Understanding Guys

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Dear Darla,

In order to interact with guys generally, in order to date one of them, and in order to marry one, it is highly recommended that you have some understanding of what you are getting into.

Now in order to explain to you what you are getting into, I am going to have to generalize. There is nothing wrong with this, so long as you realize that there are exceptions, and that life is not always tidy, and you should not clutch at any generalization, however accurate it might be, as though it were a theorem out of Euclid about triangles having three sides. Triangles always have three sides. Guys are not always the way I will describe for you, but they are usually that way. So budget for exceptions, while at the same time expecting my descriptions to come true, right before your very eyes.

Guys are simple, in a way that women are not. Consequently, you will be tempted to over-analyze everything, and you are accustomed to things being complicated. You have adjusted to those complications, and you think they are normal. You think that guys are doing the same thing. You analyze his brief comment, that comment with a thousand possible meanings, when it was just a brief comment.

When I say that guys are simple, I am not saying that they are stupid. They are very intelligent, and can win wars, and send people to the moon, and build smart phones, and so on. But their intelligence rides on a very different operating platform that your intelligence does. As a general rule, guys think about one thing at a time, like a dog pushing a rock up and down the sidewalk. Breakfast breakfast commute commute work work work work work lunch lunch work work work work work commute commute, dinner, dinner, tv, tv, sleep, sleep, repeat, repeat. If you ask them to do more than the one thing they are currently occupied with doing, it annoys them.

Women can generally do three things at a time, think about two things, talk on the phone about another thing, and all with a baby on their hip. This is a grand mystery, but it is also how the meat loaf, and peas, and mashed potatoes all arrive at the table at the same time, all of them hot.

Now in the examples I used above, I was assuming a married couple. But suppose you have these two different ways of thinking still single, and in the process of getting together. Think of this as a divine sense of humor thing. They will both have very different perceptions of what the heck is going on.

When a man decides it is time to court or pursue a woman, he is doing “the next thing.” He knows he needs to be married, and so it goes on his to-do list. Men think in a linear way, one thing at a time. Women are lateral thinkers, and can run multiple tracks at once. One of your problems will be that of assuming that he is doing the same thing that you would be doing when he is doing nothing of the kind. You will be like a master chess player in a game with a novice, and when the novice makes some random move, you will think of three different ways that could be an uncanny genius move. But it isn’t. It is simply what he did, and it seemed like a good idea to him at the time.

If it is outside their realm of experience, the fact that men are such narrow, linear thinkers can be mistaken for stupidity—or malevolence. You bring up something perfectly reasonable, like the fact that he asked you out on the three-month anniversary of your first date, to the day, which you thought was so sweet, and he just blinks at you dumbfounded. He actually asked you out because you already went out on Monday, and Friday comes after Monday. That anniversary thought never entered his head, and not only so, but it never occurred to him that such a thought could ever enter anyone’s head.

So one of the things you will have to get used to is the fact that heterosexual relationships are always cross-cultural, bilingual situations. You come from different worlds. He’s a guy. They do things differently over there. You must make room for that. Do not make the mistake of expecting him to make room for the way you are, while at the same time not making room for the way he is. Meet in the middle. That’s what sensible people do.

Now if I were giving advice to him I would be saying the same thing. He needs to become bilingual also. He needs to make room for the way women are, and stop doing certain things. Give and take, give and take. For example, throw a bunch of guys together in a group—military unit, hunting party, bowling team, etc.—and one of the ways they will bond is by making fun of each other. They are not being awful. They are making friends. And some men make the mistake of trying this out on a girl they are dating. This is not generally done by guys with sisters, but it is done. So if you don’t want a guy who makes this kind of mistake, don’t be the kind of girl who makes this mistake.

Another difference—one that has some relevance to the challenge of getting together—is that men and women are attracted to different initial things. I emphasize that word initial because I am not saying that other traits are unimportant to men and to women—far from it. But men are attracted initially by looks, and women are attracted initially by status.

You have to make adjustments for age and station, but the principle is the same all the way up. In high school, she is pretty and he is the quarterback. Twenty years later, she is attractive and he is a CEO. Complain about this all you want, it is not going to go away.

This is why a young man has to be taught that looks aren’t everything. He will tempted to see that she is really pretty and stop there, asking no more questions. But he needs to be encouraged to go on to the issues of character, brains, and work ethic. Hollywood is full of beauties that nobody can seem to remain married to.

“Charm is deceitful and beauty is passing, but a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised.”

Proverbs 31:30 (NKJV)

Let me illustrate this principle with a couple in a lousy marriage. Let’s say that the marriage has been bad for a few years, they just had an argument, and then he goes off to work. Now let’s say that on that day, some other woman at work makes a pass at him. Because he is vulnerable, and provided she is attractive, he doesn’t even need to know her name in order to be tempted. He is attracted physically first, and then after that he can get as emotionally entangled as anyone. But it is sexual first. In the meantime, back at home, the wife is vulnerable just like he is—but not the same way. If the UPS guy tried something (“hey, baby”), he would get the door slammed in his face, no matter how bad the marriage was. But the next door neighbor, the one who helped her get the patio furniture in when it rained, and who took a moment to chat with her over the back fence that other time, and who seemed like he was really listening, etc. . . . She will be tempted also, but not right away, and it will be emotionally first, and physical later. She is vulnerable if he seems like a successful guy, and if, as that successful guy, he notices her.

Okay, back to singles. The point there is men and women respond to different initial prompts. There is nothing wrong with those initial prompts in themselves, but it is a drastic mistake to limit yourself to them. Men and women both need to look past status, looks, and personality, and ask the really serious questions about character.

A girl can be pretty and pleasant, and still be an airhead. Having breakfast with an airhead would get old pretty quick. A man can be an alpha, really going places, and be a suffocating presence wherever he lives. That would get old even quicker.

But beware of the real threat—a man can also be a mousy beta, coming up with new and timid ways of abdicating every single day, and that would be the worst. If a man is being a pencil neck, it should not matter to you that his pastor told him it was servant leadership, and to keep on deferring. You should have nothing to do with him—although you may feel sorry for him. He was diffident to begin with, and then his pastors spent years teaching him that his timidity was some kind of an aphrodisiac. Feel sorry for him, but move on. You should want a man that you believe is fully capable of taking you on. And if you are a handful, then he needs to be a masculine handful.

I am talking about first impressions. You will notice, first, whether he is sending the appropriate signals that indicate he will be able to provide and protect. Is he a hard worker? Does he have a job? Is he strong? Is he courageous? Do other men respect him? There is nothing wrong with you noticing such things first, and not responding to him unless you have noticed them. They should be on your list.

And there is nothing wrong with him asking you out because he thought you were cute. But there is a hazard in being cute, as you almost certainly know. When you are being cute, more guys notice than just the one you noticed. So don’t get irritated when you get unwanted attention. It is part of the cost of doing business.

When a guy you are not interested in asks you out, you must receive it and respond to it as a compliment. That is what it is. You should graciously and kindly decline the compliment, but this is possible to do while treating it as a compliment. Some women are guilty of a great unkindness by treating an invitation from an undesired male as “creepy,” while at the same time treating similar behavior from a desired male as “so sweet.” Say that the undesired male compliments how you look, and asks you out. Your response should be warm and firm. “I really appreciate the compliment, but no thank you.” The mere fact of the attention is never creepy—although the manner of it could be. If a man is rude, then you may respond to the rudeness. But he is not being rude for noticing what you were wishing that other guy would notice.

If the right kind of guy saw you on the subway, somehow tracked you down on Facebook, and showed up at your church the following Sunday, why is this material for a sweet romcom, and not the material for a thriller stalker movie?

Here’s another important difference between guys and girls. If you don’t want attention from a particular guy, and you decline to go out with him, do not give any reasons other than the fact that you do not wish to go. This is because guys like obstacle courses. If you give a reason, they will treat that as an invitation to start running the obstacle course. “No, thank you. I’m busy Friday night.” All you are doing is inviting the follow-up question, which is “what about Saturday night?” So if a guy is persistent, you need to say something like, “I am appreciative of the attention, but I would prefer to keep our relationship as it is. But thank you for the compliment.”

There are other aspects to all of this which I am sure we will get to, but that should suffice for the moment.

Your uncle,