Dissecting the Modern American MaleON BALANCING RELATIONSHIPSYoav Fisher

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.

Thoughts?

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

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  1. Balance is key and date nights are really relationship enhancers. My husband and I have been doing it since we got married. And if there are ever difficulties along the way, sharing burdens come easy. Prioritizing as to whose needs must be met first should be dealt with by laying down pros and cons, as to one’s availability, expectations, significance, etc through constant communication with the intention to understand the situation of the other.

  2. in my opinion, its up to both parties to find even ground. i dont think its fair for a woman to take away her partner’s freedom and expect his life to revolve around her… people are naturally relationship oriented, but we are also naturally rebellious and proud. it goes against our nature to be controlled as much as it does to be entirely alone. my boyfriend and i dont check with each other about what the other does or where they go, but we have set our boundaries for what is and isnt acceptable from the other partner (within reason) and make sure we have a substantial amount of quality time as well. the reason we’re so functional is because we’ve both established what we absolutely can not accept in a relationship early on, therefore there arent any unpleasant surprises and neither of us feel like we’ve lost who we are. its not about rules or formulas, its about communication! (:

  3. Funny, I actually find myself in the opposite of this reality. I feel like I’m the one prioritizing and not being prioritized

  4. I definitely agree that balance is key to any relationship. Although the needs of any couple differ from one relationship to the next–for instance, I’m very independent and appreciate just as much me time as my boyfriend does– reminding that special someone that you’re always on their mind and that you care about them goes a long way.

    I find that sometimes (and this is the general consensus from all my gfs) when a guy finally snags a girl, he feels that he’s already got her so he starts slacking in the “effort department.” I do believe that it has a lot to do with the fact that guys dread the responsibilities of a committed relationship. But truth be told, guys really don’t have to do a whole lot to put a smile on a girls face. A simple text/call here and there or a date night, etc. is sometimes all you need. It’s those little gestures that can ensure a happy and secure relationship. :)
    If one or the other side can’t come to terms with the fact that there needs to be some communication, compromise and equity when it comes to eachothers needs, then they really should re-evaluate their relationship.

  5. I don’t want my partner to put me first, if I can’t put ‘me’ first in my own life. That’s being hypocritical. But what I want and expect is a fair amount of SHOWING the interest in me, support in me, helping me ( even few words per day could change everything over 360 degrees). I don’t want to feel that I give 120% and get 45% back. Those are just numbers, but 70% would do. Anyway… What I mean is that man seem to have ‘BUT YOU KNOW I LOVE YOU’ attitude where woman needs to hear it or see it. I know there’s a moon, see?
    I think the way that all men still needs their independence and women needs to ‘control’ it is crazy. Everyone is different therefore it will always be different conversation in any relationship.

    G, why life ain’t easy?

    xxx

  6. I agree with Layla about the different personalities thing, but I think there’s some truth to the generalizations in the article as well.

    On thing that stood out to me was that any relationship where both sides are only concerned with their own needs is in a precarious state. Obviously we need to be aware of our needs and articulate these needs to our partners in nice, calm ways (oh, if it were always that simple). However, I think that most amazing relationships are the ones where each partner is thinking of the needs of the other.

  7. This is interesting, because while I would agree that in a relationship each partner needs to at times put the other person first, in my relationships I have found that I am the one who needs time alone more than my boyfriend. I don’t think it’s as simple as women want x and men want y, I think it depends on the different personalities.