Men and Relationships

Gloria G. Brame,PhD,ACS


SURVEY: Men and Relationships
by Gloria G. Brame
This survey was first published in Cosmo in 1994

COSMO went on-line this month looking for a few dozen good men to answer women's eternal, burning questions about how men feel about commitment, sexual fidelity, dating, wage equality...and even housework. Our intrepid reporter bluntly asked for the unabashed truth and received tons of thoughtful, witty, irreverant, and profound replies from men as near as the boy-next-door and as far away as an Aussie from Down Under. Safe behind their screens, our cyber-fellows opened up about their innermost thoughts, hopes, and opinions--and revealed things they would never admit to women face-to-face.

COSMO: What is it about COMMITMENT that scares the daylights out of you?

Parker, 30, Air Force Officer, Ottawa, Canada: You mean forever? For the rest of my life, no changing my mind? That's pretty scary for someone who spends ten minutes trying to decide which beer to order!

Jason, 38, Director of Engineering firm, Atlanta, GA: Lack of definition. If it just means faithful, OK. If it means we have to plan out our lives from now until the end of the world, don't bother. If it means (as it sometimes does), "You have to commit to what I say," then double don't bother!

Buzz, 38, Poet, Dunwoody, GA: I fear making a commitment I can't keep. Breaking a commitment is traumatic, it's a personal failure. When I give my word I mean it so I don't give it easily.

Carlo, 40, Optometrist, Maplewood, NJ: I am in the process of divorcing my wife of ten years, and if anything scares me about commitment, it is the possibility of committing to the wrong person.

Blake, 43, Novelist, Albany, NY: My biggest fear is that I'll become bored and end up feeling trapped. I find routine to be deadly, and I fear that once the commitment is made, my partner will settle into "comfortable familiarity" and become less and less interested in spontaneity, creativity, and exploration.

Kirk, 50, Court Reporter, New York City: Having been married, I know that no matter how well you know your mate, how true you are to each other, once you go that next step--marriage/live-in-- things change. You are now melded into a third entity: yourself, your mate, and the thing that you will become together.

COSMO: If you tend to lose interest in a woman after the chase is over (and you've gotten her into bed), can you explain why?

Drew, 29, Grocery Stock, Hammonsport, NY: Sometimes the chase is all that makes it exciting. It's like hunting. Once the objective is achieved, the fun tends to go out of it.

Liam, 34, Chef, St. Louis, MO: I usually haven't lost interest as soon as consummation, but on those occasions I have it seems clear to me that I'm a greedy swine who craves new sensation.

Ian, 37, Advertising Copywriter, Melbourne, Australia: I hate the chase. It's only after the chase is over that you begin to open up and share yourself. Getting to know how she takes her coffee. How she loves serious music (like you do) but hates opera (like you don't). How she flirts when she's a little tipsy. How she drives better than anyone you know. How her bathroom is three shades of duck-egg blue. And how you never quite know what color her hair is going to be this week. (Gee, I don't know this woman, but I love her already!)

Nicolas, 40, English Professor, Hattiesburg, MS: The last time it happened, I lost interest because I found out she really wasn't who I thought she was. Not that she misled me, but maybe my expectations were colored by my hormones. In any event, I suddenly just wanted out.

Jack, 46, Civil Engineer, Berkley, MA: I don't lose interest. I have been married for 22 years and the chase hasn't ended yet. I still love my wife and chase her.

COSMO: If you found out that a woman you were involved with and cared about had been unfaithful to you, would you be willing to forgive her and try to salvage the relationship?

Richard, 31, Naval Officer, St. Mary's, GA: Yes, if I could understand her reasons. For example, if we had been having problems, and she needed a friend that got out of hand, I can understand. But a woman who cheated for the hell of it or because she was tired of me? I think not.

Scott, 32, Computer Technician/Musician, Somerville, NJ: Absolutely and unequivocally: YES!

Nigel, 36, Systems Analyst, London, England: Yes. I have twice. As long as I feel I've understood her reasons, and can come to grips with them emotionally and intellectually, unfaithfulness won't neccesarily kill a relationship.

Jack: I would be willing to try and salvage the relationship. I'm not sure there would be so much to forgive as there would be something to have to understand--why did she do it in the first place?

Matt, 50, Writer/Editor, Green Village, NJ: That happened, and I wept and moaned and suffered and still tried to forgive her and salvage the relationship (note the emphasis on "tried"?). She finally removed herself from my life, but not without a lot more stress and anguish.

Kirk: No, I would not forgive her, as I would expect that she would not forgive me. In this day and age (AIDS) you have a sexual-health responsibility to each other. When you try to salvage a relationship, you end up walking down "Memory Lane"...and you're bound to get mugged.

COSMO: Why wouldn't you call a woman back after a good first or second date--especially if you told her you would?

Justin, 26, Construction Manager, Toronto, Canada: I can't imagine ever not calling back after a first date! If I had no intention of calling back, I wouldn't say so in the first place. If I changed my mind, I'd probably send a note with my apologies but that I didn't think I would be able to see her again, so she wasn't left waiting for the phone to ring.

Scott: I think what happens goes something like: don't want to call her the very next day, it'll look too pushy. Second day, maybe still too forward. Third day, critical day; if you forget to call her this day, it now becomes...fourth day. Now she's likely to give you a tongue lashing for not calling sooner. And if, for some reason, you make it to five days without a call, you're so afraid of what she'll say to you that you figure you'd be better off to just let it go.

Pierce, 33, Reporter, Atlanta, GA: It takes a few days to sort out the pros and cons. Sure, a woman may be intelligent and fun to be with, but the fact that she's a serial killer might become bothersome later on. The excitement of meeting a new person often tempts one to gloss over little character flaws and differences of opinion. Of course, I would never make false promises to a woman unless I was handcuffed to her bed.

Nicolas: I was about to say this had never happened before, but it has once. I don't know why I never called back except that when I was walking to her door I tripped on the sidewalk and then sat through a movie bleeding from a cut on my wrist.

Matt: Maybe the date wasn't that good from his standpoint, maybe he pretended he had a great time and then told his buddies, "What a dog! She spits when she talks."

Brian, 51, Writer, Lansing, MI: Maybe if I died, or was kidnapped or found out she was a demonic vampire from Hell, but other than that, I'm pretty sure I would call her back.

COSMO: Do men play the games women play when they want to seem elusive, such as saying you're busy because you don't want to seem dateless? If the answer is "yes," could you give us some examples of a man not wanting to appear too anxious?

Justin: Do men play hard to get? You bet! Everyone does! It's a universal trait: people don't want to be seen as "needing" attention. Coming across as uninterested implies that you have lots of other equally or more interesting people in your life, therefore you are popular and attractive. Example: I've had roommates take messages for me and waited a day to return calls.

Kevin, 29, CEO of Mortgage Company, Stamford, CT: Of course we play these games. Here's one: Not calling too soon after a great date: Why? The man doesn't want to appear too eager. It's all about control...whose terms the relationship will be on down the road. And testing another person's feelings: If she calls me, she likes me.

Parker: Men certainly play games, but not the same ones as women. Both try to balance the need to appear indifferent with the need to pursue. The pursuit arises from the fact that successfully starting any relationship takes thought and energy, and the indifference from the fact that at some level we always believe anyone who is really interested in us must be too stupid to be worthwhile.

Stefan, 39, Musician/Songwriter, Cedaredge, CO: Both genders play these games. I hate them. An example would be just keeping conversation on a platonic level while you have butterflies in the stomach, and while your eyes say, "Damn, I want you!" your mouth is quiet.

Carlo: I think some men play hard to get. I don't. If I like someone, I make it as obvious to them as I possibly can. Why should I deny myself the enjoyment of a date with someone I like for the dubious benefit of impressing her with my busy social calendar? Either she likes me for what I am or she doesn't.

Danny, 41, Retailer, Charlotte, NC: I always appear too anxious! I could never hide the fact that my tongue was dragging on the floor.

COSMO: What is your reaction to a woman calling? How do you feel about a woman who is forward (but not aggressive) about dating and also about sex?

Justin: I ADORE it when a woman is forward about dating, sex, anything. Nothing is a bigger turn-on for me than a woman who knows what she wants, and has the confidence to go after it. I find confidence VERY sexy.

Tomas, 29, Software Consultant, San Diego, CA: Ambivalent. For one, I'd like a woman to call simply because I am shy. And with emancipation, there isn't anything really wrong withit. On the other hand, I tend to prefer fairly "traditional" (not synonymous with boring) women.

Scott: I love it. I always thought it was unfair that men were always the "hunters" and women the "hunted". And, since I usually need a woman to wave two flashlights at me like a guy on an airport runway directing a 747 before I'll make a move, I think it's wonderful for women to take some initiative.

Carlo: I am not intimidated by a woman who is honest and forward about wanting sex. You risk rejection whenever you practice the art of seduction, and if someone is willing to take that risk for me, I think it's great.

Danny: Flattered! When I was single, that never happened to me. But since I've been married, there have been times that girls seriously flirted with me and I smiled for about a week after because I know I'll never do anything about it.

Simon, 43, Import/Export, Minneapolis, MN: Call me--please!! If a woman knows--and has confidence in--herself, she should do as she pleases.

COSMO: Some women are trying to get over their shyness by talking to men they don't know. Does this bother you or do you like it?

Drew: I like it. I used the same tactic to get over my own shyness, so I see no reason why it shouldn't work for someone else, be the person male or female.

Parker: I'm all for it, unless they're just starting a conversation as therapy for their shyness. Let's try not to send out the wrong signals, shall we?

Ian: You mean, I'm a practice pad? A test of her courage? A rehearsal for Mr. Right? Every woman who talks about the weather or asks if this is her bus stop doesn't want me in the sack? The girl who checks to see if I want fries with my burger isn't undressing me with her eyes? Well, that's the last time I'll help some blonde vixen in a singles bar with her French vocabulary! She's just making conversation. I feel used.

Buzz: I am shy. I wish more women would share the burden of getting past that first, and greatest, step: starting a conversation. I do fine once I get past a sentence or two, but that part is a chore, one I'm not always willing to do.

Blake: I like when a woman I don't know speaks to me. Even if she is not looking for a relationship, it makes me feel good to be paid that kind of attention. If more women were comfortable simply talking to men they don't know, perhaps men would be more natural and honest in the way they approach women.

Brian: Just to walk up to a stranger on the street and start talking seems a little excessive. But I've introduced myself to women I didn't know and don't see anything wrong with women doing the same. The last time it happened to me, though, was in a hotel lounge in Phoenix and she wanted 75 bucks for 15 minutes.

COSMO: Would it bother you if a woman were more successful than you? Why?

Kevin: Success by anyone doesn't threaten me, it inspires me. I respect a woman's success a bit more than a man's success, especially in business, because the cards are still stacked against her. Toss in maintaining a home, raising a family. I truly respect women.

Tomas: No. In fact, the woman I care most about right now is going to achieve a higher academic degree than I have.

Nigel: If she happens to be better at her speciality than I am at mine, that's just the luck of the draw. Now if she also happens to be better at my speciality, that might make me feel a little weird. Probably because I'm very good at what I do, and few people are better than me at it.

Alex, 39, MIS Quality Assurance, West Bend, WI: Not at all. I've worked for woman in the past and some of been the best possible bosses. I've also dated woman far more successful than me. If they didn't use their success as a club over me it hasn't been a problem. Some have and it meant the end of the relationship.

Nicolas: Major hot button. My career is on hold right now, I'm job-hunting, and it's a real ego-deflator to have a woman pick up a $100 dinner check. I haven't quite gotten the gigolo thing down yet.

Ray, 45, Printer, Pacific Grove, CA: Truth is, yes. My feelings of inadequacy surface. It's an ugly inheritance of "Tarzan brings home the bananas." Though I'm learning that if a woman really cares for me it's me and not my station she's interested in.

COSMO: Practically every woman complains that her husband/lover doesn't contribute as much to home chores as she does. Why don't you?

Pierce: Well, dear COSMO readers, is this an objective survey question? I do more chores than my wife, that's my story, and I'm sticking to it. Okay, maybe I don't know how to iron long- sleeved shirts, but she doesn't know how to make a pot roast or coq au vin.

Liam: Housework is boring, and we have all lived through years of nagging from women (our mothers, usually) to pick up after ourselves without it changing our behavior in any significant way. We're hardened by the time we move out into the world, indifferent to threats and immune to behavior modification.

Ian: I'm so neat, people ask if I'm gay. Yet no matter how well I may cook or clean women try to make me feel guilty about the house. If dinner is on the table, the clothes in the washing machine, and everything ironed for tomorrow, they assume that I'm trying hard to make a good first impression. Often, my partners will search for a minor transgression: speck of dust, water-mark on the wine glass, ball of carpet fluff, whatever shows I can't be trusted to do a proper job. Without realizing it, these poor women have condemned themselves to a life of having to be neater than me. It drives them crazy in the end.

Jason: Don't have to. Flat out lazy. The occasional hassle although painful and likely to change things for a while does not change the overall pattern. I don't care if the laundry stays in a pile in the corner until wash-time.

Alex: Since I live alone I do all the chores. I would love someone to handle those duties, and I would concentrate on other areas. I guess all I can honestly say is that I hate housework, and would love anybody to deal with that for me.

Danny: When I was young and single, I was a slob. When my wife was young and single, she was not. I am still a slob, she is still not. If I care that much about keeping the house clean, I'd do more, but at least now (after years of training) I clean up my own mess.

COSMO: How important to you are a woman's looks? (Tell the truth!)

Kevin: A beautiful woman is a wonderful pleasure to see, like a great piece of art. But I'm most attracted to a person who enjoys life. It's the beauty of her heart, her compassion, her tenderness, and so much more that count. (I'm just a romantic at heart.)

Richard: A woman doesn't have to be a supermodel for me to be attracted to her, but I don't think I could learn to love the elephant woman.

Pierce: I always notice a woman who is attractive, beautiful, sexy, alluring, earthy, dressed to kill, or all of the above. But if all she has going for her are her looks, then nothing will happen between us. I know this is unfair, but if a woman seems to spend too much time on her looks, I'll write her off as being shallow.

Liam: How a woman looks has everything to do with my initial attraction to her. If I'm not attracted I won't be pursuing her. On the other hand, I find ninety percent of all women attractive somehow or other, which must either mean I'm monstrously horny or not all that picky. I'm kind of defensive about it, obviously. Simon: For that first impression, looks are very important. After a first meeting, I can hopefully tell whether there is substance, or merely filler, beneath the skin. Then the important things are ideas, beliefs, feelings, theories, goals and objectives.

Stefan: Very. I'm not saying I want a Playboy bunny. If I know a woman is keeping herself in shape for me, it means a lot. Pretty hard to get excited over someone who doesn't care enough about herself to enhance what she sees in the mirror.

Ray: I have to admit that looks are my first impression of a woman. Combine outer and inner beauty and I'm your servant. Show me inner beauty and I've seen the face of God instructing my spirit.


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