Everybody has life lessons to learn before they can be good partners. It’s not just men—I want to be clear about that. But I believe that men and women tend to need to learn very different lessons in order to finally become the type of person who can enjoy a life-long, happy and peaceful relationship. Maybe it’s something about the way people parent boys versus girls, often insisting girls be thoughtful, polite, considerate, and sweet, and insisting that boys be tough—both physically and emotionally—competitive, and ambitious. If two sisters fight, they’re scolded instantly, and told to give their sister a hug and say sorry. When boys fight, people say, “Boys will be boys.” This isn’t true of all parenting styles, but it’s true of many, and I think it sets boys and girls—or rather the men and women they become—up to have certain weaknesses in the relationship department.
Of course, our upbringings also give us certain strengths. I think women are generally more comfortable being emotionally open and affectionate because they were encouraged to be so from a young age, and those are great traits. Men are encouraged to be tough in the face of adversity, because that’s what they were told to do from a young age. But there are always two sides to every coin, and when the emphasis is so far on one side of the coin for a person for a long time, he can grow up lacking on the other.
The more I reflect on all of my exes, the more I listen to the older men in my life—from my father to his friends—talk about what they’ve learned, and the more I hear my single girlfriends tell me about what’s happening in their dating lives, the more I have come to understand that there are just some common lessons men need to learn before they can be good partners.
Listening means being listened to
When they’re young, men think that listening to their girlfriends talk about their day or their problems or their dreams—or whatever—is a task. They think it’s a thankless task, too, so they just nod and smile, going through the motions, pretending to listen. Until they get older, life gets tough and complicated, and they realize that they too wouldn’t mind having someone to listen to them.