Her dad invited them up to his cabin that weekend to watch the game. He didn’t want to go. She made him. She cracked jokes in the car. “Sometimes I can’t believe you’re a guy.”
“At least I’m driving,” he said. “Is this going to take all night? Because I have a ton of work to do.”
“Just relax,” she said. “Have a few beers.”
“So many calories…”
My friend didn’t have a good time. His girlfriend and her dad spent the entire night making fun of him. He didn’t understand the first thing about football, except maybe what the word “touchdown” meant. A few beers in, her dad challenged him to a pull-up contest.
My friend won. He could do 12.
Her dad laughed. “Well, you’re not a complete wimp.”
As you can imagine, that relationship only lasted about nine months. He dumped her, mainly because she kept pressuring him to perform a persona that didn’t suit him. There was a constant state of tension and discomfort that permeated their time together. He couldn’t articulate any of this until years later, but he was feeling something women are all too familiar with—the pressure to conform to gender stereotypes. Low and behold, it cuts both ways. We just don’t think about how often it affects men. Even men don’t think about it that much. Maybe if one of them had known what was going on, they could’ve talked about it productively.
It might’ve saved them.
Here’s four things I’ve learned that guys generally don’t want to do in a relationship, even though our culture still seems to expect it. This kind of knowledge could rescue a couple:
1. He doesn’t want to pretend to love sports.
Some men don’t like sports. It doesn’t matter if we’re talking football or soccer. They’re just not into it.
A lot of people still cling to stereotypes. They think if men don’t like watching sports, they must be flabby pushovers.
That’s not true.
Let’s define “sports.” Plenty of men still enjoy fitness. They run. They hike. They climb. Maybe they kayak. Even if they don’t do that, a guy’s interest in teams sports says little about his identity. On the plus side, you won’t have to plan your wedding around game seasons.
Some women have a hard time accepting a guy who doesn’t conform to masculine stereotypes. They might find themselves in the weird position of enjoying spectator sports more than he does.
The solution here lies in decoupling someone’s gender and identify from their weekend pastimes. If one of you enjoys sports, and the other doesn’t, then negotiate and compromise. You don’t have to share all the same hobbies to enjoy a great relationship.
Don’t drag them along to all your favorite things.
Let them do their own.
2. He’s a demi-sexual.
We still have a terrible habit of assuming that most guys are almost always up for sex, even though this myth has been dispelled more than once. On top of that, some men just can’t see themselves getting involved romantically with someone they don’t see as a friend.
For them, trust is a turn on.
That’s not so different from what a lot of women want. It’s a hard thing to explain, though. The past century of American culture has simply conditioned us to believe men are constantly lusting. If they’re not, we assume something must be wrong with them.
Demi-sexual men don’t get super excited about strip clubs and nudes. They wait longer to start having sex, sometimes so long that the woman gets confused and wonders if he’s attracted to her at all. She questions herself. Then she projects that into the relationship.
The solution here is to be more up front about what you want out of a relationship. A lot of men might not even consider the possibility they could be demi-sexual, thanks to gender stereotyping. It doesn’t really matter when you start having sex in a relationship, as long as both people understand what’s going on and why.
There’s nothing wrong with waiting.
3. He hates the term “alpha male.”
Men who can’t stop talking about their status have issues with insecurity and identity. They need to define themselves by how much of a “man” they are compared to other men.
Hence the legend of the “alpha male,” which is a term that just doesn’t fit very well when we try to describe modern human behavior.
Men aren’t the only ones who buy into this myth.
Women do it too.
Some women are vocal about their desires for an “alpha male.” It tends to signal a bunch of mixed expectations from pop culture, which she can’t tell apart from what she really wants.
A lot of guys hate having to perform an “alpha male” persona. They just want to relax and have a good time.
The solution here is to stop determining the quality of our partners based on how well they conform to tired stereotypes. The “alpha male” is nothing but a toxic fantasy that would have men constantly interrupting and mansplaining each other, leading to drunken fights in parking lots. I don’t know about you, but I saw enough of that in college.
Drop the term “alpha” from your vocabulary. Come up with some healthier, more specific criteria for what you want out of a partner.
For example: Self-esteem.
4. He doesn’t want to fight over you.
Some women unconsciously pit their partners against other men, to see what happens. They’ll flirt. They’ll entertain advances. Some women even “hang out” with guys who express interest in them, while they’re dating someone else. The reason is simple.
They expect a man to prove his desire by warding off rivals. It sounds ridiculous, and it is.
Women still do it.
Some men just don’t play this game. They aren’t going to police their partner’s behavior. They aren’t going to scare away competition. They don’t see that as their job. They’ll see the woman as immature.
They’ll move on.
This isn’t weak or effeminate behavior. It’s mature.
The solution here is to stop expecting our partners to prove their commitment to relationships like we’re still in the dark ages. In the year 2020 and beyond, we should be past archaic courting rituals and jousting matches. If you want to be with someone, be with them. If you aren’t sure if they’re invested, then talk to them about it.
Make your partner’s life easier.
You can unlearn toxic gender attitudes.
The world doesn’t need more guys pretending to be action heroes. It also doesn’t need more women encouraging that behavior, even if they don’t realize that’s what they’re doing.
Biological differences between men and women are usually overstated. We don’t come from different planets.
We don’t speak different languages.
Most of the supposedly mysterious divides that keep men and women from understanding each other and communicating better are socially-ingrained. They’re made up, and then taught to us. You learn them. That means you can unlearn them. Try.
It’ll make your life a little easier.