It was on a fairly lengthy road trip that my wife first learned the lesson about asking what I was thinking. We had been driving in silence, beautiful scenery sliding by our windows when she turned to me and asked what was on my mind. I made the mistake of telling her.
It was a mistake because we men operate at an entirely different level to women. Left to our own devices we can be about as deep as your average puddle. While the miles clicked by my wife had been contemplating our relationship, the years we had invested in each other and what the future might hold. She had been considering our love, our intimacy and the strengths of our union. In that same time I had figured out that with fifteen inch wheels, at sixty miles an hour, our tires were spinning about seventeen times every second.
I can now understand her dumbfounded and slightly frustrated reaction, but at the time I was mystified. With no agenda or pre-set topic, I had simply amused myself mentally with something challenging but unimportant. If I knew there was something significant to think about, I would have done that instead, but no-one had mentioned it so I was merrily doing mathematical gymnastics and keeping the car on the road.
It is not uncommon for guys to do this. We don’t think about things unless they need our attention. When you ask a guy what he’s thinking, and he says, ‘Nothing,’ it may actually be very close to the truth. He means nothing important; he’s thinking about monster trucks or the superbowl draw. I remember hearing a comedian once saying his girlfriend lost the plot with him because she was musing on their love while he was dreaming up code names he’d use if he was a super spy! In his defense, and mine, no-one said anything more weighty needed thinking about.
This is where the tension occurs. The woman is dwelling on how the relationship is growing, or worrying about where it is headed, and thinks that her man is an oaf because he’s tallying up the home teams’ seasonal averages instead. What she doesn’t realize is that this is a good thing. If he’s thinking about emotionally unencumbered things, then chances are he’s a happy guy. He won’t naturally incline to considering his relationships in those circumstances because men are, generally speaking, problem solvers. The fact that he’s not thinking about the relationship could very well mean he doesn’t see it as something he needs to fix. When he answers ‘Monster trucks’ he’s actually saying, ‘As far as I’m concerned, we’re going great.’ If she disagrees, then she needs to let him know before he will put some thought into what they can do about it. Hoping he will get there without some input is like him expecting her to top up the oil in the car before the little light comes on. If the gauge is happy, why would she mess about under the hood? It’s essentially the same – all the warning lights are off, so until that changes he’ll just keep on trucking.
My wife has got the hang of this now. When she wants to open a dialogue, she won’t ask, ‘What are you thinking?’ because she knows the answer will make no sense whatsoever. She’ll tell me what she’s thinking, and then ask me for my thoughts on the matter. That way, she can share her heart, and I can at least get a heads up on what the subject is. It works much better that way, and sometimes I even have something more worthwhile to contribute than the relative merits of Bigfoot versus Truckzilla.
Well put Dan, I would have to agree. If I’m happy with the relationship and my partner, why spend my time thinking about it. As far as I am concerned I don’t need to fix it. Therefore I spend my time thinking about things I need to fix, such as work, items around the house, what am I going to eat, when and where am I going to work out next, etc, etc, etc. Personally I’m not that interested in monster trucks so that should show you that each man does have different thoughts, but how men think is very similar. If he is happy and not worried about the relationship then he is not thinking about it.
This is a good thing. If he is thinking about it, that means he is not happy and that he does want to fix things. They fact that he is not bringing it up until you ask him, is not a good sign. It means he has been thinking about it for a while and was not comfortable enough to tell you about it.
As Dan said if you are not happy with the relationship or are worried about where its going, then you are better off talking to him about that. Asking him what he’s thinking will only get you an answer you do not want to hear. Remember how I said nagging is a woman’s way of telling her partner that she is not happy that he is not thinking like her. The same can be said here.
Instead of wasting your time trying to find out that he is not thinking about the exact same thing you are, ask him what it is you want to know. He’ll be more then happy to think about question and give you a response, as long as the question is not “Where is this relationship going?”
You have a much better chance of getting an answer from a straight forward to the point question. As long as it is coming from an area of curiosity and not from an area of pressure.
P.S. Want to voice your opinion? We are always interested in hearing what you think. Just take a minute and leave a comment below.
P.S.S. Do you have a question you would like Dan to answer, or any of the other guys at Decoding Men:
1) Please be specific when you ask your question. Asking questions like “Why are men jerks?” is not enough information to on on, to provide a decent response. What exactly did this guy do to make you feel like he was a jerk?
2) At the end of the email, give us your initials and tell us where you are from.