It’s a baffling question: Is there some specific moment or event that makes a guy suddenly decide “Yes, I think I love her”? Well, the answer isn’t clear-cut, but there are some general principles. “Men have certain innate needs that must be met before they truly feel connected to you,” says Paul Dobransky, MD, author of The Secret Psychology of How We Fall in Love. “When a guy realizes, consciously or not, that you’re ideal on all these levels, that’s when he’ll commit.”
Boiled down, guys have four primal relationship desires that are sometimes sated by the tiniest of moves by you. Here, experts explain with examples so you can put these insights to use when your guy is at the brink. The Desire: To Protect
Believe it or not, the so-called stoic sex is hardwired to nurture. Sheltering you from harm makes him feel studly, which makes him feel good. “Not that you should act helpless, but letting him see your vulnerable side will bring him closer because it unlocks his instincts to take care of you,” says David Givens, PhD, author of Love Signals. So give him chances to take charge, and thank him after he does. When a guy associates you with feeling like Superman, of course he’ll want to couple up. These little things can draw out his hero side.
- Give him a job. Ask him to fix or build you something. Performing concrete tasks is a way of bonding that enhances his sense of success.
- Ask his opinion. Whether it’s about your 401(k) options or the best travel sites, it telegraphs that you value his brain as much as you do his brawn.
- Wear soft materials. Delicate textures like rayon, silk, and fur trigger an intense response in men. These fabrics accentuate your softer, feminine nature, which heightens his amorous instincts.
- Don his clothes. It shows that you’ve chosen him over other guys — sexy.
The Desire: Freedom
Even emotionally healthy men want assurance that their identities will stay put after they’ve become half a happy couple. “By making it clear that you don’t expect your guy to change, he’ll feel like you truly understand him but don’t threaten his sense of self,” says Dan Neuharth, PhD, author of Secrets You Keep from Yourself. “That leaves him feeling on sturdy enough ground to commit.” The following moves let him know you’re no ball and chain.
- Blow him off. Men hate the idea of being tied down socially, so turn down occasional plans. He’ll not only feel easier — and open up more — around you, but he’ll also start to wonder what you’re doing and pursue you more.
- Share your own fears. Guys often hold back because they think most chicks are baby-hungry ring-hunters. So if you feel nervous about committing, let him know. He’ll be reassured that you’re navigating new waters too, not trying to trap him.
- Reinvent yourself. Little changes in your appearance now and then — say, hair up in a ponytail one day, down the next, etc. — remind him that you’ve got zillions of facets to your personality too. Read: no rut risks.
- Respect his privacy. A physical space that’s totally his is a huge symbol of independence to a man. Signal that you respect that by, say, staying out of desk drawers and not peeking at his caller ID when his phone rings.
The Desire: To Shine
Maybe he’s cocky, but he’s still insecure. Trust us, guys need to know that they’re respected and appreciated. “When being around you increases a guy’s esteem, both internally and in the eyes of others, he’ll naturally want to be attached to you,” says Dr. Dobransky. Here, things that show your high value and nudge him toward love.
- Make him happier. Laugh when one of you loses balance during sex. Go to stupid movies. Drag him out when he’s crabby. If you can keep things light, even during stressful times, you’ll become indispensable.
- Be a social butterfly. Guys are good at left-brain stuff, like sales and sports, but can get awkward when it comes to social graces. Take the lead and charm the people you meet and he’ll be extra grateful to have you. But he may take credit for making those new friends...whatever.
- Play mind games. Activities that require mental prowess — like Scrabble, puzzles, and chess — can prod his passion. It sounds nuts, but proof of your problem-solving abilities subconsciously shows him you’re a desirable choice for carrying on his genes.
- Act like the grand prize. Seeing you through other people’s eyes reminds him how special you are. Invite him to an event where you’ll excel (whether it’s karaoke or a fun run), or have him stand between you and another man you think is getting too close at a bar.
The Desire: Comfort
“Falling in love is a process of developing attachment, which happens when oxytocin floods the brain,” says Alan Hirsch, MD, neurological director of the Smell and Taste Treatment and Research Foundation. You can unleash those love hormones by making him feel like you two just “fit.” When he’s so comfortable with you that he stops thinking about your relationship and simply enjoys it, he’ll find himself nudged into love territory. Take these tips.
- Let him see you primp. Grooming in front of him enhances intimacy because it’s something other guys don’t get to witness. Just keep it goddesslike (applying lipstick or powder), not gross (bleaching your moustache).
- Cook together. Being around food spikes oxytocin levels in males. The more often you prep dinner à deux, the more he’ll associate you with the good feelings he gets from eating it.
- Stock your pad. When buying groceries you don’t have a preference on, get a brand he uses. He’ll subconsciously feel at home at your place. Sleep with him. Catnap near him or let yourself doze off in his arms so he sees you in your most trusting, completely relaxed state.
What Yanks Him Back from the Brink
Some factors can derail a guy who’s about to fall.
How Flirting Works
- They Get a New Opportunity
A promotion often means spending more hours at work or taking a schedule-chewing class. Instead of balancing that with their love lives, guys tend to prioritize their careers and believe that a solid relationship will endure the delay. So if something big is brewing, he may hold himself back.
- You Never Fight
Sure, guys hate arguing, but it’s worse if you don’t react negatively at all when he’s screwed up. A guy will worry that (a) you’re going to lash out later, (b) you’re a doormat, or (c) you’re not into him enough to care. Any of these will make him rethink your budding relationship.
- Pure Panic
Many men worry that if they commit, they’ll have to give something up — friends, dart night, something. So when a guy realizes he’s fallen for you, he may freak out and pull away for a while. If you can weather his big-baby behavior without reacting in a way that confirms those fears, he should snap out of it.
Imagine that you have no idea what flirting is. If you haven't flirted yourself or seen it happen (either in real life, in the movies or on TV), you might wonder exactly what those two people are
doing. They're showing interest in each other, but they don't actually come out and say it. In fact, it's usually considered crass and crude to do so. Instead, they dance around the issue -- joking, complimenting each other and using physical cues to show their true intentions.
At its most basic, flirting is simply another way that two people can closely interact with each other. But when you get into the intention behind flirting and exactly what flirting entails, things get much more complicated. It doesn't have to be romantic or sexual -- sometimes, it's just friendly banter without any other intentions. Sometimes one person has romantic intentions and the other one only has sexual ones, or doesn't even realize that he's being flirted with.
Misunderstanding the signals can lead to some uncomfortable and embarrassing situations. The most important aspect of flirting is the intention behind it. Sometimes the words used are very innocent, but the speaker's delivery, expression or mannerisms make them appear flirtatious. It can be difficult to know when someone is flirting with you or who might be receptive to your flirting.
In this article, we'll examine the standard signs of flirting. We'll also look at the biological factors that lead to flirting and explore how flirting has changed through the years.Flirting Signs and Signals
How do you know when someone is flirting with you? Although it's different for everybody, there are some common signs. Here are a few clues:
- Using your name a lot in conversation
- Complimenting you
- Asking about your interests
- Touching your arm or knee
- Leaning in while talking
- Standing closely
- Smiling a lot
Just one of these actions or even a few of them together would probably not constitute flirting. But if someone compliments you,
smiles often, leans in closely and brushes your arm as he talks to you, there's a good possibility that he's flirting.
To compound the issue, there are also some differences between how women flirt and how men flirt. For example, some women bat their eyelashes or run their fingers through their hair. Men are more likely to make bold, aggressive gestures, like intense eye contact. In addition, they are more likely to flirt out of sexual interest, while women often flirt to test men's intentions, using ambiguous gestures. The Social Institute Research Centre has coined a term for these ambiguous flirting gestures, like hair touching. They're protean signals, named for the Greek shape-shifting god Proteus. If a woman uses these gestures and learns that the man isn't interested, then she can always play them off as not being flirtatious.
If you want to flirt, you could try any of these methods. But you have to watch carefully for the other person's reaction. If he leans away when you lean forward, or if he doesn't engage in conversation despite your best attempts, then he might not be interested. On the other hand, he could simply be shy and taken aback by your interest. Or he could think that you're just being friendly when you're actually interested in more than just being friends. How do you know for sure? There are no definite rules when it comes to flirting, because every situation is different. Flirting is just as complex and tricky as dating in general.
So although there are some obvious signs of flirting, it can still be a very messy endeavor. In a 2006 article for the Daily Mail, reporter Danielle Gusmaroli wrote about trying a method employed by a successful flirter that she interviewed:
On leaving the bar, I spot a road cleaner across the street and smile warmly. He smiles back and I hold his gaze for an agonizing four seconds, look away and (cringe) look back. He smiles appreciatively and I scuttle off trying not to laugh.
To my horror he pegs it across the road to my side. With a penetrating stare he asks: "Sorry, do I know you?" I apologize, trying to back off.
"Sorry, my mistake. I thought you were someone else." "Give me your number," he demands. I decline. He becomes angry. "You were coming on to me, weren't you?" I panic and run.
What happened? Gusmaroli was trying to flirt, but she wasn't really interested in the road cleaner. It took him awhile to recognize the flirting, and when he did, he seemed to feel like she "owed him" her phone number.
The Science of Flirting
There's a lot going on under the surface when we flirt. Yes, we're sending the message that we're interested, but why do those specific gestures say "I'm interested in you," and what do they really say about us? According to scientists, it all comes down to our inherent desire to reproduce. When we flirt, we're giving off information about how fit we are to procreate as well as our health. There are also specific aspects of our appearance that make us more attractive to others.
Some of the "female" signs of flirting, such as angling her body and sticking out her hips, are attempts to draw attention to her pelvis and its suitability for carrying a child. In addition, men tend to be more attracted to women with a certain hip-to-waist ratio (specifically, the waist must be no more than 60 to 80 percent of the hip circumference). This is also an indication of fertility.
When a man makes intense eye contact and smiles often, he attempts to show that he is both virile and dependable. Women are attracted to prominent, square jaws, which are indicative of a man's power and strength. Scientists point out that features like square jaws in human males have a connection to prominent features in the animal kingdom. Male peacocks attract females with their elaborate plumage, male cardinals are bright red and stags have large horns. Because these features require additional biological resources and also tend to make these animals more visible to their predators, an impressive display shows that these animals are strong.
When we're flirting with someone who fits the bill for us, the limbic system takes over (the same system responsible for our flight-or-fight response). We operate on emotion and instinct. If we only governed flirting with the most rational part of our brains, we might not ever flirt -- or get a date -- at all. In fact, according to biologist Dr. Antonio Damasio, there's a connection between brain damage and flirting. He states that "people with damage to the connection between their limbic structures and the higher brain are smart and rational -- but unable to make decisions".
Still, we're not just animalistic in our flirting behavior. The ability to carry a conversation and engage in the joking back-and-forth of flirting also indicates our intelligence, which is always attractive. In the next section, we'll look at how flirting has changed over the years and how technology has led to new ways of flirting.
Flirting Through the Ages
Today, we -- meaning, most Western societies -- aren't really shocked by typical flirtatious behaviors. But if a person from the Victorian era witnessed the knee-touching, lip-licking and winking that goes on today, he or she might be extremely scandalized. Flirting has gone from very prescribed sets of behaviors to off-the-cuff text and Facebook messages.
Some elements of flirting are eternal. A recent translation of the Kama Sutra, the classic Hindu sexual instruction manual, includes several ways for men to flirt successfully with women. One includes the suggestion that when a man and woman are "playing in the water, he dives underwater at some distance from her, comes up close to her, touches her, and dives underwater again". This sounds like typical flirty behavior between kids.
An 1881 book advising young Victorian men and women on manners and etiquette includes several guidelines for courtship. First and foremost, a "gentleman should not be introduced to a lady, unless her permission has been previously obtained." Once he is introduced, he has the freedom to call on her and accompany her to "concerts, operas, balls, etc." However, a "gentleman who does not contemplate matrimony should not pay too exclusive attention to any one lady."
A proper Victorian woman "will not too eagerly receive the attentions of a gentleman, no matter how much she admires him; nor, on the other hand, will she be so reserved as to altogether discourage him." The book goes on to describe how men should only take the hand of a woman when she offers it, and that the kiss, "the most affectionate form of salutation, and is only proper among near relations and dear friends" [source: Young].
Overt signs of interest were generally considered unacceptable on the part of both men and women. However, Victorian women could still show interest in men through very subtle cues. One way was through floriography, or the language of flowers. Different flowers represented different feelings, and they could be very complicated. Dictionaries were published so that everyone could easily understand the meanings. Here are a few basics:
Today's teenagers surely would not bother with something as complicated as arranging the right flowers to send the correct messages. Over the years, flirting evolved from careful, measured gestures to cutting to the chase. According to a 2006 article in Time magazine, it's completely common for a 15-year-old boy to text a line like "how far have u gone" to a girl after a few days of flirtatious texting. Sometimes the girl replies honestly; or she might say "how far have u gone. ill tell u if u tell me." This could lead to meeting up and making out.
Face-to-face meetings often result in exchanges of e-mail addresses, IM client usernames, or Facebook or MySpace info instead of phone numbers. It's also not uncommon for strangers to meet online and exchange flirtatious banter. But online flirters beware: in December 2007, a manufacturer of anti-virus software discovered a Russian virus that invaded chat rooms. Once in, the virus chatted with users and flirted with them so convincingly that some women shared their photos and phone numbers.
For lots more information about flirting, love and dating, try out the links on the next page.