How to Get Men to Adopt New Thinking About Relationships

Steven Ing, MFT

You've tried talking to him about your relationship...and he just got mad. You've tried talking about relationships in general...and he was so painfully and obviously bored to death. You've already given him the book that you knew would explain everything he needed to know about relationships...and it remains in mint condition, utterly untouched. You've tried dragging him to therapy ("Hard pass!"), listening to podcasts ("I don't do podcasts."), guilt-tripping all the way to Sunday's sermons on "God's Plan for Families"—and his head still hasn't stopped spinning around and around.

How do you get your man to take advantage of any new thinking, new discoveries, old truths, and old truisms about couples, families, sex, or love?

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Compared to many women, some men find conversations about relationships to be, frankly, boring. It's simply never the case that, in a social event, should all the women leave the room, that the men turn to one another and say, "Oh good, now we can talk about relationships!" Never. Going. To. Happen.

I was once invited to a local chapter of Romance Writers of America. I tried to explain to the roomful of women how men often don't care about discussing relationships and that relationships, as a subject of conversation among men, really isn't compelling. Finally, one woman could stand it no longer and plaintively asked, "Then why do we even bother? Why bother talking about relationships, about love, why write about it at all?" What she implied is, "Then what kind of people are you?"

I leaned into the mic to explain: "It's true that men don't care about relationships. What they care about is you." Silence followed by a collective poignant sigh. It may be true that we don't care about things in the same way, but we men do care.

Men and women think differently

What had happened in the room was a little object lesson in neurodiversity. We're all different and that is a good thing. Consider how we make decisions to form a strategic alliance with another human being in order to more adaptively face our life challenges together. In that future alliance, what do we gain from finding someone who sees the world just as we do? After all, I already have a brain just like mine. I don't need another version of myself. That would be redundant.

We benefit, in this merger of love, from joining forces with someone whose superpowers are different from our own. Women are already all up into relationships and love and they enjoy examining them and figuring them out. They have that part of life covered. I think it's the same reason women aren't so good at opening stuck jar lids—they've already got him for that and they just hand him the jars.

But getting a stuck jar lid is one thing and getting stuck in our relationships is another. The jar is inanimate and we don't count on its cooperation to succeed in life. Life partners are different. We need a certain amount of cooperation to make it all work.

Instead of criticizing her because she's not more like him, I try to guide men into understanding their marriages would not suddenly become ideal if she were to think exactly like him. Sometimes I have to explain the same to women who can't comprehend that they actually make humans who don't care about relationships. They make a lot of them. They're called men. But men do care. They care about all kinds of things and they care deeply about their families and they care about their partners. But they don't care about the relationship.

And scolding them into caring about the relationship is never going to work. Think about it. When was the last time you were scolded into caring about someone or something? Maybe it was your mother trying to scold you into that nice guy, you know, her girlfriend's son who was in medical school? Or maybe she was trying to scold you away from that ne'er do well drummer in the rock band who was just “horrible”? You know, the one you married, out of spite if nothing else. Oh yeah, and the medical student's touch made your skin crawl.

Of all the things that we do for ourselves in this world, picking out our mate is definitely something we need to do for ourselves. Giving in to scolding would have meant a profound and unacceptable level of loss of self. "Fine Mom, if you like him so much, why don't you date him?"

What's always missing in these stubborn impasses is what advertisers call the hook, a slogan or other extension of what you're selling that supports your idea and lures your customer or mate into at least checking out the idea. Advertisers know they have to give us a little something to let us think how our lives might be better if we buy their idea.

Getting buy-in from men

The LGBTQ+ community has been successful with their marketing campaign, in part because of their facility with making allies, resulting in their rate of progress has been nothing less than historic. Meanwhile, the Equal Rights Amendment goes begging, in part because there was never enough buy-in from men because this important piece of legislation that promoted equality, equity, and tolerance was never explained to them. Sadly, this is still the case with the ERA.

In this series called "What's in It for Him," we're going to take a look at some answers that might "give him a little something to let a guy know how his life might be better if he buys into it." But for now, let's give up talking to him like he's a wayward and immature teenage boy. Let's forget about making him your best new girlfriend. He will never be that. His secret? He has something better to offer.

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I had a seriously messed up childhood. Like, mobster-father-shot-to-death-by-police messed up. Out of this beginning came a lifelong fascination with two questions: “Why do people do what they do?” and “How can all of us figure out how to move to what healthier families enjoy and how they get their needs for love met?” As a Marriage and Family Therapist for over 30 years, I work to help people figure out how they too can have healthy sexuality and intimacy by Managing Sexuality Intelligently™. I have literally written the book on human sexual needs, "We’re All Like This” (Second Edition 2020, Giant Publishing), with portions appearing in the 2nd edition of the McGraw-Hill textbook "Human Sexuality: Self, Society, and Culture," used in university-level human sexuality classes. My books, articles, and public presentations create conversations about human sexuality that are safe...but not too safe. My insights have led to a humane take on our beautiful human sexuality and how all the rest of us can have ridiculously happy lives (yes, and sex lives too!).

Reno, NV
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