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What's He REALLY Thinking?How to be a Relational Genius with the Man in Your Life
By Paula RINEHART
Thomas NelsonCopyright © 2009 Paula Rinehart
All right reserved.
Chapter OneUNDERSTANDING YOUR INFLUENCE
You make me want to be a better man. -JACK NICHOL SON TO HE LEN HUNT, IN THE MOVIE AS GOOD AS IT GETS
If there is one universal in any woman's life, it's this: she will always be relating to a man.
Fathers. Friends. Husbands. Boyfriends. Employees. Sons. Men make up approximately half the human race-and many of them are up close and personal. This man in your life. Or this man you want to be in your life.
Since men are everywhere, it's easy to confuse the commonplace with the known and understood. But men are another species, really. Men care about different things. They are motivated by different drives. Their hormones shape their brains in ways alien to our own. Men aren't women with big feet and beards. They are completely other.
All of this to say-men are fascinating creatures.
I admit that there are days when men seem more frustrating than fascinating. I've spent a big chunk of my life waiting for a man to respond as a woman would. But frustration is designed to give way to intrigue. Intrigue canserve us well. It leads to the questions that, I believe, are central to enjoying life with men: Who is this man? And how does he experience life differently than I do?
Your discoveries in this search can provide what you need in order to relate well to men. Most important, those clues will be the basis of becoming a relational genius with the men who matter most to you-especially the man you love.
My own search for understanding has been helped by my work as a professional counselor. I listen for a living, so I've heard many men tell stories about themselves that they don't tell easily. Thirty-plus years of marriage to a quiet, thoughtful guy of German descent means I've had to learn to read a man who (like most men) is a bit of an enigma.
Letting yourself puzzle over the mystery of gender, of men and women created as they are, for a purpose, has its rewards. It leads to a God so awesome that it takes two distinct genders-male and female-to even begin to express what he's like.
This larger picture is what you feel and intuit in many subtle forms. Think of the last time you sat with a steaming cup of coffee in a relaxed setting, talking with a group of friends. Women friends. (Chances are, much of that conversation was actually about the men in your lives).
Have you ever noticed how the conversation changes the moment when, by some chance, a guy joins the group?
It's not the same, is it? Something other has arrived on the scene. It's more than the way he looks. It's not merely that the topic of conversation may suddenly shift. This man brings a presence that just feels ... well, different. Let me suggest that exploring what and why it's different can unlock some of the richest secrets in relationships.
One can argue that men are simpler beings, and that may well be true. But the doors into their inner lives-their psyches-are not the same as yours and mine.
Understanding where a man is coming from takes some real detective work. The way I figure it, though, is this: we are better able to love what we understand. And loving and being loved is the main way we reflect the glory of God.
BY A STRANGE ROUTE
Understanding the man you love and loving the man you understand is greatly helped, oddly enough, by a sane estimation of yourself. As a woman, what you bring to a man is the antidote, the completion, the sheer pizzazz that, humanly speaking, he searches for all his life. Percy Sledge got it right a long time ago: when a man loves a woman, he'd trade the world for the good thing he's found.
I bet there are days when you don't feel quite that special. And yet, a man with any insight knows he's missing something. We are usually the ones in the dark.
It's crucial to realize the good and creative power God gives us women. As one guy on the verge of marriage said to the woman he loved, "You bring beauty to my life." His fiancée was surprised to hear his comment; she's not a woman known for her looks. He was right, though. A woman, by her very nature, ushers a man into a world that, to him, is marked by beauty.
Any reality check about your actual worth as a woman will take you back to creation. We are not the afterthought of God's original work, as if he stapled a few enhancements onto the original model for added value. John and Stasi Eldredge say well in their book Captivating, "[Eve] is the crescendo, the final astonishing work of God. Woman. In one last flourish, creation comes to a finish not with Adam, but with Eve. She is the Master's finishing touch.... Eve is created because things were not right without her. Something was not good."
Indeed, some of the most famous words in the creation account are the ones God speaks to Adam: "It is not good for the man to be alone." That reality echoes through the chambers of time until it shows up in hard, cold statistics. Men who live alone, sans the company of a woman, die earlier and have greater rates of depression and suicide.
Maybe that's why the Eagles sang about the "desperado" who needed to come to his senses and come down from his fences-he needed to let someone love him before it was too late. Otherwise, his prison would be "walking through this world alone." And men just don't do well alone.
Without the influence of a woman-without mothers and sisters and wives and daughters-a man lives like a "naked nomad," a rootless, purposeless existence, wandering the earth in search of himself. God said it wasn't good for a man to be alone, and so ... he created a woman. Most men know in their gut that a woman's presence completes something inside that remains loose, unfocused, and disconnected without her.
REALIZING YOUR WORTH
When a woman realizes her worth, she relates differently to a man. In fact, without that kind of confidence, it's hard to get accurate insight and understanding about men.
Listen to the story of a friend of mine, and consider how a sane estimate of herself shapes the way she relates to men. Her chutzpah is inspiring.
Hillary was beginning to date again after a failed first marriage, and this time she was clear about what she wanted in a man. She had been seeing a guy named Greg; she believed their relationship had real possibilities. Hillary was also a fabulous cook. Occasionally, she would bring her recipe book over to his place and cook something special for the two of them.
One night Hillary was at Greg's place, poring over her recipe, making sure she had all the ingredients. And Greg chose this moment to check in with her. "I've been thinking about you and me," he said, rather casually. "I'm happy with the two of us just being friends."
I should mention that, up to this point, Greg had given Hillary every possible signal that he was interested in a future with her. Certainly not just as friends. She had months of energy invested in this relationship. She had been clear, from the start, that she hoped to get married again.
So what did Hillary do? No tears, no big scene, no explosive drama. Hillary looked at Greg for a moment and paused, weighing the implications of what she just heard. Then she closed her recipe book, gathered up her stuff, and calmly walked past Greg, whose mouth was now ajar. She spoke only one sentence on her way out the door:
"Honey, you're going to miss me when I'm gone."
Now, there's a woman who has realized that what she brings a man is something too valuable to be used up and discarded. It's too good to squander. She could win an award for "best one-liner delivered at a crucial moment."
There's a kind of push-back quality in good relationships between men and women. When a woman assigns the same value to herself that God does, she is able to ask something from a man: Give me the best of who you are. When we count our own influence, we're in a position to acknowledge a man's as well. We're a few steps down the road of understanding men.
EYES TO SEE
By far, though, your most profound influence in a man's life is an insight so familiar that you, perhaps, take it for granted.
A woman's brain can add together a raised eyebrow, the tone of someone's voice, the way his eyes avoided hers when a certain topic was discussed-and the impression she forms is, quite often, uncannily accurate. This ability has been honed from birth. Your mind comes equipped with antennae that gather a deluge of information, sorting and filing beneath your conscious awareness. More than you may think, you are lining up the dots that make it possible to know someone's interior world.
This ability can be intimidating to a guy. It's like you have on night goggles, and he's just stumbling along in the dark. But it's also rather wonderful. Your ability to see is an enormous gift to him. You may "get him" long before he gets you. Much of what he realizes about himself comes only as he works at a relationship with you. God has given you eyes to see. And those eyes can be a man's most reliable mirror of who he is and who he can be.
A bit of insight is what lets you see past a backward baseball cap-or the defeated expression of a guy with a remote in his hand. You recognize not just the persona but the potential. And sometimes, it's what you see that gives a man the courage to claim it for himself.
A variety of studies indicate that men are more easily satisfied in a relationship than women. I used to doubt that research. But after listening to men discuss their relationships, I realize the old adage is true: if a man gets a (reasonable) dose of good food and good sex, and if he can talk with the woman in his life rationally and without rancor-he's a pretty happy camper.
What most men learn of the depth that's possible between two people comes from an understanding and persistent woman.
So it's worth the time to explore this strange and wonderful world men inhabit. A man will let you into his domain if he's convinced you won't use his heart for a punching bag.
He longs for you to find his strength-and to need his strength. In the deepest symbolic meaning of sexual intimacy, his great hope is that he will be received by you.
WHO IS THIS MAN?
If you've ever shopped for a man's or a boy's clothes, you know how fundamentally boring that task can be. Give me a pair of jeans and a pair of khakis with two shirts, and I'm out of here. Women's clothes are another story. The options are exhausting.
If we could peel back the layers of our inner worlds, though, we'd find that the stripes and colors and textures of a man's soul are quite richly varied. On the inside, they aren't all wearing blue jeans. Or khaki pants and a polo shirt. The actual shape of their interior lives varies greatly.
Our drives and passions make us who we are. Some of those we are simply born with-like wiring that is already installed, waiting on the hand of God to turn on the switch. As I mentioned before, the most telling question we can ask is, who is this man? If he were on a desert island with a handful of survivors, what kind of man would he be, because this is who he is?
There are many broad brushstrokes we could use to describe men. The ones I offer here are generalities, and if taken as such, they can prove useful. The man you have in mind may be a combination of two descriptions. These are helpful categories because they describe the emotional and psychological "neighborhood" where this man lives.
This guy is born itching for a cause. His best self is motivated by heroic impulses. A crusader at heart, he wants to be on the winning side of ideals he believes in. He's the state trooper you pray will find your idling car during a snowstorm. Terms like loyalty, responsibility, willing to serve describe the better parts of his character. He has more drive and energy than the average guy. His idea of "relaxing" might be stiff competition in a sport that leaves him a happy, sweaty mess. Take heart, though. In a relationship, he also won't let a woman he loves go without a fight.
Yet a "fighter" man gone awry closely resembles a pit bull. Anger can become a drug he uses to distance himself from any emotion that feels like weakness. God's work in his life will often cause him to find his strength not in himself but in God.
This guy appears to be more laid-back than he is. Some might fault him for a lack of initiative in a public sphere of influence. But his focus is those people and those responsibilities he feels particularly charged to protect. In that arena, he's part Labrador retriever and part bulldog, and he will defend his territory tenaciously. In a relationship, he can be moved by the pain you feel-especially if he thinks it's pain he caused or failed to prevent. When everyone else in your life has packed up and gone home, this man will still be there.
Left to his fears, the protector can tend to overcontrol the people he most cares about. He may collapse under a weight of responsibility he is afraid to delegate to others. Redemption, for him, looks like learning to let go and trust that it's not all on his shoulders. He may struggle to let others in very close.
When you think of an adventurer, think of Chuck Yeager breaking the sound barrier or the men who spent years trolling for the remains of the Titanic. The adventurer is a man driven by the need to explore the universe. He wants to be "out there in it." He's motivated to push out the bounds-to do it because it can be done. Risk is just another word for challenge, and he loves that. In a relationship, you (hopefully) become part of the adventure. He longs for a woman willing to join him as he explores some new physical terrain.
The adventurer can be naive about his own personal limits-or the limits of others. If he uses adventure to avoid the unpleasant aspects of relationships, he can mutate into a true escapist and the people he loves will feel abandoned. As with many things, his real challenge is balance and perspective.
Every human endeavor needs the builder. This man will invest his energy putting together the bricks and mortar, the people, or the conceptual systems needed to make something go. A big-picture thinker, he usually has a natural ability to get others to work together for a common purpose. You will enjoy life with a builder, as long as he creates a category called "building relationships," since those, too, are built piece by piece.
Life with a builder goes south if he gets fixated on his goal. His do-or-die attitude can alienate the people who matter most to him. It may be hard for him to wait on God, to believe that "unless the LORD builds the house" (whatever that may be), the labor will be for nothing.
The nurturer is the consummate father figure. Put him in any setting, and he naturally becomes a sort of coach or mentor or spiritual shepherd. Others value him for his rocklike quality. He cares what happens to people; he feels charged with the responsibility of developing people within his influence. Internally, he has an uncanny sense of what's needed to help someone become who he or she is capable of being. What you may feel most concretely in his presence is the permission to exhale. It would really bother this kind of man if he feels he has failed or disappointed you.
A nurturing man gets off track when he confuses care with fixing or solving the problems of someone important to him. "You should ..." or "You ought to ..." might be words he uses too often. If his concern turns heavy-handed, he will spoil the freedom of those he loves.
Excerpted from What's He REALLY Thinking? by Paula RINEHART Copyright © 2009 by Paula Rinehart. Excerpted by permission.
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