LIVING WITH WOMEN
 

BOTHERS


WHAT TO DO WITH BOTHERS


Romantic love, as most everyone knows, is blind. When, as Hoagy Carmichael sang, a lovely flame dies, smoke gets in your eyes. Wiser, he might have noted that smoke was also present when such a flame begins; or, in my case, perhaps soot would be an even better metaphor. Certainly smoke can obscure vision, but soot, I speculate, more nearly blinds a man.

Looking back I can see that whenever I have fallen in love with a female, I have also gone relatively blind to her faults, limitations, and traits which only later begin to bother me. At the time of falling, however, I was, as hindsight would later reveal, wearing--to mix my metaphors--rose colored glasses, even if there was no real smoke or soot in my eyes.


All this confession to note that even in the most ideal of male/female relationships, no matter how blind a man may be while he scales the peaks of passion, no matter how perfect a female may appear while elevated to goddess status in the jaundiced eyes of a stricken male, in time the "moonlight and roses" phase of romantic love will eventually turn, as another wag has said, into "daylight and dishes" after the proverbial if not real honeymoon is over.

Female attributes missed in the blindness of love predictably begin to appear as the smoke clears (or, as in my case, as time dissolves the soot).


Point: Later is not sooner, even with the most perfect of females, psychic if not physical warts inevitably become evident. Bothers appear in time. Negative traits, for example, either cloaked by eye-filled smoke or hidden by expensive makeup and/or Sophia's Wisdom, start to show up. Attributes, perhaps easily seen by those not in love, all too soon rear their ugly heads before adoring but self-blinded males.

Such bothers--things a man dislikes, may include: physical attributes (real warts and other blemishes hidden during courtship); offensive personal habits (e.g., picky picky cleanliness); emotional quirks (such as, irrational fears, angry outbursts, etc.); unreasonable beliefs (like evil dirt, angels, cleanliness next to godliness, etc.); and even psychic disturbances (emotional immaturity and/or assorted degrees of mental illness).

The question raised here: What's a man to do about bothersome attributes of a woman he loves?


I have found and tried at least four major options:


1. Perpetuate blindness

Try to continue overlooking faults, to extend the honeymoon indefinitely, to ignore whatever bothers you. Look the other way; try to not see. Keep wearing rose colored glasses. Gloss over any undesirable traits. Repress awareness in quest of extended adoration.

As a song advises: "You gotta' accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative, and don't mess with Mr. In-between." And since elimination is probably not possible, perhaps you can blind yourself to the negative.

I, for example, have much experience with this option.


2. Act nice and harbor resentment

Stay on "good behavior" while you stew in the emotional juices of bothers. Quietly endure ill effects of whatever you dislike about a lover. Suffer in silence; grin and bear it, etc., etc. Perhaps you can find a bit of comfort by bitching to other understanding men with similar bothers, or confess to a priest, or get honest with a therapist.

But this option is to behave with your lover as though nothing bothers you. Consciously act out stances of love, hide your anger, pretend that nothing is wrong--that is, keep your predictable resentment to yourself.

I have considerable practice here also.


3. Try to change her

After getting the smoke (or soot) out of your eyes and acknowledging to yourself what bothers you, get busy trying to change her to more nearly fit your desires. Confront her with your dissatisfactions; tell her what bothers you and push her to do a better job of pleasing you by not doing things you dislike and doing more of what you do like.

If, for example, she nags you, try to get her to stop her bitching. If she ignores you, tell her to pay more attention. If she rejects your advances, try to get her to be more accepting and passionate with you. Etc., Etc.

Point: Acknowledge what you dislike and try to change her to fit your ideals.

Ways of trying to change a woman include:


a. Direct, overt pressure

Openly complain and/or push for change. Means may vary from verbal requests to critical critiques to emotional pressures to browbeating or even to physical abuse if she refuses to change.


b. Subtle, covert initiatives

Without openly confronting her, seek changes by indirect means, such as: trying to please her, to do what she likes, to conform to her standards and wishes on the premise that she is more likely to try to please you if you please her first. Good, you may hope, will eventually be rewarded. Be a "good boy" and perhaps she will want to be a "good girl" by changing herself for you.

Play an adult version of Pleased Or Displeased? What will it take to please you? If you do whatever she wants you too, if you're lucky she will do the same for you--that is, change on her own initiate without you pressuring her.


c. Use psychological tricks

Various male ploys are available for using psychology as a tool for female manipulation. Common such psychic tricks include: compliments and constant affirmation ("You look great."

"Whatever you say, dear."); giving gifts (free meals may work briefly; but since "diamonds are a girl's best friend" escalate to more expensive items.); making promises ("I'll love you forever." "I promise you this if you'll do that," etc.); pout and try to get her to ask what is wrong; act out in ways which get her attention; talk about her faults in the presence of company; provoke jealousy by displaying attention to other females more fitting to your desires (careful; this may backfire!); threaten to leave if she doesn't change.


d. Variations on the themes

Try assorted combinations of these and any other male-type devices to see what works best with a particular lover. Mix and match. If one ploy loses its power, try another. Escalate your intensity with one or more of these psychological tricks. Do whatever it takes to try to change her.


4. Use bothers for personal growth

Although psychological studies are yet to confirm these statistics, I conclude that perhaps 90-95% of what bothers men about women is rooted in male repressions yet to be consciously faced. It somehow seems easier to try to change a woman to fit how a man finds himself to be, than to face the probably source of personal dissatisfactions.

Before exploring further, I note that maybe 5-10% of male bothers about females are truly legitimate--that is, result from objective facts about females which are offensive to males, based on genetic differences rather than psychological dissatisfactions. Coping with, if not changing this small percentage of real bothers, is obviously a proper male agenda in any relationship with a female.

But, and this is my point here: Most of the things I have been bothered by, and as I see in other males, are, I reluctantly conclude, the result of un-faced personal problems brought into a relationship, rather than real faults in those I have loved. My loves haven't, that is, truly bothered me (caused my troubles with them), as much as they have somehow mirrored denied ("repressed") parts of myself.

This is not the place for an extended explanation of the psychic devices of repression and projection, but in summary, I now think that most of what has bothered me about women can more properly be analyzed as unpleasant and/or threatening reflections of un-faced repressions in myself. I have commonly judged female "mirrors" negatively, rather than daring to face darker elements yet hidden within me.

Presuming I don't have a corner on the market of typical male bothers, I also assume the same to be true for many others of my gender. In this light I amplify a fourth option--a "road less traveled," which I find to be far more productive than either of the first.


Based on theories of repression/projection, and excluding the 5-10% of realistic irritations, this choice involves a major shift in typical male perspectives, away from blaming women to using our bothers for catching clearer glimpses of our darker selves--that is, treating them as mirrors rather than causes, reflections rather than irritations.

The larger shift in this approach is from blaming our troubles on females to accepting fuller responsibility for our own happiness and personal well being. Typically, and I have been no exception, male lovers with repressed memories and fantasies about being made happy by a goddess-like mother, blindly resurrect such dark images and wishes, and unconsciously project them onto later lovers, along with equally secret hopes and expectations of present-tense fulfillment (especially if our first mothers were less than successful in making us whole and happy).


ADVICE


When something about her bothers you, e.g., apparent selfishness, instead of focusing attention on her and possibly getting angry at her ("for only thinking about herself and ignoring you"), shift your thoughts from her to yourself. Think about, e.g., the extent of your emotional reactions. Why are you so upset by her action? Does it truly cause what you feel? Or could you be resurrecting an old habit? What memories arise if you think of your past rather than her current action?

The point of this line of thought is to look for dark elements in yourself which may be triggered by her actions. Consider the principles of repression/projection. Could it be that what you see in her mirrors something repressed in yourself? In this example, might it be that her obvious "selfishness (looking after her own interests)" reflects your denial of the same capacity within yourself? Are you more self-sacrificing than you like to admit? Might you be jealous of her embracing a natural capacity you have repressed within yourself? Are you accusing her of being like you fear being yourself?


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