Woe Is Me! “I Don’t Trust Men Who Give Me Attention. What Gives?”
Woe Is Me! is a series in which The Swaddle team indulges your pity party with advice you’ll probably ignore.
“I can’t settle on the right guy who shows attention, because I think all men only want sex.”
— Let the trust fall
DR: I think it’s important, first of all, for you to find out exactly why you think that’s the case. Is it pop culture that has led you to believe this? Or, is it past experiences — either your own or of someone close to you — that have a role to play here? If it’s the former, I’d suggest you start by getting to know the men you’re interested in and let yourself be the judge of how they are as people, rather than basing your life decisions on tropes. If, however, past experiences have informed your perspective, I’d suggest you work on processing them before venturing into the dating space.
Having said that, yes, you’ll quite likely come across men who just want sex. If that’s not all you want — no harm if you do, though — you’re going to have to keep looking; there’s no quick litmus test for you to find out who’s looking for a long-term relationship and who’s simply looking to hook up. Hey, no one ever said dating was easy — it can be a walk through a minefield, where you must stay vigilant of red flags. Think of it as an adventure as opposed to a leisurely stroll, perhaps? Before you embark though, what I’d urge you to ensure is that you’re not in a space where dejections, which are bound to happen, take a toll on your self-esteem.
Lastly, I want to address one thing in your woe that’s kinda bothering me; you said you “can’t settle on the right guy who gives me attention.” Why are you restricting your choices to the people giving you attention, or even basing your decision about the person(s) you want to be with, on that? I think you need to figure out if you, independent of the attention they’ve showered on you, like them. If, alternatively, there’s someone else you like, who hasn’t paid you attention or is unaware of your interest in them, you know you’re allowed to pursue them and find out if they reciprocate, right? Just checking.
SM: It depends entirely on what you’re looking for. But I would say this idea that all men only want sex is a stereotype that we’ve been conditioned into believing. The corollary to that is that women only want commitment/serious romantic relationships, and we know that’s not the case either. I do, however, understand why it might seem like the men who are giving you attention only want to sleep with you, because that is likely the case if that attention is based on superficial interactions. The only solution to this is to not wait for/pick from guys who are giving you attention, but to turn that on its head and start approaching/giving attention to the guys you want to form meaningful relationships with.
RN: I think a good way to filter people out is to tell people you’re not interested in sex or pull the old “waiting for marriage” cliche! But in all seriousness, this is a very relatable feeling and I’m sorry you’re going through this. Once you get past the initial block, trust your gut about the guy in question. Observe the little things — a lot can be gauged from things that aren’t explicitly spoken about. Is he interested in what you have to say? Does he care about you and respect you? Is he mindful of your comfort and safety in the little ways? Things like these can say a lot about a person’s intentions. And finally, make your expectations clear. The other thing to do of course would be to swear off men for a while and live your best life!
PB: Your distrust is understandable, men are most often ghoulish, chauvinistic, and incredibly creepy. Our media culture does not endear men to be particularly genuine or smart, and the widespread objectification of women plays a big part in that. Putting all of this together, well, most men who give you attention probably do want only sex. Distrust them on principle.
But I will also say that there are men who want intimacy, sure- but not just in the physical sense. They want to love and be loved just like everyone wants to be — and most of them do not know how to express that. Men are taught to be everything but vulnerable, and they learn from a young age that they are expected to be idiots who must act a certain- very masculine way. To be truthful, honest and yearning is “feminine” and is to be avoided at all costs. Very few learn to break those bonds, and even fewer actually do. A man who gives you attention in a respectful manner, and is not overbearing or pushy- is difficult to come by, I admit. But it seems there’s a bit more of them today than there were 10 years ago.
Here’s a test to find out if a man’s feelings are genuine- go get a platter of nachos, and as you’re eating them, ask him what he’s thinking of. If he replies “You,” he’s lying; he’s thinking about the nachos. If he replies “The nachos, of course,” that’s how you know if he’s a truthful person.
But in all seriousness, take smart decisions, distrust every man, and hope one of them inspires trust in a truthful way. A measure of a man is how often he lies.
SK: I want to address two things in your woe. One, it’s interesting you think all men want sex; there seems to be enough evidence in pop culture and even anecdotally to paint a rather limited picture of desire and intimacy across all genders. Surely, there may have been personal experiences too that might have lead to a distrust in general. There’s no screening test to gauge what any degree of attention could mean — it all depends so much on the person, context, level of expectations from both sides. And most of all, how honest and clear you are. Do you think it will help to clear the air at the very start when you speak to someone in a dating situation?
Two, and this may be more pertinent, you may want to think about your distrust of men and what you want out of romantic relationships as two different things. What do you want out of a relationship? Who is the person you want to pursue a relationship with? Maybe being more active in thinking about these aspects can soothe some anxiety about what the other person wants. Dating is hard — I wish you luck and I hope you tread through it with your self-esteem intact.