I can help him become a better man. Deep down, he wants to be different. I know it. I can just tell when I look into his eyes.
The things he says and does that hurt me he only does out of fear of losing me. He doesn’t really mean them. He’s a little boy inside. Just wait till he feels secure in our relationship.
You’ll see. He’ll change. I can change him .
Why are women so susceptible to this misguided view of relationships? It seems almost a cinematic cliche out of the 40’s and 50’s. Think The Virginian (1943) with Joel McCrea, Angel and the Badman (1947) with John Wayne, Westward the Women (1951) with Robert Taylor, or Shane (1953) with Alan Ladd .
Good woman transforms outlaw into law abiding citizen. Women civilize men. The West is won.
What is it about this scenario that appeals so strongly to us? Is it something about the way women are socialized? Can an excess of compassion blind us to reality?
I suspect that there is something else at work, something not nearly so selfless. The appeal rests, I believe, on three bases: intuition, interpretation, and influence.
To begin with, there is an attraction by women to the idea of an intuitive capacity on their part, some “special” ability to perceive what others (especially men) cannot.
Traditionally, women have been seen as emotional or intuitive; men, as logical or factual. These days we attribute this to right-brained and left-brained thinking, respectively. It is the principle that “men are from Mars, women are from Venus” .
While there is some anatomic basis for this distinction (women, for instance, have a wider corpus callosum uniting the two hemispheres of the brain), there is no reason we can’t be both intuitive and rational.
Women, in other words, are entirely capable of logic. But we’re flattered by the idea that a distinction exists. We want there to be a distinction. Yin and yang. Opposites attract. Intuition is, in some sense, “proof” of our femininity.
That intuitive insight into our beloved is entirely subjective makes it all the more appealing. No one can disprove it. Consequently, we can remain confident in our delusion.
Don’t get me wrong. Clearly, non-linear thinking (another term for intuition) does exist. Creative people make use of it all the time. Women have a particular facility for bridging the gap when factual data runs out.
The dangerous delusion to which I refer is the belief that we and we alone can see into a man’s soul, and perceive the good there…despite every indication to the contrary; that we can change a man, whether he wants to change or not.
We are content to ignore the discrepancies between delusion and reality, blithely assuring ourselves that love is illogical. This is a crucial mistake. It leads us to overlook evidence which might burst our lovely bubble, but could avoid heartache and worse.
The second reason flawed thinking holds such an appeal for women has to do with the concept of an inarticulate man. The complex, brooding male has long been a romantic ideal. Remember Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights?
As women, we want to be needed. If we have been taught that women should be secondary in importance and subservient to men, interpreting a man incapable of communicating on his own is one way for us to feel significant.
Interpreting the “misunderstood” man to the world gives us importance without challenging the basic assumptions on which we were raised. Only we can understand him. Serving as his ambassador, translating his needs, gives us status while ostensibly ceding our power to him.
Unfortunately, this approach tends to select for abusive men. Normal, healthy men will at least attempt to convey their needs. They are not inarticulate apes. They may actually try to understand us.
 This series was inspired by a post titled “Three Common Beliefs that Make Abuse Innate to Our World” published 7/5/15 on Better Not Broken http://www.betternotbroken.com.
 It should be clear to anyone familiar with my blogs that I am a movie buff. All the films mentioned in this post (both parts 1 and 2) are classics, I have watched with pleasure many times.
 The book Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus (1992) by John Gray first made popular the quasi-scientific premise that men and women see the world differently.
This series will conclude next week with Part 2 – Influence
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