Inside a guy’s mind: Assertive vs Passive

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We get the sense that women aren’t always sure how and when to assert themselves in a relationship, especially a new relationship, mostly for fear of scaring away a guy they really like. Many “experts” advise against bringing up the relationship talk and trying to define it too early. Sure, you don’t want to be talking marriage/children/future on the first few dates, but you also don’t want the relationship to progress towards the physical (aka sex) without any sort of conversation about his emotional investment. Being too passive early on is just as harmful as being too assertive.

All relationships eventually fall into their natural order, where one person is dominant. However, if that balance of power is too one-sided, or the non-dominant person is afraid to, or unable to, assert themselves, typically the relationship will fall apart, or maybe even turn abusive. This seems to happen more often to women, since typically men are dominant. However, by giving away your power, you actually give away your leverage. (Negotiating from a place of strength is always more effective than negotiating from a place of weakness.) The general rule: A guy will respect you more if you hold your ground, than if you give in and make compromises you don’t want to make.

This comes down to self-respect. The more you believe that you’re worth the effort, that you have much to offer, that he should feel lucky to have you, the more he’ll believe it. This is not about game playing, although it’s often talked about that way. This is about believing in yourself and projecting that to your man, and the world.

We’re not saying you shouldn’t make compromises. On the contrary, relationships require constant compromise in order to solve issues that arise. However, those compromises are about specific problems and should not undermine your values or beliefs. It’s a fine balance of course.

The million dollar question is: where is the balance?

If you’re too assertive too early, you risk scaring the man away. That’s a very real possibility. Of course, if you’re with the kind of man who scares that easily it was bound to happen anyway.

Too Passive, and you may get the man in the short term, but the long-term risk is greater because now you’ve gotten yourself into a purely physical arrangement that rarely evolves into something more serious because the man is already pretty satisfied. He’s putting in minimal effort for maximum returns and that works well for him. Now you’re in a holding pattern, like a plane hovering over the airport waiting to land. Holding patterns are not a great place to be because you’re stuck. Your current situation is going nowhere and you’ve cut yourself off to other possibilities. Based on the questions we receive on our site, it seems many women are finding themselves in this situation.

We don’t have a great answer for this conundrum, but in general, having sex BEFORE there’s been any discussion about the actual relationship and where it’s going or not going, is not the best idea. It’s important to define the relationship.

Next Up: Choosing the Right Guy


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