Modern feminists want us to believe that everything that makes men men is simply a social construct — and a negative one at that. As Buzzfeed writer Beatriz Serrano says, it “sucks that we live under a system that forces men to be strong, manly, and powerful, and that tells us that a sensitive man is weak.”
If it’s wrong to like strong, manly, powerful men, I don’t want to be right! But even those of us who don’t identify as modern feminists sometimes find the things men do baffling and even hurtful. Why can’t he just tell me what he’s feeling? Why can’t he just listen to my problems instead of trying to fix them? Why doesn’t he compliment me on how I look, or the way I’ve rearranged the furniture, or how I put a new centerpiece on the table? Is it really so hard?
But there’s a reason men don’t do those things: They’re men. And we’re happy they are. Men operate in a completely different way than women do, and that’s a good thing. But it means that the way they relate to us doesn’t always make sense to us (and vice versa). Men may not be from Mars, but they’re not from Venus either.
Men operate in a completely different way than women do, and that’s a good thing. But it means that the way they relate to us doesn’t always make sense to us (and vice versa).
Men don’t need to become more like women in order to have successful relationships. In fact, regardless of what modern feminists like Serrano say, we wouldn’t want them to. We want men to be men: protective, loyal, quick to take action, and willing to lead. We don’t want them to flop down next to us on the couch with a tub of ice cream and cry to us about how hurt they were by something someone said to them at work. We want them to be our rock, the shoulder we cry on, the mountain we stand behind that takes the brunt of the storm. And if we want those things — which we do — we have to understand that manliness comes with consequences, and work with them.
Men Express Their Love by Doing
Early in our relationship, I told my husband I wished he’d tell me more often how much he appreciated me. I was hurt that, while I told him daily how much I appreciated him doing things for me like fixing stuff around the house, buying my favorite foods, and watching the TV show I wanted to watch instead of the one he wanted, he never said things like that about me. And I remember that my husband was genuinely baffled. Those exact things, he told me, were his way of telling me he appreciated me.
Women express their love with words and physical affection. Men express their love through action. They fix things, they build things, they make sacrifices. And this is good because this same impulse to act instead of speak is what will cause him to leap in front of a speeding car to pull you to safety, say, or thrust you behind him when a menacing stranger comes toward you on the street. As psychologist and author Dr. Brenda Shoshanna writes, “Whether your partner stands up for you during a difficult time, goes with you to visit your family, does little jobs for you, attends important functions with you, puts you first in his thoughts or plans trips, dates or outings, the message is the same. He loves you.”
Women express their love with words and physical affection. Men express their love through action.
This is not to say that men should never tell us that they love us or appreciate us — they absolutely should. And we can — gently — remind them that we need that if they forget. But it’s also important for us to see and acknowledge the things they are doing to show their love so that they feel appreciated and acknowledged too. (It’s worth noting, of course, that I’m talking about generally loving and caring men. If your partner is cold, aloof, and disrespectful, it may be time to reevaluate the relationship, or seek some counseling.)
Fixing Things Is What He Does
Women — myself included — often get frustrated when their partners try to “fix” their problems instead of just listening to them. We’re trying to talk about how we feel, and it seems like he’s not even listening. He’s going straight to what we could do to make things better when we just wanted to vent. But fixing things — literally and metaphorically — is what men do, and we wouldn’t really want it any other way.
But fixing things — literally and metaphorically — is what men do, and we wouldn’t really want it any other way.
Men take the helm and steer the ship of our families through rough seas and into calmer waters. Their arms are strong to hold us when we’re hurting and to raise us up when we despair. We look to them to make quick decisions and tough choices, and we love them for their decisiveness and drive. If we want them to just listen — instead of trying to fix —we need to tell them that. We don’t have to let them try to fix it if that's not what we want, but we do need to explain that what we need — what will help — in that moment, is for him just to listen.
You Are Beautiful in His Eyes
To us, a haircut, or a new dress, or a drastic change in the way we do our makeup are big deals. We’d totally notice if one of our girlfriends made a change like that, and we’d feel totally awful if we didn’t say something about it right away. It’s hard to understand why our partners often don’t notice the things we do to try to look nice — especially since, often, we’re trying to look nice for them. But do we really want our partners to be hyper-focused on fashion and makeup?
To your man, you are the beautiful woman he loves. Sure, he’ll probably notice if you put on an evening gown instead of your usual jeans and a sweatshirt — or he should notice, anyway — but one pair of dangly earrings is the same as another as far as he’s concerned, and he probably has no idea that you’re wearing ballet flats instead of sneakers. It’s not that he doesn’t notice the things you do to make yourself look nice, it’s that he finds you beautiful regardless of what you wear.
It’s not that he doesn’t notice the things you do to make yourself look nice, it’s that he finds you beautiful regardless of what you wear.
It’s not copping out to draw his attention to the change and ask his opinion. He needs to know what it is that’s important to you to comment on. And, if he tells you that you look great when you’re wearing sweatpants and have bedhead, don’t assume he’s just being polite. To him, you are a complete package — not a million tiny details — and you’re beautiful.
Men and women relate to the world differently. This is how it should be. Often the things that frustrate us about our partners are outgrowths of the things we love about them. Their willingness to sacrifice, protect, and support us is the language of their love. If they communicated more like us, they wouldn’t be the men we love. Learning to see and appreciate the ways our partners tell us they love us is one of the ways we can love them in return. And it’s important, given the modern feminist insistence that masculinity itself is “toxic,” that we appreciate our men for being men. It sure beats the alternative.
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