....and I am not talking about sex.
I am 49 years old now. I have seen a lot of interactions between young men and women, middle-aged men and women, and even older men and women. I have heard and participated in many conversations with other women about boyfriends and husbands. Occasionally, a man has spoken to me about his girlfriend or wife. And this is what I have decided:
WOMEN CAN BE VERY HARD ON MEN.
Now, I am not saying that some men don't deserve women to be hard on them. There are some men who are not good to women. There are some men who are egocentric, abusive, sociopathic. For the purposes of this conversation, I am not talking about those men. I am talking about normal men. Men who are generally well-intentioned, hard-working, good-hearted people. And women can be pretty brutal to even these types of nice guys.
When women get together -- over coffee, at parks and playgrounds, at our kids' sporting events, at work -- we will sometimes talk about our boyfriends or husbands. And this talk can often be critical: He works too much. He got laid off and isn't trying hard enough to get another job. He doesn't make enough money, and he really could make more if he tried. He doesn't help enough with the kids. He doesn't help enough with the housework. He doesn't care about the new paint colors for the kitchen. He forgets to take out the trash. He is not romantic. He doesn't bring me flowers or gifts. He just falls asleep after dinner. And on and on.... And you can bet we women make sure our men know how we are feeling. Even if we don't actually say the words, our guys know how we are feeling by means of body language, facial expressions, and lack of emotional and physical affection.
I often have the impression that we women think that our disapproving attitudes will somehow inspire our guys to improve. Well, uh, no. That is not going to happen. At least, I have never seen it happen. And lest you think that I believe I am some sort of perfect woman here to instruct you, I will tell you right now that I have learned this lesson by experience -- not just by the experience of others, but by my own experience, as well. I have been, and can be, quite the bitch, if you will. And it has taught me a few things. A few things about what guys really want.
Yes, guys want sex. But, even more than -- or, at least as much as -- sex, guys want actual relationships. And they want actual relationships with women who care about them. With women who are warm and affirming. Do guys really care all that much about our fashionable clothes, the beautiful highlights in our hair, our flawless make-up jobs, even our "power breasts" (courtesy of Victoria's Secret)? Do guys require us to have perfectly toned bodies with even tans? Not so much.... I have come to believe that guys want to be with women who value them as human beings, who will truly listen to them, who will have reasonable expectations of them, who will cut them some slack when they aren't perfect, who have a good sense of humor, a ready laugh and smile. And then you will see these guys come through -- really come through -- because they are treasured as people, and not looked upon as a means to an end.
One often hears about how men "objectify" women. But, women can "objectify" men just as much. So, next time we are unhappy with our guys, let's do a little soul-searching before we start withholding our approval, our affection, and even our love....
I hope I do not sound too "preachy" here. I freely admit to being in the proverbial "glass house." And I know that sometimes relationships just do not work out, in spite of the best efforts of the people involved. I also do not mean to place all the blame for an unhappy relationship solely on the woman. These are just lessons I have learned and mistakes I have made along the way; and I hate to see what could be a very happy relationship suffer unnecessary damage.