This is about a concept I first heard from a psychiatrist in college. I was dating this girl. I was much more into her than she was into me and it finally bothered me enough to go see one of the health center shrinks. I have always remembered what he told lo’ those many years ago because it was so profound and so useful in assessing and troubleshooting relationships.
After hearing my story he said something like, “Listen very carefully to what I’m about to tell you:
Your commitment to a relationship is proportional to your emotional investment in it and not your profit from it.”
I sat there for several seconds absorbing that and what it meant for me in that situation. He then went on to say something like,
“Healthy, successful and lasting relationships come when the partners’ emotional investments are roughly equal over time.”
I see questions on Girls Ask Guys (GAG) all the time where people (mostly women it seems) are asking why he isn’t calling me, etc. Almost invariably it’s because they are over invested emotionally. The cure for that is one of two things: terminate the relationship or get him to invest so as to equalize the investments.
Men and women invest differently. Men invest most by doing: be it pursuing the target of their “romantic” interest, giving a girl a jump to start her car, helping her troubleshoot her computer, or whatever. Women tend to invest, to the degree which a man can understand this, by being affectionate and participating sexually. They also invest through care giving which is why they so often find themselves taken for granted. I’m not saying that women should be caregivers. It’s sort of the way most women are raised. They just need to make sure that he invests in return so that the relationship remains balanced in terms of emotional investment.
Bottom line: Ladies, get him to do for you and then appreciate the hell out of it (see below). Men, listen to her without trying to help in any way unless she explicitly asks for it.
I hope you find this useful.
Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus
All this is well and good but it begs the question: how do I get my partner to invest? As it turns out, our good friend, John Gray, comes to help us out. John Gray wrote Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus several years ago. In that book he made a number of keen observations. He’s also misogynistic in the book but we’ll discuss that another time.
One observation he made was that women process trauma iteratively, i.e. over and over. That’s why the same gaff we men commit comes up over and over. Each time she processes it, it becomes less traumatic until it disappears into the background noise of the mind. What that means for us men is that she isn’t expecting an apology over and over if that was what we perceived to be the resolution. We just need to let her vent.
Women process by talking. That’s in part why women have a covey of friends where they discuss all manner of things men generally never talk about, from shared child care to the length of our members and our skill (or more likely our lack thereof) with using them. Each time they talk about it, it’s less distressing and traumatic until it just disappears off the list of grievances.
Therein lies on of the major findings Gray makes in his book:
The most important thing in the world to a woman is to be heard.
That’s not as simple or intuitive as it sounds. There are many booby traps built into the relationships of men and women. One of them is here. When he says listen, he mean listen without offering help, solutions, or suggestions!! Just listen. Let them know you’re listening with the occasional question or comment but not with a solution to their problem. Women are really smart and ultimately competent to solve their own problems. They see it as respectful when we get out of their way and leave the problem to them to own and solve. If they want our help they’ll ask. Then, and only then, are we permitted to offer what we see as helpful input. Otherwise, put a cork in it, gentlemen!
Now for the ladies about their men: we men love to solve problems, especially for our women. The smart men solve problems in our purview: home repair, lawn mowing, half the housekeeping, and bringing home the paycheck. When we have a problem, we do the opposite of women, even though it’s often not all that effective and is sometimes counterproductive: we retreat into our caves. Every man has his cave and that’s where we go when we have a problem or are hurt emotionally. The smart woman, even though she may know the answer or want to apologize, stays out of our cave unless invited in. She waits patiently for us to come out.
There’s a little known secret about men. Those women who learn or discover it early benefit greatly. Remember those girls in high school and college that weren’t the prettiest, easiest, or smartest but they had men around them constantly, eager to be helpful? They knew this secret:
The most important thing in the world to a man is to be appreciated.
Ladies, we cannot get enough of it. We crave it and bask in it and just eat it up. So the secret to getting your man to invest in a relationship comes in two parts: 1) get him to do something, even something very small, and 2) and this is the really key piece that makes it work, appreciate the hell out of it! You literally almost cannot go overboard with this. For those of you old enough (and for those who aren’t, look it up), we’re like that cartoon dog, Snuffles The Hound Dog, from TV Acres. He would do a good deed and would receive a medal at which time he would float off the ground and sigh blissfully. That’s just a metaphor for men. Appreciate us and we float blissfully.
Bottom line: Get a man to invest in the relationship by doing something, even something small, and then sincerely and profusely appreciate it.
In summary, equalize emotional investment and find happiness.