As most of my favorite bloggers have not been writing lately, I have been stretching beyond my usual reading circle, and today I was introduced to the blog single dad laughing. I fell in love with this blog instantly, and the post that brought me to his blog is likely to be a long-term favorite. I have already bookmarked it.
Yes, it’s that good.
Read it. Now. I’ll wait.
16 Ways I Blew My Marriage
There are so many things I love about this post — its gentle witticism, its self-deprecating humor, its brutal honesty. But it also made me sadder than anything I’ve read in a long time, because it resonated with me so very strongly. As Dan, the blogger, writes, he could have gone on for much longer, and I almost wish he had. His 16 points go far to summarizing the best of every relationship book and article I’ve ever read, and I would strongly argue that most of his points could be applied to both men and women in relationships. With that in mind, his post played through my head all day yesterday and I came up with my own ideas of what I might add to his list. So, here are some of my proposed additions to make an even 20, necessarily from the viewpoint of a woman (since I still don’t have a penis):
17.) Tell him that you admire him and why — and do it often.
Since my divorce, I have realized how important it is to men to feel admired and respected by the woman in their life. I think this is akin to how women want to feel cherished and adored. We want to feel admired and respected, too, of course, but with men, it seems to take on a different texture… You can attach whatever judgment you want to the sex roles biology has shouldered us with, but I think most men really need validation that they are strong and able protectors and providers for their family. I now realize how important it is to frequently — and sincerely — tell my man how much I admire how hard he works and the sacrifices he makes and how proud I am of him. I definitely didn’t understand this before.
18.) Make a mutually-fulfilling sex life a priority.
Women can bitch about it all they want, but we have thousands (if not millions) of years of biology working against us: men need sex in different ways and for different reasons than we do. Yes, there are more similarities in how and why men and women need sex, but it is the differences that cause the problems, and so it’s useful to acknowledge those outright. Men communicate through sex the way most women communicate through words — it’s how they connect with us, show us how they love us, and feel close to us. Talking all night feels good to them, but not as good as a sexual connection. The sooner we realize and accept that and work with it, the more likely we are to get the relationship we want.
I think the male need for sex to get close to a woman is a lot like a woman’s need for a man to be supportive in order for her to feel close to him. Hands down the biggest turn-on I hear my friends talk about is a guy who helps with the kids and around the house. That makes her feel close to him and appreciated by him and loving toward him. I think sex is like that for men. Just as we get the warm fuzzies when they tell us to take the afternoon and get a massage while they tangle with the little monsters, so do they get the warm fuzzies when we spend a long evening making love to them.
And I think the “mutually-fullfilling” part is important, because I think most men — nearly all men, in fact — really want to be good lovers to their partners. They want to know what works for us and what doesn’t and how they can rock our world. They want to hear it, and it’s our job to tell them. How is that not a win-win?
19.) Step lightly around his ego.
I know, I know, I know. The male ego can make even the most poised woman crazy trying to manage. It’s more tender and delicate than a newborn baby, and, when injured, takes a helluva lot longer to mend. But unless you’re willing to go to bat for the other team on a permanent basis, you have to make your peace with the male ego. It’s fragile. It needs reassurance. If you demean it or emasculate it, it may not recover. So be careful what you say or do. Putting your man down will never work out in your favor. Ever.
20.) Give him time to be him.
The men in my life have always given me high scores on this one, but my male friends have almost uniformly complained that they felt like they weren’t allowed to have individual hobbies or interests outside the relationship without feeling guilty. I think most grown-ups know in our heads that it’s important for us to have some “me time” — to work out, to hang with friends, to participate in hobbies, or to just escape the duties and obligations of our parenting and professional lives. Some of us need more of this time, and others less, but it’s important to figure out what his needs are in this area and try to support those. And we don’t need to understand it (I, for one, would rather watch paint dry than a golf tournament, but, hey, that’s just me), we just need to support what’s important to them and makes them happier. We expect no less from them, right? And happier partners makes for a happier relationship, for sure.
I’m not pretending that I have all the answers, obviously. But I do think that my dating research has brought me lots of data to chew on and digest for your benefit. I’ve listened to men and I’ve listened to women and I think the roadmaps to better relationships really are out there. We just have to see them and use them, and that’s the hard part. It’s so much easy to keep doing things in much the same way as we always have, under the guise that we are good enough and anyone who loves us will surely put up with our crappy parts. While that may be true, I think the greater the number of crappy parts we’re asking potential partners to bear, the smaller the pool of potential candidates. Weed out the psychos, the predators, and the garden variety creeps and you’ve got an even smaller number. So maybe taking a look at how we can be better partners is kind of like amending the soil before planting a garden?
Yesterday, on the sidelines of Bryn’s soccer game, I had another surreal conversation with Bryce; this time about his perspective on my dating life . It was fascinating to hear him weigh in, given how well he knows me in some regards. Toward the end of the conversation, I told him about single dad laughing’s blog post and asked if I could send it to him, as I thought he’d be interested. “Sure,” he said, “always good to figure out how to do better.”
Photo courtesy of Dan Peace. single dad laughing.