March 9, 2013 at 5:15 AM ET
Want to know what men are really feeling? Whatever you do, don't expect a straight answer. There's an old joke about a wife who nags her husband, "Tell me how you feel." Finally, the husband blurts, "I feel...I feel...like watching television."
The awful truth is, most men have no idea how they feel at any given time. Studies show that men use language to establish difference, separateness and independence (exactly the opposite of women, who talk to connect). So demanding that he talk to you is guaranteed to make him squirm and start rambling about whether new Cheerios really are improved.
Here are the answers and explanations to his biggest verbal 'Huhs?' (you'll be speaking like a native in no time). Take the cues from the following sections, so that you and your man can finally understand each other:
An at-a-glance guide to his love talk:
A slew of research has established that men and women use language in different ways. For women, talk is the glue that holds relationships together. To men, conversation is a means, not an end. They don't even like talking to each other that much—two guys can watch a game in silence for four hours and walk away feeling they've bonded. When men do use words, it's primarily doublespeak to stay on top. Here's how to make sense of the favorite phrases he uses for different stages of your union:
He says: So maybe we could get together or something?
He means: I think you're really hot and want to ask you out, but I'm too chicken to say so
He says: Nothing about seeing you again
He means: His mojo wasn't rising
He says: You're a really good person
He means: You'll never see him again
He says: Let's be friends
He means: You're not my type, but could you set me up with your hot friend?
He says: I'll call you
He means: I really mean to call but I'm scared you'll say yes, we'll go out and it will be a letdown. Or worse, what if it's not? Do I want to go through all the hassle of dating? Get married? Have kids? Aaahhhh!
He says: We're dating
He means: We've spent at least five nights together, at least one of which has ended in sexual contact. But in no way are we exclusive
He says: We're seeing each other
He means: It's down to you and one other woman
He says: I think we should date exclusively
He means: I'm scared that if I don't make things more permanent, you'll date someone else
He says: This is our third date, isn't it?
He says: Is it warm out or just me?
He says: What time do you go to work in the morning?
He says: You think it's true what they say about oysters?
He means: I WANT SEX
He says (in the middle of a great orgasm): I love you
He means: I love that incredible thing you are doing with your finger/tongue/body right now
He says (immediately after making love): It'll be great to show you the house I grew up in (or anything else that smacks of the future)
He means: Are you thinking about your ex and how much better he was than me?
He says: We haven't spoken for ages and I've been thinking about you
He means: I haven't gotten laid in almost three months
He says: I'm not looking to get serious
He means: I just want a little nookie
He says: How many guys have you been with?
He means: I'm the best, right?
He says: I really like you
He means: I think I am falling in love but if I say that word, there is no going back
He says (in the middle of a date): It'll be great to show you the house I grew up in (or anything else that smacks of the future)
He means: See Above
He says: "Girlfriend" and he's not doing a Ru Paul imitation
He means: You've made him breakfast, he fixed your car and his buddies aren't allowed to come on to you
He says: Nothing's wrong. I'm fine
He means: God, I know you want to talk about my day and all my interrelationships with my colleagues and boss and the guy who drives my bus, but I am at home now and I just want to drink 10 beers, eat a bag of chips for dinner and zone out
He says: Maybe we need to slow down
He means: Maybe you need to slow down
He says: I don't know what I want
He means: I don't want you
He says: I need some space
He means: I'm about this close to dumping you but I haven't worked up the nerve yet
He says: You're an amazing woman
He means: You're an amazing woman
He says: I love you
He means: You make me incredibly happy whenever we are together. I think you may be The One.
Men don't always hear everything you're saying, which means he's not always getting your message:
You say (after being introduced): Do you know this band?
He hears: I want you now
You say: What do you do?
He hears: Are you making enough money to make you marriage material?
You say: My ex is a crazy stalker who won't stop calling me. He scares me
He hears: I'm still in love with my ex
You say: What are we doing Saturday night?
He hears: I want all your time for the rest of your life
You say (after making love): That was really nice
He hears: That was the best sex of my life. Let's do it again!
Be wary, if he says any of the following to you:
How to talk to a man so he understands you:
Men can only take directions one at a time. So, if you want him to go into the kitchen and get you a cup of tea, make it a two-part request (this also applies to when you are in bed with him).
When men bother to use words, it's to inspire action (whereas women communicate to bond). So if a guy insults another guy, he automatically thinks he wants to fight. And if you say you like his shirt, he thinks, "Cool
University of Houston psychologists investigating why men keep things bottled up found it was to maintain power in a relationship—when they don't talk, their partner is left guessing. You do the same and he'll be putty in your hands.
Men don't want to talk about the relationship. They just want to do it (in his mind, if he didn't love you, he'd leave). Here's how he thinks: "If we need to talk about the relationship, it must be broken. If it's broken, it means it's doomed. I'm outta here."
A man will say, "I'm fine," even when being tortured by Zulu warriors. It's in his nature not to reveal weakness because that betrays vulnerability, which comes off as lack of status, according to research by evolutionary psychologist David Buss. In short, he's worried you'll think he's a weed if he can't solve his problems without his Superwoman girlfriend coming to his aid.
There are certain words his tongue seems to trip over
Here's what he really doesn't want to hear from you (and probably won't hear anyway):
Honey, we have to talk. No, YOU have to talk—and talk and talk and talk
What are you thinking about?: His feelings, like his answers, will be simple. So if you are lying in postcoital comfort and he answers, "Pizza," he really means he is thinking about pizza and not that you have skin that resembles pizza or you look like you've eaten one too many pies in your life.
Do you think that girl is pretty?: He thinks that if he even hesitates to say no, it will kill his chances of sex that night—or any other night.
I want to get married: He already assumes this is what you want, he just doesn't want to hear it. So you only have to notify him if this is NOT the case.
How do I look—honestly?: Honestly, you look wonderful to him. That's why he's with you
Excerpted from Over 100 Things Women Should Know about Men
A version of this story originally appeared on iVillage.