Ladies, we’re complicated. Have you noticed how much social math you have to calculate in your head before you approach a gaggle of women you don’t know extremely well? Okay…that one could just be me. But, really. Most of us are black belts in making things more difficult than they need to be. Relationships are by far the best example.
In the beginning, we’re suspicious. If a man offers us a simple kindness we hypothesize on the probably that he will later rape and kill us. If he flirts, we think he’s just trying to get close to us so he can hook up with our best friend. Then if the poor schmuck gets past the initial defenses, we move on to even greater concerns. When he comes over with a wrinkled shirt, we’re worried he doesn’t take himself seriously enough to succeed. If we go a month without planning a date that isn’t dinner and a movie, we’re worried we’ve lost all the romance. It continues pretty much forever.
We’re just different and there’s a reason. In my capstone class for my BFA, we often had a lot of tangential conversations that didn’t really deal directly with anything we were writing. We talked about ideas at large and psychology most often. One night our instructor came in and asked us all when we last felt like we were in physical danger. Every woman in the room mentioned a time within the last month and every man gave an example from childhood. Slowly the vast difference in gender instinct began to sink in for all of us and there were head-slapping moments as we all realized why we had such difficulty understanding each other.
The truth is, we women can’t help the way we conjure hypothetical doom out of teeny, tiny “signs.” It’s part of our base instinct to sense even the smallest amount of danger because whether we like to think so or not, we’re vulnerable. (Vulnerable–not weak or fragile and in need of protecting.) Men, on the other hand, don’t have a lot of worry. They think mostly about what’s happening right now–the fastest way to do things, the best new things to have, the simplest ways to make things better. The more you let this sink in, the more you realize that most of the problems in your relationships stem from these fundamental gaps. We can’t truly get rid of them but we can fight them and build bridges to get across.
One of the best “bridges” you can build is direct communication. Women have lots of needs that men just don’t get because, once again, we think about broad and distant concerns while men are more preoccupied with the immediate things like what’s for dinner. Furthermore, we tend to draw our desires from what we see around us and for whatever reason, this doesn’t happen as often to men. For example, when I watch a Jane Austen movie adaptation, I always think how nice it would be to have a well-worded and meaningful love letter from Hubs. And the little hairy monster inside starts to think, “uh, why hasn’t he done that in the last two or three years?” Then I would commence to worrying about the love isn’t “new” anymore. Will could watch the very same movie, be slightly amused, but have no such desire. It’s amazing…and it’s also a trap.
Expectations are horrible little things that become enormous, hairy, and fanged problems when we don’t recognize them and squash them with a large shoe. They can make us wonder why our significant other never sends us cute texts anymore or why we never get flowers. In our minds, these needs and expectations should be obvious…like how the colors on his latest outfit didn’t exactly match. To men, these things are absolutely invisible. So you know what needs to happen? In order to avoid being greatly disappointed in and depressed by your relationship, you should just ask for what you’d like.
“Hey, babe. I need you to buy me flowers. Sometime in the next week.” Or maybe, “I’m having a bad day. Could we watch a girlie flick and cuddle? Also, I could use some hot tea.” Sometimes it’s okay to ask for things when you’re bothered by not having them. “Everyone I know is getting new shoes. We need to save for some so I can stop being sad about it.”
And I’m betting there are some of you reading that and thinking it sucks all the romance out of the relationship. So let’s take a moment to talk about what romance is (or isn’t).
First, romance is not being upset when your partner isn’t living up to what’s in your head and then never saying about it. It’s not even nice to hold that over your SO’s head. No one is a mind reader. It’s also not romantic to feel deeply disappointed by a gift that didn’t really hit the mark and the wonder if your partner even knows you.
You know what’s infinitely better? When you accept that your SO loves you and wants to do things for you that make you feel loved and special but that he just needs direction. If you really need to be surprised, you can give him/her a range of things to do for you and let them choose. I think we, as women, need to redefine romance to something that assures our happiness instead of something that depends on men assuming things they would never figure out on their own. It’s harmful to both people when we do that.
What do you think? Do you just say what you need or do you wait for surprises? What works for you?