In 1992, John Gray published the now famous book “Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus.” This book clearly struck a nerve with many people and became an instant bestseller and classic to this day. I think the reason for that is because Gray identified and highlighted a reality many of us instantly recognise and relate with – the fact that men and women are vastly different from one another. And that poses a challenge for many couples.
Often when I coach married couples, we get to explore this topic which almost always leads to greater awareness and aha moments for the couple.
And it always surprises me just how little couples know about each other as men and women.
In fact, it is often this ignorance and lack of understanding of the fact that men and women differ from each other that sit behind many misunderstandings, conflict, poor communication, lack of connection, little intimacy, frustration, overwhelm, and dissatisfaction in love relationships.Gideon Hanekom
But the moment couples get a better understanding of what their spouses want as a man or a woman, in many cases, the lightbulbs go on and things change for the better almost instantly.
That is also the aim of this post.
My aim is to highlight a couple of things that are important to men or that men do (consciously or unconsciously and rightfully or wrongfully), that they don’t typically tell the women in their lives.
The goal is to create more awareness and hopefully more understanding for every woman reading this.
My aim is not to excuse or justify any poor behaviour your man might have, as I don’t know your man, but rather to speak in general terms and provide some general guidelines that could be helpful.
But, of course, there are always exceptions to the rule, and this is no different.
So, take it for what it is, learn something if you can (or don’t), and contact me if you have any specific questions.
Money and Jobs
Men are happiest when they are competent and in control of a situation.
Part of this means defining themselves by their job title and their paycheck.
Unfortunately, in some households, it’s the wife who is making more money every month than her husband.
And that number has doubled since 1981.
While this is good news for the women who are breaking the glass ceiling in corporate America, it isn’t for the men.
Your guy will TELL you that he’s happy about the extra money in your accounts or the extra stuff that you’ll be able to buy or enjoy with the extra money, but secretly he’s feeling deflated and competitive.
Some guys will admit to being competitive egomaniacs and others will hide their feelings and keep you in the dark about how badly you are making them feel.
And still, others will be just fine that you’re making more money and they can relax about your financial future.
And, while there are a variety of different opinions from men, it’s up to you to figure out which one your partner holds.
Many men believe that their financial stability is equal to their ability to provide for the family which in turns reflects on his worth as a man.Gideon Hanekom
When the finances in the family become unstable or he perceives that he isn’t providing as much as he should or could, he will probably feel like a failure both as a provider and as a man.
If he takes a cut in pay and he can’t pay all the bills he might try to hide that.
His fear is that you’ll look at him differently and not respect him as much.
And RESPECT is the name of the game for most men.
Men have a real need for respect, while women have a need for love.
Something I have talked about extensively before in my weekly emails.
When men are respected they are able to give all the love to women that she needs and when she is loved she can respect him.
It seems like a vicious cycle but when one of them breaks the cycle it can mean a healthy and strong relationship.
Men have usually been raised to believe that showing fear is a sign of weakness.
They don’t like crying in front of you and don’t want to appear weak.
In his eyes, you’ll respect him less.
But make no mistake, ALL men face emotions. He might just be pretty bad at communicating them with you.
Men often define themselves by the positions they hold in life, by the size of their paycheck and their ability to provide for their family.
They may have a more lax attitude about their income when they are single, but a commitment like marriage brings this fear front and centre.
Suddenly he’s on “display” for all to see, especially his family.
But you can help him communicate his feelings by letting him know that you didn’t marry a fictional character, that you love him and that you are a team when it comes to the financial stability of the family.
You can help him feel good about himself, so he continues to love the ground you walk on.
This leads to another idea that men don’t tell women …
He Needs to Be Strong in Your Eyes
Men are natural hunters.
They are responsible for going out into the world every day and slaying dragons.
They stand in front of the family and tell the world that to get to you, they must first go through him.
Unfortunately, Hollywood and the media have spent years emasculating men, making them the butt of jokes on every sitcom across most TV channels.
While we all know that sitcoms are not reality, they often use characteristics in people that are real and blow them up to be larger than life.
That’s what makes them so funny.
Your partner may feel insecure in his relationship with you and his own masculinity if his masculine traits don’t impress you.
We all understand that we’ve crawled out of the caves and we’re living in houses, but there are some genetically programmed, instinctual behaviours that men deal with every day, and this is just one of them.
Tied to his own self-worth is your respect for him and his perception of how you feel about his physical strength, ability to take care of the house and the lawn, and his ability to provide for his family.
If he feels that you aren’t impressed with his physical prowess he’ll probably not say a word, but you’ll notice it in subtle ways.
It’s a balance between needing you to support him and saying something but coming across as being weak.
From the time he was 10 he learned that asking for help, crying and expressing his emotions would probably make others think that he was weak.
Fortunately, the world IS changing and boys are encouraged to be more open about their emotions, however, some things remain instinctual.
And, like most people, men and women, he’s most likely carrying baggage and insecurities from his past.
So, with that in mind, it will go a long way in him feeling good around you when you make him feel strong in your eyes.
Strong also means competent.
Compliment him when he helps out at home, mows the lawns, or pops the lid off a jar in the kitchen.
It’s important to him that he is strong, capable, and needed in your eyes.
When he is appreciated and respected at home, it’s not likely he’ll be looking for that outside the house.
Here’s a quick fact about men – they need some time alone in order to recharge their brains.
It’s not that they don’t want to spend time with YOU, but they are not like women.
They need time away from everyone and everything in order to be able to deal with life.
You see that when you ask what he’s talking about and his answer is, “nothing.”
You can’t imagine that he’s really thinking about nothing, but the truth is, he’s thinking about nothing.
He can even be sitting and reading a book or be browsing the internet WITHOUT thinking about anything because he’s in his head busy sorting through things (decompressing most likely).
Men have the ability to compartmentalize their ideas, their life and their daily activities.
When they’re at work it’s hard to think about what’s going on at home.
It’s the same when they are thinking about work when they’re at home; it’s difficult for them to switch gears.
This is often very difficult for women to understand since they are not wired the same way.
It’s significantly easier for women to focus on more than one thing at a time.
She can make dinner while helping the kids with homework and worrying about her husband’s behaviour, all at the same time.
Because men can’t multitask as well, it’s also difficult for them to recharge.
They get overwhelmed or feel as if their plate is completely full when they are dealing with family, work, relationship issues, friends, home care, taking care of their parents, the future and so on.
What is challenging to women, is overwhelming for their men.Gideon Hanekom
And in order to deal with all of the stressors in life, it’s important that they have some time to themselves every day.
One of the biggest gifts you can give him is to greet him with a kiss and the remote control when he comes home, and tell him to relax for a few minutes or until dinner is ready.
As corny and perhaps even 1960’s as that may sound, men haven’t changed all that much just because times have.
Now, he won’t be actually WATCHING television or look at anything meaningful on his phone but he’ll be sitting there thinking about nothing.
He’ll be decompressing from a day of exhaustion and competing at work.
You might wish that he could come crashing through the door at 6, whip up dinner, do homework with the kids and get everyone off to bed while you sit and watch your favourite movie, read a book or go out with the girls . . . but unfortunately, men are just not born with the ability to accomplish this feat.
Yes, he could physically do the job, but he won’t be easy to live with and you won’t be happy.
Instead, it’s important to recognize his abilities and work with them instead of against them.
Give him the 15 minutes of alone time when he walks through the door and you’ll likely be rewarded with a man who’s willing to do the dishes and help with bedtime.
Now, what if you’re working too?
Why does he get to sit down and you don’t?
Great question AND valid point.
I’m definitely NOT suggesting he gets to have time off while you get to do two jobs.
You are BOTH responsible to keep your family fed, safe, and functioning.
However, understand that a man who’s given a few minutes to decompress after a day of overwhelm will be a much greater ally and teammate than when not.
Please take care of yourself
In a society where the problems with being overweight and obesity are growing each year, it would seem a little odd that the one thing men don’t tell their women is that they wish she would take care of herself.
Now, if there’s one topic that can land a man in hot water quicker than anything, it’s this one.
But, unfortunately, the idea that men want you to take care of yourself is also backed about by some research.
For example, in her research, Shaunti Feldhahn found this need to be the number one thing many men want in their relationships, with more sex and respect being close seconds.
And I know this sounds as bad as it reads.
I’m cringing just writing it…
The issue is though, this is what many (if not most) men deem important in their love relationships; your man included. He might just not be telling you that because he cares about your feelings.
So while it might be how they feel, it isn’t what they say, until the problem builds and they blurt out something that comes across as being mean and insensitive.
Now, I also understand that in many households nowadays women do more in one 24 hour period than most men, always putting themselves and their needs last.
I have to acknowledge that.
According to the analysis conducted by University College London and published in the journal Work, Employment and Society, “gender norms remain strong” when it comes to household chores.
The researchers assessed data from more than 8,500 heterosexual couples who were interviewed for the UK Household Longitudinal Study between 2010 and 2011.
They discovered that women do approximately 16 hours of household chores every week, while men do closer to six.
Furthermore, women did the bulk of the domestic duties in 93% of the couples analysed for the study.
So, I get that, but…
That still doesn’t change most men’s need for their wives to also take care of themselves.
In fact, if given a choice, I would argue that most men would rather choose their wives to take care of themselves on a personal level than take care of chores.
He wishes you would take care to get some exercise, eat well, get your hair cut and take a day off from the kids, but he doesn’t always understand that he needs to offer support to get the things done that you would be doing when you’re getting your hair cut and you’re at the gym.
This is where you can take the bull by the horns and address the issue yourself.
Taking care of yourself is not only important to his level of attraction, but also to your health, wellness and self-esteem.
Research demonstrates that we feel better about ourselves when we exercise and keep our weight within normal limits.
As one example, a study done by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health found that running for 15 minutes a day or walking for an hour reduces the risk of major depression by 26%.
In addition to relieving depression symptoms research also shows that maintaining an exercise schedule can prevent you from relapsing.
So you aren’t just taking care of your marriage or relationship, but also of yourself and your future.
Talk to your partner about your desire to stay in shape, or get into shape and how you’ll need his active support to get that done.
Put together a schedule of when you can get to the gym or go to yoga class, and ask when he can pick up the kids.
Learn to cook healthier meals, and ask him to be supportive by eating them also so you aren’t cooking two separate meals each day.
If you’d like to use a specific program to get the job done, then talk with him about the cost and how you can work that into your house budget.
When you address the issue before he makes it a deal-breaker you’ll be communicating to him that you recognize his needs and that they are important to you.
Lastly, before I get any angry comments saying that this is much easier said than done, let me just say this…
Everything I’ve just suggested, my wife and I went through.
Yes, it took us a few years of her battling depression and me stepping up and taking care of my own health and losing 30kg (60+lbs) in the process, but we got there in the end.
We are BOTH healthier and happier now (she in her late 30s and me in my 40s) than we were in our 20s.
They are wired to look
Whether women like it or not, men are wired to look at every passing female.
Guys are going to look at women and if they have short skirts and low cut tops, it’s even more likely that they’ll see it.
Now, guys know that this behaviour isn’t necessarily one their partners or wives are happiest about, but there’s not much one can do about nature, unfortunately.
In fact, my wife and I just have a standing rule that I’d point out a good looking woman and we get to both appreciate her beauty.
Granted she does the same on the odd occasion she spots a good looking man.
However, a difference is that men have a specific type of radar they can’t turn off.
They may step over the garbage on the floor in the family room and then claim that they never saw it but will spot a beautiful woman from 50 metres without turning their heads.
While women would like to believe that their guy didn’t see the garbage on the floor, it’s more difficult to believe when the guy can spot cleavage without lifting his eyes.
The difficult part of this scenario for women is that even if they think their boyfriend or husband is NOT looking, you can be assured that they are.
It’s just that they’ve learned how to use their peripheral vision much better than other guys.
Men are, at their core, hunters.
Interestingly enough, before marriage, many women learn to use that skill in order to entice the guy to hunt them.
They present themselves as prey in order to interest the guy and get his interest.
I know this was true in my wife’s case. She was hard to miss.
But there’s sometimes this idea that once married or in a committed relationship, this instinctual behaviour would disappear.
But instinctual behaviour can’t be turned on and off like a faucet.
Married men look.
They might not fool around with other women (I hope not), but they are looking.
Make no mistake.
Your man does too.
Men truly don’t see the piece of paper on the floor and don’t understand why shoes at the front door are a real problem.
And although they don’t see the paper or the shoes, they do notice the woman walking down the street outside the restaurant you’re sitting at or at the beach sunbathing.
It’s important to understand though that looking doesn’t mean that your partner or husband is interested in hooking up with the woman that just walked past.
Most of the time their eyes and heads move before their brains even register what they’re doing.
They can learn to notice without staring and lusting, but men will never learn to just not notice.
However, there is a distinct difference between a quick glance and ogling and flirting. I’m not talking about the latter here.
You have to call him out on the flirting or overt ogling, but let him go on the quick glance.
Even better yet, become the person he loves flirting with and look at.
So many women make the mistake that when their man wants to look at her naked or flirt with her, she becomes self-conscious or body-conscious which is truly off-putting to any man. Especially since confidence and self-love in a woman are quite sexy.Gideon Hanekom
If your man thinks you’re sexy and tells you, it’s most like true for him.
So let him look and tell you.
But if you’re self-conscious or don’t think so, convincing him you’re not and getting him to stop will only get you that result.
He WILL stop making you uncomfortable and sadly so.
He just won’t stop looking elsewhere.
Men live in a box
During the day most women think about different complex issues, either at work, with the kids, with friends or with their relationship.
But during the day many men are focused on work, productivity, creativity, logistics and leadership.
When they get home they want nothing more than to sit down in front of the television or on their phone and calm their brains and emotions.
Unfortunately, when their men come home, women often want to connect by talking about what happened during the day.
If your man is particularly understanding he will sit and listen, interjecting a little, “That makes perfect sense,” or “Sure, I understand.”
The truth is though, that many guys I’ve worked with within marriage coaching don’t usually understand.
They don’t have a clue about what you mean because they are still in their work “box” or compartment.
And, even if they are ready to listen, they don’t dissect a situation as detailed as women do.
Somewhere after the “This is what happened,” and “So what do you think?” they’ve spaced out and they’re off into their nothing space.
If you’ve missed the part about men thinking about nothing, go back and read it.
Every man can compartmentalize their life, some better than others.
But no matter how well they can or can’t compartmentalize home, work, family, issues and recreation, they all have a space in which they can go where they think about absolutely nothing.
Most women don’t believe their guys when they ask, “What are you thinking about?” and the answer is, “nothing.”
They really are thinking about nothing but because most women can’t think about “nothing,” it’s difficult to understand or believe.
Many women will think that their guy is lying and just don’t want to tell them what they’re thinking about.
And, in some cases that could be the reason.
Sometimes the problems caused by sharing their feelings is too traumatic and not worth sharing it with their women.
But most of the time men really are thinking about absolutely nothing.
They need that time alone to recharge their batteries and get ready for another day.
You can help him by understanding that need for space and the different compartments he has.
Now, if he’s a good guy, he most likely doesn’t want to appear unsupportive so he’ll often stay quiet while you unload at the end of the day.
But that can backfire for you when he can’t respond the way you might want or he completely spaces out during the conversation.
When that happens, just appreciate the fact that it’s all him and not you.
Lower your expectations during those times when he psychologically cannot offer you what you need – or choose a different time to unload on him.
Just don’t use this inability on his part to come between you.
It isn’t that he doesn’t love you or care deeply.
In fact, he probably cares more than you can imagine.
Give him the gift of space at the end of the day and understanding that when he says that he’s thinking about nothing, he’s actually telling you the truth.
Also understand that by giving him a few minutes to decompress, he will be able to show up for you much better.
The last thing men don’t typically tell women about which I’d like to address is the issue of “lying.”
Or at least what can be perceived as lying.
There are two perspectives about lying in our society.
Well, actually there are three.
The first perspective is that all lying is bad.
These are the people who walk the walk and talk the talk.
They don’t lie and they don’t tolerate it in anyone else.
It is unthinkable to these people that someone wouldn’t tell the truth.
Since they don’t lie, they don’t expect others to either.
The second type of person is just like the first, except for one big difference.
They don’t like it when others lie to them and they give lots of lip service to never lying themselves.
However, if it is in their best interest to tell a “little white lie” or withhold the whole truth, they will consider that option.
If a “lie” saves them from an uncomfortable situation or from hurting someone else, they’ll tell the lie and live with it.
Then there are the people who lie because it’s convenient, because it gets them exactly what they want and because it’s easier to lie than it is to tell the truth.
These tend to be accomplished liars who don’t think twice about telling you something that isn’t true if it will get you into bed, get you on a date with him or do whatever it takes to get that promotion he’s been after.
Most married men fall in to the second category.
They don’t really enjoy lying and often will tell you that they don’t lie.
However, many do in order to get around arguments and conflict or not spark another one in the current conversation.
When he knows something will set you off and get you angry he may avoid the conversation (avoid the truth) or may tell you an outright lie about it.
In his head, he’ll call it “not telling you everything” because he wants to protect you from the truth or himself from the argument.
Now, this makes sense if you understand that,
- conflict tends to create an overwhelming stress reaction in most men which differs from most women, and
- since saving face is hugely important to him but conflict typically creates feelings of shame in him (the opposite of feeling strong and competent in your eyes).
But, when women find out that their man has been lying, they often lose it and then wonder what else he’s been lying about.
He’ll say he wasn’t looking at that woman who just passed wearing the low cut blouse but you saw his eyes following her across the room.
Actually, you saw his eyes following THEM across the room.
And then he said he didn’t.
Does that mean he’s been lying about anything else?
And if you can’t trust him in the small things, how do you trust him in the big things?
Is he having an affair?
Does he really care about you or is he lying about that too?
Do you see how quickly this can escalate in a woman’s mind?
But the more likely answer is that he’s lying because he doesn’t want an argument about looking at other women.
In his mind, it’s just easier to lie and try and keep the peace than deal with a possible eruption which will typically make him feel emasculated and overwhelmed.
So, what do you do if you want him to open up to you more?
The answer is to give him the option of telling the truth without getting angry and starting an argument.
Getting angry might be your first reaction, but it won’t change the situation or resolve anything.
Instead, it will cause him to withdraw further and keep lying (i.e. avoid arguments).
If you want an open and honest relationship then it’s time that you are honest, but also allow him to be honest without you getting angry.