Why are women so ruthless, so thoughtless?
I don’t mean all of us, and I don’t mean all the time. And I know that men can be just as bad, but I always give them a little leeway, because they have standards and stereotypes drilled into them from birth, all of which insist they must be decisive and demanding, manly and mature. The fact they usually fall down on most of those only add to the poor dears’ confusion.
Women, though... yes, we have our own wars to fight, and they’re a lot tougher than any that the average alpha male faces. But when it comes to being intractable or taking a stance and sticking to it forever, no-one can beat the babes.
Okay, a few words of explanation. A friend of mine walked out on his wife last week. Ten years of marriage down the drain. And I won’t say I didn’t see it coming, because I’d been half expecting it for a while. A few of their other friends had as well. You hear things, after all. Little remarks, odd suggestions, funny comments that really don’t make much sense in isolation, but when you put them all together, and then wrangle an explanation out of the wounded, abandoned party, then suddenly they all make sense.
Ten years of marriage. Ten years of an absolutely sexless marriage. And how do I know it was absolutely sexless? Because she told me so, straight to my face without a shadow of doubt or guilt in her eyes. His problem, she explained, was -all he ever thought about was sex. “And he got pissed off when I said no.”
What a rat, I answered as she first began to speak. It was only later that I understood exactly what she was saying. She didn’t say no once or twice a week, rationing it out for a clearly sex-obsessed pig. She said no constantly. All the time. Forever. We’ve all heard the joke about the woman on the night before her wedding, listing all the things she will never have to do again and “putting out” sits at the top of the pile. This woman took the joke seriously. The ring slipped on, her legs slammed shut. And when her husband asked why, as he was perfectly entitled to do, she told him he needed to respect her feelings and not keep bothering her.
Her feelings. His, on the other hand, could go to hell. I’m amazed he stuck it out for ten years.
This is an extreme situation. Or at least, I hope it is. Most relationships, once past the initial bloom of tearing each others clothes off before you’ve even said hello, settle down into a rut of some description, and sex is one of those things that invariably gets thrown out of balance. Real life gets in the way, not just through the standard bugbears of work pressure and money worries, but just the everyday business of living. It’s natural that there will be nights when one or other party goes to sleep disappointed. You can’t always get what you want.
Which is why the word “compromise” was invented. I think every woman reading this can think of at least a handful of occasions when, instead of getting on with the things she’d rather be doing, she has simply allowed her other half to get it on. Maybe because it’s the easiest way to shut him up; maybe because she knows he’ll sleep better. Or maybe because she loves him and understands that respect is a two-way street. If you want him to respect your needs, then you’d better be ready to respect his in return.
Like I said, this was an extreme situation. Most men will accept, and probably expect, to hear the words “not tonight, dear” more often than they would prefer, if only because it gives them something to look forward to another time. But imagine being in a situation where you knew there was nothing to look forward to. That there would never be “another time.” That this was as good as it got. Again, I’m amazed he stayed married for as long as he did.
Guys are not good at keeping things quiet. I mentioned rumors and odd remarks. Usually relayed second-hand by the handful of his buddies who move in the same circle of friends as me. “Poor (we’ll call him Terry),” they’d say. “She really gives him a hard time. No wonder he’s always chasing skirt at the office.”
I never found out for sure if he cheated on his wife, although I do remember a party at their home one Christmas, when he and I drunkenly kissed goodnight, and his body language had me thinking “hello?” Instead, I broke away and admonished him lightly. “You’re married,” I told him. “So she says,” he replied. Yeah, odd remarks. Little things that only slowly add up. He didn’t even leave her for somebody else. He just left. Better, I guess, to be sexless alone, than to have your so-called partner’s disinterest rubbed in your face, every time you turn around.
Because that kind of rejection isn’t just a passing moment, pushed out of his head the moment she says no. It grows. It festers. The first few times, sure, he probably just got on with things. But night after night after night of “no” - that’s a serious kick to the self-esteem. We can all deal with the occasional disappointment. But ten years of one? My God, what was she thinking?
I asked if there was a medical issue? No. Technique? No. A secret kink that she needed, but was too ashamed to ask for? Oooh, definitely no, and a frosty glare to match. And did they ever talk about things? That got a “no” as well. A very firm one. Followed by the concession, “he’d go on about it occasionally, but then he’d get mad and storm off.”
Before you could explain? I asked.
“There was nothing to explain,” she sniffed. “I just don’t know why it was such a big deal all the time.”
Well, for all the reasons I mentioned earlier, and because - you were his wife! You must have had some idea what you were doing to him?
“And what exactly do you mean by that?” she snapped, and I suddenly had an awful insight into the kind of life her husband had left. A life with a woman who had absolutely no understanding of anything beyond her own narrow set of needs and requirements. And no awareness of the possibility that maybe, she should.
None of which, I’m sure we’re all thinking (probably with a degree of self-satisfied smugness) has anything to do with us. Because we’re all in relationships where respect and happiness and lots of rumpy-pumpy are paramount to our very existence. He respects me and I, in return, offer the same respect back to him.
And, if we all keep telling ourselves that, maybe it’ll be true.
But do yourself a favor. The next time your other half feels like he needs to talk... listen. You might be surprised.