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The Importance of Personal Boundaries

July 18, 2013
A lot of girls have e-mailed me asking for my opinion of the book Why Men Love Bitches. I'd heard of the book a couple times outside of the blog as well, so about six months ago, after a handful of these requests, I decided to get a copy to see what it was all about. My conclusion was that the book is saying something true, but also saying it poorly.

The truth is that men are attracted to bitches, but we don't love them because they are bitches; we just love women that happen to be bitches. In other words, men are attracted to bitches for a quality other than their bitchiness - a quality that any woman (bitch or not) can have. A similar thing is true of women who like "assholes." They only like those men because they are also strong, or confident, or powerful. They don't like them because they are assholes, they like them in spite of their being assholes.

The book Why Men Love Bitches doesn't make this distinction strongly enough for my taste. It skirts around a point that many women desperately need to hear without ever directly addressing it. It plays on an attention-grabbing title, at the expense of clearly telling women the crucial point - namely, that being a bitch, in-and-of-itself, is actually very unattractive to men. My worry is that some women read the book and start being bitchy in an attempt to attract men, just like many men try to be assholes to attract women. Both strategies are dangerous because they are often partially successful, despite missing the real point.

In any case, this criticism obviously begs the question: what are “bitchy” girls doing right? If women like men who are assholes, not because they are assholes, but because they are confident or strong in some other way, then what is the analogous quality in "bitches" that attracts men? And the answer is simple: bitchy women have strong personal boundaries.

Personal boundaries are the limits at which you "draw the line" and prevent other people from infringing on your personal world, that is, your personal rights and emotions - essentially, they are the limits of "what you will put up with." Boundaries apply in both big and small matters, and in all areas of your life: romantic, practical, physical, emotional, spiritual. Some people draw their boundaries quite close to themselves, allowing others to infringe upon their personal world dramatically, without resistance. Others draw expansive boundaries, protecting even their smallest and least significant rights and emotions relentlessly. Balancing between these two extremes is critical. But before saying more about how they play into male-female dynamics, I want to illustrate the concept with a few examples...

Example 1 – A woman is riding a busy train. There is one seat available, but a businessman is using it for his laptop bag while he works intently on his computer. The woman wants to sit down, and certainly has a right to the seat, but she will handle the situation differently depending on the strength of her boundaries. If they are very strong, she will walk up to the man and ask him politely to move his bag so that she can sit down. If she has medium boundaries, she might walk into his field of view, a little tentatively, hoping that he will take the initiative to move his bag himself – but standing if he doesn't. If she has weak boundaries, she will be too nervous about upsetting him, and will tell herself "I can just stand, it isn't that far," which is exactly what she will do.

Example 2 – A woman is asked out by a man who doesn't show up for a date, and doesn't apologize. If the woman has strong boundaries, she won’t hesitate to delete his contact information, and tell him when he calls back three days later that he can go fuck himself. If the woman has medium boundaries, she will probably keep his contact info and ask him what happened, but ultimately agree to another date – despite being under-impressed with his excuse. If she has weak boundaries, the woman will probably just pretend nothing happened, assume that she must have misunderstood the plans, and maybe even apologize for the text she sent that night asking what happened (which he never answered).

Example 3 – A girl walking down the street is asked to contribute to an organization or charity whose ideals she does not believe in. The person asking for donations is enthusiastic and persistent. If the girl has strong boundaries she will say "no" immediately, ignore the second request, and maybe even snap back "I said no!" if asked a third time. If the girl has medium boundaries she is likely to apologize and makes an excuse about not having any money on her, in order to avoid donating and compromising her beliefs. A girl with weak boundaries will first try to avoid the person asking for money altogether; but once she is asked, she will immediately give in, and actually donate a generous amount because she sees on the list that other people have done the same.

Example 4 – A girl is throwing a neon-themed party, and wants to invite a guy she has a crush on. The idea of the party is that anyone who attends has to wear all neon, and the girl knows that if she lets one person come in normal clothes, others will too, and the theme will be spoiled. Upon inviting the guy she likes, he tells her that he'd like to come, but he has nothing neon to wear, and that he has no time between now and the party to buy something. A girl with weak boundaries will immediately tell the guy that it isn't a strict requirement, and that he should just come anyway. A woman with medium boundaries won't bend on the requirement, but she might offer to help him find some neon clothes. A woman with strong boundaries will smile, maybe throw in a wink or a nudge, and tell the guy that if he really wants to come, he will find a way to get something neon (she isn't going to let him ruin the party just because she likes him).

Often people with weak boundaries are thought of as kind or charitable, and a lot of people with strong boundaries are perceived as assholes and bitches, but these labels are inaccurate. It is perfectly possible to have strong personal boundaries without being an asshole (best illustrated in example 1, where the woman is firm, but polite), just as it is perfectly possible to have weak personal boundaries without being kind or charitable (best illustrated in example 3, where the girl gives to charity, but not for altruistic motives). Assholes and bitches are just a subset of the group of people with strong boundaries, just as kind and charitable people are just a subset of the group of people with weak boundaries.

This can be illustrated quite simply with a Venn diagram. There is some overlap between the groups, but there are plenty of people with strong boundaries outside the set of assholes, just as there are plenty of people with weak boundaries outside the set of kind people. Neither group completely encompasses the other.

Perhaps the primary way in which we judge another person's value (and I mean primary both in the sense of "main" and in the sense of chronologically first) is by evaluating what they appear to think about themselves. We do this by observing their confidence, their posture, their grooming, the way they dress, and most importantly, the way they interact with others. We form an opinion of their self-esteem and bearing.

We do this because - unless we know them extremely well - we are privy only to a limited amount of information about their capabilities, talents, and weaknesses (i.e. the things that actually define their value); so we are forced to make a second-hand judgment, an inference. But in general, this judgment is reasonably accurate, because people usually know their own strengths and weaknesses almost perfectly. This self-knowledge usually informs their level of confidence, such that the way that they carry themselves usually reflects their strengths and weaknesses reasonably well.*

Now, healthy boundaries are a sign of confidence, of someone who respects themselves, of someone who knows their own self-worth. Weak boundaries, on the other hand, are a sign of insecurity and low self-esteem. The woman who asks the man on the train for a seat knows that she is just as good as he is, and just as deserving of the seat, so she has no inhibitions about asking (or even telling) him to move his bag. The woman who lets her date get away with not showing up thinks he is the best she can do (i.e. thinks she is below his league). She is afraid to cut him off because she doesn't want to lose him. The girl who can't say no to a donation request, and then gives more than she wanted, has such a poor self-image that she puts even a random charity worker's opinion above her own money and principles. And the girl who tells her crush not to come to the party out-of-costume does so easily because her sense of self-worth is not contingent on one man's willingness to attend a party – or even on how much he likes her.

I am saying all of this is to make a very simple but crucial point: when a man encounters a woman who has strong boundaries, he knows that she values and respects herself, and he therefore makes the reasonable inference that she is a woman of good character. Assuming she meets his minimum criteria for physical attractiveness, his attraction for her – and I am talking about the long-term kind, the kind that makes men fall in love – will skyrocket.

The opposite is also true. When a man meets a woman who lets him (or others) walk all over her boundaries, or even define them, he concludes that she doesn't respect herself, and therefore, that she must not be someone worthy of respect. Even if she is beautiful, his attraction for her will soon plummet.

In my experience, women tend to have weaker rather than stronger boundaries. My guess is that this is true because, from a young age, their boundaries are often handled by the males in their lives – a protective father or brother, suitors who believe they need to be “gentlemen,” male colleagues who suppress their sexual attraction in the office, etc. Surrounded by this behavior, women have relatively less practice than men (on average) maintaining their personal boundaries, defending their personal space, rights and emotions. As a result, they aren't as comfortable confronting someone on the train about moving his bag, or telling those who mistreat them to go fuck themselves.

It has also been my experience that the more attractive a girl is, the more likely she will be to have weak boundaries. This is a little counter-intuitive, and definitely a generalization, but I think I understand why it is the case. From a young age, beautiful women are surrounded by men who are constantly demurring, constantly meeting their needs, and giving them whatever space or compliments they need. Some women like this still manage to develop strong boundaries, and they are the ones that men would kill to be with. But most do not, because they've never had to "fight" for anything. When a woman like this comes across a man who is confident and attractive, she invariably gets banged, walked all over, then dumped. And it is largely because she doesn't show the men in her life that she is someone of value. If she were to maintain strong personal boundaries, men would see that she respected herself, and would want to trace that confidence to its root by getting to know her.

Do not underestimate the importance of this post. For what I suspect is the majority of my readers, it is probably the most important one I've written. I get e-mails all the time from beautiful women (they attach pictures), telling me that they are doing "everything right," but that they still can't land a man. Other women e-mail me asking how they can really "hook" a guy, how they can make him look past the sex, how they can get him to fall in love. They can attract the men they want, they just can't seem to keep to them. This post is fundamental to answering both questions.

For the girls doing “everything right”…
If you read through the posts on this blog, you will notice that many of them – some of which are linked in the Related Posts section, below – advocate the maintenance of strong boundaries in specific situations; but boundaries are not something that you can apply to your life only in a piece-wise fashion. This is transparent. Even if a girl doesn't fuck on the first date, a guy will know that she has poor boundaries when she accepts a date after he’s admitted that he isn't looking for anything serious. Likewise, a girl who doesn't initiate contact still betrays her weak boundaries if she replies immediately to every text a guy writes her. Doing only the things I've posted about on this blog will only get you a fraction of the way to the correct disposition. This post is meant to explain the underlying principle, so that you really can apply it in everything.

For the girls who can attract but can’t keep a man…
Boundaries are fundamental to getting past the initial attraction phase with a man. Looks only get you in the door. As I have said before, while appearances are essential in getting a guy to approach or getting him to ask you out, they are nowhere near enough to get a guy to commit for the long term. Strong boundaries are a primary and therefore critical indicator of a woman's deep, inner worth – the kind of woman that men are not only willing to commit to, but actually want to commit to. There are plenty of women out there who are attractive, but there are very few who have the substance to go with it. Sound, healthy boundaries set a woman apart from the crowd instantly.

So, yes, "men love bitches," in the sense that they love women with strong personal boundaries; but they do not love bitches because they are mean, manipulative, under-handed or have harsh personalities. Men love bitches because their personal boundaries are rooted in a self-respect that tells him more than anything else about their character and inner-value; and it is only with this kind of woman that men want to settle down.

* While of course there are plenty of exceptions, they are normally short-lived. In the long run, people who are over- or under-confident almost always run into circumstances that serve to correct their distorted self-image. Some good examples are the delusional American Idol contestants who are finally told by the judges (on public television) how much they suck. Similarly, a person who has no self-esteem will eventually find a talent or social niche, and realize that they really aren’t as dumb or awkward as they thought.

Related Posts
1. The Importance of Silence After a Breakup
2. Don't Try to Be One of The Guys
3. Never Tell a Guy When You'll Have Sex With Him
4. No, You Can't Be "Just Friends"
5. Men That Like You Will Explain Themselves
6. Men and "Friends with Benefits"
7. The Downside to Cohabitation Before Marriage

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