My husband and I started our family with a son and kept adding them until we had four of them, the last two coming as a set. Though of course there are exceptions to every rule, I have noted some patterns in boys at play that I have found to be helpful in understanding men in general and my husband in particular.

1. They long to have their strengths acknowledged.

Boys seek admiration for what they can do. Noticing they have improved or gained mastery in an activity and mentioning that can put a smile on their face. Hours will be spent skate boarding, hitting a baseball, building a model or practicing guitar because they are programmed for action. Admiration is the reward they seek.

When they grow up, this need remains. While the means of gaining it may have evolved into work-related activities, the need for admiration remains deeply embedded. Admiration for ability and mastery is then interpreted as r-e-s-p-e-c-t, for which there is no substitute in the male species.

2. They can fight with one another one minute and be best of friends the next.

From the outside looking in, this is one of the most fascinating aspects of maleness I’ve ever witnessed. Boys have an ability to recover quickly from emotional conflict. As a female, I find it difficult to experience conflict in this way. An argument can stick to me like glue for hours, even days. I process it over and over in my mind, actually re-fighting it only better, with me winning! Not so with boys. They make their point, sometimes with fists, and when they’ve expressed themselves, move on. The tempest of emotion is quelled and they are mysteriously on to the next thing. Oddly enough, it seems that the more forcefully they defend their point or themselves, the more respect is payed by other participants or onlookers. Stature is gained, opinions filed, let’s go play ball.

Then they get married and expect fights to work the same way. Uhhh, no. We hear them and we keep talking. They hear us and process it, respond (or not) and they are done. They’re ready to move on to the next activity or return to what they were doing.We see it in deep, psychological terms like “lack of self-awareness”, “emotional avoidance”, or “an inablity to go deep” or even just plain ol’ pride. Well, maybe. Or maybe they’re just fighting like boys and honestly believe the fight is over.

3. They look for a partner to “do stuff” with.

Boys are all about action. They’re not about discourses or musings unless it can be accompanied by activity. “Hanging out” means doing to boys. It’s really that simple. Boys are simple.  Saying that it is not a put-down. It is delightful and admirable to be content with simplicity in life and male simplicity is a necessary compliment to our feminine complexity.

If we can remember that the boy inside the man never entirely goes away, but these needs remain (for admiration, quick recovery in strife, and action),  we can quite simply translate this into greater closeness and connection with our husbands.

Posted by Lee Ann

Hi, I'm Lee Ann, an extrovert; perpetual learner; book collector; Jesus-follower; A “doer” in recovery; Marriage & Family Therapist in private practice in Greater Denver, CO

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