Just Like a Brother

by Dr. Neil Clark Warren, Clinical Psychologist and eHarmony Founder

Just Like a Brother

Question

Growing up, I was always the “great guy” with a “good heart” who reminded women I was interested in “of their brother,” and not much has changed. Am I sending off the wrong signals when looking for a relationship, or am I misinterpreting the signals women send me? How long should I pursue a woman before I would know the difference between “just friends” and “more than just friends”? Am I looking for the wrong kinds of women? Or worse, am I just doomed to be everyone’s brother and confidante? Thanks, Kevin in Wichita, KS

Answer

Thanks for your letter. I suspect there are millions of men who are dealing with the same kind of problem. Society certainly does tend to give us mixed signals. Women will often say that they want a man who can communicate—a man who knows what’s going on inside him. Time and time again “kindness” is rated as the most important thing that women want in a mate.

On the other hand, men who are soft or sensitive often turn women off. And, ironically, one of the worst things a man can hear from a date is that he’s a “nice guy.”

You’ve asked several questions, but based on the situation you describe I believe one of two things is happening.

  1. These women just don’t feel a strong sense of chemistry with you.

    If you’ve been out with five women in the last five months and each has told you that they just want to be friends, it is likely that they just don’t feel a strong sense of chemistry and are searching for a nice way to end the relationship. I can appreciate your frustration, but in this scenario you’re not creating the problem. The best solution is to keep reaching out to your eHarmony matches and remain positive.

  2. You are, unintentionally, hampering a woman’s ability to see you as a love interest.

    This is a harder situation to resolve because it involves examining yourself and considering what signals you may be giving a woman. The first few dates you share with a woman are VERY different from the rest of your relationship. This is a period where both people are “looking” for indications of what sort of relationship partner the other will be. Assumptions are being made with very little information, and you need to be aware how those assumptions play into attraction.

What women look for in a man
When I talk to women about the men they are attracted to, I hear a few things over and over. In the space of a few hours your date is observing you to try and determine if you are all these things:

  • Kind
  • Have a great sense of humor
  • Emotionally strong and stable
  • Confident

Confidence is often the quality that men overlook. I’m not talking about an annoying swagger. This is a quiet confidence that plays across your entire demeanor. Confident men are not overeager. They are kind, but don’t bend over backwards to prove their accessibility and desirability. They understand that early in a relationship there are some important boundaries and that being too eager to please and needy is perceived poorly by most women.
Kevin, this can be complex stuff, because most women love a gentleman, but they want a gentleman who possess a sense of strength about who he his and what kind of relationship he wants. This leads me to your question about knowing the difference in a romantic relationship and “just friends” relationship. That is all about chemistry.

Let’s talk about chemistry
If you’re dating someone and you both share a strong sense of chemistry it won’t be long before you know it. Many women have a policy against kissing on the first date, but by the second or third date a woman who has a strong physical attraction for you is going to want to kiss you. And if, by the third date, you’ve spent some romantic time together and not yet had a kiss, it’s probably time to give it a try. If she is interested you’ll know, and if she isn’t . . . you’ll know that as well.

By making a few small changes to the ways you interact during the first few dates, I’m confident that you’ll appear less as the “sweet guy who women want as a best friend” and more like a potential romantic interest who can become a great friend.

I wish you the very best,
Dr. Neil Clark Warren

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