A penny for your thoughts? We’ve got that and then some as we reveal the secret thoughts that, for various reasons, men and women keep to themselves.
“What exactly does the world expect me to be?”
Many men ask themselves this question at some point. From the moment he steps on the playground in kindergarten, a male in our society is like the rope in a tug-of-war of mixed messages: play nice, but don’t let anyone push you around; be gentle, but toughen up; share your feelings, but don’t be a wimp. Ladies, if your man sometimes freezes like a deer in the headlights during tricky emotional situations, it may be that he’s desperately trying to figure out which of the polar-opposite roles he’s supposed to adopt.
“Does a woman even know what she wants from me?”
It doesn’t help matters that female expectations sometimes present an even tighter tangle of paradox and contradiction. A woman who asks for a little space on Monday can be upset by Wednesday because he hasn’t called. She simultaneously signals a desire for independence and protection. She wants both passionate pursuit and platonic respect. Men sometimes feel like they’ve wandered into a maze of hidden tests and trick questions when starting a new relationship. As always, the key to untying the knot is—you guessed it—communication. Stating expectations clearly and directly can avoid a multitude of misunderstandings.
“How much is this relationship going to cost me?”
While many women calculate romantic potential by imagining what they stand to gain, men often wonder what they’ll be giving up—mainly the freedom to live as they please and do what they want. Men have been hardwired over the ages with a nomadic gene. In past eras and cultures, that served them well. Now that settling down is called for, men still hear the call of the open road from time to time. That’s not a measurement of his commitment to the woman in his life, just a facet of his masculine nature he needs to figure out when starting a new relationship. This doesn’t mean, of course, that men aren’t willing to make the trade-offs. They surely are—when they encounter an irresistible woman they can’t live without.
“Why does sex have to be so complicated?”
When asking what goes on in a man’s head, many women are really seeking insight into his seemingly single-minded views on sex. Much as they try to see things differently, many men simply don’t understand the fine print on the emotional contract two people enter into when becoming physically intimate. In our sophisticated, enlightened age, we explore cues, signals, and secret messages. But again, in the not-so-distant past, sex was far less nuanced and more straightforward than it is today.
“Am I good enough?”
The most surprising of a man’s secret thoughts is his sense of vulnerability and inadequacy. For all their bluster and bravado, men desperately want to be what their woman desires. They worry about how their “maleness” is perceived and whether they are able to please the woman they love. Advice to women: Look beyond the gruff exterior many men have learned to project and you’ll find a partner who is much closer to your “dream man” than you imagined.
“Does this decade make me look fat?”
Oh yes, it's onto the women's secret thoughts now. What lots of single ladies think but may not share is the enormous pressure to look young and thin. (Even women already young and thin often feel pressure to look younger and thinner.) What’s more, a woman frequently fears and dreads the havoc the passage of time may be wreaking on her body and appearance. If she catches a man she’s with shooting glances at a gorgeous young waitress or passerby, well, let’s just say her secret thoughts may take a different turn—like vengeance. Wise men know to tread very lightly and carefully when it comes to a woman’s appearance. Rule number one: Compliment often and criticize never.
“Am I being shallow?”
Deserved or not, guys have the reputation of sometimes (often? always?) being shallow when it comes to a woman’s appearance, putting a priority on outer beauty, or lack thereof, over inner beauty. The secret a single woman may not readily voice is that looks matter to her too. She might not be obsessing over small stuff like the shape of a nose or the set of a jaw, but she is noticing how a potential partner dresses, how he smells, how he presents himself, and especially how he takes care of things like, well . . . teeth. Believe it or not, that’s a common secret complaint among women. Advice to guys: Take grooming seriously, and start with your pearly whites.
“I feel a little uncovered.”
Whether or not it’s “politically correct” in this era of gender equality, many women want the loving, caring “protection” that a man can provide. This doesn’t mean women aren’t capable of taking care of themselves—most are and do. But even secure, self-sufficient women want a man who will “have their back,” offering strong emotional, physical, and spiritual support. An ancient Hebrew wedding custom involved the groom symbolically placing a shawl around the shoulders of his bride. In one of the most beautiful love stories in the Bible, Ruth asked Boaz to spread a portion of his clothing over her as a tangible sign of his future care and protection. Single women—and married women too—recognize the feeling of belonging to a man who would die to protect her, and can feel the void when that man—and that covering—is missing from their lives.
"I want to feel special and pursued.”
Single women can’t figure out why single men don’t know this. Ah, but here’s the challenge—figuring out which of your actions communicate “pursued” and “treasured” to her. This is where it doesn’t hurt to ask (which is a good strategy for nearly every situation). If you’re far enough along in a relationship, men ought to inquire: “What can I do to make you feel special and valued? What ‘speaks love’ most clearly to you?” Asking questions and listening—really listening—to her answers is actually one of the ways she feels cherished.
Breakups. Even the most amicable of parting ways can sting. When mourning the end of a relationship, be sure to avoid the following “don’ts” of breakup etiquette.