I never met a woman who didn’t readily admit that she stayed in a bad relationship too long. I have asked many women recently out of dysfunctional relationships why they remained in them even though they weren’t working. While their answers varied the most often repeated one is that they hoped their partners would somehow realize the error of their ways and decide to become better men.
This just doesn’t square with what I learned working with men over 15 years because a man never changes his behavior just because a woman asks him to. No amount of coaxing or cajoling a man makes a whit of difference. A woman will unlikely convince a man that he is the problem even if he is. No matter what his issues are, anger, abandonment, isolation from other men, etc, a man will only decide to work on himself when the pain caused by his dysfunctional behavior becomes so unbearable for him that he can’t stand it any longer. Sadly, this awakening usually comes after his relationship failed. A savvy woman he might meet later knows immediately whether or not he has his emotional life together because she knows how and what to ask him.
Every day I read posting on various websites written by women who are exasperated by their husband or boyfriend’s behavior. His anger or his lack of interest in talking about their relationship is the most common complaint from women who can’t come to grips with the fact that his behavior is out of control.
What many women don’t know is that men don’t talk with them about their relationships because they simply don’t know how. The playing field that is the man/woman dialogue is so tilted against most men that the conversation is over as soon as it begins. It loses all meaning when a woman talks about how she feels about the relationships and the man responds with what he thinks about it. Anything beyond their opening statements is superfluous because they are talking entirely different languages. Speaking from the heart and speaking from the head are at opposite ends of the dialogue spectrum and no amount of time on that playing field is going to yield much of value.
So a woman who hangs in with an unconscious man while embracing the fantasy that he will one day wake up and appreciate how terrific she really is and work on his issues is wasting her time. In a decade and a half working with men I learned that few if any men knew how to access their emotions and even fewer could talk about them.
Women should accept that men aren’t going to change, aren’t going to talk about their emotions and aren’t going to become better partners until they sit down with other like-minded men and talk about their demons. Men can help other men learn how to talk about their relationships in language that is constructive and helpful. My new book, The Key to the Men’s Room: What Men Talk About When Women Aren’t Around is written expressly for women who want to understand men and their issues. I offer real men’s stories told in their own words and I trace their progress over a 15 year period. The Key shows women what is possible and what they have a right to expect.
A woman who stays in a relationship with a man she hopes will do the work is on a fool’s errand. She would do far better to find a man who has already done the work or is at least on the path. Asking a man what if any emotional work he has done is a good first question. A negative response should be enough for a woman to keep looking. Men who have done the emotional work are out there, but not in big enough numbers yet which might explain why for the first time in American history more women are choosing to remain single than marry. It would seem that there many women who have decided to pass on the futile experience that is getting men to evolve.