Sunday, October 29, 2006

The Trouble With Men: Not Even Folly

I first read Lubos Motl use "Not Even Folly". This is my silly twisting of the titles of two recent anti-science books for my own purposes. I like to do that sometimes. ;-)

A while back my good friend came over and we got to complaining about our husbands, but they should rest assured that we don't usually talk about them. Life isn't all about them, you know. She's a little younger than I am, and I see her going through very similar experiences I had at that age. Well, the experiences are similar in theme, not necessarily in details, in that I recognize the emotions and thoughts she's having. She seems to appreciate my empathy and acceptance of things that she worries are wrong or questionable. I like to reassure her that what she's going through isn't abnormal (why do we worry so much about abnormality?) and that she will get through it. (Lately it seems I've become everyone's surrogate mother. Not that I'm complaining, well, maybe I am a little. But, you know, I'm more than just a mother.)

So anyway, we both had been having kind of shitty times for similar reasons: husbands being asses. Why is it that as soon as you think you're making progress with a man he gets some weird mental tic or something? Both of us had been enjoying some times of equilibrium in our marriages until these men had to go and be emotionally abusive and neglectful. WTF? Can't you men control that kind of thing? How long does it take for a man to finally figure out that women aren't men and don't want to be treated like men? (Well, my friend and I don't.) I know that it takes a lot of energy to properly deal with a woman, but we do make it worth it. If they didn't really want to invest energy into maintaining our relationships then they shouldn't have promised that they would.

My experiences (and those of my female friends) over the years have given me plenty evidence that men are kind of dumb. Now, I know men can find things to complain about with women, but this is my blog and my post and I'm a dictator here, so please refrain from bringing up some petty crap about something women might not be good at. That's just a defense mechanism men use that is another clue about how dumb they can be. Men can't really distract us from the point we're making about how dumb it is to neglect or take us for granted by talking about how we don't know how to change the oil in the car or some other stupid little task. What I'm talking about is how to make a relationship work well for both sides.

I guess if you wanted to extend that oil change analogy then men should be the ones who keep the relationship working smoothly by keeping the "lubricant" (and that's not meant as some kind of sexual innuendo, well, I guess it could be ;-)) clean and fresh. The lubricant in this case is the care and concern and other emotional expressions that keep a woman's mental machinery working well. Yeah, I think I like that comparison because it really is true. Men who complain that their wives don't properly maintain their vehicles (which is a man's job in the first place) are usually the very same ones who don't keep their wives' mental/emotional machinery maintained.

Sometimes on Sundays I'll scan the religious channels to see if there is an interesting sermon. I don't like going to church, but sometimes I do like to listen to a thoughtful, intelligent sermon. One day I heard a sermon about the subject of marriage and the roles of each spouse. I can't remember who was speaking, but he said something that really stuck with me. He said that when he sees a woman who looks haggard and worn out he knows it's because her husband hasn't been doing his job of taking care of her. He went on to describe how the job of the husband is to provide for his wife and family. And by "provide" he explained that it means more than just bringing home a paycheck. Women are the "vessel" that will become too worn, cracked, or even broken if not properly cared for.

Ever since hearing that sermon when I see a woman who could be cruelly described as "letting herself go" (we've all heard that comment, "boy, look at her, she's really let herself go"- meaning that she doesn't look good at all) I wonder what kind of man she is married to and how he hasn't done his job as a husband. To extend the car metaphor even further, when we see a "ragged out" car we can usually be sure it's because it wasn't properly maintained or was even kind of abused. So when you see a "ragged out" woman don't automatically assume that she has "let herself go" because what you are seeing is the result of many years of not getting the mental/emotional maintenance she needed. Have a little compassion for someone who has struggled to take care of herself while putting everyone else's needs above her own (much like surrogate mothers).

Okay, so what's my point? Well, it's that the trouble with men is they don't usually put enough time and energy into maintaining their most important relationships. Women aren't like banks that you put deposits into for later. We really are more like cars that use the deposits and need them to be replenished regularly in order to function well. And that is not even folly and today's Sunday Sermonett. ;-)


DHammett said...

I feel like someone ought to speak on behalf of the male of the species, but also feel completely unqualified to do so. I'm not a stupid person, but countless times I have done/said stupid things where women are concerned.

Men and women are wired differently. And if that's not bad enough, each man and woman are individually wired; enough so that there are no hard and fast rules. If you were to ask any couple that has been toogether for a while, each individual would tell you in what ways their partner fails to meet their needs.

I'll give you an example from my own life: frequently, when I am talking with my wife, I'll feel she's not listening to me because she's either doing or saying something at the same time I am talking. That's not a talent I have, so I assume she doesn't either. However, when I ask her to repeat what I've just said, she almost always can. Was she listening? Yes, of course. But does that meet my need to be heard? Usually not, because my limitations don't allow me to accept that she's been listening because I can't do what she's just done. So is she not meeting my needs? Shouldn't she know enough after all these years to just stop and listen to me? Or am I asking too much?

If I'm trying to please my wife, I'll usually do the things I know would please me because I think they will please her too. Wrong! And I think each of us is frequently guilty of this.

My point is simply this. It's easy to focus on ourselves and what needs we have that aren't being met. It's not so easy to see, however, that our partner may be trying and, even after umpteen years of marriage, failing because he or she just isn't making the crossover into what would please their spouse.

Now you could argue that after umpteen years in a relationship, there should be no question about what our partner needs to feel validated, wanted, cherished. And you're probably right. But who among us is immune to brain cramps?

I can't speak to your specific situation, but I will say that, in my experience, most men who are committed to a woman try to make them understand their "specialness" in lots of different ways, some more successful than others. To try and fail is forgiveable. To fail for lack of effort is not.

Oh, and I know plenty of men who have "let themselves go." How does that fit into your sermonette?

Rae Ann said...

Well, dh, I figured you'd pop in with a defense of the 'rougher' sex. ;-) Of course, you're right that these things are normal/common, but knowing that doesn't always make it better. I know I'm not a perfect wife and have many faults, but this isn't about that. LOL

At least your wife can repeat what you've said even though she isn't gazing lovingly into your eyes and giving you 100% of her attention while listening. Man, that sounds pretty nice for anybody! I'd definitely like to be actively listened to every so often too.

The main point I was trying to make was that my fuel/oil tanks are empty and I can't fill them myself. And when I'm empty there's nothing left to give anyone else, no matter who they are. Of course, men can be in the same position if they are married to selfish, unconcerned women, but that's not my problem. ;-) But thanks for your thoughtful reply as always.

DHammett said...

Well, there's nothing wrong with rough, er, sex. ;-)

Seriously, though, I appreciate your feeling empty and and not knowing how you're going to get refilled. Taking all at face value, the problem, as I see it, is there's no way for somebody to come in and kick hubby's butt to make him get his act together. In fact, if somebody tried, he's likely to dig in his heels and resist all the harder.

So, I'm going to go out on a limb and suggest a book I've never read, but one my wife has read and recommended to many other women. It's called, "The Proper Care and Feeding of Husbands" and was written by Dr. Laura.

Before you jump all over me, I understand that you're running on empty so you probably don't feel like investing energy just reading the book, much less doing what it recommends to kickstart your relationship. And I don't know what the book says or does that makes things better. I can only tell you that it worked at my house. If Dr. Phil (or anybody else) had written a similar book for men, I'd say have your husband read it, but the reality is that at this point he'd refuse. Unfortunately, for that to work, he'd have to be feeling as empty as you. Is he? The only other alternative I see is to treat him the way you feel you're being treated and let the chips fall where they may. That's dangerous business for a relationship and I can't see that ever as a path do go down.

Whatever you decide, I wish you all the happiness and fulfillment in the world, and I pray it comes soon.

Anonymous said...

I'm a man and I absolutely agree with this post, but with a twist, because I completely recognize this coming FROM BOTH SIDES, as much as that might ring untrue to you. I have observed in myself that I also become lazy and neglectful and oftentimes when I do it is because deep down I strongly feel my partner is neglecting my actions. You see, oftentimes, women just for some reason, and I really am trying to understand why, but for some reason, women often completely neglect to show appreciation and acknowledgment for a man's action and a man's work. You talked about fuel and keeping things well lubricated and that is EXACTLY how it feels like when women doesn't recognize my actions or my accomplishments. When my partner doesn't acknowledge the things that I do, or doesn't bother to appreciate what I am trying to get done on a daily basis, my fuel runs out and I become uncaring.

For women its emotional caring they need, for men its * acknowledgment * and appreciation of their work. Trouble is women (and men) give what they think they themselves need. As a man, I don't need caring as much as I need acknowledgment of my actions ! If you want to get a man to give, let him know in not so subtle ways that you appreciate what he *does*. If these things get addressed from both sides, both partners are lubricated. Unfortunately, sometimes chemistry seems to be such that both sexes need A LOT of training to give the other what they need. Sigh... ;)