“Three wise men- are you serious?”
~ author unknown
Don’t get me wrong: men have qualities. They ARE cute, and cuddly, and very nice sometimes. They also have their uses around the house, in the bedroom, and even in civilized society. Yes, it is possible to have an actual conversation with one, receive a thoughtful gift from one, and have one plan a surprise for you. And men have been known to listen and do things that involve a modicum of effort towards the illogical goal of fulfilling another person’s wishes and needs even if different than his own. True, these occurrences may not be very common…but they do occur. Thus credit must be given where credit is due.
Still, the number one complaint women have is that men are often very selfish, don’t listen, and dismiss or outright ignore our needs. Since women rely on intuition but men have no such thing, and given that women listen whereas men have an attention span of 3.25 seconds on average (when it comes to things other than what they’re interested in at the moment), all relationship advice to women encourages us to spell things out for men in simple and short sentences.
I can tell you this has been and is continuously being attempted…and not just by me. Again, I must give credit where credit is due, because sometimes asking works…you know, with requests like “please pass the salt”. With more complicated requests however, it doesn’t seem to work all that well…and there’s only so much one can do to simplify a concept like needing to spend time together on a daily basis, needing attention, help, reassurance, romance, etc. When it comes to these things, provided they are listening, men inevitably demand a concrete measurement and precise schedule in that annoyed and mocking tone we know so well. And women try to be specific, because it’s what we’re told men are able to comprehend and will respond to. And then what happens? The numbers we come up with far exceed those they imagine we should propose. We’re thinking hours, they’re thinking minutes. We’re thinking once or twice a week, they’re thinking twice a year. (Of course, this applies only to what we request. What they need and want to do can take hours and happen regularly throughout all 52 weeks of the year.)
And you know where these conversations usually end…”you’re taking all the spontaneity out of it”…”you’re being unreasonable and controlling”…”you’re needy and insecure”…”what are you talking about, we spent time together last weekend”…”it’s quality not quantity that counts”…”I have my own life too, do you expect me to give everything up for you”…and so on. Yes, the same species of replies that a teenager offers when confronted about his/her being irresponsible with commitments, failing to contribute their fair share to household maintenance and the likes.
The fundamental problem here is that when a woman’s needs are met, she usually understands that another person is actively working to meet those needs. When a man’s needs are met, he (dare I say usually?) attributes it to his stellar performance in the relationship and to his modest demands… not to his partner’s efforts or generosity. A man will declare that every individual has different needs when he is told he’s not doing or giving enough. It’s very convenient and smart, but men fail to realize they visualize these differences within their own personal parameters. Anything more or different than what they need (thus give) is incomprehensible and ridiculous. To a man, a slice of cake that he just ate is a single slice of cake…be it a ¼ of an inch wide or be it 3/4th of the actual cake. He doesn’t see the difference …cake is cake, a slice is a slice, subject closed.
A woman will and is expected to understand a man’s need for privacy, his need to pursue whatever hobbies or amusement. She will and is expected to understand that sometimes he doesn’t feel like talking or doing whatever needs to be done because he’s tired or cranky or just wants some space. And so the man takes what he needs. But then to keep things balanced, he must give back and make up for what he took. And that’s where trouble starts.
If I may offer a helpful analogy here…relationships are like that tower we start out with in Jenga. One can be very clever (and lucky) and get away with taking many blocks out, but eventually, no matter who wins, the darn thing collapses. When we’re negotiating for our needs, if we want to nurture a healthy relationship, for every piece we take, we have to put another one back, otherwise we end up with gaping holes in our common structure, and like in Jenga, eventually it all falls apart.
We often come across the term “unconditional love” in the context of relationships and people use it to bypass the contention around partners having to give equally, around issues related to commitment and accountability. Of course we don’t and shouldn’t love conditionally, as in love because we expect something in return. That isn’t love at all. We love someone regardless of who they are, how they behave, or what they give. But loving and having a relationship with someone are two very different things.
A relationship doesn’t happen in a vacuum or in the realm of pure emotion…it happens in a practical, physical world filled with schedules and conditions we must all follow. And so, in spite of a fundamental unconditional love, sharing a life involves an exchange, a ritual of respecting each other, meeting both individual and common needs, understanding differences so that partners end up finding ways to give and take equally. If one partner takes more than he/she gives back, eventually the relationship becomes bankrupt.
I will go with the cliché that men tend to take loving, generous and supportive women for granted waaaaay too often. (They worship the biatchy ones, but that’s another story altogether.) And in doing so, a man loses or risks to lose the best thing that’s ever happened to him. And for what? Because he couldn’t buy a flower once in a while…because he couldn’t find time in his day for a decent conversation…because when he chose to be unavailable at a certain time he didn’t think it was necessary to make up for it…because he was ok with the woman at his side feeling lonely and crying herself to sleep while he was too busy telling her she should learn to do without…because he pursued personal commitments, interests and goals without thinking that he was able to do it because the woman at his side chose to wait, love, and support him…
I started out on a humorous note, but my message is not a light one to be sure. Men should be careful, especially if they’re lucky enough to have love, commitment and connection in their lives. Because even though they might not intend to be neglectful, they often end up under-estimating how much they take and over-estimating how much they put back into a relationship. If you’re a man and your needs are being met…if you feel loved and get time, attention and support, consider the fact that it’s all there not because you’re self-sufficient and low maintenance, but because the woman at your side is doing a really great job at loving, supporting and accommodating you. And if the same woman tries to tell you she needs something, you better listen. Chances are she’s not a freak who keeps score or is out competing to become the poster child for nagging. Chances are you’re not doing your fair share. Ultimately of course, it’s up to you if you want to be right according to whatever standards you imagine should be universal, or you want your relationship to last, and your partner to be as happy and fulfilled as she tries to make you.
I think I’m done here…a post on women’s issue is forthcoming, don’t worry. And ladies, feel free to print and stick this on the fridge, bathroom mirror, dashboard of car, golf club bag, bike, surfing gear, TV, or wherever you think it might be noticed and maybe read.