Secret: Men are like dogs...but that's why they're so trainable!
My husband and I recently started taking our dog to puppy school. We enrolled her in a 7 week course called Basic Obedience. This class has been a lifesaver. We have learned to understand her behavior and the best way to communicate with her.
Before taking the class we had made completely wrong interpretations of why she would or would not do certain things. For instance, if she tried to bite us we, naturally, thought she was being mean. Whenever she would bite we would scream "NO!". If she wouldn’t stop we would assume that she doesn’t want to listen to us. This would happen with everything. After living with her for a few weeks we had decided that she was stubborn, unfriendly, and un-trainable. We then opted for a personal training session with a professional. Our lives were never the same.
What we learned:
1. We were speaking to the dog in a language that she didn’t know. For some reason we assumed that if we screamed "NO!" really loud then she would know it meant not to do whatever it is she was doing. The trainer pointed out the obvious which was that she didn’t know what "NO!" meant. To her, we may as well have been screaming "Awesome!" or "Hungry!" or "It's raining outside!" It was all the same to her.
2. We had unrealistic expectations and were setting her up to fail rather than to succeed. We expected a young puppy to not run around, to not jump on us, to not pee in the house, and to not pull on our pants. This was just plain unrealistic. This is what all puppies do. It was natural for her to act that way and by trying to constantly stop her we were inhibiting her natural behavior.
How we changed:
Instead of our usual "NO!" reaction to everything we started teaching her the meaning of the words in our language. Words that would be much more meaningful both for her and for us such as "Leave it", "Drop it", "Ouch", "Wait", and "Slow". We are now at a point where if she bites me and I scream "Ouch!" she knows that she hurt me and she stops. Before, when I would just tell her "NO!" she probably thought I liked it because if I was a dog then I would. That is how they show affection to each other. Completely illogical for us humans!
Once we realized that it was us who were wrong we felt extremely horrible. Especially because we thought we would have been more understanding.
What I found most interesting from this experience was how closely it related to what I learned over the years about men. Most particularly, it was very similar to what I learned after living with a man for the first time- my husband.
I know it might sound a bit bizarre at first but if you think about it men are very different creatures from us. Of course it helps that they can speak but it doesn’t get us too far because their language so different from ours. The words are the same but not the meaning! Just like with puppies, it doesn’t take all that long before you go from "Oh how cute is he!" to "Why did he do this? How dare he hurt my feelings! He knew how this would make me feel and he still did it!"
The most important thing that women need to understand in order to build a healthy relationship with any man is to throw away all expectations. No man automatically knows all your likes and dislikes no matter how nice he may seem or how well you think he knows you. The hardest part about this is that you never know what he doesn't know until he does 'something' that hurts your feelings. Remember, you can’t get mad if it was the first time he did 'it' because he probably had no idea that 'it' would hurt your feelings. A logical reaction is typically "Why did you do that? You never should have done that!" Wrong. That is trying to teach him that he shouldn’t have done something that came natural to him making it impossible for him to ever understand why he shouldn’t have done it. All you can do is to tell him "when you do that…it makes me feel like this…"
For example, you and your guy have plans for a 6pm dinner and he calls you at 5:45 to tell you he has to work late. Of course this will infuriate you because you were probably putting on lipstick by then. A woman’s natural instinct suggests that he doesn’t care about her. If he did, he would have the courtesy to have called her earlier. Not true. All it means is that if he had plans with a guy friend (who doesn’t need to start getting ready 2 hours in advance and never needs to put on lipstick) and called him 15 minutes in advance to cancel the guy friend would have been fine with it. He probably would have said “hey man, it’s cool” and went back to watching TV.
The wrong way to react is to say “you should’ve called earlier”. Obviously if he knew that then he would have. The best reaction would be “I understand you have to work late. No problem. Next time, please let me know at least an hour in advance so I don’t start getting ready. I’m disappointed because I’m already dressed and have nowhere to go. If you could tell me in advance next time I’d really like that.” You’ll see, men are extremely good at following instructions. This is what makes them so trainable. You just have to remember to be specific and tell them exactly what you want or don’t want them to do. If you want him to let you know 2 hours in advance if he needs to cancel plans then that is what you should tell him! You will be amazed at how well this works. Of course, if he repeats his wrong doing then you are allowed to get mad which is a whole other topic!
For now, practice being specific and voicing your feelings. Always assume the best and stop expecting! Don't set him up to fail. Tell him first what you want and set him up to succeed! I am confident that a man who cares almost never repeats his mistakes! Good luck!