What Makes a Man Tick?

I may think I know what a man wants. At certain moments.

I may think I know what a man needs. At certain moments.

In both instances, those moments tend to play out in particular realms – the unvarnished dialog of longtime friendships in which trust is absolute, or in the sexual arena as man and woman make themselves vulnerable, as lovers.

In each of these cases, intimacy – of different sorts – is part of the equation. And of course, it depends on the man.

Then again, maybe I’m all wrong. Maybe I only think I understand a few things. So I run the film of my episodic life and I wonder.

Can a woman ever understand what makes a man tick? Or vice versa?

Yesterday, one man offered insight into his experience of being raised by a widowed mother. He described the struggle to separate from her, and alluded to the years it took to create a safe distance from which he could manage his own life.

Communication capacity

One of the reasons I found yesterday’s words on standing up to a strong mother so important – to me – is to consider the ways in which men open up or close down, both emotionally and in terms of communication.

Moreover, I am constantly assessing the way in which I parent, as I finish the job of raising young men.

Both my sons are at the stage where I no longer know how they think, though I can often predict how they will react to a situation or a remark. I generally know what will incite the usual rolling of eyes, or dissolving into laughter.

I know their interests, I know (some of) their habits. But beyond that? They are nearly men; they are chiseling away at their bond to me and forging their own paths. This is their passage behind the dark side of the moon. I sense that they are safe but out of range, at least for a time.

And appropriately so.

Yet I genuinely wish to understand. To know what makes a man tick, even if it’s only a handful of essentials that will allow me to come closer, or to back off. 

Imagining life as a man, as a woman

It may sound very Victor Victoria, but I have imagined what it must be like to be a man. Climbing into another person’s experience – or trying to – allows me a greater sense of perspective, of compassion, and also freedom to explore, to pick and choose aspects of behavior I might want to make my own.

It goes beyond the superficial; it is a sort of mental and emotional penetration exercised from a place of quiet. It requires observation and careful listening, and it yields an approximation, a clue, a sliver of something other than oneself.

Certainly, I know that a woman can never fully understand the experience of being a man, but we would do well to create a freer flow of exchange. Likewise, men could learn from our ease of self-expression.

But we have repair work to do; the past generation has eroded trust and confused boundaries just as it has created opportunity. But it is the damage that concerns me. That gap that feels broader and deeper and at times, like a wound as we navigate the delicate territory between man and woman, some of us with trepidation, some with anger, others with bewilderment.

The social contract

Am I alone in believing that men and women have lost something in the past thirty years?

I doubt it.

We may wed, we may bed, yet my impression is that many of us are all flailing in our attempts to find something – a safe place in each other. Or a recognizable one.

It goes beyond the outlines of relationship, the cursory for-public-consumption declarations of what we want in a relationship. Perhaps we are searching for something different and we cannot describe it. We sense that we’ll know it when we encounter it; we are becoming more fluid, and “it” is malleable; we approach, we age, we try, we tweak, we reach out, we withdraw, we yearn.

We yearn for connection. For understanding. To be seen, known, accepted – beyond the trappings and packaging. To establish relationships that we can rely on, our investment in time and feeling and dreams not squandered, but valued, nurtured, cherished.

How do we get there, wherever “there” is? Are some of you “there” already?

How do we learn to talk to each other, to listen to each other, and do so with a common intention to honor our differences respectfully, appreciatively, and with tolerance?

Cultural confusion

The cloak of culture is surely part of our gender definition. My own periods of time living overseas have offered distinct differences between American and French men, yet cultural attitudes are only a piece of the puzzle.

Like many women, I look at my past relationships for answers. I contemplate future relationships. I know the difference between friendship and love, between love and passion, between sex and lovemaking. All of these may exist without the degree of understanding that I seek, but I believe that each of these would function better with greater understanding.

I want to know what makes a man tick, fully cognizant of the fact that there is no such thing as lumping all men into a category anymore than we could do so for women. We each bring our nature and temperament, our personal angels and demons, as well as our upbringing and experiences to the evolutionary journey that is who we are, and who we are becoming. As individuals. As men and women.

If I spend time thinking and writing about men and women, it is because it concerns me, it fascinates me, it feels essential to everything that blossoms in life – or, that contorts into painful aberrations. It concerns me as a mother raising sons. And don’t we all benefit from lively discussion?

I long for integration, for more men to join the conversation, every conversation that would assist in bridging our gaps in communication.

I would happily listen. I believe that many women would happily listen. Attentively. How else can we begin to repair the disconnects of the past generation?

Men and Women

If you are a woman –

  • Do your husbands, boyfriends, brothers, fathers, adult sons let you in on what they’re thinking and feeling?
  • What would you like to know about the men in your life?
  • What do you need for them to explain, so mutual understanding seems less foreign?

If you are a man –

  • Do you let the women in your life know what’s going on with you?
  • Is communicating your intentions, your needs, your desires – verbally or in other ways – a struggle, or is that a stereotype?
  • What do you need from a woman who loves you?

How do we find better ways to reach each other – before encounters are scrambled in early misconceptions, before marriages hit their boiling points and spill over into divorce court, before relationships of all sorts flounder due to what is said in anger, or what isn’t said at all?

 

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Comments

  1. Oh BLW, this post just hit me in the heart and the gut, and I just want to spill spill spill. Only recently did I find out, after lengthy and often roundabout discussions, that I actually didn’t (and still don’t) know what my partner’s been thinking. All this time I thought we were one way and then I finally come to realize that I’ve been the only one thinking that. It has turned my world upside down for a bit since everything that I’ve been so sure about before has become uncertain.

    I apologize for being cryptic but the details are long and I’m not ready for full disclosure, but I wanted to say how my partner’s inability to communicate his exact thoughts and feelings have impacted us negatively. We’re trying to find ways to repair the damage; I just hope to “live to tell the tale” of a survivor. For now, we’re at a loss…

  2. BigLittleWolf says:

    Justine, my heart goes out to you, for whatever it is you are going through. Men and women perceive things differently, process verbal and non-verbal communications differently. I can’t tell you how many times I thought I was reading a situation accurately, only to find that not so. Perhaps this is why I write of these things frequently, from different angles. We are all, too often, at a loss. But I think we can learn. By listening, trusting, confiding. And knowing how flexible we can be. Little that matters is without work. And more work.

  3. It seems as if, to some extent, both sexes are increasingly uncertain of their roles in society or in their families. I know men that have the “traditional” role and yet they not only work outside the house but pick up a large amount of the work with the kids while their wives have social lives. I see lots of men falling into some “role” as defined by women which doesn’t make a lot of sense to me as we, as women, dislike our roles being determined by men?
    I hope that things are easier for the next generation as roles are loosened and men are free to be caring and yet strong and women are free to admit that they don’t have to be men or do everything themselves. The vague lines that the Middle Aged Americans now face allow for freedom but also require a great deal of communication and strength – of which I am not sure that we are demonstrating. It is all confusing.
    I have heard American men call themselves emasculated – and the reality that this is an opinion that I have heard from Americans and foreign men about Americans alike is somewhat disturbing. I am not sure what it means though for the future.

  4. Gender roles and the changing topography of how we act as men and women is a huge conversation. But I’m not going there today.

    I am perhaps an outlier here. My husband has always been clearer with his emotions then I am with mine. It was he who told me that to feel something made it real. And that was a freeing thing. Instead of having to explain and prove an emotion, just to let it be what it is – wow. I still have problems naming my strongest feelings, whatever they may be. But, I know he accepts them. And that is worth a lot.

    That is not to say we are perfect communicators. What we perceive as clear is often murky to the other. We argue. We talk past each other. We fight.

    I think it is impossible to truly understand the other, any other. Listening and accepting the others truth without trying to solve it or correct is seems to be the starting place.

  5. While most men have no problem stating their needs, they’re less likely to express their deepest emotions. I’ve found that many of them have to develop a deep layer of trust. Now, this is not to say that I don’t know men who are considered “emotional”, and the majority of them feel it is a curse rather than a blessing. I think it stems from cultural expectations… rubbish I say, but we know we all are affected by what society deems to be the “norm”.

    • BigLittleWolf says:

      Except for the “rubbish” part, Suzi, it seems like you and Zammo share the perspective that men are less likely to express their deepest emotions. Perhaps less by capacity or desire than by cultural expectation. To some extent, it seems like a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” situation for our men. Perhaps the same is true for women, only on different dimensions.

  6. Before I offer some answers and perspectives from the masculine point of view, I fully expect – actually, I demand – that my words be respected and not rejected out of hand simply because a man was behind the keyboard. While women complain that men don’t listen, the opposite is more than true. Not only do women not listen to men, the ideas expressed by men are too often simply dismissed outright without any consideration at all. Correcting this situation is the first step in any cultural healing. If anyone wants to truly understand men and masculinity, the words of men must be heeded and respected, no matter how angry those words might be.

    As for some background, consider the two generations of severe and deep cultural damage done to the relationships between the sexes. Never mind the politics, let’s focus on the day to day attitudes that float around. Ever heard a group of married women complain about their husbands? It’s frightening to behold. Never in my life have I heard a group of husbands say awful things about their wives. The rift ‘twixt the genders is horrible.

    While you ask that we consider men as individuals, I submit that men and masculine behaviors have enough commonality that the “special snowflake” model of social analysis is false logic based on the lies of political correctness. The typical guy reacts in predictable ways based on consistent input. Just like the typical woman reacts in predictable ways based on consistent input.

    Onto your questions:

    Do you let the women in your life know what’s going on with you?

    Short answer, not anymore. There was a time in my life when I was quite willing to express my emotional state with my intimate partner. What I have learned in the past few years is that such emotional expressiveness is a feminine characteristic. As I enjoy the company of women in the context of an intimate relationship, acting like a woman is actually off-putting to women in that particular context.

    Now comes the tricky part of dealing with the biological imperative versus the social expectation. “But I like a man who is emotionally available” is the standard female response. I call bullshit. That is a social expectation. The biological imperative is that a woman is attracted far more deeply to a man who is not emotionally expressive as much as a woman might be.

    Femininity is attracted to masculinity. This is the biological imperative and no amount of contemporary social indoctrination will change that. The guys in the seduction community know this.

    Is communicating your intentions, your needs, your desires – verbally or in other ways – a struggle, or is that a stereotype?

    For me, it’s not. But in the context of a contemporary committed relationship, it’s far too often that the man’s intentions, needs, and desires are expected to be subservient to a woman’s intentions, needs, and desires. Not equal, subservient. “If mama ain’t happy, no one’s happy”. What complete and utter crap. So communicating those things becomes a complete waste of energy. The enormous irony here is that when a man is subservient to his female partner – “Yes, dear” – the woman often loses respect for her man. I read so many online dating profiles where divorced women bemoan “where are all the real men?”. They married real men only to change them into sad doormats.

    This comes back to the biological imperative once again. A man is supposed to take the lead, be strong, do the heavy lifting in life with decisiveness and confidence. As for the stereotype that men have a hard time expressing emotions? True. We’re simply not wired for it and so women shouldn’t demand it, despite the current social expectation. I’ll say it again, emotional expressiveness is a feminine characteristic.

    What do you need from a woman who loves you?

    Respect – For my words, my actions, my needs, my desires, my privacy, my enthusiasms. In return, I will offer the same level of respect. Once a woman fails to respect those things, I’m done.

    Passion – Men adore passion. Wait, let’s put this in masculine words, men adore sex. I believe strongly that if a committed relationship loses all passion (sex), then the man is stuck with an expensive and emotionally needy roommate and needs to get out of that relationship as quickly as possible.

    Affection – This means physical affection. Let me hold your hand. Let me caress you, even if you’re doing something else. Physical affection trumps all other activities in the context of a committed relationship.

    Physical and Emotional Availability – A relationship lifestyle where there is no time for respect, passion, and affection is not a relationship at all.

    __________________________________________

    Here’s the deal, I don’t want rebuttal on what I have written. Rebuttal simply means that my words and ideas were not considered seriously. If the female readership disagrees, then the cultural damage is simply too deep for any kind of healing. Does that sound arrogant? I really don’t care because I am confident in what I have said here.

    • BigLittleWolf says:

      Thank you for taking the time to craft such a thorough response, Zammo. Much food for thought here. I’m glad you raised the issue of physical affection. It is not discussed a great deal in my reading corner of the universe. Sex, yes. Affection, no. And I believe it’s hugely important. It’s the mortar, and we may not fully focus on its presence, but its absence is felt loud and clear.

  7. Only once in a while can I get my husband to really open up and admit his feelings, but even without the verbal communication, I still know most of the time. There are practical instances where I require expectations to be set – mostly for my sanity. When those expectations are not met, it is always disappointing.

  8. …To some extent, it seems like a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” situation for our men. Perhaps the same is true for women, only on different dimensions…

    If men did a better job of ignoring the wildly unrealistic social expectations and once again found their strength in masculinity (and not feeling guilty about it!), it would be a great start.

    The same can be said for women, too… finding their strength in femininity, of course.

  9. “We may wed, we may bed, yet my impression is that many of us are all flailing in our attempts to find something – a safe place in each other. Or a recognizable one.” This, and the sentences following it in the same section of this post, captured what I’ve been feeling for months. I can’t speak to the 30-year history of relationships you refer to since my experience is shorter than that, but I know D and I are both having trouble finding sanctuary in the other person. We’ve pulled in reinforcements to help us, but it’s a tough road out.

  10. Aren’t we all just people? Sure we are either a man or a woman but as individuals we communicate in our own way, we listen in our own way and we have our own expectations of what we need when in a relationship with a member of the opposite sex.

    I don’t like conversations about what men want or women want. I know what I want and from experience I’ve learned that most women want something entirely different from what I want from a partner. One of the things I want is a man who doesn’t expect certain behaviors from me just because that is “the way women are.”

    I learned in my marriage to a man that not all men adore sex or any of the other manly things I had been taught men want or need. It is dangerous when we pigeonhole an individual into a certain role based on what sex they are.

    How do we repair the disconnects? We love someone for who they are, not for what we expect them to be or based on what gender they are.

    • BigLittleWolf says:

      As a mother of sons, I will say that I wish I had a few more bits of wisdom to call upon. Particularly when boys pass to that “dark side of the moon” where, as women, we really don’t know what they are feeling and thinking unless they tell us – or a man suggests certain things that may be going on. Of course, these are our children. We know them in significant ways. But in giving them the distance, independence, and separation that seems appropriate, it also means we are operating somewhat blindly.

      Maybe this is true of any teenager moving into key areas of independence, regardless of gender. But when your kids are a different sex, naturally, it’s somewhat foreign territory.

      As for the men / women thing – when it comes to loving a partner, I couldn’t agree with you more, Cathy. We take the person – the whole person, as he or she meshes with us, and with our lives, as we mesh with them and their lives. But before we ever get to that point is the bumpy process of getting beyond social convention and layers of self-protection. Even after so many years of meeting and dating and loving, when it comes to American men, I find I’m still searching for some sort of blueprint. French men? Another matter. And if I’m kidding myself on that one, I’ll happily remain in the dark. ;)

  11. This is very rich. I once sat in a circle of men which surrounded a circle of women. The women talked, one at a time, about their problems with men. Everyone just listened. Then we traded places, the women surrounded the men, and the men spoke about their problems, and the women just listened. It was the most healing hour I ever spent with women. It was twenty-five years ago and I still remember it, and it still makes me tender. I wish we all did that every day.

    • BigLittleWolf says:

      Your circle exchange sounds like an incredible time, Wolf. It seems like a facilitated session of genuine listening would be something many of us could benefit from experiencing. I know I would.

  12. “The women talked, one at a time, about their problems with men. Everyone just listened. Then we traded places, the women surrounded the men, and the men spoke about their problems, and the women just listened.”

    But was it an exercise in simply venting or were actions taken as the result?

  13. My husband and I cross the stereotypical gender characteristics all the time. Which makes it all the more confusing. I just wish we were on the same page more often than not. :(

    • BigLittleWolf says:

      But do you know what the page is, Jane? Maybe that’s what I’m trying to chip away at here. How we get to the same page, as you say.

      I think each couple (married or not) figures out what works for them. But contemporary American life is so hectic, demanding, fast-paced, expensive, stressful – especially with kids in this economy, with families dispersed across the country, with some of us “older parents” and even with the issue of dealing with our own aging elders. Throw in a little blended family chaos and how do any of us manage it all, and still cherish each other? Still talk to each other about what matters, and not just what has to get done by the morning or the house of cards will tumble?

  14. BigLittleWolf says:

    Zammo –
    If you’re willing, I’d be interested for you to respond to a few things. (And Wolf, you, too, since you joined in this conversation.)

    Zammo, you mention what you call the biological imperative, and you say “A man is supposed to take the lead, be strong, do the heavy lifting in life with decisiveness and confidence.”

    What of the woman who finds herself without a partner? Because it simply never happened, or her spouse travels, or she is widowed? We no longer live in the sort of “village” in which we care for each other. And virtual communities – as helpful as they are – aren’t there – with you – to help.

    Doesn’t a woman then need to develop the skills and tools to survive however she can? We saw in Wolf’s essay on being raised by a strong widowed mother that this can be problematic. But where is the answer? Women having to fend for themselves is surely part of why additional opportunities were sought with such a vengeance (probably the right word) – back in the 70s.

    Ironically, for some segments of the population, it is my belief that we (women) are no better off. Certainly not as we begin to age.

    You also spoke of passion. Of sex. Generally, I would agree with you (and we’re speaking in generalities). But many women find passion to be a driver in relationship as well. Men are still praised for their ability to score. Women are scorned, if they admit to needing passion in their lives.

    And I find this exchange informative, personally. I don’t know how else to learn or understand, except by discussing.

  15. Doesn’t a woman then need to develop the skills and tools to survive however she can? We saw in Wolf’s essay on being raised by a strong widowed mother that this can be problematic. But where is the answer? Women having to fend for themselves is surely part of why additional opportunities were sought with such a vengeance (probably the right word) – back in the 70s.”

    For this, there is no easy answer. Yes, women must have survival skills in order to fend for themselves. At the same time, women must retain a sense of femininity in order to attract a new partner. Survival skills are a masculine trait and the ugly dilemma is that women must have both masculine skills and feminine appeal to make it in this world. They must also know when to put the masculine skills behind them in the appropriate context… think dating and relationships.

    Men have it easier in this regard. I’m not going to go through the social history analysis of the past because that leads to the blame game, hardly a productive exercise. Men need to be, well, just men.

    More to come

  16. I have always wondered why it was so hard for them to express their feelings. How does that happen to boys? Nice post. Very well thought out. Hope you get some answers!

  17. “I have always wondered why it was so hard for them to express their feelings. How does that happen to boys?”

    I strongly suspect that biology has a great deal to do with it. We are not born as blank slates, after all. We’ve focused so long on nurture that we’ve completed forgotten nature.

    Common gender behaviors are not all social constructs. Before modern society (pre-agricultural), human beings had several hundred thousand years to continue the evolutionary process before we put down our spears.

  18. This quote, not verbatim nor attributed unfortunately, struck me as close to home. “Men are only happy when they are eating or ‘procreating'; if their dick isn’t hard, hand them a sandwich.” Too simple?

  19. I find that the ability to communicate and the type of communication I share varies with every woman I know. I could sit next to a woman I just met at a bar and open right up to her about my wants, needs and desires (usually about another woman on my mind) but when a woman gets closer to me, I tend to withdraw back into myself. I fear I am becoming more like a typical man in that respect. It may have something to do with the recent heartbreaks in my life. The more holes punched into your heart, the more it bleeds and the less you are able to share with others. I guess that goes for either of the sexes.

  20. Although my husband and I are great at communicating, sometimes I feel as if I have to chip away at the walls he has built around him (i.e. things that he has experienced as a child). He is immersed in a high pressured environment where he has to deal with life and death daily, but never feels the need to talk about it. It is a world I don’t understand and perhaps that is why he doesn’t feel the need to explain it. I get this, but sometimes silence works to one’s detriment.

  21. While some of the issues that Zammo raises correspond to my own situation (more on that below), I believe his essentializing rhetoric (masked as “biological imperatives”) are really the wrong way to think. These ideas about masculinity and femininity are social constructions that are not reinforced in the way people who think like this like to claim and are neither supported by looking at social organization historically or in other parts of the world. And in my own life I have seen so many of these divisions so common to coupledom not break down so cleanly along gender lines.

    A couple of points:
    What do you mean there’s been “something lost” between men and women over the last generation? That as people’s roles have changed they feel on increasingly uneasy ground? That might be true but is that a bad thing? Or do you mean that men and women in relationships understood each other better before? If that’s the claim, it’s one I’d look at very suspiciously.

    I think zammo’s points about respect, passion, affection, and physical and emotional availability are on the mark. But I don’t see how those are associated with masculinity. Aren’t they just some of what most people want out of a relationship? If the point is that people don’t think men want or need affection and he’s asserting that they do then I wholeheartedly agree.

    But to a couple of stereotypes that do seem to ring true (at least with my life). I agree that women certainly seem to complain about their partners way more than they other way around. And I think that extends to within the relationship itself. It surprises my brother, some of my friends, and me the extent to which there’s are double-standards in play about what it’s ok to get upset about. My wife will get mad at me for something that seems awfully minor to me. (We’re not fighters, which isn’t always a good thing, so maybe she just wants make a claim). When I think about my comparable reaction, I realize that I would never have opened my mouth about such a minor issue – that some of these complaints just arise from living with another person and trying to raise kids. I’m not saying that she doesn’t let a lot slide, I’m sure she does. It’s just that there are completely different standards for what’s ok to get mad about. Again, this is just one example that moves along gender lines probably about 75% of the time in the circles I move.

    The only other issue I wanted to mention (don’t remember if it’s been raised) is the centrality of spontaneity in a relationship. Again, I don’t think this breaks down along gender lines (I don’t buy any of the crap about women “nesting” and men “hunting”) but I do think it’s absolutely central to the healthy functioning of many relationships. I notice this is consistently an issue that man and women who are unsatisfied in their relationships bring up.

    One final confession: I’ve been with the same women since I was 23 (17 years now) and we’d known each other for 8 years prior to that (and I’d loved her for most of that time). My point being I’ve only had about 6-7 relationships and only one in the last 17 years so what the heck do I know :-}

    Oh yeah and don’t forget – we don’t always know what makes us tick.

  22. I’ve learned more about men in my present relationship than any before. He’s changed my point of view or at the very least, given me one I’d never considered, on more than one occasion. Still, we are so different, men and women. Is there anything that we’ll fully understand about each other?

    • BigLittleWolf says:

      @T – I agree that men and women are different. I think we need to accept that (with pleasure), and still try to bridge the gaps in understanding which often lead to misunderstanding. I’m back to talking, listening, respect – pretty fundamental things – so even when we don’t quite “get it,” the “it” won’t drive a terrible wedge between us.

  23. BigLittleWolf says:

    @Larry – Lovely to have you here, and welcome. I hope you will come often and join in the discussion.

    A few points you made struck me. You say:
    I think zammo’s points about respect, passion, affection, and physical and emotional availability are on the mark. But I don’t see how those are associated with masculinity. Aren’t they just some of what most people want out of a relationship?

    I agree with you. And I believe that when men and women begin to talk and listen, we come to realize that the overlap of what we want is huge. I, too, want respect, passion, affection, physical and emotional availability. Yet some men are made to feel foolish if they offer that emotional availability. Is it generational? Individual? I’m not sure. Certainly if you’ve been hurt or betrayed – male or female – you are less likely to be trusting (i.e. emotionally available).

    I dare say I’m less emotionally available than I was before divorce. Or at least, I was – for many years – until I loved again, deeply, and had that love returned – in all the ways that mattered to me.

    You also say that you have heard women sitting around taking apart men. It appears that Zammo had this experience as well. I can honestly say that in all my life I have not. When I was married, conversations with married women centered around our children, or juggling work and kids. We never spoke ill of our husbands. Is that the exception? I have no idea. But I haven’t experienced what you’re talking about.

    Divorced women? Another matter entirely.

    You also refer to my comments about the need to repair damage that has been done. Perhaps because you have had the good fortune to be in a successful relationship for so long, you haven’t been subject to the strange tides of the contemporary dating world. Certainly for those 40+ and especially with the (damaging) effects of online dating, not only are men and women clearly confused about what is expected, but bad behavior is the norm in my experience. And from men and women both.

    We seem to have lost a quality of appreciation in each other. A sense of the pleasure – and need – to take time to grow a relationship. It is “commodity meet-and-greet” and equally, men and women seem to dispose of each other, often based on superficial characteristics – or who knows what.

    And the who-knows-what is because we never find out.

    Yes, I believe that with certain breakthroughs and opportunities for women which were essential, we are also bearing the consequences of mistrust, unhealthy competitiveness (in the bedroom, not the boardroom), and confusion.

    Maybe by talking – without yelling – and listening, without turning away – we’ll make some strides.

  24. I am far more expressive online than in person. If you read my blog you will find a much open discussion of what I think and feel than you generally would in person.

    Some of that is socialization. We are expected to be stoic and tough. We are taught that a weak man shows that softer side. So I attribute some of my reticence to talk to that and some to my requiring a deeper level of trust.

    If I don’t trust you than you won’t ever hear what goes on deep inside. You’ll get the basic happy, sad, angry or mad stuff but nothing more.

    And it has been my experience that even though women may say that they want to see that softer side, it is dangerous to expose it. They want the man to be a man or so it seems to me.

  25. Barb - the empty nest mom says:

    Having 2 sons and 2 daughters I observed marked differences in them (male v female) from early childhood and now in their 20’s: their need for verbal connection, the way my girls would shy into my lap when people visited but my boys would start showing off (think male peacock or male turkey struttin’ their feathers). There was a time we moved to a new state and one of my teenaged sons was having a difficult adjustment, started getting into some trouble, and all the talking I tried to do with him to encourage him to open up, did little compared to his father showing up one weekend and wrestling him on the living room floor (that and making him help build a wooden/wire mesh combination thing around some raspberry bushes I had in the yard). He needed a physical outlet – opening up emotionally? Not so much. What did I know? I had 2 sisters growing up and my 2 daughters came first in birth order so talking worked with them. I learned a lot about male/female differences that just seem inherent from raising both sexes. Undeniable.

    • BigLittleWolf says:

      You have the ideal “proving ground” to see the differences, Barb – with two children of each gender. The male peacock (I’m smiling). Yes. And the need for physical outlets. (Yes again.)

      I think back to my (clueless) days of believing gender issues were more about social expectations and nurture, not nature. All it took was having children to change that misguided impression!

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