Why Do Women Struggle With The Golden Rule?

We’ve all heard of the golden rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” It seems like a pretty basic concept, and it’s not that difficult to employ. So why is it, then, that many women struggle to apply it in their relationships?

By Keelia Clarkson4 min read
Pexels/Rajaa Lemnari

The vast majority of men interested in dating women are taught something very early on: You have to be conscientious of women’s feelings. While men will very often rib one another and use rougher language with each other, they’re told that they can’t be so callous if they ever hope to woo a woman. They come to understand that in order to both charm a woman and keep her around, they have to treat her well, with thoughtfulness, gentleness, and affection. Not every man takes this advice seriously, but the wise ones do – the ones who are lauded as being “good men.”

And so, these men learn very quickly not to make comments that could be taken the wrong way about a woman’s appearance. They tell her she looks beautiful in that new dress when she asks, “How do I look?” They assure her she’s the most gorgeous woman in the room. They say there’s no other woman who could ever measure up to her. They promise her he isn’t any less attracted to her when she expresses insecurity about her postpartum body.

But it doesn’t stop with just her looks. Men also learn that women are particularly sensitive when it comes to the idea of him potentially having a wandering eye, made worse by the awful narrative that men aren’t “naturally monogamous,” are bound to cheat on the woman they’re with, and that women should “just accept” that.

To combat this, he won’t drone on and on about how attractive his celebrity crush is – that is, if he even has one at all. And any time a man with a girlfriend or wife does do this, he’s swiftly called out, shamed for publicly lusting after another woman. Similarly, a taken guy who likes another girl’s bikini pictures on Instagram is chided and told he’s wrong for doing so. Furthermore, married/dating men who engage with pornography regularly are looked down on and urged to stop for their own sake and for the sake of their wife or girlfriend.

None of these are too high of expectations, either. It’s a good thing that many men learn early on that in order to keep a woman, you have to give her a reason to stick around, and that is achieved by making her feel secure – and that the men who don’t listen to this advice are seen as “low value.” 

The problem, however, is that too many women don’t extend the same courtesy to the men they’re with. In fact, it seems that some women struggle with employing the “golden rule.”

Women’s Struggle with the Golden Rule

The golden rule is hardly gender-based. It isn’t meant to go only one way, to be paid attention to by some and ignored by others. But unfortunately, this is what ends up happening all too often. While many men understand just how important it is to be cognizant of how he affects the woman he loves, the same can’t always be said about how women treat the men they’re with.

It’s not uncommon to see a woman in a relationship speaking frankly about how attracted she is to Harry Styles or Jason Momoa (and it’s even more devastating when her boyfriend looks nothing like her celebrity crush), or a woman admitting she would take a “hall pass” (a “pass” that would permit a person in a relationship to hook up with someone other than their partner, guilt-free) even after her boyfriend lovingly said he wouldn’t want to be with any other woman, or even a woman talking online about how she wasn’t at all attracted to her partner when they first met. 

On a Reddit thread titled “How do you feel if your girlfriend says other guys are hot?” a user shared: “My ex would say things about celebrities and stuff … then she started saying it about people I knew. First it was my brother, then my cousin, then my friend and after that I told her to cut [it] out. She called me insecure… More men than I would want to believe probably would have let it slide after being called insecure.” While this behavior might receive some backlash from men, too often, women either come to their defense, or seem not to understand how on earth this would’ve been hurtful, despite these women’s actions being deeply disrespectful toward their man.

“To me, the main … goal of a relationship is to maximize each other’s well-being. So to fawn over others in the company of your significant other is perplexing at best and rude at worst,” another Reddit user added on the same thread. “I’ve had several [exes] do this, and I never understood why. Is it a test to see how insecure we are? Are they just getting comfortable enough to say what’s on their mind? I don’t understand [because] it’s not something I would ever do to my SO as I wouldn’t want to put the thought into their mind that I have eyes for other people, even if just slightly.”

Why is this, though? Why is it that men seem to understand that talking about how gorgeous Sydney Sweeney is in front of their girlfriend would understandably hurt her feelings, but many women feel the freedom to fawn over Timothée Chalamet without regard for how it would affect their boyfriend or husband? Why are men taught that the only right answer to “How do I look?” is “Beautiful, babe,” while some women don’t see the problem with tearing down their husband’s sense of style? Why are men expected to be considerate of what might make a woman feel insecure, but women will immediately call a man insecure if he questions the very same behavior that would make her upset?

We Don’t Think We Can Hurt Men

We each understand the differences between men and women without having to be taught them. We know that women are generally physically weaker and smaller. We know that we’re more likely to frequently struggle with negative emotions than men are, and that women are often more “sensitive to emotional expressions” in their interactions with others. There are countless ways in which men and women differ. But there are also ways in which we are more similar than we realize.

One way that women mistakenly believe men are different from them? We don’t think we can hurt men. As women, we understand from a very young age that we’re vulnerable, more easily overpowered, the “softer” sex. We know that men can hurt us. However, we don’t consider that men aren’t the only ones capable of being aggressors; we, too, can hurt men. Maybe not as much through physical aggression, but with our words.

Men have feelings, and women are more than capable of hurting them.

We don’t see men as a group that we can hurt, and we don’t see ourselves as a group that can cause hurt – but we can. We aren’t only ever the victims. Sometimes, we’re the offender. We’re capable of hurting their feelings, of embarrassing them, of emasculating them, of being insensitive and thoughtless in our treatment of them – especially the closer we are to them. Women don’t have the corner on possessing human emotions.

Along with this growing up seeing ourselves as incapable of causing hurt, we are constantly reminded that we’re the more empathetic sex. While there is research to back up this idea, it’s possible that this reassurance of our natural capacity for empathy has caused us to believe we’re more empathetic than we actually are. We just assume that we’ve been preprogrammed with the empathy chip rather than seeing it as something to practice and grow in. This, in turn, causes women to believe that they aren’t capable of behaving without empathy.

Always Think About the Roles Being Reversed

So how can women begin to tackle this struggle with the golden rule? How can we begin to understand the weight that our words and actions can have on our boyfriend or husband? How do we begin to take steps in the right direction? By going back to the basics and challenging ourselves to think about the roles being reversed.

We can ask ourselves, “Would it hurt my feelings if he said this? Would I be upset if he did this? How would I want him to treat me in this situation?” By stopping to consider these simple yet effective questions, we’re practicing true empathy and recognizing the strength that we have, which can either be used positively or negatively. 

This doesn’t just mean not talking about a celebrity crush. This also looks like making a habit of building our husband up, of searching for something kind and loving to say, of being in tune with his emotional needs and doing our best to attend to them, of considering what we would want him to do and then doing that for him.

Closing Thoughts

Men have feelings, and women are more than capable of hurting them. It’s time that we recognize this, challenge ourselves to cultivate empathy for the man that we love most, and remember the golden rule in our interactions with him.

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