The myth of the independent woman and why they’re never called independent men

Oh put your pitchforks down, ladies!  I’m not working for the opposition.  In fact, quite the opposite.  We have been sold a bill of goods that, in order to be real women, we must be independent women.

The dictionary defines independent as, amongst other things, not relying on another or others for aid or support.  So in order to be an authentic female, we must rely on no one else for anything; we must learn everything, say everything, do everything without the help of another person.  This is utter hogwash and impossible to accomplish.

So why does this concept persist?  The sad thing to say is, we all feed into it.  We feel like it’s the gold standard and anything less than perfection is letting down ourselves and our sisters.

You have to ask yourself why have you never heard the term “independent man”?  It’s because they’ve already figured it out.  Notwithstanding a few cliches (e.g., asking for directions), men are not afraid that getting help will rob them of their autonomy.

It’s time for us to drop the act and learn to be interdependent, not independent, but that my lovelies, is another blog.

On his being put out to pasture

While we frequently look forward to our retirement as the time we’ll be able to travel and do the things that have always held our interest, men can hold an entirely different view.  Rather than looking at it as a reward for work well done, they sometimes see it as a punishment for having grown old, having grown weak.  Retirement can make a man feel emasculated.

Men, from the time they are boys, are wrapped up in what they can accomplish.  They are famously linear in their thinking.  When you talk about your problems, they attempt to solve them.  Men tend to function in verbs, usually “to make” or “to do”.  So when they are told that they can no longer make or do, they feel unwanted, unnecessary.  It is reasonable to expect that they may feel a bit depressed or even angry when they finally retire, even if they had been looking forward to it.  Be gentle with him but do not coddle.

If you can, plan ahead of time.  Without attempting to control his life, introduce things that he may be interested in.  Hobbies are good for keeping busy but men need a purpose – encourage him to mentor, teach, or volunteer with his free time.  Re-direct his energy into useful pursuits.  He has years of experience that can benefit others.  Re-assure him of his usefulness but again, don’t coddle him.

You may find that you’re arguing more. You may feel that he’s constantly underfoot.  You may feel as though your domain has been invaded.  You may feel as though he’s being overly critical.  Before bickering, take a deep breath and ask yourself why this is happening and what can be done to improve the situation.  Don’t rule out counseling because you think you know each other so well – often a third party can offer a neutral viewpoint or a workable compromise.

The attention span of the average male

A note to my male readers (yes ladies I have male readers):  This post is in no way meant to slander or demean your gender.  This post is to explain to females why they shouldn’t attempt to give you information in the form of a dissertation.

We’ve all had the experience of talking a blue streak to a guy on a topic we thought was terribly important only to have his response be, “huh?”.  The simple (completely unscientific) fact of the matter is that men process information differently than we do.  We like to talk things to death and achieve consensus – men are not like this.

Ladies, men have notoriously short attention spans.  Rather than being frustrated by this, use it to your advantage.

  • Take what you’re going to say and bullet point it.  Be concise.  Keep adjectives and lengthy details/reasons to a minimum.  Give him only the necessary information.
  • If you’re going to give him a problem, give him a potential solution.  If you don’t give him a potential solution, he will look for one on his own and it may not be what you want.
  • Stick to one issue at a time unless you want all of them but one to be forgotten.  Don’t expect him to have perfect recall of what you said.
  • Do not wander off topic or go beyond your bullet points when you speak with him.  The more words you give him to concentrate on means the more words he’ll have to sort through to figure out what’s important.  Don’t do this.  More words = more confusion.
  • Be concise without being curt.  You’re communicating information, not anger.  If you come across as angry, he’ll concentrate on making you happy rather than on what you’re saying.  Practice in front of a mirror or with a friend to get the delivery correct.

Equitable division of labor

Despite our best efforts as a society, when it comes to household chores, women are shouldering more of the burden than their partners.  I don’t believe that this is due to an inherently sexist society but rather that women tend to be a bit more specific about how and how often the chores should be performed.

Some women are perfectly happy to do most of the household chores.  They know exactly how they want it done and would prefer that no-one mess with their system.  So if it’s not broken, don’t try to fix it.

However, I’ve known more than one woman who ended up doing most of the chores because she was critical when her partner did it.  Chore by chore, when she wasn’t appreciative it was done, he decided to avoid the criticism by simply abandoning the effort to do anything at all.  Neither party would be in the right in this circumstance.

If you do find yourself in a situation where you feel that you’re doing more than your fair share of the chores, it’s time to have a discussion with your mate (and yes, you might have to have this talk with him periodically as things slip).  Pick a quiet time and bring it up in a non-accusatory manner.  Be able to cite specific references of chores that used to be his that you’re now doing.  Have suggestions for an equitable division of labor that both parties can live with.  Negotiate without getting into an argument.  If necessary, make an informal written agreement so that there are no misunderstanding about who is supposed to do what.

Oh, and say “thank you” when he does his chores.  Gratitude begets gratitude and I believe we could all use a little more of it.

Peter principle for relationships

The Peter Principle states that a person will be promoted in an organization until they reach the point that they are too incompetent to perform their job duties.  Parallels can be drawn to your personal relationships.

Too often we rush through the getting-to-know-you phase and the dating phase simply to be in the long-term-commitment phase.  This is a big mistake.  We’re promoting men to boyfriend status without them deserving it or proving that they’re capable of handling it.  Then, once they’re at boyfriend status, they invariably fail.  This isn’t always their fault – we’re giving them too much, too soon without requiring them to fulfill progressive steps (hint:  they’re called progressive for a reason).

How do you solve this?  First, take your foot off the gas.  There are no prizes for getting to boyfriend status the fastest.  Second, get to know him well, very well, so that you’re (fairly) certain you know what he’s capable of accomplishing.  Lastly, make the relationship a series of progressive steps – don’t skip steps (you wouldn’t promote someone from file clerk to CEO in one fell swoop, would you?).

The kitchen sink test

So you’ve been dating a guy for a while and you’re not sure if it’s going to work out.  How can you tell for certain?  Honestly, you can never be 100% sure that a relationship will work out but if you choose wisely,  you have a good chance of success.

Close your eyes and think about the man you’re dating.  Now imagine you’re in the kitchen and you’re fixing dinner together.  Is he helping out?  Is he chopping vegetables while you’re manning the stove?  Is he washing dishes as quickly as you dirty them?  Or is he leaning against the counter talking to you while you do all the work?

This is a metaphor for your relationship with him.  Your subconscious is communicating with you.  Do you really feel as though you’re working as a team or do you feel as though you’re doing all the work?

He’s not your best friend

“I want to marry my best friend.”  Ladies – do not make this mistake.  Your boyfriend/husband should never be your best friend.

It’s sweet to think that he might be.  That he’s the human being you can tell everything to.  He’s your person.  He’s the one that’s going to be there for you forever and ever.  All that fuzzy bubblegum logic.  Undoubtedly your partner should be someone that you can rely on, who will take care of you and whom you can take care of in return.  He should be a significant part of your life but he shouldn’t be your best friend.

Why?  Because when the sh*t hits the fan, you’re going to need someone outside the relationship to talk to.  If he’s your best friend, who are you going to bounce things off of when the relationship isn’t going exactly as you want?  Who is going to talk to you about your dream of going to medical school without having their own agenda?  Who is going to discuss the merits of Shemar Moore’s butt with you over ice cream and chick flicks?  That is the job of your best friend, not your partner.

How to communicate to a man

Please note:  This blog is entitled How to communicate to a man, not How to communicate with a man.  This blog is not intended to facilitate a conversation with a man, it’s how to communicate important information to them.

  1. Write down everything you want to say to him.
  2. Separate what you’ve written into categories.
  3. Pick one category.  Don’t give him more than one thing to concentrate on at a time.
  4. Remove all unnecessary words, emotions, name-calling, etc.
  5. Give one introductory sentence.
  6. Bullet-point it.  Aim for less than 3 bullet points.
  7. Highlight the action words because these will be what’s important to him.
  8. If you’re giving him a problem, give him a solution or a graceful exit.
  9. Condense it, again.
  10. Now communicate it to him.

Example:  You know sweetheart, it really drives me insane when you’re not taking part in the household chores.  I work really hard to make a nice home and when you’re not doing stuff like taking out the trash, I feel like you don’t care and why do I bother to do half the stuff that I do do.  Another thing I hate is when you don’t call me when you’re coming home late because maybe I have something planned and you’re totally screwing with my plans.  I think it sucks and it’s inconsiderate.  When you do that, I try really hard not to just reach over and punch you in the face because I’m trying so hard to be vulnerable with you and it’s like you don’t even care.  And why don’t you ever defend me to your mother?  Seriously?  Have some balls already.

Reformed example:  I need to ask you to help out more around the house.  1.  Please take out the trash every night.  2.  Please call when you’re coming home late.  Okay?  Good chat!

The communication game: men vs. women

While there are individuals on both sides of the gender aisle that like to gab, women have the reputation for being the more verbose of the sexes.  Whether that’s deserved is still out for debate but I think everyone can agree that men and women communicate differently.

Women tend to speak in full sentences.  We speak about our emotions (maybe not elegantly but still…).  Chatting works to both address grievances and form social bonds.  We put a premium on talking as a primary form of communication.

Men, on the other hand, are a bit of a tougher nut to crack.  They use their own subtext (grunts, sports metaphors, physical jostling).  They bond over shared experiences and trying to elicit an emotion can drive you insane (unless he’s emo but that’s a whole other kettle of fish).

The point here is NOT to expect a man to communicate like a woman, either actively or passively.  Stop trying to communicate with him like he’s a girl- those allegories are merely confusing.  Stop trying to interpret what he’s saying like he’s a girl.  By-and-large, when a guy does talk to you, there’s no subtext involved with his words; he’s saying what he means.

How to meet men

Finding men is not difficult.  They’re literally half the planet.  Finding the right man is slightly more complicated.  The trick is to meet men with whom  you have common interests while maintaining your lifestyle.

The good news is if you do things that you already enjoy you’ll meet men with a built-in common interest and you’ll be living your life at the same time.  Consider what you like to do and then get more involved.

  • If you’re sporty, join a gym, a team or a group devoted to your athletic interests.
  • If you’re religious, join a group at your congregation.
  • If you’re philanthropic, volunteer at a organization with opportunities in your area.
  • If you have more common or uncommon interests, look for a social group in your area such as MEETin.org or MeetUp.com.
  • If you’re career-oriented, join a career-based organization.
  • If you’re political, join the local branch of your political party.
  • If you’re interested in learning, take classes at a local college or trade school.

There’s really no point in meeting someone with whom you only have a passing common interest.  Do not completely re-arrange your life in order to meet men because you won’t be able to or want to sustain the change in the long-term.