Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Useful Guy Info for Residents of Chickville

There's been a very interesting discussion at the Lone Prairie Blog on Julie's post, "Useful chick info for residents of guyville." She threw down the gauntlet for a man to come up with the reverse list, so here's my attempt (same caveats apply as in her post--I don't speak for all guys; when I say "guys," I really mean "guys like me," which might possibly describe a set composed of exactly one person):

  1. Guys cannot read your mind. I know that this completely obliterates your secret fantasy of the perfect man who will unfailingly know exactly what you want all the time and give it to you without you even having to ask, but it can't be helped. It's not just an act. We really are that dense.
  2. You cannot read our minds. I know that you think that you know what we're thinking, but we're probably thinking something else. It's quite possible, even likely, that we're thinking of nothing at all. We also don't know that you don't know what we're thinking and want to know, or that you are probably guessing a thousand guesses, all incorrect. There's nothing to be done for it: you'll just have to break down and ask.
  3. Men and women handle stress differently. Most of you tend to need to talk it out with someone else. Most of us tend to want to escape into a hobby and try to forget about it. John Gray calls it "cave time." We need cave time. It's not about shutting you out; it's about trying to calm down and not get ourselves worked up all over again.
  4. We are the true romantics. This is contrary to popular belief, but that's because romance tends to be defined as things men do for women. Who's more romantic: the woman who likes to receive flowers, or the man who doesn't care a bit about flowers but goes and buys them for the woman he loves simply to make her happy? Men--until they've been burned and heartbroken sufficiently--simply fall in love and don't see anything else; it's women who want to analyze the relationship. This is not a good or a bad thing on either party's part--some relationships need to be analyzed.
  5. Both we and you recognize something about women, but we describe it in different ways. Women call it being complex; men generally see it as being either crazy or dishonest. Nice guys--the kind of guy that a woman will say she wants--will get dumped for guys who are jerks. I have been the "shoulder to cry on" for a woman bemoaning the fact that a certain guy she was interested in didn't notice her, and I was sworn to secrecy, lest the other guy find out how she feels--and then, when I finally told her (later on, when she wasn't hung up on someone else) of my interest in her, she told me I had been "dishonest" for not having told her before. These kind of inconsistencies (or "complexities," if you will) drive us crazy.
  6. We hate it--vicious, vile, ugly hatred--when you ask us to do something embarrassing that you could have done yourself, but didn't do so because you didn't want to be embarrassed.
  7. We know that you would like us to be the initiators. However, if we're not among the 10% that is being chased by 90% of you (same percentages apply in reverse as well), we've probably been shot down enough to be pretty gun-shy. You're going to have to give us at least some indication that you'd be receptive to an invitation.
  8. Much of what appears to you to be a fear of commitment is actually a healthy respect for responsibility. You have a tendency to want us to be ecstatic over life changes that dramatically increase our responsibilities. Many of you tend to see marriage as a source of security; most of us (or at least the best of us) see it as a significant responsibility. Even if we both work, guys will view providing for us, and later for a family, as primarily on us. The birth of a child, especially a first child, hits us in the same way. Nothing prepares us for marriage but marriage; nothing prepares us for fatherhood but fatherhood. Please try not to be too disappointed in our reactions.
  9. We are far too prone to think we know you before we really do, especially if we're attracted to you. We fill in the gaps of what we don't know with our hopes and expectations. The death stroke for one relationship I had, although it lasted for another few months, was a game of Scruples, in which I simply could not believe that my girlfriend really would drive someone into bankruptcy by holding them to an ill-considered contract.
  10. We don't understand why you break up with us. This is partially due to the fact that you actually do not tell us why you break up with us (more often than not, we believe, merely to spare our feelings). As we get older, the more observant of us figure out that there are a myriad of reasons, often involving your belief that we will at some point break up with you, and you'd rather be the dumper than the dumped. For our part, we don't end relationships unless we actually want to end them; we don't end them because we've analyzed them and decided that they're doomed (see #4). Since we don't understand this at a young enough age to do us any good, we don't understand that you grieve relationships that you yourselves ended. Hence the bitterness you've frequently encountered.
For all that, we really are still crazy about you. Most of this relates to a period in my life I call, "Single and not very happy about that fact." But God has given me a wonderful wife and a wonderful marriage. I'm truly grateful for the heartbreaks I've had in the past, because they left me open for my marriage with Cecile. He knew better than I did what the fully-adult me would need.

For more on marriage, check out my book, Marriage, Family, and the Image of God .

Marriage, Family, and the Image of God


  1. Good list. Your "set" is most definitely not just one person.

    Maybe a game or two of Scruples should be a standard part of my marriage counseling curriculum. :-)

  2. Great list, Keith.

    I've never heard of the game of Scruples...

    Regarding #2: what if a "chick" asks numerous times what a guy is thinking and hears nothing? I'm looking through your list and see that maybe #3 would apply, but that's sort of a vicious circle after a while.

    I wish you'd address #3 more, as it applies to silence i.e. when women hear/are told nothing and are left to interpret the what and why of that silence. That silence explains why we: over-analyze, seemingly prematurely break-up, etc.

    Silence is killer.

    But great list. I have my own tag on your blog. That's something.

  3. Bob: Hmmm. Even though it ended up well in the long run, I still can't help thinking that Scruples is an evil game. I'm not sure I'd dare play it again, even with Cecile.

    Julie: On silence, especially after repeated asking, there are a few possibilities:

    1. Your guy quite literally has nothing on his mind. I've run into that type before. They can talk about tools, facts, hard things, but are completely incapable of discussing anything meaningful. A woman who stays with such a guy had better be prepared for a long, long life of silence.

    2. Whatever is on his mind is very threatening to him. He's afraid that if he told you, you would reject him outright. If that's the case, you'll probably have to wait until he's comfortable enough to tell you about whatever skeletons he has.

    3. He is angry with you and is struggling to deal with it so as not to be hurtful to you. Men have a tendency not to be able to deal with anger issues in moderation, so if it's a choice between Mutual Assured Destruction and the cold war of silence, he'll choose the cold war.

    4. He has something to say that he thinks would be offensive to you or would provoke an argument, and he doesn't want to deal with the argument.

    But you're right: silence is killer. It's generally avoidance behavior and counterproductive in the long run. But guys don't want this moment to be the one in which they said something stupid to ruin everything. Most guys aren't that articulate about emotional stuff (except for those of us who were lit majors and talked to our moms a lot growing up), so we know that we're likely to botch things once we open our mouths.

    Guys are probably likely to "test the waters" by bringing up something innocuous to see what your reaction will be: to see if you're tenaciously opinionated (which affects #4), easily hurt (#3), or have a low "ewwwww" threshold (#2). How you respond to these innocuous issues may have an effect on whether they open up to larger issues. (This is also the approach that people take with therapists.)

    Well, I hope I haven't overly analyzed your question. I guess it's not just chicks who do that.

  4. "You're going to have to give us at least some indication that you'd be receptive to an invitation."

    I've heard other guys say this, too. It makes sense. The problem is that sometimes males and females have different ideas of what an "indication" may be. Any insight about what a guy considers an "indication"?

    One more inquiry: What do you (and other residents of Guyville) think about women initiating the start of a relationship?

    It seems to me like that is cheating the guy out of the lead and initiative that we say we want him to take.

    Thanks for the great post sharing the "other" side.


  5. The first order of business.

    Why does Julie get to have not one, not two, but THREE caveats/qualifiers (note#1, note#2, note#3), while we men get to have NONE?

  6. David, clearly, it's a women's perogative.

    The "three caveat" perogative.

    Haven't you heard about it?

    (Or maybe...Keith just doesn't write like I do, which is to head of comments on things I assume are a given i.e. that Naomi and I can only speak for ourselves, etc.)

  7. Naomi,

    Thanks for stopping by and for the kind words. You're absolutely right: men and women do have different ideas about what an "indication" is. I'm not sure how to resolve that. It's a different-language problem, if not a different-nervous-system-wiring problem.

    Here's my take: men don't actually pursue friendships with women. That's not to say that men and women can't be friends, as in, friendly acquaintances who like to chat when they're together in a group situation. But if a man is pursuing a one-on-one friendship, he almost always has the possibility of a romantic relationship in reserve. He may back off and say that he just wanted to be friends, after the fact, maybe because he decided he didn't want to pursue a relationship after all, maybe because he got scared, maybe because he thinks you're not interested. But simply the close proximity and interaction of an attractive woman will start things buzzing in a man. It's something we have to be careful of when we're married, even if we're drop-dead in love with our wives.

    So all a woman should have to do is to let the guy know that she likes and appreciates his company, and that she's unattached. Of course, since we all have baggage, some of us need a bit more push.

    How do I feel about women initiating a relationship? Well, I can only tell of my own experience. I was the guy who tended to fall head-over-heels and scared the woman away. I had just been through a rejection (the "cry on the shoulder" girl) when I met Cecile. She was recently divorced and had three children. She also didn't know the Lord when I met her, although she was searching and very soon after got saved. So even though I found her attractive (especially when I saw her life visibly change--God delivered her from some external stuff almost immediately--it was the most incredible thing I'd ever seen), for the first time in my life I was running away instead of falling head-over-heels. Besides not wanting to deal with the divorce and children thing, she's a baby Christian, and I don't want her mixing up her newfound relationships with Jesus with her feelings about me, see?

    Anyway, for the most part, she pursued me. That is, she pursued a friendship with me, and then we both did a little dance of, "Yes, I'm attracted, but you're off limits," and there was an on-again off-again should we pursue this or not thing going on. But later on, when we were first married, I made the unfortunate mistake of referring to the fact that she had pursued me, and suffered Feminine Wrath for a while.

    So the bottom line is that it's okay for the woman to initiate, as long as the man never, ever, acknowledges that fact.

    David, since Julie initiated this whole idea, and I was merely responding to it, it would have been overkill for me to parrot the caveats (and besides, I referred to them in my parenthesis, anyway).

    Oh, dang, I acknowledged that Julie initiated this. [Runs for cover.]

  8. You know me the certified Picador, Julie.

    Trying to stir things up. Way too much civility around here given the topic.

  9. "Here's my take: men don't actually pursue friendships with women."

    I have a hard time believing that. If that's true, I don't get a thing about my life thus far (in the area of friendship/relationships). I'm not going to go into personal detail here, but that -- is that generally true? Or is that just Keith-true? (Asking in a non-picador way) If that's true...I must be amazingly boring or unattractive in person. Seriously. I have lots of guy "friends." I'm full up on that. Friends galore. No indication of anything but friends.

    I actually find that more disheartening that if guys were really only looking for mere friendship than realizing they decided it should stay that. Or however you want to put it.

    I gotta get my brother to read this and get his take...if he says it's true, it must be.

  10. Julie, I'm tempted to make this into another post, because it's complex. When just placed on it's own, "men don't actually pursue friendships with women" is very stark. I don't think it's particularly "Keith-true"; in fact, I've actually had more friendships with women than I have with men. (I couldn't care less about sports or cars.) And yet, I think the truth I was trying to express is still there, because most of the women I had serious friendships with I would have been romantically interested in if I'd gotten the sense that there was a chance there.

    I don't have time to explain myself now. I probably will make it into a blog post. I think, for one thing, that friendship itself means something different to men than it does to women. And what you said about men needing to be persistent because a woman turning a guy down doesn't mean she will always feel that way; that's true in reverse: a man saying (or indicating) that he wants to "be friends" doesn't mean that he always will, or even that that's actually what he means at the moment. Reread what I wrote about why a man may say he wants to be friends. It does not, necessarily, mean a lack of romantic interest.

  11. I finished the promised post. Here it is: All the Lonely People.

    I want to thank you guys who have come over here for the first time. I've really enjoyed the interaction. Hope you'll continue the thread from there.

  12. I think this is a great list and very insightful. I've linked to this post (and Julie's) and am sending people (especially single people) over because both lists are truly helpful. And along with Bob, I say that it is not just one person.
    Thanks for doing the hard work.

  13. Thank you very much, Michael, and welcome!

    I've been very surprised and pleased at the positive response. I thought Julie or Naomi or some woman happening by would get offended. Anyway, thanks again.

  14. Thanks for the comments and the visit, but I wanted to affirm something you (Keith) said in an earlier comment above:

    "But simply the close proximity and interaction of an attractive woman will start things buzzing in a man. It's something we have to be careful of when we're married, even if we're drop-dead in love with our wives."

    I definitely agree. I find that I have to consciously "work through" every relationship I have with an attractive woman to make sure it is settled in a "safe" category in my psyche. The "buzzing" seems to have a mind of its own until I clearly identify it and put it in its proper place.