In college, Emma, a twenty-something communications manager from Seattle, fell in love with a commitment-phobic older guy. She adored him, cancelled plans to be with him and did everything on his terms. (Oh, how familiar that scenario sounds…)When that guy broke her heart (as those types always do), her mom sent her a care package: running shoes, a Sephora gift card and “He’s Just Not That Into You,” a dating advice book based on the eponymous slogan that rose to fame on the hit HBO show, “Sex and the City,” and later turned into a megastar Hollywood film. Emma took the mantra to heart and when that guy came crawling back, she kicked him to the curb.Shortly after, she met her husband. “He really is that into me,” she says. “And I can tell.”Dating advice books might promise your very own Cinderella (or Emma) story, but they don’t always deliver. Using three popular dating advice books, we dish out the dirt on what works and what really, really doesn’t.
HE’S JUST NOT THAT INTO YOUThe mantra: “Ditch him if he’s not into you.”The advice: “He’s Just Not That Into You,” written by comedian Greg Behrendt and “Sex and the City” story editor Liz Tuccillo, pitches itself as the “no excuses truth to understanding guys.” The message is simple: If you have to ask if he’s into you, he isn’t. When he really wants to be with you, he’ll go out of his way to be a part of your life. Don’t spend nights agonizing by the phone or make excuses for all of his crap, just wait for a guy who’s into you and leave the ones that aren’t by the wayside.The reality check: This simple phrase—he’s just not that into you—can be a lifeline if you’re the but-he-was-so-nice-that-one-time type. “Women often get caught up in the dance of thinking, ‘He liked me in the beginning, so what happened to that nice guy?’” says Sussman. “That thinking can lead you to hang in there too long, which really chips away at your self-esteem and self-respect.”But reading the signs correctly, especially in the beginning, can be a battle against your brain. “When we really like somebody, we often imbue meaning into all sorts of little signs,” says Eastwick. “Did they wait an hour to call me back? Two days? That’s part of the infatuation process.” When that process spirals out of control, step back. “Probably more often than not, you’re reading the signs to be more optimistic than they really are so you may pursue someone longer than is warranted,” says Eastwick. In those cases, say the mantra and hit the road.Of course, there is a catch. “Some people just take a little while to come around,” says Eastwick. Plus, others may lack the social skills or the hutzpah to communicate their feelings effectively. “Dating is a tough game,” says Loving. “Someone who is into you might not want to screw it up by coming on too strong. Keeping his distance might mean he’s not that into you or it might mean the exact opposite. How do you want to roll the dice there?”Just don’t ignore that inner voice screaming at you when a guy goes AWOL. “If you see a distinct change in pattern, that could be a red flag,” says Sussman. “You have to watch the signs.” If your guy makes you want to down a pint of Haagen-Dazs, then turn this wisdom on its head. “A lot of what [Behrendt] writes about could apply equally to women as much as men,” says Loving. Before you give anyone 99 percent of your mind-space, take a moment to ask yourself whether you’re just not that into him.The love lesson: Dump any guy who doesn’t think your fabulous self is all that, but before you slam the door, make sure you have an accurate read on him.
WHY MEN LOVE BITCHESThe mantra: “Play hard to get.”The advice: “Why Men Love Bitches,” written by magazine writer Sherry Argov, promises to take you “from doormat to dreamgirl.” The dreamgirl, here, is a bitch, which is to say that she leads her own life and doesn’t make herself too available when suitors come a-knockin’. She is slow to reveal everything about herself, values her independence and certainly doesn’t let on if she’s really digging a guy. In short, she plays hard to get.The reality check: At the beginning, a little coy flirtation can sow the seeds for romance. “As soon as something becomes less novel, it becomes less interesting. That’s how our brains work,” says Loving. “We like learning new things about people a little bit at a time. A little mystery is alluring.” In fact, a 2011 study showed that we are more attracted to potential partners when we’re not quite sure if they’re into us—a compelling argument for playing hard to get.THE STUDY, EXPLAINED: Uncertainty Increases AttractionJust don’t wear him out with the chase. “At some point, if we don’t get rewarded, the chase stops being interesting,” says Loving. There’s no magic formula for when to open up (Loving says he’d be a millionaire if he knew where that sweet spot was), so you have to feel it out for yourself. “Early on, there is a dance between cultivating hope and uncertainty. But sometime in the early weeks and months, you need to demonstrate responsiveness,” says Eastwick. “If your partner loses hope, he’ll disengage.” In other words, if he doesn’t think you dig him, he’ll move on.MORE: Signs That You’re Playing Too Hard to Get If in this cat and mouse game, you come off as too independent, Argov has a solution: Be a “dumb fox.” By that she means, play down your own ability (to, say, kill a bug or hang a picture) in order to make your man feel manly—but ugh, that makes us want to vom. If you want to play dumb, then sure, you’ll attract a super sexy Neanderthal. But is that really who you want to be or be with? “Smart, intelligent, powerful women need to feel comfortable with who they are,” says Sussman. “A man who is truly confident inside will not feel competitive or insecure with a strong woman.”Still, you need to make your man feel needed and valued (as he should do for you, too). To do that without sacrificing your self-respect, the solution is simple (and smart): “Just listen to him,” says Loving. “Something as simple as that is quite effective.”The love lesson: Don’t play all your cards in the first hand, but when you want to develop intimacy, you’ll need to let the walls down.The trick with any dating advice book is to find what works for you and leave the rest.Emma—our “he’s just not that into you” success story—took pop dating advice to heart. “You really can tell when someone isn’t that into you,” she says. But she knows how to sift the wheat from the chaff. She’s quick to point out that figuring out if he’s into you has nothing to do with how many times he’s brought you flowers or showered you with gifts. “I’ve received one bouquet of roses and one necklace over the four years my husband and I have been together. It’s not all about the flowers.” When you’re open to meeting someone and mindful of your gut feelings, you will find your match.