Do your relationships seem to consistently fall short of going the distance? Seeing similar relationship wreckers crop up time after time — even with different partners — is enough to make you fear a future populated with loads of cats instead of people. But before you invest in a lifetime supply of Fancy Feast, consider the advice of Howard J. Morris and Jenny Lee, Emmy-nominated television comedy writers and coauthors of Women Are Crazy, Men Are Stupid: The Simple Truth to a Complicated Relationship. They say that the most common relationship stumbling blocks occur when men and women don’t respond to each other properly, which can be remedied by educating yourself on how the opposite sex really operates. Need help? In the following Q&A session, we got the goods from them on what makes both men and women truly tick — and how to break the breakup cycle for good.
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Q: In what ways are men “stupid” that women just don’t get? How can women use this knowledge to prevent dating dissonance?
Morris: Women don’t understand that a man’s physical makeup doesn’t allow for some thoughts to sink in the way they’d expect. There are certain things men’s brains actually can’t break down, much like the way some people can’t digest milk products. Now you can call that “stupid” if you must, but it’s a legitimate physical difference. A woman on a date with a man must realize that his brain is built in such a way that prevents him from understanding certain things, and she must alter her way of speaking, just as you would when talking to a baby. Speak loudly and clearly while avoiding big words.
Lee: Try your best not to expend too much energy analyzing every little thing a man does or doesn’t do. Guys do not think the same way we do, and half the time they don’t even know why they do the things that they do. So when the guy says, “I had fun, we should do it again,” it doesn’t mean that he definitely wants to see you again. Sometimes they say such things because the end of a date is awkward. He’ll call if he’s supposed to call you. Think more about what you want. Do you even want him to call you again? Did you have fun with him? Take back the power in this situation and don’t sweat it. You deserve a man who will call when he says he’s going to call; if he doesn’t call you…move on.
Q: In what ways are women sometimes a bit crazy that men just cannot understand? How can men use this knowledge to keep their romantic relationships going strong?
Morris: Basically, women can be crazy about anything, so a man must be prepared to be continually caught off guard by women’s behavior.
Lee: Women actually take to heart everything you say — especially at the end of a date! We really will worry, agonize and discuss exactly what words you say to us at the end of the evening endlessly with our friends. So, be a good guy and don’t say you’re going to call if you’re not. It’s better to be honest. She may not be thrilled at the moment, but she’ll be better off in the long run because she won’t have to go crazy later trying to figure out whether she’ll ever hear from you again. Being an honest, good guy will likely spare you from having to deal with a “crazy” woman wondering why you said you’d call, then didn’t.
Q: What are some annoying things women always seem to do, and how can men handle them when these behaviors come out?
Morris: Calling a man stupid. Yes, we admit that we can be, OK? Most of us know it — or the smart ones do, at least. But calling a man “stupid” makes him feel just as bad as women feel when they get called “crazy.” So, to sum up: don’t do it.
Lee: Some women have a habit of discussing their problems with men exclusively with their female friends, because they assume that men won’t understand or don’t care. You need to give the man in your life the benefit of the doubt sometimes; maybe there’s been a misunderstanding, or maybe if he knew that what he was doing was bothering you, he wouldn’t do it anymore. Sure, it makes you feel better to vent to your friends about your guy, but it will not solve any problems. You can only do that by working together, and you can’t fault him for the things you don’t choose to discuss with him.
Q: Why do women ask questions they don’t really want answered — like “Do I look fat in this?” How should men respond in order to avoid having an argument?
Morris: They may not do it on purpose, but asking a man questions they don’t really want to have answered is something of a sport for women. Women think: I’m going to toss him this question and see how he handles it. Try to look at this kind of question from her point of view, and then figure out the subtext. Questions like this (for the most part) are really just requests for reassurance, so reassure her already!
Lee: Sometimes we’re just expressing our fears and what’s on our mind and we pose those thoughts in the form of a question so it seems less threatening. So when a woman asks you, “Do I look fat?” it’s because she needs reassurance that she still looks good because she’s feeling fat. In cases like that, you to say: “No baby, you look great.” Trust me — there is NO OTHER answer to that question. And women should answer the same way when men ask, “Do you think I’m losing my hair?”
Q: You say that the subject of romance is a common relationship pitfall — specifically, that women want more of it, yet men aren’t very good at being romantic. Why is this?
Morris: Men don’t have the same romantic needs that women have. To us, romance is epitomized by that woman who puts on the football jersey and sits next to us during a game. The essence of romance for women, however, means totally putting your own needs aside as a man for the needs of the woman in your life — and doing it with a bit of style, panache and perhaps a flower or two. We can’t necessarily nail it every time, but there’s no excuse for not trying. Just making an effort goes a long way with women.
Lee: If you want my honest answer, I think most men are bad at it because men can be more selfish then women are in relationships. It’s harder for men to look past their own needs to do something that is totally and completely beneficial solely for the woman. Romance is all about the woman; that’s why ladies crave it, like it, and will continue to desire it throughout the relationship. And I won’t apologize for wanting it — ever. Life can be hard and dreary at times, and everyone needs a little bit of special treatment every now and then. Women don’t need it all the time, but occasionally, it would be nice!
Q: You say that first dates often reveal ultra-important information that, if ignored, can cause relationship drama later on. How, then, do you recommend approaching first dates?
Morris: A funny thing happens on first dates: people tend to tell the truth about themselves. You just have to listen when they do. For example: She might not come right out and say, “Hi, I’m a controlling bitch,” but there’s usually plenty of evidence that she will be if you are paying attention. Consider Woody Allen’s first date with Mia Farrow; he told her he hated children and wanted nothing to do with them right away. She, of course, decided he just needed the love of a good child to change him, and, well…we all know how that turned out. Paying careful attention during first dates can save you both a lot of pain down the road.
Lee: I agree with Howard, but also believe that people are too quick to write off a disappointing first date. Even if your first date wasn’t magic, it doesn’t mean that your second date won’t be better. Sure, if the date is a full-fledged disaster, then you should be done with the man or woman in question. But if the date was just OK, not terrible, then maybe it’s worth another shot. That guy might not be as boring as you think, ladies; maybe he just needs to relax a little before he tells you about the island that he owns with a castle on it that has 22 closets in it. And who knows, the second date or the third may be the one you’ve been waiting for your whole life… are you willing to risk it?
When DC-based journalist Chelsea Kaplan isn’t helping you solve your relationship problems, she’s making jewelry. Check it out atwww.chelseabellejewelry.com.