“Sure God created man before woman. But then you always make a rough draft before the final masterpiece.” –Author Unknown
(Andrew: In response to the quote Jasmine chose – Well, for most of the greatest directors and writers, the always say that their first work is the best and sequels always pale in comparison to the first. So… Heh.)
Jasmine: Our last post was anchored by Andrew and focused on helping men understand women. In this post, we’ll be talking about how women can understand men better.
1. How to avoid arguments
Jasmine: One of my favourite takeaways from John Gray’s book was the tip to practise assertive asking. Many people mistakenly use “Can you” or “Could you” when making requests because it sounds more polite than “Will you” or “Would you”. However, according to Gray, “can you” offers the recipient a chance to respond that he cannot. An even worse manner of asking (and yes, been guilty of on occasion!) which I’ve noticed is “Do you want to?”- not only does this presume (often incorrectly) that the recipient is keen, it also allows for the possibility of a simple “No, I don’t want to”, which would effectively close off any further negotiations.
When making requests, what we should do is begin with, “Would you?” This minimises the possibility of the recipient responding negatively, as an “I will not” is much harsher than an “I cannot”.
I read this book earlier than Andrew (hence much of what I’ve said in this post and the last is from memory, as the book is still in Andrew’s possession) and decided to practice assertive asking on him without telling him that I was doing so. I would make requests phrased as “Would you bring me out on a date?” or “Would you pick me up from school at 10pm tomorrow?” To my surprise, Andrew agreed to every single request! (Even the 10pm one, which I especially appreciated. Heh, thanks dear.) Previously, when I was using “could you”, it was easier for him to say no and he did hem and haw about similar requests made using “could you”.
Anyway, I got away with it for a whole month… until it was his turn to read the book. Now he’s practising assertive asking on me! Urgh.
Of course, the other half of assertive asking is to be able to accept rejection graciously, with an easygoing “ok”. That, unfortunately, is the part that Andrew likes to stress to me nowadays.
[Andrew: Yup! The beauty of Gray’s book is that it also helped me to understand that it’s okay to turn down certain requests at times (if it’s really beyond you physically), but the important part is how you do it and of course, to still keep her satisfied while doing so.]
2. Realise our different emotional needs
I did find the extended metaphor of men and women as aliens from different planets rather prolonged and tedious. However, one funny story that John Gray concocted was that of the knight in shining armour, who is all ready to rescue his damsel in distress.
“Just as he pulls out his sword, the princess cries, “Don’t use your sword, use this noose”.
She throws out the noose, and motions to him instructions about how to use it. He hesitantly follows her instructions. The dragon dies and everyone rejoices.
At the celebration dinner the knight feels he didn’t really do anything. Somehow, because he used her noose and not his sword, he doesn’t feel quite worthy of the town’s trust and admiration. He is slightly depressed and forgets to shine his armour.”
Jasmine: Gray repeats the metaphor by recounting how the knight saves his princess again, but this time she tells him to use poison and not the noose. Finally…
“A month later, he goes on another trip. This time on his journey he hears another woman in distress. As he rushes to her call, his depression lifts and he feels confident and alive. But as he draws his sword to slay the dragon, he again hesitates, “Should I use the sword, the noose or the poison to slay the dragon? What would my princess say?”
For a moment he is confused. Then he remembers how he felt back in the days when he only carried a sword. With a burst of renewed confidence he throws off the noose and the poison and charges the dragon with his trusted sword. He slays the dragon and the towspeople rejoice.
The knight never returned to his princess. He stayed in this new village and lived happily ever after. He eventually married, but only after making sure his new partner knew nothing about nooses and poisons.”
Jasmine: As over-simplified as this may be, I thought it was quite effective in demonstrating how women unwittingly inhibit men from expressing their love.
I’ve learnt that it’s best to let a man express love on his own terms and in his own time. Although the temptation to offer advice is always there, refrain from making suggestions, unless he has specifically asked for it. More significantly, men need to be trusted and admired. In contrast, offering suggestions makes it seem like you do not trust him, and are depriving him of his primary love needs.
[Andrew: Yes, I think this is a great piece of advice to girls. If asked, I believe almost every single girl will be able to list out 10 or more perfect ways in which they would love their boyfriend/husbands to display their love. All girls think about these things and of course, some of these ‘ideas’ come unfortunately from movies. Guys, on the other hand, tend to be more easy-going about how girls express love to them and in fact, their need to be loved is less than their need to be accepted. Nonetheless, a good piece of advice for all men is to find a way to balance what the girl wants with what comes naturally to you. I’m not saying that guys should not go out of their comfort zone for their girlfriends, but at the same time, ensure that you’re doing what you’re doing because you genuinely want to do it for the girl, not because she wants you to do it. The difference is subtle, but significant – and girls are really complex – they don’t want their boyfriends to do things for them just because they asked for it. They want their boyfriends to genuinely want to do it.]
Jasmine: What are primary love needs, and how do they differ between the sexes?
Women need to receive
Of course, this doesn’t mean that all women have the same primary needs. Neither does it imply that men don’t have these primary needs either. What “primary love needs” means is that a woman needs to have her primary love needs fulfilled before she can receive other kinds of love.
On the other hand…
Men need to receive
Recently, Andrew noticed that I was feeling rather down. We had decided to go to East Coast for dinner as it was nearer to my place, but having reached East Coast, he suddenly announced in the car, “Dear, why don’t we go for French food instead? I know this nice restaurant called the Black Sheep.” (I love French food.)
Instinctively, I knew that he was trying to cheer me up, and I made sure to mention how I appreciated his willingness to drive through horrendous Little India peak hour traffic to get to the restaurant. In addition, Andrew is a steady sort who doesn’t like to change plans (especially not at the last minute), so I was really touched by his spontaneity and how he just wanted to make me happy.
Bringing me to that French restaurant met two primary love needs that day. It was Andrew’s way of showing that he not only validated how I was feeling then, but that he cared about me. As a result, I felt loved and cherished by his act of service. (Not to mention, much fuller- and that was just the appetizer!)
Andrew: Of course, after the whole dinner, I felt glad that Jasmine was significantly cheered up and she made it a point to thank me and affirm me for going out of my way to care for her. I felt that my efforts were appreciated and hence, one of my primary love needs was met too! It’s amazing how simple actions like saying thank you (and of course, going beyond that to explain how much you appreciated the man’s actions) goes a long way to filling a man’s love tank.
Jasmine: The most powerful thing about recognising our different love needs is that these different love needs are reciprocal. Therefore, if a man gives a woman the caring and devotion she requires, then she will be better able to give him the trust and admiration he desires, and vice versa.
3. Men are like rubber bands
Jasmine: In a nutshell, guys need their own space.
Gray provides the rather cheesy metaphor of women being like waves (which Andrew has mentioned in our previous post) and men being like rubber bands. What most women don’t realise is that the male intimacy cycle is different from the female’s. Every man needs to feel secure in his autonomy and independence, but after spending too much time with a woman, may begin to feel that his self-worth and individuality are under threat. A man, regardless of how much he loves a woman, may therefore feel a need to occasionally pull away before he springs back with renewed power and commitment. [Andrew: Wow Dearie, I feel like I’m reading the book all over again by writing this entry. Heh.)
This can be extremely surprising, even hurtful, for women. Women have difficulty understanding this because we pull away for different reasons, for instance, when we are hurt or infuriated. Men, however, sometimes back off for no reason at all, and it is important for women to understand three things:
1) It isn’t your fault. It is just a natural cycle.
2) If given support, he will come back on his own after distancing himself.
3) Support does not equate to worrying or hovering at the edge of his “cave”. Support is not blaming or criticising him, but going out and enjoying yourself instead.
Two simple ways that Andrew and I have worked out would be firstly, to work out a schedule of meeting days that both are comfortable with. It should neither be too seldom (cannot grow the relationship) nor too often (cannot sustain interests outside the relationship). Meeting everyday is overkill!
Secondly, when Andrew needs his space, find something enjoyable to engage yourself in. For me, I’ll go shopping, take a steambath or meet up with my friends. This is especially so when he is sick or has had a long and tiring day. (Worst time ever to nag, or even have a halfway decent conversation.) It’s much better to leave him alone and then meet the following day, when he is more refreshed. Instead of hanging all over him like a bad cloud, try not to make a big deal of it, as that merely undoes all the good of letting him have his me-time.
One example I can think of was when Andrew wanted to holiday with his family in June. Although his family vacation clashed with an important course then, we eventually compromised by bringing the course forward, and during the week that he was away, I embarked on my first solo trip (to Hong Kong and Guangzhou- which I don’t regret one bit… who needs a man trailing after you when you shop?)! Even pampered myself with a night’s stay at a five-star hotel! We both came back re-invigorated and Andrew planned two lovely dates for us that following week. That’s what I call a win-win situation 🙂
Andrew: Yes, the arrangements and sacrifices described by Jasmine above have indeed helped to give me my needed space from time to time. For guys, do let your girlfriends know too when you need your own space, to enter that cave. Sometimes, we enter into the cave subconsciously, but on the outside, we’re still trying hard to maintain ‘connection’ with our girlfriend. Your girlfriend will notice that and wonder why you are disconnected. Let her know when you’re too tired or need some time just to unwind but more importantly, let her know when you will be back, so she has more security. Don’t try to push yourself beyond what you can physically give as it will eventually end up hurting both of you.
Jasmine: If you’re interested in Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus but don’t want to commit to putting down hard cash for it, here’s an ebook version: