Understanding Men: An In-Depth Look At The Male Species
To the millions of women out there who are shaking their heads in confusion because of something their husband or boyfriend has recently done, I feel your pain. I’m a man and there are times I simply do not understand what makes a man tick. In truth there are times I don’t know what makes me tick, so how can a woman ever hope to solve the mystery that is the male species?
It would be so easy to stereotype men, to label their behavior as childish, uncaring and boorish; easy, perhaps, but in no way justified. Men are every bit as complicated as women and truth be told, quite often they are misunderstood.
What follows are my observations about my fellow man and, by extension, my observations about me. I have no psychological degree nor do I have a behavioral science background. I only have sixty-three years of observations and a lifetime of experiences to draw upon when offering this simple explanation of a complex topic.
If you find this helpful then I am happy. If you are a man and you find it insulting, you are entitled to your opinion. There will always be men who do not fit into a packaged description about the entire species, just as there are women who do not fit any categorization. I do believe, however, that these observations are accurate for a great proportion of the male population.
With that introduction out of the way, let us now take a look at the male culture and see if we can’t gain a better understanding of it.
THE FATHER FIGURE
There is simply no way to deny the effect our fathers have on us as we grow up. The single biggest influence on a male at an early age is his father. What we observe is oftentimes what we become. It is entirely possible to change course as we mature, but the early path that we travel is heavily influenced by our fathers.
My father had two emotions: happiness and anger. My father was generous to a fault, loyal beyond the norm, and the funniest, and angriest, man I have ever known. There was nothing subtle about my dad; what you saw is what you got. If he liked you then you could do no wrong; if he didn’t like you then you would be well-advised to get out of his way when you saw him coming. He would demand respect and fight for it when necessary.
I grew up that way, in many ways a mirror image of my dad even though we did not share DNA. My mother was the softening agent in my life, the voice of reason and a calming influence, but without a doubt my dad was the primary source of development for me.
Conversely, growing up without a father figure produces a whole new set of challenges. The void is practically impossible to fill by a woman no matter how dedicated she is to the task. An important balance is lost when the father figure is missing from a young life.
Changing these learned behaviors is a challenging undertaking and one it took me decades to accomplish. I suspect that is true for many men.
Despite opinions to the contrary, men do communicate. Many times what we do not say is so much more important than what we do say. If that makes no sense to you then you really need to hang out with a man more often.
The description of man as the “strong, silent type,” is a fairly apt description. It seems to be hardwired into our brain although it has been my observation that the new generations are much more open with their communication.
I grew up understanding that a man did not share his feelings; we just dealt with whatever life had to offer. We asked for no counsel and gave counsel only when asked to do so. Is that an unhealthy approach in a relationship? Most likely, yes! There is no way for a partner to understand if the other partner is not communicating.
Men are not open, inviting books. Their cover must be pried off and read page by page. When the book is finished then it needs to be read again….and again. When you are done with that you need to read between the lines looking for that which was not spelled out. It oftentimes is an exhausting process. Is it worth the effort? Only you can answer that question.
Do men tell lies to cover up past behavior? Of course, but I have known women who are proficient liars in their own right. More often than not a man does not so much lie as he does fail to disclose pertinent facts. There is, I believe, an explanation for this. I believe, and this is solely my belief, that men resist full disclosure because they do not want to be subjected to judgment. It is easier to take the silent route and leave people guessing than it is to open oneself up for scrutiny and debate. I also believe that men tend to hold things close to the proverbial vest so as not to show weakness.
The need for clear communication is very real but remember, we are dealing with societal expectations that have been handed down from generation to generation and that is a sticky wicket for sure. Many men that I know will say that they don’t understand what women are trying to say, that it is so watered-down with second and third meanings that it is like navigating a maze in pitch darkness.
The solution, of course, is to find some middle ground. The successful couples manage to do exactly that; over time they establish a form of communication that satisfies both parties and works remarkably well.
From the earliest interaction with other male children, a man is constantly trying to establish himself on the societal ladder. It is Darwinism at its most basic level, survival of the fittest, or King of the Mountain if you prefer. Who is the most dominant on the school playground? Who is the most dominant in sports? Who is the most dominant in school and then the workplace? It is a constant game of show me yours, I’ll show you mine and I’ll bet mine is bigger than yours….and it is exhausting!
It not only manifests itself when males deal with other males but it is also very apparent in male interaction with women. For centuries the mating ritual has included the male puffing up his chest and showing his magnificent plumage, all in hopes of winning the heart of the desired maiden.
Remember, this begins at a very early age, and continues unabated for decades afterwards. It is a rare man who feels no need for such displays of dominance or superiority. Those men are secure enough in who they are that they find such games unnecessary and a waste of time. Find one of those men and you have found a rare gem.
ADD IT ALL TOGETHER AND WHAT DO YOU HAVE?
When trying to characterize a species that consists of almost four billion members, the task is not only monumental but foolhardy on the best of days. There is no “typical” male, but there are characteristics that seem to be common in a great number of men. Women will shake their heads when a man apparently would rather get lost than ask for directions. A man will steadfastly deny any need for directions, all the while instinctively abhorring the need to ask for directions because it will make him appear incapable.
A woman will lie awake at night wondering why her husband will not share his feelings while the husband sees no need to share his feelings, viewing those feelings as a sign of weakness.
And so it goes! The Mars vs. Venus debate has been going on unabated for centuries and will continue to do so, simply because there is a very real difference between the sexes. The truly successful couples find a way to bridge this gap and in fact strengthen their bond in doing so.
Can change occur in men? Of course it can and it has in millions of men over the centuries, but like all change it takes willingness, understanding and hard work. It is entirely possible to put away the play things and attitudes of a child and find freedom from the constraints that bind most men. Feeling secure in who they are is a monumental first step. Having that safe place within themselves, free of expectations and judgments, is incredibly liberating.
In a very real sense men have been programmed over the years to act exactly how they act; the same can be said for women. Like all programming, it can be changed, but there needs to be a desire for change or it will not happen.
The common misconception is that men are a much-simpler life form than women. I think men are every bit as complex as women and in many ways much more difficult to understand. Like any great puzzle, solving it brings wonderful rewards.
2012 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)
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