Men are not mind readers. I will have to admit, if I could have a super power it would certainly be telepathy. I would first use it to figure out how to make millions of dollars and then I would help law enforcement solve crimes and warn people of impending doom. All from my beach front home in Santorini, of course. Who needs in person meetings with todays technology. But I digress…
Most of the conversations I have had with friends around this topic start with a story that goes something like this. The guy asks where his lady would like to go out for, say, Valentines Day. She responds that she is tired and doesn’t really feel like doing anything for Valentines Day. The foolish man listens to those words and believes that when she said she was tired and didn’t want to do anything that she actually didn’t want to do anything. Respecting her wishes he doesn’t plan anything for Valentines Day and figures they will just have a relaxing day at home together. Maybe a Netflix night or some similar, low key activity. As the night goes on he notices that she is getting irritated with him and he asks why. She responds that nothing is wrong. He, again, foolishly believes that when she says nothing is wrong that she actually means nothing is wrong. He thinks to himself, maybe he is imagining her irritation so he proceeds as though nothing is wrong.
Her irritation progressively grows as the night goes on. As it gets later and later she has more time to think about what is happening and realizes there is no surprise outing coming up. No unexpected dinner plans for even an at home Valentine Day celebration. This is when she finally reaches the tipping point of her frustration and tell him the truth. The truth that he is a selfish, inconsiderate person and that she can’t believe he would not even have the decency to plan something for Valentines Day. He is totally taken by surprise and feels blind sided because he was doing exactly what she told him she wanted him to do. He reminds her that he asked her what she wanted to do and she told him she was tired and didn’t want to do anything. Then she responds with the dreaded, “yes, I said that but you should have known that when I said I didn’t want to do anything that I really meant that I did want to do something for Valentines Day”.
This is when men feel like they have entered the Twilight Zone. It’s important to understand that it’s not that he doesn’t want to make the woman he is with happy from the beginning. It’s not that at all. It’s more that he wants to know that when she says something, it is actually what she means and not code that he has to figure out. Even when the specific scenario changes the principal still applies. Maybe she is at a party with him and wants to leave but when asked she says she is fine with staying. Maybe he offers to pay for dinner and she insists on paying half but really wants him to insist that she doesn’t.
Truth be told, he feels inadequate to handle the problem he is faced with in the moment because it was a wolf in sheep’s clothing and he wasn’t prepared to deal with a wolf without any warning signs. No full moon, no howl, not even a wolf silhouette in the shadows. He heard baa baa and felt soft, warm wool approaching so he let down his guard in the face of a friendly sheep. Men likes to solve problems and it hard when they are faced with something they can’t immediately figure out. When it’s not in the rule book and especially when it seems so foreign that they aren’t even sure where to go to find the answer.
Men go through four stages before finally coming around to accepting that they need to learn to interpret the language heard specifically, not generally. What I mean by that is, he has to learn what it specifically means when the woman he is with says a particular thing. Not just what it would generally mean. The four stages are:
This is the first stage that he enters when he finds out she is upset. He is confused because although he could have certainly planned something and may even have put a plan together ahead of time, when he asked what she wanted to do, to allow her to have input in the decision making process, he wasn’t given the information he needed to make an informed decision. So he is now confused as to why she is upset when the only reason he did what he did was because that’s what he was told she wanted.
Anger creeps in when the explanation for why there was a miscommunication was not because he was told something different from what was actually expected but rather that he made the mistake of interpreting her words literally. When he hears the words “you should have known that when I said I didn’t want to do anything that I really meant that I did want to do something” it sparks anger. He thinks how much easier this would have all been if she had just told him what she actually wanted instead of making him guess and hoping that he guessed correctly. He also doesn’t understand why she told him that she wasn’t upset when she actually was and that he could have addressed her issue much earlier if only he had known what the issue was.
At this points he is wrestling with wanting to be understanding but seeing how illogical and unnecessarily complicated this whole situation is, so he resists understanding it. He wants it to be logical. He wants it to be easier. He want it to be something he can figure out without additional interpretation. However, we don’t always get what we want and he slowly realizes this is a battle he will not win.
Once he decides that trying to understand her words is a better approach than resisting, he begins to listen and make connections that he didn’t see before. He realizes that there is a pattern, just not one common to the English language. He finally feels somewhat relieved because he doesn’t feel like he is doomed to a life time of misunderstanding but similar to the immune system, he must learn how to recognized each new occurrence and how to deal with it. This maybe painful at first but once he recognizes it, he will know how to deal with it the next time it comes around.
After a while, he gets better and better at understanding the language of the woman he is with. He almost gets so good that he seems to have telepathic powers. He seems to know what she is thinking or wanting even before she says anything because he has given up on interpreting thing she says generally and has learned to interpret them specifically.
Men truly want to make the woman they are with happy. They really are not happy if the woman they are with is not happy. Most decent guys will make an effort to inquire about what she wants or doesn’t want. What she likes or doesn’t like. But at the end of the day, the only thing he can go on is what the woman he is with reveals to him. Although, over time he will stumble and eventually figure it out, it makes the process so much easier if she doesn’t assume he knows what she is thinking or knows what she wants if she hasn’t told him. If she just asks for what she wants and needs she will likely get it faster and they will both be less frustrated in the process. Yes, it would be nice if she had a partner who knows her every want and need without her saying anything but those moments are rare and shouldn’t be the regular expectation.