In a recent post, I discussed how our relationships are starting to fray due to the advent of certain technologies like cell phones, but that isn’t the only reason why things are starting to change in the way that we deal with the people in our lives, especially when it comes to romantic relationships. Our newly developed dependence on instant communication and social media are terrible things to be sure, but they are only extensions of a more basic problem that some of us tend to have more than others. Were it not for this particular flaw of the human race, we might handle these new technologies better, but unfortunately we have and always will suffer for this age old problem: a constant need for attention.
While we all deal with this to some extent, the problem is clearly more highly displayed in women. Men, while we appreciate certain kinds of attention, rarely get much out of social currency all by itself. It is typically a means to an end rather than the reward itself. It is much like money in that we use it as a measuring stick for other areas of our lives. Social interactions on their own hold little or no value to a man, his focus being much more on his goals than how he is perceived by others. Perception is certainly important to a man, but it isn’t critical to him.
A woman, however, lives and thrives through her social interactions. Nothing is more critical to her than how the important people in her life see her, and to some extent even the people she doesn’t really care much about. There is a constant drive within a woman to satisfy this need for social interaction, and women can approach this common need in several ways. While we tend to think that most women build large networks of friends to satisfy this need, it has been my personal experience that many of them try to focus most of their attention on one person: their chosen partner.
This is where we run into a lot of problems in our modern social paradigm. If our goal is to satisfy the needs to two very different people in a romantic relationship, then it is critical for us to truly understand the needs of each party and the ability of each to satisfy the needs of the other. If a man places little or no value on social interaction, preferring to focus on goals and accomplishments, then he is ill equipped to provide what a woman needs in her socially based existence. He can certainly try, and many modern men do, but it is clear that most of us simply are not capable of satisfying this need. A divorce rate of more than fifty percent certainly speaks to this, and while this certainly isn’t the only cause, it is definitely a contributing factor.
One of my favorite quotes comes out of one of my all time favorite video games: World of Warcraft. In the game, you can play all manner of different characters, from humans to orcs to even playing an undead character. One of the more entertaining features of the game is the ability to have your character speak one of the pre-recorded “jokes” by typing in a certain keyboard command. Among the more hilarious of the jokes is spoken by the female blood elf, an apparently evil leaning race, where she says the phrase “how can I miss you if you won’t go away?” The joke is obviously meant to highlight the haughty nature of blood elves, but it certainly resonates with this particular topic.
A woman is always going to struggle when she places all of her social attention on a man. Most of us simply aren’t capable of putting that much effort into social interaction. A man doesn’t need to be in constant communication with anyone, even the person he has chosen to spend the rest of his life with. For many, like me, we value having plenty of personal time to focus on the things we are interested in. It doesn’t mean we don’t love or want to be with the woman we love; we simply don’t need the same things she does.
This is where we circle back around to the technology aspect of things yet again. In the past, a woman didn’t have constant access to her partner like she does today. A man went to work and didn’t speak to his wife until he returned home from the day’s work. Couples spent most of the day out of communication with each other, and by the time they finally had the chance to talk the day was nearly over and they actually had something to talk about. Men and women both went on outings with friends and couldn’t give their significant other play by play updates on what was going on, so the events had a two-fold pleasure in first having the experience and then being able to relive it later as they told their loving partner all about it in person.
It just doesn’t work that way anymore, unfortunately. Women used to have to just live with the fact that there would be certain portions of the day where their social urges wouldn’t be met and they had to be content with getting what they could when it was available. Now, they have a free pass into the lives of others, specifically their partners, constantly seeking the attention of their chosen companion because they feel like it should just be so easy for us to reciprocate. They don’t understand that we just don’t work like that.
My current relationship struggles through the fact that we’re not able to see each other in person very much because of our very different work schedules. She often asks me if I miss her, and more often than not the phrase that pops into my head is that favorite joke from the video game: how can I miss you if you won’t go away? This attitude doesn’t mean I don’t want to be with her, because I do, but if I rarely go more than two hours between interactions with you, how can I ever truly miss you? You’re always there, yearning for another social interaction, trying to extract energy from me that I don’t have to give you. I’m never given a chance to miss you.
The last several decades have been focused on trying to teach society about what a woman wants, and men have spent a lot of time and effort trying to learn. What is sad is that very little effort has been put in by women for the other way around. They assume that men are so simplistic that they don’t have to consider any of the variables that most men come with. Sure, we might have the three big basic needs of food, sex and sleep, but that’s just the first level of the pyramid. Once you get past that we still have certain ways that we work, and women would do well to start focusing on those things if they want to have truly satisfying relationships.
A man will go to the ends of the earth for a woman who truly values him, but won’t move an inch for one who makes him feel like he’s just there to service her. Most of the time the difference lies in that tiny line in the sand labeled respect, and for a man there are few things that are more important to him than that highly prized commodity. If a woman can learn to respect a man’s ways and bend her expectations to accommodate them, just as she expects him to bend his to accommodate hers, things can be so much better for both. It’s a two way street, ladies.