Men. Who can understand them? Not me. The thing about men I understand the least is how they fight. I literally feel like I’m speaking another language when I’m arguing with my dude. Are we talking about the same thing? Did we have the same conversation? Wait, are we even on the same planet? That’s when I feel like that “men are from Mars” and “women are from Venus” BS might have some truth to it.
Things we don’t understand about how men argue — and sweeping gender generalizations! — after the jump …
- Sometimes men just don’t want to talk. It’s an old saw that men don’t see the point of discussing a problem unless there is something they can do immediately to solve it. I have certainly seen that to be true in my own life, both with male friends and boyfriends. The thing I will never understand about men until the day I die is why some of them struggle to understand that talking about a problem very often makes the problem go away. A lot of women feel better after an uncomfortable conversation, not worse. Yet, a lot of guys think talking is “doing nothing” and that if there’s nothing he can “do,” there’s no point dwelling on the matter. But she may not need him to take action. In fact, she is a big girl and can solve the problem herself. She just wants someone to lean on, a shoulder to cry on, or someone to bounce ideas off of. If there is one piece of advice I could give to men the world over it would be: learn to listen.
- Sometimes, a woman’s tears really scare a man and/or make him defensive. One of the most messed-up things about how our culture socializes boys is that they are taught it’s not OK to cry. Crying is seen as a sign of weakness. I know men do cry — or at the very least, tear up during “Up” — but I’ve never seen a man (other than Rep. John Boehner) be as openly tearful as your average woman. As a result, it’s my opinion that men don’t always know what to do when they see tears. Some seem scared by tears, like she’s a vat of nuclear waste overflowing. Others seem to get defensive, like tears are bullets hurled at them. Tears are neither. They are just tears and they just represent sadness, frustration, humiliation or anger. That’s all.
- Sometimes it seems like they dig a hole and keep digging and digging — instead of just saying, “That was wrong. I’m sorry.” One of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever heard came from my friend Andrew, who told me, “Never change a winning game.” He meant that if things are going well for you then you shouldn’t tinker with it and instead figure out how you came to win. The converse, obviously, is also true: you should change a losing game. But I’ve argued with many men in my day and too many of them kept playing a losing game. One long-distance ex-boyfriend used to hang up the phone on me when we fought, despite my telling him that it was totally unacceptable. But you know what? He kept doing it. Other guys have continued to do bad stuff — judging me, ignoring me, etc. — even though I made it clear to them it was wrong. I don’t know if it’s an inability to admit they’re wrong, or what, but this drives me nuts.
- Any variation of “You’re just being too emotional/crazy/unreasonable/etc.” is apparently a fair argument. Oh, yes. The lovely “You’re just being crazy!” trump card. Don’t get me wrong: I know at least one woman who is certifiably crazy and several who are unreasonable. Surely, there are others out there. But most guys are not dating these women — they just think they are — and they throw around words like “crazy,” “unreasonable” or “too emotional” in a cavalier way. The reality is that telling a woman she’s crazy or PMSing is dismissive and no guy gets to be the arbiter of a woman’s emotions. That’s judgmental and it’s wrong. As much as I hate to admit my high school health class teacher was right, the advice she gave us to always use “I feel … ” statements while arguing was spot-on. Telling a woman she’s crazy or over-emotional will accomplish nothing, other than make her feel judged and make you look like a dick.
- Waking up the next morning and pretending nothing happened is not a resolution. This goes back to item #1. Uncomfortable conversations have to be had. Going to bed angry doesn’t mean that the next morning all’s well again. Many women, myself included, can’t ignore bad arguments or harsh words that have been exchanged — especially not indefinitely. There’s a difference between taking a day (or a week, or whatever) to collect yourself and have a conversation when everyone has calmed down and putting off an uncomfortable conversation indefinitely.