Men, I’m going to talk straight with you: you are not pulling your own weight.This is not to pick on all men, so if what I say here doesn’t fit you, congratulate yourself; you may be among the minority of single men.Too many men, though, do not do their part in making a relationship work with a woman.
aul, 39 years old, recently told me, “I don’t like having to work so hard.”He’s been divorced for 2 years, has been involved with a number of women, but either they broke it off or he did.Regardless who ended it, he was left with complaints about each of the women.Now, it may be that all of the women deserved his complaints.But, when I asked if he addressed them with any of the women, he was surprised.
“Of course not.If they can’t see how their talking drove me crazy, or how they always wanted to have these serious discussions, what would be the purpose?”
I asked if he felt he had learned anything about him from these relationships.His response suggested his lack of willingness to be self-reflective, to look at his role with women and how he could grow.
The more we talked, the more it became clear that Paul, who is a really nice, well-educated man with good intentions, had no idea that a relationship requires the same intentional effort as his business deals.
When I asked what happens at work, he said, “At work, I know I have to negotiate; I always choose my words carefully, and work around differences.And, in fact, in my field, I’m known for being really good at this.But, that’s work.With a woman, I shouldn’t have to do that.”
Paul, like so many single women, believes the primary efforts are asserted at the beginning of a relationship. He explains, “If you want a woman to like you, you have to put your best foot forward.But once you are a couple, you shouldn’t to do that.Then you can just relax, and enjoy what you have.Things seem to go well for a while, but then women just start nagging and complaining.What’s with it with women!”
While Paul can spell out his beliefs very clearly, he probably is saying what many men feel but don’t express.Men put their best effort into the early stages of a relationship.Once they are comfortable with a woman, they too often forget to pay as much attention to nurturing the love relationship as they do their work relationships.
One explanation for this can be found in the metaphor of the Mantle and the Shoebox.I tell this story in my dictionary of gender relationships.When a man has a treasure (like his relationship), he gently wraps it up in something soft and lays it in a shoebox that he tucks under his bed. He knows where it is; he knows it’s safe, so he doesn’t have to think about it anymore. If he ever wants to, he can get it out, but he doesn’t need to because he knows it’s safely tucked away. He doesn’t need to display it.
On the other hand, when a woman has a treasure (like her relationship), she displays it on the mantel. She looks at it every time she goes by, she dusts it, rearranges it, and shows it off when people come over. She needs the something special to be visible so it can be appreciated. To summarize: men don’t believe they have to show the woman they appreciate her, while women want overt and frequent indications of being appreciated. These gender-based differences are often a key ingredient to relationship conflict and hurt.Paul will continue to be angry at women who just don’t appreciate what he has to offer.Unfortunately, he may remain angry, blaming women, unless he begins grasp the value of “working” on a relationship.
Men, check the Paul-within-yourself.Does any of this ring true for you?If so, take a lesson from him:use him as a model … for what you want to avoid!
Dr. Karen Gail Lewis, marriage and family therapist, is author of numerous relationship books, including her latest, Why Don’t You Understand? A Gender Relationship Dictionary.