Listen to some groups of young men discussing their lives and you’d swear they were a sort of persecuted community, punished for simply being themselves.
Evidence often emerges when one of their cellphones rings.
The buddy in question will step away from his friends for a minute and his tone invariably alters. He speaks in a hushed, conciliatory manner usually punctuated by a phrase such as “you’re right, I’m sorry, no, no, I’m coming home soon.”
His friends look at each other without uttering a word — dude’s taking heat from the wife — it’s past his curfew and he still has the garbage to take out. She’s pissed and he’s in the doghouse.
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The friends just shake their heads and begin relating similar war stories of how every time they walk through the door they’re shelled by the wife or girlfriend for not having completed some assigned task or failing to ensure that funds for the education of the children they don’t even have are well invested in case some sort of unforeseen stock market crash or nuclear holocaust really messes with their 20-year plan.
Like prize fighters, they outline their perceived hardships blow for blow. Most of which can be broken down into several, often universal, categories: domestic assistance (“You’re not doing your share of the housework”), occupational preoccupation (“You spend too much time working and not enough time with me”), financial concerns (“Don’t you even THINK about our future?”) and recreational pursuits (“There’s no way you’re going out with your friends tonight — we’re visiting my mother. I told you about this a month ago, don’t you listen to m …”).
Cue the warbling parental voice from the Peanuts cartoons.
The guys then finish their beers and head home, taking solace in the fact they’re all in this relationship thing together. They’ll see each other again in a month.
But before we label our partners tyrants, we must remember one key point — men see problems in a different light than women and vice versa. We also have different conceptions of what being a caring partner means.
“The woman, or in some cases it’s the male, can feel very disappointed that they’re not getting the help that they expect for the other person,” says relationship therapist Karen Hirscheimer. “They may have a very different view of the relationship and how they think it should go.”
This sort of complaining works both ways. Hirscheimer points out that in many cases, couples don’t even agree to a division of household duties or on matters such as perceived financial stability, but assumptions are made implicitly, leaving one partner in the lurch when it comes time to answer for duties or objectives not being completed.
“The healthy relationships are really co-created,” she adds. “This is my vision and the other person’s vision and there’s an opportunity to really create a common vision based on who both people are and what the needs really are.”