A Relationship Therapist Asks, “What Role Do You Know How To Play, When Dating?”

No matter what dating site or app you use, at some point you’ll have to meet your date in person, and then all the old rules will still apply.

Many of these rules will have been passed down from one generation to another and linked to the roles that men and women play, in order to find the most suitable partner, especially if they wish to get married, have a family or produce heirs. Although these days, less attention is given to the repercussions of what may happen to the children if a partner turns out to be a disappointment, and more attention is placed on the likes, that wedding pics will get on Instagram. Sadly, this has also created a numbness to the reality or indeed, the benefits of what dating can involve.

In some cases, what people want or expect has changed. And finding a suitable partner has become more difficult. But it was ever thus. Regardless of the decade, the nice ones were often always taken, others may still be out for a good time and some may just not be interested in settling down, getting married or having children. Either way, and via years of client observation, I noticed that few really understand the process of dating or the roles that the different sexes can play:

Men Decide, Women Get Given A Choice.

Since time immemorial, men have always been the hunters. This to some, may seem sexist and it may irritate. However, when the process is seen for what it is, this remains a good way to describe the complex roles that are played out as people ‘dance’ around one another in order to attract the best partner. And indeed, we see this too in the animal world. Also, as men take on the role of the hunter, they usually instinctively know who is ‘marriage material’ and who is not. This choice will of course vary from person to person. Either way, men will test the waters nevertheless. How?

Men often view dating as a kind of game. They do this either consciously or unconsciously. And the game can be played ruthlessly. They can either dump you after sleeping with you or they could keep you hanging on for years without committing. Some men don’t even have to be in love with you to sleep with you. For many it might just be about sex. And although certain women may say the same, they have to be very careful, as sex can create different emotions for women. Also, many men do not openly admit that mostly, they prefer not to sleep with a woman after the first date. They may try, and they may keep trying to see what a woman is made of. But actually, they don’t really want the woman they wish to marry, to sleep with them too quickly. It is therefore up to the woman to say – NO. This is because men are often more conservative. Also, they don’t want to know how many men their girlfriend may have slept with, even if they try to wangle it out of you. They really do not want to know the truth. And if you have any brothers, you just have to ask them and I bet you they’ll tell you the same.

No matter how young you are, and no matter how old fashioned this may sound, it is still true to this day. What people, especially younger people, are seeing either on social media or via pornography is utterly misleading and it certainly gives the wrong impression of how sex or relationships actually work in the real world. How people expect to be treated, differs too. Also, if anyone wishes to get married, these sites certainly do not teach what to look out for, or how to achieve a good relationship. As a result, few now understand or even know what to do with one another.

Many are therefore not taught that, although men may be the hunters in the romantic field, and even though they may be the ones who decide who to date, kiss and so on, it is still the women who ultimately has to agree. She says “Yes” or “No”. Ultimately, she gives the go-ahead signals. And via her signals, she either turns him down or accepts. In other words, she then gets to lead.

Women Then Lead, And Men Follow.

Once she accepts a date, a kiss and so on, she then gives out further signals as to how she wishes the relationship to continue and whether she wishes him to marry her, or not. Either way, it is a woman who once chosen will or indeed, should lead.

On social media for example, a man may decide whom to flirt with but ultimately, the woman either stops it or allows it to continue. It is her role to then lead, his to follow. And depending on the circumstance, if she wishes to turn him down, she can and should do this politely. Becoming abusive or offensive is unnecessary and indeed rude, especially as there are some women who may give their eye teeth to have a man flirt with them. Instead, just say – “thank you, but no thank you”.

Also, with regards sex, it is the woman who either agrees to have sex or she can say – NO, no thank you. And if the man is a gentleman he would and should end it right there and then. If not, it could be considered rape. And this could open a dreadful can of worms.

But women too, have to remember not to ‘lead a man on sexually’. Women need to understand how a man’s anatomy works so that this does not happen. Because doing so, can create a lot of unnecessary trouble and a whole bunch of misunderstandings too.

Also, people need to understand their alcohol consumption levels, which can differ from person to person. Because when we get drunk, things can get horribly out of control. And drinks should never be left unattended. Indeed, it should become second nature to look after your drink and never let it out of your sight, ever. Drinks can be drugged and people get raped.

Unfortunately, dating and some of the negative consequences that may occur are not always understood. And taking someone home that you’ve only just met, is also looking for trouble. Sometimes people can be innocent of the dangers but also, the roles each person needs or wishes to play within a relationship, are often not properly understood or discussed. It’s because relationships are like a kind of dance that two people can enjoy, if they just know how to.

Sadly, people are often not clear what they themselves want from a date or from the person they might be dating. If your intention isn’t clear, YOU may be offering up confused signals, and you may land up disappointed as a result. Also, you may think you’re ready for a relationship when in fact, you may not actually be ready at all. We attract people who mirror who we are. Therefore, it might be worth your time gaining better self-awareness and becoming the person you want to be with.

Better still, when deciding whether a partner is a good match, women and men forget to watch and listen for the messages that each partner will provide via what they say or do. And I kept reminding my clients that if you just learn to open your ears and eyes, a partner will tell you everything you need to know about them – you just need stay alert. This is important when choosing a partner or discovering whether they are right for you.

For example, when a man asks a woman where she would like to go for dinner, she needs to come up with an answer. Being coy or timorous tells a man that she is not good at making decisions. She may lack confidence and so on. If however, she does suggest a restaurant, this should be ‘music to a man’s ears’.


If he, for example is to be the provider then the type of restaurant a woman wants to be taken to, will tell him all he needs to know about her expectations. If he is truly listening, he may realise that she might be high maintenance, she may be out of his league or she may just suggest the perfect restaurant that he can easily afford if he has to.

Women and men need to know this.

For example, the restaurant/s a partner chooses, represents the lifestyle they wish to live by and so on. And if a woman knows what she wants, this will help a man determine whether she is right for him and whether he can ‘afford’ her. If they ever have children, and if she has to stay at home to look after the children – he may have to be the sole provider. If he or she, is unable to provide then this could lead to arguments and friction.

This is why it is so important to look for the little or hidden signals in the beginning of a relationship. Little signals tell us a lot. Because, “you start as you mean to go on”. How people behave at the beginning of a relationship is crucial – because it is how they will continue to behave. In other words, the choices your partner makes, the lifestyle they wish to live, will be made clear right from the start.

Dating therefore provides a couple with an opportunity to check one another out so they can each ask the 9 questions I wrote about in a previous article: https://conversations.indy100.com/questions-love-relationships. This is crucial, especially if a couple wishes to get married and have children. Divorce is expensive and children often suffer the most. Relationships are risky but at least by becoming more self-aware and by taking time to get to know one another and each other’s families better, you can try to reduce the risk.

Know this too: You are NOT going to change your partner. And it isn’t your job to change them either. Your job is to check to see whether they’re a good match that will suit your life’s goals. Full stop.

Dating however, should be fun. It can be fun to be courted and it can be fun finding out things about one another. But games have rules. It is therefore also important to understand that how we play the game is crucial to helping each partner determine whether a relationship is right.

But whilst courting, if he doesn’t call you, then you’re not on his mind, if he’s always too busy, then he may not be right for you. Remember that men are the hunters. Do NOT hunt him, and “But I love him”, is no excuse. Sure, it can be hard. But at least you’ll find out quickly where you stand, if you just sit tight and wait for that call.

I’ll leave you with this wisdom from Joey Adams, “Never let a fool kiss you, or a kiss fool you”. I wish you all of the best on your next date.

Deidré Wallace is a relationship therapist and educator. She has had a private practice for the past 20 years. For more information, visit her website: https://relationshipknowledge.com/

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