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Straight talk no chaser, p.3
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       Straight Talk, No Chaser, p.3

           Gena D. Lutz
 
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  But we do. It just takes a little while for the two of us to get on the same page.

  To help you understand why, I thought it only fair to give a decade-by-decade breakdown of what’s on the minds of men as it relates to relationships—a guide, of sorts, that will go a long way in showing women what it takes for a man to get into a marriage state of mind.

  A MAN IN HIS TWENTIES . . .

  Is just starting to discover the cornerstones of manhood—who he is, what he does, and how much he makes. He’s deciding whether to go to college or not, whether to pick up a trade or not, whether to go to grad school or get a master’s, or not, and none of his decisions, at least in his early twenties, will help him come to any real conclusions about his future, himself, or his direction in life. Basically, he’s using this decade to figure himself out—to work out the kinks before he settles down to the awesome responsibility of being a husband, a father, a homeowner—a man who is responsible for the well-being of not just himself, but other people he loves. In most cases, you simply cannot expect that he’ll be ready to provide financial stability and family direction for you when he’s still trying to figure out how to make money, get solidified in his career, and make it on his own.

  By his midtwenties, he’s going to be looking around in the workforce and noticing other men who are homeowners, have cars, and are taking care of families, and his financial clock is going to start revving up. It ticks as loudly as a woman’s biological clock does; we hear the calling to start proving we’ve got the who we are, what we do, and how much we make in order to prove that we are truly men. This isn’t nearly as important in the college years because money isn’t really all that relevant; everybody there is broke and making their mark by becoming members of social organizations, playing sports, joining fraternities, and being a part of the fabric of campus life. But when he hits age twenty-seven or twenty-eight and he starts seeing his boys drive up to the bar in the fancy car and step out in the fancy suit and whip out a business card featuring both his name and an impressive title in raised lettering, a man in his late twenties is going to want a piece of that action—a fancy car, title, and money of his own. This is critical to him, and nowhere in the playbook is marriage a part of the moves he feels he needs to make to get to where he’s trying to go financially and careerwise.

  In fact, he may discover on his journey toward figuring out just who he is that he’s not responsible enough, yet, for a committed relationship. Or he may have practically every man around him—from his father and brothers to coworkers and friends—telling him that he needs to play the field and put off for as long as possible settling down with one woman. We simply don’t preach to our sons the virtues of fatherhood and family—don’t tell them that there is a cutoff date for the foolishness and that creating a lasting relationship with one woman is necessary to complete him as a man. He is being driven solely by his financial clock at the same time your biological clock is most likely driving you, and trust me when I tell you, the alarm on his clock isn’t set to remind him that it’s time to make babies.

  What This Means for Your Relationship

  Sure, there are examples of men who can get their careers together, make an adequate amount of money, and be happy enough with their station in life to settle down at this age, but it’s more likely that a man at this stage is not going to take any relationships with the opposite sex all that seriously. You can determine whether he has potential, though. The key here is remembering that the word potential implies he’s capable of taking action. A man who has potential isn’t sitting on the couch; he’s got a firm plan for what he wants to do with his life and is on his way to being what he says he wants to be. He’s got a short-term plan—maybe it includes school or earning enough money to start a company that he’s thought through and for which he’s created a business plan. And he’s got a long-term plan—one that cements how his goal will play out in the future. If he’s got no plan, can’t articulate his future, and doesn’t appear to be working toward any goals, this isn’t the guy you want to hang on to.

  You also have every right to study what kind of man he’s shaping up to be—whether he is respectful, courteous, treats you the way you want to be treated, and is a law-abiding citizen. You deserve to know, too, whether he has hopes and dreams and a sound relationship with God. If he has children, you should be investigating for yourself what kind of man he is to his children and the relationship he has with his kids’ mother. You should also be clear that he wants to be in a monogamous relationship and be able to trust that he’s acting like he’s in one when he’s around you. All of these things are an indication of what kind of husband he’ll end up being when he is ready to settle down. It’s like my coach used to tell me: you’re going to play the game the way you practice it. If he’s not monogamous while dating you, and his heart isn’t morally into doing right by women, what’s going to be different when you get married? The only thing that changes after the ceremony is the third finger on your left hand. Everything else? Stays the same. So it will be up to you to be clear about what you require to feel mentally and emotionally satisfied that the man you’re with can fulfill those requirements.

  Let me be very clear: you have every right to sit this man down and explain what you want as you round the corner and head toward age thirty, telling him that what you accepted in college at age twenty-one is wholly different from what you’ll tolerate as a twenty-seven-year-old woman whose body has a limited time span in which to produce babies. It was fine to date, go to parties together, and hold hands out in the quad when you were in college, but he has to respect the fact that your biological clock is ticking and that he should either sign on to the commitment or move on so that you can focus your energy on a man who can give you what you’re looking for. Don’t be scared: sit him down and say, “Look, I’m twenty-eight and I am looking for a mate right now because I would love to start having children when I’m about thirty-two. I don’t want to be thirty-eight having or trying to have my first child, so I’m focused on finding the guy that’s right for me.” Ask him how old he wants to be when his child, maybe a son, is old enough to toss a football around with him, and remind him that he doesn’t want to be that father who’s too old to take his teenage son to the hole or chase after his fly ball. I guarantee you that it’ll be something he won’t have thought about before, because young men don’t sit around thinking about such things. Women think about this constantly, and it’s okay to let him know that he needs to pick up the pace. The man who truly wants you will accelerate for you; he will pick up the pace and walk in lockstep with you. You can’t change him—by his late twenties, he will have solidified who he is as a man. But you can bring out his better qualities. He will be what you want him to be if he knows what will make you happy.

  A MAN IN HIS THIRTIES . . .

  Is beginning to solidify himself in his career, is starting to make the kind of money he’s wanted to make, and is achieving at least some of the goals he laid out in his master life plan. And once he starts measuring his life and the things he wants to accomplish in it, he starts thinking about settling down. This march toward commitment is boosted by the idealized visions he’ll start having about fatherhood: every man will start kicking around the image of himself having a son who dotes on him, wants to be like him, and is a great athlete. He’ll dream about teaching his son all the sports he grew up playing, and he’ll want to be able to play those sports with his son as he gets better at them, so he’ll start realizing that the longer he waits, the less likely his idealized vision of fatherhood will be realized. The question we all ask ourselves in our thirties is, “How old am I going to be when my boy is sixteen?” We still want to be a formidable physical presence in our teenage son’s mind, and to compete with him in sports. The last thing we want to be is an old, feeble dad. And so we’ll start recognizing that the days are numbered for us to make that ideal scenario a reality—that as we get into our midthirties and beyond, we have less of a chanc
e to play with our boys. Consequently, we’ll start thinking seriously about making some babies.

  Men in their thirties also start accepting the inevitable—that all of the running around and the chasing we did in our twenties feels like “been there, done that” in our thirties. We become more okay with the idea that our dating days could end one day soon because we feel like we’ve sampled much of what’s out there and the thrill of the hunt isn’t all that exciting anymore. The games get old. That’s not to say that a man is not excited by a beautiful woman like he was in his twenties or that he’s not aroused by hot and sexy women. But after he’s gone through a number of relationships and he starts seeing the patterns, he gets real clear on the fact that being with a woman is not going to be all hot and fabulous all the time. So he’ll become more open to the idea that if he meets the right person who comes with the least amount of drama and can add support, loyalty, and fun to his life, then he’ll accept moving toward commitment. In other words, he’ll recognize that he can’t play forever, that a grown man has to stop showing up at the club at some point. (This becomes all the more clear the night he goes to the club and he’s surrounded by girls who were still in elementary school when he graduated from college. That’s a cold reality check.)

  Of course, a lot of this is dependent on the age in which a man becomes, in his mind, successful. If he becomes successful in his late twenties, he may be more likely to move toward commitment when he hits his early thirties. By then, he’ll feel like he’s in good enough financial standing that he doesn’t have to kill himself anymore in the workplace with the crazy hours, the networking, and the climbing the ladder. But if it takes him a little longer to become successful, he’ll be resistant to the idea of settling down. He’ll still be looking at what everyone else has and measuring himself against them—his friends from college who are more successful and making more money than he is, and the ones who aren’t doing as well as he. If, on the other hand, he’s got it together, or feels like he’s close enough to where he wants to be, he’ll start warming up to the idea of long-term commitment.

  You should note that because a lot of his focus is on making sure he’s successful, a man in his thirties will be less concerned about a woman’s accomplishments. He won’t really care how many degrees you have, and won’t be impressed by them, especially if the way you present them, your salary, and your career feels like you’re trying to compete with him or suggest that you don’t need him to be happy. That’s not to say he won’t be attracted to an intelligent, successful woman; he just likely won’t care about finding his financial match.

  What This Means for Your Relationship

  The most important thing you should know about men in their thirties is that you should expect commitment from him, in whatever form you need it. If you’re not living together but you’re dating exclusively, or you’re sharing an apartment and bills, you have every right to expect that he is working toward a long-term relationship with you.

  To gauge his level of commitment, start by asking him about family. It’s the best way to get a man to think out loud about the future. Ease into the conversation by asking about the numbers: “What do you think your family will look like?” you can ask. “Do you want one kid? Three? Seven?” You might ask, too, about his home life—“Did you get along with your dad? How about your mom? What parenting traits do you think you’d bring with you to fatherhood? Which ones would you do without?” Each of these answers, when you delve deeper into them (I show you how to do this in Chapter 6, “Let’s Stop the Games: Asking Men the Right Questions to Get the Real Answers”), helps you get to the bottom of where this man’s head is at when it comes to love, marriage, and family. Asking him about his relationship with his own father could lead not only to a discussion about whether he wants to be a dad, but also what kind of father he sees himself being and the traits he’s looking for in the potential mother of his children. All of this is vital information for you as you consider whether he’s the right guy to make babies with, and it gives you insight into whether this man is a good fit for you.

  You’re going to need to pay very close attention, too, to where he is in his career. If he seems unsatisfied and still hustling to put his plan into place, then it’s more likely that he’s not going to want to commit. You’ll be able to tell where a man stands by watching how much time he spends outside of work on hobbies, with friends, playing ball—enjoying more leisure. This tells you that he has time—that he’s not all about the job twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week and can find contentment in other things.

  Keep in mind that we’re talking about ambitious guys here, not the guy who’s never been on his grind and avoids hard work or sits around waiting for things to happen for him, or the guy who is still on the grind. Those guys may not wholeheartedly embrace commitment because they’re still searching for who they are, what they do, and how much they make, which means they will be too busy accomplishing their career goals to the exclusion of everything else.

  Still, the ability to get the commitment from the man who’s ready, willing, and able to give you what you want lies with you. You have to be willing to walk away if the commitment you expect isn’t forthcoming. There are countless women who’ve dated a man, fallen for him, given him the cookie, and expected him to return her love and devotion with commitment, only for him to reveal after years of hanging on that he has no interest in marriage. You have to stop waiting to find out if he’s willing to commit and ask up front: “Do you ever want to be married?” He might say he’s not ready, but you have to push for more information. Ask him when he sees himself getting married—if it’ll happen in a year, two, or three. If he comes back with “I’m not the marrying type” or claims he’s not looking to get married “anytime soon,” don’t walk, run away. Let him know that you have every intention of being married in a certain time frame and if he doesn’t want to be a part of it, you have to move on. This will be hard for you, I understand; all too many of you fear he will walk away and you will have a hell of a time finding someone else to sign on for a committed relationship. But I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: the man you’re leaving is not the last man standing. Move on. You made a mistake with that guy, but it’s okay. Cut your losses and go find the man you deserve and who wants you back.

  A MAN IN HIS FORTIES . . .

  Is feeling good about his station in life and is entering his prime, especially if he’s a husband and a father. He loves his accomplishments and he’s making money, but at the end of the day, if he has a home to go to, that’s major. It completes his journey to manhood. No matter how famous he is, no matter how well he’s done for himself, nothing beats coming home to the arms of the people he loves most; his kids are glad to see him, he’s the hero all the time. He reveres the title “Daddy.” And he’s happy that there is a woman who loves him and supports him and makes him feel like he’s valued. That’s a proud moment for a man, especially when he’s old enough to understand the importance of it. By forty, a man wants to feel like he’s a stand-up guy who does what he says he’s going to do, is respected, has himself together, and can be counted on by his family to be a man. Some struggle with this, but it all comes into focus when he becomes a husband and father. It’s a settling moment, and it brings out the best in a man because it pulls out all the love he has to muster: he’s going to work hard to make sure his family is provided for; he’s going to be proud to announce his wife as his lady and tell everybody about his kids; and he’s going to protect his family with the might of the angels.

  If he’s single, he’s single for a reason. He may be unlucky in love. Or he may have signed up for life-altering jobs that made it hard for him to settle down—like working abroad or joining the military. Or he might just be that odd guy who’s resistant to the idea of marriage and kids, even after all these years—a bona fide commitment-phobe. Whatever the cause, unless he’s a divorcé, he’s resigned himself to the fact that the traditional family—a wife and
kids—may not happen for him (or he’s decided he doesn’t want to be bothered with it at all), and so he becomes comfortable with the idea of a life alone. If he has nieces and nephews or close friends with children, he’s perfectly happy doting on them, and he doesn’t feel as if his life is missing anything; he’s just as satisfied with this arrangement as all the women out there who don’t think their lives are horrible failures if they don’t have kids and a ring. Life is about comfort for them; they are financially comfortable, have established comfortable routines, and have comfortable lifestyles. And they’re not necessarily lonely because they put themselves in situations where the female company they keep isn’t disruptive to their day-to-day lives. This is a nice way of saying it’s going to take a lot for someone to come along and jar the overall sense of ease to which the single, fortysomething man has grown accustomed. In his mind, he’s thinking that commitment will disrupt his perfectly stable, doable, enjoyable arrangement—one in which he does what he wants, when he wants to, without having to be accountable for anything or anyone but himself.

  Now, this doesn’t mean that the fortysomething man is not susceptible to meeting a woman who rocks his world—who makes him think he can’t live without her. It’s just that he’s mastered the art of companionship and isn’t necessarily as driven to hunt for women and meaningless sex as he was in his twenties and thirties. As a man gets older, he doesn’t need sex as much, and he’s already had relationships with a wide and diverse group of women, so the hunting he did in his younger days slows down. He’s not trying to be in the clubs or at the sports bars looking for the young, hot thing. He’s going to be more attracted to somebody he can talk to, whom he can have a nice meal with and go out to events, concerts, and other recreational events with; who fulfills his sexual needs; and who, like him, doesn’t feel any pressure to make the relationship any more than what it is. This is comfortable for him; it’s what all men want—comfort, peace, and companionship—and the forty-year-old single guy is going to have this in abundance. He’s arranged it this way.

 
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