Style Sex & Relationships

Monday 18 February 2019

He's just not that into you!

Looking for love:
Scarlett Johansson
and Drew Barrymore
in the hit movie
Looking for love: Scarlett Johansson and Drew Barrymore in the hit movie

Siobhan Cronin

All you single ladies, listen up. Don't look on the bright side, look on the dark side. Assume rejection first -- assume you're the rule and not the exception. It's intoxicatingly liberating.

That's the brilliant but obvious advice that has probably made a million for author Liz Tuccillo, thanks to the fact that her best-selling book, co-authored with her buddy Greg Behrendt, has now been turned into a hit movie: He's Just Not That Into You.

The catchphrase, made famous by an episode of Sex and the City, is a perfect example of art imitating life. Liz, who was a writer on the hit show, was listening to one of her colleague's latest love disasters when Greg, then a consultant to the show, piped up with: "Listen, it sounds like he's just not that into you."

This line was later taken up by SATC character Jack Berger who used it to express his 'man view' on Miranda's latest love interest.

Liz remembers Greg's outburst like it was the last secret of Fatima: "A collective epiphany burst forth in the room, and for me in particular. All these years I'd been complaining about men and their mixed messages; now I saw they weren't mixed messages at all. I was the one that was mixed up."

It's no different in Ireland than in New York. I have heard the pathetic stories from my own girlfriends, and secretly thought 'he's just not that into you'. Like the guy who told my friend Caroline that his sister had died and he needed 'time out'.

She met his cousin a week later who admitted the guy was an only child. Or the jerk who stood up my friend Susan on Valentine's Night with the bizarre story of his 'arrest'. Apparently, he was running past a parked car when the guards took him in on suspicion of stealing a wallet from the passenger seat. But her uncle saw him in a trendy bistro with a blonde at the time of his 'detention'.

And yet all these women were willing to give their men the benefit of the doubt, until the sordid truth emerged.

'Knowledge is power, and more importantly, knowledge saves us time," says Liz, in the book that inspired the hit movie.

"Going out with some men is like driving with bad headlights," says my gay friend Will, reassuring me that it's not just a 'straight man' thing.

"You see just enough to stop you crashing, but not enough to see the signs that would direct you off the road to ruin."

He remembers the guy who asks for the dinner bill just as he goes to the bathroom and then spends so long in there that you assume he is (a) reading War And Peace or (b) engaging in a 'grab and go', and so you pay up -- minutes before he emerges with the tale of the phone call from the sister.

Marketing executive Anna told me about the Cork man who wanted to "focus on his career" so that he would be a good provider for his future family. If they were meant to be, their paths would cross some other time, he said. But when she followed him out of the bar, she realised the only path he was on was to the lap dancing club around the corner.

The reason for all this deception, according to Greg, is that men "would rather lose an arm out a city bus window than tell you simply, 'You're not the one'. We are quite sure you will kill us, or yourself, or both -- or even worse, cry and yell at us."

I am no stranger to the concept myself. I once dated a dopehead for three months who was so constantly strung out that he regularly forgot our dates. One night, I rang him up and told him 'listen, if you're not even bothered enough to ... ' but before I finished the sentence, he had mumbled 'Ok, no problem' and hung up, and I realised I had dumped myself.

Will had to glue my hands together to stop me from ringing him up to apologise for my behaviour and gave me the then-equivalent of the line: "He's just not that into you".

Dublin-based psychotherapist Jac Broder says the line is a very healthy one to adopt. "It's a better option to take than to try and change somebody. If you are saying 'I need to change that' or 'I am not happy with that behaviour', then there is a problem. And sometimes it is them, and not you."

Putting up with bad habits just stops people from sorting themselves out, says Broder. People really are better off lonely on their own than lonely in a relationship. "At least, if you are on your own, you have a chance of meeting someone. If you are lonely with someone, you really are miserable."

The key is to be happy with ourselves first, and then we can attract a happy relationship. "The last few years in Ireland we saw happiness equated with holidays, cars, handbags and plastic surgery. But real happiness is just being okay with who you are," Broder believes.

Greg and Liz are the ideal duo to give advice to us pessimistic single women. Liz has been there, done that, and created the movie. Greg is a born romantic who is a self-styled 'bad-boy-turned-good'. But he's also quite a traditional guy, who believes women should never do the pursuing, backed up by Liz's experiences. "I've never had a successful relationship with a guy that I've pursued," she admits.

"When men want you, they do the work," says Greg. "I know it sounds old school, but when men like women, they ask them out."

If your guy has gone abroad and disappeared into thin air, the chances are that he hasn't, in fact, been killed by a lunatic on a moped, or a terrorist, or dropped his phone down a loo. Chances are, he is using the trip as a get-out-easy card.

If he has missed another date, but uses a lot of 'honeys' and 'darlings' on his all-apologies call, remember there is a reason why those words are known as 'sweet nothings'. And if he isn't having sex with you, it's probably not because he finds you so hot that he is afraid of failure.

"If a guy is happy lying around in bed with you eating cookies and watching old movies, and he's not gay, then he's just not that into you," says Greg.

And what about the ex who just can't let you go, but in fact, did? If he's ringing or texting to say he 'misses you', that's ok. He should. But don't forget he's missing you because he chose not to be with you. If you're having break-up sex, just look at the important words in that phrase. It might be great sex, but you've still broken up.

After the break-up, reset your standards and go forth again. Here's one important line to take with you (thanks to Greg, of course!): "Somewhere out there, is a guy who's going to be really happy that you didn't get back together with your crappy ex."

If your man isn't that into you, then free yourself, and go find the one that is.

He's Just Not That Into You opens nationwide tomorrow

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