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Understand Men: Why You Should Go Beyond Stereotypes to Make it Work

by Eharmony Editorial Team - April 18, 2021

There have been countless books and articles, some very famous, on ways to understand men. Unfortunately, most of them fall back on stereotypes but it takes more than that if you really want to know how to understand men. While every guy is different, knowing more about understanding men in general can still give you valuable insights about the qualities to look for in a man. With a better understanding of men, you’ll be aware of the best ways to attract a man.

What should women understand about men first?

While men and women aren’t as different as it seems, one thing that is vastly different (at least Western culture, although it’s getting a little better now), is how they think. What does this mean? Well, if you want to know how to read men, you need to be aware of a few things first:

Men are socialized differently from women

Broadly, this means that they’re taught that very different behaviors are acceptable, depending on their gender. Men are taught to suppress emotion and be independent, which makes their emotional landscape very different from women, who are taught to value empathy and providing/seeking support. This is key for anyone who wants to understand men.

Men take different things from conversations than women

For women, conversations, especially between friends or intimate partners, are a place to show vulnerability and share secrets. For men, conversations function more as a space to bond by sharing things they’ve done or things they love, like their favorite football team.

With men, actions speak louder than words

If you want to understand men, look at their actions. As mentioned previously, men, even men in love, aren’t encouraged to be open with emotions, which means that seeing what a man does is a better sign of whether he’s interested than anything he might say.

How to understand men when you’re dating

While everyone has the same basic desire – to love and be loved in return – men and women have very different ways of showing it, which can lead to confusion and even arguments. It’s easier to understand men when you keep the following tips in mind:

1. They’re inveterate problem solvers

We’ve all been there; you just want him to LISTEN when you rant about your no-good, terrible, horrible, awful, day, and instead he immediately starts trying to find a solution. The thing is that is your guy’s way of being supportive. He sees you being hurt and immediately dives in to try and fix it.

2. Their honesty is well-intentioned

Unlike women, most guys aren’t used to tip-toeing around other people’s feelings. Plus, guys generally don’t BS to people they care about – people including you. Which means that your guy may think you want honesty rather than support when you ask him if you look fat in this dress. Bear this in mind to understand men easier.

3. They’re better with hard facts

Most guys haven’t had much practice dealing with emotions, and their non-measurable, intangible quality makes things worse. It’s probably why guys love sports so much, aside from their competitive nature – it’s hard to argue with data. So, what comes across as a cold insistence on facts is really a discomfort with emotions.

4. They love praise, just like you do

Yes, guys will wave off praise like it’s no big deal, but don’t be fooled. They thrive on it, especially when you compliment something other than their looks. Mind you, they wouldn’t say no to a lingering glance or a ‘looking good today, babe,’ but when you acknowledge things, they’re good at. Epecially things that aren’t valued by traditional masculinity, like cooking or parenting, it’s a feeling they’ll treasure.

5. Wanting space doesn’t mean they don’t care

Just as every relationship needs time together, everyone also needs time apart. You can’t miss someone who’s always there, after all. And men need you to understand that a weekend away with the boys isn’t going to tank your relationship, it might just strengthen it.

6. Men aren’t great at multi-tasking

Men generally aren’t great at multitasking. Preferring instead to devote all their focus to the task at hand. Which is why you shouldn’t worry overmuch if he doesn’t text you for a few days; it’s not that he doesn’t care, he’s propably just forgotten.

7. They’re competitive as heck

From when they’re little, men are taught to prize competition and winning. So don’t be surprised when he starts getting competitive with you. It’s natural to him, and a key to understand any men you might be dating; he wants to win, so make him feel like moving from dating to a exclusive relationship with you is winning!

8. Positive reinforcement works better than criticism

The truth of the matter is, most guys really want to make you happy, even if the execution isn’t the greatest. While it feels instinctive to complain or criticize when he does something for you that isn’t what you want, resist. Instead, compliment him the times he does do things that make you happy and he’ll do them more often.

9. They’re all individuals

Every guy is different and with over three billion of them in the world, there’s obviously no one set of rules that will work for everyone. The best way to understand men in general is to focus on the specific men in your life and see how they tick.

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Learning how to understand men will change your dating behavior for the better

All too often, a relationship falls apart not because of bad things like infidelity or abuse, but because women just don’t understand men and vice versa. Acknowledging that there are differences in the way we think – and working with that understanding – is key to a happier, more fulfilled relationship.

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