Of Musings and Wonderings

{July 2, 2012}   Tips for Guys #1 – Retrospective Anger

There are many things girls wish guys understood about us. The main problem lies in the fact that, most of the time, we don’t fully understand why we do things either. I believe in equality for men and women, but I also believe there are fundamental differences in the way we act and think that mean we can never be treated the same. Issues crop up, and well I don’t claim to know everything about men, I do know things about my own gender, and I think, most of the time, it’s a damn shame men don’t know about these things either. So, expect a few of these blogs, detailing information for guys, to crop up from time to time. They will be based on my own experience, and from discussions I’ve had with friends of mine. For example, for a fair few months, both I and my housemate were in relationships. She is still with her boyfriend. But certain things would happen which would make me wonder if I was being irrational. As it turns out, both of us – and some of our other female friends – would suffer from the same sort of thing.

The main thing I want to talk about now is Retrospective Anger. This is not a medical term or even a term I’ve come across until I labelled it myself back when I was still in my first semester of my last year of University. And I don’t think it’s something you really notice until you’ve been in a relationship for a while, as in, you don’t notice it until it blind sides you in the middle of the night more than once.

I’m hoping that any girls reading this will struck with a sense of “Oh, yay, it’s not just me!” and feel just a bit better about it. For the guys, I hope it gives a slight insight into how some of our minds work, better preparing themselves for when they find themselves as the target. Basically, it boils down to this; when we say something you’ve done/not done/said/not said is fine, we most likely mean it. Really. Or, we think we do at the time. The problem comes a few days later, lying in bed, when suddenly a girl realises that actually, no, that thing her usually wonderful, caring (it’s a hypothetical situation, and I’m trying to big you guys up) boyfriend says was actually hurtful. As a guy, you may have said something off-hand. As a girl, you think about it a few days later and are unable to get out of your head how insensitive it was. And it’s not like you can mention it to the guy, because it happened a few days ago and, to him, it may just seem irrational.

But we girls know better.

I’ll give you a non-verbal example, with the aim of hoping guys will actually take this on board and, for the love of God, remember it.

Say, for example, it’s Feb 13th. Every day you spend with your SO is a wonderful experience, so as a guy, you don’t care about Valentine’s Day. But you know that for your girlfriend, those silly days – birthdays, anniversaries, holidays – do mean something. And don’t begrudge her for it. There may be reasons behind why they mean something. Anyway, they don’t mean something to you. Fine. And you tell the light of your life, on Feb 13th, “I’m sorry – I forgot to get you a card/flowers/chocolates/a present.” She smiles, tells you not to worry about it. So you don’t.

But you should.

Because when she says that, she means it. She really does. When she says don’t worry about it, all she’s thinking about is how, at least, she’ll still get to spend the day with you and that is what matters. But, the truth is, a small gift or a card or a flower does show you care. And if she doesn’t have something to remember the day by – even if it’s just wilting flowers or the memory of a bottle of wine – that will stick in her head. She won’t hold it against you, but it could upset her. (Now, bear in mind this is not all girls. I cannot possibly speak for every woman out there but this is my own experience/experience of my friends.) You know what looks great? If the next time she sees you, you hand over a card/gift/chocolates/flowers/whatever, with a smile and say “I’m sorry it’s late.”

Because it’s sweet, and it shows you care – not about the day, but about her.

So, yeah, just remember -Retrospective Angeris a bitch to deal with, on both sides, but the majority of the time guys don’t realise we go through it. Just make sure, if your girlfriend seems upset about something and she mentions something you said the week before…don’t belittle her, don’t act like it’s irrational. Because she knows it is. Sort of. But it’s kind of not – it’s something that has upset her, and all it takes is a smile, an apology and a promise to keep her feelings in mind, next time.

So, girls, what do you think? Think Retrospective Anger is a real thing? You ever lay awake staring at the ceiling because of it?

And, guys – you ever been on the end of it and wondering ‘what the hell’ because of it? Let me know.


Greg Downing says:

I’m going to preface this by saying that it’s just my opinion, but, I think the assertion that ‘men and women are fundamentally different’ is a fallacy. If we *are* fundamentally different, it’s a learned thing, due to media and society. ‘This is the way women are, and this is the way men are’ it says. Men are logical, women are emotional, etc.

And the way I know this is that I’ve experienced what you term as retrospective anger. I’ve even written about it: http://hikikomoiegaku.com/2011/11/11/feminist-writings-a-man-on-the-other-side-of-the-double-standard/. Yes, what I experienced might have been in response to a technically ‘female’ experience, but that doesn’t change the fact that it was me that had it.

Men can be emotional and sensitive, and remember important days. Women can be agressive, logical, and can have no mothering instinct. These people do exist, but what we experience, what we read in others in the stereotype. We’re made to believe that this is our role, and sometimes we beat ourselves up for not being ‘man’ enough. I think that this sort of thing needs to be talked about more, I think communication in general is a good salve for retrospective anger. Of course, it does require both people to be able to hear and understand, but I think it’s worth the effort to try. If the other person cares enough, they’ll listen when you tell them something is important, especially if you can do it without anger.

I do agree that women can be tough, aggressive, logical etc and men can be emotional, sensitive, and all that. I’ve met both. But I do think, at the same time, there are differences. And there’s always going to be arguments for and against it being nature, nurture, evolution, society, media etc. But I don’t think we’ll ever really get to the bottom of that. I do, however, think in some cases we just are wired differently, and I think that because of my own personal experiences.

I grew up with two older brothers; because of their influences, (maybe, or maybe I’d always end up like this) I was always into video games, liked watching skateboarding and liked(way back in Primary school anyway) playing football. I did also play with dolls, beanie babies and figures, mainly created stories with them and acted them out. As a teenager, a few of my friend’s used to comment on how my brain seemed to lean towards male. Always hated dresses and pink and girly-girly stuff, but emotionally…I’d say I’m very feminine in that regard.

And yeah, I totally understand that a guy can experience retrospective anger/upsetness, just as much as a woman can become…I can’t think of a good example. Okay, as much as a woman can experience a ‘typically masculine’ response to something. But I do think in terms of emotions we are all wired differently – whether you’re make or female. And yes, we need to talk to each other more. A lack of communication is one of those things that, I think, can destroy relationships. I and other girls I know tend to overthink things too much, and the reason I posted the retrospective anger thing is mainly so that if guys do read this – or even girls – and they have been on the opposite end, facing someone who is upset over something that happened ages ago, they may be able to understand it a bit more.

Thanks for the comment! Made me really have to think through the reply 🙂

Greg Downing says:

Thinking is always good. Thinking and talking about it, two best things. 🙂

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