Although we have expanded our topic coverage, we always welcome reader questions, comments, and feedback here at SBM. You can check out our SBM Mail series here for past submissions, and you can submit your own inquiries using the Contact Us page. Today’s reader explains:

My question..and a topic I would like to see written about is what it means to be a good man versus good boyfriend/husband. This questions stems from the following situation:

I have a friend who is married.  While, in general, I consider her man (as well as anyone else that knows him) to be “a good man,” this means something completely different to his wife/my friend. She knows he’s “good”..especially considering he loves her and he isn’t a player, broke-down, fathering random babies, and all the other negative stuff you hear so often. However, good boyfriend/husband?

She feels that she gives and gives and gives in the relationship. She is the organizer, the planner, the money manager, the house fixer-uper, the health-conscious one.  She would like him to pick up some of the slack because she’s tired of always carrying…um..of taking care of things. I doubt he is completely oblivious because she is a direct person and I know she has requested things of him time and time again. Change is only temporary though. It seems he is satisfied (he’s going to eat and he’s going to get sex) and therefore not concerned about her concerns.

Are men really this simple (no offense). I mean in the sense that, this is all it takes to make them happy (food/sex) and so perhaps they feel like women in the relationship will be happy too?

I find this issue is rarely addressed. There is talk about “good and decent” men and how rare they are…but then within that, how many know how to prioritize and give in a relationship (i.e., keeping a competitive-edge above the rest even once in the relationship).  She’d like some flowers…She’d like to feel like he’s concerned about losing her, she’d like him to take the lead on some fundamental things dating/married folks should be concerned about (namely, the future…lol).

Women, girlfriends, wives get tired and burnt out from trying to make everything perfect all the time…but it’s second nature (I’m generalizing). Then, when you are worn and give up on hoping he will change and meet you half way, then people look at you like you are crazy for eventually walking away from that “good man.” Cause, “that was a good man!” Is that a crazy thing to do if you’re not happy?  Please help. Is there any advice to men about how to be concerned about possibly losing their girls/wives and how if they have a good woman, they can/should try just as hard to make things perfect in the relationship (understanding of course that nothing is perfect)? Does this even matter anymore or do men think women should simply be satisfied that they “have a good man”?

Sidebar: My friends I’m referring to are grad-school educated Black folks in their twenties together about 6-7 yrs and married for about half of those yrs.

Before we begin, I should clarify that when it comes to people I generally think finding a good man/woman is fairly easy. I can probably randomly step outside right now and find 7 out of 10 decent human beings. Thus, in my opinion, it isn’t saying much to say you’ve found a good man or woman. This should be the minimal requirement. When it comes to relationships, I believe the true challenge is in finding someone you’re compatible with, because forever is a long time. Within the above story, there are three main questions.

Men are simple creatures.

1. Are men really this simple (no offense). I mean in the sense that, this is all it takes to make them happy (food/sex) and so perhaps they feel like women in the relationship will be happy too?

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No offense taken because the short answer is, “Yes.” The longer answer is although men need more than food and sex to maintain their happiness, whatever their happiness requires, it is generally at a lesser threshold than most women. This is not a diss, it is a general observation proving only that men and women are different. This isn’t to say you can’t keep a man happy or you can’t keep a woman happy, because as (some) married people demonstrate every day, you can.

Using the very example you provided, food/sex is a good start for most men, and for some, it’s both the start and the finish line. I would argue this isn’t the case for most women. This means that men need to do a better job of understanding what makes and keeps their woman happy, since it does not necessarily align with their vision of what defines happiness. Admittedly, women seem to have a better understanding of what makes a man happy, so much so, that they are willing to go out of their way to find even more ways to make him happy. This is how magazines like Cosmopolitan can claim to find several hundred different ways to please your man each month; whereas, if you asked the average man, his list would maybe be five things long.

2. I find this issue is rarely addressed. There is talk about “good and decent” men and how rare they are…but then within that, how many know how to prioritize and give in a relationship (i.e., keeping a competitive-edge above the rest even once in the relationship).  She’d like some flowers…She’d like to feel like he’s concerned about losing her, she’d like him to take the lead on some fundamental things dating/married folks should be concerned about.

I agree. However, most people I know become complacent by nature. I know people don’t like to compare relationships to work, but I would have to ask – as many of you read this on your work computer (or phone while at work) – how hard you worked on your first day compared to how hard you are working today? I’m sure the same can be said for marriage. Both parties have to keep things fresh to inspire the best in each other.

This may also relate to one’s personality. I have no way of knowing if this man ever bought flowers, was extremely affectionate, or if he ever lead “on some fundamental things” before he became her husband. It might be less about him changing into the man she wants, and more about him never being that man in the first place. This goes back to my point on compatibility.

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A good man does not automatically guarantee a good husband. On the bright side, if he really is a good man then it is likely he will aspire to be a good husband – as you define it. Keep in mind, what you see as a good husband and what he sees as his role as a good husband may not be the exact same thing. Hopefully the void between the two isn’t too large. Giving your friend the benefit of the doubt, I’ll assume she assessed him on both the independent merits of being a good man and his potential for being a good husband, and somewhere along the way he began to fall short of the latter.

iRobot

3. Is there any advice to men about how to be concerned about possibly losing their girls/wives and how if they have a good woman, they can/should try just as hard to make things perfect in the relationship (understanding of course that nothing is perfect)? Does this even matter anymore or do men think women should simply be satisfied that they “have a good man”?

I’m not sure what pre-emptive advice I can offer men about losing their girls/wives. Honestly, most men don’t change until they are literally faced with the idea of losing their girls/wives. I believe offering advice to a man about losing his woman is common sense. Conceptually, we all know if we don’t do right by our significant others we could lose them, but if they never go anywhere in reality it tends to negate this fear. Using the job analogy from above, it’s like saying we all know we could lose our job, but if the threat of layoff never appears is it really a concern you have each and every day? Do you approach your job each day as if it could be your last if you don’t put forth your best effort? Every now and then we need to be reminded we can lose that we love and/or need in our lives in order to remember how important it is to us. How you go about conveying this is up to you.

To answer the second part of your question, I don’t think (most) men believe “women should simply be satisfied that they “have a good man.” I do, however, believe that most men assume that if they’re happy then their woman must be happy too. This is obviously not always the case. As the saying goes, “If men marry women with the hope they will never change, and women marry men with the hope they will change, invariably they will both be disappointed.”

Judging by the temporary changes in his behavior that you alluded to, it is clear that the man and woman in this particular scenario do not agree on the problem. Even if they do, they clearly do not agree on the seriousness of the problem. I can’t speak to how serious a problem your friend finds this to be, but it does seem that her husband does not agree. This means she has either not successfully conveyed to him how much it bothers her or he disagrees it is even that big of an issue – through insensitivity or misunderstanding.

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As a man, I would want the opportunity for my wife to explain the issues in a way where I understand the importance of each individual issue. This way, even if I don’t agree with how important it is to me, at least I can better understand how she feels about the issue and adjust my actions accordingly. On the other hand, if there is a personality trait of mine she doesn’t like – such as not leading like the example given in the story – then that will be something that will take longer for me to change (assuming I can). I’m not going to wake up after 30 years of not being a “leader” and suddenly jump into the reigns of a leader simply because that’s what you prefer.Other changes, like buying flowers, etc. can be corrected much easier.

The key is to clearly convey your expectations without overwhelming me, which may (rightly or wrongly) simply come off as nagging if you lump every complaint you’ve ever had about me into one speech. If it can be framed in a way where I can see us working as a team to organize, plan, money manage, fix-up the house, and be health-conscious then I’ll be far more likely to make permanent changes and work towards this joint goal. It is also key to keep in mind that everything you deem “important” isn’t as important to me. Importance is itself subjective. You are not the authority on the subject and neither am I, so there has to be some give and take and a balance should be struck. If you try to tell a fully grown independent thinking adult what to do, how to do it, and the only “right” way to do it is your way, then they are going to check out and you’ll be right back at square one. Hopefully, the discussion can be framed in a way that shows a mutual benefit for both parties. Over time, he should realize that simply making you happy begets more happiness for him (in the form of more food and sex, just kidding, sorta).

This will not be an overnight change but it shouldn’t take forever either – and frankly, small reminders may be necessary because you have to remember they are changing their natural responses to better please you. People, of both sexes, will respond better to positive praise at efforts made rather than chastises for every mistake along the way, even if it is a mistake that has already been discussed. Even as adults, sometimes we have to appreciate the baby steps we make.

Fellas, what are your thoughts on these topics? Why do we fall off over time? What are some ways women have successfully communicated what they wanted from you in a relationship without you considering it as nagging? Do you think it’s fair for us to be expected to make permanent changes or do women need to give us gentle reminders from time to time?

Ladies, have you ever dated a ‘good man’ that turned out to be a bad boyfriend/husband? What were some of the warning signs you wished you had looked out for? Or how did you use his potential as a good man to help make him a good/better partner over time?

Speak on it!