1. NOT GIVING ENOUGH SPACE “She clings to me because she thinks that every minute I’m not with her I’m fooling around.” –Lewis, personal fitness trainer The “S” word must be used carefully. Some men intentionally abuse the term “I need my space” to ensure that they can have their cake and eat it too–fool around while not giving up what they already have. But not all men are that way. Most men simply just want some room to be by themselves. Men, just like women, need to feel that they aren’t trapped or being held hostage in their lives. From time to time, men want to get away and be alone or hang out with their friends. But it’s a strain on the relationship when women think that a man is being selfish, silly, or making up an excuse to go out and cheat just because he wants some space. The smart woman knows that a man needs his space and doesn’t hold it against him. She’s confident enough to know that each person needs his/her own space to maintain a healthy relationship. On the other hand, jealous and possessive women are well known for their deliberate attempts to prevent a man from having any sort of privacy. Those are the women who think letting a man out of their sight is a mistake. They keep choke holds on their men and eventually drive them away. But if a woman can’t give the man a little space, either the relationship isn’t solid or she has some personal problems she needs to deal with. If it’s because she can’t trust him out of her sight, she doesn’t need that man anyway.

2. ACTING SWEET TO GET A MAN, THEN CHANGING “I don’t know why women act so sweet during dating and change completely when they know they’ve got you.” –Alvin, computer technician She used to go to bed in a naughty nightie and didn’t care about sweating the curls out of her head. Now she goes to bed with a head full of rollers and a face covered with Noxzema. When they were dating, she batted her eyes, spoke softly, and always looked sexy. But now that she’s got him, that all changed. The gently batting eyes and shy smiles have been replaced with frowns, pursed lips, and shrill tones. No more sexy clothes. Now she dresses like she doesn’t care what she looks like, every day is a bad hair day, and she’s fast losing the curves in her body and developing a pleasantly plump figure. Of course, men can’t expect women to be superwomen who are able to work, cook, clean, and make love with flawless precision. But a woman shouldn’t start out playing the superwoman role at the beginning and then change. It’s better to present herself as she is and get it all out in the open. When a woman changes her entire act after the relationship gets going, men feel as though they’ve been duped. Suddenly, he doesn’t know what to believe anymore and feels he can’t really trust the woman he thought he knew.

3. WANTING TOO MANY THINGS “I’m just a working man. I can’t afford a two-story house in the suburbs, a Lexus, a Range Rover, a bunch of credit cards, and kids too.” –Jesse, mail courier Some black men say black women are unrealistic in their expectations and want too much. Of course, wanting a good hardworking man who respects women isn’t asking too much. But what about when it goes far beyond that? For some women, having a good man just isn’t enough. They also want a Lexus, a two-story home in the suburbs, and a string of credit cards. When they don’t have these things, they moan and complain as though life is terrible. If the man dares to say something about how he’s happy with things as they are, he’ll be accused of being complacent, lazy, and lacking ambition. It’s fine to have goals and want some luxuries. But counting the blessings you already have never hurts either.

4. NOT SAYING WHAT SHE MEANS “Women expect you to read their minds like a psychic.” –Jamal, college student Men aren’t very good mind readers. In fact, we often have difficulty just figuring out what women mean with the words they speak. I think women are far more sophisticated communicators than men; they seem to be more adept at the subtleties of gestures, facial expressions, and body language. Therefore, men and women almost always suffer from communication breakdowns in relationships. Unfortunately, some women do not express themselves honestly and openly. It seems that they are more apt to use voice inflections and body language to communicate what they mean, even when the actual words they are saying convey the opposite. Take this situation, for example: “No, I don’t mind if you go out with your friends instead of taking me to a movie tonight,” a woman says, tapping her foot and looking away with her arms folded. Although her mouth is saying quite literally, “No, I don’t mind,” her body is saying she does mind. Women expect the men in their lives to read their nonverbal cues. Some men fail to read the nonverbal cues of the women in their lives. When this happens, an argument is almost always the result, because the woman feels that she communicated her feelings to the man and he ignored her. For example, I’ll use the scenario from the previous paragraph. When that man comes home from his night out with the guys, his wife is going to be angry at him. She’ll probably snap at him when she talks, slam doors, or even yell at him. “What’s the problem?” he’ll ask. “You know what the problem is!” But he really may not know what the problem is, because she never came out and said what she meant in words. She expected him to read the nonverbal cues and he totally missed them. As a result, the woman believes that the man is just being callous and self-centered. Likewise, the man is upset too; he thinks she’s nagging him for no reason. Both of them will go to bed angry.

5. THE THREE B’S OF SEX “I’m going to be straight about it: sex is important to me.” –Gene, entrepreneur Perhaps it would be nice if sex didn’t play such a major role in relationships. But for most people, sex is a big part of a relationship. And for men, it’s probably more important than it should be. The sexual aggravations of men boil down to the three B’s: bad, boring, and the boudoir battle. Bad sex: Sex is a learned skill. It’s similar to driving a car. Basically, anyone can do it. Some are good at it. And others are experts. But everyone has an idea of what they consider good and bad sex. Common complaints among men are: lack of enthusiasm, lack of rhythm, no creativity, and poor technique. If a person in a relationship is dissatisfied or experiencing sexual dysfunction, it’s something that should be openly and honestly discussed. The reasons for sexual dysfunction can be psychological, physiological, ethical, and religious, or a host of other things. If the problems seem insurmountable, the advice of a pastor or therapist may be necessary. Boring sex: Boring sex isn’t necessarily the same thing as bad sex. But it is far from good. Boring sex is always doing it in the same place, at the same time, and in the same old position. It’s when the sex gets to the point that it feels like more of a duty than a desire. Boring sex is when you’re going through all the motions but there’s no spice or passion involved. Boudoir battle: Using sex as a weapon doesn’t do anything but make a man angry. It can be subtle things such as not being open to touching and cuddling. Or it can be more strategic. It can be the refusal to do certain things in bed. The most brutal form of bedroom battle is outright refusal. Of course, a man can’t expect a woman who is angry at him to make mad, passionate love to him. That’s where communication comes into play. It’s far better to talk and resolve the differences than to play games of will because any real man will be very insulted by such behavior. Then he may become vengeful and the whole thing turns into a cold war of revenge. Boudoir battle can lead to deep resentment and some men will use it as an excuse to cheat on their wives or girlfriends.

6. CONSTANTLY TALKING ABOUT OTHER MEN “She’s always talking about this guy at her job and it really pisses me off.” –Shawn, corporate executive Men don’t like to hear women constantly talking about other men. It’s not necessarily an ego thing. It’s just that each man wants to feel special and important to the woman in his life. Women don’t have to cradle us like babies. Nor do they need to be patronizing. But a woman would be wise to realize that the ego of a man can be fragile. Black men in particular are constantly attempting to gain and maintain the basic elements of American manhood: the ability to provide, protect, and be masters of our own destinies. Not talking excessively to your husband or boyfriend about how great you think other men are is one small thing that can go a long way toward healing the beleaguered black male ego.

7. BEING A DRAMA QUEEN “She calls my pager all day when I’m at work. Then when I call her back, she just starts whining about some little thing that could’ve waited until later.” –Art, sanitation worker Drama queens are always whining, pestering, or nagging about something. With them, nothing can ever be right. They pull all kinds of little tricks to get and control a man’s attention. If he’s watching television, she wants him to get up and put out the trash. When he has time off from work, she tries to plan each hour for him. If it’s bill-paying time, she’s crying about her car note being late. Another technique used by the drama queen is to play damsel in distress to get a man’s attention. In this role the drama queen says “save me.” Initially, it may make a man feel good to be the chivalrous knight in shining armor coming to the rescue. But too much distress can drive even the most loyal knight to ride off into the sunset.

8. BEING HARD AND COLD “I work the graveyard shift so I don’t have to be at home with my wife.” –Derek, police officer That response was from a man who had been married less than one year and was already engaged in a cold war with his wife. Most of the time she was openly disrespectful to him as a human being, not just as a man. Other times she was cold and aloof, barely acknowledging that he was in the room. Believe it or not, men have feelings too. Hard and cold behavior is enough to drive anyone away. Again, we aren’t asking to be cradled like babies. But every man wants home to be a safe refuge from the cold-hearted world. However, when the world at home is colder than the work world, there is no solace.

9. CHEATING “They call us dogs, but women are out there fooling around just as much.” –Barry, auto mechanic Some women will maintain that when a woman is cheating it’s always the fault of a man. That simply isn’t true. Women are human beings and are therefore just as subject to dishonesty and deceit as any man. Cheating takes two forms. First, there’s the obvious form, which is having affairs. But the second way of cheating is mental. It’s the subtle art of getting over on him. She may not be fooling around with another man but she may be cheating by fooling around with the checkbook balance. Her body may be faithful, but she may be cheating by playing manipulative games to keep him within her control. Such games rob a man of his energy and creativity and prevent him from realizing his full potential. The truth is that cheating doesn’t have to be just about affairs or lovers. Cheating is deception of any kind.

10. ENGAGING IN A POWER STRUGGLE “I can’t stand it when a woman always wants to prove to me that she’s smart, tough, and independent.” –Lawrence, attorney It really irritates men when women they’re involved with are constantly trying to upstage them. This is especially bothersome for those men who aren’t trying to compete with their mates. This behavior takes many forms. Some women who engage in power struggles with their mates do it through career competition: who can make the most money or get the most prestige? For some the competition is based upon education level: who has the most advanced degree from the most prestigious school? Another form of engaging in a power struggle is competing in disagreements: who gets the last word in? In addition to those power struggles, the men I spoke with mentioned four other ways some women engage in a power struggle: (1) Making sure they look smarter than a man by intentionally upstaging him in public. (2) Disagreeing for the sake of disagreement. (3) Unnecessary rudeness. (4) Being condescending or cutting down what a man says when he states his personal thoughts and opinions. The guys I spent the evening talking with agreed that they weren’t intimidated by women who made more money, drove more expensive cars, or had more education than they did. Their issue was with women who want to flaunt those things in order to be the superior person in a relationship. They all agreed that such behavior was a complete turnoff. No matter what form the power struggle comes in, it’s an energy drain for a man who isn’t interested in competing with his mate. Engaging in a power struggle is a quick way to drive a man away. I know this list is going to make the tempers of some women flare. But remember, this isn’t a list of complaints. It’s information intended to give women insight into what men are thinking; it’s a bridge across the communication gap. Without straight and candid communication, we can’t solve the issues that threaten to end so many relationships. Use these ten issues as a starting point for a dialogue with your husband, the man in your life, or a male friend. Such a discussion will give you even better insight than reading this list. And that’s the one-on-one communication needed not only to save relationships but to make them better. Excerpted from Brothers, Lust and Love: Thoughts on Manhood, Sex and Romance ©1998 by William July II. Excerpted by permission of the author.

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