Q: I’ve been separated from my wife for three years, but I find myself craving her. I say “crave” because I don't think I ever really loved her. We only got together 15 years ago because she asked me out. I would never have approached her, as I’m not attracted to her. She is overweight, has a 10th-grade education, and is wildly irresponsible with money. I’ve been in five one-sided relationships that started like this one, with my fear, insecurity, or laziness allowing me to be led in. I’ve been spending time with my wife and realized that nothing about her has changed, and there’s little chance of our being happy together. I guess I should’ve had a bunch of dates and physical intimacy with attractive single women, but I haven’t been with anyone since our separation. What is my problem?
A: If somebody needs an asteroid shifted or wants to know whether Lois Lane is wearing any underwear, they call Superman. You, on the other hand, are the anti-superhero, Do-Nothing Man. You don’t fly (or even crawl) after what you want; you just turn into a giant sticky target so the universe can drop space debris on you — a broken chair, a wife, beer cans the astronauts threw out of the Mir.
The Declaration of Independence talks about “the pursuit of happiness.” Hint: You actually have to chase it. That takes having the guts to go after what makes you happy instead of going home with whatever plucks you off the dessert table and drops you in her purse like a miniature cupcake among men.
Unfortunately, on the alpha male scale, you’re pretty much Hello Kitty. Let’s be clear: You don’t crave your wife; you crave the easy way out. You’d rather go back to a woman you find physically repellant than risk being rejected by one you actually want, probably because you feel your worth is determined by whether people like you (what other people think of me-esteem). In “The Six Pillars of Self-Esteem” (a book you need to read), therapist Nathaniel Branden writes that self-esteem — feeling worthy of happiness and competent to deal with what life throws you — comes out of self-acceptance: choosing to value yourself, to treat yourself with respect, and to stand up for your right to exist.
If you’re shipwrecked on one of those little islands in a New Yorker cartoon and you ask the lone woman there “You wanna climb the coconut tree with me?” and she says no, you have a problem. Otherwise, a no is just reason to ask the next woman out — and the next, and the next — until one you like says yes. Statistically, if you approach a lot of women you want, you should eventually get one — and, in the meantime, get to the point where rejection is something you mostly find boring. Yes, you do need to work on your self-worth, but you can’t wait for it to be all shiny and great. Fixing yourself takes time. Acting fixed takes only guts and a clean shirt, and then, if all goes well, making moves that suggest you’ll be an animal in bed, and not the kind that stands frozen in headlights in the middle of a country road.
Q: A work buddy swears that if he’s kind of mean to women, they want him way more than if he’s respectful and nice. Seriously? I’m no wimp, but I wouldn’t know how to treat women like this and am kind of afraid to start.
— Han Solo
A: Women just love it when a man pulls the chair out from under them or leans over and says, “Shall I compare thee to a box of Summer’s Eve?” The notion that you can “neg” a woman — insult her into bed — comes out of the Pickup Artist community. In “The Game,” Neil Strauss explains the neg as an “accidental insult” meant “to lower a woman’s self-esteem while actively displaying a lack of interest in her — by telling her she has lipstick on her teeth … or offering her a piece of gum after she speaks.” “Accidentally” demeaning a woman into bed is a more successful scheme than trying to flatter her there, but it’s still a scheme and one plenty of women are now on to (marking a guy who uses it as loserville). If your first impulse isn’t to lick a woman’s shoes in hopes of making her like you, maybe the secret is not having a secret but being comfortable with yourself and letting women see that you’re warm, interesting, and fun to talk to. Unfortunately, this will leave you with a far less amusing “how we met” story for your future children than “Well, kids, I told your mom she had a fat ass, and the rest was history.”
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