Should I Keep Him On His Toes or Be Steady and True?

balance in the relationship

Some women prefer to shake things up, to avoid being overly predictable, and to keep their man “on his toes.”

Other women want to provide a consistent experience for the man they are dating. These women avoid being erratic. They figure a man will be hesitant to stick with someone who is all over the place.

When we talk about being consistent or unpredictable, we set up a false dichotomy. A false dichotomy means you pick two things and act as if they are mutually exclusive, when really they are not.

For example, someone might ask you whether you are going to choose a beautiful dress or a white dress for your wedding. Many women would assert that a dress can be both white AND beautiful at the same time. The question is posed in a way that makes it sound as if you have to choose one or the other. Which makes it a false dichotomy.

Can you be consistent and unpredictable at the same time?

I believe you can.

You do so by being consistent in ways where it pays off and being unpredictable in other aspects of the relationship where that mode has a better pay off.

So when does it pay off to be predictable? And when does it pay off to create stability?

Here are my recommendations.

Create balance in the relationship by being consistent when it comes to:
  • Being emotionally warm.
  • Responding to his efforts to connect with you (e.g. returning texts, phone calls, etc.).
  • Demonstrating respect in ways that make him feel you are acknowledging his “manliness.”
  • Your level of physical responsiveness (don’t change in any direction too fast or you can throw off the balance of the relationship as it changes and adjusts to your level of physical intimacy).
  • Bringing your best energy and enthusiasm to interactions with him.
Create balance in the relationship by being a little unpredictable and shaking things up when it comes to:
  • The kind of interactions you suggest. Men like variety when it comes to adventure. If you’re used to going out for dinner and a movie, suggest something very different like ice skating, or wondering through a giant pet store, or trying out geo-tracking. Be creative and show off your fun side when it comes to adventure.
  • Your style of dress and grooming. For some reason, men often get a jolt of new attraction when a woman seems to have multiple ways to show off her beauty. A ponytail and sleek outfit with dark slacks one week followed by a more traditionally feminine outfit and matching hairdo the next week can be a good thing.
  • Your availability. While you never want to disappear, and you should be consistently responsive to his efforts to communicate with you, it doesn’t hurt if you create a slight feeling of scarcity at times. You want him to value the time he gets to spend with you. “Oh, I wish I could, Tom. I love spending time with you, but I wonder if we could hold off till this Friday, after I’ve submitted this report for work.” Then spend practically the whole weekend with him the next week.
  • The questions you ask. The topics of conversation you bring up to explore together.

balance in the relationshipCombining these two sets of ideas would produce a positive experience for a man. He would be dating an emotionally warm woman who is fun and adventurous, yet consistently respectful and positively energized whenever he speaks with her.

She wows him with the range of expression of her beauty, yet responds consistently to reduce his anxiety about connecting with her through physical touch. While she always gets back to him, her friends, hobbies, and work responsibilities put her time in high demand and he appreciates the time he gets to spend with her.

How’s that for a personal ad? Have a great day!


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36 thoughts on “Should I Keep Him On His Toes or Be Steady and True?

  1. Emily said:

    How about guys who vanish suddenly? I’ve known a guy for about 1 month. Had some long evening phone conversations and had a lot in common when we first started talking. Went on 2 dates that were really great (1 date 2 weeks in a row). We planned a 3rd date this weekend (he said he was hoping to get together Sat night and I already had plans but set something up for Sunday). On Saturday we talked via text and everything seemed ok, but he avoided saying a time to get together when I asked. On Sunday he didn’t text good morning like he normally did and said nothing about our Sunday afternoon plans (he always said good morning up until Saturday). I asked how his day was going and it took him a long time to respond. I asked if everything was ok and he said it was, but that he wasn’t able to get together with no explanation. I asked if he wanted to continue dating and he never responded. He hasn’t called/texted since then. Why do guys do this? It’s so hurtful! Drop off the face of the Earth suddenly. 🙁 my gut instinct is that he went out with someone else Sat night instead of me (as we met on online dating and he is still listed on the dating site) and ended things because he found someone else. Would love to hear your thoughts James! It’s hard not to give up when guys do stuff like this.

    • James Bauer said:

      Hi Emily. I certainly understand why this is frustrating for you. Let me point out a few things that may help you as you design your own dating strategy.

      When I’m working with a man or woman to help them find a great romantic partner, I always advise them to avoid putting all their eggs in one basket. In other words, I tell them to date more than one person when the relationship is new (still in the discovery phase of getting to know each other deeper).

      The reason is simple. The future is hard to predict. Sometimes the person you hit it off with on the first date reveals himself to be incompatible once you get to know him a little better. And if you’re like most people, you’ll overestimate your ability to judge a person’s character and compatibility based on first impressions and early interaction experiences. But here’s the truth. Time reveals all. Time will point the way to the best partner who will make you the happiest in the long run.

      So this guy you’re dating is seeing more than one person. It’s frustrating. But it’s the right choice for him at this early stage of your dating relationship. I recommend you follow suit. If the two of you both have strong feelings for each other, time will eventually draw you together.


  2. Fabian said:

    So I got into a big argument with my girlfriend I know the relationship wasn’t perfect but what relationship is. She basically broke up with me moved out and emailed me saying she didn’the want to speak to me and not to contact her. Me being an understanding I gave her space for about 3 weeks then I contacted her saying if we could chat maybe during her lunch break or after work and have a few drinks. She replied with that with the holidays it’s tough and then after then we could maybe speak. What do you think is going on? Does she still love me? Do you think she still wants to get back with me?

    • Fabian said:

      Also I asked her to call me after work and she did she didn’t have much to say given the situation until she got a little frustrated which then I knew she is still upset and her emotions are consuming her and I calmly spoke to her to calm the the conversation. She says she technically didn’t say she did not want to be with me but that it would it would take awhile to fix and that she doesn’the have the energy. So do I just keep giving her space and contact her later to see if she would speak to me?

    • James Bauer said:

      Hey Fabian. Patience will be your friend right now. Many people try to “keep it together” during the holidays for the sake of family and all the socializing that goes on. Afterward is a better time to broach the sensitive topics the two of you need to work through.


  3. Lareine said:

    Hie James
    I really appreciate your emails they have done so much for me.I have learnt so much from them,guess am one of biggest fan’s.They helped me to be a better woman in some way,even though I got so much to learn….am eagerly looking forward to so much from you.

    I am a 23 yr old I recently met a 27 yr old guy….he is charming and I really like him,he likes me too.We have a certain unique connection,the first day we met we got to know alot about each other.We would send texts when ever we got the chance to…..after a couple dates we started dating.the connection is still there but it seems to be fading away….lately his been distant,like he is afraid I might get too close or something.We still text or call but,we just have dry conversations… confused cause I don’t how to ask him what is going on,he seems to be too occupied when I feel like I want to ask.
    They are moments he makes me feel wanted but I guess I never really want to ask….cause I feel like everything is back on track
    I respect him…..and am consistent when I feel I need to be.I am also very unpredictable,to spice things up.
    I don’t know what is happening to us
    please help….would really appreciate your insight on my situation.

    • James Bauer said:

      Hi Lareine. Would it be accurate to say your question is, “Why doesn’t he pursue me in a perfectly predictable way on a consistent basis?”

      If so, consider the implications of that question. It seems to me that any normal human interaction would have the qualities you’ve described. Is there perhaps more that you did not address in your question? Or is this a situation where he is moving toward you but with a natural ebb and flow of desire to do so?

      • Lareine said:

        Hie James
        I would say my question is why isn’t he really letting me in? Why does it seem like he is giving us a chance but he quickly decides. to give us a little space.

        Even though I feel am doing everything in the right way…….I know am not perfect but a
        really trying
        Like he is actually having a battle with in him and the war just seems to be going on…..cause when his around me we are close, but other times his just not the same person he seems distant and drawn but still present.
        or is that I need to spend more time with him to solidify the connection…..rather than relying on texts and calls?
        to deepen the connection and let grow into something worth having?

      • James Bauer said:

        Perhaps you could discover the answer to your question by observing whether he is more consistently emotionally present when you interact in person rather than via messaging/phone calls. However, it is also very possible that he is still sorting through his feelings about what his relationship with you means. Give it time and gently reflect on how present he feels when he is being more present. This may prompt him to ask if he seemed more distant before. If that conversation opens up it will be a perfect non-threatening opportunity to ask if he notices it happening and what changes when he is in that other, more distant mode.

      • Lareine said:

        Thank you so much…..really appreciate your advise

  4. Capricorn girl said:

    Hi James, ‘been reading your articles about a month now. I can relate I recently concluded an online relationship. I met him thru fb when he spotted me at a common friend’s site last June this year. He was in UK that time. We’ve got closer and chat for a longest time for almost 3 months, until when he transferred in Nigeria for work assignment. At first, we even got closer cos he’s in unfamiliar place and people. I felt so special for the time he spend with me, we enjoy each other companies and even plan ahead when he finished his work in Nigeria. We chat endlessly until such time that he became an absentee husband(yes he told me that he is my husband and i’m his wife) and when he pop up again, he told me that he has money problem. He’s financially broke cos he sent his money to his mother due to sickness. And he’d like me to find a person to borrow money from(or he implied that cos I don’t have money anymore cos I already sent him once). Then, recently I felt he doesn’t want to talk to me until we solve his money problem. I have been consistent in dropping notes to inspire him. But i felt it’s not enough. He doesn’t want me to think that he doesn’t need me anymore. He doesn’t want me to ask him if he still loves me. When I said I love him, He replied Thank you. When I told him that i missed him, he answered “i know but… ” so i painfully dropped the words “please delete me in your life now, let us renew our life now and let me pick up pieces of my life”. But sooo miss him so much. I’ve never felt like this before. Had actually had accident driving my motorbike right after what had happened. Been thinking about it unceassently. but i think I deserve to be loved. Please give me advice. Thanks.

  5. cindy said:

    James, do you have anything for getting out of the friends with benefits relationship? Could that change into a lasting and fulfilling relationship?

    • James Bauer said:

      Hi Cindy. This is the closest article to that topic that I have written so far. See it here.

  6. Hello James! Thanks for your articles & your answers which are very helpfull!
    I had an affair years ago with a gorgeous man who was married (said he was unhappy) and/but a womanizer with a lot of success and mistresses.
    23 years after, we met again each other at a concert.
    He was remaried – and sexually unhappy – with another woman; I was married with mature children since 23 years, living without any more interests with my husband.

    We felt a passion for each other.
    This man & I finally left our spouses and moved in together.
    He said he had changed ( no more womanizer), rent a house for us to live in and so on. We are now living together since 2 years and are very happy, but…
    I’m getting divorced. He sais he want to spend the rest of his life with me, but he doesn’t divorce because he “doesn’t want to hurt his wife”.
    He’s not any more a womanizer but acts a way I don’t understand ( cyclic):
    He’s usually very tender & affectionate.

    Often, after the day we have sex, he becomes cold, stares at every woman he sees, flirts with any woman he meets (even in front of me, for ex. with a sales woman in a shop), has Facebook or sms contact with old flames, and so on.
    Then, for weeks ( even if we have sex) he stays attentionate and indifferent to others, and acts “normally”.

    1) I don’t understand this; why when sexual tension is gone, needs he to play with other (he plays and flirt, but I don’t think he cheats).

    2) each time he “plays”, I become jealous & afraid to see the old “womanizer” come back, and even if I try to hide my feelings, it makes him nervous and he says: but I LIVE with you!

    3) on these moments, he’s also becomes open to have friendly contacts with ex lovers he hasn’t heard about since years (without cheating; I’m sure he doesnt… ) : have a drink or a call with them.
    But he’s not spontaneous to say that he had news or met this one or this one. He tells only if I ask.

    I told him I don’t understand what’s the interedt of this (if some ex lovers sometimes happened to invite me for a drink years after, it was always a flirteous- to-be invitation!) and he says he just wants to know what they have become…

    Can you tell me why he acts like this? Is he insecure about his attraction power ?
    I sure do something wrong! What can I change?
    Are all men like this once they have had sex?
    This is driving me insecure even if I tells me we have a great sexlife, and he shows he loves me.
    I told him I need him to “secure” me; he listens…but keep on acting the same way.
    I tried to drive him jealous to keep his attention. He says he’s not the jalous type and reacts lightly to this.
    I’m sure doing something wrong, but what?
    What do you think?

    I feel I have no more feminine power on him when this happens.
    I left once because I was fed up, and then he was devastated.

    I’ am a ( still) attractive, working woman of 58, and he’s a 67 retired man, tan, tall, fit, looking 10 yrs younger.
    I have my own life and friends out of him too, but he likes to spend all his time with me when I’ m free ( even go to the postoffice with me!) & It is difficult to play the “secret”, mysterious and/or unavailable woman ( + we live together).

    Without leaving him ( I love him), what can do to have a balanced relationship and to make him change this attitude?
    Conversations don’t work. How should I act?
    Thanks a lot for your advices!!
    Petite Femme

    • James Bauer said:

      It sounds like there are a lot of things you enjoy about the relationship. It sounds like there are a lot of things he enjoys about the relationship too. Unfortunately, he is still the man you met 23 years ago. The only reason you met him is because he behaves the way he continues to behave now (constantly checking in with other women and flirting as a way of socializing).

      You are his favorite of the moment. Perhaps it will stay that way because of his stage of life and his particular feelings of affection toward you. But his way of relating to people (particularly women) has been a lifelong habit that would be difficult for him to break. For some reason, it seems he has adopted a very free, open perspective about flirting and what it means.

      He has a belief. The belief is that there is nothing wrong or harmful about the way he acts within the context of your relationship. If you want him to change, you must change his belief. He must believe he is damaging you when he flirts with other women. At this point he does not believe that. He listens to you when you complain, but he is secretly thinking you’re just being irrational.

      Changing someone’s belief is a complicated process that I really can’t describe briefly here in a blog response. But I will give you the first step. You must first get him to examine the beliefs he currently holds about flirting and what it means. That is the first step. It builds awareness and helps him to actually look at his own belief system. Only then will you have a chance at succeeding with subsequent steps at suggesting his belief system is mismatched to the real world (i.e. how it affects you rather than how he thinks it ought to affect you).


      • Corinne said:

        Thank you James for this clear answer. It is an interesting point of vue and you are probably right.
        he probaby loves me enough to make efforts… well I hope so ! But as you said, there is the life long habits…b Anyway as I’m still at a stage of the relationship where I’m not discouraged yet.. I will try slowly to make him change his belief… hoping this is not a dream !!
        Thank you for your very quick answer, which helps me a lot!
        All bests,

  7. Goja said:

    James, thank you for a great article! This is exactly what I have been doing intuitively.
    I would appreciate your advice on how to properly end my relationship. Here is a bit of background; I’m an attractive 50 y.o.(much younger looking), divorced woman living in US. In Europe, where I’m originally from, dating is less complicated and things unfold naturally- one way or another. The person I’m dating for 17 months (about 2-3 times a month), is my age and never married. When we’ll get together we enjoy each other tremendously. We have meaningful conversations, fun, passion, thoughtfulness, great energy…, but no plans for when we are going to meet next time. After couple months of casual dating I told him (in general terms), that I’m looking for a committed relationship, consistency and adventure. I have some feelings for him and I know he cares about me, but I suspect that he is a commitment phobic. I didn’t meet any of his friends or coworkers.Have i not been in his place (many times), i would think he is living with someone else. This is very confusing; he won’t let me close but doesn’t let me go either.

    James, I have never been in this situation before. Should I just ask him not to contact me anymore?

    Thank you,

    • James Bauer said:

      Hi Goja. I would say the answer Depends on how comfortable you are with a casual friendship with a man you might still have some feelings for.

      You don’t meet him often enough for him to get in the way of someone else coming into your life, so that’s not a problem. The only reason you might need to ask him to stop contacting you is if you want to stop thinking about him.

      Otherwise, tell him the honest truth, that you have recognized he is not interested in a commitment. But avoid burning bridges. Allow him to continue to be a friend who can contact you, though with an understanding that it will not be for spending time one-on-one.

      • Goja said:

        Thank you, James. Your advice makes sense!

  8. Nichole said:

    What if he expects u to come over every night and if you try not to he feels you’re cheating?

    • James Bauer said:

      Hi Nichole. It sounds like a situation where some open conversation is needed. If he senses you are “trying not to” he may wonder why and come up with fearful thoughts that you want to be with someone else. If you tell him about your honest reasons for wanting space or not wanting to be with him every night, he can meet you where you are. He needs to understand your boundaries and desires if he is going to get a chance to fit into your life in a way that does not end up driving you away in frustration.

  9. Rusty said:

    I have learned that if you don’t go after something you want someone else will , Life is short, enjoyments and love come to those who assert themselves in the direction there heart and feeling are leading them.. so I say to Joy go for it and you might just be surprised at the out come …
    I just met a man that has taken my breath away and I started to hesitate but didn’t.. I felt he would either be receptive or not and surprisingly he was so full of joy that I put myself out there and made the effort to entice him he fell all over himself to be with me… We have shared so much with each other in the past few weeks that I am smiling all the time and he is right there with me..

  10. joy y said:

    Well I dnt know much about him but I know he is always happy when I see him with his colleaques and when he sees me atimes he either says hi or stares at me well

  11. joy y said:

    Thanks james,but what is that something I will say that suggests I will say yes if he asked.

    • James Bauer said:

      Well, I would need to know about his personality and your past interactions to provide really good, targeted examples, but here is the general idea. You make a flirting comment like, “You really like me don’t you?” He may respond with playful banter or a simple “Yes.” Either way, you end with something along the lines of, “Well, we should continue this conversation….sometime. Talk to you later.”

  12. joy y said:

    Hi james,there is this guy at work who constantly stares at me when ever he sees me,he likes me but how do I get him to ask me out bcos I like him too.

    • James Bauer said:

      Start with simple forms of flirting. Then give him permission to ask you out by saying something that suggests you would say “Yes” if he asked.

  13. James,
    Again, you hit the mark. I believe consistency in behavior and attitude and temperament is important for establishing and maintaining trust in a relationship. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t change things up with regard to leisure activities and sex. Men like variety and so do smart women.

    Also, I wanted to comment about Jabeen’s issue. I am a very busy person, but my man is even busier than me. I didn’t think that was possible, but it is. There are times when I feel lonely and want to be with him more but I know that the worse thing I can do is nag him about it. So instead, I tell him that I miss him when he is away from me and when we are together, I make the best of it. Then, when things come up where I need to be away from him, and I don’t reschedule or skip those events because I want him to miss me too. I figure if he misses me enough, he will eventually work it out so that we are together more, one way or another. If not, then it will be his loss because I am out in the world meeting new people all the time. He needs to worry that some other man with more time might sweep me off of my feet! So the key is to maintain your own power,stay busy yourself, live your life as if it’s all good, and eventually the guy will either step up and make a commitment or let someone else steal you away.

    • mi said:

      Great comment, well said! stay relevan. Thank you.

      • Helen said:

        Thank you! Makes sense to me. It’s difficult when someone works a lot. And not feel like you are nagging for his time. But, are still interested in seeing him.

  14. Ludah said:

    James! what if he get offended by your being consistent and unpredictable? since as you say one could be of all at the same time. I mean when you change your hair styles, clothing the way you behave even if on conversations your positiveness you see that it makes him feel I don’t know if i could say jeoulos or uncormfotable.

    • James Bauer said:

      I suppose in this case could ask him outright if he feels uncomfortable. It sounds like you are worried something is causing him to feel uncomfortable. If so, don’t hesitate to ask him. If it is making him uncomfortable, he may not stick around for long. By asking him to say what he is thinking or feeling, there is a chance you will grow together as a couple.

  15. Jabeen said:

    Good reading.But what happen when he has very little time for his girl. i mean if he is workoholic, had a 7yr old son so spend most of his time either at work or with son but still says he like to spend time with you because feel positive emotions and only have time after work which is mostly after 8 pm and 2 days a week. he is impotent but make great love with vibrator. I am confuse with this relation he is very honest and clear issues but if argument happens avoids saying i am being negative. Pleae help on this matter whether i will continue or finish this relation soon.



    • James Bauer said:

      Hi Jabeen. It sounds like you enjoy the relationship and he enjoys the relationship, but you feel alone too much because of his priorities. If the relationship is just blooming, give him time to make you a higher priority as he slowly invests more into his relationship with you. If you have been dating for more than seven months, you might not ever get much more than what he gives you now (in terms of his time). So if that is not satisfying enough, perhaps there is a more available person you could meet if you left this relationship.

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