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She Said, He Said: Survey Finds Men Don't Pay Attention to the Details

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Portrait of a romantic dating couple at a restaurant
Portrait of a romantic dating couple at a restaurant

Last week, I debated a popular talk radio host about a recent survey, conducted by beauty retailer Superdrug, which found men have little knowledge of their spouses' basic information. According to the research, here are 10 things most men don't know about their wives:

1. Mobile number - 54 per cent
2. Bra size - 39 per cent
3. Favorite perfume - 34 per cent
4. Favorite clothes shop - 24 per cent
5. Shoe size - 23 per cent
6. Dress size - 23 per cent
7. Underwear size - 20 per cent
8. Date of birth - 12 per cent
9. Natural hair color - 11 per cent
10. Job title - 10 per cent

The talk show host's argument went something like this: Women shouldn't expect men to know these little details about their wives, because, they're, well, men and that it's a lost cause for the fairer sex to try to socially engineer men to care about the details. Because whether it's the Stone Age or the year 2012, most men don't care much about anything other than sex, food, paying bills and sleep. Perhaps he was exaggerating for effect, but I found fault with the way he cavemanized (a new word?) his own gender, as if males are incapable of paying attention or don't have a responsibility to pay attention to the little details that are a part of their partners' lives. (I also believe women have a responsibility to pay attention to the details -- more on this in a bit.)

Granted, most people nowadays don't know each other's phone numbers by heart and certainly, I can understand men not knowing some of the items on this list, but the point I was trying to make was that it behooves men to pay attention to the little details and to ask questions, despite this sort of thing not being their natural instinct. When a man remembers the minor details -- whether he investigated on his own to find out or has been told by his partner -- it shows that he cares enough to pay attention. By doing so, he connects emotionally with his partner, and when a woman feels emotionally connected with her mate, she falls more deeply in love.

This isn't to say that men should know all of the aforementioned statistics about his mate, and there are probably a lot of women who don't give a hoot if her man is clueless about her underwear or dress size, but if you can connect emotionally to your partner by paying attention to the little things that do matter to her, I think it bodes better for the relationship.

To get another man's perspective on this topic, I turned to my partner in crime, Joshua Pompey, dating Expert with

Joshua Pompey: I would say that, in general, men are not instinctually concerned with attention to detail. I suspect much of this has to do with the fact that men are hunters and protectors by nature. In the grand scheme of things, once we have courted our women, our instinctual and overall concern is whether or not they are happy, safe and provided for, not what their favorite color, designer or perfume is.

We tend to not care about little details because they aren't useful to us and, as a whole, we tend to be very pragmatic creatures. Sure, it's nice to know small facts about our partners, as they help us to feel a stronger connection, but if we were being perfectly honest, the main reason we usually seek knowledge about small details is so that we can stay out of the dog house when quizzed on these issues later on in the relationship.

Men are more concerned with memories in the grander sense. We will remember how we felt on a first date and the basics of what occurred, but we will not necessarily remember what our dates were wearing, what they ordered or the conversations that were held.

Neely Steinberg: I understand what you're saying. And I'm not saying that men need to change who they are at their core. But I am saying that to keep a relationship healthy and happy, I think both genders need to sweat the small stuff. For a man, that doesn't have to mean knowing your partner's favorite perfume, but maybe it's complimenting her on how lovely her new haircut looks. It's a pretty sad commentary if men, as you say, remember these types of details only to "stay out of the dog house" and if women feel the need to "quiz" their mates on these types of things.

Thoughtfulness, when it comes to the little details, goes a long way in a relationship -- if it is offered freely. It makes both members of the couple want to keep striving to make the other feel loved and appreciated. When my boyfriend is incredibly thoughtful with a little detail or a small gesture, it makes me feel so loved. I believe he feels the same way when I pay attention to the details that matter to him. Again, I think it behooves men to pay attention to their wives as much as it does women to their husbands, because it's a way of connecting emotionally with each other. Men may care about women paying attention to different things than what women prefer men pay attention to, and, obviously, it's different for every couple. But I do think the little things matter deeply for all couples, and that's ultimately what I was trying to get at. Maybe one woman appreciates her man knowing what she likes in her coffee; another appreciates that he bought the shoes she had been eyeing for her birthday in the exact right size; and another that he knows her favorite author. Maybe one man appreciates his woman watching football with him on Sundays; another that his partner knows what his favorite kind of wine is; and another that she knows his favorite author. It's about making the effort to care about the details and striving to make the other feel loved.

Couples do need to expect thoughtfulness in these kinds of ways, or else the relationship withers and dies. When my boyfriend pays attention to the details and the sorts of little things that matter to me, or remembers things I've said in passing, it signals to me that he cares about my needs and values me as a partner. I don't think we should ever stop learning about our partners. It's important to be and stay curious about each other. This recent article in the New York Times explains just how important it is for couples to find ways to stay connected.

There were a few male callers that called in to agree with me, using their own relationships as examples, and there were some that flat-out disagreed, accusing me of trying to change men.

Do you think that men care at all about their partner knowing the little details (or, at least, caring to know) of their life, or am I way off base on this? Is this perhaps more a "female thing"?

Joshua Pompey: I definitely don't think you are way off-base on this. I think when it comes to men, it's not the details that matter, its knowing that deep down, we are important to the women we are dating. We are less concerned with the small things and more concerned with the way women treat us.

With that said, while not essential, sometimes it is nice to know that women care about the small details of our lives, even if this is hypocritical of me to say. I suspect much of this has to do with the fact that we are still evolutionarily wired to feel as if women should be caretakers and nurturers. As awful as this may sound to some, I don't mean it in a misogynistic way (I am not implying that a woman's role should be to cook for us and clean our houses). What I mean is that when women remember our most important details, we feel as if we are being taken care of, and, in turn, feel as if we have a great partner.

The difference comes in the type of details we care about. As you mentioned previously, details as simple as how we like our coffee, our favorite restaurant and how we like to be treated are what matters. This shows that women know what is truly important to us in the pragmatic sense. Knowing the date of our first trip to Mexico holds no importance other than the memories that existed within it, because this "anniversary date" holds no purpose for a man, other than to please our partners. Consequently, if our partners were to make clear that they really care about us knowing this detail, then we should go out of our way to remember it, because what is important to our partner should be important to us as well. It is just a matter of women being realistic with the extent of how much a man should know in order for them to feel happy.

Finally, I would argue that men want to feel like they are important. We might not care if you know what our favorite movie is, but if we told you three times in the past, and we even watched that movie together, now we will care. Not knowing the movie title in this scenario makes us feel as if we don't matter.

Neely Steinberg: Yes, so it is indeed a two-way street as I suspected. Maybe in slightly different ways, but underneath those differences is a need for both genders to feel appreciated, important, valued and cared for.

Joshua Pompey: But, again, I also think a lot of this has to do with the fact that women are nurturers by nature. And if this is indeed the case, I would presume that women have an instinctive desire to want to know as many details as they possibly can about their mate, in order to feel as if they can take care of him as best as possible. I am aware that may sound misogynistic as well, but I mean this on more of a sub-conscious level.

Neely Steinberg: Perhaps. I think female friendships operate more on a detail-oriented level. We want to know the minutiae of each other's lives; we connect that way. If you observe the way most women converse with each other, it's much different than the way men bond conversationally. Perhaps these differences spill over into relationships: Women get upset that their partners don't remember or care to remember the little things, and men are flustered as to why they should know or care about these things in the first place. But I still say it behooves both genders to take the time to know the small stuff about their partners and show them how much they value each other's worlds through small gestures and attention to detail. The grand gestures happen only every so often; it's the small gestures that happen the rest of the time that really sustain a relationship long-term.

Joshua Pompey: I do think the small gestures help sustain a relationship. I am as guilty as any man of making romantic gestures, providing cute, inside-joke gifts and planning elaborate dates early on in the courting phase, only to lose sight of these types of things as the relationship progresses. Perhaps this is due to programming. Or perhaps it is just human nature to get lazy when you're with the same person for a long time. On a personal note, perhaps it is because I have yet to find that special someone who inspires me to keep these efforts sustained for years at a time.

Regardless of the cause, there is no doubt that putting in that extra effort will make both parties happier in the long run. Just as long as both parties are clear and realistic with their expectations of what will make them happy. In the end, I think you make some good points. Paying attention to detail, to the little things, especially as the years tick by, shows loyalty and commitment. At the end of the day, both men and women want to feel valued, and as if they are important to their partner. Both genders need to put in the effort!

To the readers: What are the little things that your partner does for you or remembers that shows how much he or she appreciates and values you?

Joshua Pompey is an expert in the field of online dating. Check out his free online dating tips for plenty of advice.

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