This first person article by Jill Carlin Schrager (coincidentally, the sister of a close childhood friend) found its way into my inbox and was an honest, heart-wrenching read. It was written by a mother of four boys, aged 10-23, who, for the life of her, doesn’t understand them and their mysterious ways.
“I thought I was a good mom, a great one in fact. I fulfilled their needs oftentimes before they even knew they needed it. I taught them that love is a two-way street and that telling someone that you care about them is not the same thing as showing someone that you care about them. They just do not always behave that way. I know in my head it is not a failure, but my heart cannot understand or accept this misfire. It yearns for it. It gets broken every time it fails. I say words to these men and the words fall on deaf ears. Yes, I see the special place AND the reason we are provided that privilege.
The bigger question, however, is whether it is my job to change them? Am I supposed to fight for the women who are to come into their lives by explaining that this type of behavior is not appropriate, that women may have different needs than men and that they should begin their education about this with me, their mother? Or do I set them free, to make their own mistakes, get some broken hearts along the way because they fail to see or understand how to treat a woman?”
It’s not sexist to point out that – in general – women tend to be more sensitive and supportive and men tend to be more blunt and combative.
I feel for her. What she’s pointing out is what people have been pointing out – and fighting against – since I started doing this in 2003.
Men and women are different.
I don’t know why it’s so harmful to acknowledge this, but it sure trips people’s wires when you call attention to what anyone with two eyes can see. It’s not sexist to point out that – in general – women tend to be more sensitive and supportive and men tend to be more blunt and combative. Call it testosterone or biology or social conditioning, but it doesn’t change the fact that many women are perpetually baffled that men actually think and act differently than they do. An example from the author:
“I get a phone call from my oldest son. He is telling me about an argument he had with his girlfriend. She was getting dressed. As is usual for many women, no matter their size, she “felt fat” in everything she tried on. My son, not the most patient man, groaned and said “Are we going to have to go through this every time we go out?”
I reflected and said to him calmly, “Don’t you think a better approach might be to tell her she looked great in all the outfits, but that you liked the (fill in the blank) best. And when she puts it on, give her a kiss and tell her how beautiful she looks.”
Schrager, and other women who expect men to act like women, aren’t wrong for wanting men to be more sensitive; it’s more like setting unrealistic expectations.
Schrager is absolutely right that this would be an objectively superior way to handle things. It’s more tactful, sensitive, and effective than her son’s normal mode of communication. It’s also not how most men talk.
Thus, Schrager, and other women who expect men to act like women, aren’t wrong for wanting men to be more sensitive; it’s more like setting unrealistic expectations. Hell, I give dating and relationship advice to women, have coached women every week since 2003, and am happily married – and I STILL take the “direct” route (what I’m actually thinking) over the tactful route (what she wants to hear) over 50% of the time.
Would love to hear your thoughts about whether it’s fair and realistic to expect men to act more like women…and be perpetually disappointed when we don’t.