I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately: what is the natural progress of a male-female relationship, and how does a man approach relationships, without being lecherous, unduly forward, or too passive?
My current working theory is as follows, and is up for peer review:
When a guy begins a relationship (as acquaintences) with a girl, there are two endpoints that relationship can reach: close friends (like a sister), or a romantic interest (RI). At the beginning, those two paths are the same, but at some point in the relationship, they diverge, and one must be chosen.
Typically, when a single guy meets a woman he finds attractive, a slew of thoughts run through his head:
- “Wow, this girl’s cute.”
- “She has impeccable style.”
- “Her hair’s very pretty like that..”
- “Boobs.” -- (Yes, this happens even to the best of us. It’s a base instinct. And ladies, don’t think of it as degrading, but rather, complimentary.)
- “Beautiful eyes…”
- “I wonder what her name is.”
- And so on and so forth.
All of this happens before a single word is said. Then the two are introduced, and start a conversation.
At this point, the guy begins evaluating the girl as to whether she’s a potential RI. He looks for certain factors that could make or break the decision:
- Does she have a ring on her finger? (If so, steer clear of RI territory. Trust me, even if she’s into you, you don’t want to be the cause of a divorce.)
- Is she here with a boyfriend? (There’s a bit more leeway here, but you still don’t want to be the guy who steals another guy’s girl. That’s just low. Wait ’til they break up, or move on.)
Once she passes the Single Test™, he starts looking for signs she might be a good match for him. This tends to vary from man to man, but some possible items:
- Is she intelligent?
- What sort of books does she like?
- Does she like Star Wars?
- Do she share any other hobbies with me?
- Does she seem like the kind of person I would like to be friends with?
If the answer to the last one is yes, the relationship moves on to Phase 3.
This is when the paths mentioned in the summary begin in earnest, but they both occupy the same road. The man and woman both enjoy each others company, are generally at ease around one another, and can have fun together. There’s little tension at first, and this gives both the man and the woman a chance to see the other for who they are and to form opinions.
At some point during their tenure as friends, the man must decide whether he wishes to pursue the woman as a romantic interest and if so, work up the courage (or level of drunkenness) to ask her out. It’s usually better if this point comes sooner than later, for a number of reasons:
- A relationship that lingers in the friend stage can be entirely confusing if one party is unsure of the other’s intentions.
- Putting the issue to rest sooner prevents one party from developing too strong feelings too early, which if left unfulfilled may turn to resentment over time.
If the man chooses to ask her out, the woman can choose to accept the invitation and fit into the role of Romantic Interest. Alternatively, she can politely (hopefully) reject the offer, and direct the relationship onto the other path. If she needs some time to think about it, that’s fine, too. The main idea here is to define exactly how you both want to proceed.
It’s at this point that the man must walk the path he’s given. If he’s on the RI path, congratulations, he’s found himself a girlfriend, and if all goes well, the relationship will progress towards marriage, and a happily ever after ending.
If not, the relationship continues towards a point where the woman is viewed as a sister. For younger women, the man is usually a protector. For older women, or women roughly the same age, this takes on more of a “close friend” or “confidante” role, where you both feel comfortable enough to share things you wouldn’t normally share with other people, but there’s no sexual tension.
In the case of the latter, it’s usually a good idea for the man to abandon the pursuit of the woman as an potential RI at that point. While it’s possible she may change her mind at a later date, it’s not likely, and there are plenty of other women out there. As I mentioned before, this is a lot easier if strong feelings of attachment haven’t been given the chance to grow. (In other words, get things straight before you get your hopes up too high.)
I should also note that not every relationship needs to be taken to the extreme ending point of “super close friend”, “paramour”, or “wife.” You can stop along the path at any point, and stay in a stasis of sorts. Two people can remain acquaintances, casual friends, etc without progressing it at all.
Both outcomes can be rewarding and fulfilling, if handled with grace and care, and if the relationship is nurtured properly. One is not necessarily superior to the other, but if you’re a single guy, and in search of a romantic interest, it’s good to find out early if you’re barking up the wrong tree.
Most of this is probably common sense and happens naturally, but I enjoy breaking things down and looking at them analytically. If you took the time to read this far, let me know what you guys think.