Updated: Sep 8, 2022
Being in relationship with a man is a fantastic adventure. It’s challenging and illuminating, even mysterious. Men are powerful, fun, and sexy to be with, right? Whether he’s your husband, father, or friend, you’ve probably seen him go out of his way to make you happy or to help someone in need.
The title of this post should perhaps have been “misunderstanding men”. While we might aim to understand men – and people in general – what often happens in relationships is more along the lines of misunderstanding.
Because sometimes it’s difficult, triggering, and super frustrating being in relationship with a man. As relationship coaches, we have heard every imaginable complaint about men:
He’s always working
He never listens
He wants sex all the time
He’s addicted to his phone (or porn, or booze, or …)
He doesn’t care about our relationship
He’s always trying to fix me
He doesn’t clean up after himself
He acts like a child
He never shares his feelings (does he even have feelings?)
He’s emotionally unavailable
He’s always angry
If you’re a man reading this, you might have been nodding and smiling in the first paragraph, but by now you’re ready to defend yourself? Totally understandable.
Mars-Venus is complicated
The whole Mars-Venus conversation is complicated. It clearly struck a chord with millions of readers of John Gray’s books. It’s a fun and fascinating conversation for dinner parties and romantic comedies, but it quickly becomes un-fun when it plays out in your relationship.
For example, as a woman, it might seem perfectly natural to you to process your feelings out loud, to talk about it, to share with your partner what’s going inside you, what happened in your day, and anything else on your mind. It’s so natural you don’t even think about it, you just do it. Because it’s so natural to you, it makes no sense to you why your man would not do that. Why would he keep it all inside or say, “I’m fine” when clearly something’s going on?
As a woman, if you were doing that to your partner, it would be a statement. If you stopped talking to your mate, it would most likely be because you were angry or hurt. So it’s easy to assume that it must be the same when your man isn’t talking to you. Except, it’s not.
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Assuming your partner is like you
This process of assuming that your partner is thinking and behaving the same way you are is universal. Without thinking about it, you assume what makes sense to you should make sense to your partner. This gives rise to countless and recurring misunderstandings.
In the example above, the woman in the relationship would likely make the conclusion that her man is either 1) Deliberately withholding information, 2) Making an “F-u” kind of statement, or 3) Doesn’t want to connect at all.
I’m not saying he never gets upset at you and clams up, but you can be pretty sure it doesn’t mean he doesn’t care or doesn’t want to be with you.
Men do this process of “overlay” too. Heck, I do it to Sonika, even though I understand the process. I might look at a project I want to do around our house. My mind spits out 10 logical, sequential steps for what should happen – actually the best way to make it happen, according to my logic – and I assume it should be obvious to Sonika. When it’s not, I have to be very careful not to make the conclusion that she’s not listening, or doesn’t respect my way of thinking, or is somehow trying to foil my plans.
Men work all the time
Another classic complaint about men is that they work all the time and that work is more important to them than relationship. If you’re with a man who works a lot and spends less time with you than you want, it’s very tempting to assume that he doesn’t want to be with you and doesn’t care about the relationship. But that is hardly ever the case.
There’s a saying that describes this misunderstanding:
To prove his love for her, he climbed the highest mountain, traversed the hottest desert, and swam the widest ocean. But she left him … he was never home.
In the man’s mind, working hard and long hours is caring about the relationship, is committing to the family and the relationship. It’s the exact opposite of his wife’s assumption that he doesn’t care about the relationship.
But the woman in that story really wants a man she can spend time with, a man who is present with her and talks to her, and with whom she feels safe and held. The more he works, the less loved she feels. They are operating on different premises and miss each other in the process.
The examples go on and on. For instance, did you know that what a man naturally does to de-stress is exactly the opposite of what his female partner needs in those moments? And what she does to make herself feel better makes him feel worse? Sometimes it’s as if Mother Nature played a prank on us! (One of John Gray's Mars-Venus series books, Venus on Fire, Mars on Ice, explains this dynamic based on hormonal differences between men and women).
So how do we navigate these differences and turn our misunderstandings into deeper understanding?
Tips for getting started
We’ll give you a few starter tips below, but if you really want to understand and know how to be in relationship with a man, consider taking our virtual mini-workshop.
After years of guiding men and women in the intricate art of relating to each other, we’ve put it together in a 90-minute mini-workshop, How To Love And Understand A Man (there is a corresponding mini-workshop focusing on women).
We’ll break down a complex issue into understandable bites, and you’ll learn simple, effective tools to use in your relationship.
You’ll learn …
Why men withdraw and disappear emotionally
Why man feel so easily criticized
What men need to stay present and engaged
How to make a man feel happy and fulfilled
How to help him want to give to you
How to talk to a man so he can listen
How to give a man what he needs
And until then, here’s the best thing you can do for starters:
Assume you don’t know your man or why he does what he does.
Assume he has a good and well-meaning reason for what he does or doesn’t do, even if you don’t understand it.
When you don’t understand, be curious. You might say, “I’m curious … when you just did that, what were you trying to accomplish?”
Have fun with the process!
LoveWorks: We believe relationships are meant to be an empowering, fun, passionate, safe place to grow, love, and learn. Where we get to be more of who we are, not less. We know it’s not always easy, but it can definitely be easier! With our unique and practical approach to relationship, you learn how to resolve conflicts quickly and enjoy fulfilling intimacy for the rest of your life. To learn more or contact us, visit www.loveworkssolution.com.