Do You Fall For Unavailable Guys?

Ian Kerner, therapist and author, reveals why you chase these men... and how to stop already.

By Dawn Yanek

ou know how the story plays out: You’re crazy about a guy—he seems to like you, but always avoids any kind of real courtship or commitment. According to
All women have lusted after an unavailable man at some point.
the best-selling book, maybe the reality is that “he’s just not that into you,” and you need to just accept that harsh truth.

Not so fast, says therapist Ian Kerner, author of the new rebuttal book, Be Honest, You’re Not That Into Him Either: Stop Lowering Your Standards and Reach for the Love You Deserve. Here, he shares his thoughts on why women chase guys who don’t give them the time of day, and how to break that cycle.

What ticked you off so much about the book He’s Just Not That Into You that you had to write a rebuttal to it?

It put the power totally into the hands of men—he’s either into you or not into you, so you might as well sit home picking daisies. And that’s not true about the complexities of modern relationships. I think it’s much more important for women get inside their own heads, look at why they might be lowering their standards, and getting hung up on these jerks in the first place.

All women have lusted after an unavailable man at some point in their lives. Why the heck do we do this to ourselves?

There are a few dimensions, but here’s one of the major reasons that super-smart, super-terrific women start settling: Over the past 30 years, women have become more educated than ever, more focused on their careers, they’re dating around—and right around the age of 27 or 28, they get attacked by what I call the Wedding Shark. The tail fin emerges from the water, and this huge Jaws of a shark is pointed solely at women. In part, it’s based on a biological reality of fertility issues, but there’s also enormous social and societal pressure to find a husband, and that drives them to feel they must consider guys who don’t treat them that well.

What’s the craziest thing you’ve seen women do in their pursuit of the opposite sex?

I’ve watched women get absolutely bent out of shape over men they didn’t like to begin with. My sister-in-laws will come home from a date and be like, “I’m not into that guy. Short, balding accountants just aren’t my thing,” and the next day she’s worrying, “Why didn’t that short, balding accountant call me back?”

So how do women break these bad habits? Whenever one of my friends has the urge to call an ex she was never that into, I tell her to call me instead, even if it’s 3 A.M.

You’ve hit on a huge thing. Women are too often operating on the principle, “I’d
I believe we have to get much more comfortable with being alone with ourselves.
rather be doing anything than being alone.” Ultimately, I believe we have to get much more comfortable with being alone with ourselves. I know one woman who went hiking in Asia by herself, and I noticed a change in her when she got back—a new attitude, a new confidence, and slowly, I watched her change her dating behavior in a positive way.

Here’s another thing that gets in the way of reason: As many women know, there’s the thrill of the chase when you’re pursuing an unavailable guy. You’re really driven to be around him. What’s up with that?

Studies show that the brains of those in love have the most similarities to the brains of addicts, and that has a lot to do with dopamine, a chemical we secrete when we’re in love. The more you’re denied it—say, by chasing an unavailable guy—the more you want it. And the more you get it, the more you keep wanting it. In a positive scenario, though, it leads to romantic love and gives us the basis for attachment.

What’s the single best piece of advice you can give to a woman who wants to fix a seemingly unfixable man?

Be willing to walk away. One of my female friends was seeing a guy who had a girlfriend and I said, “Just try this—try not sleeping with him. Say, ‘I have more respect for myself than to do this.’” She did it, and it really changed the dynamic of the relationship and how he felt about her. They’re still working things out, but he’s much more interested in her now. You need to be able to pull back, see the situation for what it is, and take some control.

Ian Kerner, Ph.D., is the author of Be Honest, You’re Not That Into Him Either: Stop Lowering Your Standards and Reach for the Love You Deserve. He is also a sex and relationship expert for Lifetime Television, where he offers advice regularly on "Kiss and Tell with Dr. Ian."

Dawn Yanek, author of Women’s Best-Kept Secrets, is brutally honest with the man in her life. In fact, he would really like it if she held back just a little.

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