My husband, James, and I are SO DIFFERENT. And it’s not just that he grows facial hair and I use mascara; it’s the way we express ourselves and the ways we relate to each other.
During the past two years of marriage, we’ve noticed many differences between guys and girls, and as we’ve become aware of these differences, they’ve empowered us to build a stronger, healthier relationship.
That’s why we came up with this list of five things we think every girl needs to know about guys. We hope these can help you build healthier friendships, family relationships and romantic relationships with guys.
Note: These things are generalizations, meaning that while we believe they apply to many guys, there are always exceptions. We encourage you to talk with the guys in your life and ask them which ones they relate to and which ones they don’t.
1. Guys don’t get hints.
And it’s not just that they don’t; it’s that they can’t.
I’ll never forget the first time I learned this. I was 17 and had just started dating my first boyfriend. One night he called me up, hours before my extremely important college piano recital (read: everyone’s boyfriends came and the girls wore prom dresses), and said that he wouldn’t be able to make it.
“I’m sorry!” he said. “My band practice got rescheduled to tonight.”
“It’s fine,” I said, and hung up.
Now most girls know that when you say, “It’s fine,” that really means “Nothing is fine!” But it turns out that guys take our words at face value.
I turned to my dad and said, “If he doesn’t figure out that this is important to me and show up tonight, then we’re over.”
“Did you tell him that?” my dad asked.
“Well, no. He can figure it out!”
“No, he can’t!” my dad said. “He’s a guy, and guys don’t get hints!”
Even when a guy can tell that something is wrong, he often has no idea what that “something” is. Instead of trying to make him figure it out (an impossible and intimidating task), it’s better if we can be honest about what we are thinking and feeling. That minimizes tension and grows trust in a relationship. In fact, James says one of his favorite things about me is that I say what I mean and mean what I say. (The truth is, I don’t always. But I’m trying. And it’s because of that phone call with my first boyfriend.)
2. Emotional expression is often harder for guys than for girls.
And this isn’t because guys don’t have emotions. In fact, they feel things deeply! It’s just a lot harder for them to put their feelings into words.
At first it was really frustrating for James to try to express his emotions. It could take days (or even weeks) for him to know how he genuinely felt about a situation, and then even more time to figure out why he felt that way.
When we first started dating, we threw a big BBQ together. James was outside grilling meat, peppers and onions for hours, and they were delicious! Unbeknownst to me, he hadn’t tried any of the grilled vegetables yet, and as a food-lover, he was very much looking forward to tasting them. The night wore on and people were heading home, so I packed up the rest of the veggies and sent them home with some college guys. And as James watched me pack them up, he got really quiet.
“Is something wrong?” I asked him later.
“No, I don’t think so,” he answered honestly. “I’m probably just tired.”
A week later, he said, “Actually, I realized I was upset that night. I’m still not sure why, but I’ll get back to you.”
Another week passed. “I think I’m upset because you gave away the vegetables I grilled.”
By the next week, he still didn’t know why that had bothered him.
The lesson was huge for me.
I tend to know immediately if I’m bothered and why, so I had no idea that someone else might not be able to immediately know what they were feeling. I also love talking about how I feel! But the experience can be very different for a guy, or even exhausting. So if we need to have an emotionally laden conversation, I’ve learned to be patient. I realize now that James needs time to think about how he feels and be able to find words for it. And if I rush past that, he may not be able to share what’s going on inside him, so I need to be patient and wait. I also try to make sure he feels up to an emotional conversation before we get started.
Since we got married, James has gotten much faster at his emotional processing, since he gets to practice a lot living with such an emotional wife as me! Now he usually knows if something is bothering him, and why, within a few hours. But it was a skill he needed to practice; it didn’t come naturally to him as it did to me. (And trust me, I know how important practice is, because there are MANY skills that come way more naturally to him than they do to me!)
3. He needs some “me” time.
This is true of the vast majority of guys I’ve met. They need some time to themselves every so often to relax and de-stress.
This can feel hurtful to the girlfriend or wife, who often thinks, If he really loved me, wouldn’t he want to be with me all the time? But he does really love you. And he still needs some “me” time.
Now, I do need to clarify: Having “me” time does not mean ignoring you for days at a time or spending several nights each week with other friends without inviting you. That’s not “me” time; it’s taking your relationship for granted. That could be a red flag and deserves a deeper conversation with him and with people you trust.
However, if he just needs some time away by himself or with the guys to process every so often, or even every week, that is totally normal. Know that he still loves you, and he’ll love you all the more for giving him the “me” time without any guilt!
4. Guys’ brains are like boxes.
It’s been said that women’s brains are like spaghetti (because everything is interconnected) and guy’s brains are like waffles (because everything is in its own neat little box). James and I have found this to be true in our relationship.
When I’ve had a frustrating conversation in the morning and then someone cut me off while I was driving, I can come home feeling really down or frustrated. James, on the other hand, lives in the box where he is at that moment. If he’s at home, he’s in the home box, and things that might be going badly at work or at church just don’t really bother him too much.
This compartmentalization can result in a girl thinking, Why doesn’t he care? Why isn’t he more sympathetic? In reality, he does care, but he might be in a different box at the moment. You may need to help him see things from your perspective, as well as take the time to see things from his viewpoint.
5. Guys really do care about your personality!
When I was in college, I was convinced that guys didn’t care about a girl’s personality at all. They just wanted a hot body; I was so sure of it. So I spent all my time trying to become as beautiful as possible, and trying to hide my personality. I figured if I showed the real me in all its vibrancy and strength, it would scare the guy off.
I couldn’t have been more wrong.
In my 20s, I got tired of hiding behind the fake persona. I got tired of always having to look perfect. So I let down the mask and began to be myself, even if that meant going to the mall in sweatpants some nights.
And it’s true, some guys weren’t interested in me. But those were the guys I didn’t want to be with. And other guys were way more interested in me, because I was real.
What I’ve learned is that good men want a real relationship with a real person. They don’t want someone who’s faking it and trying to be who she thinks he wants her to be. They aren’t searching for someone who looks like a model. They’re looking for someone who loves to be herself.
I can’t tell you how healing it was for me to learn that—or how healing it was to find that James fell in love with me not because he thought I was beautiful (although he did), but because of who I was.
So be yourself. Someone out there is looking for someone just like you.
I hope learning these differences can empower you as it has me.
James and I actually made a video talking more in depth about each of these five points. If you’d like to see it, click on the video below.
The biggest piece of advice I have about each of these differences is this: Talk about them. Ask your friend or brother or significant other: “I know every guy is different; are these true of you?” And then talk about how each of you can help the other feel more loved, keeping your differences in mind.