Monday, June 19, 2006

All The Broken Ladies In The House!

So 8:45am church (which I will go back to calling 9:00am church, since they’re moving back to that. Fifteen minutes more of sleep! Yay!) has a Singles Night every month. It’s like church again, but the congregation is supposed to be single people, and the talks they give are about issues facing singles. It’s invariably a lot of common sense no matter what your religious affiliation, but it’s always nice to hear somebody in the church address these things. (Dating, Sex, Relationships, how you deal with these issues with the Bible as your basis.)

The most recent one was last week and the talk was given by a pretty congenial guy, Mr. Dude, who’s spoken before. The last time he talked, the topic was “Why Are You Still Single” and he split his talk in two, offering a list of advice for women and for men. This time, his talk was addressed specifically to the women, and it was about “Relationships: How To Deal With The Broken Man.” Mr. Dude runs down a series of things, all of which make sense for the most part:

1. You have to speak to him practically, as opposed to relationship wise. If you want him to know something, you have to tell him, as opposed to hoping he’ll intuit it. Men deal much better with practical speaking. Nobody deals well with “We have to talk.” The walls go up, and it’s instant defensiveness.

2. Men have issues, just like women. They just don’t talk about it.

3. Men learn and want to be strong but you have to communicate to his strength. A man’s challenge is to bring strength to the relationship (this point could be argued for days, by the way, let’s skip over it for now.)

4. Don’t challenge him, speak to his potential, and watch him rise to the occasion. (again, let’s not bicker about what “don’t challenge him” means. I think it harkens back to “don’t remind him of his mistakes” which is not to say that you can’t tell him when you think he’s heading in a wrong direction, but to do it in a loving kind manner.)

But a lot of the points he made about Dealing With Broken Men can also be applied to Dealing With Broken Women. And those points were:

1. Respect him (her), respect the fact that he’s a man (a woman.)

2. Trust him (her) and treat him (her), the way you want to be treated.

3.When you remind a man (woman) of his (her) mistakes, he (she) falls further.

4. Don’t play with his (her) emotions.

5. Get into his (her) world. Find out what makes him (her) tick, what gets him (her) excited.

But then he ends his talk without skipping to the obvious: Relationships: How To Deal With The Broken Woman. I thought this was a little lacking, given the fact that in his previous talk, he gave equal time to give points specifically to both the men and the women, and that this evening, even he was a little surprised that the talk was so short, so he obviously had time to go there if he wanted to.

So, me being me, I decided that I should approach him after the evening was over and ask him when the talk of “Relationships: How To Deal With The Broken Woman” would be coming. Which I did. Very politely. Yes, it’s possible. Mr. Dude ruefully chuckles and admits that he realized in the middle of preparing tonight’s speech that there should be a part 2 like that. Then he hedged a bit and said, “If they invite me back to speak.” Which was a little odd, since Mr. Dude is on staff, and they mainly have people from staff speak on Singles Night.

Mr. Dude also said that he didn’t have much experience with dealing with Broken Women. He said he did pastoral counseling mainly to men. He said that his experience would be limited to his wife, and helping her through her past brokenness. “Well, that’s where you start.” I say. He said that if there were any thoughts that I’d like to share on How To Deal With The Broken Woman, to please let him know, though he didn’t give me his email address. That doesn’t stop me from emailing though, as previous adventures have shown.

So I thought it’d be interesting to throw the topic out there to you guys and gals. How SHOULD you deal with a Broken Woman? The official context is that this talk would be given to a Single’s Night where both men and women are in attendance, but the talk is aimed specifically at men, like how this night’s talk was aimed specifically at women.

Let’s go ahead and get the silly jokes out of the way, like “You use superglue, duct tape, and Godiva Chocolate.”

How Do You Deal With A Broken Woman? As my friend Xavier said last night (and man, has he been waiting for me to mention him, ha ha ha), “You have to define what Broken is.” And he’s right in that there are all kinds of Brokenness, but you don’t have to quantify it unless you want to. I’ll start:

Recognize there are Venting Times, and Asking For Help Times. Men by nature are Fixers, and they can mistake Venting as Asking For Help. If I’m telling you something that’s bothering me (there’s a church retreat on Friday and I don’t wanna go), I probably need to Vent about it first (I hate retreats, they give me hives.) Venting is not Asking For Help (please help me come up with a weekend plan so I don’t have to go to this retreat.) Venting is me explaining how I feel about the problem, how the problem affects me (Hives, people, hives. It aint pretty.) I tend to think, rightly or wrongly, that men zero in on the Problem part and think “Hey, there’s a problem. How can I fix it?” And try to interject with a Solution when we’re still in the Venting phase. This then makes women feel like men aren’t listening to what we’re saying. The Asking For Help part comes after about five minutes worth of ranting, raving, possible tears, and ends with some variation of “So what am I supposed to do?” That’s when guys can come in with the Solution part. If I never say that, it means I wasn’t looking for a solution.

Recognize that we can’t control our emotions sometimes, but you can’t control them for us. We’re women. Blame it on hormones, or other biological wiring, or too much tequila, but we can be completely irrational, and while we like to think we can own it, inside, we’re scared of it. It is absolutely ZERO fun to be curled in the fetal position on the floor, sobbing our eyes out, not able to get up, only to have enough energy to grab the phone, and then fall back on the floor. It is absolutely ZERO fun to be so consumed with a white hot anger cloud that you literally shake, feel your internal organs dropping five feet while still inside your body, and gnashing your teeth into itty bitty nubs. But we can’t stop it. Please believe me, if I could stop it, I would. I want you to think of me as an Extraordinary Goddess. I don’t like it if you see me this way, so if you do, it means it was completely out of my control. Do not try to stop it for me. Do not try to talk me down/up/sideways. BUT. Do not leave (unless I say “Get the hell out!”) It will make me feel worse. Sit beside me and hold my hand, and wait it out with me. Because going through storms of any Nature, whether Mother or Myself, is always better with someone holding your hand.

Support me, but don’t carry me. This one’s a toughie, because there are some women out there who do want men to do all the heavy lifting. And if we’re particularly distraught, it seems like the easiest fix is to not only give us the solution, but to start enacting it for us. The whole White Knight Syndrome. I will slay this dragon, I will cut you free from that post, and I’ll escort you back to your brand new kingdom as my bride. But women are strong, strong strong, stronger than you think. So yes, we can absolutely pull ourselves off the floor from the fetal position and yes we can absolutely put that butcher knife back into the kitchen drawer, but we’re gonna do it on our own time. Once we do stand up, and once we do shut the drawer, we’re gonna be wobbly. That’s where the support comes in. But we’re standing up by ourselves.

So what do you all think? What else can I tell Mr. Dude about us Broken Women? Everyone can comment, men, women, Anonymous, Mr. Lurker and his cousin Mr. Vicarious. Truthfully, this may end up opening a huge can of worms. But hey, what’s life if not spiced up with a few Bad Ideas here and there, right?


Midlife Virgin said...

You said the best part of it right here. Great insight, great expression of what we (and I speak only for myself) broken women want. I'll think if I can add anything but you covered the major bases. Way to go!

RichardT said...

Not nearly the can of worms as mentioning a blouse from the Gap, I would hazard.

But that said...:)

From my experience with women, I think you are really on target in many ways--both about male and female behavior. But Xavier is right: you have to define your terms. "Broken" means a lot of different things in terms of personalities. To some degree the vast majority (possibly ALL) of us are "broken". And "broken" is also in many regards defined by the beholder. I have known people whom I felt were very together, but THEY believed they were broken. I have conversely met people who were very broken-seeming to me, but believed fully that they were in fact not at all.

So it really all depends.

But back to your shout-out:
It seems to me now that I'm older and (ahem) wiser for wear, that most of what causes anyone to be "broken" is based on the experiences they have had dealing with the people before you came along: parents, lovers, whatever. The result is that they always will expect YOU to act JUST LIKE ~THEM~ when conditions arise. No one ACTS broken. They REACT broken. So the trick is to convince them that you will not be that person. You will love them and respect them and NOT do whatever it was that the Breaker (if you will) did. You have to follow through with this, of course.

As a guy, I have to say to other guys: listen. Then listen some more. The more you listen the more you will know how to fix and get a sense of *what needs* to be fixed. I think Amy's right on target: there's venting and then there's opening up needing something, and the two more often than not do not intermingle.

The other thing is that--Mars and Venus aside--there are times you need to say what you feel and then say what you want. And make sure it is couched in those terms. This is something Amy touched on already, but I think it's germaine (not Tito) to both sexes. Clarity is key.

Men, I think, have a tendancy to assume they are alone, even in a relationship (or maybe I think this as I'm pretty broken, myself. Or have been.). But women tend to see themselves are part of something, and not alone. Women have more of a communal attitude, I think. So, often it seems that something that can "break" women is that they feel barred from the relationship by the person they're involved with, sort of as a matter of the differences between the genders. So guys: include, include, include! Even if you think that the thing you like is kinda silly, offer it up as something to share. Even if she doesn't want in on it, she will most likely appreciate the gesture and see it as part of you making her feel safe in the relationship.

Which leads me to the biggest thing of all, which is that women like to feel safe in a way that men don't tend to think about (speaking broadly, here). This is not to imply that women (broken or not) are wimps or needy or scardy-cats or the like. But they do seem to have a need for feeling safe in a relationship. And I think "broken" women more so, as I suspect that it was the things that made them feel a lack of security in the past that has made them "broken". I think men need this, too, but it's not as deeply hard-wired.

Anonymous said...

Hey - Spunkyselkie here....
I agree with RichardT - I think that because of how "relational" women are (for whatever reason, and yes these are very huge stereotypes here) more in need of feeling "safe" or "secure" in a relationship. Men feel that too, no doubt, but I agree that women need it more. I also think that women do more"self checks" all the time - what is the state hair, my romance, my family, my lipstick, etc. I think men dont do this analysis as much...

Ames - I think this is a great topic, it reminds me of a book my sis gave me by a Christian author (whose name I have sadly forgotten). The book was "For Women Only - what every women should know about men" or something like that....and I think it was very instructive, and yet I remember saying to my sis that there should be a "for men only" book along the same
YOU WRITE THAT BOOK, AMES! Ok, but along those's my contribution......
I think that women need romance. I guess this is part of Richard T's observation, actually. I thik it goes to that need for reassurance....And when I say can be anything from little gifts, actions and words, notes, etc....I think it is needed by men and women, but definitely more by women.