"Every woman is a science," said John Donne. And if we take the time to carefully study their needs, we'll discover some fairly universal principles about the differences between men and women. There are always exceptions to the rule, but here are some fundamental things that men should know about women.
Three Things Men Should Know About Women
Women are not as independent as we are.
Let's face it, we love the mystique of the rugged "Marlboro Man" image. Sure, it's cliché, but we can't get over this tough-minded, lone cowboy who reports to nobody as he freely rides the range. Women, on the other hand, couldn't give a can of beans about protecting their autonomy - one of the primary differences between men and women. They prize what Harvard's Carol Gilligan calls "a web of connectedness." Just as we are threatened by a challenge to our independence, so are women threatened by a rupture in their relationships. So, don't expect women to fully understand and accept your "need for space." One of the things that men should know about women is that they won't romanticize your independence. Instead, do yourself and your relationships with women a favor - bite the bullet and let them know you value the relationship even when you need to ride the range.
Women focus on the here-and-now more than we do.
Someone defined the future as a place where men spend most of their time. You and I both know that's not exactly true. But it becomes truer in comparison to the differences between men and women. While we are scheming plans and solving problems for a better tomorrow, most women are asking, "What's going on right now and how do I (and others) feel about it?" One of the things that men should know about women is that they focus on current feelings and experiences because these build emotional bonds of connection between them. So, while we men are more interested in the "report" of what has happened and where we are going, women are more interested on building "rapport" right now (1). The bottom line is that if you want to get down to the task of solving problems for the future with the women in your life, you must first take the time to explore their feelings about the present.
Women are not as competitive as we are.
As little kids growing up, boys play games in large groups with an emphasis on winning. Competition is the name of this male-gender game, literally. Little girls, on the other hand, play together in small, intimate groups, with an emphasis on minimizing hostility and maximizing cooperation. The same emphasis follows both genders into adulthood. One of the fundamental differences between men and women is that we still want to prove our point, keep score, and win the debate in conversation, while women are more likely to sacrifice superiority as the price for keeping peace. It's not that one mode is necessarily better than the other; they both have their strengths and weaknesses. But if we want to build a healthy relationship with the women in our lives, we must honor their cooperative spirit, take care not to step on their toes, and work to understand the unique differences between men and women.
1. Gilligan, C. (1982). In a Different Voice: Psychological Theory and Women's Development. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
About the Authors
Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott are founders of RealRelationships.com and co-directors of the Center for Relationship Development on the campus of Seattle Pacific University where Les is a professor of psychology and Leslie is a marriage and family therapist. They are also the co-founders of a new Christian dating website, MyRightSomeone, which provides Christian singles with the tools needed to find love that lasts a lifetime. Their best-selling books include the award-winning Saving Your Marriage Before it Starts, Love Talk, and Crazy Good Sex. They have been featured on Oprah, CBS This Morning, CNN, and The View, and in USA Today and the New York Times. Visit their website at RealRelationships to learn more about their new book, L.O.V.E.: Uncovering Your Personal Love Style.