Do the Character Traits That Make Me a Good Friend Make Me a Bad Dater?

As I mentioned yesterday, I'm working on a book about literature and love that is due to come out in January 2012. But my first deadline is November 15 — I have to hand in about a quarter of the book on that day — and as that date approaches, I've started to worry that I'll never get all the necessary work done by then. As a result, I've decided I need to stop responding to email almost immediately (as I am wont to do) and to instead let a good bit of time go by before I respond to certain notes. Because the more quickly I respond, I've noticed, the more email I get!

That, of course, got me thinking: Are some of the personality traits that make me a good friend inadvertently making me less attractive to men?

TRAIT #1: Being polite, reassuring, and prompt when it comes to communicating.

But it's my natural instinct to respond FAST to email notes, particularly when they're from my friends, because often they contain questions — sometimes anxious ones — and I always want to set my friends (and everyone else, within reason) at ease. It's my nature to be polite, comforting, reassuring. (In this modern age, however — a period of time when I receive tons of messages from all sorts of people, including the wonderful readers of my blog — it can be quite time-consuming to respond to everyone.)

But I've noticed that my tendency to respond to emails with speed and thoroughness isn't always the best tactic in the realm of dating. Though I tend to think it's best not to play games — and I think that men who do often end up being assholes who aren't worth anyone's time — I'm also aware that taking things slow, or playing up the natural tension of a courtship, can be advantageous.

TRAIT #2: Being a good amateur shrink.

One of the other things that I like to think makes me a good friend is my ability to draw people out. I'm naturally curious about other people's emotions and experiences, so I tend to ask a lot of questions — and whenever I'm one-on-one with a person, I probably enjoy listening more than talking (even if I can be something of a raconteur in a group situation). Most people — and certainly women — like finding a person whom they can confide in.

I have often wondered, though, if men on dates think good listeners are pushovers or doormats. I think men, when looking for girlfriends, like women who are a little more conversationally rambunctious — hyper, even. Sure, when I make conversational room, on a date, for a man to talk about all his deep stuff, he almost always does it, but I think sometimes he can regret it — or else feel like the conversation was a little dark or depressing. And I think that just as much as people on dates will mistake the adrenaline rush they experience when doing something new or scary (like going on a roller coaster) for a rush of passion, I think men on dates can think that whatever feelings of sadness arose when they were talking about heavy things in their past weren't a result of those memories as much as a result of being around me!

So in recent years, I've done my best to avoid getting too deep on early dates — and frankly, I think it's worked in my favor.

TRAIT #3: Being particularly empathetic.

I'm also empathetic, which means I'm pretty good at putting myself in other people's shoes or imagining what kinds of things they're going through. There are obvious benefits to this. Most people really appreciate being understood .

Unfortunately, it also means that sometimes I can make excuses for people's bad behavior — including guys who are being kind of distant or assaholic. ("Oh," I'll tell myself, "he's just overwhelmed at work!") And when someone is making too many excuses or extending too much forgiveness to someone, particularly in the early stages of a relationship, it's rarely a good sign.

On the other hand, some of the traits that make me a good friend — I like to think I'm loyal, reliable, and good at communicating — will certainly play in my favor, relationship-wise.


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