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6 secrets to a man’s mind

WOMEN can be divided into two groups: those who wilt outside relationships and those who wilt within them. I fit into the second category.

While friends of mine claim to be unable to sleep well without a male chest as a pillow, I have never had a good night’s sleep sharing a bed with a man and find the sound of male snoring about as pleasurable as a yeast infection.

You may be getting the impression of someone who isn’t very nice when she has to “share” — but it’s distinctly sharing life with a man that I find a struggle. Yet through all the anxiety and misunderstandings of my relationships and lesser dalliances, from protracted flings to onenight stands, I couldn’t help but wonder: must it really be like this? The high emotion, the confusion, the pangs of rejection, the walking on eggshells?

And so it was that I began writing my book. I spent almost a year talking to hundreds of men to get to the bottom of the way they think about us in the context of dating and relationships. Here are a few of their responses that I found enlightening.

1 > Men embarrass and scare, easily

HAVE you ever kissed someone you vaguely know and found him treating you as though you’re carrying a new strain of killer flu the next day — and forever after?

You can send all the “we’re cool” signals you like, but the snog (or whatever) is done, and now the expectation is there. While women digest complex situations rather easily, men freak out at discordance between action and intention.

So it’s a combination of embarrassment, guilt and fear that makes them want to hide under a rock when they see you after a night of illadvised passion.

Jake K (34) puts it nicely: “Why does he go cold? Embarrassment, plain and simple.”

Meaning, he’d decided not to pursue that path when you’d met before, and he U-turned for no good reason, and now he feels foolish. He goes on: “The main reason men avoid women is guilt — they remind them of their mistakes.”

Conclusion? Men are full of fear of confrontation and guilt, and so they overreact.

The only solution is to let him be until he calms down. Soon enough he won’t actually find you repulsive.

2 > Men will go to any lengths to feel loved

I’VE often been swept along by grand or romantic gestures, breathlessly waiting for things to get serious. Often, though, the roses, the champagne and the toothbrush he makes a show of keeping for you at his place lead nowhere. So why do they bother?

One main reason: the desire to be loved, and fast. For the roses and champagne, let’s hear from Victor L (28).

“There’s no question that a guy wants to sweep a girl off her feet as quickly as possible. He wants her thinking about him and how great he is. The quicker she falls for him, the more secure the guy will feel, and he’ll be able to sit back, sigh and assess this ‘new girl’.”

Others pointed out that feeling loved is like a potent drug that feeds straight to the ego — the equivalent of oxygen in men. Thus, they’ll go “flat-out initially” (Victor again); then, once they feel loved, it’s mission accomplished and off they go.

3 > Making the leap from friends to lover is doomed

IT SEEMS like the perfect romantic solution. But knowing what I do, I am not going to be harbouring any of those fantasies again, and nor should you.

Why? Simple: the stakes are too high, from the beginning, for men to cope. As is the pressure. Says Marcus F (28): “The epiphanic moment [of coming together] is blighted by a massive caveat: ‘If this works, amazing; if it doesn’t, I lose everything.’”

Drama, again. Fear, again. And there’s nothing like the latter to put a man off the prospect of a relationship.

4 > The most unexpected men have 'player' mentalities

I USED to endlessly scratch my head and feel down in the dumps about the disconnect between the keen man in your bed/flat and the man who is, apparently, not in possession of a telephone the rest of the time.

Now I know why men can act like boyfriends when you’re together — cooking dinner, bringing DVDs — and cold when you’re apart. They’re playing the field, and they want you on their books for sex. Adam Lyons is a dating coach and pick-up artist, and proved a valuable resource for me. He says: “This behaviour is the hallmark of the player. His primary goal is getting laid. It’s all about sex for this guy. He’s got the whole ‘when we’re together everything’s going to be perfect’ thing going.” It seems that there’s nothing meaningful in these gestures. They’re a studied, and not unenjoyable way, of getting you to sleep with them.

Solution: learn not to set store by romantic evenings that don’t come with a follow-through. And if you’re offended at being used for sex, send him home after supper and see what happens.

5 > Once a booty call, always a booty call

ONCE a friend, always a friend, and if you’re going to be a girlfriend, you’ll be seen as such from the first.

One of the most fascinating nuggets to emerge from my research was this: men see you in different categories, and you don’t have any power to shift from one to the other — you particularly won’t be able to go from booty-call girl (the woman he calls when he wants sex) to girlfriend.

Take Anthony A (29): “Booty calls have nothing to do with your suitability as a girlfriend.” Or Iain H (29): “[A booty call] means that you are considering them as a one-night stand. If you’re considering someone as a potential girlfriend, you’ll do it properly.” Or Will L (30): “If you booty-call her, you’re not considering her as a girlfriend.”

A man will have seen you as a girlfriend figure from the first — if not, he never will. Don’t waste time pining for the man who calls on you late and drunk of a Friday night.

6 > Men fear aging more than us

The trappings of adulthood, eg responsibility or curbed “freedom”, terrify them.

And most of them treasure a deep-seated “bachelor pad” dream. Which is why they can be with you for years, spend every night with you, and still refuse to move in with you.

The now-married Andy B (45) sums it up: “In men’s minds, that little step is a huge step. Not only does it represent giving up your independence, it’s about giving up the end of your youth as well.”

The solution is to put your foot down. Andy himself notes that men get away with murder these days, since marriage is no longer a duty, and can drag on this pre-permanent state cruelly long. He was booted into cohabitation, then happy marriage, by his wife’s foot going down.

“Move in, or we’re over” is the most effective approach.

What The Hell Is He Thinking? All The Questions You’ve Ever Asked About Men Answered, by Zoe Strimpel, is published by Fig Tree, €11.85