stake? Very likely not.
Second, desirable women are very adept at detecting signs of emotional interest.
It’s not surprising that women would be good at this. It helps them quickly gauge the value of men.
And when they see signs of unearned emotional interest, they assume that the man standing before them is desperate.
In other words, men who feel premature emotional interest are virtually guaranteed to fail.
Men who are great with women have an entirely different experience. When they approach attractive women, little is at stake.
Not only does this make it easier for them to be at their best, but it is also easier for them to play the games that reveal a woman’s true character–games that include gently teasing and qualifying.
Women see these games as evidence that a man has high standards and conclude that he has a lot to offer.
If the benefits of suppressing emotional interest are so powerful, why do so many men fail to do this?
To see how bad ideas about romance have wormed their way into our culture, we can examine two very popular Hollywood story lines.
In the first story line, a man initially notices the inner beauty of a friend, and only later comes to appreciate her as a potential romantic partner.
He then begins to feel a sexual attraction.
Think about the un-reality of this scenario.
Is it ever the case that a man is somehow blind to the sexual beauty of a woman? Never.
We are programmed to notice. It is in the very apparatus of our cognition.
In real life, men first notice nothing but physical beauty, and only later come to appreciate the character of the woman who possesses it.
The second story line is just as unbelievable.
A man catches the eye of a beautiful woman–perhaps at a party or a public place–and when their eyes meet, we know–we absolutely know–that it will be love.
He begins to pursue her with the commitment of a man who is sure, and though he knows nothing about her, fate steps in to validate that commitment.
Beautiful women are–almost without exception–clever, kind, funny, and trustworthy.
Think about this carefully.
Both scenarios have something in common.
They discourage sexual interest while encouraging emotional interest.
This is how our culture is telling us it wants its men to behave–with immediate and intense emotional interest, and suppressed–or at least deferred–sexual interest.
But unearned emotional interest is objectification.
Our culture objectifies women, and expects its men to behave accordingly.
What can men do to overcome this cultural programming? They should refuse to play by the rules.
Here are three important ideas that all men should attempt to internalize.
1. No matter how hot she is, she may not be good enough for you.
Think about your detailed preferences for, among other things, clothes, video games, books, movies, art, and music.
Your taste in women should be that detailed as well. Physical beauty is just one dimension of those preferences.
Think about your high standards for a new best friend. Would any handsome man qualify as your new best friend? No.
Your choice of a female companion should not be less important to you than your choice of a new best friend.
Don’t be so quick to lower your standards. She should be kind, smart, funny, trustworthy, loving, supportive, interesting, and so much more.
Think of some deal breakers.
What if she hates kids? What if she’s rude to strangers?
Internalize the fact that it is hard for a person to be good enough for you.
Respect your deal breakers! Walk away if she fails.
2. Be honest. Respect the boundary between sexual and emotional interest.
You think she’s sexy and you may want to sleep with her, but until she shows you more, you don’t want to marry her or even make her your girlfriend.
Remind yourself that your interest is sexual. Flirt with her. Don’t be afraid to touch her.
Your sexual interest is healthy and she knows it. She respects your honesty.
At the beginning, the only time you should talk about your future together is if you’re kidding.
You have no future with her until you decide she’s good enough for you, a decision you will make after she has qualified herself to you and revealed enough positives.
Until then, you’re just flirting.
3. Play games that will create attraction and reveal her true character.
You’re unsure whether she is right for you. It’s appropriate to tease and qualify her as a means of discovering what she’s all about.
For example, I read a lot. When I meet women who are much younger, I like to smile and say something like, “When I was your age, the only novels I read were the ones assigned to me at school. Is that what you do?”
This is partly a tease, and partly a legitimate qualification.
I really want to know whether she loves books the way that I do and the best way for me to find out is to playfully accuse her of the opposite.
Compliment her less. Teasing and qualification create attraction, not compliments.