Please Note: This post follows the idiom: “Don’t make mountains out of mole hills.”
I have a gift for making mole hills. My lack of a detail-oriented brain leads me to being in situations where I miss something. Fortunately, my male-problem-solving brain can find it fun to solve issues that arise from this. For instance, years ago when I was doing some landscape construction work, I forgot to pack a utility knife and I had to cut some filter cloth. Fortunately, my boss was a slob and I found an empty pop can in his truck. After ripping the can in half, I used the sharp part to make the cut. It wasn’t as easy as using a knife, but it was fun doing something in a unique way. In my head I was like “I’m so smart!” Another time, when I was a youth pastor, I hadn’t thought to pack a proper stirring stick for our giant sports-team-sized container of juice. To mix it, I ended up doing a strange dance with the container that was filled with water and juice crystals. It made for a funny moment and mixed the juice. The good thing about mole hills is they can make things more interesting and memorable. The downside is if you have too many that it becomes overwhelming, or you can use the mole hill as a reason to be hard on yourself: “How could I be so stupid?” It can also be annoying for others. My almost daily mantra when I lived with my mom was “Where are my keys?” If you’re a married woman, you might be familiar with this as many men with our lack of a detail-oriented brain have this problem. My mom was always very good about me misplacing my keys (or wallet or phone or sunglasses etc.) and let me figure it out on my own unless I was in a hurry and then she’d step in to show she cared. She was very good at handling my mole hills – having three kids gave her lots of practice. My mom was also very patient with my dad, but I think she was more the exception than the rule. From my experience, wives usually aren’t as patient with their husbands as they are with their kids and often come across as critical: “Why do you always do this?”
The problem is, while I make mole hills, my wife makes mountains. From my experience as a therapist, this is a very common situation. While guys are more relaxed and less detail oriented, we create mole hills, and our wives turn them into mountains. This isn’t a criticism against anyone – I don’t want to make any mole hills or mountains with this post. It is simply a dynamic I frequently find happening. The idea that women make mountains actually makes a lot of sense when you consider a few factors. First, when it comes to planning something, women are typically much better about the details. For instance, if a guy planned a wedding reception, they might not remember to have napkins, chair covers, or center pieces, you know, all the stuff we don’t really care about. Women, on the other hand, care about these things, which can help make for more pleasant experiences. Guys may not care about planning the details, but we often appreciate them when they’re there – we like solving problems, but we also like being spoiled and lazy. For instance, when I was in grade 10 I went on a guy’s camping night and the male leader made dinner – one bag of nacho chips and salsa for four guys. I wished a woman planned the food. Another example of a woman’s detail-oriented brain is how they end up being better prepared. Great example: They carry tissues in their purse. Guys don’t… and real men don’t have purses. For the record, it’s not manly if you put “man” before the title: (guy) “This is my man-bag.” (me) “You mean your evidence that you’re not a man?” Men don’t worry about carrying tissues because we have socks or pockets. I’ve even used the inside of my shirt to wipe my nose after a surprise sneeze. Are you thinking I’m a genius? What’s disgusting to a woman is often clever to a guy who improvises to solve a problem… he likely caused by not being detail oriented.
This leads to a second major reason why women make mountains: Women have a right way to do things. Where guys care about getting the job done, women care more about how it’s done. Over Christmas I was corrected for not cutting the bread properly. It was cut and I didn’t squish it, which meant the end result worked, so what’s the problem? How many men have been scolded for how they do laundry or clean? Why? Because we didn’t follow the “right” way to do it. When I vacuum, here’s a secret, I don’t move everything – yeah, I live on the edge. I go around permanent objects. No one sees under the coffee table, so why move it? To many women, however, that’s not proper. When I first started dating my wife, we went to visit her friend in the hospital. While walking to the front door, as a joke, I reached over and squished the tissue paper coming out the top of the gift bag (her bringing a gift for her friend in the hospital is further evidence that she was more detail oriented than me… and thoughtful). My wife will still say my squishing the paper was the closest she ever came to breaking up with me – and yes, she’s very serious about that; you don’t mess with the tissue paper. For the record, no tissue paper was injured or damaged in the making of what I thought was a joke; it was fine.
The great thing about having a right way to do things is it leads to consistency and things being done well. The downside is it can lead to unnecessary stress, controlling and critical behaviors, and take away from the fun of doing things, which is more of what guys care about. Proper, to a guy, is often seen as boring. The other downside with having a right way is it doesn’t leave room to discovering better ways of doing things. There is a reason most discoveries are from men. We screw up and have to solve it, which can lead to something great. Both sides have their benefits. We can either appreciate what each other offer or we can drive each other crazy.
A third reason women make mountains is they can be really hard on themselves if things aren’t perfect. This ties in with the previous point. Women have a right way to do things because they want everything to be perfect and if it’s not, they get really hard on themselves. How many women go on a cleaning spree when company is coming over or how many moms worry about being the perfect mom whether for their kids or to avoid judgement? How many men really care… minus the ones who are scared of their wives who want to be the perfect parent? Maybe there’ll be a few competitive guys who’ll care, but overall, we’re more easygoing – it’ll be fine. How many women want to kill a man for saying that when they’re stressed: (guy) “It’ll be fine.” (woman) “You’re right… do you want rat poison in your salad or arsenic?” Again, this is how we balance each other. Women help men care more, which we often need, and men can help women to be less uptight… occasionally; sometimes we make it worse.
Probably the biggest reason women make mountains is they put so much pressure on themselves and take on so many tasks that any mole hill that pops up pushes them over the edge. My wife making mountains isn’t to say she’s crazy, it means she’s taking on too much. I do what I can, but there is a point when I have to let my wife do what she feels she has to while I give her space and do something I feel is more important. For instance, to me, regularly exercising is more important than the floors getting steamed twice a week, but we each have our thing.
All of these points contribute to each other. If women didn’t care about being perfect, they wouldn’t put so much pressure on themselves; if they didn’t put so much pressure on themselves, a mole hill wouldn’t matter as much; if mole hills didn’t matter so much they wouldn’t worry about being perfect…
Again, this post isn’t meant to criticize anyone, but to help point out a common relationship conflict: Women care too much and men don’t care enough. In the perfect situation, we balance each other out. In the worst, we get divorced only to discover the next relationship ends up in a similar pattern because again the one cares too much and the other doesn’t care enough.
This week let’s consider how we can reduce mole hills and mountains.
Rev. Chad David, ChadDavid.ca, learning to love dumb people (like me)