An interview that takes us to the depths of unknown territory: into the male mind.
Jonathon Aslay is a relationships coach based in LA. This media sensation is a confidant and guide to women world-wide. He has the inside scoop on the male mind—because he has one—but carries with him the sensitivity and compassionate listening ability that is more culturally female. His book entitled The Relationships Men Commit to and Why is a guide to getting to know the other half of the human species. Our conversation touches on many of the subjects in the book. Throughout the interview, we laughed knowingly, both being “seasoned” in the relationship arena.
I had always thought it was sexist to believe that men and women weren’t all that different until I was called on to raise my son solo since being widowed when he was 11. He is now 25. I have since gotten the sense that we are sometimes two distinct species. Can you explain your take on the similarities and differences?
Jonathon Aslay: Where do we begin? Let’s talk about the 25-year-old for the moment and what seems to happen in relationships. I think in the early stages, for men 18-30, they’re just making their way in the world, and they are highly driven from a sexual perspective when it comes to women. We’re not in that place that is ready to take on full blown relationships and commitment, where women come from the place of once they have had sex with a man, they bond with him. Chemicals such as oxytocin are released, and their desire for commitment and security happens. That’s one of the differences that happen in that age bracket. Men are driven by testosterone and the drive to make it out in the world. Then we have to take it into different stages.
It’s difficult to generalize all men without looking at what stages they are in their lives. One of the issues that come up for most of the women I coach who are dating men over 35, and my “sweet spot” might be women dating men between 40-55; there’s a whole different dynamic going on. The differences might be where they are socially and economically: are they going through a divorce? Men might be dealing with the financial aspects of that, which could be alimony and child support, and women might be raising children.
Fundamentally, we all want love. Men want love just as much as women and we really want relationship as much as women do. We are more similar. I said in a Facebook post “Know your audience.” Where are they coming from in their lives? Know what you want in relationship and know your audience. Can he fit into your life instead of trying to mold yourself into his?
What are the communication styles that women and men use that sometimes require an interpreter, or what I call “the universal translator”?
J.A.: This can be an interview in and of itself. I will take a particular thing that I see so often in my coaching practice. It happens with texting. I notice a habit that when a men sends a text: “How’re you doing?” a woman might write back a novel, sharing her entire day, in volumes of information. His response is, “That’s great.” That’s one dynamic that I see happening. Women have a tendency to give a lot more information, especially from an emotional or experiential perspective, where men tend to be more logical. To really trigger a man’s brain, ask him a thinking question rather than a feeling or emotional question or vice versa.
If there was one thing you would like women to truly understand about men, what would that be?
J.A.: I used to say men are very simple, but the reality is, that our lives might be complicated. In that there might be different layers and facets in where they’re at in their lives, based on their profession, what might be going on with past relationships? Look at a person’s lifestyle. Men are simple, but if their lives are complicated, they’re going to be complicated.
What makes it seem like men fear commitment?
J.A.: One of the differences is that women tend to get to the destination much sooner than men do. Remember I said that women bond to man as a result of those chemicals like oxytocin? They’re looking for that security and/or commitment and reach that point much sooner than men. What happens is that it might take a man much longer to get to that point and in that space it may feel like he fears commitment. He just hasn’t reached the destination at the same time. Let me just dovetail here, Edie; I can go into a whole thing about avoiders and attachers and attachment styles that might also seem like one of the reasons there are differences.
Often times men might not communicate on an emotional level, and when women are used to talking to their girlfriends on an emotional level, they are not getting fed in that capacity. They feel as though a man is not at the same place as they are. If men tend to avoid emotional conversation, that might give the appearance that they fear commitment.
Let me just say this: Men who are happy in relationships tend to nest. If he feels happy with the woman and he feels like he can be her hero and they share regular activities together and have regular intimacy together; he’s not going anywhere. He just may not focus on the destination the same way a woman does.
Someone had mentioned something recently, that once a man is sexually intimate with a woman, chemical changes take place and testosterone level drops and he becomes more paternal, more like father material.
J.A.: I don’t have the data to back this up, but from what I understand is that about the time a man starts hitting 38 and then beyond, his testosterone levels begin to decrease and estrogen levels increase. It might be that, but I don’t have the factual data. Literally, 10 minutes ago Sheri and I were just talking about that very same thing for an interview she was doing and we were trying to find that research.
I also think that men become more connected to their hearts as they get older. When a man is more connected to his heart, he is more humble, more thoughtful and in that capacity is more nurturing as well. I know it personally for myself. Testosterone is a chemical that drives us and fuels our ego. When we are in ego, we are in the ‘me’ state, but when testosterone drops, we are less “me” and start letting that “we” lead in.
I noticed that you had wonderful role models in your parents for a life-long loving relationship, as I had as well which I imagine set the standard for your relationships. Is it possible to break longstanding negative generational patterns in relationships?
J.A.: The answer is yes, that anything is possible. For some people, if they grew up in poverty, per se, they are driven internally for having success financially. The same holds true if they were brought up in a difficult home. What happens though is that our blueprint for our lives is predicated and dictated by what we’ve learned. I think of my parents and glorify them now, but when I was growing up, I didn’t really pay much attention to how their relationship was.
What I picked up on were the negative things and rarely picked up on the positive. I think that’s human nature.
I think that whether you grow up in a fairly happy home or a difficult home, we’re going to pick up on the negative cues, more so than the positive cues. The blueprint I had was, “go to college, get a job, meet a girl, get married, buy a house, start a family.” I had no blueprint for how to make a relationship work and had no clue how my parents made it work, and the same thing holds true for those who had difficult relationships. As we get older and start to experience relationships for ourselves, we learn by trial and error. It depends on what we want. Oftentimes men and women have the greatest challenge because they don’t have any clarity on what they want in relationship. They have the idea that they want it.
I like to say that relationships are not 50/50; they are 100/100. 100 percent what each person brings to it: all of who you are, your history, desires and baggage included.
J.A.: I say the same thing in my book: The Relationships Men Commit to and Why. In fact, I call it the love pie. In that pie, you come in 100 percent to your half and the woman comes in 100 percent to her half. What I actually recommend to women is that they actually hold back a little bit, because women have a tendency to give 100 percent to his half. It’s especially that belief that “if I love him more, he’ll love me back.” I recommend energetically holding back one percent and in that one percent a man will chase.
We men need a little bit of that chase all the time.
I asked my mom, “How did you guys make it work?” and she said, “I always made your dad work for it.” She meant it energetically, but she never gave more than he gave to the relationship.
My parents were married nearly 52 years when my dad died in 2008 and my mom joined him in 2010, and I asked the same question since they came from some divergent backgrounds. Their answer was, “We loved each other and that’s what mattered.” When they were celebrating their 50th anniversary and I officiated at their vow renewal ceremony, I asked my dad the secret to the longevity of their marriage and his response was, “Your mother is always right.”
Do women really need to adopt traditional roles like Steve Harvey contends in order to attract a man?
J.A.: It’s been so long since I have read his book. He has what he calls the 90-day period. It doesn’t matter how long you wait. It doesn’t mean there is any guarantee of commitment whether it is on the first date or 90 days, but I am always of the belief of developing a friendship first, because that is what carries a relationship for the long term. When we talk about traditional roles, I remember when I was dating and a woman said, “I’m a traditional woman,” I would get frustrated because I said, “I live in the 21st century.” What does that really mean? Do you want to go back to the old way of doing things or you like some of the old things? I’m saying that tongue and cheek.
What I subscribe to is: don’t give your heart until you really believe that he seriously, genuinely wants a relationship with you and you have developed a friendship. As far as giving up your body, that’s a whole other topic. I’ve known people who had sex on the first date and have been married 20 years. The bodies are buried of people who had sex on one date and never called each other ever again. If you’re a woman, be careful of sleeping with a guy too soon, because of the oxytocin that bonds you to a guy that you might not even like.
I have my ten-date rule. Rarely do relationships today get past the first, second or third date. If you get past the 10th date with a guy, chances are, you are going to have enough information on him to make a fairly informed decision. At that point, you are probably going to have sex somewhere in between. And if you have gotten to that point, chances are you’ll at least jump on the relationship train track where you are going to be exclusive and monogamous for at least 6-12 weeks.
Most relationships have a 90-day probationary period, like jobs. Every woman I have ever spoken to whose relationship ended said the same thing: “I knew in the first few weeks he wasn’t right for me, but I went for it anyway.”
As is the central theme of When Harry Met Sally: can men and women really be friends without tumbling into romantic interaction?
J.A.: The more mature both people are, absolutely they can be friends. If they’ve been former lovers and one still carries a torch, it can still be an issue. But if they’ve never had sex, absolutely.
I’m still friends with some with who I’ve been in a romantic relationship and some are platonic friends who are like brothers that I wouldn’t get involved with sexually.
J.A.: Some men and women might fantasize about it and go, “We’re such great friends; I wonder what it would be like to have sex?” I think of the Seinfeld episode with Elaine and Jerry who said, “we have such good this, why don’t we try this?” We don’t want to give up this, in case this doesn’t work. It comes from a space of, “are we there for each other?” You’re very good friends with a man and now you’re in this excellent relationship with a new man. Understand that we men are territorial, so if you have this good relationship with another man, it can create huge challenges in the relationship you are in. I would have clarity in defining that relationship.
I know you have a wonderful relationship with Sheri Meyers (author of Chatting Or Cheating) and the two of you are quite public about it in social media. What are the upsides and downsides of couples talking with and about each other via Facebook?
J.A.: That’s a good one. We met through Facebook and we have adopted what we call a Social Media Pre-nup when it comes to some of the private information that we share. Because social media is a consistent part of our lives and we have developed so many friendships with other people, it’s on the days that we’re apart—we spend about four days together and the other three days I spend with my children—that it tends to be a nice little way of keeping in touch with each other. It may be through a Facebook post or instant message. I can tell you how it could be a challenge in other relationships, especially if you are friends with past lovers. Let’s say your relationship is in trouble and you’re having some difficulties and you’re going to Facebook to feed that energy.
It’s very classy the way that the two of you do it, that you are supporting each other and are each other’s cheerleaders.
J.A.: We continually support each other because we use social media professionally. That makes us different than the average couple. It can be addictive and sometimes we do have our challenges that we are feeding the Facebook energy more than our own relationship.
Now’s the time for you to brag a bit…what is it about you that allows women to trust you and confide in you?
J.A.: I think it’s because I’m part chick. It means I can communicate and live in that level. I’m relational, I desire relationship. What makes me a unique coach is that I’ve experienced a lot of what my clients go through. I tend to be more of an anxious attachment style and I’ve been in relationships in the past with women who were in avoidant attachment style. I know what it feels like when you send a text and get no response back or the boyfriend needs space. I know how to tap into the feeling, but I also know what it took for me to overcome those.
In addition, what makes me a unique coach (and I do want to brag about this) is that I talk about real life, real issues and real relationships. My life experience has prepared me to help women understand men in this capacity. I’ve been married, had to deal with divorce, went through all those challenges and I had to go back out there. Add to that, I went from being an insurance broker to being a dating and relationships coach. I found love in the process.
Bonus question: What does it take to put the toilet seat down? I saw that you had that as a Facebook post based on my sending you this question in advance.
J.A.: You saw how I responded with the question: “Why don’t women put it up for us?” How do we resolve power struggles and differences in our relationships? It’s really an opportunity to examine your communication style. Truth be told, it’s kind of a trivial thing. If we look it at a deeper level, is the guy being thoughtful and conscious? I’ve had plenty of times when I have forgotten to put the toilet seat down, but does that make me a bad guy? How do we resolve our differences and power struggles?
Editor: K. Macku
Image: Kate Tegtmeyer
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