Friday, February 6, 2009

Yakkety yak, don't talk back?

I sent this email to A earlier in the day. She emailed me venting that her current romantic interest is a bit stoic and she worries he can't be there for her emotionally.


Well, only you can decide what, or who, is best for you. You might have to accept though that you won't find a man while you're living in the UK who is able to be there emotionally for you. The Brits just aren't like that. I'm sure you've said the same of [her British aunt] right? (Insert [our mutual friend's] voice here telling you to move back). I'm not sure that North American men are that much better though.

I've thought for some time now that women have too high expectations of men. I really don't believe that it's possible for a man to be everything to a woman, especially the emotional support that we need daily. That's what girlfriends are for. I think that, once you accept that, it's much easier to give guys (not just boyfriends but all men friends in general) a break for not being able to articulate themselves about everything the way we do.

When I think about the one or two women I know who are truly happy in their relationships, I realize it's because they don't have unrealistic expectations of their husbands to be the sole person in their lives from whom they derive all levels of support - physical, emotional and spiritual. I always use Mrs Happy as a good example. She and Mr Happy hang out, they're friends, they're comfortable with each other and they don't fight. He cooks and cleans and does the dishes. He shovels snow and cleans the car and drives her around places. He's there for her when she has family responsibilities. He basically does just about anything she asks but is never a doormat. The one thing though that has always struck me about them is this: Mrs Happy doesn't sit around and chat to Mr Happy about everything the way she does with me and Baby. In fact, when we do that, Mr Happy usually leaves the room. Men aren't programmed evolutionarily for that type of interaction. I have stopped expecting it from just about all men.

There's a way to have a conversation with a guy friend about "chick" stuff that doesn't leave them feeling completely overwhelmed and I find those types of interactions satisfying in a different way. It's a way to "vent" about stuff without getting worked up or upset. It's not as cathartic as talking to girlfriends but it usually gives me a different - more realistic - perspective on the situation. I never get the same type of support from J or My Married Friend or any of my guy friends that I do from you or Baby or Mrs Happy . So why would I expect it from a boyfriend?

I can talk to C le V for an hour about random stuff and he does make me laugh but I'm not going to waste that hour talking about my feelings unless they pertain directly to the way he made me feel. I always call you or Baby if I need to talk about feelings crap before I talk to C le V. Maybe that means I have settled but I'm okay with that. I don't expect him to know how to make me feel better by saying the right thing at the right time. I'm starting to think that's an unreasonable expectation to have of any man. That's what my girlfriends are for.

I really think you should read Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus. The first chapter alone is worth spending the half hour to understand how men's brains work (or don't, as the case may be!)

Anyway, I'm actually going back to bed. I've been up for an hour working but I'm freezing and still not feeling 100%. I'm going back to bed for a bit in the hope that I will be more productive mid morning.

Talk tomorrow?



Asshat said...

I think that's pretty insightful. When it becomes apparent to me that girl talk is not intended to impart real information but has something to do with female catharsis or whatever inscrutable thing it's supposed to be, I tend to get bewildered. Then, I feel trapped. Then I remember that I left something on the stove or left a light on in the basement.

Awkward, for you said...

You know you are really onto something here. I wish more females would read this letter. Although my boyfriend will listen and give advice on any of my problems. There are just some things you feel more comfortable confiding in females.
Feel better.

Anonymous said...

A very good letter. Couldn't help this thought that came to mind, though: men who are open with the whole emotional side are often accused, by both men and women of being "girly-men". It's a no-win scenario...

Elusive Butterfly said...

GH, I can't speak about the mano a mano teasing but I can say this about ladies. When I tease Delorean about being sensitive, it's just my way of letting him know I appreciate and acknowledge that aspect of his character in a way that doesn't seem all emotional and sentimental. He wouldn't appreciate the resulting awkwardness.

As for people who are derisive about it, why does it matter if a guy who is secure and confident gets teased by random insecure people about his character? I guess I'm immune to this kind of bullying? Maybe because I have enough insight to understand that people who point out others' flaws are just trying to detract from their own through sleight of hand (or mouth?)

Anyway, my point was that, there's no reason to expect your husband/boyfriend/SO to interact with you the way one of your girlfriends would. Men and women are different. We should all just accept that. It would make life a lot easier. A lot of my friend's husbands are "emotionally available". They don't scoff when their wives are upset and aren't afraid to have the difficult conversations. But we still don't bombard them with "chick" crap like detailed analysis of other people's relationship woes or a breakdown of why a tv commercial made us cry. That's stuff we talk about between the girls. They don't need to be a part of it.

My point was that A has unrealistic expectations of this guy that she has only just started dating. Incidentally, he is a close friend that has never discussed her feelings or past breakups before so I can't imagine why she thought he would be more "emotionally available" now. It boggles my mind that she thinks he would be more available in a relationship when he has something invested than when they were just friends.

There is one other thing I didn't mention in this entry. It bothers me about her but I have to accept it and can only point out her flaws when she asks. She tends to take every little setback as the end of the world. He may have just said something stupid when they were talking on the phone and her attitude to that is "oh, this won't work so it's over". That drives me nuts. What happened to working on a relationship? Trying to figure out where the differences are and coming up with a solution to resolve it so you both can move forward? Honestly, it drives me nuts that people won't put even a fraction of the effort that they spend on work or at the gym or on their wardrobe into communicating with their partner. Sheesh.

Okay, end rant!