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Aha! Understanding the mind games men play

Have you ever wondered ... How could he disappear after he was so totally into me? Why hasn’t he texted? Why does he pull away every time we get close? Was it just about the sex? How could he not be interested in me? Why doesn’t he make a move? Will he ever commit? What the bleep is going on in this relationship? Is it him or is it me?Ah, men. Mystifying men.  And we’re supposed to be the m
/ Source: TODAY

Have you ever wondered ...

How could he disappear after he was so totally into me? Why hasn’t he texted? Why does he pull away every time we get close? Was it just about the sex? How could he not be interested in me? Why doesn’t he make a move? Will he ever commit? What the bleep is going on in this relationship? Is it him or is it me?

Ah, men. Mystifying men. 

And we’re supposed to be the mysterious ones! Truth is, men are at least as hard to figure out as women. Their behavior can be confusing, frustrating and maddening. They tease us with clever poems, daily texts and calls, only to turn around in the blink of an eye and completely disappear or disappoint us. Who hasn’t fallen for that grand opening game, where they lure us with intoxicating conversations, exciting fun-filled dates, a single perfect rose, delicious kisses and more?

Fortunately, I’ve logged many therapy hours listening to men as they’ve opened up and explored their deepest needs and fears. The good news is that they, like us, usually really do want true love, and down deep they realize that they’d be happier, more content and more sexually satisfied if they had a good relationship. The bad news is they are also scared, and they push real intimacy or commitment away. Men fear being overwhelmed and taken over in an all-consuming relationship void of any video games, sporting events or nights out with the guys. Believe it or not, they also fear rejection and abandonment. And all these fears play out in a variety of ways. Men play out unconscious and conscious games which create a maddening push-pull with your heart. That’s why dating and relationships can be so confusing and frustrating. 

Understanding‘deadly dating patterns’

“You come to love not by finding the perfect person, but by seeing an imperfect person perfectly.” — Sam Keen

In the just released paperback version of “Love in 90 Days,” I devote a new chapter to the 16 most common Men’s Deadly Dating Patterns based on personality types. Some of them are much more ingrained and difficult for the guy to overcome than others. I rate the degree of difficulty of each pattern, based on my clinical experience, on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the most challenging. I have also divided the patterns into three groups: easier to overcome; moderately difficult; and most challenging (those I advise you to stay away from).       

Understanding guys’ Deadly Dating Patterns is crucial not only to your success in creating the love you want, but also to your own self-esteem and happiness. When you learn to clearly see who you are dealing with and understand his patterns:

  • You can free yourself from second-guessing about what you did wrong whenever a relationship falls apart. 
  • You will be able to let go of thoughts like, “I should have told him how much I enjoyed the comedy club he picked out and that I would love to go again! That’s why he’s not calling.” Or, “My thighs are so big and I wore that clingy dress. That’s what turned him off!” Or, “He broke it off because I am too (old, needy, successful, have kids, fat ... fill in the blank).”
  • You can more easily say — and understand — that, “It is not just about me. It’s about him and his issues.”
  • You can then view relationships in a more balanced way, examining more objectively who did what to whom.

Date him or dump him?

In order to have emotional freedom in dating it is important to be like an anthropologist in the world of men — to study them and understand their unique qualities and attributes. You need to suspend judgment about what a man ought to be like. We expect a lot based on fairy tales, romantic movies and the media: the all-perfect prince is supposed to come along and sweep us away to the magic kingdom of love. But real life is not a fairy tale or a movie. There are no perfect guys. So how do you know whether to date him or dump him?

The severity of men’s dating and commitment issues varies from person to person. So here are eight key questions to ask about the guy and the relationship:

  • What does he say about the possibility of real love, women in general, and his past relationships? Read between the lines.
  • What do you notice about his thinking about being involved in a long-term relationship or marriage?
  • How does he describe other couples?
  • If his friend is getting married, is he cynical? Does he describe his married buddies as trapped in some way?
  • Does he say it would take a good three to four years to know if a person is ready to be with someone?
  • Does he say love never lasts?
  • Did his parents stay married and if so, how does he describe their relationship? If divorced, did they remarry successfully?
  • Does he have any role models who have shown him what a good marriage is like?

Five deadly dating patterns

Now that you’ve answered these eight questions, let’s dig into the specific relationship patterns your guy may be caught in. Here are five of the 16 patterns, their degrees of difficulty (10 is the most challenging) and my recommendations for handling each. The first two, “the savior” and “the coward” patterns, are easier to overcome, while the last three, “the super romantic flame-out,” “the grass-is-greener” and “the slacker” types, are in the most challenging group.

1. The savior

He is a super-duper caretaker, a Mr. Fix-It who tries to be romantic too. Your happiness is his happiness. And he doesn’t have much happiness of his own. Underneath it all he is insecure and feels not good enough — so he seems clingy and smothering.

Degree of difficulty: 4 

If you are firm and he realizes he has to find his own happiness and stand up for himself or lose you, he will step up. Over time he could evolve into a great partner!

2. The coward

He is afraid of honest straight talk and very afraid of conflict. If differences come up he pulls away and prefers to communicate by e-mail or texts.

Degree of difficulty: 4

Many men have some degree of this pattern. You can break through by using positive talk, where you present your concerns in a loving, warm and clear way. Once you develop a way to navigate conflict, “the coward” can grow into a wonderful Mr. Right.

3.The super romantic flame-out

He is totally on your wavelength and crazy about you from the very first e-mail or glance at your photo. Chances are he is a serial monogamist who has brief periods of being in mad, passionate love with you, then the next, and the next one, following the path of chemistry, wherever it may lead.

Degree of difficulty: 8 

Take it slow and easy to make him prove himself. If he doesn’t, be ready to bail.

4. The grass-is-greener type

He has a hard time making up his mind, like he is never sure that the job he has is really the best one for him. Online dating has made this pattern very common. Because there is such a smorgasbord of women, men with this inclination are constantly looking to see whether they can do better.  

Degree of difficulty: 8 

If he is very true to type, he will be mortally terrified of “settling” — as in, settling down with you. It is usually best to move on before he does.

5. The slacker

He has grand dreams and plans that have been just over the horizon for years. He may be cute and engaging as he passionately describes all that he is going to do. But this is the guy who consistently shoots himself in the foot so that he misses the finish line. He didn’t finish anything — not his degree, his new Web site, his new book, project or the very deal that will get him ahead. 

Degree of difficulty: 8 

Unless he has started to seriously engage in therapy or coaching, you will not be able to rescue this guy. No, not even you.

Who are the keepers?

Any of these types may be intertwined with one or more of the other 11 self-sabotaging patterns in “Love in 90 Days.” It is important to understand the different problematic patterns and how to handle them. Men can vary a great deal in just how stuck they are.

The most important question to ask is, “Is he willing to grow? That is, work his way out of his own self-sabotaging pattern?” If a guy is a good person who is attractive to you, self-reflective, working on his issues and crazy about you, he is a keeper. Once again, no man is perfect. Of course, neither are you. So ask yourself: How much does this man want to have love, that is, love with you in his life? What is he willing to do or change to have that special, lasting experience?

As you consider the answers to these questions you will have many ‘Aha’ experiences in understanding the minds of men. Armed with this knowledge you can quickly get away from guys who are DUDs (Definitely Unworkable Dudes) or relationships that are truly dead-end or even destructive. You can see clearly when it is time to stay and work on the relationship or when it’s time to cut your losses and go. And then you will be free to choose the ones you want, the ones who give you love that is just right for you. 

Diana Kirschner, Ph.D., is a frequent guest psychologist on TODAY and the best-selling author of “Love in 90 Days: The Essential Guide to Finding Your Own True Love,” out now in paperback with a new chapter on “Dating Games Men Play.” You can contact Kirschner via her Web site,