What happens when an irresistible force meets an immovable object?
I don’t know.
What I do know is that women are both of these.
This book may give you the answer to the ancient question: Can men change after marriage?
Author Bob Brown is a standard-issue male which makes him invaluable for understanding other men. He is not a celebrity, has no special talents, and is as unobservant and insensitive as the next guy.
In Things I Learned From My Wife, he describes thirty-plus marital situations from his point of view. As you read you will get a sense of his perceptions, thoughts and feelings. Armed with this information, you can then sort out some of the critical differences between men and women. Does he make sense? Are his responses reasonable? Is your man similar?
The best way to benefit from this book is to read a story or two and mull over Bob’s view of the world. See how his perceptions differ from your own. Think about how your man might react.
If what you learn is troubling, talk over your fears with other women. Determine if your response is common to them as well.
If the issues are significant, you might want to ask your man to read some of the material to get his reaction. He may see things differently from Bob. That may be good—or not so good.
No matter what you learn, keep in mind that men can change after marriage. Bob did, so it is possible.
Don’t get your hopes too high and be patient. Men are worth the effort.
The value of this book is to begin or perhaps continue the process of discovery. Once you have clarity of the male point of view, you can use this knowledge to better connect with the man you love.
He wants to give you everything, but some of the important things you want are invisible to him. This book will enable you to better understand his blind-spots and knowing them, you can help create a bridge to a magical relationship.
Men and Women
It’s a fact that men don’t understand women. We do everything else that can be imagined with them, worship, torment, ignore, embarrass, hurt, love, hate, adore; you name it, we do it. Usually we don’t know why. Most relationships men have with women are shoot-from-the-hip affairs. Whatever we do makes sense at the time, if not the next morning.
Men are biologically driven to want only one thing. Once we get that thing, we’re satisfied for a time until we have the urge to get that one thing again. The thing we want doesn’t require much skill, or intelligence, grace, dignity, or much of anything except a willing partner, preferably a smooth-skinned, curvaceous, red-lipped nymphomaniac, at least some of the time anyway.
Women fit into a man’s understanding of the world as a convenience. A woman in the same room when he wants the one thing is better than a woman down the hall or across town. All the better if that woman also brings a tray full of snacks and a can of beer during the football game.
Men also understand that there is a price to pay for this convenience, giving the woman the one thing she wants, commitment. Women are good at compromising, but commitment is what they want and what they hold out for and what many men finally agree to. Sociologists call this acceptance of commitment a civilizing force. This civilizing has been going on for a few thousand years and is beginning to take hold. Men ask women to marry them, and there are accounts of some men being happily married for decades, some up to 50, 60, even 70 years. However, the majority of these men usually admit the secret of a long marriage is to say, “Yes, dear,” a lot; that and enjoying a brandy at lunch.
However, this making a commitment to get the one thing has a substantial cost for both parties. The reality is that men are promiscuous. This is a fact well known to everyone and has to be dealt with. That one thing men want is all around, in the next cubicle, at the latte stand, even living in the homes of male friends. Images abound, on TV, magazines, and the internet. Things didn’t used to be so easy. For a man a hundred and fifty years ago, making a commitment to get the one thing and moving to homestead in central Wyoming seemed like a good deal.
There was still a lot of confused tension in those days. For tens of thousands of years, people all knew what sex was. Everyone lived in one room huts so the goings on of the adults was known by all. Barnyard animals were a laboratory of sex-ed. However, Darwin and the evolutionists began declaring that humans were directly related to monkeys. This riled up congregations of every sect. Women as a group rebelled against this degradation of what was supposed to be at best a spiritual act, at worst a sacred duty. Queen Victoria got into the fray and women’s fashions became a head to toe cover-up. The object of men’s quest was hidden from view. For a time men forgot about the one thing in the pursuit of just anything. A man was smitten by the mere glimpse of an ankle, well turned or not, it didn’t matter. Bare forearms led to immediate proposals.
The chase has always been there, but in the last few years, the target has become clearer, the need for commitment less and, if a commitment is made, the ability to keep that commitment has dropped to historic lows. Today, a man making a commitment has to fight off the urge for that one thing every time he turns a corner.
Women have it tough too. A recent marginally scientific poll discovered that 99.6 percent of wives want their husbands to be faithful. It also found that only 66.4 percent of wives expect their husbands to be faithful. That other 33.2 percent of wives are either extraordinarily understanding or are leaving a little wiggle room for their own wandering urges.
Marriage is no picnic. The reason why men and women are the opposite sex has nothing to do with anatomy. Men and women are opposite because they see each other in totally opposite ways.
A man looks at a woman and sees someone who can provide the one thing he wants. Once provided, he’s ready to move on. A woman looks at a man and sees someone who can give her the one thing she wants, a long-term relationship. Dating is basically an uneasy truce while both parties see how much has to be given up to get that one, opposite, thing.
From a man’s point of view, marriage is a necessary evil. Before marriage, men have learned from trips to 7/11 that beer costs more when it is convenient than when it is not. They know going in that the convenience of marriage is going to cost something. Men do all they can to minimize the cost of convenience. But it is a rare man who has any clue what the eventual costs will be.
Unconsciously, however, the mass of newly minted husbands make the same attempt at minimizing commitment and maximizing the chance of staying promiscuous. They define themselves as heads of households and women as subservient. “Be the man” means taking charge and being bossy, just like “be a lady” means delicacy, decorum and especially deferring. From shushing her except during commercials, to being the driver of the car, from asking her to bring another beer to rolling his eyes when she asks one more time if something makes her look fat, men keep women at arms length (until they want the one thing) and minimize falling into the morass of expectations that is intimacy.
Men scoff at intimacy. Sure, we can buy flowers and candy, select a card, even diamond rings, but most of these acts are driven by the desire to meet the minimal obligations of commitment so as to keep the convenience.
Woman have put up with this for centuries. Why women have put up with this is not known. It may be because men are the only alternative for creating a family. As science advances, it will be interesting to see how many female couples form and eventually use science to create a family. Men who want only one thing may be replaced by a woman who wants and provides more than one thing. Is there any hope?
The big issue, the issue to end all issues, is whether or not a man can evolve, be trained, or somehow learn to want more than just the one thing. Can a man be interested in two things as much as he is in the one? Think about three other things? Once that is known, everything changes. To find out, we must take a closer look at this man, woman thing.
We know that males of every species are bedeviled by ageless, biological drives, culminating in relentless pursuit of the female. Because human males are also in this endless pursuit, they define the goal, the woman, like a prize. Men’s drives motivate them to do all sorts of things to win favor. Once won, however, male biological drives offer little wisdom on what to do with what’s been caught. Chasing is one thing, holding on is another. In fact, in the animal world, once the male has attracted a female (one or more) most of his attention is focused on other males, attempting to guard the females against them.
Women, on the other hand, at least to a degree, seem to understand men. Women define men as the less evolved half of the species, tending to youthful exuberance, charming goofs, a few amusements and, on occasion, a strong arm to snuggle against. Women understand that men are oversized children and accept that reality most of the time. They know that men are after only one thing, and like using judo, use this drive to nudge them this way and that to their satisfaction. Women hope for episodes of maturity and manage to get that some of the time. Trouble begins when they want the man and get the boy. And what’s wrong with that, men wonder. Why shouldn’t women be more playful, less serious, less reserved and more willing to just have some fun?
Do the members of one sex know things the other doesn’t, but should? Are there important insights that should be shared? Is one sex right more often than the other? Can women be a civilizing influence, should they be and are they? Let’s take a close look at the ultimate relationship between men and women and see what we get.
Love and Marriage
At some point for most boy-girl relationships, the thought of marriage comes up. Enough good stuff has happened so each trusts that the other is the right other and the deed is done. However, love and marriage have not always gone together like a horse and carriage.
It is only recently that love has been part of the equation of love and marriage. In the olden days, most marriages were available man, available woman, bingo, you’re married. Later, when there were choices, the father of the bride decided who got her.
But, as they say, love conquers all. Somehow, the attraction of a man to a woman and a woman to a man provides enough sparks to start a fire.
Love has been around long enough for some people to have studied it. They learned, for example, that great love has three defining characteristics, passion, intimacy, and commitment. A good marriage probably has two of these, a poor marriage only one, maybe none.
What makes things complicated is that even when all three ingredients are there, they can be in the wrong proportion. For example, the husband may have significant passion and commitment, but very little intimacy, while the wife can have less passion and a greater need for intimacy. This can cause constant distress, sleepless nights, chronic headaches, frustration and a great deal of unhappiness.
Another complication is that these three elements can change over time, growing and diminishing differently for each partner. The relationship can be euphoric for a long time, then fall into lengthening periods of separateness, sometimes leading to a divorce that no one understands.
Those who study this end of a marriage, the breakup, know it pretty well too. You’re more likely to end up in splitsville if your parents divorced, if you marry young, live together before deciding to marry or have a kid before the wedding. Chances are higher if there is a big age difference, different religions, different races, or if you skipped out of school early.
To add injury to the insult of divorce, once divorced you’ll probably have more health problems, will be more likely to be depressed, drink more and smoke more and most likely die earlier too. Divorced men are twice as likely to commit suicide as married men. On the other hand, happily married women tend to have lower blood pressure, lower cholesterol and are thinner than women who are single, divorced, widowed, or in an unhappy marriage.
However, if you look hard enough you will discover a few lucky people who have found someone special, who makes them feel special, who they are passionate about, who make a total commitment and who enjoy all the pleasures of intimacy. These people become soul-mates, walking life’s road hand-in-hand, smiling at each other every day and telling each other every day how lucky they are.
What happened is an almost magical change from the man and woman being of the opposite sex to them realizing that it doesn’t have to be either-or, but you and me, and eventually, to the state of being known as “us.” This is a profound lesson that too few men experience. The only way a husband can learn it is from his wife.
It is rare for an unattached man to be teachable. A man has to be in a relationship of convenience, so that there is an opportunity when he isn’t thinking of the one thing for his mind to be available to think of something else. Exactly when that happens, is hard to define. A good rule of thumb is if the man isn’t worried about when he can have the one thing he wants, he may have sufficient attention span to notice something else. When this occurs for any particular man is anyone’s guess.
That’s why this book was written, to help a woman understand men enough to recognize those elusive few seconds when civilizing can occur; and for men to learn to pause for a moment to see if something else important is going on. For example, I remember a close woman friend bringing me toast on a beautiful hand-painted plate. I told her dismissively that I didn’t need such a fancy plate for a little toast and she said, “Things you use everyday should be beautiful.” I could have still dismissed her comment as just another girl thing, but I didn’t. She and I had a wonderful relationship where my attention could sometimes be led to things beyond convenience. Maybe she had a point. Until then, I thought plates were plates, something to hold food so it wouldn’t fall onto the floor. Things can be dull, utilitarian, and unobtrusive and that’s fine. Or, as I was beginning to learn, they can be beautiful, just like relationships can be beautiful.
Once I began getting it, I realized that I truly was interested in more than one thing. I listened to women and heard what they had to say. But I have learned most from the twenty-plus years I have been with Deena. This has been such a profound relationship that I wanted to share the idea of men learning from the women they love.
This is a collection of stories about some of what I have learned from my wife. They are meant to give you an idea of how men think—or don’t think, as the case may be. As simple as we are, men still have thoughts, feelings, experiences, and heartfelt hopes that color our perceptions and actions. This history should be honored.
Everyone is different, of course, not all the stories will resonate with you, but by reading them, you will gain a better understanding of how the opposite sex sees the world and how it works.
Deena and Bob
Except for the first thirty minutes or so, I would say Deena and I have had a storybook romance, if the story includes a lot of heartache, difficult decisions, sacrifice and taking wild chances.
A couple of years before Deena and I got together, I had invited my parents to live with me. They were getting older and I thought I could help out. My dad loved spiffing up the yard and my mother enjoyed creating snacks for my friends. It was great until my dad’s leukemia worsened and he died suddenly. He was fine on a Friday and died the next Monday morning. I was devastated, glad only that I was there when it happened and was around to take care of my mother.
A couple of months after his death, the phone rang on a Saturday afternoon. The voice was vaguely familiar. It was Deena, a married woman I had known earlier. She was single now, living in a tiny rental house in Clairemont, north of San Diego. “Would you like to come over for dinner sometime?” she asked. I was delightfully surprised by the offer. “Of course,” I answered.
We chatted a bit and I learned that she owned two cats and a Great Dane. This was not good news. I had allergies and something a lot worse. Medicine would minimize the watery eyes, stuffed sinuses and sneezing from my cat allergy. I could do nothing about the dog. As long as I can remember, I have been afraid of dogs. No matter what the size, my reaction was panic. I didn’t mention this anxiety but Deena said she’d put the dog “out back.” When people say that, they don’t realize that “out back” doesn’t mean the same thing to them as it does someone who is terrified of old Rover.
Dog owners, as a rule, are casual about dogs. They see no harm, no danger. They don’t know that any dog, even theirs, can suddenly morph into a raging, snarling, teeth-baring killing machine. To these innocent owners, “out back” means anything from forgetting to do anything to locking them in a room.
In my experience, putting them “out back” is a temporary arrangement until I’m sitting down then they say, “You don’t mind if I let the dog in, do you?”
But there I was, knocking on her door. Deena opened it. She looked great, wearing a simple blouse and slacks. But what caught most of my attention was the huge animal glaring in from the back patio door. Gus, the Great Dane, was the largest dog I had ever seen. He was light brown, with floppy black ears, but more than anything, he was big and he wanted at me.
Gus was bounding back and forth in front of the glass door, barking a deep resonating sound that rattled the windows and pushed on my chest.
“I put him out back so he wouldn’t bother us.”
“Thanks,” I said.
“But he sure would like to come in,” she added.
Oh God, I thought.
“Would you mind if I brought him in?”
I thought for a moment, and then decided why not. I’ve never been ripped to shreds on a first date before and there’s a first time for everything.
She slid open the door and the monster dog raced in. Straight at me. He was no more than inches from my throat when she said; “Gus” and he turned, stood on his hind legs and put his front legs over her shoulders. They were eyeball to eyeball. He licked her face furiously.
It took about thirty minutes for me to feel comfortable. Panic is not something that can be logically overcome. I had to wait it out, getting more at ease with each additional minute that I lived. Eventually the body tremor subsided. Breathing became deep and regular. I no longer leaned toward the front door. I could finally take my eyes off Gus and gaze at Deena.
Later, Gus relaxed on the couch with the two cats. I sat at a small dining table in the kitchen watching Deena prepare dinner and enjoying a Scotch she’d bought especially for me. I had just won a dollar from her on a bet that she wouldn’t know the answer to some sports trivia. She stopped stirring what was on the stove and turned to look at me. She smiled and asked, “Can I have a chance to win my dollar back?”
I don’t know why. I have thought about that moment for years and still haven’t figured it out. But at that moment, I fell in love with her.
We had scampi for dinner, since then one of our special dinners. We had our first kiss sitting under the dining room table while Gus gobbled what was left up top. I no longer remember how we ended up under the table but I do remember what I said that started the kiss. And I do remember the kiss. I told her that evening that we should be married.
Deena was born a golden girl in Southern California of middle-class parents in a middle-class suburb of San Diego. Her older brother by five years grew up to be an elementary school teacher at a school no more than ten miles from the family home. Her younger brother by two years ended up falling in love through the internet and setting up his household in Corpus Christi, Texas.
She grew up playing street baseball, skateboarding, touch football, country dancing at the state fair and learning to cook and sew. At eighteen she moved out of the family home and into adulthood.
Deena’s first husband was in the Air Force which took them first to Wichita Falls, Texas, then Monterey California, then, for three years, to Okinawa. They lived in a stone cottage facing the sea, endured typhoons, spent Saturday nights at the base bowling alley, got pregnant and adopted a girl from China. Denelle was four days old when they first saw her, and the bundle of inscrutability was a month old when they brought her home. Deena was also four months along at the time. Diapers filled her life for the next two years.
The boy-child, Rob, scored an Apgar (a measure of new-born health) of ten within minutes of his birth, for which he is still renowned in family circles, taking all the credit and giving his mother none.
This family returned to California, later to break up. Deena married again, and, as we know, once divorced it’s likely twice divorced, which was what happened.
As for me, I was born and raised in Michigan, also the middle of three children with an older sister now a retired school teacher living in Georgia and a younger brother in the trucking business home-based in Michigan.
I, too, had two practice marriages. The first was to my high school sweetheart, which was a wonderful marriage and the second to a woman I worked with at the time, which was also very good. Both women, however, decided they had better things to do than to be married to me. We did not have kids together so the breakup was as easy and amiable as these things can be. I ended up single for the majority of my adult life until my early forties.
Then there was that first night with Deena. A year later, I was planning our wedding. I hadn’t asked again, but it was clear to us both that we were each other’s other half. I have never been so sure of anything in my life.
When I say planning a wedding, that’s exactly what I was doing. This was the idea. I was to give a presentation in St. Andrews, Scotland. Deena was going to attend, and afterwards we were going to tour the Highlands. After my speech, I would ask, “Are there any questions?” When there were no more questions to answer, I was going to say, “Well, I have one. Deena, will you marry me?” Every eye would be on her. She would be shocked, she’d say “yes.” The audience would cheer and clap. Deena and I would lead a procession across a courtyard into the St. Andrews University Church, a glorious dusty place with dozens of stained glass windows, where we would be married. I was going to set up so it would be perfect.
But, I didn’t want to set something up that she wouldn’t like. I craftily told her I was thinking how great it would be to get married in Scotland, but my cousin, who lived in Edinburgh, checked out the legalities and learned that it just wasn’t possible. I said this, all lies, to check out Deena’s reaction. It was great. She was disappointed to the degree that she unknowingly gave me the go-ahead to actually make this happen.
What I didn’t plan on was Deena calling the British consulate in Los Angeles and checking things out herself. She learned we could indeed get married in Scotland and told me so. Then I told her of my surprise and instead of doing what I had intended, we planned our Scottish wedding together. We were married just a couple of days after the St. Andrews meetings in Dornoch, in the far north of Scotland. There were six of us in the seven-hundred-year-old cathedral; Reverend Jim; my best man, Billy, the manager of the Golf Hotel; maid-of-honor Theresa, the chief receptionist at the hotel; our photographer and us.
With Deena as my partner, I was able to pursue a dream. During our second year of marriage, we sold our house, cars, furniture and just about everything else and moved to Scotland where I could try my hand at a novel and another book. I had written to a few contacts at the University of St. Andrews asking if I could come over and do some writing projects. We both assumed they would say something like, “Sorry old boy, we don’t do that sort of thing but thank you for your interest.” Instead, I was awarded an Honorary Readership at the University. We rented a cottage in the old fishing village of Cellerdyke right on the North Sea with the Isle of May visible from every window. On cold winter mornings when I didn’t have responsibilities at the University, we pulled the bedcovers up tight to our noses and watched old movies from the forties on our ten-inch black and white television.
Upon completion of the Readership and the books I was writing, we returned to the states, settling on Whidbey Island in Puget Sound north of Seattle. Her two adult children migrated to us, Denelle to attend the University of Washington and Rob to live with us before striking out on his own.
We lived in five different places on the Island, each with its own story. The Greenbank house was where one of our cats dragged in a long-dead rabbit while I was home alone trying to finish my second novel. The golf course house is where we had our best family food fight. We lived within yards of the ferry dock at Columbia Beach and never saw Orcas but had the compensation of a family of Sea Otters scurrying and wiggling all over our deck. The lake house was where we saw a Great Blue Heron crash land in a tree. Our favorite house, the bluff house, was down a quarter-mile dirt road. During the day we could see the Olympic Mountains to the west and the Cascade Mountains to the east. At night we could see the lights of downtown Seattle and the Space Needle 23 miles away. It was also the home where I first saw the moons of Jupiter through the telescope Deena bought me for Christmas. I love Deena and the life we have had together. She, more than I could have ever imagined, is special to me.
We have been together twenty-one years, long enough for me to want to tell you about the lessons I have learned from this partner of mine.