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How to avoid crushing his ego

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Men may seem strong and together, but in reality they’re easily crushed, especially if they think they’ve disappointed you. But does his ego-sensitivity mean you’re supposed to swallow hard and say “I love it” when he presents you with a truly awful gift? No. So how do you preserve your sanity and his self-esteem?

First, a little background information. The reasons your most excellent, strong man acts sometimes more like a fragile little boy are rooted, not surprisingly, in childhood.

It begins with men wanting to emulate their heroes

”Men have been comparing themselves to Superman, Rambo and Dirty Harry ever since they were very young,” explains Marilyn Graman, a New York-based psychotherapist and co-founder of Life Works, Inc. “The same applies to romantic models. How can they compete with Brad Pitt, Leonardo DiCaprio, Clint Eastwood or George Clooney?” And even though we don’t need our guys to leap tall buildings to make our day or to be polished and fabulous every time we see them, many men think we not only need them to wow us in every way, we also expect it.
*Feeding the need to succeed

“It makes them feel important and good about themselves,” Graman continues. “This desire has to do with male competitive issues and fears of abandonment. A man feels good when he is the ‘best’ at anything — best role model, friend, boyfriend and gift-giver.” So how should you respond when he commits a gift-giving gaffe?

Graman says the most important thing is to appreciate the effort he put into making the choice — even if it was the wrong one. Chances are, though it appears that he spent no time picking out the gift, he probably spent a lot of time worrying about picking out the right thing for you. That’s worth something, right?

*Even the best intentions can fall flat sometimes

“A man considers practical gifts to be great gifts, especially if he has listened to you complain that you need a new toaster oven or hair dryer,” she explains. “Therefore, receive the desire to give [and] to make you happy as part of the gift.” Even if you don’t dig it, you’ve rewarded him for his effort and made him feel great.

Once a man feels as if you appreciate his actions, you can let him know your true preferences, Graman counsels. But do so gently without making him feel like he goofed.

“Honey, you know I love to cook. And I really did need a new toaster oven. Next time, you can get me a cooking class or we can take a gourmet weekend trip so I can put the oven to good use afterwards.”

*Remember, positive reinforcement really works!

The best way to avoid crushing his ego is simply to treat him the way you’d like to be treated. “Tell him what you love about what he is doing,” Graman says. “Hearing ‘I love that you called’ will surely stimulate him to call again, and soon. Thank him often. Tell him how well he did something. Tell him he is your hero when he is. Compliment him to your friends and family while he is in earshot. Let him know he is special in your life and that you appreciate him.”

(Margot Carmichael Lester is a freelance writer based in Carrboro, N.C. Her work also appears online at Monster.com and in International Cinematographers Guild magazine.)

By Margot Carmichael Lester




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