end signThe Justifying Zone is that slippery slope that a lot of women find themselves in, especially after they have sexual contact with a guy. Many of us feel that we need to justify our emotional and sexual investment and this justification is effectively attempting to close the door after the horse has bolted.

The Justifying Zone will always appear when a man fails to live up to the initial promise that he first exhibited or does something inappropriate or that raises a major red flag that could potentially scupper the possibility of the relationship. If for instance, he’s a Mr Unavailable and the ambiguity increases along with all of his other core behaviours, the potential to stay in the zone and cling to it for dear life becomes even bigger.

As women, we tend to look for the smallest of things to make ourselves feel better about sleeping with our guys or just plain ‘ole liking/loving them, and this often causes us to spend more time on a relationship than is necessary. We see gold when in actual fact it’s brass, or even rusty ‘ole copper, and often we use the Justifying Zone as the launch pad for betting on potential and basically hoping that a cockroach will turn into a frog, and then eventually into a prince.

Why? Well to be fair, who wants to feel like they’ve had Yet Another Dubious Dating Experience? But women who habitually live in The Justifying Zone do so because they tend to already have unhealthy relationship habits and measure the value of themselves based on their interaction with their men. They don’t want to have another Here We Go Again Moment and they like to bet on the potential, even if he never shows an ounce of decency ever again.

Sex of course, is the biggest booby trap. You will definitely find yourself in this zone if you sleep with him too soon, or sleep with him and things don’t prosper and develop as expected. Many women still equate sex with someone as a signal of a bigger, deeper connection and if we’re left feeling empty, unfulfilled, confused, and a whole host of other negative feelings, we’ll remind ourselves that there must be a strong potential if we slept with him in the first place. We don’t want to feel devalued by the experience even though the subsequent lack of return on investment that we experience by being in The Justifying Zone, actually only serves to deplete our self-esteem anyway.

The reality is that The Justifying Zone is an excuse and if you find yourself there, it means that there is something wrong with the relationship. We spend a lot of time agonising over what is behind a man’s behaviour – He didn’t turn up/He spoke to you inappropriately/He doesn’t show affection can easily turn into He’s got a lot going on/He’s deep and complicated/I need to not be so needy so that he’ll be more comfortable.

If you feel the need to start rationalising and justifying his behaviour, you need to step back and examine your investment into the relationship because after a while, a justification for staying with the wrong type of guy eventually becomes you believing that you’re madly in love with him and you measuring your self-worth based on how successful (or unsuccessful) you are at getting a return on your investment.

You deserve to be in a relationship that doesn’t need a justification for you being there.

Your thoughts? Have you ever spent time in The Justifying Zone?

Also read: Return On Investment In Relationships

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25 Responses to The Justifying Zone: when a woman needs to justify her emotional or sexual investment

  1. Different Opinion says:

    “we’ll remind ourselves that there must be a strong potential if we slept with him in the first place. We don’t want to feel devalued by the experience”

    That’s quite insigtful, I find some women are not ready to realise, that sometimes a guy just wants sex. nothing else.

  2. NML says:

    Exactly! I’ve come across women who say that they “just want sex” and then when he behaves like it’s “just sex” they feel upset. Sometimes it is what it is.

  3. Alicia1973 says:

    The last guy I dated wanted a “sex buddy” but we also spent a lot of time talking and going out together. After about 8 weeks of this I told him I thought it was more than that and he agreed. We dated another couple months and it was a total disaster. As soon as things started getting too time involved I rarely heard from him. Of course in my no self esteem mind, when he did call and we went out and had sex, I took it that he liked me. It has been a very hard road but I am cutting him off and that actually means not going to some of my favorite hang outs and getting new ones. Looking forward to it and glad that I found this site, cause I love to make excuses for people’s bad behavior, except my own. Listen to your friends when they tell you your making excuses, they are right. Take time off from “men” in general cause you will keep that cycle going to you figure out YOU!!! Peace and Love yourself.

  4. Lance says:

    Why is sex a booby trap? Intrinsicially, sex is just…sex. It’s the value you place on it that changes the experience. There’s nothing wrong with having sex just for the sake of having sex. You just need two partners that are mature and confident enough to get past the social stigma that sex MUST equal love or else. Sex can be fun. Sex can be passion. Sex can be many things.

    ALSO, I know for a fact that women enjoy and want sex just as much or more than a guy does. So why are we working so hard to prevent men and women from having it with things like Justifying Zones?

    @Alicia: Cardinal rule of fuck buddies is to NEVER get romantically involved after you’ve started the FB relationship. Those never work. You’re either a friend or a friend with benefits, and nothing else.

  5. Paula D. says:

    Very interesting! Yep, I have been in the justifying zone before. I have gotten a lot smarter & realized that if it is just going to be sex & I can deal with it…..then that’s just what it is.

  6. Brad K. says:


    Think of it this way. Say you are on a school team, and you play the cross-town rivals. Are you going to play to do your best and *enjoy* what skills you have – or are you going to be yelling and working hard to ‘beat those guys’? What about the weakest team in the conference, the ones that haven’t won a game in 4 years – how much interest do you put into preparation? After all, it is just a game, right?

    Unlike what the magazines, locker room conversations, and beer ads tell you, sex is *never* just about sex.

    Any intimate encounter, where you spend time with someone at a personal level outside work, community, or family interactions, is a gift of your time, and a gift of your partner. Whether there is conversation, cuddling, or sex, your bodies exchange breaths, maybe even more intimate exchanges – and your bodies react. Implied social obligations and possibilities of pregnancy or disease aside, your body changes with the exchange of pheromones and hormones to accept this person you share time with as a ‘friend’ or as ‘family’.

    On the other hand, wherever you found this person, they are likely to know others. Keep fishing in the same stream, and you are likely to find someone that has heard about you from someone else. You would likely find it difficult to mix casual encounters and longer-term relationships, both because of reputation, and the emotional and physical habits you acquire.

    And I think you missed the point of the ‘Justifying Zone’. This is a broad description of a common reaction – disappointment and denial – when people realize that they have made a mistake. NML is writing about the occasions when a sexual encounter was the mistake. This article started out with “man fails to live up to the initial promise that he first exhibited or does something inappropriate”. This isn’t about dealing with the aftermath of a planned casual encounter, although many ‘casual’ encounters create the same kinds of problems.

    The odds that after a casual encounter one or the other wants something more with a person they enjoyed time with are pretty high. The problem is that sex is properly a portion of a larger relationship. People looking for marriage or other life mate relationship find it easy to include sex within that framework. When you take sex out of context, there is an assumption that you are playing a role in a larger context of interdependence and mutual nurturing. A relationship is a much larger commitment than a casual encounter, but to many the sex is a ‘promissory note in the wedding march’, as Christopher Stasheff put it in “A Company of Stars”. Perhaps especially if the encounter is highly enjoyed, the desire to repeat the joy and satisfaction, of wanting to sustain good feelings with the partner(s), can redefine expectations.

    After all, it is just a game..

  7. […] .recentcomments a{display:inline !important;padding: 0 !important;margin: 0 !important;} ← The Justifying Zone: when a woman needs to justify her emotional or sexual investment […]

  8. lisaq says:

    yep…i spent a lot of time in the zone…i dated a guy a couple of years ago that really had me there…i had these crazy conversations with myself about how if i broke it off, i’d be alone…and yet i was alone most of the time even when we were together…thank goodness i left that crap behind me…these days, sex or no sex, if it’s wrong or he’s wrong for me, i can walk away…go me!

  9. cheekie says:

    I think it really really boils down to this.
    Be clear about what you want, be confident enough to stand by that.
    And most importantly, if you do go ahead and get emotionally involved (this doesn’t take sex to happen btw) make damn sure he is on the same page.

    If not, I agree with Lance, if you want just sex, then don’t justify, don’t try to hide it.
    Just do it. But be really clear and honest with YOURSELF! I think we as women sometimes feel guilty for just wanting sex, and sometimes even when we want it and go for it, if the guy then pulls away – it’s a matter of pride more than actual desire for a relationship with that particular guy.
    Been there, done that, stole his tshirt 😉

  10. Jess says:

    Thank you so much for this great post! I’ve recently been in a string of different relationship dilemmas, one after the other, and eventually all ended by me because I’ve had enough. Right now I’m feeling very anti-relationship and to be honest, quite scared of commitment, even when yet another great guy has showed up in my path. And I’ve found myself distancing myself a lot, and a lot of these type of thoughts and rations going through my head based on past relationships, but it has never been explained (even to myself) as well as you have. I completely understand why I feel this certain way, and why.

  11. Mel says:

    In my experience some men will disguise their ‘only wanting sex’ agenda under a veil of wanting a relationship and telling you all the things you want to hear. They get the sex and don’t really care that you believe in the bull**** they feed you!

  12. cheekie says:

    Hey Mel, that’s why I think it is best to be honest and confident in what you want. If you get taken it isn’t your fault, and there is no need to play ‘victim’. We all get taken by pretty words and actions, and there are some guys who will put a lot of effort into making sure they get into your pants. It can even last weeks and they don’t give up.

    But, if you are clear about what you want, and he is aware of this, then he is the knob, not you.

    Chalk it up to experience, knowing the red flags and move on…

    btw, 99% of guys, even nice ones, will try something if they are attracted to you. maybe not right off the bat, but certainly by the second date or so. so don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater – just stand firm for yourself, he’ll figure it out and if he’s worth it, he’ll stick around….

    if you do find this guy, let me know if he has a brother would ya?

  13. Mel says:

    If I do hun, you’ll have to get in the queue! lol

  14. […] We’ve already slept with them and are already in the justifying zone, that place we go to where we keep finding reasons to stay with the person to justify sleeping with […]

  15. […] all for getting laid but sex clouds judgement and puts you in the Justifying Zone. All of those happy hormones flying around may convince you that the huge orgasm is a reason to […]

  16. Tulipa says:

    Thank you what a timely reminder ….

  17. eve says:

    Hey ladies I have an urgent advice. I recently met a guy, who i really really like. The first date he took me out to a nice sushi restraunt, and we had good conversation. The conversation turned sexual probably once we started having drinks. When the date ended, we kissed, and he wanted me to come over to his place- That i did not feel confortable doing. So i just ended it and went home to my place. Dont get me wrong, I love sex- but i want it to be with someone who I know loves me for me and not what is between my legs. Ive made a committment to myself that I will not have sex unless i am in a committed loving realtionship. He has once said before that in previous relationships that he had a gf who just gave him oral for a few months, and that he was not satisfied because he wanted more. He seems like a sexual person, someone who is opened sexually and wants his women to be “open ” to sex too. I will also admit that i am “lonely” and miss the touching of a man. Please ladies how do i control my emotions… what should i do with this man??

  18. Eve, it sounds like you set yourself a pretty healthy boundary: “Ive made a committment to myself that I will not have sex unless i am in a committed loving realtionship.”

    I hope that after one date you are not going to be pressured into obliterating your own healthy boundary! Um, almost all men are opened sexually and want their women to be open too. That will still be there after you see if your conditions are met. They need to be open in other ways too.

    Make sure you ask him all the right questions, if you have more dates, like if he has a girlfriend or wife, or what his long-term goals are in life, relationships, etc. Good luck, sweetie!

  19. Seductress Within says:

    Women tend to be more emotionally and relationally driven so we are particularly vulnerable to the justifications and rationalizations of staying in a bad situation. We are notorious for loving “His Potential”, and not seeing reality. Especially after we’ve had sex.

    Women are having sex on first dates and giving BJs instead of a goodnight kiss. It’s dangerous pysically and emotionally.
    Why do it?
    Why not postpone sex until you know that man is even worth it. Then when he shows that he isn’t worth it, he can be let go without her feeling the urge to “make it work” because she’s invested so much of herself.

  20. Gail says:


    I too agree with your assessment of having sex too early, before there is a commitment, less having to get a ring leading to marriage, besides what kind of ring would it be? A friendship ring, a ring from a cracker jack box, a gold ring, a diamond ring? None of these represent, in my opinion, a reason to jump into bed with someone. What if….a man gives you a ring 2 or 3 months into the relationship, professes his love for you and asks you to marry him and you haven’t had sex, would that be the green light to have sex? I don’t feel an animate object signals permission to have sex at that point, you don’t even know the man. I do feel, and from my own experience, jumping into bed to early, does not create a foundation for a healthy substantive relationship. However….
    As Brad mentioned in his last post and what I alluded to, man women on here have issues much deeper than the nice neat package of not having sex. Many times there are underlying issues that must be dealt with in order to understand and even achieve a healthy relationship or what one even looks like. As you mentioned, sex too early can be the root of all evil in a relationship, I do agree with that, however……..

    Brad raises important points. The root of many relationships failing and sex too early and engaging in repetitive bad relationships can be traced back to emotionally unavailable fathers, parents that were not good role models, sexual abuse, alcholism and more, which in and of themselves will lead to self-esteem issues. Boundaries not presented early on in life. Women not having one iota of what a boundary is or how to communicate what is acceptable or unacceptable behavior from a man because, well, they just didn’t know because they never learned the behaviors early on. I can write extensively on this subject since I lived it, but it’s private and I don’t care to share my entire life and what lead me to this site (except I had an ephiphany relationship) with you or anyone else and besides I don’t think you could handle it.
    I will say, without finding this site, reading NML’s book, recoginizing the triggers that kept me in toxic relationships with weak foundations that I should have never been in, getting counseling, I would still be out there flapping around repeating the same patterns that I lived for the past 40 years. Working on these issues, revealing them, dealing with them head on has started the healing process. I now have tools that I never had before to look forward to a healthy, committed relationship with a man that is worthy of me and am excited about the fact that unless we both have “two feet” in the relationship, that it is exclusive, sex won’t be part of it. I can now recognize what is and what is not a healthy relationship but it’s taken being vunerable and getting the garbage out. Lisa, previously I did not have the tools to recognize and verbalize what is acceptable or what is not acceptable and Iknow this will be shocking to you, but sex was my foundation, not for the sex but I considered the intimacy, one of many things that was lacking in my childhood. I just didn’t know.
    Now I want to address, what I consider to be insulting as a woman with regard to the management of men and the differential between work and home. I don’t consider cleaning yourself up for a man a form of management, it’s a natural hygiene and personal fulfillment characteristic. I manage bills, responsibilities, airline tickets,etc., etc., for some women who are homemakers it’s running the household or managing your children, leading and teaching them to be morally upright citizens. If you have to manage a man to be in the relationship, it sounds like alot of work and a relationship you probably shouldn’t be in anyway. I think that if boundaries are set and there is mutual respect for each other, they won’t be crossed, that is not management, it’s mutual respect.
    One other note, I think many women out there, including myself, would be very insulted/offended by your description of managing a company being a “masculine” trait. What you are saying, that by going into management at work that it really is a man’s position with a woman taking on that role This could not be further from the truth and insinuating that women are only feminine at home? Argh, where does that come from and what do you mean by that? That women are masculine by nature when they get into managment?…..Gail

  21. ARulesGirl2theEnd says:

    well said Gaynor. The truth is for many of us and those assclowns we’ve all dated the tools where lacking in the first place. But they can be learnt later on in life. Due to a very dysfunctional childhood SEX was what I thought determined a mans love for me? for some that seems odd, but for me thats where I always fell of the horse, got confused and held on, because he said he loved me! he showed me that he loved me!. This is true manipulation, on a mans part, but for some men they have realised that they dont have the character to get by in life without manipulation and lies. However we must also ask ourselves, are we not also manipulating someone by saying, I stay because I love you? that in itself is manipulation, its willing someone else to change just because you’ve said you love them, its arrogant to expect that change as well. For most of us we question our self esteem, our values etc, because we have always been told that because we have stood up for ourselves, that we were wrong, and not understaning. A lifetime of emotional abuse and letting it effect us takes its toll, you have to fight hard to belive in yourself and stay true, because other people will always say your wrong. If it goes against your morals and boundaries, no matter what others think then you have a right to stand up for yourself, and if that means someone leaving you, so be it, you were ok before and you can and will be ok after. Its so hard isnt it, because we are damed if we are compassionate and damed if were not. Having boudaries can at times confuse you as well.

  22. Gail says:

    One other comment on this, Lisa, not only are there emotionally unavailable men but women as well, due to what I have mentioned above (excuse some of the unfinished thoughts or misspelled words above, but it was early when I wrote it).
    As NML has repeatedly mentioned, like attracts like, some men are just prone to not committing (they have their own issues and we can’t fix them), to anything and women with intimacy problems seem to attract the same exact kind, men who have intimacy problems, will do anything, say anything for the sake of sex and have a track record of not committing. All men Are Not available or Want to commit.
    What is itimacy? In my personal opinion now that I am learning behaviors, boundaries and actions, it’s being vunerable with your mate, being a best friend, trusting each other, building a solid foundation (which doesn’t happen overnight, that may be a year, as my father would say spend 4 seasons with a man but never explained why), communication, boundaries and of course, not using sex as the basis of a foundation and we women then using it as the “Justifying Zone”. Not All men want to be in a committed relationship, I’ve seen many men, like women jump from one relationship to another, it’s not for us to figure out why, as I am learning, it’s up to us to take responsibility for ourselves, to see the signals before committing to an unhealthy relationship when possible, but first you need to learn the signals.
    You are right, sometimes relationships just don’t work out, on the other hand There Are Emotionally Unvailable Men and it’s they aren’t “so-called”….Gail

  23. Brad K. says:

    @ Gail,

    I served in the US Navy, onboard the USS Saratoga aircraft carrier in 1977-1978. Women were just being allowed to serve on board ships. I recall a conversation among a couple of chief petty officers (similar to senior supervisors, kinda). They complained that they didn’t want women working for them. “The first time there is work to be done, it will be “that time of the month.””

    What I saw then, and have since seen in scientific software development, is that Lisa might be correct, in a way. That management had been a masculine job. With the same relationship and character flaw endemic in EUM relationships. Something like how Gresham’s law about how bad money will poison a money supply, the presence of bullies and deceivers and manipulators in senior management pretty much forces everyone that says to act that way. “The ship doesn’t go where the captain doesn’t steer.”

    Adding women to the mix usually changed things. Attitudes, policies – abuses – got reexamined. Changes happened. In the Navy many of the changes made work easier – more effective. More respectful. In industry, generally the company benefited from cleaning up abuses and taking fresh approaches. At least, where the individuals involved were functional and not EUW/EUM or abusive assclowns. About like relationships.

    So I would agree with Lisa, that management *had been* defined as a male job. But putting women into management changed the definition of the job much more, in most cases, than forcing the woman to do a “man’s job”. “Women who seek to be equal with men lack ambition.” ~Timothy Leary.

    @ ARulesGirl2theEnd,

    I don’t think it is just early influences. Look at TV and print ads, at sitcoms, at movies. Only rarely does any dynamic show up, except that “together” means sleeping together. In all the Viagra and Victoria’s Secrets and beer ads I have seen – none claimed to raise healthier babies, or make children better students (discipline and patience and curiosity will). The infamous Hazel, Father Knows Best, Leave it to Beaver, and Lost focus on laughs, mis-communications, and misunderstandings. None spent much time on the security and joy of emotional commitment, of respect for self and others. If you look closely, at times you will see some relationship values, some reasons to choose character over a slick line. But usually? All the media we expose ourselves to is about getting laid.

    Or about humor – there is no humor without pain (Skip Anderson). Every time we reward and laugh at humor, we celebrate someone’s pain or humiliation. Imagine what effect wallowing in humor, and ignoring joy, has on a relationship. You have to explain to some people that pranks and pain and humiliation aren’t “funny”, they are rude, disrespectful, and abusive. Because watching TV or YouTube won’t clue them in. “Lighten up” has to be the most demeaning cop-out I know.

    In the past, the only sex allowed a “proper” girl – one eligible for a church wedding – was in the marriage bed. And that followed centuries when there was no expectation that the bride knew, or liked, her husband.

    Relationships and dating today may be better, or just different. But the rules are less well defined about what to expect. Rules, like boundaries, both deflect unwanted stuff and give guidance to what is expected. There are so many bad examples, it is a wonder NML both found a personal answer and a rewarding relationship and family – and then managed to successfully share that discovery.

  24. Gina says:

    Like Gail, I had a dysfunctional childhood with abuse of all sorts and substance/alcoholic parent which in turn create problems because if you didn’t learn a healthy foundation for yourself and relationships from your upbringing — you need to take conscious action to heal which basically comes when you are sick of living out your subconscious wounds that are creating unhealthy relationships.

    I have to say it was interesting to explore the dynamics of relationships — and even still after alot of growth this past year or so, I find this site very fascinating, insightful and helpful towards my continued growth.

    Sex was always the intimacy factor for me which I involved myself in very soon into the dating (or whatever you want to call it) type of meeting someone new — but I thought about something. How on earth was I going to attract a healthy relationship when I was emotionally neglecting myself by sleeping with these men — claiming that “it was all in fun” bullshit!

    They say though, when you play out your spiritual pain that is when you start healing and changing, thank god I am 27 and have a whole life ahead for healthy relationships. I know that I was emotionally unavailable for a long time. It pained me when I would go along with these mens terms and already knew the script — there was something inside of my fighting to just trust myself and allow myself to see with my own vision, not let others choose for me.

    The last “dating exapade” played out just like this website has broken it down. Calling when I was moving on with my life (perfect timing) Wanting to “be friends” although I knew deep within we weren’t but doubted myself into being mean because I didn’t want to “be friends” — I could go on… especially not trusting myself when we became sexually involved and knew it was a bottomless pit…

    I am grateful though because through our pain — we finally learn to do something different and become emotionally available for the right fella. My boundary now is to be in a loving relationship that is committed until I have sex… and I also haven’t been dating for 6 months — and just focusing on building myself up and when a person comes into your life that is wrong you will be able to easily discard it because it won’t serve your true hearts passion and life that is full — and better yet when the right one comes you will know because you won’t be changing your flow to be with him and he will show you he values you and you won’t accept anything less.

  25. […] To ensure that you don’t love or trust blindly, or take a quick hop, skip and a jump to The Justifying Zone, that special place we go to where we look for reasons to justify our initial emotional or sexual […]

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Tired of dealing with family drama or waiting for them to spontaneously combust in to changed people? Need to find ways to step back and take proactive steps to redefine the relationship from your end? This 30-Day project will help you do just that.