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8 Things Men Say and What They Really Mean

8 Things Men Say and What They Really Mean

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Years ago, in the middle of a heated argument between a young couple in my office, the husband suddenly started gazing out the window and ignoring the escalating voice of his wife. This seemed to be a bad move on his part because if she was angry before, now she was infuriated.

“"See, that’s what he always does. We’ll be in the middle of an important discussion and then he just shuts down. Complete silence. I really can’t put up with it anymore.”

The fascinating thing was that this husband was so good at disengaging himself from the tension in that room, I don’t think he heard a word anyone said for the next few minutes. So I spent that time explaining to his wife that his temporary “silence” was completely normal. Some men need a way to calm themselves down during arguments so they don’t lose control, and that’s how they do it. And sometimes, men are just silent because they really have nothing to say, not because they are still angry or resentful.

The Torah teaches us that G‑d created men and women not just with different physical bodies, but also with unique spiritual capacities. That why Judaism teaches us that our souls become whole when we marry our soul mates. The depth of the joy at a Jewish wedding reflects this miraculous uniting of two different perspectives. We complete each other, but that doesn’t mean that it will always be simple to understand one another.

Part of building successful marriages depends on learning to hear what our husbands are really trying to say. So here are eight things that men say and what they say they mean in women language:

1. “I’m going to be a little late. Let’s be in touch.”

What women think: He’s going to come home a few minutes late. I’ll keep dinner in the oven.

What men really mean: I’m totally swamped at work. I have no idea how late I’m going to be, and I’ll try to call. But don’t get worried or upset if I don’t call because I might forget.

2. “I know exactly where I am.”

What women think: He knows the way. We’ll get there soon.

What men really mean: I’m not sure where I am, and I don’t know what’s wrong with this GPS, but I’ll figure out how to fix it. I basically know the general area, so there’s no use panicking yet.

3. “I’m not angry.”

What women think: He wants to keep talking about this. I thought he was upset, but I guess he’s not.

What men really mean: I’m a little angry. OK, maybe very angry inside. But just give me some space and stop talking about this. Let’s take a breather, and I’ll deal with this on my own. And please don’t keep asking me if I’m angry. Actually, can we just move past this altogether?

4. “I don’t care either way.”

What women think: Why is he so upset? Why can’t he tell me what he wants? Why wouldn’t he care?

What men really mean: I really don’t have an opinion about this. Whatever you choose is really fine with me. And the quicker you choose, the happier I will be.

5. “Can we talk about this later?”

What women think: This isn’t a good time for him to talk, but he’ll be ready to discuss it later today.

What men really mean: I don’t want to speak about this anymore. Ever. So I’m going to try my best to indefinitely postpone dealing with this until you catch on that “later” means never.

6. “I just want you to be happy.”

What women think: Why is he saying this in the middle of this argument? It’s totally disconnected from what we were talking about.

What men really mean: I have no idea what you’re talking about it or what you want. In fact, I have completely lost track of what we were arguing about for the past two hours. This means I just want to find a way to end this argument and reset your mood back to normal.

7. “What tone of voice?”

What women think: He’s using such a rude tone of voice. Why is he speaking this way to me? Is he trying to start a fight?

What men really mean: Sometimes, I really don’t mean to send messages via my tone of voice, and it makes it 10 times worse when you tell me I’m using the wrong “tone” of voice when I’m doing everything I can to hold myself together and not lose it.

8. “I’m not a control freak.”

What women think: Why does he keep telling me what to do and how to do it? Does he think I’m totally incapable? He says he’s not being controlling, but he won’t stop giving me “tips” and instructions.

What men really mean: I’m not being controlling. I’m just explaining why if you don’t do the the way I’m telling you to, you will probably regret it. It’s not that my way is the only way to do this, it’s just that it’s the way that makes sense.

When I first got married, I thought that speaking to my husband would always be like speaking to one of my best friends. And sometimes, it was and it still is. But there are other times when we need to work hard just to understand what the other person is trying to say because we are each coming from such vastly different perspectives. And that chasm of communication can only be bridged by working every day to understand each other’s words and to believe in the Torah’s promise that if we see the beauty in each of our separate pieces, we will find a way to build wholeness together.

Sara Debbie Gutfreund lives with her husband and children in Waterbury, Connecticut. She holds a B.A. in English from the University of Pennsylvania, and a Masters in Family Therapy from the University of North Texas.
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Eliana Galer March 3, 2016

This was inciteful and sometimes hilarious! And sometimes the communication roles are reversed. For instance, my husband really gets disturbed when I'm the one who says, "i don't care either way," which is usually true regarding small stuff.

Thanks for the insights. It really is helpful. Reply

Anonymous Jerusalem September 20, 2015

8 Things Men Say and What They Really Mean While I don't necessarily agree with a number of the "real" answers, is there an "8 Things Women Say" article here too? Reply

Patricia Cleveland September 11, 2015

So according to you, the man never means what he really says.

He doesn't want his wife to know that he is angry or that he is lost or that he wants her to shut up. He's afraid to let her know what he really means.

So he LIES.

She listens to his lie and believes it and he concludes she is not listening.

He then blames her for responding to his lie instead of to what he has kept secret..

Her chances of seeing through his lies are zilch.

And he claims he wants to be heard and understood?

That's another lie. He wants to keep himself secret. Otherwise, why lie?

The solution is not for women to learn the men's secret code.

The solution is for men to stop LYING.

No fair claiming your wife doesn't understand you when all you do is try your best to avoid being understood. Reply

Anonymous Houston, TX September 7, 2015

Just remember--when your husband is thinking "I'd trade waterboarding for not having to listen to this!" he still loves you. :-) Reply

Moishe Las Vegas September 7, 2015

5. "Can we talk about this later?"
Very good article, Sara Debbie, but I disagree with #5, "Can we talk about this later?".

"What women think: This isn't a good time for him to talk, but he'll be ready to discuss it later today."

"What men really mean: I don't want to speak about this anymore. Ever. So I'm going to try my best to indefinitely postpone dealing with this until you catch on that "later" means never."

The only reason I as a man would ever ask if we can talk later about something is that it would be better for me to talk about it later.
If I didn't want to talk further about it, I'd say that I don't want to talk about it any further. I'd try to conclude. If we couldn't conclude the issue, I'd ask that we continue later.

Male female brain differences can manifest in different ways.
It isn't an exact science.
Sometimes thinking may differ from one man to another or woman to another based on the level of that person's masculinity or femininity. Reply

Anonymous Australia September 7, 2015

Sara How many men did you interview for this piece to see if it is what they were truly saying? Or is this just something you went through with your own partner so you could make it easier for other ladies to understand their husbands who might possibly be in the same situation of receiving such short answers from their partners?
I dream that one day people can just say what they mean instead of having to read between the lines! :) It'd make things a lot more easier! Reply

V'ruria Washington State September 7, 2015

real communication??? so is real communication EVER possible. I've been married 37 years and have become resigned to never knowing what he really thinks and feels.
He says all he really wants is food, sex and TV and that is the extent of his interests in life. Reply

Anonymous September 3, 2015

Funny. That's what I mean when I say those things.
If only this was geared towards men I would show this to my husband.
Unfortunately he might find it offensive if I tried to get him to read this. Reply

Hanalah Austin September 1, 2015

In each example, the woman thinks he means what he says.

And in each example, he does not mean what he says. He means something which he doesn't want to admit., such as that he is angry when he says he is not, or that he will discuss it later when he will never discuss it again, or that he will keep in touch when he will forget to call, or that his tone of voice doesn't reflect his feelings, when in fact he is indeed annoyed, or that he wants his wife to be happy when he actually wants her to "get off his back" and stop criticizing him.

I mean it. I can finally understand that men always need to sound as if they are right and as if they are sure when in fact they have no idea what they are talking about (or where they are).

Do men misrepresent everything in this way with one another? Do they never acknowledge what they really mean?

Or do they falsify themselves only to women? Or only to women whose love matters to them? Reply

Miriam Disenhouse Toronto August 31, 2015

Impressed Went over this with my husband, saying the lines with him explaining them. All 8 were pretty much dead on! I never really thought about it much but yes, he does mean things that wouldn't have even occurred to me when I speak because the thought process is so different. It is no wonder they say that men are from Mars and women are from Venus...

Something we should always keep in mind, especially when we argue. Reply

Raymond Bastarache NB.Canada August 31, 2015

great subject...male and female The wife wants to be loved....the husband wants to be respected.....it's that simple. Reply

Anonymous Seattle August 31, 2015

Perfection Sara Debbie Gutfreud?

You are beautifully and funny. Are you sure that's what men really think?

It's all beginning to make sense now!

So sorry but I can't stop laughing as I type this on my phone awaiting my child to finish her appointment. People are giving me that "look. I now feel the need to share your article with the other mothers waiting. Thank you! Reply

joe Santa Fe August 31, 2015

Good conversation- no conversation Is one of the points of this article that it is expected for the woman to listen and for the man to be listened to. Reply

the Oracle Indio, CA August 31, 2015

Non Sequitur Men always think their position is reasonable. So if you want to get ahead in an argument, take a reasonable tone, and say, "Let's be reasonable." Reply

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