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Guys aren't mind readers

Published January 15. 2011 09:00AM

For the past few months, I've gone around the house muttering to myself about the lack of space.

It isn't because David's house isn't big enough for the two of us. It is. But I can't set up a much-needed office in the room we designated because it is a storage room filled with old furniture.

The plan, when we were married last year, was to get rid of the old furniture and turn the room into my office. Months later, the room is still crammed with the furniture.

I could remedy that by outright telling David I need the furniture gone. Now! But, do I do it?

Oh, no. I mutter to myself while I wait for him to realize it's time to get me settled in my office.

In other words, I expect the guy I married to be a mind reader.

Now, as you read this, you're probably thinking how foolish that is. If we want to have our expectations met, we have to clearly say what they are. Anyone should know that.

The thing is, it's easy to recognize foolish behavior in someone else. But we don't recognize our own follies.

When my girlfriend complained about her husband's idea of gift giving, I could plainly see the problem rested with her because she expected him to be a mind reader.

For birthdays and Christmas, he gives her stuff for the house. Nice stuff, to be sure. But she thinks gifts should be personal.

Does she ever tell him? No, she said, she can't hurt his feelings. "But I hint at what I want," she said. "He should be able to take a hint."

Only if he's clairvoyant, I tell her.

And forget subtle hints. Subtlety falls short of getting a message across. What's wrong with saying, "Oh, look at that necklace. I would love a necklace like that?"

She says it "wouldn't be the same" if she had to ask for it. So she "keeps throwing hints" and keeps getting disappointed.

Dr. Phil sometimes talks about this very thing. He claims one of the big reasons for relationship disappointments and unmet expectations is because women think men are mind readers.

"Women dance around a subject instead of being straight forward. Men don't understand when women are subtle," he said.

A few months ago Redbook magazine did an article on the very same topic, calling it, "What women need to understand about men."

"Men don't take hints," said the article. "When men are with other men, they don't tiptoe around each other and drop subtle suggestions. That's because hints don't register with guys."

The article said women pride themselves on being able to know intuitively what their friends, husbands and kids are thinking. But men have no interest in trying to read minds.

Redbook's advice: "If you don't ask, you don't get."

Redbook plays off that theme repeatedly. Another month, the magazine ran an article with this blazing headline: Want to get what you want? Just ask.

"Are you not so patiently waiting for someone to read your mind? It's almost easier not to ask for what you need than to handle the disappointment that comes when your needs aren't met," said psychologist Dana Lightman who wrote a book on the subject.

She is among the experts telling us that getting what we want is easy. Or at least, it's easier, when we speak up.

I know this. I claim to be a communication expert. Surly I know how to clearly articulate what I want. But so many times, I keep my desires to myself, waiting for things to happen.

Dr. Phil notes that women will tell their friends about things they want or expect from a husband. But they don't tell the person who can most get it for them - their spouse.

Again, it goes back to expecting men to be mind readers.

Sometimes my husband is exactly that. For instance, last week he came back from a long bike ride and told me what he was thinking about on the ride.

"It's time to get your office ready," he proclaimed. "I've been procrastinating in getting rid of the old furniture but I'm going to do it now."

With one phone call, he arranged to donate the furniture to one of our favorite charities - Habitat for Humanity. They came to our door with a truck the next day and hauled everything away.

By nightfall, I was happily working at my computer in my new spacious office. Problem solved.

But it could have been solved sooner if I would have spoken up instead of waiting for David's mind reading powers to kick in.

Are you guilty of not clearly telling your spouse what you want or need? Or, do you throw subtle hints, expecting the hints to convey your message?

Timing is everything, of course. Telling a guy something while he is watching his favorite football team won't produce the results you want. And how you say it is important, too.

I believe guys like to please us. But we can't make it hard on them by expecting them to read our minds.

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