Why You’ll Have a Happier Marriage if You Understand Men

Senior couple with a happier marriage smiling at each other.

As a dating coach, I try to teach concepts that aren’t blatantly obvious.

Relationship advice for men tends to focus on building up attraction – how to make more money, how to have a better body, how to make the first move.

That’s what will GET you a woman’s attention; it’s not what will keep you in a happy relationship. More money and better bodies don’t equate to compatibility.

If I were a coach for men, I’d teach them what women want but often neglect when choosing their partners: the importance of listening, validating, checking in regularly, and making you feel safe, heard, and understood.

Alas, I’m a coach for women.

And if conventional self-help for women consists of telling you to lose weight, apply makeup for better selfies, master these 7 hot techniques in bed, and “love yourself,” I’m going to teach something else: the importance of making men feel accepted, appreciated and admired – as opposed to constantly criticized.

It’s the disconnect – and the belief that the opposite sex is “wrong” when they disagree with us – that causes a lot of friction.

Enter the latest validating article by Stephanie Coontz about how gay marriages are happier and healthier than straight marriages. No surprise. Women understand women better. Men understand men better. It’s the disconnect – and the belief that the opposite sex is “wrong” when they disagree with us – that causes a lot of friction.

Coontz focuses on gender roles at home as the source of disconnect but I think it neatly overlaps with what I wrote above. If a man comes home from work and expects his working wife to have dinner on the table AND to do the dishes afterward, he is certainly not making her feel “understood.” And if a man DOES cut the vegetables and does the dishes but only hears that he did both “wrong,” he’s not going to feel particularly “accepted.”

It’s about finding a balance and fairness that works for both members of a couple. If a wife is constantly swallowing her feelings about the emotional labor of running a house and the man is constantly being told that his best efforts to help out are never enough, you can see why a more egalitarian homosexual relationship may be a little easier.

The researchers John Gottman and Robert Levenson found that gays and lesbians who discussed a disagreement with their partner did so in less belligerent, domineering and fearful ways than different-sex individuals, possibly because they did not bring the same history of power inequalities to the table. Same-sex couples used more affection and humor while discussing their disagreements, became less agitated and calmed down more quickly afterward than different-sex couples.

Even in ordinary daily interactions, people in same-sex unions use more positive methods of influencing a partner, studies find, than individuals in different-sex partnerships, offering encouragement and praise rather than criticism, lectures or appeals to guilt.”

And it’s not just men who are at fault here. “Women, for instance, have long been socialized to believe that providing and receiving emotional support is a routine obligation in partnerships, something that, like putting food on the table, must be done every day. The University of Texas sociologist Debra Umberson says that women tend to be “all in” when it comes to anticipating, reading and responding to their partner’s emotional and physical needs.” That’s a lot of emotional work – especially for a man who doesn’t have the same emotional needs – which is to say, most of them.

Please read the original article, which is long, thoughtful, and well researched, and let me know: do you think it would be easier to date the same sex? Your thoughts, below, are greatly appreciated.

 

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Comments:

  1. 1
    Jeremy

    I have to say, I found Stephanie Coontz’s article here as annoying as I found her book, and as rife with her agenda.

    Pie charts and bar graphs galore, illustrating the inequity in time spent on housework and childcare between men and women….with no mention of, you know, inequities in other types of work. It is inequity for a man to spend 1 hour per day on housework and 10 in paid work, if his wife spends 5 hours on housework and 6 in paid? Would it be more equitable to have the man in that scenario shoulder half the house work (6 hours in total in this case), thereby leaving him with 10 hours of paid work and 3 of housework, while she works 6 paid and 3 house? What is equality? We build logical models that don’t remain logical if we step outside the model and into real life.

    Is it that men in heterosexual relationships should take a page out of the book of homosexual men and discuss their sexual preferences with their spouses frankly? Or is it that heterosexual men don’t do so because they know their female partners won’t react well to it? Is it not actually apples to apples?

    Is it that people in homosexual relationships exhibit less distress because they communicate better, or is it because there are fewer barriers to mutual understanding, rendering communication easier, yes, but more importantly – less necessary?

    It would, indeed be easier to date members of the same sex. (At least, easier for men. The article was somewhat interesting, stating that men married to women, and women married to women, showed similar levels of distress. It then contradicted itself and wrote that women in homosexual relationships did better. Anyhow, that aside.) But that doesn’t necessarily mean we can learn lessons from those relationships, because they aren’t necessarily apples to apples. A man won’t act like a woman, nor will a woman act like a man. Understanding each other is necessary, and you won’t learn that from couples who naturally understand each other because they are same-gender. That understanding wasn’t earned.

  2. 2
    jo

    Thanks for sharing this article, Evan. It touches on many topics we the commenters have discussed here recently, from equality or lack thereof in dividing up household work, the strain of adding children to the family, and monogamy vs. non-monogamy. So timely. Fundamentally, modern women are far less satisfied with traditional gender roles than our mothers and grandmothers were. That’s no surprise, although it’s nice to see it backed up with numbers.

    I wonder if you have any gay male readers – they would be most interested in the results of the studies cited. Probably that’s the group least likely to wander here online, though. 🙂

  3. 3
    Yet Another Guy

    @Evan

    Jeremy hit on an important topic when he mentioned same-sex couples. My girlfriend, who I adore, has a brother who has been in a same-sex relationship for over 30 years, most of which was spent in a committed relationship sans legal marriage. The world is different for men who prefer men. Men are raised with the expectation that no one is going to take care of them. Gay men take this reality to the next level by assuming that no one is going to clean up after them. When a man dates a man, he does not expect him to hold the door, pull out his seat, or pick up the tab. Homosexual men have more sex than heterosexual men, way more, which is why HIV spread like wildfire in the community. A straight man who has had 100 partners is an outlier. A homosexual man who has had 100 partners is no big deal (I was quite shocked to discover this reality). Gay men did not use sex as a weapon to get what they want out of a relationship. The entire dynamic is different. Comparing male gay couples to heterosexual couples is truly like comparing apples to oranges. The difference between gay and lesbian couples is also telling. Married lesbian couples are more than twice as likely to get divorced as gay couples. You do the math. Women are more difficult to please than men.

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