What Makes a Man Fall in Love?
Why we can't let love in until you've shown us the way -- and the simple words that can unleash our deepest affections.
Question: Guys, do you believe you've met your soul mate?
Yes, I'm with her right now.................................. 53 Percent
Yes, but we're no longer together:........................ 14 Percent
Yes, but we were never together as a couple:......... 9 Percent
No:.......................................................................... 24 Percent
Think of a great relationship as though it were a great meal: A delicious, meaty steak of sexual passion accompanied by a fine, delicate wine of romance and commitment. Both of us want it all -- the perfect, satisfying course. And we need both -- steak by itself is dry and unsatisfying; and wine will get you tipsy, but it won't satisfy your hunger. Now, before the metaphor police revoke my license, let me simply push this analogy a little further: Men are a little more focused on the meat of the relationship, and women a bit more on the wine. But both sexes want to get up from the table completely satisfied. Need evidence? More than three-fourths of men believe in soul mates (see above). And when we asked our guys to choose between meeting the love of their life or having amazing sex for six months, 92 percent chose falling in love. (The other 8 percent were probably Maxim readers.) Consider what these three men said about the experience of falling in love:
- "We need to feel love, loyalty, and chemistry above all else," says Ian, 31.
- "Men also feel the butterflies and giddiness that women do when they're in love," says Robert, 26.
- "Women don't realize most guys are in love long before they are willing to admit it to anyone," says Drew, 30.
So why then does it always seem like women are leading the relationship toward commitment, and men need to be dragged along like a preschooler to a dentist appointment? Because in the early-on Stratego game of dating, we need to see where you're moving first. Consider this: Less than half of men say they're typically the first ones to say "I love you" in a relationship, and more women than men initially broach the subject of taking the relationship to the next level.
That points to the notion that what men really want when it comes to love is your assurance -- your permission, really -- that it's okay to let the butterflies out of the cage.
Michael, 37, a restaurant owner in North Carolina, says he's cautious about expressing himself early on -- not because he's complacent or wants to play games or wants to make the woman squirm like a mouse in a cat's mouth. He holds back because he's waiting to get the signal that it's okay to press the accelerator.
"I love to hear that I'm her dream come true, or some version of that, if that's the case," he says. "I need a little praise and attention, just as much as she needs it from me. That's the sign I need. Then, I know I can give her what she needs."
Chris, 29, a recently married public defender, agrees. "Men need to be told that they're wanted," he says. "Women forget that if they like a nice guy, that the nice guy might be too nervous to tell them what he feels." And then he added this interesting insight: "Women need to be more open to being hurt the way guys are every day."
Hold on a second. Guys are hurt more often than women?
Hmm. Think about it: In the romance game, it's usually the man who makes the first move (usually after you've dropped him countless hints waiting for him to finally pick up on them). But in doing so, men open themselves up to more rejection than a telemarketing trainee. And believe me, even George Clooney has a psychic master list of turn-downs that he still winces over from time to time.
So once a man has crossed that first barrier -- okay, you like him, it's safe -- he's reluctant to cross the next. Like monkeys in a lab, we've been shocked plenty of times before, and if we're in a safe place with you, we're happy simply to stay there. So it's a delicate balance -- a woman needs to signal that it's okay for him to take the next step, without making him feel as if he's being pushed toward it. Let him know that you feel there's something really special between you. Let him know it's okay if he lets himself feel that, too. But proceed cautiously -- there's danger ahead, as you'll see.
How Do I Know Where This Relationship is Heading?
I've been seeing a guy for about three weeks, and I feel like it's going to be pretty serious. After the first two dates, we've been seeing each other a lot. Last week, we got together twice during the week and twice on the weekend. I'd like to talk about where this is headed, but I don't want to scare him away. I just want to make sure we're both on the same page about where we are, whether we're seeing other people, and where this might go. What's he thinking?
He's thinking that, three weeks into dating, he doesn't want to have this conversation. To him, that's a relationship birth announcement. Today, we welcome the birth of a beautiful committed couple, weighing in at eight dates, two movies, and six orgasms (five for him, one for her): It's Bob and Cindy! Congratulations! It's too formal, too official, too planned. And that formality serves as the fire extinguisher to the initial spark he's been feeling. "The only thing worse than a woman who doesn't show any interest after a few dates is a woman who shows too much," says Anthony, 25. Terry, 32, adds: "Slow down. Please don't tell us that you love us after three weeks." Think of it this way. You know how you don't like when he skips the foreplay and goes right to the sex? When you talk about the status of a relationship too early, it's like skipping the foreplay of pursuit and going right to the private parts of commitment. If he's seeing you four times a week, then it's a good sign that your relationship is headed in the right direction. Just let him have some fun -- and some mystery -- while he's getting there.
How Do I Know When It's Time to Tell Him my Feelings?
I've been seeing a man for only two months. Perfect guy. He's funny, has a great job, I love hanging out with him. We even took this great weekend vacation together and everything seemed to click. I just have this feeling that this is going to work, and I'm pretty sure he feels the same way. I don't want to blow it, and while I obviously don't want to pretend to be somebody that I'm not, I also don't want to do anything that could jeopardize the relationship. Any hints for how to take things from here?
Two months may seem like a blip on the relationship radar, but for some guys, that qualifies as a full-fledged era. At this point, men certainly want some honesty. "If she is more open with me, I'll be more open with her, especially at the beginning when you're both feeling each other out, emotionally," says Warren, 33. But that comes with a caution. Feel free to be honest about your feelings, but don't make assumptions about his. Don't use the word us. At this stage, you'll solidify your primo status if you talk about what you like about him, what you get out of a relationship with him, what turns you on about him. Us scares him; him excites him. (Yes, we're our own favorite subject, but that's just human nature.) It's a way of saying you love the relationship while giving him the ego-boosting rush he craves -- all without making him think you're brushing up on the four Cs of diamond shopping. At this still-early stage, that's a secret to tip-toeing between giving him permission to love and giving him a reason to leave.
Should I Give Him an Ultimatum?
My live-in boyfriend and I have been seeing each other for about a year and a half, living together for somewhere around six months. I'm 31 and my family is giving me a hard time -- like I should just go ahead and move on if he's not going to be the one because I'm wasting time. My best friend even says to me that there's no way he's going to marry me because he's getting all the sex of a nonmarried relationship without the commitment. I've debated a lot about giving him an ultimatum or a deadline, but something tells me that's a bad idea. How will I know if he's ever going to be ready to make the next step?
You may think that men are afraid of the marriage commitment because we want to leave options open, because we're waiting for something better, or because we fear it'll be the official end of hot-tub sex. Jay, 30, says a man's hesitation isn't about indifference; it's actually the opposite. "Men are just as unsure about the relationship thing as women," he says. "I'm getting married in a couple months to a woman I love deeply, who I know will be a fantastic wife and mother to my future children. Is she my soul mate? Tough question, but if not, she's pretty darn close." When we decide we want to be married, we want to do the right thing -- for both of us. So should you give him an ultimatum? I don't think so. If you've been honest with him about your feelings for him -- for him, not for "the relationship" -- then you're probably at the point in your relationship where you should be able to ask him straight up about his feelings for you. If he can't tell you what he thinks and what he feels, well, that's probably your answer.
Reprinted from: Men, Love & Sex: The Complete User's Guide for Women by David Zinczenko with Ted Spiker © 2006 David Zinczenko. Permission granted by Rodale, Inc., Emmaus, PA 18098. Available wherever books are sold or directly from the publisher by calling at (800) 848-4735.
David Zinczenko, editor-in-chief of Men's Health magazine, has written op-ed pieces for the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, and USA Today and is a frequent guest on the Today show, talking about men and relationships. In 2003, People magazine named him one of the "50 Most Eligible Bachelors." He divides his time between Allentown, Pennsylvania, and New York City.
Ted Spiker, an assistant professor of journalism at the University of Florida, is a contributing editor to Men's Health. He lives in Gainesville, Florida.>