by Sarah Jacobsson Purewal
The old joke is that guys don’t like reading instructions any more than they like asking for directions. Well, neither does she. “You should be the one who’s willing to read the directions for household appliances, so she doesn’t have to
A week ago, my car battery died. Completely. Wouldn’t even attempt to turn over. Although I knew what I needed to do—pop the hood, remove the battery, and lug it over to a shop to have someone charge it up—the first thought that popped into my head was not one of 21st century self-sufficiency.
Nope. Instead, it was that I should call my guy, who was 500 miles away at the time, to see what he could possibly do to help me. Because, the way I see it, fixing my car problems, even if I’m perfectly capable of fixing them myself, is part of his job as the guy in this relationship.
Guess what? I’m not alone. “It’s a funny conundrum that women are able to do so much on their own, and yet they still expect men to take care of certain things,” says psychotherapist Vinita Mehta, Ph.D. “This is a great example of ‘evolutionary lag’ at work.” According to Mehta, ‘evolutionary lag’ is exactly what it sounds like—a term that explains how our Stone Age bodies haven’t quite caught up to our Space Age brains (and relationships). “Research shows that women still look to men to protect and provide, much like our female ancestors,” Mehta explains.
In other words, even though modern conveniences (such as AAA) render her reliance on you almost unnecessary, she still harbors a deep-seated desire to see you step up to the plate in certain ways. Here are five things she can probably do herself, but she expects you to do for her, anyway—and of course how to deal with this horrible double-standard.
1. Fix car problems
Dead battery, burned out headlight, flat tire—if there’s an issue with her car, she wants you to fix it. This doesn’t necessarily mean you have to replace the headlight or change the tire yourself (although you should probably know how to change a tire), because what she really wants you to do is fix the problem using whatever means you deem necessary. If the problem warrants a trip to the shop, she expects you to get her car to the shop.
The reason behind her desire to see you fix things is gender role orientation, according to relationship expert Tracy Thomas, Ph.D. “We are socialized to see the masculine role as being the ‘doer’ or ‘achiever,’” Thomas says. She wants to see you do something—even if that something is just pushing her car to the nearest gas station.
2. Defend her
Swords may be a thing of the past, but you’ll still win points by verbally jumping to her defense. If she feels insulted, confronted, or like she got the raw end of a deal, it’s your job to step in and stand up for her. She’ll appreciate it even if she’s normally a confrontational person, according to Thomas. “Women today are socialized in both feminine and masculine gender roles, which makes them sort of androgynous,” Thomas says. “So, often, there’s so much of that masculinity there, in them, that they want to have somewhere—for many, it’s the bedroom—where they can just have that feminine experience and feel masculine energy that’s not their own.”
To refrain from appearing too caveman-like with your defense, gauge the situation first. If she’s absolutely killing it with the comebacks, wait until she asks you to step in.
3. Lift heavy things
You probably already know this, but if a box weighs more than 50 pounds, you get the honor of lugging it up the stairs—even if she can bench her weight and squat 300. Not only is it usually more efficient for the stronger partner to carry heavy things, it’s evolutionarily sexy, according to Mehta. “Women look to men in situations that involve strength, as they did in prehistoric times,” Mehta says.
Of course, if she really does kick ass at the gym, you may involuntarily insult her by sweeping up her things and implying she’s not all that tough. “Just feel out whether she wants it,” Mehta suggests. “A simple question like, ‘would you like me to help or hang back,’ can clarify what she’s looking for.”
4. Be the expert
The old joke is that guys don’t like reading instructions any more than they like asking for directions. Well, neither does she. “You should be the one who’s willing to read the directions for household appliances, so she doesn’t have to,” Thomas says. According to Thomas, this goes back to gender role orientation and the male as the ‘achiever’—she wants you to be able to operate household appliances and fix them, or at least troubleshoot them, if necessary.
The same goes for navigation, though you shouldn’t take that to mean that you can never ask for directions. Ultimately, what she cares about is your ability to get her from one place to another—even if that means stopping and consulting a friendly gas station attendant every so often. “She doesn’t really care how you get things done, just that you get them done,” Thomas says.
5. Take the first watch
This isn’t as daunting as it sounds—she wants you to “take the first watch,” but in little ways, Thomas explains. “If there’s a situation in which she’ll be uncomfortable, such as opening the door for the pizza guy when she’s in the middle of getting ready, or taking the trash out in the rain, she sort of expects you to take on that inconvenience for her,” Thomas says. “Even running errands shows that you’re the masculine ‘doer,’ or the agent who goes out and accomplishes things.”
Of course, if you’re in a situation where someone actually needs to take the first watch—like you’re competing in the Hunger Games, or something—then it may be every man for himself.
Read more in Men’s Health
Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.