I just heard this statement made: “The only way to talk to a man is not to talk to him. Don’t tell him anything. Just do it yourself. Men are good for taking out the trash and changing oil and that’s about it.”
Hmm. That sounds a bit extreme. That follows the very prevalent thought that men don’t know how to communicate with women, and that’s erroneous.
Many women make the mistake of carrying all the hurt they’ve felt in every relationship forward into new relationships. Each new man then becomes an unknowing target for the slings and arrows that woman wanted to cast at the previous man. Women tend to be vigilant. We are watchers. Women who have not healed from past hurts can be hypervigilant and for each comment or action made by the new man in their lives; a comment or action the woman dislikes, the poor guy is hit with a two-by-four. I also believe this is part of what is at the root of gender-bashing. Women do it to men, men do it to women. There seems to be a lack of excellent communication, folks.
I don’t believe that men and women communicate differently. I believe they process differently.
Think about it: A woman might say: “I opened the refrigerator door and one of the door shelves came off and I took a condiment bath this afternoon.” When she says it, what she might be thinking is: “he needs to fix the door shelf.” What the man hears is something about a refrigerator door and a bath, he’s not been given any direct information, nothing seems imperative, so he figures she’s just venting and he goes about his business. So the door shelf doesn’t get fixed.
Next day, the woman opens the fridge and the shelf is still broken and the condiments she’s gingerly placed back on the shelf come tumbling out again. She goes ballistic and out pops: “You were supposed to fix that yesterday!” The poor man just stands there like a deer in the headlights. Fix what? What’s she talking about? She didn’t ask me to fix anything.
Bingo. She didn’t ask him to fix anything. She described what happened and left out the essential part: “would you fix the shelf on the fridge door tonight?” THAT he’d have understood and probably gone and done it.
This is not to say men are infantile or idiots. They simply process differently. They want information they can use. They don’t really care about extraneous details. Women, on the other hand are generally all about extraneous details.
Okay, so I’ve established something here. Maybe. Maybe there are some who disagree.
So, I have a question.
Why does it seem to be so important that women learn how men process things and how to talk to men, yet there is very little information out there encouraging men to learn and understand how women process things?
While we are distinctly different as genders, we are all human. So why does it seem that it is so incumbent upon women to learn and understand men if they want a lasting relationship, yet it seems that men don’t need to feel any obligation to reciprocate?
Perhaps I just haven’t found the material yet. I’ve been researching this for years and in all my research, the best information I could come up with was from the husband of a friend of mine.
He said: “What men don’t understand about women is that sometimes women are just venting and need to know their partner is listening, because many times women process by talking out loud. It’s how they work through to their own solutions. At other times they really DO need to communicate something and they use more words to do it than we do. It’s our responsibility to understand the women we love and to learn how they communicate; to listen to what they are saying and if we don’t understand to ask questions.”
He went on to say: “What women should understand about men is that when they need an ear they should tell us that’s all they need. They should simply state it up front. Men want to fix and many times women get really pissed off at being interrupted in their process flow by a man who jumps in and tries to fix the thing that his partner is attempting to solve for herself, by talking it.”
This couple have been happily married for 22 years, have seen each other through good and bad and are madly in love with each other – they are my model for a good, healthy, and openly-communicative marriage. They didn’t arrive at that from the start though. It took time, commitment and the desire to keep their marriage healthy.
I had a 2 hour phone conversation with a girl friend today. The first hour was spent helping me figure out how to write an email so a man could understand it. She’s good at this. I would read a sentence I’d written and she would reply: “Okay, now take out all the other stuff at the end. He doesn’t care about that. It’s just stuff he won’t process. It’s you, talking to yourself.” She was right. Men don’t want to be bombarded with a bunch of emotional stuff that is relevant only to how I feel. That’s not an invalidation of my feelings. It’s enough to say: “I feel hurt by________” and leave it at that. He will understand that I am hurt and that’s all he needs to know. If he wants more information, he’ll ask for it. Where many women make a mistake is in providing that information when it hasn’t been requested. That’s a form of control and I’ve been known to engage in it. Yes, readers, I’m a guilty party. We think if we don’t tell him every single tiny detail regarding why we feel a certain way he won’t get it. Yes he will.
He’ll get it much better without that information. He will understand the thing you mentioned hurt your feelings. He might respond immediately. He might not. He might respond two days later, or a week later or an hour later. And during that time when he hasn’t responded, the committee in our heads convenes. It starts telling us all kinds of ugly things. It starts telling us he’s just like all the other men in our lives. It tells us he doesn’t care. That committee needs to be lined up at dawn and executed. We all have it. It’s called “negative thinking.” It’s called “fear.” It’s called “insecurity.”
We all – men and women – take a HUGE risk in communicating an issue that might not be what our partner wants to hear, and if our partner is a man, the odds are very good he’s going to take the time to think about that issue. “Time” can mean anything from one second until forever. That’s where we become fearful. What if? What if we just said something he can’t handle and he just goes away from us?
Well, what if? What if he does? What’s the best course of action?
Let him go. Just let him go, move on with your life and when/if he comes back, let him know that it’s now you who needs time to think, and then take the time to think. Don’t do it out loud and in front of him. If you are going to think out loud – process – the way most women process, call a trusted friend, male, if you have one, and lay it out. I have two male friends I call when I’m in this sort of bind. I lay out the issue, tell them my feelings, they listen, make assenting and comforting noises and then get down to business. They let me know how what I initially think is a great way to state my case is going to come across to the man in question, from a male perspective. Then they coach me. They help me edit. Not censor- but edit. They help me pull out the information and leave the emotional shit that’s created this tiny whirling chaos inside me where it belongs.
I wrote a few posts recently really bashing Mr. Man. I’m still angry with him. I’m still hurt. But after a week of rumination, and talking it through with my male friends and my one female friend who probably got a male brain, I realize that I need to own some of the issue myself. Yes, he fits a subset of NPD – the Compensatory NPD. I also know that some of the reason he reacted as he did was because he had so many words coming at him he didn’t know what to do with them, so he did what many men do. He shut down. I understand that and I own responsibility for processing myself to him instead of communicating with him.
That still doesn’t give him the right to attempt to invalidate me by sending controlling emails. I doubt he will ever recognize his ownership of any of the communication gap. I believe he was conditioned long ago to act and react the way he does. He does not recognize this pattern of action and reaction in himself and because he doesn’t recognize it, he can’t understand my issue with it.
This is really what this entire post has been coming to. It’s actually a selfish post. I’ve been processing. I’ve had to work my way through male/female communications, the information my friend’s husband gave me, what my male friends have taught me, and what my girl friend said today to understand why this man sent me an email that attempted to control me, that attempted to invalidate my feelings and that attempted to manipulate me into doing what he wanted using an unspoken, yet very evident, threat.
And given all that information that I just processed, I now have the task of grieving something that never was. I’m grieving my loss of hope, my loss of someone I considered a friend, but who wasn’t, not really. I’m grieving for the loss of a connection that never was.
Simone Grant said it very well in a post on her blog: Simone Grant – Words Like Fists
…” the worst thing a man can do or say is to make me feel wanted and needed when I’m not really.”
She’s right. This man made me feel wanted and needed. He sent all the classic signals and said all the appropriate words that indicated such, and that said he was romantically interested in me.
I now know that he was simply giving lip service to what he thought I wanted to hear. Then he blamed me for responding to it and his inner judge and jury indicted me instantly for wanting more than he could give, even though I never asked him for anything more than he gave.
I trusted him, I accepted his kindnesses as sincerity, and I truly believed I was wanted and needed. No. I was simply another in what will prove a long string of women he will attempt to force to be his ideal and when they fall short; when they dare to find any fault with him; when they show their strength and self-esteem by not accepting his excuses and rambling projections, he will do to them what he did to me and he will move on to find another victim. It’s that simple and that complex.
I’ve dodged a bullet, but I’m still sad. I’m sad for what wasn’t and what I believed was.