Okay ladies. Yesterday certain kinds of guys got an awareness-raising about all of the things I hear from women most. Today it’s certain kinds of ladies turn.
I’ll have to speak in the same broad generalities, but it will still be useful to some. Also, many of these patterns may apply more to people born before 1980, and less so after that, although many of these trends will take generations to completely vanish.
Below are the things that men wish women knew about men.
First off, yes we have feelings. It might surprise a few of you to know that we have all of the ones you have. On top of many others, we feel sorrow, pain, guilt, regret, heartache, fear, insecurity, joy and love.
We understand that some of you don’t include our emotions in your deliberations about our behaviour because we don’t display them the same way you do, but they still are very much present.
Many of the men you may call “cold” are in fact badly wounded by their memories of past events. Because our culture does not encourage men to expose these aspects of themselves, when we do, it is particular challenging when that trust is betrayed.
In essence men are taught not to show that aspect of ourselves anymore. So please don’t think we’re not emotionally capable creatures just like yourself. That’s a common expression in the media but we’re human too. We just got male conditioning instead of female conditioning.
Speaking of conditioning, in the Western world (and in much of the rest of it too), men still feel the burden of providing for the household. Even if this isn’t literally true anymore, the man will feel it.
It’s why rich young inheritors will often want to build businesses. It’s not for the money—they simply don’t need it. Instead it’s for the value to their sense of themselves.
Not that it isn’t painful for a woman, but when a man loses his job he not only loses his income and worries for his family, but he loses a large amount of his capacity to successfully apply for a new job.
With his confidence undermined he will appear less capable than he is. Remember, identity comes from thought. If the man is thinking insecure thoughts then he will perform like an insecure person.
There are men who are more comfortable being bossed around by an aggressive woman, and there are men who prefer to have total control with a woman doing nothing more than following. And most men are in between.
Wherever we are on that spectrum, men often find they feel they are being asked to be someone other than who they are in some instances (sex), and yet another person at other times (going out). This doesn’t seem as natural or easy to do to many men.
Also, many men aren’t anti-style, but they often don’t generally share their partner’s ambition for home improvement either by renovation or sale. Never all –but many men, prefer comfort over style.
The home improvement issue is hypocritical because even modern men can be very competitive about cars and electronics and musical instruments etc. etc. yet a lot of men still get frustrated by the concept of guest towels.
Most of men’s mate-competition behaviour comes from our accomplishments. It’s what we’ve done. But even today, a lot of my very liberated female students do admit to still feeling a strong impulse to feather a nest. They do see their homes as reflections of themselves.
To many of my male students of all ages, a home is often a never-ending ever-expanding list of things for a couple to do. There are many men who see themselves (and their wives) as having worked their butts off to pay for and renovate a home, yet as soon as it’s done the way their partner wants it, many tell me their partner will often shift to asking for yet another change.
The problem is that many men see this as never-ending, when to their spouse it’s merely an innocent natural next-step in realizing their larger imagined result. But that is often not a goal that is shared by their partner.
There are many men who feel they have literally spent lifetimes in that pursuit of a never-endingly different house. But here’s the notable part: basically all of them actually volunteered to do those things out of love, even though they personally saw zero value in doing them. This is no small detail.
When a spouse says their partner doesn’t love them because ‘he forget our anniversary,’ be reminded that from the man’s perspective, he may feel that he worked (sacrificed) for six months to earn the money to pay for an engagement ring, or to pay for a large portion of a fancy wedding that wasn’t very important to him.
That’s an actual expression of love that many men feel goes unrecognized.
They may also have spent large sums of money on accomplishing those home renovation they had no interest in doing nor paying for. And yet many men will note that they’ll often surrender half of their working year to pay for whatever it is. Think about that. Why?
A partner may be complaining during construction, and that can really be hard to listen to, but keep in mind, someone giving up six months of salary –six months of their labour– for a partner’s dreams… That’s pretty sweet.
Something like that is only done because someone loves us and it’s important to us. It’s the same sort of reason a woman will do things for their kids even though they can’t pay her back. That’s what love does. It gives.
Also, guys know that we can’t write a very romantic birthday card. But a lot of us will work way more hours for things our partner wants than for things we want.
We often don’t need much. For a lot of guys their house is just that other building near their garage, or in front of their deck, or its where their TV sits.
Other things male clients complain about really often? Being talked to like children. I know those who do it don’t mean to do it, but just listen in a grocery store or at the Farmer’s Market some time. Many women are shocked when I take them and have them listen in this way.
Men still leave most of the child-rearing to women, so it’s a simple brain stumble that leads to those tones and phrases also being used when grown men make the same mistakes as their children.
Still, in most of the live tests I’ve done with clients at local markets, if you closed your eyes you’d think a large percentage of the wives were talking to small children. The tone, the choice of words. Even slaps to the wrist!
Husbands can often make it hard to do, but try to remember to be conscious about switching tones between kids and spouses. Men are not (completely) children. We have different priorities many times, yes. But it’s also not frivolous to value fun or relaxation as much as ambition or growth.
As with most things, it would do our relationships good if both genders spent more time trying to truly understand where the value comes from in each others choices, and how those personal choices may have been impacted by the evolving societies that we all grow up in.
Many men would also like it pointed out that, in conflict, we will often behave like a different creature than the people society has programmed to be ‘women.’ While biochemistry may influence some women’s emotions toward drama and pain, the ones men get tend to tip our emotions us towards frustration and anger.
When a guy is really angry, it’s important to try to determine what he’s mad at. Because way more men are mad at situations than they are at people, but that can be hard to detect if we don’t listen carefully.
Sure, some men will definitely focus on the messenger instead, but many men still see themselves as ‘fixers.’ If they can’t solve a problem with their relationship they will become frustrated. This means their anger will not be about their partner, it will be frustration over not being able to solve the problem itself.
As those with a lot of life experience know, angry, frustrated yelling is more often the release of pent up chemistry, than it is a precursor to violence. But if someone is violent, that it is not something even the violent men thought women should stay for.
Another common misunderstanding seen between genders is that, in divorce, most women assume men are protecting money when they’re calculating their divorces so aggressively, but that’s brought on by pain.
Again, much like when they spend their money on renos, the men often won’t really care about the money itself, it’s what it stands for.
A man doesn’t have to be greedy to attach his masculinity to his ability to earn and purchase. This is the modern version of hunting. Right or wrong, many men react strongly if they feel they are being emasculated as ‘hunters.’
What the man thinks is that, if they get divorced, they have to bring dates ‘home’ to a tiny little apartment when he had a nice lair. Not that he ever planned on cheating, but some of his swagger in life came from thinking that maybe he still could attract a woman.
But to a guy that owned a house and then got divorced, when it comes to masculinity, that apartment is like showing up at a sword fight with a knife. That only adds to our insecurities. (And there doesn’t even have to be an actual girl, this is about masculinity.)
For those reasons, after the average man’s already lost a relationship he’s really not motivated to surrender his ‘meat and pelts’ when he knows he’s now looking for another partner. Of course, that’s really all just clinging because it feels awful to feel alone.
None of this is to say that there aren’t some upsides for divorced men too. Whereas in most cases, a 40 year old divorced woman gets to date men 40-60, a 40 year old divorced man gets to date women 20-45. This is not ‘fair,’ but in my client’s experience, it is what often happens.
A lot of men get asked why they don’t date. The reason so many men ‘turtle’ in later years —choosing to be single instead of dating—is often directly related to how many women react when they’re angry.
As many female clients have noted, the schoolyard still often teaches women to use attacks to other people’s social circles. As you often self-report, some of you can be pretty vicious in moments of peaked emotions.
I’ve seen men’s entire lives destroyed by lies spread with the purpose of making the man pay for something he’s done. And by ‘done’ that can mean that he simply lived his life and his partner didn’t approve of his choices.
As a lot of over-40 women have taught me, they often realize that portions of their relationships were conducted with as much of a lack of awareness toward their husband as their husband had displayed toward them.
The most common realization was that, if their partner was not going to follow their preconceived personal plan for ‘their’ lives, that his refusal to surrender his ideas for hers meant he was viewed as having ‘let her down.’
That man’s payment for defending his individuality was often to have his personal, social and professional life be badly damaged or even completely destroyed by innuendo, rumour and intentionally directed and damaging gossip.
Also, a lot of men wish women knew that, despite the common myth, most men don’t complaining about their partners much except in certain small circles. Sure, bitter men in the midst of break-ups and comedians can do it, but most men avoid the subject more than women might suspect.
I’ve played on teams with men of all types for decades, and I can’t say I’ve heard very much in terms of men complaining about wives. Even if they do, it often amounts to little more than shrugs or brief comments.
Men often wonder though, can the same be said for ladies? Many men perceive that many women regularly compare us to others, or discuss our shortcomings.
If that does happen, can we as fellow humans really think it’s possible for us to succeed when one of us comes home after hours of discussing our failings with our friends?
Ladies, as I wrote yesterday, there’s a group of men who do need to buck up in all kinds of ways in society. As men, we need to hold other men more accountable for their violent or abusive behaviour. We need to honour your interests and pursuits more authentically. And we need to remember that you can have orgasms too.
At the same time, men ask that it be noted that they at least feel they do a lot of things that get taken for granted.
One thing my experience suggests is that, of the people I work with that get divorced, 80% of the breakups are initiated by the woman. But way less than half of those women –by their own account– end up feeling better off by ending the marriage.
A little more than half seem to see their life get worse, so it’s worth it for us to ensure we’re adding up a person’s qualities as well as their shortcomings when making stay-or-go decisions about long term relationships.
Many men feel that their partners sees them primarily as the individual qualities or habits that that their wives want to go away or end. They also feel too few spouses calculate what qualities they would really hate to lose.
When making big decisions like this, remember, it’s not uncommon for me to have a client contact me two years after I negotiate their divorce to see if an ex might still be single. Leaving can be the right thing to do for sure. But so can staying.
Yes: leave violent or grossly unappreciative men and do it quickly. And do it carefully and stay safe. But also be careful not to throw any babies out with the bath water.
Most men are trying really hard to be the best people we can be, and while we may be bad about stating it out loud, we do appreciate when you let us off the hook on some of our dumber moments.
PS: If you’re looking for tools to make things better, try reading An Open Letter to Men.
A serious childhood brain injury lead Scott to spend his entire life meditating on the concepts of thought, consciousness, reality and identity. It made others as strange to him as he was to them. When he realized people were confused by their own over-thinking, Scott began teaching others to understand reality. He is currently CBC Radio Active’s Wellness Columnist, as well as a writer, speaker and mindfulness instructor based in Edmonton, AB where he still finds it strange to write about himself in the third person.