Men and women are really very different and that is a glorious thing indeed, but it can also be very frustrating, especially of we expect one another to act, think, and perceive in the same way. It really irritates me that the world is trying so hard to declare that there are no innate differences between men and women, that gender is simply a state of mind.
It irritates me because I grew up being told this and the culture around me enforced it…. and then I encountered actual men. The juxtaposition between “gender is just a social construct” versus observable reality will make you crazy. It’s a form of Gaslighting. Psychological abuse. Here is what people are saying, but here is what I am perceiving. So my perceptions must be wrong? So I can’t even trust my own eyes? So I must be doing something wrong here? Am I married to a defective unit?
In the context of marriage, this caused me endless grief. How does he not know? A lamentation from many wives. What is going on in his head? What is the thought process behind this? He must be a defective unit because all normal people would know these things! Where are his reasoning skills hiding? Women will rationalize, spin, and try to understand what is going on within men way past the point of all common sense, but if we have been told that men and women are the same, we’re dealing with faulty data, with a flawed foundational principle from which our logic now tries to flow.
All in good humor here, but my husband is a really lousy woman. What does that even mean? Well, he is just not sensitive, emotional, intuitive, multi tasking, and empathetic. He does possess some aspects of those skills but they simply do not manifest themselves in a feminine way. So the answer to the question, “how does he not know” is a simple one, he is a man, he perceives the world differently, his priorities are different, his focus is different. Not wrong, just different. “He does not know” because he has a different set of eyes.
To not understand, recognize, and honor this can cause endless and unnecessary grief. There’s just something wrong with the man! He is a defective unit? Perhaps he doesn’t love me? I must change him! Maybe if I just pour enough words over him, he’ll see the light? Or maybe there is just someone better out there…
Or you could just become a feminist, bound and determined to dismantle the whole patriarchy, and rewire the very biological nature of men themselves, until we have completely eviscerated and eliminated the whole problem. I like it, I am all about world domination, but I think logic suggests that we should first ask the question, do men have any innate worth and value just the way they are? Did God make a mistake here? Is the equation itself wrong or are our perceptions of the equation wrong?
So, should he “know?” Isn’t it his responsibility to know? To “know” what? A bit humorous here, but to know everything we need men to know in any given circumstance, even when we ourselves do not quite know what that even is. That leads to the idea of having unrealistic expectations and why I often quip about how men must be Batman…or perhaps a pirate. Pirates are pretty amazing, too. Just read my mind and I’ll be happy.
The thing is, our expectations often exist in the realm of fantasy.That is not necessarily a bad thing. Women have the eyes to see potential, to call men to their higher selves, to show them what they are truly capable of, to bring out their worth and value. However, we will never get there if our expectations of men revolve around expecting them to perceive the world as women do. Men can be gloriously awesome men or they can be deeply flawed and defective women.
So Matt is a wonderful blogger, a divorced dad over at Must Be This Tall to Ride, who quite bravely has been trying to tackle explaining why he left his crying wife alone in the hospital right after she gave birth. The poor guy, that is huge trigger for women, all of us who have proceeded to cut him no slack, as in you are simply without excuse, dude. Matt as a dude, has rather graciously tried to explain his reasoning, what he was thinking, but most of us have simply had a visceral reaction, like claw the guys eyes out. I love visceral reactions, what emotions have to teach us.
What Matt’s post has taught me, reinforced for me, is just how innately different men and women are. I really have to disengage from my fleshly response, compartmentalize my brain, and try to think like a guy in order to empathize here. That’s not so easy, the biological, fleshly aspects of gender can be powerful and setting them aside even for a few moments can be challenging. Everything female within me screams abandonment, failure to protect, betrayal, you louse, but absent those triggers I can see how his decision really had nothing to do with her at all. From his perspective he was looking at long-term cause and effect, getting a good night’s sleep so he would be refreshed, notifying the family of the birth that had just taken place, all very responsible things, tactical choices that completely ignored the theoretical implications of leaving your crying wife at the hospital. It’s a very typical male response to problem solving, one having no malicious intent behind it.
While it completely disregards the wife’s feelings, that is not necessarily about having a desire to hurt her, but rather embracing the more masculine trait of “doing” rather than just being.
Matt poses a very wise question here, “How much better might our relationships be if, when something happens and we’re missing too much information to KNOW why it happened, we tell ourselves the most generous, best-possible story to explain it rather than the most cynical, or worst-possible explanation?”
Amen! My jaded and cynical eyes have really had to suspend disbelief, to let go of what I think I know, and to assume my husband has noble intentions and a desire to always do what’s best for us. That ain’t so easy, that makes you vulnerable, it is risky, and it can open you up to disapointment. It’s interesting to me what we people seem to fear the most in love, is getting it wrong, trusting and being betrayed. Cynicism and thinking the worse can protect us somewhat, but than we risk never knowing what love is really all about.
So marriage, just one act of forgiveness after another and always telling yourself the “most generous, best possible story,” to explain your spouses actions. Men, having a totally dfferant way of perceiving things, while often a real pain in the neck, are also the same qualities that attract us to them. Empathy really is key and love is a choice, we have to choose to love people just as they are, not as we wish them to be.