If You Want a Helpful Man, Let Him Help
My heart started to race as I gazed at the departure board in the middle of Penn Station in New York City. I was headed back home to Boston after a conference. If you’ve ever made this trip, you’ll likely know that there is some level of anxiety that goes along with it. This was before covid when people were still traveling, and the station was mobbed as usual.
The track that my train would arrive on wouldn’t be announced until moments before it was scheduled to leave. Once the track was confirmed, I would need to race against hundreds of other passengers while trying not to lose my bags in an attempt to ensure a desirable seat. Sometimes I’ve tried to guess which track the train would be on, but I was usually wrong.
“Where are you headed?” a man asked me as I stood semi-frozen with my eyes affixed to the board. “Boston,” I replied. Coincidentally, he was going there too. We started to make small talk. We were both guessing the train to Boston would be on track 13W. As usual, we were wrong. The train would depart from track 6. There is no east or west for that particular track, which led to some confusion. However, this man — let’s call him Bob, helped me navigate the crowd to track 6, made sure I found a seat on the very full train, and lifted my bag into the overhead bin. Of course, I could have done all these things on my own, but I was grateful to have the assistance — and I told him so.
And then there’s the sexy guy I met on Instagram (it’s not as sketchy as it sounds — I swear). He often adds thoughtful comments to my posts and sends me inspiring quotes or notes of encouragement that make my day a little brighter. This morning I woke up to a message that contained Rumi’s poetry: “Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing there is a field. I’ll meet you there. When the soul lies down in that grass the world is too full to talk about.” “Thanks, you made my morning!” I message back. And he did. It’s good to start the day with Rumi.
And, of course, there is my own man. He asks me daily, “What can I do to help?” When I’m feeling overwhelmed or like I don’t have time for myself, he takes my kids and dog off my hands, so I can work on my creative projects. It’s been a long year with remote school, and sometimes I feel like I’m going stir-crazy. He lightens my load. And when I’ve been wearing the same yoga pants for 5-days in a row and am starting to look and feel like Bellatrix Lestrange, he suggests, “Maybe we should get dressed up and go out to dinner tonight.” I show him my appreciation in a myriad of ways (I’ll let you use your imagination here).
And at the end of the day, I believe that is what most men want — to be acknowledged and appreciated.
Giving and receiving is an exchange of energy that creates attraction and the spark in a relationship.
I know not everyone has this experience with men, and I’m sorry to hear that. I think men are drawn to me (sometimes from far distances) because they sense how much I enjoy and appreciate them. Though, this wasn’t always my experience.
For many of my relationships, I was like the cruise ship director with a clipboard in my hand, ensuring that my partner’s needs were met. I was the coordinator, the entertainer, and the operations manager. I didn’t do it solely for my partner. My happiness depended on his happiness (aka codependency). I often didn’t ask for help because I didn’t want to be an imposition. Though instead of burdening my partner, I became invisible and he was obsolete.
I would eventually tire of this role, break up with the man, and try again with someone else, repeating the cycle. This routine was a lot of work, not to mention an abject failure — no one was happy. Luckily, I’ve broken free from that disheartening relationship pattern.
When I do less and let my partner do more, the relationship is a lot more symbiotic and fulfilling. A dynamism is created that contributes to me feeling cherished and my partner feeling appreciated. This leads to terrific chemistry. First, I had to learn the art of receiving.
Learning to receive is not always easy. As women, we are taught to care for and nurture others. It comes easily to us, and we’re really quite good at it. But we also need to be willing to receive. Unfortunately, because we are so competent, it’s easy to forget this. Many of us feel that we should do everything ourselves. We might even believe that we can do it better. Perhaps, we could, but why would we want to? If we want a helpful man, we need to let him help.
Even if we don’t need men — we can still enjoy them
Years ago, I had a friend who was beautiful, smart, and successful. But she was unlucky in love. I always suspected that it was because she didn’t leave any room for men to woo her. Anything they could do, she could do better. They sensed this, so rather than becoming her boyfriend, they became her best friend. She was put in the friend zone (it happens to women too). There was no room for the exchange of energy that is needed to create attraction. This chemistry is developed through giving and receiving.
Many men communicate their feelings not through words but through acts of service. In The Five Love Languages, Gary Chapman explains the different ways to express love, such as words of affirmation, quality time, physical touch, gifts, and acts of service. These are all ways people can communicate express their feelings. If we don’t let the men in our lives help (acts of service), we cut off their ability to communicate.
I think of the stereotypical scenario of a woman dropping her handkerchief in the old days (a Bugs Bunny cartoon comes to mind). Though this seems outdated and old-fashioned, what a terrific way to communicate interest. The man got to demonstrate his helpfulness, and the woman got to feel supported. Neither had to say a word. Though I hope she said, “thank you.”
The Art of Receiving
You can learn the art of receiving, and it doesn’t even need to be with a love interest. When we know how to receive, we open up new communication channels and begin the playful dance of giving and receiving. Try this:
- If someone gives you a compliment or tells you that you look nice today. Rather than saying, “Really? I had a terrible sleep last night.” Reply: “Thank you! I know!”
- If someone asks if you need any help, take a moment to consider what would be really helpful and let them know. Most people want to please.
- Let your partner, date, or friend know what you need from them. While it would be nice if people could read our minds, unfortunately, this is rare. Consider what you need to feel better and communicate it with love.
- When your partner or anyone really (maybe it’s a guy on a train) does something helpful — acknowledge and appreciate it. That’s the exchange. You will invite more good your way.
When we take the time to truly receive a gift, compliment, or act of service, it’s like gas in our tank. We can build our energy rather than depleting it by doing it all on our own. Not only that, but we practice the art of non-verbal communication. I would argue that is an even more significant way of letting someone know how you feel. We allow for the exchange of energy that creates attraction and the spark in a relationship.
I’ve also found it helpful to assume that people want to please. I’ve received some pushback for this recently. When I suggested it in a talk I was giving, a woman said: “that’s a big assumption!” But really, why not? We set the bar for how we want to be treated. When we keep the bar high, more often than not, others will rise to the occasion.
As I was writing this, my daughter told me that we don’t need men anymore. Apparently, they can make sperm in a laboratory with stem cells? Interesting. Well, even if we don’t need men, we can still enjoy them. And I sure will.