Anyone who’s read John Gray’s Men Are From Mars, Women are from Venus knows that most of the time, when a woman shares her problems with her man, she doesn’t want his advice. She just wants to vent and have him listen. Conversely, when a man hears his woman’s problems, he instinctively want to help fix them, usually by offering her advice on what to do. I can say from personal experience that this is true. Usually, when this difference in gender communication habits is discussed, the author’s advice is for men to learn to shut up and just listen to women vent. I say this is bullshit.
If You Want Someone to Just Listen to You Vent, Vent to Another Woman
It is not fair for women to expect men to just sit back and absorb their complaints about their co-worker, their back-stabbing friend, or whatever, without acting on the urge to help them fix their problems. Men are taught from a very young age not to complain — complaining is a sign of weakness. When we do share our problems, it’s usually because we’re looking for advice. We don’t understand the concept of “complaining as catharsis”.
Knowing how men feel about complaining, why would any woman expect a man to just be a passive listener when she complains to him? If you want someone to just listen to you vent, complain to another woman. She will know what you want, and she’ll have no problem accommodating you. She’s wired just like you. Why try to stick a square peg in a round hole?
If you do decide to complain to your man, remember that this is your choice. He didn’t ask for this. He’s doing you a favor. You should accommodate his communication style, not the other way around. So, unless you want your man’s advice, save your venting for your girl friends.
Venting to Your Man Makes You Feel Better, But Makes Him Feel Worse
If you happen to find a man who is willing to listen to your complaints without offering his solutions, know that he is only doing this through a sheer act of will. This does not come naturally to him. You should also know that while your stress is being vented, he is absorbing it. It causes men a huge amount of stress to just listen to someone complain, especially someone they care about. This is made infinitely worse if you are worked up enough to cry while you complain.
Just as the law of conservation of matter holds that no matter can ever be created or destroyed, when it comes to venting your problems to a man no stress is either created or destroyed. It is merely transferred from you to your man. Call this Guy’s law of conservation of stress. So, unless you are a selfish bitch who doesn’t care if you make your man miserable, only vent to him in cases of extreme need.
A Woman’s Way of Listening to Complaints is Not Better
Most people offering advice on this topic tell the man to just let the woman complain without trying to fix her problem. I think this whole issue could be avoided if women would just save their venting for other women. I also find it insulting that everyone assumes that the woman’s style of communication is better. No one tells women that they should listen to the man’s advice, and to not freak out should he dare to offer it while they are busy complaining.
Ladies, your way of dealing with a complaining woman is not better. It’s just different. Men’s way of communicating is equally valid.
If You Must Complain to a Man
If you absolutely must complain to a man, remember the following:
- You chose to vent to a man. Don’t get upset when he communicates like one. If you wanted someone to “just listen”, you should have vented to a woman.
- If your man tries to accommodate you by “just listening”, know that you are causing him stress. Take it easy on him and try to keep it short. Don’t take his silence as an invitation to keep going.
- If your man offers advice in response to your complaints, don’t get upset. His nature requires him to want to fix your problems. His way isn’t wrong. It’s just different from yours.