How to Pick a Lover

Sharing The Initiative

Courtship consists of a number of quiet attentions, not so pointed as to alarm, nor so vague as not to be understood.
—Lawrence Sterne

The person who makes the first move toward a relationship takes a certain amount of risk. He must declare himself in some way or another so that the stranger knows he’s interested in becoming better acquainted with her. If this is done very casually, then little of his self-image is at stake; if it’s done more seriously and more deliberately, then the person taking the risk is more vulnerable.

In traditional dating-based courtship, it fell to the man to take all of this emotional risk. The first move was always his. I doubt that this has changed very much even today. The very first move is still likely to be a male move, and both people may be more comfortable with that.

However, courtship is no longer only a one-way process, or it need not be. It is nice to be courted and to passively let a new friendship happen; it is also nice to court and to be more assertive about it. The very best scenario is when the two roles are interchangeable from one point in time to the next as they are when friendships are formed between same-sex friends.

Victor Hugo observed that the first symptom of love in a young man is timidity, but the first symptom of love in a young woman is boldness. The two sexes have a tendency to approach, and each assume the qualities of the other. This move toward androgyny and toward mutuality is certainly conducive to better relationships and to fewer misunderstandings. Yet how to go about it is often less than obvious.

The Flirtation

The Flirtation (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In the initiation of relationships, as in other aspects of sexuality, there remain vestiges of the double standard. The first approach which is made shouldn’t be too forceful for either sex. But being obvious and blatant is more or less acceptable for almost all men—or at least all men who have a reasonable claim to being your social equal. While being blatant may be “acceptable,” it is becoming increasingly less enticing to women, and a more subtle approach is preferred. Being obvious and blatant is equally bad form for a woman—even an emancipated one. More importantly, it is unlikely to achieve your desired ends.

The woman who sets out to court a man has a double task: how to take the initiative, and how to take the initiative without seeming to take the initiative. She must be explicit without being obvious. She must be evocative without being provocative.

It’s no wonder women do not yet know how to act in this role, and men don’t know how to respond.

Comments on: "Sharing The Initiative" (7)

  1. Great post. I’ve written that girls should FACILITATE the process. This makes dating 1,000 times easier. eg. “A key one of these is to FACILITATE. If you like a guy (and going out with him once or twice or kissing him you probably do), encourage him to keep contacting you. Write back to his messages. Ask him questions. Make him feel good about himself.”

    Many guys are terrified of rejection. This will greatly help the process.

    1. Facilitate

    If you like a man, facilitate him taking a bigger interest in you. When female friends have told me they like a guy, I’ll reply with “well… does he have any idea?”

    ” They’ll reply “no… well… I dunno…?”

    “Well have you given him any indication that you like him?”

    “Like what?”

    “Smile at him a bit more. Touch him on the arm when he does something you like. Don’t throw yourself at him, but facilitate him asking you out. Be in a position where he is confident that if he asks you out, you’ll say yes”.

    “But shouldn’t he just know?”

    “Not always. Now do it”.

    Yes, men should be more alpha and more prepared to go after girls. But it’s enormously helped by girls facilitating it.

    • I’m glad you liked the post. I clearly agree with your response. The initiative has to be shared and facilitated. Why do you think it is that today’s women are not more proactive in facilitating relationships?

  2. Interesting the difference in our responses and our roles. I wonder if age and experience changes how we respond and react.

    • I do think much of this changes with experience and age, and from individual to individual. In general it is amazing how ingrained traditional sex roles continue to be long after the sexual revolution, feminism and the push for gender equality.

  3. workspousestory said:

    I like that statement about women becoming bolder while men becoming timid. I can’t say from the male perspective, and I believe I’ve seen both approaches, but for me – yes, when I’m interested in someone, I will usually become bolder about them.

    Thanks for sharing this interesting view.

    • I think it is the male ego and fear of rejection that makes many men become more timid. Especially when they are not sure whether they will get a positive response.

  4. Bad Times For Democracy said:


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