Dear Rabbi Bernath,
When I go on dates with men – first dates, second dates – a lot of them seem to be telling me all their problems. As much as, one day, I would like to able to be a good listener and ear for my partner, in these cases, I just met them and I don’t think the first date is a place to talk about how and what you hate about your job and about your colleagues or other various issues. They will talk to me for an hour about something in their life they are not happy with and don’t even try to get to know me. Why do men do this?
Thank you for your question. I found it really interesting how you worded your question. You didn’t ask “How can I make them stop?” or “How can I avoid men like this?” You just asked “Why?”
That is a great attitude. We need to ask open questions and understand issues from other people’s perspectives before we can even begin to think of solutions.
To analyze this for such a broad group of people, we’re going to have to overdo it a little bit with the generalizations. So hold your nose … and keep your tongue in your cheek.
Let’s think about the “typical” life for the “average” guy you might date.
Your average guy goes to work. Since he’s a millennial, he probably: a) is looked down upon at his job; b) dislikes his job because it’s not meaningful enough; or c) feels like he’s underpaid.
Whichever door you pick, millennials are just less happy than other generations at work. It’s true. Google it. Plus – I’m assuming these guys are Jewish – isn’t kvetching our national pastime? It’s a perfect storm of disgruntlement.
Furthermore, complaints are like pressure in a tank: they need to be vented every now and then. So who does a working Jewish millennial man have to complain to?
All other males are out of the question – generally, men don’t like to be vulnerable to other men. (Hey, I didn’t say it; the American Psychological Association did.)
His mother? That’s a really bad idea. If the stereotypes are to be believed, his mother is probably the queen of kvetching and the master of privilege-shaming. She could remind him of how much harder her life was, and then complain to him about that.
What about friends? Well, it seems like people don’t communicate that deeply anymore.
I find that millennials suffer from an epidemic of loneliness, and the numbers say I’m right. The General Social Survey in the United States found that the number of people who said they don’t have any close friends to discuss important matters with tripled from 1985 to 2004. It’s especially bad for men, and worse for millennial men. I’m sure that the increase in superficial relationships via social media since 2004 has further isolated us from one another.
So the men you’re meeting have a lot to vent about, have nobody to talk to and don’t think they can afford therapy because they’re underpaid.
So when do they actually get someone’s undivided attention for a few minutes – and even better, someone of the opposite gender with whom they can be vulnerable? On a date. It’s like free therapy.
Anyway, let’s get practical – what can we do about it?
I believe that with this explanation in mind, we can deduce that the men you’re dating don’t even realize how much they’re talking about themselves. It’s all subconscious – they have someone who’s listening, and it all just comes tumbling out.
It doesn’t necessarily mean that a man is narcissistic or uninterested in other people. He just might be really lonely, despite having “friends.”
I would suggest listening a bit and then providing a polite reminder along the lines of, “Wouldn’t you like to know more about me as well?”
Good luck in your dating.