I don’t know how our mothers used to talk about dating, but I do know that their daughters live by a simple mantra: “Dump him.” It’s great—many women are refusing to lower their standards for men who aren’t emotionally available, well-meaning communicators, or at least able to demonstrate the bare minimum of respect. However, there’s a flip side of this trend. According to Dr. Greg Matos in Psychology Today, dating opportunities for heterosexual men go down as relationship standards rise. The ensuing discourse on Twitter was cathartic, but lacked concrete tips for lonely, single men who are ready to rise to the challenge.
Far be it from me to delve into the backwards world of “men be like __, women be like ___.” However, the reality is that I’m a woman who has been courted by a few men (brag). I’ve picked up on a few common toxic mistakes that men make during the courting phase. My goal here is not to generalize about how all men are bad at dating, but to provide a little insight into modern dating culture and maybe stop a future incel from being created.
If you’re a single man trying to woo a woman—or anyone who won’t settle for toxic masculinity—here are some tips to improve your dating skills.
Let the other person know you’re interested
I’ll be the first to admit that “playing hard to get” is a very real, effective strategy in some contexts. At the same time, if you hit it off with someone on an app and both agree to meet up for a first date, then why act like you’re anything less than interested in them? Many women, myself included, have emphasized the need for men to let themselves be open and personable during the early stages of dating.
We need to get over the idea that it’s uncool to reveal that you’re excited to see the person that you arranged to go on a date with. Even if you aren’t so sure that you’d want a second date with this person, it’s in your best interest to be considerate and curious about them. The “hack” here is painfully obvious: Ask your date questions. This is how you both demonstrate interest in the other person, as well as make yourself more interesting to them. Just make sure to avoid certain questions that have no place on a first date.
Don’t trauma dump (or go trauma digging)
Yes, you want to be open. Yes, you want to seem both interested in and interesting to your date. No, you shouldn’t take this to the extreme and get too close, too quickly. As more and more men understand the fact that it’s attractive to be in touch with their emotions, they can make the mistake of turning their dates into therapy sessions.
It’s important to ask questions to get your conversation off the ground, but be wary of getting too personal. For instance, asking someone “Do you have siblings?” is normal. Asking them, “How is your relationship with your father and what are you doing to repair it?” is…too much. I know how nice it is to feel like you’re making a connection and finally moving beyond boring small talk, but save potentially invasive questions for down the line.
Have follow through
If the first date went well, make sure to say something confident and clear like, “I’d love to see you again.” After that point, don’t fall into the black hole of vague plans. Be super clear about the next time you and your date will see each other. Follow up with concrete questions like “I’m free on Saturday, want to do X activity?” And then actually follow through on these plans.
Then again, maybe “follow through” is a far-off concept while you’re still trying to get that first date. Check out some of the best ways to actually start a conversation via dating app (without being creepy, cheesy, or boring).
Be honest about your intentions
I know what it’s like to have my intentions change mid-date. Sometimes you think you’re looking for true love, but you’re not about to share that with the less-than-perfect first date sitting in front of you.
In order to be honest with another person about what you’re looking for, you have to first be honest with yourself. If you know that you are strictly interested in something casual, communicate that right away. Otherwise, you can wait a few dates and be upfront as soon as you know how you’re feeling about the person you’re seeing.
If you’re afraid of laying your cards on the table, know that many women will be turned on by your forwardness. It’s attractive when someone isn’t afraid to be enthusiastic and communicative.
Prioritize your mental health
Behind all the jokes about men being bad at dating, there’s a deeper societal context. The struggle for intimacy is experienced by people of all genders, orientations, and ethnicities. Men too are hurt by the patriarchy when they’re told not shove away their emotions.
Issues arise when you open the floodgates and expect a woman you barely know to handle your trauma like a therapist. Luckily, once you realize this, there’s a wealth of resources out there to start learning about your own mental health and how you can be your happiest, most stable self.
And if you’re feeling unlovable or unfuckable, and it’s starting to feel like the modern woman is to blame, here’s our guide for men struggling to find love, sex, and companionship.