Sunday, April 16, 2006

Break-up Busting 101: Dangerous Words: Okay, Sure, Fine, Whatever!

In our next “Break-up Busting 101” installment, we need to talk about communication under stress, and how to know when you’re in trouble.

Before I begin, I want to apologize for missing yesterday's post. It was my birthday, and I ended up on an impromptu road trip doing lots of fun "guy stuff" and didn't realize until this morning that I'd missed the post. The one advantage of e-mail over blogs, at least with regard to trying to provide structured lessons, is that you can prepare for holiday downtime by queueing a couple of lessons in advance in case family or friends drop last-minute schedule changes in your lap. Otherwise, I'm preferring blogging more and more. There are no spam filters to mistakenly intercept lessons, no size limits, they look better, and I know that the only people reading this material here are the ones interested in it because they have to come here to get it. (You'd be surprised how many people try to "help out" or pull pranks on friends by signing them up for e-mail they don't want, which I don't condone with my own newsletter.)

Getting down to today's lesson, I’ve discussed, lectured, harped, preached, and nearly yelled about the need for couples in any relationship, but especially a committed relationship, to communicate effectively, and some people are so dense that when I’ve pointed this out to them and had members of the opposite sex write down their definitions of words to compare, they argued that the other sex’s definition was wrong instead of just accepting the fact that men and women have their own languages; there are a lot of common elements, but enough differences to start a war if one doesn’t know what they are.

In the process of trying to bring your relationship out of the crisis of divorce or other break-up, things are going to be tense, especially at first, and at times when you are trying to work out any differences that remain from the past. You’re also going to be at risk of undoing all the good you’ve done by letting another fight get started for as long as things are tense and unsure, and you absolutely MUST be able to recognize when the situation is heading that direction.

To that end, I’ve identified four seemingly innocuous words that are a constant source of problems when the two partners don’t attach the same meaning to them. This is because their gender-specific meanings in many contexts are quite opposite, and that makes them dangerous.

The three most dangerous words in the English language, with regard to male-female relations, may be ““okay,” “fine,” and “sure,” although “whatever” may take out any one of the other three if the right woman says it. They are universally understood between members of the same sex, and almost universally misunderstood between members of opposite sexes. What’s worse, what these words mean to men are grossly opposite to what they mean to women.

Men pretty much stick to dictionary definitions at best. We’re simple, very simple, with regard to communications. Few of us are adept at the elevation of language to a tool of diplomacy and espionage, and ladies, since I know you’re reading, we don’t have ulterior motives or hidden meanings when we speak. What you hear is what you get, right guys?

Women, on the other hand, are born diplomats and politicians. Nothing is spoken directly, everything has multiple meanings and ulterior motives, and exchanges are almost always negotiations. Hence, while they always know what they’re saying to each other, men often don’t have a clue what a woman is really saying. We hear words that we recognize and take them literally, much to the chagrin of our female acquaintances at all levels. To the average woman, conversing with the average man is at times no different from conversing with a four-year old boy, because we lack this sophistication and they have to explain things over and over again, usually without success because they just can’t manage to spit something out directly until pushed to the point of male-like aggression brought on by anger and frustration, if then.

Let’s look at these three words from a man’s point of view:

Okay (male):

1. From the last-century acronym for “Our Kind,” meaning, “we like that.”
2. In good health, as in “I woke up hung over, but now I’m okay.”
3. Affirmative, as in “I need your help with this, okay?” or “Okay, I’ll do that for you.”

All positive meanings, pretty much right out the dictionary, right? Let’s move on…

Fine (male):

1. Of high quality, as in “fine China” or “a fine automobile.
2. Satisfactory, as in “We’re doing fine,” or “he’s fine, and thanks for asking.”
3. Very small, as in a “fine mesh,” “fine-toothed comb,” or “fine sanding grit.”

It’s a positive word in either of the first two connotations, and benign in the third instance. Again, all pretty much straight out of the dictionary, right? Keep going…

Sure (male):

1. Affirmative, and with enthusiasm, as in “Sure! I’ll be glad to help with that,” or “Sure is!” – conversationally synonymous with “Certainly!”
2. Certain, as in “I am sure this will work” or “this is a sure bet.”

As with the other two, fairly positive, simple, straight out the dictionary. And here’s a beauty:

Whatever (male):

1. Anything, usually used in being agreeable, as in “Whatever you want is great.”

No surprises, right guys? Well, some of the ladies might be surprised, because to them, these words have many meanings, and you can’t always tell the difference from the context. To wit, consider these examples from some of the women on my support team’s comments on the subject:

Okay (female):

1. You aren't listening and I am going to shut up now.
2. You are screwed, Mister!
3. Screw you, you don't care...
4. I understand but am not happy about it.
5. Yeah, we’ll do it your way, and you will pay for it later!

Fine (female):

1. If you want, but you will regret this later.
2. Go screw yourself. You are an idiot and I am not going there.
3. If you say so, but I will do it my way anyway.
4. You think you know, I will let you think you know, but you know nothing, and I'm going to enjoy watching you find out that you know nothing.
5. Keep talking but I am not listening.
6. You are a complete a**hole if you think I am listening to what you are saying and would ever consider doing that.
7. Keep telling me what to do and you will be sleeping on the couch, Buddy!
8. Yeah, you want me to wear that so I can look like a ho in front of your friends.
9. Yeah, you want to see that movie and don't care if I don't.
10. Yeah, nice restaurant, don't ask my opinion, you will pay for it (Lobster and Moet, anyone?)

Sure (female):

1. Go screw yourself!
2. What a moron!
3. You wish, buddy!
4. What the hell are you thinking???
5. Is he still talking?
6. You think I will do what you say....ha!
7. Damn, he is a jackass!
8. He can't be serious!
9. Please tell me he's not thinking I agree with him!
10. You have your views, I have mine, never the twain shall meet, but I will say I agree just to shut you up!
11. I have to do WHAT with your mom???
12. I have to WHAT with your friends???
13. Damn, I really don't want to do this...
14. Crap! I have to do this, but he will pay SOOOOO dearly later
15. Oh no he DIDN’T just…(say/do/whatever)

Whatever (female):

1. Screw you!
2. Screw you and die!
3. Go screw yourself and die the Death of 1,000 cuts!
4. Screw you, and you will be dying, slowly, painfully, and without even knowing it, just as soon as I figure out how I’m going to torture you to death.
5. Right now, I have more regard and respect for whale dung on the floor of the ocean than I have for you.

Do you see a pattern here? All of these words have somewhat to very positive meanings for men, but negative to life-threatening meanings as women use them; "fine" to a man means really great, where to a woman, it means at best, "well, if that's the best I can get, I'll settle, but you're going to make it up to me later."

In general, any one-word answer given by a woman to a question from a man is probably bad. It gets worse. When these words appear in the same sentence, the amount of trouble you are in and the punishment you will endure as a result increase exponentially. Case in point, have you heard, “Okay, fine!” recently? That happened right before she stormed out of the room, huh? And there was nothing pleasant in your life for some time after that, was there Big Guy? “Okay, fine!” does not mean “Alright, you win.” Quite the contrary; it pretty much means, “War has just been declared, and you've already lost!”

Indeed, did you lose your keys and find them in a place you didn’t remember having them, and a calm air of satisfaction on her face when you found them, or in extreme cases, you looked for them for half an hour, got frustrated because you were late to do something with your friends (it wouldn’t make you late for work), and then SHE finds your keys in a really ridiculous place, like in the clothes dryer, claiming you left your keys in your pocket and she laundered the pants this morning? or in a place that you know you had already searched several times? Uhhh, yeah…thought so.

Speaking of the dryer, did you happen to notice your underwear were rather scratchy feeling, like the fabric softener had been left out? Or a mysterious stain appeared on your favorite garment, or worse, your golf clubs or bag? Did the remote for the TV disappear just in time to inconvenience the hell out of you when there were about a half-dozen different sporting events on that you wanted to surf? Who woulda thunk it?

It can be anything from semi-benign little jabs like these to "grudge sex" with your brother or one of your friends, or if she’s really mad, grudge sex with somebody you really despise, and you may never find out about it. Being able to keep you in the dark about it is a sort of everlasting punishment that causes her to smile or smirk ever-so-slightly as she leaves the room when you’re being a real jerk.

So you now have to ask, what happens if you get all four together? If you ever hear the following sentence:

“Okay, sure, fine! WHATEVER!”

DUCK! COVER! RUN! And make sure your health insurance is paid up and you have fresh ammo. Trouble’s coming on a pale horse, and Hell will be following after. (Forgive the Biblical metaphor, I noticed an ad recently for Clint Eastwood’s “Pale Rider,” and couldn’t resist.)

Gentlemen, as you can see, they tell us when we’re doing things that are going to get us in trouble, but they use the same language we would use to say that everything is great. Incidentally, Ladies, what about “great”? It has a few juicy meanings too, does it not? This could make for a really fun study of you readers, if you’d like to make it one. Everyone is invited to write in (you can post comments here or e-mail me at tips@makingherhappy.com) with your own thoughts on these words and more, stories of altercations or misunderstandings, etc., and you really should do it, because if several people respond, it will make for some interesting reading for all of us! Just because the rest of the world chooses to wallow in a communications quagmire and remain boring and ignorant doesn’t mean the achievers on this list of readers has to join them!

As you can see, there’s a lot more to keeping a relationship on course and fun than they told us in the storybooks when we were little kids, or the textbooks when we were big kids for that matter. That’s why many of us end up in one or more divorces during the course of our life.

A good relationship takes some work, and stopping and reversing a break-up can take a lot of work, but you can work smart instead of hard. You can work hard every day trying to put up a front, making compromises that you later resent, biting your tongue, etc., or you can spend some effort in a one-time exercise to learn how to get along and how to be that attractive, funny, naughty alpha male stud muffin that every woman drools over. A no-brainer, huh?

After that exercise, you can spend a little time in what the corporate types might call a “self-directed improvement endeavor” to make those traits, skills, and behavior a part of yourself, so that being the man of your partner’s dreams is natural, effortless, automatic, and most of all, fun! I cannot overstress that above all else, doing the things that make for a perpetual honeymoon are the most fun you can have with your clothes on! And, most important, unless your relationship has been severely damaged by extreme substance, physical, or emotional abuse, making these changes have proven to stop a divorce cold in as little as a week!

As I said, it wasn’t in the storybooks, and it wasn’t in the textbooks, but it is now -- sort of! “How to Be Attractive to the Woman You Love” is like a textbook on the perpetual honeymoon and what it takes to have it, but unlike a textbook, it doesn’t just put the information out there in front of you in a sterile, academic presentation of theories and opinions. It’s a seminar in book form, telling you what you need to know and providing examples to train you to make the required behavior a part of yourself.

Go to http://www.makingherhappy.com/ and get your copy today, because no matter what kind of shape your relationship is in, you can make it better with the help of the information in this book, even if making it better means getting out of it (if it’s abusive, parasitic, or otherwise destroying your life instead of fulfilling it) and starting over with a worthy partner. It’s all that, and it’s yours for less than the cost of a good meal for two. Care to compare that to legal fees, loss in the property settlement, alimony, etc.? Another no-brainer, methinks…

In the meantime, live well, be well, and have a wonderful day!
David Cunningham

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