A friend of mine, let’s call her Claire, is constantly on the hunt for a guy—a guy who calls, a guy who cares, a guy to take her off the market. But instead all she gets are the same meaningless hookups, week after week. Claire meets a guy at a party and the two of them hit it off. She goes to his place and they drunkenly hook up. She texts him mid-week to get the details of the sushi date he promised her. He doesn’t respond. Claire meets a new boy the next weekend. This time she flirts like crazy and kisses him by the bar but doesn’t go home with him because she wants to make him wait (she wants him to want her as much as she wants him). A couple days pass and Claire still hasn’t heard from said boy. She sends an innocent, “how are you?” text. He doesn’t respond. Claire feels lonely and unloved.
The next weekend, she gets a call from a past hookup at 2am and gladly accepts the booty call invitation. After they hook up, the guy wraps his arms around Claire and kisses her on the forehead. Claire feels happy and complete. The boy promises to make her breakfast in the morning. Instead, he wakes up at 8am and says he’ll text her later. He doesn’t. She feels upset and unwanted and the only way to make this feeling go away is to find another guy. Claire desperately wants a relationship, but she continues to settle for sex. She’ll do whatever it takes for a man to look her way. Claire is constantly seeking male attention.
Sound all too familiar? We talked to Patrick Wanis Ph.D., Human Behavior and Relationship Expert, Kerry Cohen, the author of Loose Girl, and Love Stylist Tristan Coopersmith to learn why you need think you need this male attention and how to stop feeling this way.
You have low self-esteem
It’s one thing to want a man in your life because you actually like him; it’s another thing to want a man in your life to make you feel better about yourself. One collegiette says, “Although I have a boyfriend that I have been dating for a long time, I am still always going over the top and out of my way doing things for other guys in hopes that they will like me/fall for me. When I go out with my friends and go dancing I always look around to see who’s looking at me and what I can do to get them to keep looking!” Wanis says some girls engage in these compulsive behaviors as a way to gain male approval.
Girls with low self-esteem have a “need to be liked or desired” and think a guy can help fill the emptiness in their lives. But unfortunately, this doesn’t usually happen. If you’re insecure, you may turn to a man to make you feel better about yourself (even if you just met him), but the person you need to turn to is yourself. “Focus on building your self-love up so that you don’t require validation from others,” Coopersmith says.
You’re afraid of being alone
Coopersmith attributes this destructive behavior to three specific things: fear of abandonment, fear of replacement, and fear of infidelity, all of which boil down to the fear of being alone. “By staying aggressively in touch, physically, verbally, financially or otherwise, women can feel that they are securing their place in a man’s life,” she says. We need to realize that we won’t be alone forever and stop acting this way.
You had a bad relationship with your father
Imagine what life was like growing up at home with your father. Were you always Daddy’s Little Girl? Or did you avoid spending time with your dad at all costs? Whatever the case, this may help explain why you are the way you are today. Wanis says, “Good relationships with fathers can reduce some of these promiscuous behaviors.” Stop constantly pursuing guys and start reestablishing a healthy relationship with your father, if you think that might be part of the issue.
You don’t understand how men think
“Men are from Mars, women are from Venus.” I’m sure we’ve all heard this famous axiom before. And yet many of us may have never considered that our inability to fully comprehend the male species could lead us to constantly seek male attention and engage in promiscuous behaviors. Instead of figuring out how men think and using that information to get the results you want—real dates, meaningful relationships, etc.—you do what you think men want, i.e., throw yourself at them. If you’re only looking for sex, have at it. But if you want more, you have to listen to the truth: “You’ll only get him into bed if you chase him, you won’t actually get him to like you,” Wanis says.
We know this behavior isn’t good and yet we still continue to seek male attention any way we can. So, why do we continue to do this?
One reason we keep behaving this way is that we don’t learn from our mistakes. Instead of realizing our behavior is destructive and stopping cold turkey, we think we will get different results in the future so we continue to sleep around and attempt to pick up any guy that looks our way.
Wanis says some girls behave this way to compete with guys on a masculine level. In our minds, we think giving it up will give us more power, but this doesn’t always work. It’s true the guy might like it when you take control in the bedroom, but he will almost always view you as an easy hook-up and nothing more
There’s no simple solution to end this type of behavior, no easy recovery guide or “aha” moment to make this constant search for male approval go away. But there are some ways to work on it. Before you do anything, Wanis says you have to ask yourself what you want deep down inside—“hot wild sex or validation from the guy?”
Once you’ve discovered your true intentions, you can keep having sex as you please or you can pull yourself out of this vicious cycle of promiscuity. It’s completely up to you. No matter what route you decide to take, Cohen says you should accept that you will possibly always feel whatever emptiness you have and you shouldn’t “judge your behavior as ‘shameful’ or ‘bad’.” Here are some self-help tips from our experts:
If you want a boy to treat you like you’re special, you have to treat yourself this way first. Have some self-respect and learn to say “no” to sex. “Sky-high self-worth is critical for any woman who desires a healthy, sustainable relationship,” Coopersmith says. The best advice is to work on your self-esteem and make yourself feel significant without looking to boys for a sense of self-worth.
Distinguish fantasy from reality
Cohen says the problem of relying on men for approval stems from the media. “We are trained early on that boys make us worthwhile. Look at most prime time television, most movies geared toward girls and women, and there is always a story of romance,” she says. This story of romance is not always true in real life which is why Cohen encourages us to stop believing in those fantasies—the ones about boys being our Prince Charmings and loving us from now until forever. Cohen says you should “build strong self-awareness about the fantasies you have about boys, about what they will give you, how they will fill-in-the-blank – make you worthwhile, make you lovable, prove your desirability, etc and learn to compare those fantasies against what really happens.”
Have some mystery
Don’t make yourself too available or easy. You should be the one fitting the guy into your schedule, not the other way around. Show the guy you’re in demand and let him know you’ve got your own life. Wanis says we shouldn’t be taking calls at midnight (unless a booty call is all you want to be).
When the guy asks why you weren’t eagerly waiting to answer his call, simply tell him you were busy. He doesn’t need an explanation or an excuse. When you do decide to take his call, make sure you get off the phone before him. Wanis says this is a way to show him that you’ve got the power. Men like mystery and they also like challenges so let him chase you. Wanis warns us against chasing the guy: “You will come off as being needy and desperate,” he says. This is not going to get you a date, but maintaining some sense of secrecy might.
The bottom line? Don’t rely on boys to make you feel happy about yourself. Wanis sums it up nicely: “Stop seeking other people’s approval and seek your own approval!” Be aware that your behavior is driven by the desire to make someone else like you. Stop thinking you need this male attention because you don’t. Treat yourself with value and he will too. Remember, it starts with you. Good luck collegiettes!
Patrick Wanis PhD Human Behavior and Relationship Expert
Kerry Cohen, author of Loose Girl
Love Stylist Tristan Coopersmith