My friend recently invited me to a weekend course called "How to Train Your Man," put on by some local group that says I can get my boyfriend to basically do whatever I want him to if I learn their tricks. Here's the problem. I want to do it! If it worked, it would be well worth the cost of the workshop, even if I just got him to do dishes, pick up his clothes, and lend a little more romance. But I feel morally challenged just by the title of the workshop. Should I really be training my partner like a puppy?
He Said: Let's face it: Men need a lot of training. My straight male friends sometimes seem to have been raised by wolves, missing basic lessons on everything from laundry to cooking. One in particular wades through dust bunnies, beer bottles, mustard stains and frozen pizza boxes just to find a spot on the couch to watch basketball on TV. Gay guys are nominally better, but only because they can't simply dump domestic duties on girlfriends.
That said, I'm not sure tricking your boyfriend into better behavior is the best approach. The gentle yet direct strategy is much more effective, and comes without moral qualms. The earlier you establish totally transparent means of communication, the better. Nip it in the bud; little things like cleaning up can become serious resentments over time. And be sure to ask him what he wants in exchange. My last BF did all the laundry and vacuuming. I handled the food shopping and cooking, which was far more time consuming but more enjoyable for me. It meant that we never had to nag one another because we were both doing what came most naturally. As for romance, once these minor annoyances are out of the way, it will blossom.
She Said: I think the solution to your moral dilemma lies in how your boyfriend views himself. Some men have no problem thinking of themselves as puppies; they freely admit, “I just want to be fed (i.e. cooked for and cleaned up after) and petted (i.e. given sex). I’m a simple fellow.” If your guy is one of those, then a training class might benefit both of you, making you less resentful in the long run and giving him a happier girlfriend—because even simple fellows will tell you that living with an unhappy woman is no picnic. But if your boyfriend is a more sensitive type who sees himself as emotionally subtle and communicative, someone who would balk at the idea of being “trained,” then I’d say go with the more direct approach outlined above.
I’ve also been to a few similar workshops in my time, and read a few related books (one you can try is Mama Gena’s Owner’s and Operator’s Guide to Men), so I can perhaps save you a little money and outline what you might learn there.
1. Keep your communication concise, using as few words as possible. Tell him exactly what you want in a light, positive way. Say, “Honey, I need you to do these dishes please,” or “Baby, would you please take me on a date this weekend? It’ll be fun.”
2. Reward his positive behavior with praise (“You’re the best boyfriend ever”), smiles (men live for women’s smiles, it turns out), and physical affection.
3. Ignore his negative behavior. This is undoubtedly the hardest part for us women, who are used to pouting and nagging when a man doesn’t do right by us. Don’t sulk or discuss his shortcomings. Instead, return to step 2, a simple, positive request. Give him attention and reward when he fulfills the request.
Has this approach worked for me? Sometimes, yes, to a certain extent. Has it ever truly changed a man at his core—his motivations and long-term routines? No, not really. No matter what kind of cute metaphors we concoct, humans are simply not that simple.
Curious? Confused? Heartbroken? Send your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org