In one of the strangest temples in the world, the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, Mass was underway when my mobile phone rang. Under the echoing dome, it sang as loud as the choir as if to say, “Behold, an emergency call!” And all eyes turned to me. Oh dear. With hasty apologies, I ran outside to stand under the hanging rectangular statue of Christ, which looked to me like Gaudí’s homage to the computer game Minecraft.
“She left me! And I gave her everything!” a friend lamented into my ear. “What do women actually want?”
While he poured out his woes I ambled along the shopping boulevard towards the yacht harbour and the sea. Gazing at all the expensive boats and the lavish, seemingly perfect lives that they promised, I realised how fragile those lives really were, and how easily a successful man can lose his wife, and vice versa.
When I thought about it all later by the rooftop pool of the Arts hotel, I wished that more men understood women, and women men, in private, at work, and in life generally.
I decided to devote many posts to this theme, to explore some of the questions behind this story, to consider which of my friend’s words worried me the most and whether they are common misconceptions that contribute to misunderstandings.
A man’s world
“I worked hard, I earned money. I furnished the house, got a car, had a housekeeper, cleaner, and we had a child who she had wanted so much. I gave her EVERYTHING, and it was still not enough.”
That word surprised me. “Everything. This is everything that you gave her?”
Now he was a little unsure of himself. “And what more could a woman want?”
She had a house, money, child. He was baffled but I understood his problem because women want much more. Not just a house, but a home. Not just money, but security. Not just a child, but a family.
A woman’s world
The world in which we live is paired. We have two eyes, ears, feet, hands, and our hearts and brains have two halves. All the lonely people are looking for their counterparts. Each ‘plus’ needs its ‘minus’, or the electricity (the ‘current’ of a happy life) won’t flow.
That’s why both sugar and bitterness exist, sadness and happiness, day and night.
Even human happiness is the fulfilment of two halves, both tangible and intangible, material and immaterial. It is not enough to just have a pile of money when we lack EVERYTHING ELSE.
When some men are feeling short on passion and affirmation they at least know they can pay for it, but that’s never really been an option for women, has it? It’s just one of many reasons why some men think that money can fix everything, and many women know that money is not everything.
Women can feel vulnerable in a relationship that lacks the long-term care and devotion that underpins stability. Is it any wonder that in the absence of love at home the favours and compliments from a colleague, a neighbour or a mutual acquaintance might begin to seem appealing? Many relationships are hastily fled, not FROM something but TOWARDS something better.
A man should, therefore, be aware that any time he does not give a woman his time, he is teaching her to live with someone else. Not because women are fickle, but because they want to be happy, just like men.
How “a little” can be enough
My friend was alone in his house, with his cars. It was the same for her.
“I’m afraid here, I feel terrible,” she said as she described how her life became quiet and cold.
She left with their small child in search of something more; conversation, warmth, life. He was surprised that she’d left all the material treasures behind, but she wasn’t surprised that he thought that. “They are so important to him – more important than people,” she told me.
“What colour are your daughter’s eyes?” I asked him. He didn’t even know, and, how could he? He’d always left home when she was still asleep, and come back again when she was tucked up in bed. Sometimes he even slept at work, pouring himself into something that he was not even a real part of. He missed each new word that his daughter spoke for the first time and the million other little ways she was growing and changing. He was a father but not a dad.
He worked like some kind of Victorian stereotype of a distant father to give his family everything; everything except what they really needed. All he needed to spend was time and energy on them. I marvel at how poor people are when they only live for money.
It’s the 21st century, and many of the inequalities that used to hold women back have been eroded, but flourishing careers and progress towards equality are sometimes butting up against male partners who can’t cope psychologically with shifting gender roles.
Sometimes these traditional breadwinners are bringing home less ‘bread’ than their significant others, and they feel threatened, but if these men would just look around, they would see that for many women a partner who is emotionally engaged and available is absolute gold.
To give someone time means to give the most precious thing we have in life. What good is money if your last minute is ticking away?
Anyway, there are many more “little things” that women need. What are they?
Please, continue to the 2nd page.