Beth Cook is a dating coach and throws private dating events for San Francisco’s most awesome and unattached. She also writes and draws about her own dating experiences. Want advice? Have advice? Send her an email.

When it comes to dating and relationships (or anything, really), women are strategic and men are straightforward.

These two very different approaches mix as well as Lindsay Lohan and booze—e.g., badly.

Nowhere is this more obvious than in message analysis. A woman will ponder the meaning of a text message for ages, dissecting its structure, defining the meaning of each word, inventing subtexts, theorizing how the sender felt. Then she will go out with her friends, enthusiastically present her analysis of the text, and ask her friends to elaborate on what they think the one line message might mean.

You won’t catch a man engaging in this lunacy. There is no subtext to a man’s text, so men don’t look look for it in a woman’s text. Men say (or write) what they think—or they don’t say much at all (if they’re not that into you).

Therein lies the larger problem: women are constantly attempting to analyze men’s strategies, when usually, there isn’t one.

Us gals take one online dating message, one email sentence, one word of a text and run with it. We invent stories together, boldly assigning meaning to meaningless words. It’s a fun thing to do over martinis. It’s also a dangerous habit to get into.

As a guy friend of mine put it, “My girlfriend's friends endlessly debate each other’s relationship moves like they are in a chess match. Don't adults ever make decisions on their own?”

The smart ones do.

The rest of them make dating and relationship decisions by committee, letting friends decipher emails, craft replies and decide their dating fate.

Newsflash: Your friends don’t know who is good for you. Only you can figure this out. More importantly, it definitely isn’t something you’re going to learn from analyzing emails.

What you should be analyzing is how you feel when you’re around the person in question. And what you should be communicating are your honest thoughts, opinions, and feelings. If both you and a guy you are dating are being yourselves (not acting as hybrid friend representatives), you’ll know a hell of a lot faster whether you should go for broke or go for the door.

So do me a favor and turn that “I’m gonna figure him out” strategy into an “I’m gonna figure myself out” strategy. Read texts, emails and messages for what they say, no more. Make decisions on your own, and tell your friends to do the same.

Photo by Bonnie Bogle