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I was a late bloomer when it came to getting to know real women. I had three sisters and a mother, of course, but those aren’t real women. Those are sisters and a mother—who might indeed be real women to other people but are not and will not be to me.

So it was after being married for some time that I came to the startling (but not exactly “first in the history of the world to realize this”) conclusion that I didn’t understand women. Not only did I not understand women in general, I especially didn’t understand one woman in particular. I’m not going to say who that one woman was, but I will hint that she began to figure very prominently in my life when I got MARRIED.

Anyway, one of the things I learned is that when a woman—especially one you’re in any way married to—comes to you (a guy) with a problem, it is very likely she doesn’t want you to fix the problem. Now, I—being a guy—found this to be very strange. When I would see a problem, I would try to fix it. Flat tire? Fix it. Got the flu? Go to a doctor and get him (or her, I’m not a chauvinist) to fix it.

Women, however, don’t always want the problem fixed. They just want to talk about the problem.

It took me many years to learn that lesson, but then another lesson came up. See, my first mistake was that when a problem came up, I would try to fix it. Silly me. Then, I learned not to try to do that. So I made the next mistake: offer instruction on how to fix the problem.

“What a dope he was!” I can hear the men reading this article saying.

For instance, if this woman of which I speak were to come home one day after having had a confrontation at work with another woman over some matter or another, I would try to calmly offer a solution. (“Why don’t you kill her? And make it look like a drug deal gone bad so that not only do you not get blamed, her reputation is ruined, too!”)

It turns out, however, that women not only don’t want you to fix the problem for them, they also don’t want you to suggest ways for the problem to be fixed. What they want is for you to sit there quietly and, occasionally, agree with them. Let them know that you “understand where they’re coming from” and tell them things like, “You are right to feel that way.” And if you can say these things honestly that’s often helpful, though rarely crucial.

But then, sometimes, this woman doesn’t want you—or, more specifically, me—to help, offer help, or even agree. She just wants me—or you—to listen. You may, if a moth somehow flies into your mouth while she’s speaking, grunt, but please, for the love of all things holy, try to make your grunting sound sympathetic. Otherwise, maintain complete silence unless you really like sleeping on the couch anyway.

And then there are those times those of us men who have been married a long time (i.e. at least since earlier today) know so well and in retrospect will—we hope—demonstrate our undying loves for our wives. That moment when she pours out her soul and it’s clear that we better not a] try to help, b] offer helpful suggestions, c] agree verbally or physically, d] disagree in any way, or e] exist.

Of course, living with us men is probably not the easiest thing in the world, either, I’m sure. I could list a lot of ways where we make life difficult but the exact same Spring Training report ESPN has shown six times today is about to come on again and I don’t want to miss it.