I was once interviewed for an article on Fox News Los Angeles, the author of which finds herself immersed in the LA dating scene (which, as you can imagine, is unique).
We discussed some recent experiences that she has had with men, and while some of them were a little different from what I usually hear, some of them were also consistent with issues that I felt I had discussed multiple times before with multiple different women about multiple different men. What does this mean?
It means there are consistencies. There are, for some reason, mistakes that many men (probably myself included) are making when it comes to being in a relationship. In this article, we will discuss some of them in order to help all of us become more aware of where we can improve, and work to become better.
1. You have never really learned about women.
This has always surprised me a little bit. People (men and women) spend years of their life learning about business, history, science, and whatever subject comes our way. But when it comes to the one thing every single one of us shares – relationships – many are generally clueless. Time is not taken to observe, talk to, or learn about the opposite sex.
The more effort you put into learning about women, particularly the one in your life, the more likely you are to be in tune with her feelings, emotions, likes and dislikes. This will of course lead to a smoother, happier relationship because you can anticipate her wants and needs in order to act on them. You don’t need to be a mind reader, you just need to put in a little effort.
2. You spend too much time trying to sell yourself.
This is to say, you spend far too much time talking about yourself and not enough time learning about her. Dating is not supposed to be a sales pitch where you try to convince the person on the other end of the table that you’re their best option. It’s about mutual learning and figuring out whether or not you are both a match for each other.
You have two ears and one mouth for a reason: Listen twice as much as you speak.
3. You don’t make her a priority.
More than one conversation I have had recently has focused on men who were either so submerged in their career, business, friends, or other interests that they barely made time to spend with their own girlfriend. As an entrepreneur, I understand the importance of focusing on business and progress, but I also understand the beauty and depth a relationship can bring to your life, and the importance of playing your equal role in it.
The woman in your life wants to feel valued. She wants to feel adored. She wants you to be emotionally present when you are with her. She doesn’t need to have you around constantly, but of course she wants to feel loved, just like you do.
If you stop putting in effort to make the woman in your life feel special every day, you lose your right to complain when someone else does.
4. You didn’t work to build a foundation.
A foundation of friendship and trust is essential to every relationship, much like a first building a foundation is essential to building a house. Without it, things may look solid from the outside but will be crumbling from the inside.
Many men shy away from friendship with women because they are scared of being in the ‘friend zone’ and never having more than that with a woman they have feelings for. But it is important to realize that many relationships are built off of friendships. That is what keeps two people together in the long term. She needs to know she can count on you, that you will be there, that you are the real deal.
You can have a friendship without a relationship, but you can’t have a relationship without a friendship.
5. You are inconsistent.
Another one of the most common questions I get from women about men is: Why are men so hot and cold? Men can be talking about commitment and a relationship one day, and then completely disappear the next. What gives?
I understand that as men in the social media era we have options. We can easily X out a conversation and start a new one while easily forgetting about the last one. It is an unfortunate side effect of the out of sight, out of mind mentality that comes along with constant information overload. But one thing has not changed: The fact that you are talking to real human beings with real feelings and emotions.
If you are interested in her, tell her. If you are not interested in her, tell her. A gentleman will never allow a woman to fall if he does not intend on catching her.
6. You focus too much on her looks.
This one is pretty interesting because it may be counter-intuitive to a lot of men reading this. But, that is only because most guys try to get a woman’s attention by complimenting her beauty, and put no effort into learning about her character.
Early on in my relationship I found myself not complimenting my girlfriend on her looks very often. I wanted to tell her that she is the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen, I wanted to tell her that she looks just as beautiful in sweatpants as she does in a dress. I wanted to dig up every adjective I could think of that could be used to describe someone’s appearance – but, I didn’t.
Why? Because I didn’t want her to think that’s why I wanted to be with her. Yes, she is beautiful and sexy and all of those things, but she is so much more than that. I actually told her once that I didn’t want her to think I only wanted her for her looks, and she told me that if I’d spent too much time complimenting her beauty, that’s exactly what she would have thought.
The woman in your life will have much more appreciation for you taking the time to notice her character, compassion, thoughtfulness, and kindheartedness – far more than you telling her how great her butt looks in those jeans. Even if it does.
7. Too much, too soon.
Yes, men can be clingy too. Particularly when we find a woman who really catches our attention, sometimes the excitement can be a little overwhelming and we may come on stronger than we intend to. This, particularly for a more independent type of woman, can be kryptonite and push her away immediately.
Take a step back, a deep breath, tell her what a great time you had on your date, and do your best to fight the urge to text her every 5 minutes. Don’t be worried about coming across as uninterested, you will actually likely be helping yourself rather than hurting yourself.
8. You have not yet defined yourself or your own path.
I know that this was a big hang-up for me for a long time. I wasn’t really sure who I was as a person, who I wanted to be, or who I wanted to become. For that reason (and others) I knew I wasn’t going to be ready for a relationship until I had at least a better grip on those questions.
In order to be happy with someone else, you first need to be happy with yourself. That is the most important relationship you’ll ever have. If that one isn’t healthy, none of your others will be either.
The idea of “you complete me” is romantic, but it is not realistic. A relationship is not about two people who complete each other, it’s about two people who are already whole and accept each other completely.
9. You put in part-time effort.
Healthy relationships are not a part time commitment. The woman you are with is not just another option or a way to pass your time, and she shouldn’t be made to feel like she is.
When you are with her, be with her. When you are not with her, let her know you’re thinking about her. A relationship is a team, and teams fall apart when one of the members doesn’t pull their own weight.
As mentioned earlier, she needs to know that you will be there for her during good times and during bad times. If you always seem to be just sort of kind of committed, she will eventually realize she is better off being single or finding someone who gives her what she needs.
10. You are clueless about how she’s feeling.
On a deeper level than the first point about not really learning about women, you also need to make sure you learn about her. About the one woman who you have committed your time and effort to. If you do not put in the effort to become in-tune with how she is feeling or what she is communicating to you non-verbally, you will never be able to form the type of deep, emotional connection that a healthy relationship should possess.
She doesn’t want or need you to be a psychic. But if you truly put in the time and effort to communicate with her, listen to her, and pay attention to the things she is saying to you when she’s not actually speaking; you will gain a greater understanding of the woman you love and ultimately be able to bring more happiness to you both as individuals and to your relationship.
Relationships should not be as complicated as they seem to be for our generation. They don’t need rules or checklists. But what they do need is two people who are willing to learn, understand, and communicate. Two people who will stand by each other when things are good, and when things are bad.
Two people who are willing to work together as a team. Because in the end, the team wins the game.
This post was originally published on James Michael Sama’s website, where he covers topics on dating, relationships and happiness. He is a writer, blogger, social-media marketer and on-air/live event host based in Boston, Mass.