We Asked Guys To Weigh In On These Popular Dating Theories

Is it true it only takes a man 15 minutes to figure out if he wants to date you, hook up with you, or have nothing to do with you? Let’s unpack the truth about the most viral dating “theories.”

By Andrea Mew7 min read
Pexels/Victoria Strelka_ph

Do you ever find yourself puzzled by the highs and lows of relationships and wish you could sneak into the mind of a man? Well, neurotechnological brain implants like Neuralink are still in their infancy and therefore can’t help us understand what’s going on in the heads of the opposite sex right now, but that’s what the internet is for, right? Social media makes it so simple for people to share their own raw testimonies, stories, and theories about sex relations and human nature in general.

Anyone and their mother could become a viral “dating expert” on TikTok, just like how anyone on that platform can self-describe as bipolar or even the opposite sex. While some of these “dating experts” or coaches might be funny or share some relatable anecdotes, many perpetuate divisive platitudes that worsen the battle of the sexes. It’s all well and good to crowdsource some lighthearted relationship advice, but lately, we’ve noticed how popular it has become to share simplistic dating theories like the Box Theory, the Taxi Cab Theory, and the If He Wanted To He Would Theory.

Instead of relying on testimonials from dating influencers who tailor their content for virality on TikTok by giving “hot takes” or using kitschy lingo, I took it upon myself to survey a diverse range of men to get their honest thoughts on the most popular dating theories. Turns out, men are more complex than TikTok love gurus may lead you to believe.

The Box Theory

Okay, so, allegedly, within 15 minutes of meeting a woman, men categorize her into one of three boxes. He either wants to date her, hook up with her, or have nothing to do with her. 

Coined by TikTok influencer Tinx (Christina Najjar) in 2021 and thrust back into dating discourse by relationship expert Mario Mirante in 2023, the “box theory” asserts that men know right away just what they want from a woman they meet. Furthermore, people say that once you’re in one box, it’s difficult to ever make it into another box – i.e. a man’s “booty call” isn’t likely to be on his radar to marry, according to box theory.

The men I interviewed were somewhat divided on how valid box theory actually is in practice, but overall agreed with the concept. One agreed so vehemently that he said he’d argue a man can know even faster than 15 minutes by “analyzing” her looks or overall vibe to determine what type of person she may be. A couple of the men pointed out how this principle really only works if a guy does “hook-ups” or is, as one bluntly put it, “a male slut.”

“Good men have boundaries, but most men aren’t good men,” he said. “If I meet a woman, I do definitely notice whether or not I am attracted to her, but because I have standards and decency, my mind doesn’t jump to hooking up or dating.”

Other guys weren’t so sold on the concept of box theory. One thought that the categories needed a little bit more overlapping, where there could be blurrier lines between desire to date, simply feeling attracted, wanting to associate or be friends with, or not wanting to associate or be friends with the woman entirely.

Another man linked box theory to “situationships,” a newer, cleaner slang for relationships of undefined nature. He felt that box theory was absolutely not true because he had personal experience where “situationships” transcended that hook-up box. He admitted, “There have been times where my intentions were to solely hook up with someone, which then evolved into dating for a longer period of time.”

The Taxi Cab Theory

This next theory screams total double standard for anyone who has ever complained about men dehumanizing or objectifying women. Say hello to the “taxi cab theory.” This theory originated on the early 2000s television series Sex and The City but has recently shot back into popularity because of – you guessed it – TikTok.

Miranda explains this theory to Charlotte: “Men are like cabs; when they're available, their light goes on. They wake up one day and decide they're ready to settle down, have babies, whatever, and they turn their light on. The next woman they pick up, boom! That's the one they'll marry."

Essentially, this theory suggests that love doesn’t have anything to do with commitment for a man, it’s more about the right timing in his life or him reaching a point of exhaustion where he’s not eager to go on another failed first date.

Most of the men I spoke with overwhelmingly disagreed with the taxi cab analogy, claiming it oversimplified male behavior and intentions.

One man said that it’s not about timing, per se, it’s actually about a man’s maturity. Boys, he said, want to hook up, but men are looking for the right woman and will stick to stricter standards. “I was once a boy, and no matter how good a woman was, I was in my ‘not settle-down phase.’ However, I met someone who made me realize I did want to settle down, and it took me a long time to earn her love and mature out of the boy phase.”

The right woman, he added, can bring a man out of his “boy phase,” but it’s less likely to happen if the man is still too immature. Another echoed this sentiment, saying that he takes commitment so seriously that he wouldn’t even think about settling down with a woman until he’s fully ready. “I think that so-called ‘high value men’ understand the importance of being financially, mentally, physically, and spiritually capable before a relationship, and I'm along those lines,” he explained. “But, when the light turns on, it doesn't mean I'm hypothetically going to marry the first person who steps into the cab.” 

Several of the men I interviewed were aghast at the idea of a man caving to dating fatigue and just settling for the first available woman rather than sticking to their values. “If men are really having to resort to that, then we truly live in a gynocentric society where women absolutely wield all the power and control in romantic and sexual relationships,” said one of the men.

Another said, “I'd dare say that anyone who really sticks to that taxi cab rule out of exhaustion where they're willing to date anyone... I feel sorry for them because that's a recipe for a bad marriage, and a bad marriage is a recipe for divorce.”

Alright, so clearly, there’s more nuance to men than comparing them to a piece of large machinery. Of course, there are some men out there who prioritize other things in life than finding the most compatible partner, but it seems like more men want to find a woman with whom they can build a beautiful life together. 

If He Wanted To He Would Theory

If a man is interested in you, or he wants to be with you, he’ll figure out a way to make that happen, right? This is the “If He Wanted To He Would” theory, which was not-so-lovingly deemed an “obnoxious” platitude in Glamour and has skyrocketed in popularity thanks to short-form video content on (once again) TikTok.

Perhaps a woman has been in a relationship for a while, and her man hasn’t put a ring on it, or perhaps she has simply been waiting patiently to hear the words “I love you” or “I’m sorry.” This theory asserts if he wanted to do any of these things, he would. If he doesn’t actually want to spend the rest of his life with her, he won’t tease her with commitment.

The men I interviewed were very divided on this theory. One thought that it’s not fair to equate “male inaction” with “disinterest,” since there’s a lot at risk if a guy makes a romantic gesture in today’s post-Me Too culture. 

“The top three places in which partners are most likely to meet are at school, at work, or at church,” he began. “Following the 21st century feminist march-through-the-institutions, a man who wants to make a romantic gesture toward a woman in two of those three environments (work or school), risks considerable social, economic, and legal consequences if their gesture is unwelcome, and most men who are in the dating stage of their lives cannot bear that cost.”

Another man thought that, while the theory sounded romantic, there is too much nuance that discredits such a broad, sweeping statement. “Especially if a guy is shy, I could see him not wanting to approach a girl he's not yet dating and waiting to see if she will give some kind of indication that his advancements wouldn't be totally unsolicited or unwanted,” he admitted. “I just don't like this sh*t where men or women are expected to fill one role, and if he is or isn't doing X, it definitely means Y.”

But to some of the other men, this theory totally checked out. One man cited some wisdom he learned from British life coach Matt Hussey, who believes that unrequited love is masochism and not a relationship. For this reason, he agreed with the theory and said that if a man isn’t willing to invest in a woman, it’s time to move on. 

“If you really want someone, you will go after them at all costs,” said another one of the men.

It’s also worth noting that several of the men who agreed with this theory thought it wasn’t exclusive to men, and that this is a no-brainer that applies to women too!

You Should Be Wary of “One-Size-Fits-All” Dating Advice

Personally, red flags are immediately raised for me when I read platitudes like these viral “theories” that make broad, sweeping statements about the male population. First off, not to be a narc, but none of these are really “theories” because a theory is supposed to be well-substantiated, well-tested, and an observable explanation for natural phenomena. 

Nowadays, people tend to use the term “theory” interchangeably for a simple “belief” that should really just be called a “hypothesis” if anything. Pseudoscience makes for pretty quick, viral content that can spark widespread discourse. I love a healthy dose of speculation, argumentation and thought-experimentation, but let’s not pretend that any of these dating theories are scientifically sound or inform us about the human experience beyond semi-frequent patterns of behavior.

With all this in mind, I wanted to know if the guys I interviewed felt that relationships and dating strategies are really so straightforward for men (as these theories suggest) in comparison to women. Or, are men much more complex than people make them out to be?

Many of the male-specific dating issues revolve around maturity and priorities. 

The general consensus among the men was that both sexes deal with completely unique sets of issues. It may seem like the XY sex is uncomplicated, but according to the guys I spoke with, this is because many of the male-specific dating issues revolve around maturity and priorities. 

“Men who are good real men are straightforward. We want to love, provide, support, and be married with a family,” one of the men stated. “Boys want to f*ck around and need attention for validation.”

Another man suggested that men, generally speaking, have a harder time dating before they hit their 30s, but that it becomes significantly easier as they move through their 30s and into their 40s. For women, he asserted, this phenomenon is reversed so that it’s typically easier for women to date, marry, and have healthy children while younger. He argued that “in a very stark way,” this construct is “much worse” for women than it is for men because women end up having “less time.”

One man pointed out another way where men may have the disadvantage in dating. He suggested that most men consider most women to be above-average candidates to date, but that most women actually consider most men to be below-average candidates. To overcome the odds, he said, men have to go to greater efforts to meet women in their league.

In any case, several of the men responded that both men and women are way more complex than any of the theories suggest. 

“I think that, overall, there are symptoms that can be great indicators for dating, whether the person is a good match or isn't, or if they're toxic or not,” one of the men stated. “But an entire framework through which to view men or women with a mosaic of rules and strategies, the heavier the framework, the more delusional it gets.”

It seems that these dating theories ultimately carry about as much credibility as astrology since, as one of the men put it, “love, timing and commitment are non-overlapping magisteria” which “vary between cultures and from person to person.” Indeed, an observable phenomenon for one person’s relationship can’t always be applied to the next person’s relationship.

I lament the fact that “alpha male,” manosphere dating sermons and pick-up artist bootcamps spread like wildfire online – from self-development “experts” like Owen Cook or Andrew Tate to random know-it-all users like Alpha Dom – and I also lament the fact that women hungrily circulate bitter, anti-male platitudes. It’s more than just pseudoscience, it’s just aimless advice or accusations that distract people from engaging in normal, human interactions. 

Relationships built by either of these mindsets aren’t built to last, in my opinion. But it’s not just me. When I asked the guys about the best bit of dating advice they had ever received – something that could transcend trendy dating theories – I received a really thoughtful answer that, I think, perfectly closes out this little investigation. This man was taught that, prior to commitment, he needed to thoroughly sus out if he actually shared any values with said woman he was pursuing.

“Shared values transcend shared interests and shared politics,” he advised. “Most people make dating decisions based on the latter two criteria, despite them being less significant and less enduring than the former. Before you commit to a relationship with someone, determine your shared values, and test or observe how those values help you resolve difficult conflicts.”

Closing Thoughts

You might be tempted to buy into advice shared by internet dating coaches, but these theories can’t always provide real answers to your dating problems. The internet offers more advice – dating or otherwise – than any one person could ever dream of, but just because accessible advice is out there, it doesn’t mean that it’s good advice. 

Because relationships revolve around emotions, people are very opinionated about what they think works and what they think doesn’t. Unfortunately, dating doesn’t operate like a one-size-fits-all Brandy Melville outfit. I’m not alleging that “dating experts” are purposefully spreading misinformation, and I’m sure many have good intentions, but let’s be honest – everyone learns poignant lessons through trial and error while dating that won’t be relevant in other people’s lives. Pick and choose what “advice” you take to heart, and always keep an open mind about how the opposite sex actually operates.

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