They aren't really from Mars, are they?
January 22, 2006 10:48 PM   Subscribe

FormerLesbianFilter: Can you give me any insight about men and/or the way men think and function?

I'm now in the 9th month of my first serious heterosexual relationship, and while both the relationship and the guy are awesome, it's been striking just how different it is doing the relationship-dance with a male. At times I feel like I really don't know what the heck I'm doing- I feel quite aware that I haven't been practicing this since the age of 13 like most women have.

So, for men:
What do you wish yr partner understood about you or men in general?

For those of you who love men:
What have yr relationships taught you about interacting with men?

Can anybody recommend a book that might be helpful to me?
posted by hyperfascinated to Human Relations (56 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Can you give a bit more information on the things you're experiencing that are different? That might give us more direction in the kind of answers that might help you.
posted by jouke at 11:04 PM on January 22, 2006

As a hetero. male who has very close friendships with butch and fem lesbians, I really feel like being in a hetro relationship is about the same as a any other relationship.
I would think that if you've been with this guy for 9 months that you have gotten confortable with being sexually intimate.
Given that, just be open and respect his feelings. Guys usually keep their feelings to themselves (I think I tend to be a little cryptic) but if he is as awesome as you say, I would guess that isn't the case.
posted by tresbizzare at 11:32 PM on January 22, 2006

As a man, anecdotally, I can say that very often when a man say something, it means only what he said, and nothing more.

If you find your man unreadable, it might be because there is no subtext. Take (most) of what he says at face value.

This is not to say that men are not complex, nuanced creatures- not to say that, at all.

Because of your unique perspective, a well-written blog about the differences you discover would likely be a service to all mankind. You should seriously consider it.

Also, jouke is right. More information would be very helpful.
posted by fake at 11:32 PM on January 22, 2006 [1 favorite]

I'm sure this answer will get mocked; but speaking as a guy, the book I most wish women would read is Dr. Laura's The Proper Care and Feeding of Husbands. I'm not a fan of Dr. Laura; but first of all, she hired a terrific ghostwriter for that book — and secondly, amidst all her condescension and annoying anecdotes from her radio show, she hits some good points square on the head. Her bottom line is that men want three things from women — acceptance, approval, and affection — which is essentially true.

I'd add, as a caveat, that I haven't read more than two or three other such books. There may be many books that are better; that just happens to be the best I've come across.
posted by cribcage at 11:39 PM on January 22, 2006

I'm sure you've thought about this, but it may bear saying anyway: Don't fall into the trap of deciding that the man you're involved with represents All Men, either. By now, with women you may well have identified a "type" that interests you; with this guy you're in uncharted waters. The next man you date, should you choose to do so, might be a very different kind of guy.
posted by tangerine at 11:45 PM on January 22, 2006

Read this? It's kind of an odd thing, but it looks like it could be good.
posted by metaculpa at 11:58 PM on January 22, 2006

Check out some of Deborah Tannen's books, particularly "You Just Don't Understand." It's full of anecdotal reports, so don't take anything in it as gospel, but it may shed some light.
posted by kindall at 12:22 AM on January 23, 2006

It may seem silly, but: listen to a lot of standup comedy. Stream it from one of the 'stations' at (for example) if you don't want to buy it. 'How men are' is such a common riff for comics, and when it's funny, it's funny because it's trueish.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 12:50 AM on January 23, 2006

Not necessarily universally true (everyone is different), but here are some differences I've sometimes noticed as a bisexual ... although if you're already nine months in, a lot of this may be moot:

1) Be prepared for a lot less Processing.

Processing will occur, and the relationship will be discussed, but a frequent difference is much less of a desire for everything to be analyzed, examined, and dissected.

2) Don't be surprised if things move at a slower pace.

There's often a much longer time between first date and serious romance, between serious romance and moving in, and between moving in and making vows in heterosexual relationships.

3) Expect him to be more emotionally isolated.

Unless you've dated a lot of stereotypical Stone Butches before, you may find men much more likely to withdraw from you during emotionally trying situations. This isn't necessarily to be viewed as either a bad thing or a good thing, and there are as many different ways of reacting to it as there are couples. He might also have fewer close friends than you are used to.

4) You may have a pregnancy scare at some point.

If you aren't used to these, they can be very frightening. *Lots* of people have them, and they often turn out to be nothing. Get all the info you can before panicking.

5) He may use more pornography than you are used to.

There are plenty of women who like porn, so you may not find this to be an adjustment, but the percentage of men who use porn is vastly higher, and it can be disconcerting if you are not used to it. Use of porn is never about you, or any failure on your part.

Most of the other differences that I can think of off the top of my head are primarily social (how others treat you as a couple) rather than being specifically about your interactions with each other ... if these have been helpful, though, I'll see if I can think of anything else.
posted by kyrademon at 1:49 AM on January 23, 2006 [1 favorite]

If he says nothing is wrong, there's a good chance he means nothing is wrong.
posted by showmethecalvino at 2:04 AM on January 23, 2006

So, for men:
What do you wish yr partner understood about you or men in general?

1. That, generally speaking, we're pretty straight forward in what we say and do. Our hidden agenda ususally consists of ways of getting more sex, food or money, we're pretty obvious about it and we (the decent ones) only want the first two from you.

2. Take us out once in while, put us on pedestal for the evening.

3. You guys cry, we usually don't. Hell, must of us don't how. It's just the way things are.

Of couse, your specific guy might be a little different, which is fine.

But your general feeling isn't odd. I dated a lesiban a long time ago and she often commented in the beginning how different it was. Some of her initial concerns struck me as odd, such her worrying about us being unable to match rythms during sex, how do deal with the male bodies. She asked me a lot in the beginning "What are you thinking?" to figure me out.

Ultimately it boiled down to her previous life pretty much centered around lesiban friends. Most of her friends were gay and their gathering were often seen as refuges from a harsh world, where they could let their hair down so to speak. When she was dating me, a lot of those dynamics for how she interacted with the world radically changed and she had to find a new language for how to deal with a world that now pretty much accepted her. Hell, she was completely thrown by being able to walk down the street holding hands, without fear of taunting or bodily harm.

Can anybody recommend a book that might be helpful to me?

Don't know of any and couldn't find any good links either. You might try It seems as though this isn't much documented so I second the request for you doing a blog about this.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:02 AM on January 23, 2006

Check out some of Deborah Tannen's books, particularly "You Just Don't Understand."

I second this. I learned from it myself, and I've spent a lot of time in heterosexual relationships.
posted by languagehat at 5:32 AM on January 23, 2006

If he says nothing is wrong, there's a good chance he means nothing is wrong.

Or, conversely, that everything has gone wrong, and he just doesn't ever open his fucking mouth because actual communication would be just awful.


Boys are not the same. Deborah Tannen, John Gray, Dr. Laura, they all use anecdotal information to describe people acting according to stereotypes. This is somewhat helpful in that we do get our ideas of how to be female or male from those stereotypes, and so sometimes act according to them, but everyone is different. Your boy might never ever cry, or he might be quite comfortable with it. It depends on his personality, his upbringing, his set(s) of friends, etc.

Do give us more information though, because I'm now curious what the relationship dance is like in lesbian relationships.
posted by heatherann at 6:15 AM on January 23, 2006

Men translate fear into anger. Generally. Because we're not allowed to admit we're afraid.
posted by craniac at 6:21 AM on January 23, 2006 [2 favorites]

You’re queer – get used to it. I would suggest ignoring advice stating that men are this way and women are that way. Its seems pretty obvious to me that most straight relationships that are in the toilette got there because one or both partners insisted on reading from a script. Queer people can have messed up relationships but, thank god, we don’t have scripts. Take that gift and make it happen for you in the straight world. Hopefully, if he is not already there - he will figure it out and start improvising as well.
posted by anglophiliated at 6:52 AM on January 23, 2006

I found Nick Hornby's novels, High Fidelity and About a Boy, somewhat enlightening. I don't think they're from Mars, but guys tend to be less driven by emotion, more driven by the physical. I found the wikipedia entry on masculinity as I was thinking about this question. interesting read.

I find that the Men Are This, Women Are That things are tendencies, not ironclad rules, so YGMV. (your guy may vary)
posted by theora55 at 7:59 AM on January 23, 2006

Warning: Massive generalizations to follow. Your milage may vary.

He worries far less about the state of the relationship than you do. Not because it's not important to him, but because men are more prone to inertia. If things are basically happy and smooth, he won't see any reason to expend much energy on it. (This also applies to cleaning--if there are still clean dishes, there isn't a good reason to wash the dirty ones.)

He wants to make you happy. He genuinely does, but he's not going to be as good at figuring out what will do that as another woman would be. I really think women tend to assume that we know what they want because they're much better at reading people than we are. This leads to rule numero uno for women in a relationship with men:


Seriously. Ninety-nine times out of a hundred, he'll be happy to give it to you, whether it's a favor, some work around the house, a little spoiling, whatever. But he probably won't know you want it unless you ask for it.
posted by EarBucket at 8:20 AM on January 23, 2006 [1 favorite]

Jerry Seinfeld said it best: I can tell you want men are thinking.... Nothing. We're just walking around looking at stuff. This is the natural tendency of men.

theora55 has a great idea, High Fidelity is a great book.
posted by tumble at 8:25 AM on January 23, 2006 [1 favorite]

Yes, I felt that both High Fidelity and Chuck Klosterman's Sex Drugs & Coco-Puffs gave away way to many of our (hu-man males, that is) secrets.
posted by Capn at 8:31 AM on January 23, 2006


I've noticed that men, when listening to a story about something going on with me, tend to problem solve rather than express sympathy, etc. It's like the tend to think that I must be telling them about my job problem, for example, in order to think of a solution. (Whereas in reality, much of the time I'm just complaining, or sometimes telling a funny story.)

I've noticed men sometimes need reassurance, compliments, etc. even though they don't ask for it the way women tend to.

But really, they're all different. Don't generalize too much.
posted by Amizu at 9:01 AM on January 23, 2006 [1 favorite]

Norah Vincent's new book, Self-Made Man, might be worth a read. Vincent is a lesbian who went "undercover" for a year as a man.
posted by kindall at 9:17 AM on January 23, 2006

This sentiment has shown up already above, but I'd think you'd find it a lot more satisfying to think about the differences you perceive in this relationship as stemming from the unique individual you're dating and from how you feel and are acting differently, rather than focusing on his differences as a man (unless that category of difference feels specifically exciting, in which case go ahead).

(As for that Chuck Klosterman fellow, I haven't read his books, but I remember this over-the-top scathing review from a couple years back was a very satisfying read.)
posted by nobody at 9:18 AM on January 23, 2006

Please realize that you're asking for generalizations from mostly anecdotal evidence. Humans, of either sex, are incredibly complex creatures whose mental functioning cannot be broken down into a set of rules. For every person who conforms to one of the generalizations below, there's another one who doesn't.

Don't put too much stock in any of the answers here.

I have several lesbian friends who've dated men. The only real difference that's been brought to my attention is that there is far less talking about the relationship with men than women. I can at least partially confirm this from the outside.

Most dyke relationships I know tend to involve lots of talking and negotiating about the state of the relationship. For whatever reason, women seem to want to verbally check in every once in a while. Men tend not to have any such desire.

I have a friend who, in the second week a relationship, hands her girlfriends a sexual proclivities survey so that she can make sure to fulfill all compatible fetishes and fantasies. If anybody ever handed my bisexual-male ass such a form, I'd probably run screaming from the room straight into the nearest bar.

I've actually watched another friend of mine spend literally three days breaking up with her girlfriend. This seems a little long, even by lesbian standards. But, there seems to be a tendency toward long, concilliatory breakups. Straight breakups generally last about fifteen minutes and almost never result in actually being friends, regardless of the intentions of those involved.

One thing I've noticed in dating both men and women is that men tend to respond positively to just about any attention or affection shown. That is, as long as you're not dragging him someplace he finds boring, he'll be happy just spending time with you. Women, on the other hand, especially early in a relationship, seem to want to go out and do things; and, much to my continual surprise, there are wrong things to go out and do.

I've also noticed that during stressful times, men want to be fucked, and women want to be held. A woman comes home from work, pissed off, she might well take kindly to a hug or some cuddling; but, try to interest her in sex, and she will probably resent it ("Can't you see I'm too angry at my boss for sex?"). Men, on the other hand, will probably respond quite positively to offers of sex in the same situation.

There're a bunch of stereotypical bad questions to ask men. They got the stereotype because we really do hate answering them:

"What're you thinking?" I hate this question on so many levels it's not even funny. First off, it's my skull and its contents are mine; I'll let you in on it if it passes the necessary filters. Secondly, it's usually something stupid. I can be completely enjoying sitting on the beach with you, admiring your beauty, wondering when's the best time to lean over and kiss you, and I guarantee that you'll ask at the exact moment that I'm not thinking of herenow, and am instead questioning whether or not Spider-Man's webshooters would work under water.

What's more, it probably wasn't verbal. So, now that you've asked, I have to figure out what the hell I was thinking... which isn't easy, because it probably wasn't important enough to even make it into short-term memory.

Also, as an experiment, I've asked women this question on several occasions. Their answers were never any better than those I've gotten from men (or given). I hold this as proof that the question is inherently fucking stupid, and that men don't ask the question because they know it's useless.

"How do I look?", if asked as an honest question, isn't such a problem. If you really do mean for a critique of your outfit, then by all means ask. If, however, you already know the answer to this question, don't ask. Chances are your man thinks you look good in damn-near everything (and especially in nothing). I assure you that when you do look especially good (like when you wear a backless dress and do that thing with your hair), you will hear about it.

Seriously, my advice is to stop worrying over the differences between men and women. You've been dating this dude for 9 months now... enjoy him as an individual, and stop concentrating on how he's different from a woman.
posted by Netzapper at 9:20 AM on January 23, 2006 [1 favorite]

I found this book to express my maleness better than I would have been able to myself.

You have to look past the cover and the apperent subject matter, Bakos did legitimate research, and this is the result of that research. Although the anecdotal stories ARE in there, they are used to support the data. And, although the focus is on sex acts, a lot of metaphysical truths about men shake out in the reading.

Heck it's cheap, give it a try.
posted by Infernarl at 9:46 AM on January 23, 2006

Big time second of Netzapper. And I reiterate Earbucket:

posted by The White Hat at 9:58 AM on January 23, 2006 [1 favorite]

(As for Norah Vincent, mentioned above a good friend described her to me a few days ago as possibly her least favorite lesbian. The new book is curious, it seems, because she's been on record in the past with some really transphobic stuff. [GoogleCache links to two articles and reader responses from The Advocate in June and October 2000])
posted by nobody at 10:03 AM on January 23, 2006

Netzapper did hit something there--men see sex as affection and approval wrapped up into one--Good talking about what's bothering us often comes after sex, because we feel pretty much loved and safe then. Sometimes if its before sex that you want to know what is bothering us, we're likely to believe that if you knew what was bothering us, you wouldn't approve of us or love us anymore. Sounds totally stupid, and it is, but its often true.

Like every other human, we want to have approval for those things that we like in ourselves the most--that is--we want you to like us for the reasons we think women should like us.

Relationship status questions usually need only be asked once--once he says "I'm your boyfriend" there is no need to check back unless he says that he isn't. We don't understand being asked again.

Most importantly if you are confused or don't understand, just ask! We prefer a straight fight to all of this sneaking around. *

*You will get bonus points for knowing for where that comes from.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:03 AM on January 23, 2006

" ... whether or not Spider-Man's webshooters would work under water."

Oh, great. Now I'm gonna be up ALL NIGHT.

Agree with a lot of what's been said here. One addendum to Netzapper's excellent comment: while I have never remained or become friends with an ex after a *bad* breakup in a male/female relationship, I have done so several times if things genuinely ended amicably and mutually with no hard feelings.
posted by kyrademon at 10:14 AM on January 23, 2006

Just to add to the "everyone is different not all men are stereotypes" chatter, the discussion about High Fidelity makes me laugh. I read it after so many people went on about Hornsby and I completely failed to be drawn in by Rob's story. I spent most of it saying "Why?" and "Are you an idiot?" and completely failed to identify at all with the ways that character had no understanding of his own motives. It was an almost painful reminder for me just how poorly I play the role of "typical guy."

I think in the ways I do feel like I belong in the male gender, I can answer your "what do I wish she knew" this way:

I often need to be told a lot of things. If you're reminding me or communicating and not nagging or being sneaky about it, I will not mind at all. Any after-the-fact conversation that starts with "I just assumed it would be obvious to you that" is going to go badly.

I don't mind discussing the things you want or wish for if it's in a context where I don't feel like you're angling for something. If you want something, just ask. If something is critical to you, saying "it would be nice if" isn't the way to tell me - "I need" is the way to tell me.

By the way, it's entirely possible you're going to be fortunate and avoid a lot of typical nonsense simply because you are already assuming that your interaction with this man is going to be different than what you might expect. And assuming he knows that he's your first tour of the sausage factory, is there some reason you can't just ask him these questions?
posted by phearlez at 10:19 AM on January 23, 2006

The advice given here so far has been pretty great all around. The only thing I haven't seen mentioned is a slightly negative aspect - be prepared for some measure of possessiveness. As a gender we've spent the past couple billion years worried that you'll get a competitor's genetic material whilst ovulating. Letting this concern show is a sign of weakness that we'll try to cover up, but it's still there - if you do spot it, try and take it as a compliment. He wouldn't be so concerned if he wasn't enthralled by you.
posted by Ryvar at 10:27 AM on January 23, 2006

You guys cry, we usually don't. Hell, must of us don't how

Because you as a woman cannot so clearly see our emotional status it neither means that we don't have one nor that because you can't see it then yours must be the only one of value; that's what I wish many of my partners had understood about me or men in general.
posted by forallmankind at 10:28 AM on January 23, 2006

Please Please Please Please read the book: "For Women Only: What You Need To Know About The Inner Lives Of Men" by Shaunti Feldhahn. ( link)

It's a Christian book, but aside from that it's very straightforward woman-to-woman discussion. I'm a guy and picked it up to see what she knew, and more than a few times had to set the book down for a moment just from knowing just how well she understood men. A lot of the things shocked her, and I was shocked that she grasped them well enough to articulate them incredibly accurately back on paper. She's gotten tons and tons of feedback from guys who've read it, and had immense success with their review of it.

Fair-use quotage:

"But now, after conducting spoken and written interviews with more than one thousand men, I can tell you that the answers to those and dozens of other common perplexities are all related to what is going on in your man's inner life. Most are things he wishes you knew but doesn't know howto tell you. In some cases, they're things he has no idea you don't know. This book will share those interviews and those answers. But be careful ladies. You might be slapping your forehead a lot!" (p.10, ch.1)

"I interviewed close frisnds over dinner and strangers in the grocery store, married fathers at church and the single student sitting next to me on the airplane. I talked to CEOs, attorneys, pastors, technology geeks, business managers, the security guard at Costco, the guys behind the counter at Starbucks. I even interviewed a professional opera singer and a former NFL offensive tackle with a Super Bowl ring. No one was safe." (p.11-12, ch.1)

"Thankfully, these revelations are also backed up by evidence -- a groundbreaking professional survey of hundreds of men. Since I found no survey data like this on the market, two sets of experts, Chuck Cowan at Analytic Focus, the former chief of survey design at the US Census Bureau, and Cindy Ford and the survey team at Decision Analyst, came together to help me conduct this survey. The survey was blind, done at random, and meticulously planned and executed. Four hundred anonymous men across the country, ranging in age from twent-one to seventy five, answered two dozen questions about their lives and about how they think, what they feel, and what they need. The survey stressed that we weren't dealing with outward behavior as muchas the inner thoughts and emotions that led to their behavior. Later, because the survey itself inevitably led to additional revelations, I conducted a more informal follow-up survey of another four hundred churchgoers -- to ask a few additional questions (and some of the same ones). And later yet, I validated several of those additional insights with a second Decision Analyst survey. Amazingly, across all these surveys there were few differences. ... I hadn't just happened to interview the hundred weirdest men on the planet!" (p.14-16, ch.1)

I cannot possibly recommend this book enough. I would so buy one for you if I knew where to send it!!
posted by vanoakenfold at 10:33 AM on January 23, 2006 [1 favorite]

Just to reiterate, ASK FOR WHAT YOU WANT.

My girlfriend is absolutely wonderful in every respect, but she and every woman I've dated seem to think I have access to some very thorough guide to what she wants/needs at any given time, and that I've memorized its contents. Believe me, if such a book existed, I'd have it with me all the time and consult it frequently. But it doesn't, and I can't. This is the reason for a majority of our disagreements or misunderstandings.

The other things is that most of the time us men take complaints as an opportunity for problem-solving, as Amizu said. If you tell me something is bad or wrong, I will use my mental energy to to try to fix it or make it better. Just empathizing or talking about it seems less than productive. I can think of exceptions, but that's the general rule.
posted by lackutrol at 11:04 AM on January 23, 2006

"What're you thinking?"..... I hold... the question is inherently fucking stupid, and that men don't ask the question because they know it's useless.

As a straight woman, I've got news for you. Men do ask this question. At least, they ask it of me. Apparently I've got an intriguingly expressive face, while not being the type to think aloud. I've gotten it time and time again. And unfailingly I'm always thinking a) something really unflattering to the man in question or b) something completely unrelated to him at a time when he obviously expects I should be focused on him. I have to fall back on, "Er, nothing much." But yeah, dumb question.
posted by orange swan at 11:14 AM on January 23, 2006

The title of your post has probably discouraged a lot of people from suggesting it... but if you are looking for useful generalities, "Men Are from Mars" is great. I read it pretty much as a joke 10 yrs ago or so, and was amazed at how it actually improved my relationship with a bunch of men - coworkers, friends, etc.

For example: "Would you do X?" is supposedly better to say than "Could you do X?" since "would" is a nice, direct request and "could" sounds whiney or manipulative to the male ear. Sounded crazy to me - "would" sounds demanding to me and "could" seems like a nice softener. But what the heck. I tried it. And all of a sudden, my relationship with a very difficult male coworker turned completely around. Overnight, I became the only person in the office whose requests were honored. It was actually wierd how effective it was.
posted by selfmedicating at 11:27 AM on January 23, 2006 [2 favorites]

Men try to fix things, naturally. So if you have a problem, he probably won't be as empathetic and 'understanding' as a woman partner, at least not in the way you need. Men hear a problem and immediately start looking for a solution. I've found this is generally not what women want to hear when they are upset. They want empathy and to just be listened to. This is counter-intuitive for most men, so be patient with that.

Also, I highly recommend the books of David Deida, and in your case, this one in particular: It's A Guy Thing : An Owner's Manual for Women

Good luck!
posted by Espoo2 at 11:51 AM on January 23, 2006

"For example: 'Would you do X?' is supposedly better to say than 'Could you do X?' since 'would' is a nice, direct request and 'could' sounds whiney or manipulative to the male ear."

Watch as I make generalizations without a net!

"Could you do X" to a man sounds like every request he's ever gotten from his mother as a teenager while he was busy doing important things like battling Ganon on the NES. You may as kick him in the nuts because there isn't any way you could irritate him more.
posted by cm at 11:58 AM on January 23, 2006

Insofar as generalizations go, men are some what like dogs. Simpler beasts overall than women, men respond well to consistency because it enhances predictability, and are creatures of habit. We like to please, but have trouble imagining at any moment just what we might do that is pleasing. We consider it an accomodation if the women we love will show us what they expect, and reward us reliably when we give them that. It may take us a while to learn a new trick, but with persistence and patience, most of us can eventually be housebroken to an acceptable standard, and are a little proud of ourselves when we get something you obviously consider important right for a change. Petting and praise are the most effective ways of reinforcing good behaviors, and we hate scolding and having treats withheld. Never hit us if we don't cooperate, because we're prone to snapping back viscously, and some of us are bred to go for the throat. We are happier when we are fed well, and on schedule. Most of us take well to regular outdoor excercise.

As a class, men are perhaps more visually oreinted than women, and certianly so when it comes to sex. You may not feel pretty on any given day, but we're still going to be fascinated by your shape (especially if you're nude), because our visual cortexes are apparently hardwired that way. Don't assume we mean anything by it, even if you see our heads tracking some other girl in a public place. It's just our neurons doing their heat-seeking thing, and we've the same chance of suppressing it entirely as a mongoose has of ignoring cobras. Of course, if you're nude and want to start something, a simple direct look and a smile will reliably kick in another level of 4 million years worth of natural selection. Others have covered many other key points of the differences in sexual technique quite well, but I'd round out their observations by saying that men are, much more than women, goal oreinted and results driven. We'd love to make you happy in bed, we appreciate interim feedback along the way, and we hate a vague, distracted "...yes, that was nice..." if you are otherwise indicating that the earth didn't move for you, too.

We can talk sociably, but do this best if there is a topic focus with lots of opinions, facts and figures. We like to jabber about baseball, football, fishing, hunting, computers, trucks, and heck, anything that can be benchmarked and compared, as much as you like to rehash your day, or talk about clothes. Not for nothing is the drive time talk radio audience largely male. But if you want us to listen to you free associate, it would help enormously if you would kindly start and end your rambles with some pertinent speculations about what Ted William's lifetime batting average would have been if he hadn't been called back to service in Korea, etc.

Other than that, you're involved in making one small vital bridge between yourself and your man across an otherwise unbridgeable chasm. Men, as a class, are never going to understand women, and women as a class, are never going to understand why. So, all you can do is worry about your particular bridge, and avoid looking too much at the chasm you are trying to span. Building that bridge isn't necessarily more or less rewarding than walking along the edge of the chasm as you have been, but it is a different set of skills and challenges. Good luck, and have some fun and tears.
posted by paulsc at 11:58 AM on January 23, 2006

To second everyone who says men don't talk about relationships as much as women, I have to add that it is important to remember that most men are simply not as verbally dexterous when talking about emotions as women. We have been trained not to be. It is going to be damn near impossible to turn thirty odd years of socialization off. While I appreciate how difficult it must be to NOT rush him when it comes to talking about relationships, try your best if you can. I hate talking about relationships, emotions or feelings when I'm not ready. Nothing will make me feel more like a trained seal doing tricks for some fish than that.
posted by xetere at 12:34 PM on January 23, 2006

I'm with Orange Swan. Every man I've ever dated has repeatedly asked me what I'm thinking.

I don't think that contradicts with the other generalities you're hearing, though. I think it's absolutely consistent with the observation that many men are relatively unlikely to try to read your mind.

The practical implication, as others have pointed out, is that you might as well explain yourself as literally as you can manage, and to assume, unless specific evidence points otherwise, that he's doing the same thing.
posted by tangerine at 12:54 PM on January 23, 2006

should have been: I don't think that contradicts the other generalities...
posted by tangerine at 12:55 PM on January 23, 2006

Simpler beasts overall than women, men respond well to consistency because it enhances predictability, and are creatures of habit.
This condescending and patronizing attitude, displayed in a woman, frustrates and repluses me, personally, more than almost anything else.
posted by Capn at 1:06 PM on January 23, 2006

"Men, on the other hand, will probably respond quite positively to offers of sex in the same situation"

Dude, men will respond positively to sex offers if the building is on fire and Armageddon is approaching. That's just how a lot of us are. ;)

I don't have any books to link to, but I'd just like to add that regardless of the gender or orientation, effective communication is important to any relationship. :-)
posted by drstein at 1:06 PM on January 23, 2006

It's worth pointing out that men can sometimes see emotion/relationship talks as conflict ("Here I am happily looking at stuff and thinking about nothing, believing everything is fine in our relationship, and now you're attacking me.") Pressing to fix the problem NOW may not always be the best approach, as it can just heighten the sense of conflict. (Depends on your man, of course.) It may be OK to let him walk out the door or talk about it tomorrow, as he may be calmer, feeling less threatened and more able to process things and talk about emotions or the relationship. Even if something is genuinely bothering him, it may take him a few days to figure out what it is.
posted by showmethecalvino at 1:33 PM on January 23, 2006

>>Simpler beasts overall than women, men respond well to consistency because it enhances predictability, and are creatures of habit.
>This condescending and patronizing attitude, displayed in a woman, frustrates and repluses me, personally, more than almost anything else.

Except that I'm pretty sure paulsc isn't a woman.

Neither am I, and I thought the analogy was funny and truer than not.
posted by timeistight at 2:03 PM on January 23, 2006

Except that I'm pretty sure paulsc isn't a woman.
So am I, but none the less, I meant what I said, ladies, if you want the Capn out of your life, or to not take you seriously ever again, this is the way to accomplish that.
posted by Capn at 2:19 PM on January 23, 2006

As a male, I clearly prefer "Would you do x?" to "Could you do x?". "Could" sounds so wishy washy, as if you haven't made up your mind. Do you want me to do x or not? Do you want to know if i could do it, or do you want me to do it?

In fact, to me, even better than "Would you do x?" is "Do x." since it's even less ambiguous.

Sounded crazy to me - "would" sounds demanding to me and "could" seems like a nice softener.

I can't speak for everyone, but the concept of a "softener" is a somewhat novel one to me. I do not think they would ever be necessary when speaking to me. It seems like the goal of a "softener" is to make it sound like you're being less demanding without actually being less demanding. I don't know if this is true for males in general, but softening words wouldn't be productive in general when speaking to me. In fact, they would probably be counter-productive, since I imagine they usually make the intent of the statement slightly less clear. (as in the "Could you ..." example)

Basically, it's the meaning that matters, not the words you use to say it. Unless the words make the meaning less clear. Basically, the more simple and direct the better.
posted by recursive at 2:27 PM on January 23, 2006

So much has been said that's very true. Guys are not children or shaggy dogs, we are not simple-minded, we are not dumb or lacking complexity. We just operate differently, and put importance on different things. We do try to understand what's going on inside your heads and figure out what makes women tick, so it's always nice if you return the courtesy.

For all their pop psych silliness, the "Mars/Venus" type books do stress one very important point: we as genders are a little different in ways beyond the merely physical, and that each of us should try to understand and respect how others operate, and expect the same courtsey in return. Guys need and expect things women don't understand, like our need for space, or downtime. Both genders need affirmations of ourselves, but in different ways- hence our commonly feeling like the other gender doesn't "get" us, or give us what we really want.

For guys, you've probably noticed already the theme we are repeating: be clear and direct, we like that. A lot. Tell us what you want, and we're happy to do what we can- makes us feel strong and productive, and we aren't confused and possibly defensive. This is not necessarily a "superior" method of doing things, it's just how we're wired or trained to behave and think.
posted by hincandenza at 2:34 PM on January 23, 2006 [1 favorite]

to me, even better than "Would you do x?" is "Do x."

I don't think it's appropriate for equals to give each other orders. Under most ordinary household circumstances, if someone I lived with told me to "do x" I'd be furious.

I do agree that if you expect someone to do something, you should make that clear, rather than sounding as if you'd sort of like it if they did.

I'm starting to get a little irritated by the parade of stereotypes. On average, men may need space and downtime more often than women, but we're all human and we all need some. Same goes, in reverse proportions, for sympathetic listening. It can't hurt to be alert to the likelihood of these needs, but it's a grotesque exaggeration to say that men and women are mutually incomprehensible for these reasons.

I've occasionally felt that an individual "didn't get" me. I've never felt that way about an entire gender.
posted by tangerine at 2:55 PM on January 23, 2006

The other things is that most of the time us men take complaints as an opportunity for problem-solving, as Amizu said. If you tell me something is bad or wrong, I will use my mental energy to to try to fix it or make it better. Just empathizing or talking about it seems less than productive. I can think of exceptions, but that's the general rule.

On top of all that has been mentioned before, this ought to be emphasized. My girlfriend who I adore completely will frequently relate problems that she's having, bad day at work, friend being stupid, etc. It took a lot of time to realize that she's not looking for advice, but rather to tell the story.

The first couple of times, and still occasionally, I tried to give advice and use problem-solving skills. She took this as condescending and a bit paternalistic. The first thing to realize is that this is not how it's meant. To us, telling a story like that is asking for advice and input. So, try not to feel patronized. Feel flattered that he likes you enough to want to help.

posted by generichuman at 3:19 PM on January 23, 2006

"Could you do X"

Yeah, to me this sounds like a request for information, and assuming X isn't something like "hammer a 6-inch spike through a board with your penis," where she actually might not know whether I could do it, it's nearly always a dumb question if taken literally. And taking things literally is the first way I always take things. "Could you take out the garbage?" Well, duh, of course I could -- any moron ought to know that. So, since the person is asking is presumably someone I care about, I have to bite my tongue, stifle my instinctive smart-ass response, and mentally translate what they said into what they really want, then answer that. This is annoying. It's a small annoyance, but repeat it thousands of times over a period of years, and your man can snap.

(We men are very good about ignoring things that annoy us until they've finally had enough. Then suddenly we will let out the pent-up frustration all in one incredible blast. When you are taken aback by our out-of-proportion reaction to what is a very minor annoyance, the response is likely to be something like, "Well, I ignored it the first hundred thousand times you did it! I can hardly be perfect, can I?" As a woman you are unlikely to appreciate this. Hell, as a human being you are unlikely to appreciate it. But be on the lookout for it and encourage your man to inform you when you do things that annoy him. Tell him you can't promise you'll stop, but not telling you virtually guarantees you won't stop. This is problem-solving logic that a man can truly appreciate.)
posted by kindall at 3:42 PM on January 23, 2006

{link works now, sorry}

I found this book to express my maleness better than I would have been able to myself.

You have to look past the cover and the apperent subject matter, Bakos did legitimate research, and this is the result of that research. Although the anecdotal stories ARE in there, they are used to support the data. And, although the focus is on sex acts, a lot of metaphysical truths about men shake out in the reading.

Heck it's cheap, give it a try.
posted by Infernarl at 5:15 PM on January 23, 2006

I have heard of one solution to the "she just wants to vent, he gives unwanted advice" problem: hand signals.

As she begins talking she signals "V" for vent, "S" for sympathy, and "A" for advice. He then knows exactly what his role is.
posted by orange swan at 2:00 PM on January 24, 2006

orange swan, that's funny. I think I'd be embarassed, but hey, whatever works.

I'd like to add, in response to several people, that I think everybody here realizes that these are just generalizations, things we think we see in ourselves and/or other people, and that obviously it won't apply always and everywhere, but might be helpful in interpreting certain behaviors.

For example, I and most of my friends aren't huge sports fans, but I will concede it's pretty damn common among men, and I can usually at least manage some small talk about it. But I love the mathematics + psychology + strategy + competition aspect of card playing, and that's pretty common too.
posted by lackutrol at 3:12 PM on January 24, 2006

Um, theora55... as a guy, and admittedly not a "man's man" but a guy nonetheless, I have to say that I find Nick Hornby's novels hideously apologetic. He seems to cast his male characters as spineless imbeciles, and spend the rest of the novel drivelling an apology on behalf of the whole of his gender. A specious and destructive approach. Homer Simpson has more mettle than his male protagonists.

Not to criticise you, I hope you understand. I'd just take it all with a pinch of salt. A friend of mine many years ago read Hi Fidelity, and told me she now "understood men". She proceded to misunderstand me for many years.

And don't get me started on Ben Elton.

As for advice.... I think a lot of it here has been on the money. Heterosexual men - generalising of course - tend to be a lot more happy-go-lucky than their female partners (in my experience and that of nearly all my male and female hetero friends). This will lead to arguments about planning a holiday, budgets, driving from A to B, and generally organising stuff, since he'll probably think that things "just happen". This is completely true. She will tend to think that things actually need a lot more attention to detail. This is also completely true. It's a matter of perspective, and not losing it when the heat is on.

Good luck :-)

Oh and I really liked the pregnancy scare tip, kyrademon, excellent and salient point.
posted by ajp at 1:12 PM on February 23, 2006

Oh, and competitiveness. All that testosterone has to be vented somehow. This can be expressed as enjoyment of watching/taking part in sports or other competitive events, and so on.

All that testosterone may also result in his suffering from "roving eye" syndrome. If he's got any sense you'll never see this. But it happens. Interviews with guys and women who are on testosterone supplements reveal that a lot of them feel "predatory".

Maybe someone has mentioned that already, but this is a long thread... :-)
posted by ajp at 1:21 PM on February 23, 2006

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