Always Second Chances: The Man Cave

Below is another post in the ongoing effort between myself and a fellow blogger to prompt good discussion on Christian relationships. Today we addressed the inevitable question: “What are you thinking about?” If you like this snippet, then be sure to check out the full discussion here.

 

man cave

 

 

DEBBIE: 
“What are you thinking…?”

“Oh, nothing… what are you thinking…?”
It’s this endless charade between couples, a vicious cycle that highlights the vast differences between males and females. Because, when a man says he isn’t thinking anything… he usually isn’t. When a woman says she isn’t thinking anything… she usually is.
I didn’t really believe this until recently when enough guys that I casually surveyed admitted that there, indeed, is such a thing as the ‘man cave’. The place where men go mentally to escape every day life. The place where they are literally, sometimes, not thinking about anything.
I can look back at myself in the “what are you thinking” circles in past relationships, believing firmly that the men were actually holding back some secret thoughts from me. I knew I was…so, naturally, they would be too.  The thing about the “what are you thinking” moments, is that the girls ask guys what they are thinking out of some desire to know, but mostly out of an ulterior motivation to be able to tell men what they are actually thinking (or they’re simply fishing for compliments). The thing about the “what are you thinking” moments, is that guys are usually honest about their thoughts (no matter how shallow, stupid and non-related to the relationship they are), where girls tend to reveal only half truths or generous overtures about their significant other in hopes that he will one-up her. The thing about these moments is that girls are often verbal processors and guys just need to think about absolutely nothing for a while…or something seemingly insignificant to her or their relationship.
I don’t really get it, since I’m currently unable to sleep because my mind keeps racing and because, while I’m in one, a relationship seems to occupy a lot of my thoughts. How do guys think about nothing? Can you enlighten me (and our audience) on this one, Bryn?
ME: 
This is an interesting question, and unfortunately I think it varies wildly from one guy to another, particularly as you cross lines between extroverts and introverts. I’ll simply speak from personal experience as a somewhat (read: very) introverted male.

There are innumerous times when my fiancé will ask me “what are you thinking about?”. To be fair, it’s usually because I asked her first. More often than not, she has a clear succinct answer and it’s usually sweet or endearing; it usually relates to us. What’s awkward is when she turns the question around on me and the only thing I’m positive I wasn’t thinking about was exactly what I should’ve been thinking about: us. Many a car trip has evolved around conversations such as:

Me: “What are you thinking about, dear?”
Her: “Oh, I was just thinking about how much I love taking drives with you. What are you thinking about?”
Me: “Oh-uh, I was just wondering who on earth came up with the color for yellow lines in the middle of the road. Don’t you think life would be totally different if they were, say, lime green?”

The thing is, I find females (particularly extroverted ones) often take this personally and think that because a guy isn’t thinking about them while they’re sharing a quaint experience (such as cross-country road trips) he must not care. This simply is not true. The only time an introverted male has a one track mind is during sporting events or in the middle of a really gripping movie; I’d throw physical intimacy into the mix but the truth is even during passionate moments a guy can be pondering deep mysteries of the universe. Horrible as that may sound, this is nothing personal; it does not mean we don’t care about you, its just part of how we’re wired. For introverted men, we are either hyper-focusing (to the extent that breaking our concentration would be as safe as lighting a fire cracker by a sleeping tiger) or wandering down a million different paths of thought at once (which is where the nickname “space cadet” may come in handy). Many times, the thinking question will catch me off guard, and instead of attempting to explain everything that was running through my head (“did I turn off the stove?”, “I bet the Bruins are gonna pull up an upset tonight…”, “Man, Bill Bryon’s new book was spellbinding…”, “Did I call my Father for Father’s day?”, “Oh- I love this radio station!”) my response will just be “nothing”. This is not a lie, but a simplified truth. As a fellow introverted professor one told me “you have no idea what it’s like being inside my brain!”. Sometimes, ladies, we tell simplified truths to spare you the realization that you’re dating a half-crazed, ADHD poster-child.

On the flip side, there is truth in the fact that we sometimes need to retreat into a space where we don’t need to think about anything and can just clear our heads. For me, this is while running and the drive to work in the morning; if anyone tries to talk to me during these moments they will be greeted with the conversational quality of a brick wall. This is how we recharge; it’s how we empty ourselves and gain a sense of where we are in the world. It’s vital that an introvert get this time, vital that a man feels secure in his place in the cosmos before stepping into a relationship. Thus, if my significant other asks me what I’m thinking about in these moments, she’s lucky if I even answer “nothing”. If I do, this is not a simplified truth, but as real as the car we’re driving in.

The key to understanding another person isn’t (ironically) understanding them. It’s grasping that there’s some spheres of their consciousness that you will never understand. It’s easy to take things personally, and easier still to fill in the blanks. The response “I wasn’t thinking about anything” can easily lead into the conceived notion that “he’s lying, he’s gotta be thinking about something. So I bet it’s how annoyed he is with me. Or I bet he’s thinking about his ex-girlfriend, and that cashier at the counter that bashed her eyes at him…how could he do this to me?” In situations like this, trust is essential. Learn to trust the person you’re with, let their “nothing” be nothing and their silence be a sign of respect. Let them sit in their “man-cave” when needed and leave well enough alone.

After all, we may just be thinking about why the median lines aren’t lime-green.

DEBBIE:
I think it’s good for us females to realize the broad spectrum of what we might be up against when we ask The Question. Mostly I think it’s good for us to realize that we shouldn’t take it personally and it may be good for us to recognize that we should be aware of possible ulterior motives when we ask what our guys are thinking.  If we really want to know, fine… but if we’re just fishing for a compliment, or if we are trying to get him to ask us what we are thinking…
we should maybe think twice about our approach.

I think there’s something really valuable in letting go of this need we have to understand each other, too. Of letting ourselves exist in our weird trains of thought without having to completely understand the other and without taking any of it personally. Great points and insights here. Trustis essential and letting these moments be what they are can simply be life-giving…instead of having to over-analyze, read into, believe lies about what the other is thinking (or not thinking).

Sometimes the silence is a beautiful thing, too.
The silence as we both think about a million things, or stare off into the abyss, wondering about absolutely nothing at all…and letting ourselves just exist in each other’s presence, understanding that we won’t understand everything and that it’s okay.

Let’s let the men have their mental ‘Man Cave’ and not take it personally when we can’t go there with them.

 

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