Note: This is the second of a two-part series.

The opposite of mothering a grown man is to act like a little girl around him. Little girls get lots of attention for being sweet, cute and vulnerable. As a grown woman, are you using little girl tactics as a way to attract or to keep a man?

This dynamic is explored by Barbara DeAngelis in her book Secrets About Men Every Woman Should Know (Dell Publishing). According to DeAngelis, little girl tactics include:

  1. Acting naive or ignorant when you know the truth or the answer. This makes men feel smart, and makes them feel they know what they are doing. It gives them a false sense of self-esteem, and allows them to feel comfortable around you. Unfortunately, however, this also makes men feel superior to you, and may cause them to lose respect for you.
  2. Acting hurt when you’re really angry. Crying instead of expressing anger, pouting instead of saying you’re offended, sulking instead of saying why you’re upset—these are ways to suppress your angry emotions and express the more “female” feelings, such as sadness, fear and guilt. This also allows anger to smolder and stagnate inside of you, and is not an effective way of clearing the air or of settling disputes.
  3. Pretending to be confused when you’re not. Pretending you don’t know what you want, how you feel or what to do. You are making yourself look helpless, so a man can come to your rescue, which makes him feel competent and helpful around you. A woman might use confusion as a cover-up for more unpleasant emotions, such as anger, resentment, guilt, hurt and fear, because if she acts confused, she often doesn’t feel compelled to take responsibility for how her life is turning out.
  4. Treating men like Daddy. Treating your man like a father figure, calling him “Daddy,” sitting on his lap and pouting, confessing to him that you’ve been a “bad girl,” letting him control all the money and you getting an “allowance.” The more you set the man in your life up to be “Daddy,” the more you remain a child.
  5. Speaking to a man in a whiny, little-girl voice. Especially when you’re afraid to say what’s on your mind, you expect disagreement or you’re frightened of your man’s reaction. Talking like a little girl says to a man: “Look, I’m just a little girl. Don’t hurt me and don’t be mean to me, okay?”
  6. Creating chaos in your life so a man can rescue you. Do you live from one crisis to the next? Is there always something urgent you need a man’s help or advice with? Do you enjoy being rescued? Part of acting like a little girl is setting yourself up to fall apart so a man can come along and rescue you. The only problem is that this keeps you addicted to crisis as a way to get attention and to have a man take care of you.

The real dilemma with this behavior is that although men eat this behavior up, they won’t respect you, and they will grow to resent you. Men will get sucked into the little girl routine because it makes them feel big and strong, in charge and essential. They may even enjoy it, but they won’t respect you, and they will wind up treating you like a little girl. In addition, you behaving like a little girl will make a man feel responsible for you, and that is likely to generate resentment. Over time, these dynamics will deaden both love and passion in your relationship.

So what’s a girl to do? DeAngelis recommends that first, make a list titled “Ways I act like a little girl around men.” The first step in changing yourself is to become aware of the things you’re doing that are hurting you. Second, ask yourself: “If I weren’t confused, I might feel…” This is a way of getting clear about what you feel. Third, if you find yourself crying, and you know you have a difficult time feeling and expressing anger, ask yourself: “Is there something I’m angry about?” Finally, quit living in crisis and chaos. Rescue yourself so you can be the strong, powerful and loving woman you want to be.

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