Anticipation Machines for Human Relationships: What Does He Anticipate About You?


what men anticipate in relationships
I recently heard a brain-science researcher discussing the nature of human memory. He was making the case that humans are “anticipation machines” and that memory is the foundation of our ability to anticipate what is coming next.

He was talking about the difference between “implicit” and “explicit” memory. Explicit memory is the kind of memory you can share as factual knowledge or as a story of a certain place or situation. It’s different than implicit memory because implicit memory is nonverbal.

Implicit memory is the kind of memory that allows you to remember how to ride a bike. When you get on a bike, you have the sense that you know what to do. Your body knows how to balance.

The shifting weight of the bicycle feels familiar to you as you make a turn. This is implicit memory. Even though you cannot put it into words, it is active in your mind when you hop on a bike.

What does your boyfriend anticipate about you?

If humans are anticipation machines, and our memories are the basis of that ability to anticipate, he certainly must have expectations for the experience of being in your presence.

I could ask him about you, and he would probably make a good effort to explain what he likes about you, what frustrates him, and where he sees the relationship going. However, it’s the implicit memory, the part he cannot put into words, which will most influence his decisions about the future.

In the sad situations when I am consulted about convincing an ex to give things another try, it’s the implicit memory that makes my job difficult. The second he sees her name show up on his caller ID there is an instant, visceral, mind-body reaction. The question is, what kind of reaction does he have?

If it is an instant stress response, based purely on repulsion, fear, or a desire to escape from arguments he associates with emotional pain, my job will be extremely difficult. However, if it is a mixed reaction of longing, hope, and nervous anticipation of the possibility of another adrenaline-riddled fight, my job is a little easier.

The point is when you show up on his mental radar, there will be a reaction that is similar to flipping a light switch. Emotions arise that are based on the anticipation of what is coming next.

Now my question for you is this. What do you think his implicit memory tells him to anticipate when he picks up the phone after seeing your number come up?

The sad truth about men is, most of them hate talking on the phone with their girlfriends. They put up with it and put on a good show as if they enjoy it, but the vast majority of men dislike long phone conversations.

It’s not so bad for them at first. It’s all a part of the adventure of pursuing a relationship with you when the relationship is new and exciting. Unlike women though, the value of those phone calls decreases over time for men. They start to experience it as a chore.

The reason is simple. The majority of men experience a very low drive for talking unless the talking is used to move toward a specific goal or purpose.

They won’t admit it to you, but most men would rather just say hello and then hang up and get back to folding their laundry or sorting through their email. They don’t enjoy twenty-minute phone conversations that involve relaxed small talk about random events that occurred during the day.

what men anticipate in relationshipsFor women, this kind of discussion is a form of bonding. It is emotionally satisfying and makes you feel like someone else in your life cares about the little things because they care about you. Most men are socialized in a way that prevents them from appreciating that form of communication.

The result? Many men end up with a visceral, gut-level desire to avoid picking up the phone after a few months of dating leads to longer conversations every afternoon, after work. It doesn’t mean he doesn’t love you, but it does mean you are gradually contributing to implicit memory associations of a sort that can harm his drive to pursue you.

Here are a few simple suggestions to remedy this common problem:

1.Keep your phone calls short and sweet, so he continues to anticipate pleasurable check-ins rather than marathon of venting episodes or discussions of nothing in particular.

2.Give him short nuggets of information that you will package along with a purpose for talking about it. For example, tell him, “I just need to vent for five minutes about my boss and how annoying she has been in the last two weeks. I don’t expect you to fix it or anything, but it makes me feel really good when you just listen, okay?” This way, he feels like he is on a mission, which eliminates his feeling of boredom. To you, it seems obvious, but he may need you to spell it out for him like this.

3.Try to mix and match the type of conversation you have with him. Try to think of a few things that seem to be interests of his that you can work into your conversations with him. Guys love talking about how things work, tools for accomplishing things, and any conversation that starts with, “Wouldn’t it be cool if…”

No relationship is perfect, and not all men fit the stereotypes in this article. However, the vast majority of you will find yourselves in happier, longer-lasting relationships by using this information to manage the anticipation machine operating in your man’s head.

James Bauer


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21 thoughts on “Anticipation Machines for Human Relationships: What Does He Anticipate About You?

  1. disne said:

    I had a 4 yr relationship with a guy who did all the talking about mundane things almost daily. It would bore me at times. Sometimes I just thought he really like to hear himself talk since he prided himself on his eloquence of speech. These concepts may apply to well to a a lot of other men perhaps.

    • BJ said:

      Ha! I had the same experience with my last BF – he was the one that did the calling and all the chit chat. In fact, sometimes he’d get mad and say, “don’t you have anything to say?” Well maybe I would if I could get a word in edgewise LOL!. What was ironic is he always claimed to be too busy to do anything with me, but could somehow stay on the phone chatting about nothing for 30 or more minutes.

  2. Tina Drum said:

    Nice article, thanks for the information. I have never thought about the ‘implicit’ memory response before but it makes complete sense.

  3. pasty fagen said:

    I’m just wondering if all this good information applies to seniors. Seniors have different issues when thinking about letting someone into their lives in a serious way

    • James Bauer said:

      Most of the senior men and women I know have gotten better at anticipating what they want over the years. I find older women who are dating are more careful about getting into a relationship that might lead to things they do not have the time or interest in putting up with anymore. I find the same with men.

  4. NANCY GREENE said:

    The guy I have been dating for over a year does a lot of driving. He must get lonely driving cause I can almost expect a call from him when he is on the road. I do enjoy these conversations and I have learned a lot about him. Most of the time he will talk to me for up to an hour. But I will had this….when he is at home and something on TV had his attention I will end the conversation and let him have his time.

  5. Ginny said:

    Thanks for your great articles James – unlike so many others you actually give useful information rather than just tempters to sell something. I can relate perfectly to this article and have been guilty of causing a negative implicit reaction for sure. Thank you.

  6. Faith bullock said:

    The guy I’ve been with for a year reduced our conversations to texts many times they are long conversations. A lot of this went on end the begining until he eventually started calling. Now we’re back to texting mostly. I guess this is natural. He’s constantly muti tasking so I prefer his full attention with a call sometimes. We text so much we agreed that if the conversation is serious like about concerns of the relationship we promise to call or talk in person so so we won’t misinterpret anything. The constant texting was starting to bug me because he seems to really enjoy phone calls from friends and family.

  7. Davina said:

    My ex and I broke up when he was going through PTSD after his third tour of Afghanistan. He actually stated during the break up that he felt seeing me was more stressful than being sent all over the place with the military. I’m guessing he has a really deep seated implicit memory regarding me and its not a good one. He did make contact with me again after a year and a half of radio silence on both our parts. And has sent a few e-mails and will be leaving the military at the end of the year. Any ideas on how to change an implicit memory response? Any advice would be appreciated. Thanks for all your previous advice and I echo the opinion of Ginny, that it’s nice to have some advice which isn’t just a teaser to get us to buy buy buy! 🙂

    • James Bauer said:

      Hi Davina. My understanding is that implicit memories do not get changed so much as they get “overlayed,” meaning you build a new, stronger memory “rut” for a new set of implicit memory-based sensations. The only way that can happen is if he is willing to spend the time building new mental associations with your presence. Of course, this sounds to me like a man who wants to put a guilt trip on you and make you feel bad. I doubt his implicit memories are all that stressful and bad. There is a slight attention-seeking element to his statements to you. I’d be careful moving forward.

      • Davina said:

        Thank you for your reply. Funny, he always did do silly almost childish things to get my attention, I called it “pulling my pigtails’ like little boys do to get attention from the girls they like. He had a messed up childhood, parents doted on his sister and pushed him away, probably why he joined the military. But I”m not painting the prettiest picture here, he was a really practical, sensible, well-mannered, good man. He just became a bit of a toddler around me. I’ve read that can be a psychological thing with some guys. Believe me I didn’t mother him!
        And I agree that at the time he did want me to feel like it was my fault, thats part of the PTSD talking. But then it as me who lost my temper in that last fight when he was still vulnerable. I knew he was pretty damaged when we got together and the military only made the damage worse. I won’t be setting foot anywhere near him till he’s out and settled into his new civvie life and then only if he shows me he really wants to be back in my life.
        Thanks again.

  8. cindy said:

    I wondered how a man could call and talk for almost 12 hours a day and then just stop calling altogether. Now we text and I do get a call now and then, but it’s much shorter but still informative. Thanks for the article!

  9. Francis D said:

    It makes a whole lots of sense. Very applicable to me.

  10. Alima said:

    Waow! when I think of my past relationships, I realise this is very true most men hate long and boring conversations .thanks Davina for the tips to remedy this .loved it

  11. Nina said:

    James- This is such a great article. And forced me to recognize that my love interest feels a negative anticipation when he thinks of me due to the fights we’ve had in the past. Now we aren’t even speaking…which is gut wrenching for me. I miss him desperately i want to text him everyday and ask him how he is etc but i don’t because i don’t think he wants to talk to me. My question is if the person has a negative response to you and you aren’t still speaking but do see each other out and about what can you do, without overwhelming them or breaching the boundary between you, to switch the negative response to a positive one? I know if i just try to reach out to him and be positive he’ll probably think it’s just an act and be waiting for me to do the very things that caused him to feel this way about me to begin with/ In essence he has mentally written me off but not completely closed contact with me…I feel helpless and maybe i should give up however this is someone that i really deeply care about.

    • James Bauer said:

      Hey, Nina. Try this. Start with text messages that don’t really need a response.

      Maybe a funny quote you saw. Another day just send a link to some current event article you know he has an interest in. A week later find some other excuse to be a positive and uplifting source of joy in his life.

      Then wait.

      Don’t get desperate for a response. Don’t get angry if he ignores you. Wait a week or two.

      Then repeat. But this time, ask for his help with something. Or ask his opinion about something. This is a way of showing respect (to men anyway).

      This may open the door to communication. Which will give you time to show the side of your personality that really shines.

      James

      • sha said:

        This is epic. The guy I’m talking to at the moment does this to me lol. Or If he knows he will be busy he will send me videos to entertain me. James you need a talk show

        • Nina said:

          i wish i had that problem this guy does the opposite though maybe i should do what he does and as james suggested…idk what the F I’m doing though haven’t been single in so long I’m terrible at it -_-

      • Nina said:

        Thank you so much James!

        I will try this advice although since i forgot you replied i have continued to muck things up so I’m not sure if it’s actually too late to try this anyways. But what have i got to lose at this point.

  12. marenvrinda said:

    please don’t generalize about women when it comes to talking on the phone. I am female and I absolutely hate phone conversations that don’t have a purpose and/or any long conversations that don’t get to the point. I’d rather be doing my laundry or emails. I too see them as a chore and waste of time. I’d rather “bond” in person.

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