Trying to overcome conflicting views of courtship.

The best way that I can describe dating between men and women is two trains moving in opposite directions that somehow end up in a head-on collision. In essence, we’re usually not on the same track or traveling similar journeys. Yet, we find our way to each other and someone detours off of their path in favor of the other’s. But because it was never actually the desired route, they don’t always stay there.

From a young age, men and women receive different ideas about relationships. Girls are taught to aspire to marriage and preserve themselves, but we don’t teach boys the same. Boys are taught that a wife is a “ball-and-chain” that severely limits their much-needed freedom. Marriage is presented as a necessary burden to be undertaken someday, in the very distant future.

This is compounded by the climate of our social circles. Boys who become men are high-fived for having sex with women, especially a woman who is highly sought after. It’s treated as some kind of feat that has been accomplished. He is the envy of all men. On the other side, women are degraded if thought to have slept with too many guys. (Whatever ambiguous number that is.)

Men are put on a pedestal. Girls grow into women believing that to have a man is a privilege. We’re taught how to get a man, keep a man and treat a man. Rarely is anyone relaying the same message to them as it pertains to us, however. Girls become competitors, for the attention of men. For the great honor of having a man find them sexually desirable.

Men are encouraged to take their time before settling down. A guy who lives alone, is without children and has built a nice life for himself is labeled an eligible bachelor. He’s celebrated for his accomplishments, and revered for his wild dating experiences. A woman in this same situation, even the most successful among us, is more often than not presented with questions and bewilderment regarding her relationship status. Her being single overshadows everything else about her as a topic of conversation. People want to know one thing, where’s your man? Wait, two things — The other being when you plan to have children.

The biggest problem with such polarizing values and perceptions of romantic relationships between the sexes, is that these women are expecting these men to love them. These same men, who have spent their lives in an environment that encourages sleeping with as many women as they can and having as much fun as possible are expected to offer something more meaningful. This leaves women, the ones who’ve aspired to marriage and family and done their best to become suitable “wife material” with intentions that are rarely reciprocated.

But women aren’t just crazed relationship hounds. Usually, we start to envision this step after being led to believe that such potential exists. This brings me to the manipulative aspect of men chasing women. A man that tries to pick up women by stating up front that he is only interested in sex and a few dates will fail in achieving his goal most of the time.

So, some men do what they feel is necessary to attract the women that they want. This is different from simple courtship. They’ll sweet talk a woman, wine and dine, spend inordinate amounts of time with her and money on her, keep in touch throughout the day, be caring, gentle and do things to make her feel special, even if she’s not — all in an effort to win her over. Naturally, we take it all to mean something. Lust looks a lot like love. Feels like it too.

When your actions don’t coincide with your words, it’s confusing. You can’t treat a situation like a relationship and then turn around and say that’s not what you’re looking for. A man who thinks this is necessary because women won’t be interested if presented with the truth is wrong. A stand-up guy will lead with honesty, verbally and behaviorally, and accept the woman’s right to make an informed decision on whether or not she’d like to engage. He takes his losses even if they far outweigh the wins.

You want the interaction to remain casual? Treat it casually. Because once you’ve let things go so far, it’s almost impossible to reel it back in. Interested in the situation becoming more? Be straightforward and consistent about that as well. But don’t approach it like more and then proclaim that it’s less. This is what leads to broken hearts and hurt feelings.

Are there women who display dishonest, calculated behavior when dating? Sure. But I don’t date women. So, I really can’t speak on that in much detail.

What I do know is that generally, men and women grow up with very distinct notions of love and relationships. This has led to a monumental disconnect where both sides are rarely on the same page. Two trains, set out in opposite directions but expected to come together.

As a result, us women often find ourselves pursuing relationships with men who are simply pursuing women.

Author of the critically acclaimed book on women and relationship status, “Single That.”

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