Express Yourself : The differences between men and women
To coincide with the launch of Authentic: Relationships from the Inside Out, I was asked to write a piece with my husband David for Express Yourself, the relationships section of The Daily Express. Below is the original article we sent before publishing…
WHAT MEN AND WOMEN REALLY THINK
You and your partner may often appear to be speaking different languages, so relationship consultant SARAH ABELL has written a book to help confused couples. Here, she and husband David highlight some common misunderstandings.
David: Women often struggle to understand men. We’re either seen as Neanderthals who would rather watch football than talk about our emotions or softies who are compassionate listeners and write poetry but can’t put up a set of shelves.
I’ve been accused of being both so I’ll try to explain some of our thoughts for the benefit of women everywhere.
Sarah: Generalising about men and women is tricky as there are always exceptions. Take me for example – I’m competitive, not very interested in the latest fashion or beauty trends and before I got married I told David that
I never cried. (This proved to be a lie.) So while you may find truth in some of the following, we don’t expect you to agree with everything.
STUFF WE DON’T UNDERSTAND
David: What’s your obsession with shopping? All that time looking at stuff, buying stuff, saying your bum looks too big in it, taking it back, buying more, wearing it once and then saying you’ve got nothing to wear. Why not be more like us? Need jeans. Buy jeans. Wear jeans. Simple.
Sarah: What’s this fascination with gadgets, YouTube clips, cars and statistics? Why can you remember trivia but not your mum’s birthday?
Why are you so obsessed with sport and why would you refuse an evening out to watch some second division side get hammered on TV? And why do you spend so long on the loo – even if you are just reading?
WHAT WE’RE REALLY THINKING
David: Nothing. I mean really nothing. Well maybe some football. And sex.
Sarah: We can’t imagine what it’s like to think about nothing. Our mind is like a computer left on with windows that keep popping up. Each thought prompts another window We try to close them by getting things done or chatting about them.
The more windows open the more stressed we feel which is why we find it hard to sit down and watch TV or focus on sex if there are 20 other things we’re thinking about.
THE WORST THING YOU COULD DO
David: Spend our entire weekend away complaining we didn’t book the hotel with the right foot spa. Rejecting us or making us feel like a failure – we don’t want to be reminded that we haven’t lived up to being the man we should/could be.
Sarah: Trade us in for a younger or more beautiful model (or any model come to think of it). Criticise us, be unkind or disagree with us in front of children, family or friends. Stop wanting to have sex with us. Tell us we’re being hormonal (even when we are).
WHY WE’RE NOT ALL THE SAME
David: We don’t want you to be our mother/sister/boss/ex. Nor do we want to be compared to other men. Jackie’s husband may earn more than us but would you want us working the hours he does?
Kate’s boyfriend’s house is bigger but they don’t have kids to help empty their bank balance. Your friends probably complain that their partners never cook or make them laugh. Swings and roundabouts, see?
Sarah: Women come in all shapes and sizes with different skills, preferences and experiences. We don’t like being lumped into one big category.
If you tell us that women are like this or that we can’t do that we’ll only want to prove you wrong. We’re all unique and if you’re the man in our life we want you to know the real “me”. Don’t assume we’re just the same as your mother/sister/boss/ex.
WHAT REALLY BUGS US
David: What’s with all the nagging about the jobs we haven’t done yet? We can only do one thing at a time. And you keep adding to the wretched “to-do” list so the jobs never end. If we’ve done nothing for three years then fine but if you’ve told us to do something and then “remind” us again three minutes later, shame on you.
Sarah: OK, we might nag a little but only when our attempts at hinting or asking nicely are continually ignored ! We really can’t afford to wait three years to see if you are going to do it .
Why can’t you be the ones with the to-do list, thinking of all the things that need doing? That way we’d get to experience the joys of selective hearing.
WHO’S THE BOSS?
David: If you keep banging on about what you want us to do, we’re less likely to want to do it. Don’t keep hinting that you want a date, a surprise weekend away or a ring on your finger.
We either don’t want the same or haven’t plucked up the courage to make it happen. Give us the space to be heroic and be gracious about the hotel we booked (even if it’s not what you expected). Give us credit for trying and we’ll do better next time.
Sarah: Many of us have grown up being told we can do anything you can do but better. However just because we can empty the bins, run a company and change a tyre doesn’t mean we always want to be self-sufficient.
We may not make it obvious but we’d like you to take the initiative and plan a great surprise or help us without being asked. Deep down we want you to be the hero.
WHAT MAKES US FEEL GREAT
David: You. Scoring a goal. Scoring with you! And time off for good behaviour when we can do our own thing is good.
Sarah: We love it when you take time to find out what really makes us tick and when you do any of the following without being asked; buy us something we really want, surprise us, romance us, tell us we’re fabulous, listen to us rant without giving advice, give us a hug or massage (without expecting sex), bring us breakfast in bed or just finish a few of the jobs on that to-do list.
WHY WE’RE GLAD YOU’RE NOT LIKE US
David: You’re not hairy, sweaty, bald or smelly, which is frankly amazing. You can make a place a home and remind us of all the little things necessary to keep life running smoothly.
We could watch sport all day so it’s great you keep our social life alive. Just not when the Champions League is on – or the World Cup.
Sarah: We’re glad that you’re not insecure about your looks, plagued by irrational emotions and change your mind several times a day. We’re also happy you don’t spend hours in the bathroom (unless you’re reading – isn’t it uncomfortable?). We like you clean but don’t want you to have a beauty regime that matches our own – that wouldn’t be sexy.
WHEN WE DON’T WANT TO HEAR THE TRUTH
David: We know we got the weekend wrong… pointing it out to us over and over doesn’t help. However, we are happiest with honest questions and straight answers (apart from anything to do with your ex partner, when bigger or better is not what we want to hear).
Sarah: Just because we ask a question about how we look or something we’ve done doesn’t mean we want to hear the truth (unless it is favourable).
Tips for coping with this: a) find out what we think first; b) don’t mention something we can’t change; c) Reassure us that you think we’re fabulous; d) If you think we should wear or do something different, suggest a good alternative; e) Next time give us a great compliment before we have to ask.
WHY WE LOVE YOU
David: We just do! We’re not sure how to explain it. You’re brilliant and we know we’re lucky to have you. We don’t know why you put up with us but we’re glad you do.
We complement each other. It’s taken some time and tears and we’re not perfect but you help us be the men we want to be. Don’t ever change. You’re great the way you are. We love you.
Sarah: You help us to see the world in a different light. You encourage and love us despite our own perceived imperfections.
You don’t let us take life too seriously and help us to relax and laugh. And when you romance us, appreciate us and want to be with us you make us feel on top of the world.