The car comes to an abrupt halt, and right before jumping out, a paralyzingly surrender comes over my body. It’s been a long day and after a deep exhale to let it go, with window still partially open, I hear this song in the parking lot’s ambient speakers. “The First Cut is the Deepest” by Sheryl Crow.

A girlfriend on the way to our breakup said this to me many years ago. I was young and arrogant, so I missed the truth she was seeking to convey. I had hurt her. Not in what I did, but what I didn’t do through the unintentional mishandling of her heart, the many ways I failed to show up, hiding behind masks that shielded us both from the infancy we wanted. I was safe, and alone. She was wanting, and sad. We were done.

We do cut each other. It’s human. We can’t help it and it fucking hurts, but we keep coming back to each other because life isn’t meant to be done alone, at least not forever.

Now, a decade later, I’ve spent my nights, nose down submerged into hundreds of consumed books, countless 3, 10 & 12 step meetings, confessions, prayers a sweat lodge and I’m pretty sure some Indian ceremonies involving antlers and incense. Geez, the seeking to always find a wonderful new sense of a deeper man inside that enjoys listening to women and being guided by the power of feminine energy.

Ladies, there are some things you really NEED to know however if you want to be heard.

1. Get his FULL attention.

If you don’t have our attention, we hear you, but don’t really listen and therefore we have a hard time responding or being engaged. This causes all kinds of conflict because we come off as not caring and you get angry at us. The guy gets defensive when in reality, he’s just distracted.

2. Choose your timing wisely.

You can tell a guy just about anything and he’ll remain calm and collected provided your timing is right. When we are stressed, we want usually two things. 1) to be left alone (i.e. the man cave) or 2) to just be WITH you quietly. Occasionally, if a guys feels safe around you, he’ll want to tell you his stresses but only to share, not to be fixed. Choose your timing wisely.

3. Give us only the facts.

Yes, I realize that all the back story can be fun and engaging to your girlfriends, but we find it burdensome. We are creatures of action and want to know only a few things on how the story relates to us, if you’re safe or how else we’re involved. to drown a guy in story totally turns him off. Save the chatter for girls-night-out.

4. Tell us clearly what you want, need and/or expect.

The entire time you’re talking, we’re looking for the little buried signs of trouble, where we need to jump in and protect, provide or spring in to some kind of action. We are, by nature, fixers and most guys will offer suggestions immediately to help solve your problem and feel worthy or valuable to his woman. While there is a growing group of conscious men that have done some serious work (or therapy) on how to listen, speed you up, slow you down and ask clarifying questions, most guys will just zone out unless you tell us what you want, need or expect. Be clear!

5. And the BEST way: Distract him with another activity.

That’s right, distraction. Invite us into another activity that is NOT a lets-sit-down-fact-to-face and talk. This scares us. We’re waiting for the shoe to drop, we’re wondering why it’s so serious, we feel scolded or in trouble. Have an activity, any activity that keeps you both engaged and the attention on you both collectively such as a project, gardening, a walk (perfect!), a craft, exercise (let him critique your moves, it makes him feel strong) are all great options. Date night is the best!

Like so many men, we cherish our relationships and even regret the ones where we just weren’t ready for commitment or lacked the emotional intelligence to propel the relationship forward.

I now listen to this song differently. This time, I KNOW I will hurt others because I’m human. And this time, I’ll make amends quickly, I’ll look deeply into the eyes of the other and truly connect. I’ll speak my truth with humility and love, I won’t look away, I won’t hide. I’ll be a source of healing and help others and keep showing up with all my silly flaws and eccentricities.

The first cut IS the deepest. It’s also the wound that heals and grows us so, so much so that we can return to do it again.

Love each other, as awkward and as painful as it may be.