I’ve Got It Under Control: A Woman’s Guide to Male Speak

Posted by Deborah Huso on Mar 5, 2014 in Men, Relationships |

Originally published October 15, 2011

Have you ever noticed that men, generally speaking, don’t like to be questioned? And I’m not talking the “Where have you been for the past four hours?” type questions. I’m talking about any questions. Dare to ask, and you’ll get one of two answers: the “oh shit” stare or the “I’ve got it under control” answer. With my husband, it’s usually the latter. “Are you going to change the oil in my car today?” A simple “yes” or “no” answer is all that’s required, right? Not so. “I’ve got it under control,” he says. What does that mean? Does it men “yes” or “no?” Or does it mean something else entirely?

I know I’m not alone here. One of my best friends, who has been married just under two years, has already had this experience. “Men do not like being probed,” she tells me about four months after their son is born. She has contacted me to try to unravel her new husband’s frequent response of “I’ve got it under control.” She recounts to me how she walked into the kitchen one morning to find a bag of breast milk sitting on the counter while her beloved spouse was surfing on the Internet with his iPad, the baby comfortably asleep nearby. Now as any nursing mother knows, it takes a good 30 minutes to pump out four ounces of milk, and most of us are so time-strapped we’ve even been known to engage in the process while commuting to work. You would think men would be cognizant of the sacrifice. As my friend gracefully pointed out when relating this story, “If the damn milk sits out for more than two hours, it goes bad, and you know how freaking time consuming it is to pump that stuff!”

Yes, I do. Her husband, however, does not, or so we think at first.

My dear friend began to question the man: “What are you going to do with it?”

He became frustrated, told her not to worry about it, that he was “handling” it.

And my friend wondered, What the hell did that mean?

Being the direct kind of creature she is (after all, she’s a woman), she said, “What do you mean? Should I warm it up? Where are you going to put it? Do you need an ice pack?”

Of course, that line of questioning, unbeknownst to her, was going to get her nowhere. All he said was, “I’ve got it under control.”

My friend’s response to that was to take the milk pack off the counter and put it in the refrigerator.

So what does the “I’ve got it under control” answer mean anyway? Because it obviously does not mean “I’ve got it under control.” The unrefrigerated bag of breast milk is a case in point.

We must dig deeper because, as my friend noted, “Men are masters of avoiding and diverting.”

And mental sleuths though women are, we really cannot read minds. And how indeed are we supposed to figure anything out if these men don’t answer simple questions?

Never fear, ladies. I have the answers.

Because this phenomenon is not unique to husbands and boyfriends. My dad does it. Hell, my lawyer does it. But the reality is, to a man, there is no such thing as an innocent question. Unfortunately, women unwittingly ask simple things like the following, expecting simple, straightforward answers:

1) Are you going to fix the tractor today?

2) Why is the milk sitting out on the counter?

3) When are you going to remodel the basement?

4) Where would you like to go on vacation?

They seem like innocent questions, yet they can stifle the male brain for hours. Why? Well, the reality is that men, generally speaking, find questions threatening. Though women have often been blamed for “reading into things,” I would like to suggest, ladies, that the gentlemen are projecting. Never heard that term? Time to take Pscyh 101.

The trick is to share information about yourself first. It loosens them up, makes them more comfortable with the concept of talking. Or ask the question in a way that takes their opinions into account, gives them an opportunity to share expertise (i.e. instead of “why are you doing this,” ask “what do you think about doing this.”)

So, let’s try the above questions again, keeping the male brain in mind:

1) I really like the tractor. It’s fun to drive.

2) That’s interesting that the breast milk is sitting on the counter. What do you think about breast milk sitting on the counter?

3) It will be wonderful when the basement is finished. I am dreaming about how it will look.

4) I’d like to go to Egypt on vacation. What do you think about that? What do you think our chances are of getting shot?

Just remember, under no circumstance should you ever use the word “feel” when asking a question. Never ask “How do you feel about going to my mother’s for the weekend?” or “How do you feel about our relationship?” The word “feel” gives men the willies, no matter how it’s used. You will never get any useful information out of man by asking how he feels. Trust me.

If you get the “I’ve got it under control” answer, that’s a clear indicator you’ve just achieved communication failure. Because what “I’ve got it under control” really means is “when you question me, it makes me feel like you don’t trust me and don’t believe I can handle things.” Of course, it might also mean, “I forgot to put the breast milk back in the fridge, but I’ll be damned if I’m going to admit I screwed up.”

So, ladies, remember: share yourself, and give him an opportunity to offer his expertise, and you’ll get a lot farther. He might even take out the trash for you.

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