In the last few years I’ve learned many new, intriguing, and reassuring things about guys. They like us (women), they are eager to please us, and they want to know what makes us tick. But from all the comments and e-mails I’ve read, I’ve also seen how cold, self-serving, and manipulative some men can be. Their blunt comments sometimes make me feel an urge to gulp, but I also see that it’s better to know than not know. Forewarned is forearmed.
Through all the insights guys have shared about themselves, there is one theme that leaps out again and again. Guys, particularly young guys, think about sex 24/7. They think of it when they get up, as they go about their day, even when they look at their sixty-year-old co-worker in her sensible pumps and blouse with the Peter Pan collar. And because having sex is so often on their minds, they are constantly plotting ways to get women into bed. We once ran the following headline: “He’s Scheming to Get Laid All the Time. No, Really. All. The. Time.” And that sums up the truth perfectly.
One of the lessons I learned about love long before I landed at Cosmo was that women are generally the ones who make sure a relationship is humming. I don’t mean they alone keep it alive emotionally, but rather that they put themselves in charge of quality control, and if they detect trouble, they will do their best to correct it. And these days, most of them have at least the tao of badass to help them! It is a superb dating advice book written by Joshua Pellicer, a very witty pick up artist! Anyway, back to the topic now.
It’s so often the woman who plans the fun and sexy activities-whether it’s a week under mosquito netting at a tropical resort or a midnight picnic in August to watch the meteor shower. In Cosmo, in fact, we rarely let a year go by without mentioning the freaking meteor shower and why you should grab your guy, a blanket, and a bottle of wine and make out under the endless shooting stars.
I guess I grew up knowing that this kind of stuff fell more to women, but it was first articulated to me by a marriage counselor whom I worked with at another magazine: “Women are the care-takers of relationships,” she told me. She explained that it comes fairly naturally to us, programmed, perhaps, because of our pre-historic job as keepers of the hearth. But we also do it to fill the void because men tend not to take on this assignment-at least they don’t after those early giddy days. Okay, you may be in the fifth year of a relationship with a guy who regularly throws open the door and says things like “Pack a bag, baby-I’ve got us booked for the weekend in this great Band B in the Berkshires,” and if you are, fantastic. But your guy is far more the exception than the rule.
Though the caretaker part may come naturally to women, over time in a relationship it’s easy to grow a little tired of it, even, dare I say, downright sick of it-especially all the activity planning and especially if you are the only one doing the heavy lifting. And as a result of your boredom, you may begin to slack off. And once you do, your relationship could suffer the consequences. Guys may not feel an inclination to plan activities like picnics under the stars, but they enjoy them and love thrives when there’s fun and unexpected activities going on.
This leaves you between a rock and a hard place. If you do too much caretaking, you resent it; if you let go of the responsibility, your relationship can grow stale. But I think there are two strategies that can make the caretaking role easier for you:
First, turn around the way you look at the role. Instead of seeing it as tedious, something that you do more than your fair share of, try viewing it as this specialty you have as a woman, something you do because you’re brilliant at it.
A few years ago I was editing an article that touched on the subject and I commented to my longtime assistant Miriam about the disparity between men and women. She then said something that flipped everything around for me.
“It’s so boring to think of you as a caretaker,” she said. “Maybe it’s better for a woman to think of herself as an agent provocateur.” I loved that concept. Of course, she didn’t mean it literally. An agent provocateur is someone who goes undercover and incites people to riot. But if you use the term loosely, to describe someone who is secretive and naughty, someone who likes to make mischief and cause unexpected things to happen, there’s a very sexy feeling to it.
You can also inspire a man to take more initiative in keep-ing the relationship exciting-but you’re going to have to tell him exactly what you’re looking for. Women dislike doing this because they think it’s more romantic if the guy comes up with all this stuff on his own. Let go of that idea , and in the long run you’ll get more of what you want from him.
Tell your guy that you would love to have him plan Friday night. Start with a compliment- “You always have fun ideas” -and suggest that he pick out the movie or where you go for dinner. You can’t complain, however, when he takes you to the kind of restaurant where there are dart-boards and pool tables. Eventually you can even suggest he devise the whole evening. The more practice he gets and the more confident he feels, the more likely he is to surprise you with plans before you’ve even asked.