When’s a flirt not a flirt? — Confused

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Free Advice is a periodic feature. Send questions to markbialczak@gmail.com. Anonymity is assured.

My qualifications: 57 years of open eyes and ears but no stalking charges. One dear wife Karen, one terrific daughter Elisabeth and her wonderful boyfriend George, one sensational stepson Daryl, one pet Ellie B aka Dogamous Pyle and various other family members of scattered location and adjectives. Four decades of writing in public about people, places and things.

Satisfaction is the goal, but is by no means guaranteed.

Today’s query …

Here is my question/dilemma:

I think I’ve pretty much resigned myself to the fact that I will be single the rest of my life. And on some level I may even be OK with that. Having said that, I’m very interested in hearing how you would advise me.

My issue is not finding men to date (although, I haven’t even looked or pursued dating in almost 2 years – it feels too much like work!)

My issue is holding onto, or even wanting to hold onto to a long-term relationship. Maybe I’m a loner? Here are some of the issues I’ve encountered.

• Men say that they like strong, decisive women. And it does seem they are initially drawn to it, but it ends up making them feel useless. I think men actually like being Knights in Shining armour and rescuing the damsel in distress. One ex told me years after our relationship ended that he felt I didn’t need him or anyone else for that matter. What do you think? What the hell do men want??
• Also, I need alone time and time with my friends and this seems to make men question my level of commitment. Should I date deployed soldiers or traveling salesmen or something??
• And last but not least. When in a relationship, I am loyal. I am however, outgoing and often my outgoing-ness is interpreted as flirtatious. I think flirting has sexual undertones/ innuendos – I’m just very relational and comfortable talking with people and being with people and honestly, I don’t want to change that about myself. I like spending time with my significant other in social settings. I don’t want to drop off the face of the earth just because I’m in a relationship. Do I have to?

I am very interested in your male perspective on this.

OK, have fun with this one!

Eagerly waiting for your reply…

Signed, Confused

Dear Confused,

Put the rocks back in the junkyard, wash your hands at last of these past wormy dudes who crawled out from underneath them, and get back out there in some fresh dating gardens!

OK, maybe I’m not being completely fair to your past roster of boyfriends, but still …

Don’t lose that confidence that makes you a strong, independent woman. You betcha there are plenty of single men that will look at that quality and say, sign me up, let’s go through this crazy thing both being able to navigate the crap that comes at you singly and as part of a duo.

There’s your part of the equation snuck in at the end. You never have to pretend you’re a Damsel in Distress. That would be just plain dumb. There are plenty of times when the problems are real, and talking it out with somebody you trust helps. I think men want a partner they can trust to figure it out on their own when that’s what the time and place call for, but who’s willing and eager to sit down and talk it out when it seems appropriate that two heads are indeed better than one. Needy Knights, aren’t we?

Moving on to alone/friend time, I don’t see how that’s a problem, as long as it’s not 99 percent of your schedule — wait a second, that’s pretty silly — as long as it doesn’t make him feel as if you really, really like spending your time with your friends or alone way more than you like spending time with him. Now that vibe indeed could be a problem. If when you’re at the dinner date, you’re 100 percent into talking about your life and his life and not wistfully dreaming about the next group meal with the friends you had before he came around, then it’s his issue, not your’s. And do you mean to tell me that you’ve actually been with a guy who doesn’t literally jump up and sprint to play golf, or bowl, or hang out at the bar with his friends while you’re out with your friends or doing your own thing?

Finally, this flirty-wirty thing. One, don’t be using the word flirty-wirty in a social situation, ever. It leap frogs innuendo and goes straight to baby talk role playing … Sorry, I digress. My bad. Hey, if you are outgoing, I say, be yourself. Basically, all of my points of suggestion are tweaks, not changes. Because changing yourself to fit somebody else’s idea of what they want in a relationship is never going to work in the end game, anyway. So if you get the vibe from a date early on that he thinks you’re social manner with other males in a group social setting is making him uncomfortable, once you are alone, bring that up directly, ask him what’s up, tell him that’s not your intention, and see if he’s OK with you being yourself. If this little talk comforts his fears, win-win. If not, he’s not the right one, and on to another try for somebody who’s a better fit for who you are. Win-win.

Don’t give up, Confused. It’s not you. It’s been them.1as1

(From Getty Images)

(From Getty Images)

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78 thoughts on “When’s a flirt not a flirt? — Confused

  1. Brilliant advice Mark, virtually covering all aspects one can think of on the given situation. Access to your site is thanks to Jennifer’s reblog. From all indications, she has connected me to someone very interesting…so look forward to reading more of yours and exchanging views…best wishes… Raj.


  2. Pingback: Friday Bouquet #15 | Jennifer's Journal

  3. Wow. That letter could have been written by yours truly. What a great answer you gave, my friend. I think all the good single men live in other areas of the country. To Confused, our mission must be to find that place, and move there! 😉


  4. What a terrific concept for your writing life, Mark! Lots to talk about in both the question and response; Confused brought up issues that many people can relate to, and your response was thoughtful and helpful. Be yourself! It just occurred to me that there are no life coaching/advice columns written by a male. Nice job, Mark and I also like your contemplative photo!


    • Thank you, Ermine. I’m hoping that this can take off with some caring and sharing. I put a lot of thought into the responses, and I think I can entertain, inform and educate, the big three in this field, if given the light of day. 🙂 Go Syracuse writers.


  5. I think you just gave ‘Dear Abby’ a run for her money. Great responses. When you change to win someone over, you lose a bit (or more) of yourself. (I recently read that the newest trend is to look to look like you’ve lost sleep and are depressed.. The reason is, according to the story, that men want to rescue damsels in distress. BOO!)


  6. How old did you say you are… 5,007? The wisdom of the ages doth flow from thy mouth… or should that be fingers? Looking forward to the next installment.


    • It took many bumps and bruises to get to this place of sooth, Ros. So many years of not knowing what I thought I knew, but a few short of your stated thousands. Thanks for your kind words, my friend.


  7. I guess her ex wanted to feel needed, and she didn’t need him, per se. I need my husband to fix things, including dinner. Some men don’t want a woman needy or clingy at all. The armor doesn’t seem to shine for very long anyway on said knights. It gets a patina to it, and you learn to like it.


  8. Mark is the all-knowing! I am a strong, single woman and love being independent. I think there are absolutely men that respect strong women. If the woman seeking the advice yet hasn’t met one then be patient 🙂


  9. I appreciate your efficiency in answering this Mark. I’ve given up on ever thinking I can provide advice….I am too wishy washy in the ability to do so. 🙂 So now I know where to go when I need it! 😉


  10. I am smiling, since I have a lot of interesting conversations with ‘attached’ men at work, I smile and act interested. I always hope ‘for the best’ that they don’t misinterpret my caring about their lives. I usually pepper my conversations in mentions of their family and wife or partner… This keeps them from thinking I am ‘flirting.’ When a man flirts with me, it is asking about my love life or what plans I have for evenings and weekends. I can ‘see right through them!’ ha ha


    • You think men are very transparent, do you, Robin? So what are you doing for the the Super Bowl?

      Sorry, you left yourself open for some of the humor side of “Free Advice,” don’t you agree, my friend?

      Seriously, married men can be interested in how the social lives of their single women friends are going without it being a sign of impropriety. I also think you can care about the married men’s lives without being ‘Interested’ in anything more than friendship. But, whoops, you didn’t ask! Sorry. Me and my ‘Free Advice’ going wild already.


  11. Dear Abby–uh, Mark, great post. You really did it. And getting it from a male angle was better than Abby and the all female stuff we’ve always had. Looking forward to more. Yours truly, Hillbilly Lily


  12. i love this. and i agree and can personally vouch for your answer. i waited a long time to find someone who fit and accepted me exactly as i am. so worth it. don’t give up. ever. love this series, mark.

    Liked by 1 person

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