Q&A from “Becoming The High Status Woman” 
Wednesday, May 5, 2010 at 8:58AM
Duana C. Welch, Ph.D. in Arranged Marriage, Breakups, Cohabitation, Commitment, Dating, Evolutionary Psychology, Jealousy, Male Female Differences, Rekindling, Sexuality

Wise Readers,

As you recall, Helen recently found out how to Get Her Status Back & Her Ring On —by Leaving.  But what’s more manipulative—staying or going?  Do women Leave to be cruel?  Why does Leaving work so well?  And is Leaving the only way to regain high status even after you’re married—or is there an easier way?  Read on! 

Cheers, Duana

Reader Comments (26)

Kudos, Duana! I love this. Reminds me of a turning point in my own relationship, a mere (almost) 19 years ago!

April 26, 2010 | Judy


Hi, Judy, Thank you. This week was to be about Housework: The Ultimate Aphrodisiac. But then Helen’s final letter arrived and…well, this one is a winner. It isn’t politically correct, but it’s scientifically correct, and —bottom line— It Worked.

April 26, 2010 | Duana C. Welch, Ph.D.


Yes Yes Yes — and verily so.

It works with husbands, too, when they go through a mid-life crisis and move out. I worried and cried and turned myself inside out trying to get him to let me in and work through our troubles — all to no avail (this was the 2nd time he had left our home). So, I decided to visit an out-of-town friend for a week, telling him that I needed to think about my future and whether it included him. When I came home, he had come back with roses. It is important to note that this wasn’t game-playing — it was an honest gut-level realization that I didn’t deserve to be in such a wishy-washy relationship. Unfortunately for us, I didn’t demand enough groveling (aka commitment-professing). Three years after the event, real damage had been done to our relationship and I realized I could never trust his commitment to me and our children. I could stay and be forever fearful of his next departure, or leave and take positive steps to finding someone who adored me. And guess what? I found one. And it didn’t take long. :) I didn’t know this kind of mutual adoration existed outside that “golden” period of courtship. I’m surprised when I find I love him even more each day. He works hard to maintain that feeling in me, and apparently loves the challenge. Woo-hoo :) and I wish I could have learned this lesson earlier. Thanks to you for helping folks realize how these deeply-ingrained mating strategies truly affect our lifelong happiness.

April 26, 2010 | Kelly


Dear Kelly,
Good for you for finding your very own Mutual Adoration Society, and thank you for sharing your experience.

I’d like to address your statement that “Unfortunately for us, I didn’t demand enough groveling (aka commitment-professing).” How much to hold off in an on-going relationship does depend on what has gone before—how much commitment has been lacking, and therefore how much proof needs to be offered.

Although there are those who will say it’s manipulative, waiting for proofs—what scientists call Testing The Bond—is something women do all over the world because It Works in sorting out the Timeless from the Time-Wasters.

Not only does Testing allow women to conserve their own high-status markers of Youth & Beauty for someone who is truly willing to invest in us, it also lets women figure out quickly whether a man is not only able but Willing to provide and protect.

Anything that powerful is too good to pass up. Hence Bond Testing around the globe.

April 27, 2010 | Duana C. Welch, Ph.D.


Thanks Love Doctor.

April 26, 2010 | Barbara


It’s great that this column is not politically correct. PC is a sad substitute for truth, compassion and sincerity about how we all are “differently and wonderfully made”. I am so grateful that you took the risk to speak bluntly about things that are difficult for us all to hear, and lovingly force us to confront ourselves with our often tragic mistakes.

April 26, 2010 | Monica


Dear Dr. Duana:

I have a dear friend who is afraid to leave her husband because he has serious (and I mean SERIOUS) abandonment issues. He instigated divorce proceedings, but claims to still love her more than anything. She thinks he’s just “afraid” that they will not make it long-term because his parents couldn’t do it, and so she keeps “being there” whenever he calls. I’ve told her the Love Doctor wisdom — “Be dating by Tuesday“ — but she fears that he will feel abandoned in his greatest time of need. My personal thought is that, even if that IS the case, she is setting herself up to be a hostage of this presumed “abandonment thing”. At minimum I feel that she has lost her “high value”, and even if he does come back it will be along the line of, “Well, I guess we can stay married.”

So, in the event they do stay together, how could she ever get her status back?

April 26, 2010 | anonymous


Hi, Barbara, Monica and Anonymous. Thank you. You made my day.

Anonymous, to your query about whether your friend married to the Commitment-Averse can regain her high status:

Some people do have abandonment issues, which I prefer to refer to as insecure (and in this case, specifically, avoidant) attachment. They’re basically ambivalent about long-term entanglements regardless of which relationship they are in. Doubtless, in some this is severe enough that they really cannot fully invest, heart and soul, into a relationship—it’s just too terrifying.

Maybe your friend is with a man like that. Some of the Commitment-Averse do wed, but the aftermath tends to be ugly. Picture a marriage in which the wife is eager to be emotionally involved, spend time together, make joint decisions, make plenty of eye contact while making love…
And the husband defines all of this as intrusive, unwanted, threatening, and/or needless—avoiding every bit of it he can, and resenting the parts he can’t get out of.
As you can imagine, the implosion of the relationship is awful as the husband crabs off under his rock while his wife becomes increasingly resentful and insecure.

Some folks will actually stay “married” like this for decades. The union mostly exists on one side and on paper. It is emotional torture for at least one party, and perhaps for both.

If this is the scenario for your friend, my guess is that she was never High Status where her mate is concerned. I do not mean that harshly—I mean that a person who is avoidant probably never courted her…and so, when she courted him, she lost the status she might have had hopes of. Did *she* make this relationship happen from the very start? Did she escalate each level of commitment—from exclusive dating to engagement to marriage?

So my guess, based only on what you’ve said, is that if she leaves him, her husband will let the marriage go. But the way to check is —as you’ve surmised— by leaving, not by remaining available. More of what already does not work is rarely the solution!

And Leaving doesn’t sound like a move she is prepared to make right now. The hideous thing about being with someone who can’t quite decide he really wants you is: Eventually you yourself come to believe it’s all you deserve.

At this point, then, your friend may be at an all-time low with her self-esteem, and might feel she’s being encouraged to do the hardest thing she could be asked to do—leave her man—just at the time when she feels least emotionally ready.

Which is one reason I heap kudos on Helen and those like her who dredge up superhuman strength and prepare themselves to Move On. Just as not everyone has it in them to fully commit, not everyone can muster the bravery to leave.

But for those who do, the rewards are well worth it. I wish this bravery and strength for your friend.

April 27, 2010 | Duana C. Welch, Ph.D.



You gave me the same advice and I took you up on it just about a year ago now. I was crazy about the guy I left, but it wasn’t going anywhere and you and I agreed that (a) I needed to cut ties and (b) there was a decent chance he wouldn’t come after me. I drew back, and he didn’t follow. It was hard at first, but now it’s easier, and I don’t miss the uncertainty, hurt feelings and resulting dents to my self esteem one bit. Thanks for the advice—spot on, and I appreciate it.

April 26, 2010 | The other possible ending to this story


Dear “The Other Possible Ending To This Story”—
Thank you for your kind and enlightening letter. I am sorry that your former boyfriend’s clarity didn’t come in the form of pursuing you. But I truly commend your bravery in leaving—and I congratulate you on your renewed availability to someone really Right for you as you shed the gnawing unease, hurt and self-esteem dents you’d experienced. Good for you!

Whoever Mr. Right is—he is getting Ms. High Status when he gets you.

April 27, 2010 | Duana C. Welch, Ph.D.


How inspiring! Way to go, Helen! You are brave, and you’ve stood firm for your own self-worth.

To Duana: I’m wondering about the “oooops” situations, i.e., where couples are living together and the girlfriend (accidentally or secretly on purpose) becomes pregnant. Boy marries girl under mixed emotions. How likely are these marriages to succeed?

April 27, 2010 | Gillian


Hi, Gillian,
Regarding “Honey, We’re Pregnant” as an engagement strategy—
Long-term stress rarely brings out people’s best in long-term relationships. And babies—charming, adorable, precious though they truly are—are Stress.

The odds are not in favor of a marriage surviving or thriving under such circumstances, even when the guy really wanted to marry her—nevermind when he didn’t. “Have a baby/are pregnant at the wedding” = a reliable divorce predictor.

In fact, marital happiness takes a substantial nosedive in 2/3 of couples right after the birth of a baby—and that includes couples who were already married when they conceived. Most of those couples don’t seem to recover their former level of happiness, although—as a future column will show—there are ways to bounce back by doing what the Happy 1/3 do.

Adding stress in the form of a baby, then, tends to create more conflicts rather than greater intimacy and commitment, even for those who wanted the baby and one another. It’s entrapment at its worst, and can readily be perceived as low-status (The Ball & Chain) even at best.

April 27, 2010 | Duana C. Welch, Ph.D.


lol!… I always knew women were manipulative! :p

April 27, 2010 | Mike


Dear Mike:

Obviously Troy needed help in clarifying his feelings. Helen provided that service.

“Manipulative” doesn’t fit, but “brave” and “self-respecting” do.

April 27, 2010 | Gillian


Hi, Mike, I appreciate your statement, because I suspect it’s the gut reaction many men (and not a few women) have to this highly politically incorrect tactic. Let’s look more closely. Is a woman Manipulative if she leaves a man because his commitment was not forthcoming?

On the Yes, It’s Manipulative side:
I believe that most human efforts are manipulative, inasmuch as we’re all trying to get what we want/avoid what we don’t want. Some people just use more effective strategies than others, or are more consciously aware of the possible impact of their actions.

So we can see that Helen and other Women Who Leave are indeed trying to get something. They want commitment above all, but if they cannot have that, then they want their freedom.

Yet men who are spending years with a person whom they know wants marriage—without offering it, but while alluding to it now and then—are, in my view, being no less manipulative. They are trying to get the sex and companionship without sealing off their other possible options.

Although it seems that only one or the other person can “win” in that scenario, research shows that the situation where men and women live together in ambivalence is the worst for *both* of them in terms of immediate *and* long-term psychological, physical, financial, and emotional well-being.  They’re both better off on one side of the fence or the other—but not in the middle.

On the No, It’s Not Manipulative side:
Perhaps the most manipulative thing a woman can do is put herself constantly in front of a reluctant partner—cajoling, pleading and whining for his commitment with every bed she makes, every I Love You, and every family holiday. Not only is this unappealing and counter-productive—it makes the guy into a total heel if he abandons such a generous woman. Many a man has been guilt-tripped down the aisle this way.

Much less manipulative, then, is the woman who simply Leaves. In my opinion, although this move is indeed calculated to gain commitment if at all possible, it is a gift.

A Gift? Yes. It gives the ambivalent-but-willing man his clarity, and it gives the reluctant mate his freedom (and an end to The Drama. There will be no more guilt-tripping, no more pleading, no more tearful entreaties from She Who Is Perhaps Not Really Wanted Here.)

If he does not want her, all he has to do is…nothing. If he does want her, then he needs to prove it. Which, for the Woman You Want, is not asking too much.

April 27, 2010 | Duana C. Welch, Ph.D.


Hi, Gillian and Kelly,
I’d like to emphasize two things you said that rang particularly true:
“Obviously Troy needed help in clarifying his feelings. Helen provided that service.”
Yes, Gillian. It probably felt more like emotional gut-wrenching for both of them. But ultimately, Clarity—in whatever form it takes—is a gift for all. We can’t make others love us, but we can certainly get out of the way and let them figure it out for themselves.

“It is important to note that this wasn’t game-playing — it was an honest gut-level realization that I didn’t deserve to be in such a wishy-washy relationship.”
Excellent point, Kelly, and one often made to Love Science readers who are seeking commitment from the Reluctant. *Playing* hard-to-get is not advisable. If Helen had merely been toying with the idea of moving out, then she would have been in an even worse situation if Troy’s clarity led him to decide he didn’t want her. In all probability, she would have been the one begging for a reconciliation—the lowest-status thing she could do, and a move guaranteed to push him further away.
*Being* hard-to-get, on the other hand, involves the rock-solid Deep Knowledge that We All Deserve To Be Loved—and that if this one isn’t The One, it’s best we figure that out and re-launch the search.

Thanks again for your ever-outstanding contributions.

April 27, 2010 | Duana C. Welch, Ph.D.


I think you need even more men here to stir the pot ;-)

I agreed, Duana, with your answer to Mike. As a guy I found your explanation entirely fair to both sides, and certainly true to the science. We all do want to get what we want and avoid what we don’t want. I also like to refer to Dr. Tannen’s concept, that we are all working to balance Involvement and Independence in our relationships with others. And the balance point can change with individuals and their circumstances over time.

It’s also worth considering, that a man has to be **ready to commit** before he is even a prospect. From my own experience, I had no intention of becoming a husband until after I reached the age of 25 … had my education, my good job and my own place to live. At that moment, I was burning to be attached and I wanted to be married. It happened soon after.

Now it’s [many many] years later. I am a proud father of grown young men, and I am single. I have no real need to be married, ever again. However, I am right for a committed partnership with a woman. She just has to have complementary objectives … and I promise that I will **not waste** her time.

So I agree completely, as a guy, that a woman should maintain her High Status. It will not truly hurt those of us who are not right for her, and it will help those of us who do want what she wants.

Peace, to the good-lookin’ doctor and her friends here ;-)

April 27, 2010 | Tom


Hi there, Tom Of Outstanding Olfaction,

Nice hearing from you again—thanks for contributing another male voice and perspective for all the Lurkers out there, lol.

Re: “I also like to refer to Dr. Tannen’s concept, that we are all working to balance Involvement and Independence in our relationships with others. And the balance point can change with individuals and their circumstances over time.” Well-said, and thanks for your reminder of Deborah Tannen’s work. Her books on how men and women communicate —in intimate relationships as well as the workplace—are riveting.

I’d like to respond to your idea that a man must be ready for commitment before women consider him a prospect. I think you’re mostly right.

A man who wants to commit will be a safer candidate, especially if he’s so ready that he’s actively looking. Most men fall in love sooner than their mid-20’s, but they don’t commonly marry that person. Instead, most men wed around their 28th year in the USA—giving a clue that this is when many men feel established enough, and willing enough, to marry. (For women, it’s around age 25/26, on average.) It’s almost as if men *and* women marry not whomever they love, but whomever they fall in love with when the timing is right.

And it does a disservice to men if I indicate that men don’t want or benefit from commitment. They do, and they do. For example, most men marry (or, if gay in the US, eventually partner long-term), and are happy they did; most who are divorced want to remarry, and typically they accomplish it within two years. But very young men and those never-married (and those getting a ton of sex sans commitment) are often more hesitant to dive in.

On the other hand, it’s amazing how routinely a man who had no plans of marriage can *become* ready, willing and able when he meets The One He Can’t Live Without. Men tend to know they can’t do without us by our absence; women, by men’s presence.

I think this comes from inherited mating psychologies that confer high status on hard-to-get women—but communicate a lack of willingness to provide and protect if a man tries the same strategy.

Viva le difference!

April 28, 2010 | Duana C. Welch, Ph.D.


I’m curious as to how all this might relate to a couple who are already married. Can a wife lose her high status with a man who is less than committed to their marriage? What can she do to regain her status with him and still retain the marriage?

April 28, 2010 | anonymous


Dear anonymous,
A wife can indeed lose high status if her husband is less committed—some might even say that’s part of the definition of low status in regard to a particular couple. So your question regarding what she can do to regain that status *without* losing the marriage is important.

Kelly’s post, and my answers to her and to the first ‘anonymous’ (above) might give an answer—*if* the wife never had high status in her mate’s eyes, even from before the marriage. A man who didn’t want to get married to his wife may not ever come around to reversing that feeling. And if he does become more devoted, it is likely to be because the wife pulled back and let him figure out whether or not he cherished her.

But let’s assume your question relates to a woman who had her man’s adoration and commitment before and at the start of the marriage—but later, not so much. Maybe the stresses of parenting and day-to-day life and a flirtatious co-worker have worn down the friendship and goodwill that used to make the union a joy rather than a job.

In that case, there is a research-proven technique to help restore the marriage. And it’s so simple. Here it is:

Help your man remember positives about your courtship and early marriage.

John Gottman’s research on hundreds of couples over the past 40 years has shown that men (but not women) who can’t recall many details about the courtship and early marriage—or who can recall details, but only about bad things—are headed for divorce.

But if there was ever a time when that man loved that woman truly, and he can just be prompted to recall those things, Gottman found that the marriage’s commitment and happiness could be re-ignited. Just guiding men to recall the reasons they pursued, fell in love with, and proposed to their wife can begin turning the tide. Asking questions such as, “What do you remember about your wedding day? What drew you to your wife when you first met? What made you know she was the one for you?” have proven enormously helpful in re-generating love and commitment. What a simple therapy.

Yet some husbands, even when guided, cannot recall anything positive. And those marriages end, seemingly no matter what the wife does. My guess—untested, as far as I know—is that these are the men who were guilt-tripped down the aisle, the ones whose wife made the courtship and proposal happen, the ones who—if they’d just had more backbone to back away, and if the woman had given him freedom—would never have gotten together with that particular woman.

April 29, 2010 | Duana C. Welch, Ph.D.


I loved this article. It’s what I did to gain marriage with my man. Even though it was necessary, I still felt manipulative having done it, and your columns have given me significant emotional freedom from this. Thanks, again, for your totally different approach to relationship advice.

April 28, 2010 | Kirstie


Kirstie, thank you for letting me know this information took a weight off. It never occurred to me that perhaps some women have lived with guilt over Leaving as a commitment strategy. I’m glad your guilt is gone; staying is no less manipulative, and much less productive for both parties. Kudos to you for having had the strength to move on—and congratulations on your marriage.

April 29, 2010 | Duana C. Welch, Ph.D.


Duana - If it were appropriate to applaud a discussion this would be the reason. What a compelling insight to the mindset when we are all in the forest and can’t see the trees. I do think as men we often do have an objective and vision to what we define as the High Status woman. It’s that “Everyday” good of the relationship. And mistakenly if we are given that before actually getting there we do believe we are already there. I get it. Lost in that are obvious steps that are not taken and as a result become discounted.

In a perfect world it’s easy to say expectations should have been managed properly. But when the mountains are crumbling, the ocean is roaring and the birds are singing who has time for rationale???

Glad to see Helen’s intentions always for preservation and not spite. I met a woman who no matter how much I offered would not consider moving in with me even when financially it would benefit her. She clearly saw a future with me and told me but felt more time was needed for our growth and she would want us to be not just speaking of marriage but having real life plans in place. It was somewhat frustrating but perhaps she too had lost her high status once before.

Thanks for a view behind the curtain. :)

April 28, 2010 | Quinn


Quinn, what a pleasure to hear from you again.

Perhaps the woman you courted was burned before. Or maybe she just didn’t want to do all the work of melding a life with anyone else unless it was her husband. It’s funny. I just recently met a woman who told me that her reason for holding off on cohabitation had nothing to do with fearing the man’s lack of commitment—it was due to her own distaste for giving up her freedom for less than a marriage. As she put it, “I just never got the living-together thing. Why would I want to learn what groceries to buy, what meals to fix, deal with other people’s family, budget for this and that, etc. with someone I wasn’t entirely sure about, or who wasn’t entirely sure about me?” She is now happily married—but never did live with anyone beforehand.

I like your appreciation that Helen was not acting out of spite. Interestingly, research I reported on in another article showed that the *vast* majority of the time, women are Testing The Bond so they can figure out whether or not to remain in a relationship—and not out of a desire to hurt or break the other person. This is true even in cases where women are intentionally provoking jealousy. They’re getting clarity on the guy’s feelings, and see the resulting pain as a necessary but undesirable cost.

Thanks as ever for your thoughts. Glad you enjoy the peek behind the curtain ;).

April 29, 2010 | Duana C. Welch, Ph.D.


“But I would walk five hundred miles
And I would walk five hundred more
Just to be the man who walked a thousand miles
To fall down at your door”

April 29, 2010 | The Proclaimers



Dear The Proclaimers,

After all these years of one-sided fandom, I thought you’d never write.
Thank you for adding your oh-so-fitting lyrics to this post ;). There’s just nothing like the man who would walk “1,000 Miles”.

April 30, 2010 | Duana C. Welch, Ph.D.


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