Monday, November 28, 2011

Battle of the Sexes

Nearly twenty years ago, John Gray's Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus arrived in bookstores and promptly left in shopper's bags by the droves. While it by no means started what might be called the "battle of the sexes," it typifies that approach to relationships.

This is the basic narrative. Men and women are totally different. Here's how they are. And for the heterosexual folks out there, here's how you might solve the problems you are having.

Some people argue it's all about biology. Others argue it's all about culture and societal norms.

What they almost all tend to do, though, is minimize or deny individual differences.

If you want to be a conscious dater, and live a conscious, awake relationship, it's really important to steer clear of the noise. And much of the battle of the sexes is just that: noise.

I'm all for studying how cultural gender norms impact individuals. Or how biological differences might lead men and women to act differently.

However, none of that can make up for paying attention to, and deeply learning about, the person you are with.

In other words, addressing any problems you are having, whether on a first date, or ten years into a marriage, requires sticking to your current context.

Where are you coming from? Where is the other person coming from? What now?

It's easy to let external noise dictate your life. Don't go there.


  1. One thing that I really couldn't stand about my ex was something he did early in the marriage. I'd come to him with a legitimate complaint, and, instead of agreeing or disagreeing and saying why, he'd respond with questions like "what's the matter, are you hungry? are you tired?" Apparently, somewhere down the road, he'd picked up a notion that women are emotional beings that do not know what they really want, and take out their physical feelings of discomfort on the first person they happen to come across (usually, their husband). Luckily, he never went as far as asking "are you on your period?", or else I'd be writing this comment out of jail, where I'd be doing time for murder... jk lol

    Or another example, first guy I dated after my divorce. We broke up because, after five or six dates, I couldn't bring myself to agree to be exclusive with him. Even though he seemed okay on the surface - tall, not bad-looking, well-educated... he was somehow giving off douchey vibes, so I was not sure about committing. Also, I'd only been divorced for three months, and he hadn't even scheduled his divorce hearing yet - way too soon for commitment, IMO.

    Anyway, in parting, he said this to me: "I don't understand. All women want a relationship, and you don't. What on earth is wrong with you? I think it must be cultural. Is it cultural?" - thus effectively covering, not one, but two stereotypes, nice job!

    What I'm saying is, stereotyping (any kind of it) is really overrated. People are so different, with different backgrounds, talents, temperaments etc. It's nearly impossible to say "all men are X" or "all women are Y". But, you're right, it's easier. It is also a disaster waiting to happen. When you expect certain behavior from your partner just because of their gender ("all women want a relationship"), you may be in for a surprise.

  2. This mentality of pigeonholing people based on gender (or any other criteria) REALLY gets my goat. You see it out there a lot on the dating blogs. Advice is given based on stereotypes. I often wonder how many men did I give the heave-ho to unnecessarily because he was not acting according to the "rules" or whatever. I really do try to listen, pay attention and judge each man individually based on what I see. I've already felt like the quality of men that I'm dating has improved and I have cut the time I've spent in situations that were unlikely to develop into a relationship by a good amount.

  3. Both of you point to one of the major pitfalls of relying on stereotyped gender narratives: namely, that it's easy to end up driving away or rejecting a lot of people, some of which might actually be good matches if given the chance.

    This is also important for other readers to consider.

    "I've already felt like the quality of men that I'm dating has improved and I have cut the time I've spent in situations that were unlikely to develop into a relationship by a good amount."

  4. Any time someone gives the "Women are X, men are Y" thing a whirl (unless they're talking about chromosomes, in which case, I'll just sound out their understanding of transsexual folks), I just turn around and say, "Oh. I guess I must not be a man, then." And move on. Or, if it happens that that particular stereotype is one to which I more-or-less conform, then I'll give the example of some other male-identified person who doesn't fit it (and I always can think of at least one).

    1. I see it a lot, people are going to identify someone based on his sex and not on his true person and qualities.

  5. I think you captured the key point perfectly - male or female you MUST focus on that person as an individual. You are in a relationship with that one person -not every single member of that sex