5 Ways to Get More Control of Your Relationships

Jerry and George

“I have no power. Why should she have the upper hand? Once in my life I would like the upper hand. I have no hand. No hand at all. She has the hand. I have no hand.”


“We all want the hand. Hand is tough to get.”


Willard Waller was a sociologist who coined the phrase “The Principle of Least Interest.” It simply states that the person who has the least interest in continuing a relationship has the greatest power. Waller developed the theory after observing many dating couples at Penn State, where he noticed that romantic partners usually had unequal degrees of emotional involvement. He claimed that if the inequity became too large, one partner would be in a position to exploit the other emotionally. It’s a variation on supply and demand theory. In fact, although the concept was articulated specifically to relate to relationships, it has over time become an economic principle as well, applied frequently to negotiation and marketing strategy.

In her recent book Hooking Up: Sex, Dating, and Relationships on Campus, Kathleen Bogle cites Waller’s research and applies it to the hookup culture. She states that in the college hookup scene, men are the least interested in participating in exclusive relationships. They perceive that they have many women to choose from, and therefore have “no need to hold onto” one particular woman. In contrast, women in her study were focused on trying to turn hookups into boyfriends. Bogle sees this as an extension of the idea that women’s “clocks are ticking” while men “have all the time in the world.” For that reason, the imbalance continues past the college years. Women well into their 20s express frustration at guys’ general unwillingness to be in a committed relationship.

While there are exceptions, this means that most women enter new romantic encounters in a one-down position. I am consistently amazed at how even guys who are not sweet believe that they hold all the cards. They act like sex gods, assuming that women are trying to trap them into relationships. Perhaps they’re right. Overhearing a conversation on New Year’s Eve, I was struck by the general agreement among a group of girls that “boyfriends are ugly.” Again, there are exceptions, but there was definitely consensus that many girls “date down” in order to secure a commitment, even if temporary. To add insult to injury, many women tolerate boyfriends who treat them badly and are crap in the sack.

What are the options available to women who want to be in control of their personal relationships?

  • Hard to Get, i.e. The Rules

The most common approach is for women to play hard to get, casting themselves in the role of Least Interested Party to gain the upper hand. The theory goes that by seeming difficult to attain, men will put forth more effort.  The problem with this approach is that once the woman allows herself to be “caught,” she either becomes easy to hold onto (and is right back where she started), or must constantly play a game of one upsmanship to keep the guy interested.


Another popular strategy is for women to stop wasting time on the guys who don’t want something real. He’s Just Not That Into You, so don’t waste the pretty. This approach has several advantages. You don’t waste as much time. You become known as a girl who can’t be dicked around. You are not constantly getting crushed by jerks. On the other hand, this approach can lead straight to the dating desert. You don’t waste time with jerks, but where are the great guys who want to date? Guys know you won’t hook up randomly, so you find yourself ignored at a party. You may not be getting dumped, but life sure gets boring when there is no guy intrigue or boy drama.

  • Practice Self-Control

If you control your own behavior, you have more control overall. No one can exploit you without your cooperation.

  1. Make sure that your level of interest is no greater than his. You will have more power if you are truly less interested, not just pretending indifference. Keep your level of emotional investment “appropriate” to the circumstances. The kiss of death: being needy, eager, too serious early on. Don’t go there. Take it slow.
  2. Develop a “walk-away” position. You know what you are willing to do, and what you will not tolerate. You are prepared to respect your own limits. When the other person crosses that line, you walk. For this strategy to be effective, it is very important that you clearly articulate your expectations in advance. If he doesn’t know what your dealbreakers are, he will be unable to honor them. On the other hand, if he understands the limits and doesn’t observe them, he is telling you clearly that he is not prepared to give you what you want. Once you have made your dealbreakers clear, you MUST see it through. If you cave,  you will be in a weaker position than ever.
  3. Be independent. Act like a free agent when you are one. Don’t be exclusive with someone who has not agreed to be exclusive with you. Make a point of spending time with other guys, whether you want to or not. This is NOT about trying to make someone jealous. Do not flirt with his good friends. Go out and meet guys that he doesn’t know. Develop friendships and relationships with new people when you have the opportunity. Think of yourself as “single,” because that is what you are. You are entitled to hang out or hook up with anyone you want to, and owe no explanations.
  4. Keep your priorities straight. A hookup does not come before girlfriends, work, studying, family, Gossip Girl, etc. EVER. He is one person in your life, with a limited role to play, at least for now. Do not get caught up in analyzing every word he says, how often he is in touch, etc. Try not to discuss him constantly with your girlfriends–that just fuels the fire.
  5. Start strong and stay strong. You can express your interest and still be strong, because you are making it clear that your interest is conditional. You are not faking nonchalance. Think of it as making a decision not to get addicted to a potentially unhealthy substance. Too often women enter relationships in binge mode, and have purge mode thrust upon them. Keep your interest steady and your head on straight.

Don’t allow any guy to make you feel small or inadequate. Man up to get hand.


Dating Rules That Make Sense, Finally

Thailand oceanRobot Heart is one of my favorite blogs. Katie, the blogger, posts numerous (many!) things on there every day. In fact, Katie is an amazing woman, with five blogs:

Robot Heart

Twenty Something

Sex, Religion and Politics

Daily Beagle

Things I *Heart* About Oregon

She’s really into photography and design, so there are amazing visuals on Robot Heart. I find great quotes and thoughts there as well, including wonderful bits and pieces from other blogs. Recently I found this post:  Words to date by. It’s from another blog called Live.to.the.point.of.tears, which is similar to Robot Heart, though more confessional, I would say. Check it out, I think you’ll like that one too.

Today’s post is a dose of hard-core realism after yesterday’s upbeat, hopeful and optimistic post. It’s cynical and a little jaded, but we all need to take a dip in that pond sometimes to keep it real. I find that to be the hardest thing: figuring out how to strike a balance. When to be hopeful and keep trying, when to throw in the towel. Sometimes feeling appreciated, sometimes taken for granted. When to be generous, when to look out for my own needs first. It’s a constant tug of war, and we’re all just trying to figure it out as we muddle along as far as I can tell. Perhaps the old Russian proverb says it best when it comes to dating: “Doveryai, no proveryai.” Trust but verify.

Words to date by.

  • If you’re not sure if he’s your boyfriend, he’s not.
  • When he says he’s not looking for a girlfriend, believe him. If he changes his mind, it’ll be in the first two weeks.
  • He does not want to hear about your ex-boyfriend, even if it is a “really funny story.”
  • White lies are the slipups before you find out about the big, black, nasty lies.
  • Guys always say that their ex that they’re still in love with is a “psycho.” He’s still calling her. I promise.
  • There are actually no rules about how long to wait to sleep with someone. If he likes you, he won’t care if it’s the first night.
  • You can pretend that you don’t care, but you do, and he knows it.
  • You can pretend that you don’t care, but he’s still fucking you.
  • “You’re an awesome girl,” means, “I am sleeping with 5 other people.”
  • Don’t let him cup your face in his hands when he kisses you unless he means it.
  • Unfortunately, some people are just really good at acting like they’re not just fucking you.
  • If he keeps telling you he’s too busy with work/the gym/his best friend/etc. to see you, bail. Even the busiest person in the world will find and make time to see you if he likes you.
  • Avoid guys who drive status cars. Especially if they say they “have to for work.”
  • Don’t trust a guy with more than one cell phone.
  • Do not talk to him about all the things you ate or didn’t eat today.
  • If it feels like a lie in your gut, it’s probably because it is. Don’t let him tell you you’re making it up in your head.
  • If he cheats on you and then tries to buy you something or take you on vacation, run, run, run.
  • If he cheats on you and you’re “really mad about it” for a week but you don’t make him suffer, he will absolutely do it again.
  • Waiting for someone to come around is like waiting for the elevator after you pushed the button. You wait and wait because you’re afraid it will come the moment you walk away. And you know, it might. But more likely, it’s stuck on another floor. More likely, it’s fucking broken.

Your thoughts?


The Girls’ Kickass Guide to Getting Over a Breakup



Now that Zagat’s has announced new Dating (and Dumping) Guides for New York and LA, I’m bracing myself for some nasty stories. Zagat’s selected their dumping grounds based on the number of exits and proximity to transportation (so you can get the hell outta there), as well as the attractiveness of the clientele, so that you can immediately pick up someone else to hook up with. Nice. Is it my imagination, or does it sound like Zagat’s is catering to the Y chromosome crowd here? Sounds generally douchey to me. What kind of a guy would maximize the humiliation of being dumped? I never thought I’d say this, but I’d rather get the text: “sry ur not the 1 4 me.”

Every girl needs a kickass toolkit for getting over a breakup. Getting dumped pretty much happens to everyone sooner or later, and usually we just sort of stumble through it, taking each horrible day as it comes and doing our best to stay sane. Well, you know I am all about strategy, about taking control of your life to get what you want. You may not be able to control being dumped, but you can certainly control your response to it. And I want to help you go through the trauma with the least possible pain, in the shortest period of time. 

Here are the basic tenets of my Kickass recovery plan:

  • Self-pity is highly underrated.

  • Ditto for self-indulgence.

  • Maintaining your dignity will have a huge payoff.

  • Getting over a guy will suck, but can be freeing, energizing, and sometimes even fun.

  • Grieving is an aspect of love. If you love someone, and you lose them, grieving them is a loving act, even when they don’t deserve it. It’s also a way of loving yourself.


So. He broke up with you. You just got onto a great big roller coaster, and you’re going to need to hold on tight.

The First Stage: Shock and Awe

“Shock and awe is a military doctrine based on the use of overwhelming power, dominant battlefield awareness, dominant maneuvers, and spectacular displays of force to paralyze an adversary’s perception of the battlefield and destroy its will to fight.” (Wikipedia)

This is what he just did to you. He mowed you down like a Panzer tank. Maybe you saw it coming, maybe not. Either way it sucks, and it’s going to suck for a while. You can’t believe it. Literally. Your mind is not capable of absorbing this news immediately. “He is wrong about this! He will come to see his mistake!” Your loving friends will tell you that it makes no sense, something must be going on with him, you guys are perfect together, he’s not going to last the weekend without you, blah, blah, blah.

Don’t believe them. He may, in fact, come back around and ask that you take him back. It happens. But guess what? I have NEVER heard of a relationship that was as good the second time around. When he Humpty Dumptied you he broke something and it is never going to be put back together the same way again.

[Read more...]


Are You Too Smart to Date?

winnie-the-pooh“It is more fun to talk with someone who doesn’t use long, difficult words, but rather short, easy words like “What about lunch?”

Winnie the Pooh



As the author of  The Tao of Dating: The Thinking Man’s Enlightened Guide to Success with Women, Dr. Alex Benzer is primarily known as a guy who helps other guys get women. Here at Hooking Up Smart, that is the last thing we’re losing sleep over, so ordinarily I wouldn’t be particularly tuned in to what he has to say. Today, though, he has a very interesting article in the Huffington Post: “Why the Smartest People Have the Toughest Time Dating.” He knows about smart: he has a bachelor’s from Harvard, an MD from the University of California at San Diego, and a Masters in Philosophy from Cambridge University. And you, dear readers, know about smart, because you are highly intelligent and thoughtful human beings, every one of you.

Here’s what he has to say about his background and motivation for writing about dating:

“The writing of the books was precipitated by the endemic dating woes on the Harvard campus, as I observed them as an advisor and earlier, indulged in them as a student.

Those kids graduate and pretty much continue to have the same dating woes — only now with fewer single people around who happen to live in the same building and share meals with them every day. So if they had challenges then, it gets about 1000 times worse once they’re tossed from the warm womb of their alma mater.

From my observations, the following dating challenges seem to be common to most smart people. In fact, the smarter you are, the more clueless you will be, and the more problems you’re going to have in your dating life.”

He are the dating challenges he believes are common to most smart people. I’ve included excerpts from the article, along with my own commentary:

1. Smart people spent more time on achievements than on relationships when growing up.

[Read more...]


A Man’s Take on Advice in Women’s Magazines


The other day a guy left a comment expressing frustration at Sexual Attraction + Compatibility = Nothing?  His point was that he gets jerked around by girls all the time, especially when he is a nice guy. They lead him on, flirt and fuss, and then say they don’t want to date. It got me thinking that we really could use a guy’s perspective here at Hooking Up Smart. So many X chromosomes, so little input from Y chromosomes! Figuring out how guys think often feels like the most challenging task we face. To that end, here’s an article by Chris Kennedy. chris-kennedy1He’s writing for a slightly older audience, but it still totally applies. I found it over at DivineCaroline.com and it does a nice job of providing a male perspective. Uh, yeah, I know. He’s gorgeous, psssssst. I figure he’s so good lookin’ that he is qualified to speak from experience. Let me know what you think in the Comments section.

A Man’s Take On Advice In Women’s Magazines

“Why won’t he commit?”

“Get your man to say ‘I do!'”

“Why don’t guys call when they say they will?”

Peruse any magazine rack and various Web sites and you’ll see headlines such as these splattered all over. Inside you’ll read article upon article about how women can decode, seduce, corral, turn on, and coerce men.

One is left to believe that men don’t want to be married or in any sort of committed relationship, men don’t want to treat women well, men don’t want families, men don’t want to settle down, and worst of all, men don’t even have the desire or the ability to communicate any of this about themselves. Good thing we smell so good.

As a man, I’m starting to feel gosh … a little … frustrated … angry … defensive.

I don’t see much out there to counter these sorts of articles, perhaps because men’s magazines are outnumbered by women’s magazines by about fifty to one (my unofficial estimate).

So please allow me to defend my gender so I can put some different lines in your head.

See, I happen to know men who are actually nice, intelligent, and kind-men who want families, treat women well, and are ready to settle down. I’ll leave their information for you at the bottom of the page. (Now, you’ll read on!)

Ah, ha. But my last parenthetical statement is just as false of an assumption about women as all the negative media rhetoric is about men.

I happen to know women who don’t want to be married and/or in a serious relationship. I know women who aren’t the articulate, clear communicators they’re supposed to be. I know women who aren’t that into kids and don’t want a family.

So pardon my frustration, and other men’s, when we read articles portraying us as the incapable, the insincere, and the incompetent gender.

I’m not denying that some men don’t have any of the above maladies, but these headlines and articles are about the men who either aren’t ready or are jerks.

By projecting overly simplistic, generic proclamations about men and their supposed deficiencies, these articles and beliefs deflect the attention from where it needs to be … on the women who are choosing to chase after the guys who aren’t ready to settle down.

In real estate, it’s about location, location, location. In relationships, it’s about timing, timing, timing.

[Read more...]