Monday, July 30, 2012

Women Are a Mystery?

How were the pyramid's built?  How many decimals does Pi go out to?  How do teenage boys eat so much?  These are all mysteries of the universe, but maybe understanding what is going on inside the brain of a woman is the greatest mystery of all for most men.  I get the benefit of working with hundreds of married couples acting as a translator between the sexes and over time see the same basic desires expressed over and over by most women and figured I'd share what I've gleaned.

The first thing I've discovered is that the deepest desires of a woman are a mystery to men partially because they are a mystery to the women themselves.  I really have to push women to admit this, but after lots of "He should just know" and "Women are just complex" bluffing I usually get shrugged shoulders.  There often seems to be an inner desire to be cared for like a baby, you should just be able to whine and cry and an all powerful being will come in and determine what you need and make it all better.  This works as an infant as there are like four possible things wrong and so if they smell you and look at the clock they can pretty much figure out what you want, but as a full grown woman with approximately 9 trillion possible dilemmas most of which without a fix expecting mindreading doesn't work as well.  The problem is that women are far more likely to be in touch with their emotions than men as well as more open to communicate them so you get a steady slew of expressed frustrations and concerns with tons of vagueness - kind of like getting a daily job performance review from your boss with absolutely no tangible suggestions for improvement.  This results in confounded men who would love to help meet your needs but hear cultural lies like it is just an unknowable mystery so just give up.

The second thing I have discovered about the innermost needs of most women I talk to is that they don't occur to most men simply because we really don't need them that much.  It is kind of like when I was caring for an infant for several hours while my wife was at work, I had to make sure I remember to feed the baby on a regular basis because they get hungry a lot more often than I do.  I can't just think about what I need waiting on my own stomach to rumble, I have to think through what someone else needs even if it is different from anything I need (another way being a parent helps you become better in other relationships).  If we, as men, need a, b, and c to feel fulfilled in a relationship we'll readily give them out, but often if we don't have the need, we don't think to provide it for someone else.

So what is it that most women want that I speak with and help them put into words?  Three basic things, to be pursued, to be validated, and to be reassured.  Most men don't really care whether it was you or me who set up the time to eat lunch, just that it happened.  Most women, however, take it as a sign of being valuable and important that you were the one to call them, set something up, and made the arrangements.  This is even true in their friendships; when was the last time you heard a guy complain that he is the one who is always having to call his friend, Bob, and how he wonders why Bob just cares so little for him because of this.  It is the basic premise of most every fairy tale, book, or movie that has ever been that a man will put forth an immense amount of effort and endure danger to relentlessly chase after the woman he loves either to rescue her or win her back.  The harsh reality is that within most marriages the woman waited a really long time up in the tower and by the time she gave up and hunted the prince down he was unconscious in the recliner in front of a football game with Cheetos all over his chest and by the time she makes her appearance SHE is the dragon to be slain.  Maybe it's planning a date night and actually arranging childcare and having an opinion as where to go.  Maybe it is taking the lead in making sure there is ten minutes a day to communicate on a deeper level, instead of the usual 80% of marital communication being initiated by women.

Most men are able to have a conversation with another man without even a shred of validation and it is OK, we each say our opinions and how dumb the other person's opinion is and then we are good.  For women it is pretty important that they feel like we get what they are saying and see validity in it.  There are plenty of stupid jokes out there that say men should just smile and nod and say "yes, dear" to whatever she says, but that is condescending to both men and women and really doesn't make a women feel truly validated, just more of a bully.  You don't have to agree with everything they say, they don't have to be right about everything, but everything can be heard, accepted as a valid perspective, and empathized with.  Even if afterwards you have to tell them you disagree or that you feel they are sinning in the situation and need to repent, as any good leader would need to do at times, you can still validate that they aren't an insane crazy-woman with ridiculous thoughts, beliefs, interpretations, and perspectives.

Men tend to see relationships as static, they just are - Bob, Frank, and Jimmy are my friends and Betty is my wife of twenty years.  Women tend to see relationships far more accurately, as eternally dynamic, constantly shifting and growing closer or further away.  Jenny is my newer friend who is really getting closer to me while Rita and I have been growing apart for years, while my husband and I are drifting further and further apart for the last few months.  There is a need for men to grow in relational awareness in order to not feel like their wife is just complaining when she is simply sounding the alarm that your Titanic is heading for an iceberg and only a fool would ignore that.  What it also means is that men need to make sure and reassure their wives on a regular ongoing basis that they still find them attractive, still love them, and really value their marriage as well.  We tend to think that if we said at some point in the past that we love our wives and "I do" then that should be the point of reference moving forward in case there is any doubt.  Unless there are major issues we don't usually question how our wife feels about us, like we don't question that the next time we look at our grass it will probably still be green.  We figure if anything changes we can send our wife a memo, but otherwise we shouldn't need to keep repeating ourselves.  The problem is that in the midst of that silence tons of doubt creeps in and it means a lot for our wives to be daily reminded that we are still committed to them and love them more than we ever have, and that we still get giddy as a middle schooler when we see their beauty, and that we are proud to have them as our wives.  Silence isn't seen neutrally but rather as a lack of value and importance for them and the marriage.

So unless your wife says my list is crap and wants to fill you in on their core needs just assume that if you are being graded on your husbanding skills it is likely how well you are pursuing, validating, and reassuring.  If you are a wife and your husband is randomly pushing buttons like a monkey trying to please you, but frustrating you both in the process please share this or your own desires with him, you'll be glad you did.