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Exclusive: Women’s Mafia TALENT Q&A with “Understanding Men” Guru Alison Armstrong

By May 19, 2010No Comments6 min read

By Marcy Clark

A few years ago a friend, who has happily been in a long term relationship for nearly ten years, was listening to me complain about not understanding the man I was dating, not feeling that things were moving forward and feeling overall confused about how to proceed. She told me straight: you need to take this class called “Celebrating Men, Satisfying Women.” She then proceeded to tell me some of the surprising things she had learned from the course – such as that shiny hair is one of the most attractive things about women to men (really?!?) or that men who are ready for a serious commitment can tell just by looking at a woman, literally, if she has most of the qualities that would make her a good mate and partner (don’t worry, you can learn to embody them more often!). I have been eager to take her first course ever since then, and finally signed up for it this May 26th and 27th in Tarrytown.

To prep for the course I interviewed the industrious, brilliant and insightful Alison Armstrong about some of the insights she has gained in her 20 years of researching men and women. Enjoy and sign up for a class or buy one of her books today! I read Making Sense of Men: A Woman’s Guide to a Lifetime of Love, Care and Attention from All Men in one sitting and my life will never be the same.

Women’s Mafia: A lot of New York women are always complaining that the men here don’t want to commit, they seem to be interminable bachelors. What can women look for to spot the non-phobic ones, or the ones that have zeroed-in on them?

Alison Armstrong: The thing they need to know is there are times when a man’s willingness to commit is not personal.  There are stages in a man’s life when a marriage commitment is not a possibility.  It is like trying to load the Halo video game program without enough memory on your computer.  Marriage is the biggest commitment a man can make next to fatherhood.  His life has to be in a particular place before he is going to be able to make a commitment.  That is regardless of how much he loves a woman.  Women think: “If he loved me more he would marry me.”  That is a mistake.

There is another side where a man’s willingness to commit is personal.  When I have asked men “Do you want to be married?” almost all say yes.  It is always followed by “When I meet the right person,” “If I meet the right person,” or “Hopefully, I’ll meet the right person.”  There are things that women do all the time that convince men that they are the wrong person – such as emasculating men all the time without even knowing it.

Women just dive in and hope that things will work, our desire is that strong.  The idea that men don’t want to get married is a myth.  It is just that what it takes for men to get married is different.  Men are much more realistic about marriage and what it takes to be happy in the long term.  If a man doesn’t want to marry you, then he is paying attention to something that is probably important: do you share the same values, do you give each other what you most need, and can you make each other happy?

Men have this idea that if two people can’t give each other what they need, they shouldn’t be together.  This idea is strange to women who go without what they need someone who can’t give them what they need.  Men actually honor what they need.

WM: There is a lot of debate in the post-feminist era about who should be picking up the check at the end of dinner, and how to handle it – how can a modern woman best handle this without emasculating her date? What should the expectations be in the 21st century?

AA: In talking to men, it is all about who initiates the date. If he asks you out on a date, then he expects to pay for it.  If you ask him out on a date, then you should expect to pay for it and be thrilled if he offers.  If it is a meet-up, then expect to go dutch.  If he offers to pay for it, then be appreciative and thankful.

If you are on a 3rd or 4th date and you are clear you want to keep seeing each other, then men say that if a women offers to pay they see it as a sign that she is more interested in a partnership than in taking them for what they’ve got.  There are many men whose values are they should always pay.  If a woman is with a man like that, then she needs to be willing to accept the kind of dates that he can afford to take her on.

WM: You write about the downward spiral in your book “Making Sense of Men” and how once a woman feels insecure, self-doubt and complaining can begin running a relationship and it can be very hard to get it back on track. Is there a way to begin to move in an upward spiral again?

AA: Creating an upward spiral — where the energy between you keeps growing and you are progressively more satisfied — requires maintaining in yourself the 4 most attractive qualities in women: Self-Confidence, Authenticity, Passion and Receptivity. Unfortunately, these are some of the most difficult qualities for women to maintain in relationships with men. Because, by not understanding men’s motivations, we interpret too many things as evidence that they don’t love us and our self-confidence takes a hit. And because we’ve become lousy at Receiving — we’re too busy proving we can do everything ourselves to let me take care of us.  These are two qualities that we directly address in our workshops.

WM: Many of us date people from different cultures, and even different countries. Are the essentials of men’s behavior the same across different cultures?

AA: We’ve had women in Celebrating Men, Satisfying Women from cultures around the world.  They report the distinctions we make and the tools we provide work equally well with their men.  They make slight variations for translating the words we give them and then they are good to go.

WM: It must be challenging to run a large organization, travel regularly, lead full-day workshops and nourish yourself and your relationships. Any tips for myself and the many other budding CEO’s in the Women’s Mafia?

AA: As uncomfortable as it may be, you have to confront that you have a limited amount of time and energy and spend it wisely.  Pay careful attention to what you’re willing to be accountable for and let men shoulder more.  Accountability is one of the biggest gifts men can give women — because it doesn’t wear them out the way it wears us out.  They are capable and competent problem solvers.  If women spend more time defining the problem and letting others provide for them their heart’s desire, we’ll all be happier and healthier.

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