Wives and girlfriends get upset with their husbands and boyfriends because it often seems as if the men in their lives are emotionless, insensitive, oblivious jerks.
It’s because men tend to deal in facts and logic and generally believe saying “I love you” (and meaning it) is evidence enough that they do.
And that’s because for most of human history, man’s brute strength and physical prowess was really important to a community’s survival and it put men into positions of power, where they were given unique opportunities to lead groups and organizations.
Thus, being factual and logical was believed to be “best” or “right.”
Women often deal more in emotion and intention than what men consider logic or fact.
That’s why she sometimes gets upset because he’s going out with his friends AGAIN. She’s crying and angry. And he thinks she’s being a little “crazy” or “unstable.” But he relents, cancels plans with the boys, and spends the entire night really being present with her.
Maybe he makes her dinner. They have a couple drinks and laugh about some funny thing going on in their lives. They watch a show or two together. Hold one another close. Spend an hour or two in bed making a beautiful mess of things.
And then the next night? She ENCOURAGES him to go out with his friends. Because yesterday she was having a bout of insecurity. And today, she’s not. And she genuinely wants him to be happy.
So she encourages him to go even though it’s the exact opposite of what she said before.
And it makes ZERO SENSE to her husband or boyfriend. He secretly thinks she’s a little bit insane. Depending on the type of guy he is, he might tell his buddies about how uneven she can seem from one moment to the next. Other guys will nod, because they’ve been there, too.
“Bitches be crazy,” one will say.
The men think they’re “correct.” They think the way they are and behave is the “better” way to be and behave. They’re often waiting for the women in their lives to recognize the “obvious” truth that it’s better to be emotionally steady and stable and factual and logical.
They figure: “She’s totally smart! Sooner or later, she’ll outgrow this and think like me!” As if it’s some massive flaw in the female genetic code.
That’s in large part because it took until 2010 before there were more females in the workforce than males, and more females earning university graduate degrees than males.
Most men haven’t figured out there even are fundamental chemical gender differences between males and females, let alone that one is neither more “right” nor “better” than the other.
I don’t like this phrase, but: They simply are what they are.
These are broad generalizations. Not ALL men fit into all male stereotypes, just like ALL women don’t fit into all female stereotypes. We’re all our own, individual, customized blend of this and that.
But the above scenario probably seems familiar to most people, even the ones thinking: That’s not how I am at all. We’ve all at least seen it before.
I like to think I’m more evolved than the average male, but it’s probably a lie I tell myself that my ex-wife and any future partner I may have would tell you is a massive pile of bullshit.
I cook and read and like to talk, and think a lot about male-female relationships, but the latter is only true because divorce was really horrible and I want to get smart enough to never do it again AND maybe in the process help someone not go through what I did.
Men have emotions, too. Most of us suppress them because for many years society taught us that it was “girly” to show vulnerability, and being “girly” is BAD, because men are better than women. (I believe many men, and SADLY, a lot of women still believe this. But it’s improving all the time.)
Burying the Lede
That’s the phrase newspaper folk use to describe when the ACTUAL news or point of your story isn’t the thing you lead with in the first sentence of your news story (otherwise known as the lede).
And that’s what I’ve done here because I felt like it, even though it’s bad writing and storytelling. This isn’t the first time I’ve been guilty of that.
“I don’t feel it ‘til it hurts sometimes,” is a line from my current favorite song and I hear it a lot because when I fall in love with music I tend to play it over and over again.
The lyric makes me think about my tendency to live complacently until some unpleasant threat or consequence forces me to make changes.
I don’t know how many men this applies to, but in my experience, what happens to me is usually something that happens to millions of other people too because all humans are human and we all feel the same stuff.
Your Husband or Boyfriend Isn’t Changing Because It Doesn’t Hurt
For years, my wife would tell me about things I was doing that upset her and hurt her feelings. Over and over again, these “little, insignificant” conflicts would arise where she would be sad or angry with me because of something I did or said.
And because in my “logical” brain, it didn’t make sense, I “knew” she was wrong. And since she was wrong, I didn’t have to change!
About a month after the worst thing that ever happened to her, happened, she looked at me across the dinner table after I offered a “What’s wrong?” and told me she didn’t love me anymore and didn’t know whether she wanted to stay married.
That got my attention.
I don’t feel it ‘til it hurts sometimes.
My first reaction was not to run out and figure out how to be a good husband. It was to pout and whine and act like I was getting screwed over even though that’s exactly how she felt for a really long time.
But after a while, I did want to figure it out.
After a while, I started putting in work. Because even though my behavior might have suggested otherwise, my brain and heart absolutely ALWAYS believed that my marriage and family were the most-important things in my life.
I’ve written a series of posts titled An Open Letter to Shitty Husbands. There are 11 of them now. They get read quite a bit these days. It’s now how the vast majority of people find this blog. Sad and angry wives write to me: “How can I get my husband to understand all this!?!?”
And I don’t know what to say.
I don’t have the first clue what it feels like mentally and emotionally inside another person.
I only know what happened to me.
My wife was honest. She said: I don’t love you and I don’t know whether I want to be married to you anymore.
And it hurt.
A lot. Then a year and a half later we got divorced.
And now I write things about being a better husband. A better boyfriend. A better partner.
I write things about being a better man.
I don’t know how to reach him. The man who just doesn’t get it. Because that guy was me.
I’m afraid the truth is this: Most of us have to learn the hard way.
We don’t feel it ‘til it hurts sometimes.