If you listen to the media, you’d think men are completely mystified by women and have no idea how they work. But it’s just as common for a woman to be stupefied by her lack of insight into what men think. Both genetic differences and socialization can make it difficult to understand the other sex. It’s no wonder why we sometimes run into communication gaffes, even with the people to whom we’re the closest.
However, it’s not impossible to understand how men think (and sometimes what men think about, too!). Use this knowledge for smoother interactions with all the men in your life, to ease the awkwardness of dating and to improve your relationship.
HOW MEN THINK
We’ve broken down how a man thinks based on your current situation, so you can refer to that specific section if you’re finding yourself stumped about how men think or what men think when you’re arguing or shopping, for example.
DURING A FIGHT
What woman doesn’t want to know how men think during a fight? Most couples fall into a pattern where one person pursues and the other withdraws from the discussion. In a pursuer-withdrawer situation, it’s often the woman who finds herself pushing the discussion.
So if you find yourself wanting to hash it all out right now because you don’t want to let it simmer, that’s pretty normal. Men typically have a lower threshold for arguing, however, and they reach their tipping point sooner. When your man checks out of the fight, it may not mean he doesn’t care or that he’s pulling away from you emotionally.
Instead, it could indicate he’s too overwhelmed and needs a break. Knowing how men think can benefit you in this situation, however. You can adjust your behavior so that a man doesn’t feel subjected to harsh treatment, and you can rest more easily knowing that even if your man needs a break right now, you can resolve the issue later.
One method that helps men and women to mitigate those differences is following a structure for arguing. The speaker-listener technique allows you both to say your part and feel understood without escalating the situation.
WHEN YOU WANT TO KNOW WHAT HE’S THINKING
Does your man ever seem deep in thought, and you want to know what he’s thinking about? Perhaps you want to know his innermost thoughts, which is natural and healthy in a relationship.
So when he answers “Nothing,” you feel disappointed. You might even feel like he’s lying but, ladies, he’s probably not. Men, much like cats, have great capacity to stare off into space and think about nothing (they’re also a little better at having a one-track mind than women). Believe his answer, and trust that he isn’t hiding something from you.
Let’s go one step further to help prevent this annoying question from coming between you and your man. Examine what you’re thinking instead of what he’s thinking:
- Are you uncomfortable with silence?
- Do you experience difficulty reading your man’s moods, so you don’t know if he’s angry or not?
- Does his silence make you feel insecure in your relationship?
- Do you wonder if he’s enjoying your company?
Your man might want quiet during these times, but he probably doesn’t want you to feel insecure, uncomfortable or confused about him or your relationship. Instead of asking what he’s thinking, think of a way to word the inquiry that’s less annoying.
Perhaps “You look cross? Is something wrong?” will do the trick. And he might laugh because he was thinking about a recent football game or didn’t realize he had a case of resting bitch face.
WHEN AN ATTRACTIVE WOMAN IS NEARBY
Listen, if an attractive woman passes within eyeshot of your man, he’s going to notice that she exists and whether she has curves in all the right places. You know how we know this? Because you have also noticed! That’s why you’re glaring and tapping your foot impatiently, waiting for your man to turn his attention back to the conversation.
Now, he shouldn’t gawk (and many men learn not to once they pass puberty), but it’s natural to notice another person’s level of attractiveness regardless of your relationship status. Both men and women do it. As long as he’s faithful to you, that’s all that matters.
WHEN YOU COMPLAIN ABOUT A SITUATION
There’s a stereotype that could be true in your relationship: women like to complain and commiserate to feel understood and supported while men want to provide them with actionable advice to get over the situation. If you and your man are like this, then you may find yourself frustrated when his attempts at offering good advice make you feel slighted and not understand.
There are a few ways to get around this. First, you can save your commiseration for females or the males in your life who can offer a crying shoulder without any advice. Save the problems that you need actual advice on for your man. You can also discuss when you just need to vent and want no advice, so your man knows how to support you in that way.
REGARDING DATING AND COMMITMENT
Does it sometimes seem like women are more desperate to find a mate while men are just fine taking their time? It may have something to do with socialization. While things are changing, girls are often taught to look and act a certain way to attract a man – whom they must quickly snag!
A boy is more often taught that the world is his oyster, even if he’s not particularly skilled or attractive. Women come and go, and he’s not so worried if it doesn’t work out this time. He doesn’t need to spend time on someone who’s playing hard to get if he’s sure someone else will come along.
This can also contribute to why he’s taking so long to really commit. He may still be waiting for something better to come along, even if you’re a wonderful partner, or he may simply not feel the same sense of urgency. This can work out for you. After all, relationships take time, and hurrying it along may not be beneficial.
WHEN YOU’RE IN A RELATIONSHIP
We all carry subtle expectations about relationships and marriage – if it comes to that. We might not even realize what we’re doing, so it’s no wonder you’re confused about how men think. There are a few common thoughts a man usually has when he’s in a relationship, however.
- He wants to provide for you, especially financially.
- He wants to protect you (physically, emotionally, etc.).
It can really damage a man’s ego (more on that next!) if he feels incapable of doing so. Losing a job or an injury or illness can make him feel emasculated. Even men who think they’re okay being a stay-at-home dad might find themselves resenting the position because of feelings they didn’t realize they had.
Now, men also love a competent woman who has her act together, and you being strong will attract the right kind of man. But it doesn’t hurt if you let your man take care of you every once in a while. Ask him to open a jar, reach for something up high or comment how safe you feel in his arms. He’ll appreciate it even if he doesn’t think he likes those comments.
WHEN YOU MAKE THE FIRST MOVE
In most societies, the onus is on men to make the first move. They must pretend to be emboldened and strike up a conversation, even if they think you’re way out of their league. They ask for phone numbers, ask for dates and initiate sex. This means men often deal with the lion’s share of rejection.
Now, there’s something reassuring to a woman who doesn’t need to make that first move and can avoid potential rejection, but it’s not necessarily fair. It’s kind to make the first move at least some of the time. Men feel relief when a woman flirts first or asks them out, and many men find it especially sexy when a woman goes after what she wants.
It’s scary to approach someone you like, but don’t think that a man is any better at it just because he may have more experience. At least build up his confidence by flirting with him if you want him to make a move.
Even if you’re in a long-term relationship, you can give your man a break by initiating sex if that’s something you typically leave up to him. Plus, switching things up in the bedroom is good for your sex life.
WHEN YOU COMPLIMENT HIM
He loves it, truly. He might be surprised because men don’t often receive as many compliments as women. Even female friends and family are more complimentary to one another than you might be toward your man.
A man may even be more likely to take a compliment at face value; although, men still have their insecurities. This leads us to our next point.
As a woman, you may find it easier to discuss the ways in which you doubt yourself to your mother, sisters, and friends. Men often lack that safe space to do so, so providing him with the opportunity to be vulnerable is essential to a true connection in your relationship. He should be able to talk stress at work, family worries or even whether he can please you in bed.
He may have difficulty being vulnerable because it’s new to him, because he wants to be your protector, or because of his ego. Men often have larger egos than women, and they can become quite hurt even from perceived insults to his skills or manliness (which is exactly why some men aren’t good at making less money than their partners).
To understand what men think about themselves requires flexibility. Sometimes his ego may seem overinflated, but he’s not infallible. The guy across the table from you on that first date is just as worried about whether you find him attractive or interesting as you are him.
We’ve all heard the statistic that a man thinks of sex an average of every six seconds. You know the stereotypes that a man can more easily disconnect sex from love, and that he’s only interested in getting in your pants, so you shouldn’t put out right away.
Men are animalistic, driven by their need for sex. This is what we’ve been taught. But is that really true? After all, you might be a pretty sexual being if you’re reading the Princess Fantasy.
Perhaps you’ve always been this way, or you may be breaking out of your repressed shell to express your full self. You might be one of many women who prefers NSA sex and casual dating to a relationship, and you may even find yourself having to deal with guys who fall for you when you just want to have fun. You may even have to deal with slut-shaming because you live in a world that doesn’t understand a woman who owns her sexuality.
It’s perfectly normal if you want sex more than your partner does. A man isn’t always ready to go, after all. Stress, hormones and relationship issues can all interfere. Some men just desire sex less than emotional intimacy, and that’s okay, too.
Also, all those issues with self-confidence applies directly to sex. He’s just as nervous during your first time, he’s not sure if you’re going to like his body, and he’s worried he won’t be able to please you.
HOW A MAN THINKS IS UNIQUE
We’ve talked a lot about how men think and how that differs from women, and there are both genetic and cultural forces at work that create this difference. However, men and women are not really from different planets. You and you man are both individuals with unique points of view and feelings.
One study found that as few as 6% of human brains is truly a single sex . Most of our brains are a mosaic of traits, with some mosaics being more typically male or female than others.
So it may be unwise to assume your man thinks about something in a certain way just because he’s a man. He may be more sensitive than you are, and many men who do not seem particularly sensitive may actually be pushing down their feelings because it’s what they’ve been taught to do.
Don’t add to that pressure by enforcing gender roles within your relationship, which may limit the way your man is allowed to think. You can play that role and be the strong one, the silent one, the compulsive one, the horny one or the one who can separate sex from emotions more easily.
Understanding how men think can make it easier to navigate the dating world or communicate with your man, but it’s crucial for you to remember that each man is a person. Otherwise, you might forget about the thoughts and feelings that make your man unique.