Why Women Don’t Understand What Men Say

“Men are simple? You really think men are simple?” she asked me again, in a voice filled with skeptical curiosity. She obviously didn’t agree with me, or thought I was deluded. I had just met her at a small get-together the night before. She was one of my male friend’s dates, and we’d run into each other again the next morning as she was leaving my friend’s apartment. We walked down the street together as we talked.

I raised my shoulders in a half-shrug, but she started talking again before I could answer. “Okay, alright, I think men are not as complicated as women, I know this. Women, we are complicated, much more than men. But men are, too, don’t you think? It’s like… well, they’re not easy, you know? It’s not easy to understand them. Like, it’s not easy to understand what they’re thinking, what they want.”

I nodded as she spoke. I could see her point. Women are complicated. We talk a lot. We think about everything – why something was said, how it was said, who said it, to whom it was said and who else was around when it was said. We think about our reactions and their reactions and what the long-term ramifications might be. Then we think and talk more about other similar situations that we’ve encountered in the past, as well as similar situations that our girlfriends have been in and how those all turned out. Then we think and talk some more about how this might affect the future and we rehearse all possible outcomes and different ways of handling the situation and how all of those ideas might affect everyone involved.

Men generally think for a moment, make a decision, give an answer and move on.

So I asked her, “Do you think that maybe it’s us complicated women who are making men seem more complicated than they are? That perhaps because we see so many sides and angles when we look at things, we can’t believe that they’re as straightforward as they are? That when they say something, perhaps they simply mean what they say, before we women start analyzing them and ascribing a zillion different meanings to their words and actions?”

She thought about it.

“You mean, like maybe when he tells me something and my mind starts working overtime, wondering what he meant by that, maybe he just means what he said?”


I could see her considering the idea. Her brow furrowed and I watched her eyes flit back and forth rapidly as she instantly recalled a hundred different interactions and applied this theory to them.

“Okay, but wait. Sometimes he says things and I don’t understand them. He just doesn’t make sense.”

“Do you ask him to clarify? Or do you accept it or agree with it in the moment, then obsess over it later and assign your own meaning to his words based on your own assumptions?”

Her eyes got wide. “You mean, like… ask… HIM… what he means? Like right then?”

I looked at her, tilted my head to the side, raised my eyebrows and smiled.

“What if he can’t tell me?” she asked.

“What if he can?” I asked her back.

We walked in silence for a bit.

“I don’t know,” she finally said. “Maybe. Maybe men aren’t simple exactly, but maybe women do make things more complicated than they have to be. I don’t know. It’s hard to tell, isn’t it? I just don’t know. Maybe you’re right. I’ll have to think about it. You should talk to my friend Stacey about this. She has a lot of experience with men, she’d have a lot to say about it. I’ll talk to her and see what she says. I guess you could be right. I don’t know. I just really… I just don’t know.”

We got to her cross street, hugged and parted ways. She was smiling as she left, which I chose to see as a good sign, a sign that maybe she was letting her mind be open to the possibility that she’d been making her own relationships harder than they needed to be. It’s not easy to see and be open to the fact that we might just be getting in our own ways when it comes to relating to others. Women are indeed complicated. And as she said, men aren’t exactly simple, either.

However, the ways men and women relate to each other don’t need to be as complicated as both sides tend to make them. Much of the discomfort and outright pain from both sides comes from assigning meaning where there is no data from which to work. Men go through an excuse process for not approaching, things like, “She looks tired. She’s with her friends and probably doesn’t want to be bothered. She’s probably been hit on a hundred times already tonight,” and any of a thousand more like that. They don’t know those women yet, so they have no data to accurately make those assumptions. Women think and think and over think and analyze and wonder and obsess. They don’t know what the other person is thinking, so just like the men and their excuses processes, the women are working from their own assumptions as well, with little to no data to back them up, either.

Men aren’t simple. Women aren’t, either. Every human being is intricate and multifaceted from the myriad experiences and conglomeration of choices and decisions that make each one of us unique. Understanding that, it seems a bit absurd that any one of us, male or female, would ever assume we can know what anyone else is feeling or thinking without asking them.

photo by Hamed Saber

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