“For men and women, communication can be a very long drive, using different roads—often to get to the same place.”—Susan Sherwood, Ph.D.
If someone created a dictionary to decode male language, I guarantee it would be a bestseller. It’s kind of funny to think about how many times a friend has asked me “What does his text mean?” “What is he thinking?” or “Why is he taking so long to call me back?” We worry endlessly, creating these elaborate, ridiculous scenarios of why he isn’t calling and overanalyzing to the point of becoming delusional. It’s ironic that we make them out to be these complex creatures, when in reality, men are relatively straightforward and not that complicated. Just ask them!
That being said, there are a few universal phrases men use that women often misinterpret. Here are 5 of the most common “man-isms” along with their translations:
1. “I’ve been busy.”
Translation: I’ve been busy.
Let’s imagine the scenario is that he hasn’t called or texted you in a few days, and when he reaches out he says, “Hey! It’s been such a busy week, how are you?” While this may feel like a classic go-to line, “I’m busy” often means he’s busy.
Although it sounds like a superficial reason for failing to keep in contact between dates, the truth is men become absorbed in the task at hand. Women are known for their multi-tasking, and will find time to reach out. It’s hard for them to believe he’s too busy to text a quick hello. Pay attention to his tone and interest level when he does reach out. You’ll know if he actually forgot, because something or someone more important came up, or if he really was busy.
Men: know that this phrase aggravates women to no end! There are many scientific reasons why it’s beneficial to eliminate “busy” from our vocabulary altogether, too!
2. “I’m not looking for anything serious right now.”
Translation: I don’t want a girlfriend. I just want to have fun with no-strings attached.
If you agree to keep seeing a guy after he says this, you are agreeing to a casual arrangement. Some of my friends focus on the right now, believing they can change his mind over time. Of course, there is a chance that he will want a relationship one day down the line. But, if you get the “I’m not ready” disclaimer early on, you are essentially continuing at your own risk.
But not all hope is lost.
“A lot of women I meet think that guys are inherently terrified of being with one person. It’s not true,” says Matthew Hussey, dating guru, New York Times bestselling author, and Today show resident relationship expert. “The reasons are because they associate it with losing their freedom, having sexual excitement, being able to pursue whatever they want.”
If you have a genuine connection and there’s no pressure, he won’t feel like he’s losing out by settling down. He’ll be excited and interested because of the positive experiences and happiness you bring to his life.
“The great news is, that these feelings are entirely within a woman’s control,” Hussey adds, “If you appear needy and desperate for a relationship, he’ll be terrified of them. If you make him WANT to commit and show him that life will only get more fun when he does, committing to you will only excite him more.”
3. “I need space.”
Translation: I’m not happy/and or stressed, so I need a break from this relationship, but I don’t know how to say it without upsetting you.
In other words, he feels like you are suffocating him. Unlike women who vent to their girlfriends about their life stress, men often withdraw to sort through issues on their own. They are the original cavemen, after all, so don’t be surprised if they go into their cave. One of the first steps to understanding the male psyche, is to learn that a man processes his feelings through logic.
“If a man is overtaken with emotions, his first response is not ‘what’ but rather ‘why’ is he feeling this way,” says Timothy Houston, author, minister, and motivational speaker. “After he has time to logically think about it and connect the ‘what I am feeling’ to his emotions, he will most likely need to change his first response. To avoid this, give the man time to think about the question before he is prompted for an answer.”
If a guy says he needs space, he means it. The best thing you can do for yourself and the relationship is respect his request and distance yourself. This could be a precursor to a breakup, but it could also be that he genuinely needs some alone time.
4. “The game’s on.”
Translation: I just want to watch sports with my friends without being interrupted or distracted.
This is another version of “It’s just going to be a guy’s night.” Many girls get offended when a guy says this, but it’s healthy to have separate interests and hobbies.
“For some fans, the devotion they feel is almost like something they’ve inherited from previous generations,” says Susan Krauss Whitbourne, Ph.D., is a Professor of Psychology at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and author of The Search for Fulfillment. “Their parents or grandparents took them to games when they were little, and they’ve built up an entire lifetime of associations to everything connected with that game or team.”
Think of it this way: watching the game with the guys is the equivalent to a wine night venting with your girlfriends. Both men and women need that time to bond with friends and relax—we just do it in different ways.
“If you want to keep your relationship going, avoid setting up a ‘it’s them or me’ scenario,” she adds. “Recognizing that your partner’s fan-ship has complex roots might help prevent this in the first place, but there may still be times when you feel that you’re coming in second to your partner’s identification with the team.”
5. “I’ll call you later.”
Translation: I will contact you at some point in the future.
This phrase may be the most misinterpreted of all. When a girl says, “I’ll call you later,” she means “I will call you before the end of the day.” In a man’s mind, the word “later” is any time after now. It can mean a few hours or a few days, but there is no specific time window.
Therapist and life coach Mila Mapp reminds us, “Usually when a man says he’ll call later, he’s not lying. He means what he’s saying. He’ll call later. That might mean he’ll talk to you tomorrow, or it might mean he’ll talk to you next year. Take him at his word. If you want to talk with him, call him. If he doesn’t return your call in the near future, then it might be safe to assume he’s not as earnest about talking with you as you are about talking with him.”