Breaking down the male struggle to be your 'perfect mate.'
I realize the dangerousness of my actions. I’m betraying my sex by talking about how hard men have it. It almost seems like a crime against nature. I’m willing to embrace the fallout (in a public women’s forum, no less), for the sake of the greater good. We’re at the height of a relationship revolution and if you decide to be one of the proactive few that apply this information, your boyfriend or husband will pay you back in kind. I’m here to say, men are getting a raw deal.
Mind you, it’s not that women have it easy. We don’t. We’re expected to be the perfect mothers, professional go getters and come home, clean the house, cook dinner and end the day looking like a lingerie-clad model. But frankly, that issue is for another time and another article. This one’s for the guys (and for the women that love them).
It starts when they’re born. Out of the womb, boys are wrapped in blue blankets and swiftly taken home to their bedrooms, painstaking decorated by adoring parents. Those lovely folks likely decorated that space with sports paraphernalia and filled those toy chests with trucks, baseball gloves and plastic guns to play with. They don’t mean to engender their sons. It’s simply a societal norm; Boys are tough. Girls like to share their feelings.
They continue on through this journey of life with the belief that to be a man, you must grunt, scratch and keep your feelings to yourself (and probably deny that you have feelings at all). They grow, get validated for their ‘manly’ traits and then enter the dating world. Men descend from Mars, women descend from Venus (Thank you, John Gray!) and this is where it all starts to go awry.
The natural divide feels frustrating and we don’t really see how to bridge the gaps. In a way, it’s almost easier to accept that we’re so different because then, we don’t have to do anything to change it. But, the truth is that many women don’t accept that their partners are different and simply go about their relationships with these unique but splendid beings. We want our men to talk! We want them to share their feelings! We want them to connect! After years of begging, pleading, cajoling and negotiating, some men actually brave the waters, dive in head first and start revealing those softer parts of themselves. They share their emotions, they share their power and some even start to enjoy it a little. We’re euphoric at the change. We succumb to the bliss. Then, another hitch emerges, because we eventually turn the tide on them.
We don’t want them talking about ALL of their feelings and we don’t want them giving away ALL of their power. They’re human. They hear what we want and do their best to give it to us but there’s a secret AND a solution here…despite perception, we require balance.
We used to think that we liked our men like we like our coffee. Strong and smooth. Now we like our men like we like our cars. Hybrids. We want them to be sporty but economical, fast but efficient and assertive but not aggressive. What does this mean in “relationship terms?” It means that we want it all and we want it now (in perfect equilibrium, of course). We want them to be the guy that replaces the fan belt and then comes inside, showers, throws on some cologne, ask about our day and actually cares about the answer. We also want them to support our feelings instead of just trying to “fix” the problem. In all fairness, it’s jarring because we praise them for their ability to fix things. In actuality, we love that they can ‘fix’ the transmission but we really don’t love that they bypass our feelings and look to the nearest and quickest solution because sometimes, there isn’t one. Are you starting to get the complexity of the male struggle? We place a tall order that even the savviest chef would struggle to execute.
If you’re looking for ways to turn this raw deal into a delicious one, take a deep breath, ask your male counterpart to join you, sit down and read on…
1. Like women, men have a natural internal barometer for balance. Ask your partner to practice checking in with himself to gauge just how much he’s sharing versus keeping to himself, asserting versus taking a back seat. It will be both a foreign and strange exercise, but with practice, it will be his life saver.
2. Listen to what he’s saying. Support HIS feelings. If he’s being honest, he’ll be able to articulate that sometimes he still doesn’t know what you want and it leaves him feeling lost and inadequate. Herein lies your opportunity to be explicit about your needs (and to ask him about his).
3. Seize the moment when he’s opening the lines of communication and never shame or embarrass him for it. Thank him for opening up to you.
4. Don’t get caught in the “it’s all his fault” paradigm. It takes two to tango. Taking responsibility and owning your part will drastically improve the dynamic and your mutual motivation to make positive change.
5. If you don’t know how to communicate effectively and considerately, make an appointment with a psychotherapist. You’re the smarter couple for being proactive and addressing the issues instead of sweeping things under the rug just to avoid a fight. If you take that tack, you may prevent hassle now but add fuel to a catastrophic fire later.
6. Give your guy a break. Adjustment and re-adjustment take time. Rome wasn’t built in a day.