There is a tremendous pay-off to continuing the “story” that women are mysterious. Both men and women benefit from this excuse. This justification alleviates both men and women from having to take responsibility for their own differences – even at the expense of diminishing women, as they are labeled at best “mysterious” and at worst “flakey, air-head nut-jobs.”

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The Issue

Him: In your mind, you’re telling yourself that there’s no way you’re ever going to understand this uncontrollable, over-emotional, uncaring nut-job, because women are more mysterious and confusing than the Bermuda Triangle. You wonder if she’s deliberately trying to make you feel bad about yourself with this nagging. Maybe she just enjoys conflict. When she starts going in on you, you try to smooth the situation over by staying silent, maintaining a deceptively calm exterior, or taking complete blame and apologizing profusely even though you’re not sure what you did wrong, and aren’t sure if you even care at this point. All you want is for her to cool off and for the storm to blow over. You feel so frustrated. You love her, and this is why it pains you that she seems to want to make you feel small, and to breach the peace. Doesn’t she care that you had a really stressful day at work? All you know is that you’re starting to resent her deeply and to slowly drift away from her.

Her: Your woman is telling herself that you’re a jerk or an asshole who selfishly cares only about your own needs and comfort. It seems like you aren’t even listening to her, since she has spoken to you about this particular issue repeatedly to no avail. She is convinced that you don’t care enough to try to understand her feelings and meet her needs. She feels alone and abandoned, like a voice crying out unheard in the wilderness. She thinks her emotional turmoil is proof that she cares about the relationship, and your seemingly calm indifference proves that you aren’t at all emotionally invested in the relationship and are unmoved by her frustration, confusion and sadness over it. She wonders if you even love her enough to want her to be happy. She loves you so much, so that’s why your apparent indifference wounds her so deeply. She tries to ignore her building frustration and confusion, but it becomes impossible to hold back and she bursts like a dam. She sounds harsher than she intended, but at this point, she just wants to know that you feel something, anything. After the argument has been either averted or fought and ended, you still don’t do anything about the original issue, and her frustrating cycle – trying not to nag while suffering silently about her unmet need – starts all over again. All she knows is that she resents you and is slowly drifting away from you.

You both feel as if you just can’t connect, and don’t know how much longer this can go on. It’s as if a giant gulf has opened between you, and as much as you each want to, you can’t close the divide or cross it to reach to your partner. You doubt your partner genuinely wants to reach you, anyway. It feels like the most frustrating thing in the world.

Why This Happens

Most men do want to communicate and to be a good boyfriend or husband.

The trouble is that most men are taught as boys to hold most of their emotions inside. Boys who express any feelings besides anger, aggression and ambitiousness are teased by adults and other kids, who tell them they’re big babies, sissies, or acting like girls. Boys live in fear of this shaming growing up.

Instead of practicing communicating, boys are told to go play football or play war with toy guns. Boys are also told to just leave the girls alone, since boys are bigger and stronger and taught how to be rough, and girls don’t play the same way. When guys get older, many of us still follow the respectful rule to be gentle with women. Since we love our woman, we don’t want to fight with her. When a woman starts expressing any displeasure or frustration or getting mad, we see it as bad since we only associated this with anger and hate. That is because while growing up, other men never showed their feelings unless they were mad and wanted to fight us. We think she hates us and don’t know how to handle it because we’re taught not to argue or fight with women out of respect.

Whenever men think about sharing or discussing feelings, we hear the little mocking voices in our head saying she won’t understand, or will ridicule us and say we’re unmanly. When we do attempt to say how we feel, we often say things wrong or offend, even though we don’t mean to, because we’re not good at this type of communication due to lack of experience.

Women grow up communicating in a judge-free environment; they practice displaying their feelings and talking about how they feel to their mothers, sisters and best friends without being laughed at. They also receive more emotional support while growing up. With all of this social practice, many women can more easily spot when another person is upset or sad over something, and how to get them to talk about it. Since many guys don’t spend time learning how to observe these things growing up, many of us don’t know what cues to look for to see how the other person is feeling. Women and men have the same emotions, but men learn to suppress them a lot more and not learn to understand what these things mean when they feel them, until their own feelings are basically foreign to them. No man will admit that he’s socially awkward and doesn’t know how to communicate, because of the fear of exposing himself to public ridicule from nearly everyone.

What Men Can Do

Women’s biggest complaint is that their partners or husbands don’t understand them and seem emotionally unavailable. Most women want the sort of guy who will open up to her and share his feelings and problems with her, and understand what she is going through and support her when she’s low. By opening up to her and telling her how you feel and how much you care for her, the two of you will have a much closer relationship, and your woman will appreciate the fact that you cared for her enough to overcome this enormous obstacle.

Do not assume that you know better than her what she needs and how her needs should be met just because you’re a man and think you’re far more rational and therefore superior. Logic and emotions are equally important and neither of these things can be denied without creating a fractured, unfulfilled human being and a fractured, dysfunctional relationship.

Never date a woman who bashes you for communicating your feelings or trying to understand hers. Also, just as there are some men who would like to believe they have a complete monopoly on being logical and understanding logic, there are some women who would like to believe they have a natural monopoly on understanding and communicating emotions, and would not like to see that change by allowing men to grow. You shouldn’t get involved with women like this, because they are denying you a part of your humanity.

How Women Can Help

Men want to feel that at least there is at least one person in the world who they can relax and really open up to sometimes without feeling judged. They are wearing a mask with everyone else in the world because they have to, and don’t want to always have to be on guard with you, too.

You can help your man by encouraging open and honest communication. You may start by telling him that you don’t understand his behavior and you want to, but don’t want to make him feel uncomfortable. Always listen respectfully to his perspective. Never get judgmental or defensive, or dismiss his viewpoint or feelings as invalid. Your perspective may be completely different than his, but being a woman does not make your viewpoint more valid than his. Do share your differing viewpoint with him afterward so that each of you can see where the other is coming from and arrive at a mutual understanding.

Avoid accusatory language. Never mock him as being unmanly for opening up, or he will completely lose trust in you and shut down again, and never open up to you for a long time, if ever. It’s never a good idea to tell men how they feel, because men take it as a personal attack. It makes a man feel like you’re assuming instead of trying to understand him, and that you don’t want to understand.

Of course, not all men will be willing to work with you to build a deeper connection, so you need to be sure that the man you select for a relationship is one you can talk to, who cares enough to listen, and can empathize with your needs and is making the effort to learn how to grow in this area.

Growing Closer is a Team Effort

Romantic relationships, especially marriages, are supposed to be about mutual support. In order to be supportive, you both need to be able to be good listeners and good communicators. Men and women are different, but not so different that a man and woman can’t ever hope to understand each other. If you put in the effort, you will be able to understand each other and forge a deeper bond. Remember that declaring women “too mysterious” or men “emotionally shallow assholes” is a cop-out.