By: Jessica McCann
I remember in high school the very distinct feeling that I would never understand men. The boys I had dated long-term in both high school and college sent me such conflicting messages that I truly believed men simply didn’t have emotions. Not like women did, anyway. After all, how can you tell someone you love them one day, and then blow them off to party with your friends the next? It seemed like I was always waiting to hear how the guy felt, what he thought, and where he decided our relationship was going. Everything was on the guys’ terms because I cared too much and wanted to work through anything, while they took their time mulling over the pros and cons of being with me. It was frustrating, demoralizing, and exhausting. I remember thinking, “How in the world can I sustain a relationship with any man if they aren’t as emotionally invested as I am?!”
Luckily, after I graduated college, I met and dated a man that showed me that not all men are cut from the same cloth. He was sweet, fun, and the first real relationship I’d ever had. Thanks to him, my previous stance on men being void of emotion completely changed. I realized there would be men in the world that would match my emotional investment, and I learned a few very key insights that helped me continue through the dating world to end up happily married to my wonderful husband today. Had my mentality not changed on this, I might still be dating in circles right now.
Here is what I want to pass on to women who feel as I did back then.
- Men need reassurance. I realize now, looking back, that I never really gave any love to my high school boyfriend. I was raised to believe that men needed to treat me with respect. I was told they were lucky to be with me, that I needed to keep them in pursuit. In essence, I just had to “be” in the relationship to make the guy happy and my job ended there. My poor boyfriend brought me flowers, wrote me love notes, and met me after every class. What did I do for him? Complained if he had to stay late at practice or decided to eat lunch with his friends one day out of the week. Sadly, it didn’t dawn on me until later in life that my job wasn’t just receiving love from a guy, it was to give love to him too. That includes positive affirmations of my feelings, which I never gave anyone because it was drilled into my head that I was to keep men in hot pursuit at all times. But at some point, the chase has to end for the relationship to really begin.
- Not all men are created equal. Yes, there are guys out there that are jerks, players, or narcissists, and they do not know how to be in a relationship with anyone. But there are also men that are kind, loving, and supportive, yet still strong and masculine. I went into many of my early relationships expecting to be let down and hurt because of the guys I dated before. However, assuming the worst made me defensive and suspicious. In other words, a real joy to be around! I spent a lot of time overreacting to situations that warranted no reaction at all because I assumed all men were the same. If one had wronged me in the past, it was only a matter of time before the current one would too. Letting go of the “all men are the same” mantra was one of the biggest feats my younger self ever accomplished, and it was a feat that changed the course of all my relationships going forward.
- I could take the lead sometimes. I remember thinking that whoever I was with was not only less emotional, but somehow smarter and more collected than me. I assumed that the logical male mind meant that all men had a plan, and any proposal that I came up with would be secondary to theirs. It wasn’t until dating around in my early twenties that I realized there were a good deal of men that were (and I say this lovingly) clueless. Sometimes guys want you to take charge and tell them what you want instead of always having the responsibility of doing the planning. It doesn’t matter if we are talking dinner plans or financial plans. Men don’t have all the answers. My assumption that men had those answers always led to me being upset, because I also assumed that men weren’t interested in me when they didn’t completely take charge. Now I know that some guys just need direction on things. In fact, most of the good ones want your direction at least half the time.
If you want to ask me personal questions about your relationship, you can contact me through my website or you can ask on Twitter. Follow me @iamjessmccann to ask about your own dating dilemma.
If you want to learn more about how to interact with the guy you are in a relationship with, check out my newest book, Was It Something I Said? The Answer to All Your Dating Dilemmas for advice on how to get through uncomfortable conversations and sticky situations.