Dissecting the Modern American Male


At a recent lunch, a group of friends were discussing an interesting relationship quandary that I wanted to share with you all for this post.

The women in the group were discussing how unfortunately rare and ultimately important it is to feel both prioritized and secure in a relationship.  Meanwhile, the guys were talking about how much they wanted to feel like they were still free to do whatever they wanted, whenever they wanted.

What is interesting is that these two requests are frequently diametrically opposed, even in the best relationships.

For the women in the group, being prioritized meant that the guy ranks his partner’s needs above his own.  He will consider how actions and events affect his partner before he considers how it will affect himself.  Ultimately this requires the guy to be quite humble and altruistic.

Feeling secure in the relationship is a little more nuanced… Part of it is dependability, but part of it is also quelling the anxiety that comes from questioning the relationship.  Feeling secure means knowing that you are not exposed to all the scary “what ifs” that happen along the way, and that no matter what, your guy will have your back and will always come home to you.

Whether or not this is at the core of women’s needs in a relationship is up for debate, but for the women in the conversation it was critical, so we will go with it for the time being.

For the guys, who conveniently sat on the opposite side of the table, all they could do was lament about their long-lost freedom.  They missed being beholden to no one but themselves and their whims.  They wanted to feel like they could go out on any night of the week without having to confirm scheduling with their partners.  They wanted to spend one full day without a phone call from their wives/girlfriends reminding them of various tasks like groceries or dry cleaning.

It’s not that guys are scared of being in a relationship with one woman; it is that they dreaded being committed to the responsibilities that come with a relationship.  Ultimately, this means that the guy is the opposite of humble and altruistic; he is egocentric and indifferent.

So on one hand, the woman wants the guy to put her needs first, and on the other hand the guy doesn’t see anybody else’s needs but his own.  Irritating, ain’t it?

Even though it may sound old fashioned and unsophisticated, I think there is a grain of truth in this view of relationships.  Even in great relationships, priorities between the two partners are not always aligned, and therefore the most important thing is balance.

For example:  The guy really does need to put in the effort, especially in the small things, to show that he is prioritizing his partner and making her feel secure.  In return, there should be a trade off where he can take a few hours off once a week to go do whatever the hell guys do when they are alone (like Tupperware parties).

On a personal note, my newly minted wife and I went through a long period where we didn’t understand this key difference in how we viewed relationships.  She felt that between our jobs, our friends and our families, I wasn’t prioritizing the relationship, and therefore making her feel insecure and doubtful.  I felt that I was being stifled and just wanted some time by myself every few days.  We came up with a really basic solution.  Date night.  Once a week it is just us two.  The other nights we can fill up with whatever we each individually want to do.  We have been doing date nights once a week for over 3 years running.


Balancing photo via I Eat Grass; Lady and the Tramp photo via UniFundraising and copyright of Disney.