There is probably no question so universally feared by men the world over than one heard throughout the living rooms of the world on a nightly basis. “What are you thinking about?” True, “Do I look fat?” is arguably more laden with inherent danger, but there the answer is obvious: “No.”

Now, this is not the typically self-flagellating column about men written by a man in a degrading attempt to appeal to female readers – the literary equivalent of the repugnant canine habit of rolling on one’s back and urinating. Rather, it is a brief attempt to decrypt the male psyche for the benefit of women who might be interested.

First, men require respect the way that women need love and affection. For some reason, many women operate under the misconception that treating the men in their lives disrespectfully is cute or somehow scores them social points. But not only does this behavior lower the woman in the eyes of those witnessing it, rest assured that it causes bitter resentment in the man so treated, even if he refuses to speak out in his own defense.

Remember that stoicism is a male virtue. Whereas a woman is unlikely to remain silent when she is angry, male silence in the face of provocation is often a serious statement that is dangerous to ignore. Men don’t like to talk things out, they prefer to think things through. A man who is silent while being abused is a man who is considering his options and, often, preparing to act.

Men are not as complex as women. Whereas a woman speaks for reaction, to test and gauge what her next words should be, men, being generally less verbally skilled, have a greater tendency to articulate their meaning as precisely as they can. The more a woman pushes and probes for clarification, the further she is like to diverge from the message intended. This does not mean there is never a subtext, but in most cases, text and subtext are the same.

A man defines himself by his responsibility, and one of them, strange as it may seem, is the mood of his woman. A man whose woman is unhappy considers himself a failure, and the short-sighted woman will use this knowledge to her temporary advantage. But even the sharpest tool grows dull with use – the wise woman will eschew such manipulation and instead choose to regard her man as a potential refuge from her troubles rather than the inherent cause of them.

A man may feel he is responsible for a woman’s feelings, but the truth is that he can do very little about them even if he wants to. Most of the time, happiness is a choice. Making the choice to be happy whenever possible, even in spite of difficult circumstances, can be the difference between a lifetime of shared bliss or mutual misery.

Male confidence is always attractive to a woman, which is why tearing it down almost always leaves a woman dissatisfied with the result. It is said that whereas a woman is, a man must become. Without the confidence to become what he is meant to be, a man remains incomplete. The woman who can learn to read her man, to see when his confidence is shaken, and assure him that even if he cannot believe in himself at the moment, she still does, that woman will inspire loyalty that would shame a dog.

Finally, it is not a bad thing to encourage the boy within the man from time to time. The man who cannot put aside the cares of supporting a family from time to time is a widow waiting to happen. The woman who not only accepts, but supports the male friendships of her husband will always be the most popular woman among the married men in her social circle. And learning even a little about football and holding a staunch opinion on which Sports Illustrated Swimsuit model is the prettiest will go a surprisingly long way in ensuring acceptance by the boys.

If a woman treats a man with civility and respect, maintains a cheerful attitude toward him and encourages him believe in himself, he will not only respond with love and affection, but will consider it an honor to lay down his life for her, both metaphorically and, if the occasion demands it, literally.

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