Decoding Men's Oddball Love Signals
His gifts are terrible. He talks when you want him to listen. His idea of a date is take-out pizza on the couch. Is this your guy's notion of affection and romance? Well, actually, yes.
By Ty Wenger
Fifteen years ago, I found myself in a romantic pickle: Cheryl, a woman I
had been dating for about three months, was nearing her 25th birthday. The
birthday gift in any three-month-old relationship is a dicey one, and I
deliberated over it for weeks. Too big too soon and it could look like I was
trying too hard. Too little and I might appear indifferent. Too romantic and
I'd run the risk of setting the bar too high.
And so it was with great enthusiasm that I finally unveiled the gift. It was
heavy — about 8 pounds. And big — the size of a bowling ball. In fact, as
Cheryl discovered after excitedly tearing off the wrapping paper, it was
a bowling ball. And not just any bowling ball, but a blue, personalized
bowling ball ("The Spanker," the twin to the 12-pounder I had bought myself:
"The Wanker"). And the pièce de résistance: Both balls came in matching brown
Hoisting the ball onto her lap, Cheryl turned to me. I saw several emotions
pass across her face: shock, confusion, profound disappointment, then her
dawning realization that how she responded to this present — this
idiotic present — might well determine the fate of our relationship. She
looked down, collected her thoughts, and raised her eyes to mine. "I
love it!" she lied. "Let's go bowling tonight!"
Four years later, despite the bowling ball, Cheryl consented to marry me —
and we have lived happily ever after. (And, yes, we still have the balls, and
the pleather bags, and we bowl about as much as we did in the first three
months of our relationship, which was almost never.) In fact, it could be
argued that the success of our marriage owes, in part, to that very moment.
Because on that day (and many, many days thereafter) my wife made a
conscious choice: to see my hapless effort at romance not as a personal affront
but as a love note written by a man in his own foreign language.
"Men do affection in ways that are not easily recognizable to women,"
explains couples coach Warren Farrell, Ph.D., author of Why Men Are the Way
They Are. "The fundamental difference is that men tend to do, and
women tend to talk — and much gets lost in translation. He feels
frustrated, misunderstood; she feels like he just doesn't care. If you can
learn to read the signals he's trying to send, however, he's going to feel like
his method of loving is being appreciated. He'll probably feel like a good
person. And then he'll be more open to hearing something else — like how he
could be even better." The point is, once you recognize your guy's
less-than-smooth gestures as the clumsy signs of affection they are, you'll
probably realize that he is grateful for you in more ways than you ever
So how, exactly, do we big dunderheads express our love for you? Let us
count the ways.