Women: Being Unavailable Versus Playing A Game

When I am working with women moving on from a relationship and getting ready to date again, I encourage them to be a little less available than they had been in their last relationship. Inevitably, they say to me, "I don't want to play games. I want to be who I am."

My question to them is: well, why is it that “who you are” is someone always ready to drop things and run when a man wants your attention? Why do you think that anyone would find that attractive? You may think that a man is going to think that you're a supportive, caring person but, trust me, that is not the way you are coming off.

But the way you are coming off to him is neither here nor there. It doesn’t matter what it looks like, it matters what it is like. And what it needs to be like is that your own life is good for you, for your man and for your relationship.

Having your life and your own interests makes you an attractive person. This is true when you're dating or when you're married 10 years. When people are dating they try to put their best foot forward, but you do not want to advertise a person with a great life who isn't ever going to be a burden or a weepy "you never pay attention to me" girlfriend and then give it all once he's yours. That's not fair to your man, the relationship or to you. You are not the person he fell in love with. You gave up your life for him and that isn't what he wanted. Even if he seems to WANT you around all the time, the bottom line is that he really doesn't.  And that's not a bad thing. 

If it doesn't work out, so many women are wondering what happened to her life. "I gave up my friends, my family, my classes, my hobbies to nest with Mr. Wonderful. Now Mr. Wonderful is gone and my nest is empty and so is my life." Yes, women want to nest, but your man can fly the coop. Especially if the coop is boring and engulfing.

Biologically and historically women are the nesters and men are the hunters/gatherers. But women in 2012 should be spending time outside the nest and not acting like Ms. Cave Lady waiting for Grog to bring home the bronto burgers.

The most important piece of information that women are completely unaware of is that,  in general, men and women are comfortable at very different places on the “bonding spectrum.” The bonding spectrum is where a person feels most comfortable in proximity to another in an intimate relationship. While some of this is individual and there are exceptions to the rule, there are generalities that exist and are worth knowing.

Think of the “bonding spectrum” as line that goes from zero to one hundred, with 0 being complete separation and 100 being complete attachment.   It’s not a secret that women feel comfortable at the higher end of the spectrum. They like being close and they like cocooning and nesting. It’s somewhat biological. Some women are insecure wrecks and want to be with and know where their man is all the time.  But, a healthy woman does not like complete attachment and are most comfortable in the 70-80 percent range.

Men, on the other hand, feel comfortable right in the middle. They fear engulfment when made to go any higher than 50 percent, and they fear abandonment any lower. Again, this is somewhat innate.

Twenty first century women don’t really want to hear this and ask, "If it’s so innate, what is the answer? Will men and women be in complete conflict forever over where on the bonding spectrum they should meet? Does all this talk about biology mean that men will forever be commitmentphobic and women will forever feel abandoned?"

No. There are plenty of couples who know that to be happy people they need to have whole identities separate and apart from the relationship. A happy and whole woman has things to do that involves her and only her outside the family unit.

But for those who don’t know to do that, it’s important to understand that when a man is secure that he will not be engulfed if he goes higher than 50 percent, he will not only go higher than 50 percent, but he will look forward to it. But when you have your man there at the higher end of the bonding spectrum, it has to be for a finite period of time. It also helps matters if the woman breaks the bond and goes back to separation than if he feels as if he's running away or needs to pull himself away in the face of tears and recriminations.

When his visit to the higher end of the spectrum turns ugly he's going to be less inclined, next time, to visit you at 80 percent and hang around the nest. When he is feeling less inclined, you will do the one wrong thing you can do: chase him. You will feel abandoned, unloved and try to drag him up to 80 with tears and recriminations.  But instead of just running back to 50, he is now he is running toward 30 and eventually to 0, trying to get away from this engulfing crazy person. And you'll either breakup or be doing this dance forever.

The next question women ask is, “Well, why can't men work more on attachment? Why are you telling women to recognize this?”

Because there's really no payoff for men to be more attached. Even if you get them to sit around the nest,nesting to him is not the same as nesting to you. To them it means channel surfing, not snuggling with you.  They're going to play video games and watch football.  Staying home together might mean intimacy to you, but to him it probably means playing Madden 2012.

So then what is the payoff for women to hang back at

This article was originally published at . Reprinted with permission from the author.