I have a relatively new 30-year-old coaching client named Sarah who’s trying to do everything right after having, in her words, “done everything wrong.”
Sarah is the quintessential modern woman. She’s a physician assistant with two degrees from two prestigious universities — plus she’s super confident, very pretty, and fit.
Still, Sarah is struggling. Having been married and divorced twice (no kids), it’s fair to say Sarah has been successful in life but not in love.
A product of her generation, she was raised by a single mom and thus had no role model for how to make marriage work. Moreover, Sarah said, she “fell hook, line, and sinker” for the bogus cultural narratives that women should (a) have indiscriminate sex, the way many men do, (b) prioritize career over everything else, and (c) assume that when it comes time to get married and have kids — should women even want this distraction — they’ll simply find a mother substitute while they continue uninterrupted with said career, as if their entire world hasn’t just been upended in a profound and meaningful way.
Sarah no longer wants any part of this mindset. What she wants is a home, a husband, and a high-functioning marriage and family of her own. But she has no idea how to go about it.
That’s when she reached out to me. “I had a mentor for school and my career,” she writes, “but not for my personal life.”
The Problem with Modern Dating Is Sex
As we speak, Sarah is dating a man she really likes. They’ve been on five dates, and things are going well. Wanting to get it right this time, Sarah plans to go slow when it comes to sex. “I like him a lot,” she texted me, “but I know now that it’s SO important I don’t sleep with him.”
It’s at this exact juncture where so many young women get stuck. They like a guy, the guy shows interest, but neither she nor he has any idea how to proceed with an actual relationship. So what do they do instead? They have sex.
Casual sex, or “hooking up,” has officially supplanted traditional dating. While its meaning is vague — hooking up can mean anything from having coffee to having sex — it’s rooted in the conviction that sex is casual or no big deal.
Nothing could be further from the truth. “People treat sex like it’s casual. It’s not,” notes clinical psychologist Jordan Peterson. “Sex is unbelievably complicated. It’s dangerous. It involves emotions. It involves pregnancy. It involves illness. It involves betrayal. It reaches right down into the roots of someone. You don’t play with something like that casually. Well, you can, but you'll pay for it.”
Many women erroneously believe that having sex with a man will bring them love, but it doesn’t work that way.
And women are paying for it, much more so than men — for two reasons. One, women are significantly less able than men to disentangle sex and emotion, and thus rack up a boatload of pain and heartache. Two, women are the ones who have a shortened time frame in which to have a family and thus don’t have the freedom men do to “sow their wild oats” — which most women don’t want to do anyway. That’s just not how they’re made.
Moreover, many women erroneously believe that having sex with a man will bring them love, but it doesn’t work that way. Men are capable of falling in love, but they’re also capable of just having sex. It’s the woman’s job to steer the relationship in the direction she wants it to go.
If she lets a guy know he doesn’t have to put in the effort, he won't. If she lets him know he does, he will. When she does the latter, boom: a relationship is established.
It has always been this way between women and men. What makes modern women think it will be any different for them?
3 Rules for Finding Lasting Love
The underlying problem is that we’ve deleted the old rules but haven’t replaced them with any new ones that work. That’s why this generation is so confused.
Young women’s fear of vulnerability isn’t helping either. “During class discussions,” writes professor Andrew Reiner, “my students often admit to hoping that relationships will simply unfold through hooking up. ‘After all,’ one student recently said, ‘nobody wants to have The Talk,’ the dreaded confrontation that clarifies romantic hopes and expectations. ‘You come off as too needy’.”
To be needy is to ask more of someone’s time and energy than is reasonable. To be vulnerable is to be human.
I’m continually amazed that young people associate being vulnerable, which simply means to admit we feel things and that we’re capable of being hurt, with being needy. Those are two very different things. To be needy is to ask more of someone’s time and energy than is reasonable to expect. To be vulnerable is to be human. Are we no longer human?
The solution to this mess is simple. Women need, first and foremost, to reject outright the idea of casual sex — and from there begin to date with purpose and with parameters.
Below are three dating rules for marriage-minded women to get you on your way:
Rule #1: Don’t Be the Hunter. Be the Hunted!
I’m amazed at the number of women today who do the pursuing rather than wait to be pursued. This is shockingly new. For generations, women have known that men love a challenge. They want to “hunt” for that one special girl who stands out from the crowd, which works out well since women love to be the one who’s chosen.
Do not go after the guy — let him go after you. Be the woman who doesn’t act all googly-eyed around him, even if your heart goes pitter-patter when you’re near him. Don’t let him know how you feel! Play it cool. Let him think you’re too wrapped up in your own happy life to give him the time of day.
Men want to “hunt” for that one special girl who stands out from the crowd.
If you reverse this dynamic by being the one who makes the overture, you may get a positive response. However, you’ll never know if the guy is just being polite or if he’s actually “into” you. Because when a man is interested in you, trust me: You will know it. There will be zero confusion on your part. Zero. Nada. None.
A man who knows what he wants doesn’t hesitate to go after it. So if he’s not moving in your direction, he’s not interested. End of story.
Rule #2: Don’t Sleep with Him at the Beginning of the Relationship
When Sarah let her friends know she wasn’t going to sleep with New Guy, they told her she’s crazy — that he’ll run. They don’t seem to realize that if he does, that’s a good thing. Sarah will have just saved herself a boatload of time by weeding out the men who don’t want what she wants.
Sex is not meant to be something you do at the beginning of a relationship. It comes later, after the bond has been established and the “I love yous” have been exchanged. Put the cart before the horse, and the relationship won’t move forward in the direction you want it to go.
Never have more than two drinks when you’re with him because alcohol lowers inhibitions.
To succeed at this, you’ll need to watch your alcohol intake. Never have more than two drinks when you’re with him. Alcohol lowers inhibitions, and you’ll be far less likely to follow Rule #1 if you drink too much.
Rule #3: Let Him Know Up Front That You’re Looking for Love and a Relationship
Now that you’re not going to be sleeping with your guy (and you’ve made this clear one way or another), you’ll have plenty of time for what you should be doing: getting to know each other! Throughout this process, it will become evident to both of you what you each want out of life. I mean, let’s face it, it’s hard to talk about your work, your family, your past relationships, and your future without discovering the other person’s values and goals.
It will become evident to both of you what you each want out of life.
For instance, when I met my husband I’d been married once before (no kids), and in hearing my story it was obvious to him that what I wanted wasn’t what my ex wanted. So right off the bat, my husband knew what I was looking for without my coming right out and announcing it.
Putting the Rules into Action
Which brings us back to Sarah. By putting the above rules into action, she was amazed at New Guy’s reaction. He was confused at first, then he was intrigued. Sarah was clear with New Guy about what she was looking for, and he responded accordingly. “I can’t believe it’s that easy!” she texted me sometime later.
It’s that easy because men will live up to or fall short of whatever standards women set. This is true whether we’re talking about sex or communication or anything else.
If women want to have an honest-to-goodness relationship that lasts, they need to change the way they think and behave — dramatically. That’s what Sarah did, and it worked spectacularly. It will work for you, too.