Dear Rosie & Sherry,

I am a single man living in the sunny Southwest. I really enjoy your excellent dating advice, but I respectfully disagree with your comments to Beth in "Almost the One" (Dating Maze #258). Even though this guy was a complete coward to never call back -- after saying that he wants to see her again -- why can't she just call him herself and ask, "What's up?"

There are many reasons why this man may not have contacted her. Why do we assume that all of the pressure to initiate the phone call falls on the man? Add that to initiating the date, selecting the place to go, and following up -- all of this can be pretty overwhelming. On top of that, many men feel as though we're constantly being judged by our date. Do our choices meet with her approval -- even though we don't know her well enough to know what she'd like?!

I am in favor of a little more balance, and a little less pressure on the man. I think it is absolutely acceptable for the woman to call the man to follow-up on their discussion about a second date. So I'm wondering why you didn't advise Beth to do that?

I also want to mention that from my personal experience, there's usually a reason why someone gets into their upper 30s or 40s without being married. I've found that the some of the biggest unresolved issues with women are related to their fathers, or to men in general. Personally, I've just about given up on finding a woman who I can marry!

Anyway, I think your column is great. I just think that you advice to Beth missed the mark.

Michael

Dear Michael,

Thank you for sharing your perspective on Dating Maze #258. Some of our female readers suggested that Beth call the man who began to plan a second date and never followed through, but what really got us thinking were the letters from men offering the same advice.

You're right that no one piece of dating advice suits everyone, because each person has unique life experiences, character traits, and perspectives on life. However, the advice we offer our readers is based on years of experience working with hundreds of dating and married individuals, and it can be adapted to different life situations.

We didn't want to add to her pain with a possible rejection.

First, let us explain why we didn't encourage Beth to call this particular man. She was in a great deal of emotional pain, and we didn't want to have her add to that pain by setting herself up for a possible rejection.

In our experience, most men who don't follow up on dates are not interested in going out again. A man may give the impression that he had a great time and will tell his date that he'll call -- even though he doesn't plan on doing so -- because he feels uncomfortable turning her down.

By avoiding an awkward situation, a man creates an uncertainty that can be agonizing for the woman who awaits his phone call. She at least knows where she stands when she hears something like:

I want to thank you for our date last night. After doing some thinking, I realize that we are two very different people, and I don't believe it is a good idea for us to go out again.

But when she waits for a phone call that never comes, she goes from being hopeful, to doubting herself, to feeling disappointed. She may begin to feel angry at her date for misleading her, and question her own self-worth. As a defense mechanism, she may even start to distance herself from having positive feelings about men in general, and that -- as you pointed out at the end of your letter -- can cause permanent damage.

Honest Apology

You and some of our other readers suggested a different reason why Beth's date never called her. Perhaps he was anxious or afraid of getting rejected. Or perhaps he had to deal with an emergency situation, and then felt too embarrassed to call when the emergency passed. You're right -- any of these may have been the case, and the best thing for him to do would have been to ask for a second date, even belatedly. Yes, he may have felt embarrassed, or Beth may have turned him down, but these are some of the risks inherent in dating.

A belated phone call should begin with an honest apology, and sound something like this:

I'm sorry to have taken so long to call you again. I know that it wasn't fair to leave you hanging. Can you accept my apology? I enjoyed our date and I do want to go out with you again. Would you like to meet next Thursday night?

Indeed, if the man expressed interest in continuing to go out, but never followed up, a woman like Beth could take the initiative to contact him, as you suggested. After a few days have passed, Beth could call to say, "We spoke about plans to get together this weekend and I hoped to hear from you about it."

But here's the catch: As she musters the courage to make that call, Beth also needs to prepare for an answer she may not want to hear. So only if Beth can deal with her own embarrassment and with her date's potentially negative reaction, it would be worth it for her to make the call or to send an e-mail.

But let's get back to the core issue: Even though we live in the 21st century, and logic tells us that a woman should be able to aggressively pursue a date, most of the men we know resent those efforts when they are made at an early stage of the dating process. Since it can often take several dates before a man gets a sense that he likes and is attracted to a particular woman, he may be turned off by her making a follow-up call at an early point in the courtship.

A mutual acquaintance could play "cupid."

Given that, there's an alternative -- and "safer" -- way for Beth to see if this man wants to continue dating. If the two of them had been introduced by a friend, or have a mutual acquaintance, she might ask that person to play "cupid." This third party can call the man and mention that Beth thinks it's worthwhile to go out again, and encourage him to do so. (In Beth's particular case, since they "met" through an Internet site, this option might not have been available to her.)

Unresolved Issues

Your letter added a new dimension to our view of Beth's situation. Now, we'd like to address your own. You remarked that many unmarried people in their late 30s and 40s have unresolved issues that may be keeping them from building a relationship that will lead to marriage. That is often the case, but there can be other factors that have made it difficult for them to achieve their goal. You then concluded that because you're tired of the emotional baggage carried by many of the women you've dated, you've given up on trying to find a good woman to marry.

If you've been disappointed by certain qualities many women you've dated have displayed, it may be more a factor of who you're meeting, rather than a general truth about the dating population. So we'd like to suggest are a few small changes that could make a big difference in the type of women you date:

1) Consider re-defining the qualities you are looking for, and narrowing them down to the four most important ones? Then, think about the criteria you've used in the past to decide whether or not to date someone. Is there a qualitative difference?

2) Next, think about how you've met the women you've dated. Did you meet them through friend's introductions or networking, at parties or social events, at a bar or club, at work or synagogue, through the Internet or a dating service? Which of these methods have resulted in dates with women who are close to what you are looking for? Why not consider focusing on using more of the "better" venues in the future, and on focusing on looking for those four important qualities, rather than on all of the criteria you've used in the past?

We believe that if you adopt these few ideas, you'll see a turnaround in the type and nature of the women you date. We don't want you to give up on the hope of finding a woman to marry and of building a home and family, which is what you seem to be on the brink of doing.

We wish you success in navigating the dating maze,

Rosie & Sherry