It’s not easy for a man to tell his wife or girlfriend what she does to irritate him. In my experience, confessions like that tend to lodge themselves deep inside a woman’s subconscious, never to be forgotten…ever. More than that, women tend to focus so much on their so-called “faults” that it can feel excessive to give you more reasons to be critical of yourselves. But in the name of healthy communication, sometimes it’s important for couples to air their grievances. So let’s take a different approach: Don’t think of this list as the 5 things we dislike about you. Think of it more as the 10 things that will bring us closer together…by you not doing them.
1. Second-Guessing Your Instincts
You know that colleague who you think is deceitful? Or that girlfriend of yours who can be condescending? Well, let us save you some time: Your colleague is deceitful, and your friend is condescending. Plain and simple. Sometimes face value is, well, valuable. While it’s true that men can have knee-jerk reactions, women tend to overdo it when it comes to giving people the benefit of the doubt. Yes, you could chalk your coworker’s attitude up to his insecurities or blame your friend’s tone on her manipulative mother, but instead, why not look out for your own feelings first? That’s what men are doing when we offer a simple opinion on your dilemmas—we’re trying to take your side. It would be nice if you did the same.
2. Assuming We Know What You Want Us to Do
One of the reasons men can be squeamish about women’s emotions is because they often belie the exact opposite feeling. For example: If you have plans for the day, please don’t tell us to enjoy ourselves at home if you really want us to address items 1 through 5 on the honey-do list. It’s more than a little irksome to have you return, hug us, look around the house, and then say with that pinched smile, “Did you have a nice, relaxing day?”
3. Smothering Instead of Mothering
Women can confuse these two impulses––knowing the difference is crucial. One elicits gratitude in men; the other, orneriness. Like when we’re sick. Mothering is a source of comfort that understands our flu is a temporary flaw in an otherwise heroic, virile and even studly constitution. Smothering, on the other hand, calls all of that into question. Smothering says we’re 5-year-old boys who have no idea how to take care of ourselves. And that bugs us more than the bug in us. One way to differentiate between the two: Ask yourself if you’re making a gesture to ease our suffering or to show how much we should appreciate you. The first is genuine; the second is manipulative.
4. Having a Superiority Complex
We’re not sure if you’re aware of this, but there appears to be an increasing trend among women to equate being male with being dumb. For instance, when we’re at a dinner party and you recount a story about us that ends with this punch line: “Well, you know [insert name of your dim husband here], he was just being a typical man.” Sure, every guy has his off moments––even blunders worth lampooning––but making us the hapless straight man in an ongoing comedy routine is disrespectful. And we think you’d hate it if we did the same to you.
We’re aware of the stereotype that says men never open up about their feelings. Thing is, sometimes opening up to you also means opening up to your sister, your mother or even your college roommate. Men value loyalty and confidentiality. Keeping the things we share between us––and only us––builds trust and will encourage even more communication. A win-win situation for everyone.
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