I can't stop saying "Wow."
What an exquisite thing, this moment of clarity that's just arrived.
My friend Lynne posted a piece on her Facebook page, a bit of advice from Liz Gilbert. Yes, I know people have very strong feelings one way or the other about Liz and "Eat, Pray, Love" but on the topic of love, she offered a bit of advice to a man who was about to get married and wanted her input on how to be a great husband.
So she offered him some words of wisdom, kicking off with "Housework. Do it."
Indeed. Women dig men who'll do dishes or Swiffer the floors.
But it was No. 5 that really struck me:
5) Don't push her. Now here comes my speech, which I give to every man I know who is about to get married. Here's what you need to know about women. Women, as a general rule, love to be in love. Women tend to be very good at love, good at intimacy, good at forgiveness, good at tenderness. If a woman loves you, therefore, she will overlook your flaws, forgive your trespasses, cover for you, make excuses for you, always try to see you in the best light. Don't ever take advantage of that. Don't ever relax into that, and decide that you never have work on yourself, or work on the relationship, or deliver at all, because you've noticed that she will always pick up the slack and forgive you. Because here's the thing about women: A woman will forgive you and forgive you and forgive you and forgive you and forgive you and forgive you, often for years on end...until one day she's finally had enough. And the day she's finally had enough, she will leave you, and nothing you can ever say will win her back. This happens to men all the time, I see it happen all the time, and it always seems to take them by surprise. They never see it coming. DON'T EVER LET HER GET TO THAT POINT. Take care of her graciously and gratefully, and it won't happen.
That led me to recall a friendship that I had that I ended a few years ago. And I said to myself, out loud, "Well, in fairness, he was surprised because I never really spoke up while we were friends," at which point, I replied to myself and said, "If you would have, the friendship simply would have ended sooner."
And that's when I arrived at "Wow."
Yes, the friendship simply would have ended sooner. Because he wasn't interested, I now see, in really cultivating a true relationship with me. He was interested in the adoration, the distraction, the fun. But when I truly needed him in a substantive way, he wasn't there. When my parents were ill at the same time, when a dear friend of mine suddenly died, he was nowhere to be found.
And to reinforce the "Yes"-ness of this realization, I recalled another friendship with another man – though I now have to question whether either of them were truly friendships – and, indeed, so long as I played the role of admirer, things were fine, but the moment I turned to him in need, he wasn't there. And when I later brought that up to him, he got mad and walked away. And I followed him and what ensued wasn't pretty. It left me shaking. Partly out of anger and partly out of finally having stood up for myself.
So, yes, men, what Liz writes is spot on: Don't ever decide that you never have to deliver at all.
Because we will
make a lot of allowances. We will
justify behavior for a long, long time.
Until the day that we won't.
Which may seem terribly unfair. But it's not. Because here's the simple secret:
You need only make very small investments to reap very large dividends.
For most women, the smallest thoughtful gesture on your part will buy you an enormously disproportionate measure of appreciation on our part.
A sincere "thank you" for something specific goes a long, long way.
Really. We're not asking for much.
And every once in a while, flowers – just-because flowers, not I-screwed-up-and-I-have-to-fix-this flowers – are a really nice touch.
* * * * *
Slightly later the same day ... .
Did you ever see the movie "The Break-Up" with Jennifer Aniston and Vince Vaughn?
Do you remember this scene?
Brooke: I just don't know how we got here. Our entire relationship, I have gone above and beyond for you, for us. I've cooked, I've picked your shit up off the floor, I've laid your clothes out for you like you're a four year old. I support you, I supported your work. If we ever had dinner or anything I did the plans, I take care of everything. And I just don't feel like you appreciate any of it. I don't feel you appreciate me. All I want is to know, is for you to show me that you care.
Gary: Why didn't you just say that to me?
Brooke: I tried. I've tried.
Gary: Never like that, you might have said some things that meant to imply that, but I'm not a mind reader...
That scene is the essence of what Liz wrote.
Women aren't asking men to be mind readers. Women are asking for the most basic of courtesy: for men to say "thank you." There is no magic here. That is something we all should have learned just about the time we began to speak.
Yep, it's really that simple.
And you'll remember, in the movie, Gary tries to make amends. He makes dinner for Brooke and finally tells her what he's feeling. And I really admire the writers of the film – men, by the way, and Vince Vaughn has a story credit – for drafting a scene so real. It was too late. She was done. Spent.
So, as Liz advises, don't ever let it get to that point.
Especially since the way to prevent it from getting to that point is so very simple.