Mars, Venus and a Planet in Between

couple disagreementWitnessing an argument on the train today, I realised something pretty profound. Women can be very selfish creatures.  Never mind that screaming at someone down the phone on a full train is bloody bad manners, not to mention the question of why on earth you wouldn’t mind so many people witnessing you in such an emotional state.


I have no idea who the guy at the end of the phone was, but he was certainly getting it. And not in a good way.


We throw our hearts into it, get carried away fantasising about the wedding, what the kids will look like and redesigning the living room.  Men are a tad more rational and approach things with caution. Yes they may like you but it’s doubtful they are picturing you in your bridal underwear after 2 dates.  Underwear maybe. But doing so is being sloppy with your emotions and is probably incapable of the emotional maturity required to sustain a healthy adult relationship.


We expect so much of our men. We expect them to be the perfect man, our white knights, and put so much pressure on them to be that.  Yet this doesn’t account for the fact that they have feelings, bad days, and make mistakes. Same as us.


There’s also the little problem of every woman being different.  By our mid twenties most of us will have dated more than one person. Thus several different people with very different ideas experiences and beliefs. So how is a guy supposed to know what to do? All relationships are complicated. So why do we put so much pressure on romantic ones? We’re essentially setting ourselves up to fail.


How much do we recognise their needs? They have feelings, vulnerabilities and dreams too. We complain about societal pressures on us to look a certain way, but we would do well to remember that there’s also a shit load of societal pressures on them to front, maintain face, and be a ‘real man’.  We essentially expect them to prop us up, complete us, and be the strong silent type. So why do we complain when they are quiet? So much is made of what women want. And yes it would be helpful if some of them had more of a clue. But how can they when we ourselves don’t know what we want? What about what men want?


We put everything on ourselves. What did I do wrong? Why is he being quiet over dinner? I text him ages ago, why hasn’t he replied? He’s not got his hands all over me tonight, do I smell?  Look fat? If I tire myself out with my neurosis, lord knows what it does to my poor boyfriend.


But there’s a reason why there’s more focus on women trying to change men than the other way round. Problem is, we’re still not satisfied. How long will it take women to realise they need to deal with their own issues and let him be? If he really needs that much of an emotional overhaul, let him go.


Even when we split we still expect them to be there for us emotionally. God knows I’ve had a few break ups where the ‘let’s stay friends’ adage has been taken literally by yours truly.  Looking back, I have no idea how I thought it made sense to be comforted through the split by the guy I’m leaving. How does that make any sense?! It was also extremely selfish as it doesn’t give them any room to deal. And it was pretty selfish of me to get involved with a new guy when I’m still in contact, and love, with the ex.  I’ve lost count of how many times I did that, especially at university.  We bitch to our friends that his ex is still on the scene, but how is it fair if we do that to them?


After a split at university, I threw myself into dating lots of other guys. I was still working with my ex, and started messing around with our colleague.  I don’t know if my ex knew, but that was pretty selfish. And about 6 months after that, I had 3 guys on the go simultaneously. What’s wrong with that, you might think. Guys do it all the time. The problem came when I skipped a period. I was using condoms with all of them, I use condoms religiously, don’t go without. It turned out to be a stress skip, but that made me realise I was actually hurting myself. So ceased sleeping with 2 of them. But had I been pregnant, I would have had no idea whose it was. Possible fatherhood-but-can’t-confirm-it-until-the-baby-comes is not something I ever want to inflict on a man. It’s also rather scuzzy and worthy of Jeremy Kyle.  We watch it on days off and laugh at them, but who seriously wants to be one of them?!


I also tend to over-romanticise and remember them as better than they were once it’s over. I spent about 2 weeks doing this with my most recent ex until a couple of my friends gave me a reality check. Which I was shocked by but came to appreciate. But until that point I kept daydreaming about him turning up at work, telling me he loved me and wanted to try again. Keep dreaming girl.


We both knew it was over, so why would he do that to himself? At least men get that when it’s over, it’s over.  And I didn’t want him back so why did I keep imagining that there would be a dramatic romantic reunion? Because I am a woman and I have seen too many movies.


No wonder men are so bloody reluctant to commit, it’s a nightmare to get out of once you’re in. We push them into committing, nag them to be better people, put ridiculous pressures on them, and complain about their mothers.  Yet we are more like mothers to them than we want to believe.


We complain when our parents make us feel inadequate and fail to live up to expectations, disappointing them. It’s a horrid feeling and something a friend of mine is still struggling with into his thirties. So how is it fair to inflict that on the men we claim to love, the men we have pledged to support as equal partners? It’s not.


“To really love a woman, you have to know her deep inside”. To quote Bryan Adams, this is true.  To love someone is to know someone. That takes time and cannot be rushed. Women confuse lust and the heady intense attraction for something more and open themselves up emotionally and thus fall harder when it ends. Men take their time getting to know you.


My relationships which lasted have been the ones in which we don’t rush into bed. Waiting, dating and taking it slow are unfortunately the keys to a successful lasting partnership. Unfortunately for my libido, these tend to be the ones with less sex.  Trivial you might think, but given my propensity for boosting self-esteem through male attention, the more passion decreases, the more my insecurities play out and I become a bit neurotic. Or dispassionate – but either way, not good.


The overwhelming majority of music tends to be about love. Getting together, tough times and breaking up.  For real singer-songwriters it probably is genuine emotion. But for record companies (read: Simon Cowell) they know love songs are gold mines, as women will buy into it.


Men aren’t necessarily cold bastards.  Sometimes they just don’t know what to say. Often their emotional antennae are shorter than women’s.  But this is not always the case – sometimes women are so subsumed in their own dramas they cannot see what’s happening in the rest of the world. Does the woman now sobbing loudly care that one in 3 people in this carriage are or have been affected by cancer? Or that others are in the throes of divorce and her excessively noisy outburst is probably reminding others of their pain? I feel for her, I’m not a complete bitch. But there is a time and a place and this is most definitely not it. A lot of people on this train are very tired and just want to get home in peace.


Maybe the best thing is to cut all ties completely, walk away with your head held high and eventually subscribe them to the romantic graveyard in your heart.  Grieve, cry to your friends, eat ridiculous amounts of ice cream, but don’t let him know. Because all you’ve got for him to remember you by is your dignity in the face of tough times.  Not only is he dealing with his own feelings about the split; listening to you and seeing you become a psycho bitch will just confirm to him that the split was the right thing. Not only that, but you’ll look like a right idiot to his friends, and if they’re mutual friends, you’re not just breaking up with him. And you will need your friends to get you through the breakup.


Today I find myself missing my ex ex. He was the love of my life and I’ll always love him. I can’t regret the split because he deserves to be with someone who wants to be a wife, settle down and give him all he needs.


But I feel bad about the mistakes I made with him.  I can’t go back, I can’t change anything, but I can learn and take those lessons on board so that once I’m a better person, and meet a good man, I won’t be such a woman about it. But I’ll be a lot more balanced, cautious and rational about the whole thing.


Men get a bad press, but how are they ever supposed to be everything we expect and need them to be?


So, having criticised my gender, in the interests of equality I will now do the same of men. I believe in gender equality. And as much as I wish as I could say I believe in a healthy balance and moderation, it’s not something I really tend to live. The yin and yang theory calls for balance.


As for me, I believe in hedonism, the pursuit of pleasure above all else. Why should life be difficult? Unfortunately, although the pleasure-pain balance is not something I ascribe to, in my experience it seems to be true. And I’m not such an active hedonist anymore, as you may have gathered reading this blog.


But I digress. What’s new.


There is a horrific amount of domestic abuse and sexual violence perpetrated by men. 1 in 4 women will experience domestic abuse. Government figures on rape are woefully lower than the reality, as so many attacks go unreported. But not every guy is like that. Sadly they are not easy to spot, but there are some good men out there.


I’m not going on a massive rant against men. Especially given that no-one is perfect. But a little honesty and communication would be greatly appreciated. Is it really so difficult to open up about how you feel? You don’t have to tell the world, but you SHOULD talk to the person you say you love. And be clear and straight about what you actually mean. Be aware of how your words can be taken.


Oh, and a couple of other things while I’m at it – appreciate that women sometimes cry for no particular reason, and consider doing housework on occasion – it’s not the woman’s job. Gender stereotypes are ridiculously outdated. And don’t leave the toilet seat up. And watch where you pee.


There’s a lot in the media about the new man, but given men’s ages, how long they have been subjected to certain ideas, our culture and the impact of ascribed gender from a young age, change will be a slow process. The guys I meet certainly don’t seem to be new men. I’d never seek to emasculate a man, but a little introspection, compassion and appreciation would go a long way.