Wise Guys: How Can I Get Him to Be More Romantic?

Advice from three of EMandLO.com’s guy friends. This week they answer the following: “How can I get him to be more romantic?” To ask the guys your own question, click here.

Straight Married Guy (Irad Eyal): The secret I’m about to reveal is guaranteed to make a guy more romantic. It also works if you want him to dress better or catch a frisbee in his mouth. And I learned it by training my dog. It’s called incremental positive reinforcement and it just means reward him when he gets close to your idea of romantic, and eventually he’ll start getting closer and closer until he nails it.

Real World Example: If a guy thinks he’s being romantic when he takes you bowling or buys you a butt plug or does something else that isn’t in your definition of romance, your instinct may be to school him on the distinction. Instead, give him a blowjob (this part isn’t in the dog training book). Or do something else nice. That’s the positive reinforcement, and that’s what’s going to guide him in the right direction. Eventually he’ll be braising halibut, giving deep tissue massages, and spreading rose petals all over the crisp clean sheets. That’s the incremental part.

I know this is simplistic and degrading (to men and women) and shouldn’t be the way grown humans learn to make each other happy. But I also know it works and it’s a lot more fun than trying to figure out what someone wants in couples counseling. So give it a shot! Who’s a good girl!

terence_100Gay Committed Guy (Terence): Does he know how to be romantic? You almost have to assume he doesn’t, otherwise his unwillingness to put forth the tinest bit of effort should be a huge neon warning sign that he’s self-centered, or even worse, just damn lazy. I think the only effective way to put him to the test, by which I mean give him the opportunity to express his romantic side, is to do some modeling. Not in the Victoria Secret sense, but in the behavioral science sense. Book a suprise night out, pack some wine and nibbles, and end up at a drive-in. Pack his lunch for work with a romantic note in it. Model these behaviors and them use them as examples for him to get his creative juices flowing. And as a last resort (as in, ultimatum) give him a copy of 1001 Ways to be Romantic.

Straight Single Guy (Colin Adamo): You may have to be anything but subtle when it comes to this request. Men aren’t as good at picking up on little hints. If you seem happy enough, we don’t fix what ain’t broke. You’re going to have to ask, nicely.

Tell him that you want to do something unbelievably sexy for him. Ask him to think up something wild, something dirty he’s always toyed with asking you to do (keep some boundaries, sure, but be okay with getting outside your comfort zone, if only for an evening). Tell him you want to see him this turned on, but in return you want him to make you feel super-mooshy-gooshy-ultra-girly-romantic with the same conviction you bring to that hidden away little kink.

Even if the night of erotic suspension or the evening of slow dancing never take place, it will at least start the conversation about wanting this relationship to thrive, physically as well as emotionally.

Our “guys” are a rotating group of contributors. Irad Eyal is a writer, TV producer, and founder of celebrity gossip site Sexdegrees.netColin Adamo is a recent Yale grad and author/blogger behind Hooking Up & Staying Hooked, the only sex and relationships resource specifically for high school aged guys; and Terence is an American living in Sydney. To ask the guys your own question, click here.


  1. @Sofie Like I said, it doesn’t need to be a bj— it just needs to be positive. That could be as simple as telling him it was nice that he thought about you. Or it could be an XBox game (more cliches, I know but it works for me!). The reward just needs to come before and separate from the correction for not getting it quite right.

  2. Thank you Johnny for saying for I meant to say. Sex is not currency and should not be used as such. And I would really hope that you are in a relationship with a man where you can do something nice for him without prostituting yourself for a bouquet of flowers (or what ever your notion of romance is).
    Personally I give blow jobs because they are fun to give. I like being able to satisfy my man- in and out of the bedroom.

  3. I am frustrated by the only positive reinforcement for men being sexual favors. If you’ve got a good sex life, those things are already happening on a regular basis and in the case of my relationship, I’m more of a sex fiend than my husband is anyway. If you aren’t a woman who nags constantly or witholds sex, there isn’t any advice for how to nudge your man towards a romantic gesture or two.

  4. Also, @TheSSKate… about rewarding him even though he missed the mark…

    … that’s how positive reinforcement works. It isn’t a quick fix. If men are anything like Pavlov’s dogs, it might take around 7 attempts for him to make the connection between behavior and reward (yeah yeah, the dogs were classical conditioning and now we’re talking about operant conditioning. Same principle. Get off my back.).

    But if it works the way it’s supposed to, the connection will get stronger each time.

    The point is to reward the effort, which, when you’re trying to teach someone something, is as important as rewarding the results.

  5. Obsession with blowjobs isn’t weird, matbo.

    Y’all are hung up on the blowjobs-as-currency thing, and I happen to agree with you – they shouldn’t be currency – but I agree with Irad on the positive reinforcement thing.

    Let’s talk terms, just so everyone’s on the same page:

    Positive reinforcement: reinforcing desired behavior by introducing desired stimulus.

    Ex: My lazy slob BF finally did some dishes, so I stuck my finger in his butt, which he loves. Maybe he’ll put 2 and 2 together!

    Negative reinforcement: reinforcing desired behavior by removing unwanted stimulus.

    Ex: My lazy slob BF finally did some dishes, so I quit nagging and complaining for a little while.

    Positive punishment: Training out unwanted behavior by introducing unwanted stimulus.

    Ex: My lazy slob BF didn’t do the dishes, so I nagged and complained and criticized.

    Negative punishment: Training out unwanted behavior by removing desired stimulus.

    Ex: My lazy slob BF won’t do dishes so I stopped giving him BJ’s.

    Most women – men too, I think but since my relationship experience is all straight I’ll stick with what I know – go with ALL of the options EXCEPT positive reinforcement when they want their men to change something. And that just causes drama. I go with positive reinfocement all the way, followed by negative punishment (I’m outta here!) if that fails.

    And just so you know, ladies: “communication” and “conversations” and “talks,” as far as men are concerned, are a form of positive punishment. I know you don’t see it that way. But that’s what making someone sit through a venting session of your feelings is. I don’t know if I can speak for all men here, but I hate “talks”. They make my eyes glaze over and roll back into my head.

    Just try positive reinforcement. It’s the path of least resistance.

  6. @Irad Eyal
    I happened to give my advice because in my life-experience it has proven to work. I’m just sick about hearing that all men want is blow jobs and that’s it’s the best thing that can be given to them. Firstly it devalues my giving them. Secondly it makes men seem kinda…weird and obsessed.

  7. Ok SSKate and matbo– it’s not really about the blow job. That was just to get your attention (and it worked). It could be any kind of positive reinforcement. Like just saying “wow, thanks for thinking of me ” Then you make an adjustment, but not right then! Later on you say “You know what would have been even better than that butt plug? A back massage!” But the positive reinforcement has already done its job and the guy/dog has learned that there’s more than judgment or getting kicked to the curb, or getting sat down for a lecture when you try to do something romantic.

    You can stick to your crazy notions (men want romance too!) or lower your expectations, or you can give my advice a try and see how well it works.

  8. Oh dear, I should have known these men would make it about sex and blow jobs. Please do not pretend that you have sex for him in exchange for romance, that’s not how it works. Women have this notion that if they have sex or give a blow job it is a gift to man. It is. But it is important to remember it is also gift to Woman.
    Just sit down, explain it to him – and if he doesn’t make an effort then, then kick him to the curb. Also I would suggest dialing your expectations down and realize that every one has a different idea on romance. His may be doing the dishes for you – accept that and enjoy it.
    Lastly, men want romance too! Are you giving that or are you just sitting back and waiting for it as your prerogative?

  9. Wait, you’re supposed to give your boyfriend a blow job when he does what you don’t want him to do?

    “Real World Example: If a guy thinks he’s being romantic when he takes you bowling or buys you a butt plug or does something else that isn’t in your definition of romance, your instinct may be to school him on the distinction. Instead, give him a blowjob (this part isn’t in the dog training book). Or do something else nice. That’s the positive reinforcement, and that’s what’s going to guide him in the right direction.”

    That’s not the positive reinforcement I was schooled about.

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