What to Do When a Guy Won’t Make the First Move

It’s frustrating isn’t it? To a degree women are taught by society that men will be the aggressors. In a multitude of sociological ways it is neither appropriate (nor is it rewarded) when a woman is viewed upon as the assertive one in a romantic situation. There are tons of negative consequences to being “that kind of woman” and all of them allude to promiscuity or some kind of defective quality if a woman presents with the confidence to approach a guy she is interested in.

Society teaches that for women, it’s not okay to make the first move. But if you ask the majority of men they are thrilled with the idea of a woman taking that pressure off of them. The idea of a woman making overtures is exciting and a fresh change of pace for most men who agonize trying to read (and frequently misinterpreting) body language and the emotional complexities of signals and communication from the opposite sex. Keep in mind too that despite the high risk stakes of rejection if the man gets the signals completely wrong, there is also the potential to get into some legal trouble. Going for the epic kiss for a guy could land him with a harassment charge if he botches the job entirely and so is it any wonder that they hesitate?

That still leaves us with a bit of a quandary. If women are taught to wait for guys to make the first move and if men are frankly terrified to do it, there is something of a stalemate in progress between the genders. Some progressive thinking and maybe an entire overhaul of our outdating social romantic paradigms might be in order before the communication gap leads to dire consequences. Or perhaps this already accounts for the declining global birthrate? One can only muse and bemuse.

The Risks for Men

Men are subject to an incredible amount of sociological change in the last fifty years. It must be very confusing to be a man in the present day. Women’s liberation movements aside, it was not one individual factor that contributed to the change but a rapid sociological evolution of women. For most men it can feel a lot like having the rug pulled out from under them having been raised with specific expectations and messages about women and female relationships (they are taught the rules by their parents as women are and then sent out for prolific field testing in their teens and twenties). Most men find women to be unpredictable. A true enigma faces the modern man when they are really not sure what is “okay” and what is not.

Most men have a sense of what it means to be a gentleman. Society place expectations on them to be polite and respectful and to “care” for the company of a female socially. Of course there are exceptions to this rule for both genders, naturally. However, overall men have a sense that they are expected to take great care in their dealings with women. There can be consequences legally (if he moves too far too fast and is misinterpreted). There are social consequences (what if he doesn’t move fast enough and the woman feels like he isn’t interested?). Is the woman even single? It’s really hard to tell these days and no guy wants to start chatting up a nice looking woman only to have her boyfriend come round the bend and put out his headlights.

It’s pretty tough being a guy don’t you think? With all of these potential chaotic factors weighing heavily into consequences they would simply rather not face it’s not hard to imagine why a man would hesitate. In fact, it’s amazing they don’t require a mandatory affidavit swearing that the woman is interested, eligible and receptive. Sadly those kinds of assurances do not exist.

Mistakes With Shy Men

One of the inherent components of the female personality is the need to know “why?” The investigations into the reasons behind someone’s actions are pivotal to the female thought process. If we can understand why someone acted in a specific way it makes it easier for us to take a somewhat maternal role and point out errors, make suggestions and even forgive oversights. The need to know roughly translates into a burning need to relate and understand. This is a good thing and there is nothing wrong with a reasonable query or approach to achieve openness in a relationship.

One of the most common mistakes women make however with shy men is the level of inquisition. It is okay to ask a question or request further elaboration on an action, but it should be done as a gentle prodding of inquiry if the desired result is to understand him. Unfortunately gentle inquisition gives way to the equivalent of “The Spanish Inquisition” which is counter effective. A forceful approach to getting men to open up about their feelings only furthers their sense of panic and thrusts them deeper into a self-preservation mode where they are unlikely to share anything with you at all. They go into lock down the second they feel emotionally attacked.

Alternative Strategies

It might be annoying that the guy you are interested in does not have the confidence to make the first move. You may be stuck in a place where you are even angry that you are being forced to do it when you think it might be “his job” to do so. What’s a girl to do? If you like the fellow then it might require this kind of intervention but if he is a painfully shy person interested in a very outgoing girl, the reality is that you will need to get used to the idea of taking the lead. And if it bothers you a lot then you should consider dating someone who is more outgoing.

Some quick tips to try to get him to come out of his shell and make the first move:

• Cultivate some alone time in a zone or territory where he feels completely comfortable (his house or favorite pub). Get him squarely into his own “man-land” and increase the chances of him opening up to you about his feelings.

• Don’t compare him to other guys. “My ex-boyfriend was so shy that…” As soon as you start to compare him to another guy you are planting additional reasons for him to feel anxiety and question whether he is “good enough” to make an advance.

• Sweep him off his feet with an overt romantic gesture of your own. Buy him a single red rose and write a coy romantic card such as “Do you like me?” and draw check boxes for yes or no and ask him to return the card to you. A sweet overture which is full of charm and not over the top for broaching the sensitive issue.

Be prepared for the impossible possibility however. If a guy won’t make the first move there is always the chance that he’s “just not into you” romantically. If you find that to be the case assure him that you will continue to be friends and thank him for clearing it up for you. Move on and find someone who might be a little more forthcoming with their intentions if shy guys are not a great match for you.

Comments 6
  1. A great comment. There's also the more common situation of when the guy DID make the first move, developed a serious romantic interest in her after a multi-year dating relationship, made a romantic overture (profession of being in love) and was totally and unexpectedly rejected. After the break up, who makes the first move if she belatedly changes her mind and develops feelings for him, for example, after three additional ensuing years of "no contact."?

    That happened to me. As a highly intelligent, handsome, professionally trained and employed man but of only average height, I hadn't been afraid to date a beautiful gal of many like interests, shared beliefs, matched personalities and same height (even born on the very same day as me) for 3 years from ages 23-26. The disaster, recounted above, befell me shortly after our 26th birthdays. We had just had a generalized discussion about her interest in getting married, having children and having a family life but my profession of romantic love for her was met with abject rejection on account of her priority pursuit of her own career, her disinterest in commitment generally at that time, and her complete lack of any romantic feelings for him! During a post-mortem, she suggested I find someone else to marry and even recommended her own girl friend who, unlike her, was interested in commitment. Even though well-intended by her, what a further kick in the chops that suggestion was. To save my own sanity, I had to go "no contact." Right after our 29th birthdays, I get a written invitation from her out-of-the-blue addressed to me "and guest" for a Fall open house at her new upscale apartment. It's well attended but I, having gone alone without a "guest", end up being the last to leave. We make small talk, she brews me some tea but chooses not to sit next to me on the love seat on which I had picked to sit, and she throws me a bone of "maybe we could play tennis again sometime?" like we used to do during the years we had been dating. I gave her a noncommittal, waffling response because it looked like the tossing of another time-wasting platonic "bone" in which I wasn't interested.

    Christmas, New Year's and Valentine's Day all go by after that without further initiative from her. That Spring, I then ask another gal, whom I had been dating for a year, to marry me and we get engaged. That summer, my ex calls me at work, all upset – the first ever indication from her of any romantic interest in me – to have heard a rumor that I was marrying someone else. It was clear her heart had finally changed in my favor. But, she was too late, even though I still had feelings for her. Her contacting me at that late date also caused me even more pain because now it added a moral dimension (which I had to confront) to the longstanding emotional pain of the unrequited love from which I had sorely suffered and from which I was trying to move on. The slightest timely romantic gesture from her would have forever changed our lives. She needed Colleen Crawford's advice back then but it wasn't available at the time.

  2. This is exactly why you cut all ties with an ex. Why men always seem to want to be friends with an ex is beyond me!

  3. You offer the idea "maybe he's just not into you" at the end of the article, almost as an afterthought. It should be the first paragraph, because this is usually the case if a man isn't initiating. Why do women refuse to believe that the guy they like just isn't interested in her? She will always label him "shy", giving plausible deniability to her level of interest in him to protect her ego. And of course, he is to blame because he didn't "do his job". Women need to truly embrace equality and go after men they want, and risk rejection if he isn't interested. That's life. Deal with it.

  4. I have quite often made the first moves and have pursued the man if I was interested…but don’t do that anymore. I have found that although guys may be attracted and will welcome advances…if there is no effort on their end initially, there will be effort lacking in more areas. I look for mutual effort, someone who is trying. Also…oh man yes…Men have to deal with legal worries if they hit on women…but only if they are at the work place. Don’t hit on women at work. This is not an appropriate place to hit on women or make advances. For many reasons. If you don’t understand why please do research.

  5. I’m one of those guys who’s absolutely paralyzed with fear when it comes to making any kind of first move. So much so, in fact, that I’m no longer (actually am honestly convinced that I never was) prime dating material.

    I live in a major U.S. city, am in my early 60’s, and became physically disabled five years ago, although I still lead a very active and productive. Most people consider me to be quite bright and easy to be around and I was very successful at two careers that require a lot of public contact: journalism (25 years) and education (8 1/2 years). I’m very involved with progressive a variety of progressive political initiatives.

    While I’m extremely comfortable reaching out to people of all sizes, genders, races, religions, etc. on a professional basis, the moment it turns social, I want to head for the hills, as quickly as possible. Even when I’m in the company of someone I know very well on a professional level, I immediately go blank when it winds up being social, and I totally suck at small talk.

    Not very long ago, I was reacquainted with someone I knew a few years ago who had a romantic interest in me that I was never consciously aware of. She actually wound up breaking ties with me because I never made any kind of moves on her at all, and wound up moving on to her current relationship.

    I’ve had relationships – always initiated by the woman – that reached various levels, but never lasted more than a few months. I freely admit that despite being intelligent, I am absolutely clueless about how to have a social life, and have now pretty much accepted that I’ll be alone the rest of my life.

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