Relationship Survival 101 
Understanding Men in Relationships
By Genie Joseph, M.A.

Recently at a dinner party I overheard a woman named Miriam lean over to her neighbor Sandra and ask: “You’ve been in a happy, long-term relationship for eleven years -- what’s your secret?”

“Flexibility,” Sandra yelled back over the live band, “and lower standards.”

They shared a little laugh, and Miriam agreed that there was some truth to what Sandra was saying. Miriam realized her standards were impossibly high, and her relationships were incredibly short. She wasn’t able to find any man who could fulfill her list of requirements. There just aren’t any real princes outside of the pages of romance novels and fairy tales.

Many women are having a tough time understanding men. This gave me an idea for the “Communication Boot Camp” course that I teach. I brain-stormed a few not-entirely-serious sets of courses to add for women who want to make the relationship game easier.

Here is how the syllabus reads:

Communication 101 - Understanding Men

In this course we explore such unique concepts as the notion that nagging is not the most effective strategy to get a man to do something. Nagging is something his mother did. We don’t want to sound like his mother during the day, and then expect him to be the passionate hero of our dreams at night. Using advanced role-playing techniques in class, we explore respectful tones of voice and word choices. Even if it’s the fourth time we have asked him to do something, we ask with the positive energy of someone that actually believes he will do it.

Understanding men in relationships means not backing him into a: “You never do it, and you’re never going to do it right” corner. This only causes him to resist even more. If he’s resistant when he does this incredibly simple task, chances are he will do it wrong or incompletely, or carelessly. Let’s face it, you are dealing with a member of the male species; it’s a given that sometimes you are going to have to ask him to do something more than once. So, ask nicely. Ask briefly, without editorial comment as to the particulars of his character, and without excessive details as to the nature of your current mood regarding his inaction. It is important to understand that men want to be asked nicely, the way you did when you were courting.

Communication and Man Management 201 (Prerequisite Com 101)

In this advanced class, we explore “Silence, the Final Frontier -- Where No Nagger has Gone Before.”

In this course we learn how not to waste our time with strategies that don’t work. If something hasn’t worked ten times before, we actually switch to a new strategy. This novel idea has worked wonders for many couples. For example, students learn to recognize that minor household chores can wait till after the game. If he’s watching TV, or reading the newspaper, he’s not doing nothing. He may be doing something that you consider a waste of time, but to him it is doing something. He may be relaxing or recharging his battery, and he doesn’t like to be interrupted any more than you do.

Also in this course we reconsider some of our perfectionist standards that may not be shared by the person we live with. Advanced students perform research experiments to discover such marvels as the notion that Household Dust is a minor natural occurrence that only women notice. Not every chore has life and death priority value to him, so we don’t take it personally if he has bizarre priorities that make no sense to us. It is important to understand that men in relationships want to please you, but they may not have the same urgent priorities that you do.

(Admission by permission of Professor Genie Joseph, M.A.)

If you want your man to act like a prince, you must treat him like a king. Remember, men can feel insecure at times, and may need reinforcement of their essentially positive role in the survival of the species. Homework will include domestic engineering feats to accommodate such notions as the concept that he needs space in the medicine cabinet, too.

In this course you will come to recognize that far from being overbearing brutes, most men often feel out of control in many areas of their lives. It is the least we can do, to let them handle the TV remote, to make them feel more empowered. If you want to understand the man in your relationship, remember, he needs to feel like he is winning, and if you make him feel like a loser with constant nagging, or letting him know he is doing things wrong, he will feel like a loser. Men who feel like they are losing at home may start to look for a sense of “winning” outside the home.

Students working with an advisor will try new behaviors and communication tactics. For example, they will cease interfering with their man’s diet. If he wants to eat bacon cheeseburgers for lunch instead of tofu, this is not an opportunity for an impromptu lecture on his clogged arteries. In the second semester of this class, you will do everything in your power to stop doing everything in your power to make him feel like he is two inches tall.

If you want to be treated like the Great Queen that you are, treat him like a king. Or at least a prince. Or at least someone who’s presence you appreciate from time to time. The secret to understanding men, and the man in your relationship, is to make him feel good about himself and what he means to you!


Okay, so that is our understanding men curriculum for today. My humorous take might have annoyed some readers, but if you read between the lines I think you will see some truth here. Sometimes humor helps to teach basic life skills. So enjoy this! And keep appreciating and acknowledging the person you love and live with.

Whatever the problem you’re experiencing, remember love is always the solution. 

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