How men can close emotional intelligence ‘skills gaps’ in dating

‘Men, and anyone else that struggles in relationships, shouldn’t feel disheartened’ (Picture: Getty Images)

If you haven’t seen it by now, an article in Psychology Today called ‘The Rise of Lonely, Single Men’ recently went viral.

Why? Because it unpacked data which found that, in the last 30 years, men have become more likely than women to be single, and roughly 62% of dating app users are men.

It seems that maybe, just maybe, the bar isn’t in hell anymore – at least not for an increasing number of women.

The writer, Greg Matos, PsyD, postulates that, because women want ‘men who are emotionally available, good communicators, and share similar values,’ there’s a ‘skills deficit’ that men need to address if they’re going to be successful hetero daters.

He writes: ‘The problem for men is that emotional connection is the lifeblood of healthy, long-term love.

‘Emotional connection requires all the skills that families are still not consistently teaching their young boys.’

So, we wondered, how can these lonely men close this ‘skills gap’ to become more emotionally intelligent and therefore successful daters and partners?

First of all, Counselling Directory member Laura Duester tells us: ‘Men, and anyone else that struggles in relationships, shouldn’t feel disheartened.

Man checking himself in bathroom mirror and touching tummy‘Simply recognising that this may be a problem and trying to learn different ways to behave is the first step’ (Picture: Getty Images)

‘We generally learn how to interact with others from birth – by the way our parents and other key figures engage with both us and each other.

‘Often, we end up repeating relationship patterns that we’ve seen and experienced in childhood, even when these aren’t healthy or effective.

‘Simply recognising that this may be a problem and trying to learn different ways to behave is the first step. New ways of communicating, interacting and engaging with others really can be learned.’

Unfortunately, a lot of men were raised from childhood to bottle up their emotions and be ‘strong’ – the patriarchy strikes again.

But struggling to express emotions and accept vulnerability does not a successful relationship make.

‘I see this all the time in my counselling practice,’ says Laura, ‘and often have to remind men that emotions are a normal and healthy part of human experience.

‘When emotions are not expressed, it’s a bit like putting a lid on a pot that’s boiling – not letting the steam escape and heading towards disaster.

‘One great way to express emotions in relationships is by acknowledging the positive things your partner does. Expressing appreciation and gratitude for your partner, and including how this makes you feel, is a quick and easy way to increase intimacy.

‘It can be as simple as something like “thank you for the hug when I had a stressful day at work; that made me feel really cared-for”.’

Senior couple embracing in kitchen of suburban home‘One great way to express emotions in relationships is by acknowledging the positive things your partner does’ (Picture: Getty Images)

As for becoming good communications, it’s firstly key for men (and everyone else) to really listen to their partners/dates.

‘Often,’ explains Laura, ‘we hear what we expect to hear rather than paying full attention and taking in what is really being said.

‘For example, when a partner says they feel frustrated about the house being messy, we may hear this as a criticism about our commitment to sharing chores, rather than listening and checking what is actually being said and meant.’

The second part of Laura’s advice is to show an actual interest in what your love interest is saying and respond accordingly. Shocking, we know.

Laura adds: ‘This could be by sharing in others’ joys and good news as much as empathising with their difficulties and sorrows.

‘It might also involve asking for clarification or more information, or checking what the other person needs.’

Match’s dating expert, Hayley Quinn shares her top tips on how men can break free from the ‘lonely, single’ phase

Polish up your dating app profile 

‘Yes, you hate having your photo taken, but you’ve got to work on your dating shopfront to get the matches you want. Before you start snapping, consider your personal style: would you really wear that plaid shirt on a date? Also declutter your background – remove all evidence of PlayStations, ironing boards, and takeaway boxes. Instead, use simple backgrounds like brick walls, or out in a nice restaurant or bar to make your photos pop.

‘If you’re having trouble with the written part of your profile, utilise tools on the platform you help you. For example, apps like Match have the ability for you to record a voice note on your profile, so your match can hear your voice and get a sense of your personality and humour.’

Only ask questions you actually care about

‘If your current approach to conversations is more about avoiding awkward silences than asking questions you really care about, it’s time to flip this around.

‘Don’t just ask any old question, for example: “what’s your favourite cuisine?”. To keep the conversation going, pause and think: “What would I really like to get to know about them?” Or: “What qualities am I looking for in a partner, and: “How do I discover if they have some of these?” Or: “What topics do I love talking about that I want to express to them?” 

‘You’ll find the conversation will flow more naturally as you start to delve deeper into their personality.’

Get clear about what you’re looking for too

‘Great conversations become so much easier when you invest time in thinking about what you’d like in a partner. If your current wish list is that they’re “nice”, you’ll need to ditch this approach and go deeper than this. It may sound counterintuitive, but by having good standards for the people you interact with, you will end up with more options, not less.

‘It will help guide your conversations, as you can tell them what’s important to you in a partner – which is actually really attractive as it shows you’re not going to settle for just anyone, and that you also have good self-esteem. To get in the right zone, write a list of five dealbreakers, and five qualities you’d love to have in a partner.’

Learn when to walk away 

‘Yes, dating can sometimes feel like a marathon. To find one of the many right partners for you, you may need to put consistent effort into this area of your life. To get you prepared to go the long haul, learn when to let go of situations that make you feel frustrated and unmotivated.

‘If you’re trying your best, but a match’s responses are one or two words long, and show little effort on their side, recognise that she doesn’t meet your standards and politely end it with them. Invest your time and energy into people who will meet you halfway and who you can see developing a real and committed relationship with.’

Develop your lifestyle 

‘Look at your broader lifestyle: can you create some wins here by doing an activity you’d enjoy, where you might also meet a partner? Staying at home by yourself is not a proactive way of meeting anyone.

‘Whether it’s a rock climbing session, a cooking class, or getting your start-up off the ground, choose activities which help make you a more interesting, well-rounded person, and that also give you the opportunity to interact with more people in real life. Trust that people will like you, if they get the opportunity to really get to know you.’

Thirdly, If you’ve got an issue, raise it constructively – Laura says this is ‘vital’.

‘Try to explain how different actions or situations make you feel,’ she goes on, ‘and express how your needs could be better met, ie. “When X happens, I feel X, and what I need instead is X”.

‘This is much easier for a partner to hear and respond to than being blamed or shouted at.’

Laura’s last tip is to be compassionate towards your partner.

If you tend to find that one difficult, maybe it’s best to give dating a break for a little while, so you can work harder on yourself.

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Laura says: ‘With so many dating apps and a seemingly unlimited supply of potential dates, I find people are often looking for the “perfect” partner and seem to have forgotten the importance of compromise.

‘Just like you’re probably not a perfect partner yourself, and bring all of your flaws and difficulties to any relationship, so too will your partner.

‘Offering acceptance and compassion (as long as your partner’s flaws are not dangerous or causing harm) is probably the most powerful relationship skill of all.’

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