For most men, trying to figure out how a woman’s mind works is a lifetime quest. Some of us are as thick as bricks and we need to re-learn the same lessons over and over again. Second, women are complex creatures who revel in their complexity. Just when we think we understand, we find out we don’t. They like it that way.

Men try to apply the rules of science, proof, empirical evidence, logic, to a creature not always logical or subject to predictable outcomes. Like certain experiments we were forced to do in high school chemistry class, no matter how many times we did them, the results were always the same. And that was the point. Predictability.

Most men learned the rules of relationships with women early on in life. One of the most important  rules states that when a woman is telling you about her problems, going on breathlessly, tearfully, about whatever ghastly thing happened to her, for god’s sake DO NOT TRY TO SOLVE HER PROBLEM! We have been well-schooled on this. She is just venting. Emoting. Sharing. Our job is to listen, eyes wide open, nodding our heads. Our job is to be sympathetic. “Gee, that’s really awful, honey.” “That was terrible. You must feel badly.” Etc.

Of course, it is a rare man who can faithfully play this role of do-nothing listener. All of our instincts compel us to dive in with a solution. So we do dive in. We hit the bottom of the pool almost instantaneously because the pool is empty. We could see that it was empty. But we dove in anyway, tried to offer a bit of advice on how to solve the problem, and immediately cracked open our heads.

Served us right. And chances are, the woman who was counting on us to listen sympathetically, has torn herself away from us angrily, rejecting us, because we were so stupid for not knowing that our job was to listen. Only listen. “You just don’t get it, do you?” she spits at us.

No, we don’t. But we try.

So that’s one lesson.

Here’s a new one. It’s tricky, so we must be careful with this rule, too.

Your wife, lover, significant other, whatever, comes to you and SPECIFICALLY ASKS FOR YOUR ADVICE. Do you give it? Do you double-check to make sure you heard correctly? “Dear, are you really asking me for advice?”

The safe thing is to double-check to make sure you heard correctly and that she has specifically asked for your advice. This is a totally different scenario than the venting, crying, emotional outpouring event we discussed earlier. Is it a trick question? No, you seem to have a clear opening here. She wants and asks for help. So now you can pour it on, show her how helpful and knowledgeable you are. If, indeed, it is about a subject in which you excel, all the better. You will save the day, save her, and save yourself!

In this instance she listens attentively. She nods her head. Maybe she asks a few questions for clarification. That’s a good sign. Chances are, she is NOT taking notes — that’s a bad sign and a clue as to what is really going on here. We’ll get to that. So instead you write down notes to give her. “Get so and so. Do such and such. After that try this and that.” It is all very clear, rational, intelligent, helpful, well-meant.

It sounds so good what can possibly be the problem?

After getting the green light and offering your expertise, after seeing the evidence of her listening, nodding, agreeing, smiling because you are offering to solve her problem, you think as a rational being might think that she will use your advice.

WRONG!

There’s a better than even chance that she won’t.

“Why not?” you ask.

Here’s the new lesson about women that we need to learn or risk becoming madmen: The asking of advice, for a woman, is a social event. It is not really an effort to solve a problem, accomplish something. From her perspective, the arrival of a problem or the need to do something new is a reason for more social interaction — with you, with other men, with women, with the wallpaper in her dining room, with anyone!

YOU are part of the process. Your willingness to communicate a solution is her reward, not your wisdom, the mechanics of your idea. And it goes on. From person to person to person. From each she asks for help, advice, and she gets it. It’s the communication — the social activity — of asking for and getting advice that matters, not the solution.

In the final analysis, some consensus of advice will emerge for our female Diogenes, like a recipe that has been passed from cook to cook, each one adding or subtracting some spice or other ingredient, until it is a totally new dish.

And that’s how it is with her. She takes a bit from each chef and the truth of a solution emerges. More importantly — actually the reason for all this anyway — is that she makes personal, human contact with her friends and lovers and family.

Sometimes that’s all the help she wants.

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