Let’s face it – us guys need women around.

And not just for sex and food.  Women balance us out.  They rein in our more violent impulses, encourage good grooming and hygiene, and expose us to movies we’d never watch otherwise, like The Notebook.

It goes beyond chick flicks, of course.  Biologically, you need some estrogen to balance out testosterone.  Spiritually, it’s Yin and Yang.

However you slice it, gender balance matters.  When birth ratios exceed the historically average 1.6 males per 1 female, shit gets wack.  Violent crime increases, rape and prostitution abounds, and wars are started.  China and India – the former with it’s one-child policy, and the latter with its dowries – have already felt the pinch of under-femininzation.  Crime rates have doubled in China in the last twenty years and female suicide rates are the highest in the world – quite possibly a consequence of how many baby girls are aborted.

Heavy stuff.  Keep it in mind the next time your woman is giving you a hard time.

Let’s face it – it’s neither pleasant nor very dignifying when your woman is giving you shit.  Yet it’s in this little corner of female psychology that us men can find the best of ourselves.

There are a lot of ways to describe it – getting shit, getting bitched at, getting a hard time… but around these parts we’ve got a catch-all phrase to describe this behavior: a test.

I picked up this term from David Deida, and if you’ve seen Unbreakable, you know that we see it as a fundamental part of male:female relationships.

Simply stated, your woman is going to test you.  It’s part of her relationship role. If you’re the strong guy that I want you to be, then you’re going to know how to pass the test with flying colors.  And if you’re the good guy I hope you to be, then you’ll make lemonade of lemons, and use these tests to make your relationship better.

So, other than “when a girl bitches at me,” what constitutes a test, and how do we handle them?

Tests of Insecurity arise out a woman’s own insecurities.  They come in the form of “tell me you love me,” “do you think she’s prettier than me?” and “who were you out flirting with tonight?

In some cases, they’re entirely reasonable.  As I’ve learned firsthand, attending a bachelor party, in Rio, during Carnival, is enough to rattle even the most confident of girlfriends.  A little reassurance and some FaceTime’ing is totally reasonable.

But, if you’re dating a girl whose insecurities begin to impose on your own happiness, well-being, and relationships with others, appeasement will gain you temporary reprieve, and not much more.

That’s because Tests of Insecurity are all about sucking you in – her insecurities create a negative emotional vortex, of sorts, that can only be filled by you.  Or the next man who’ll tell her what she wants to hear.

And that’s the most damaging thing about insecurities, and specifically, about failing this test.  A woman with low self-esteem will always be looking for the next thing to make her feel better about herself.  Maybe a gift, maybe a trip, maybe the attention of another man.

You know when you’re being given one of these tests, because you feel an unmistakable combination of pity and frustration towards her You feel like she’s sucking you in.  And the only way to pass this test is to gently but unfailingly refuse to let it consume you.

You have to set your boundaries.  If you really love her, the line is a big fat one, and you let her cross it a few times.  Maybe you take the long view, and “work on it” with her – depends on how much drama you like in your life.  But make no mistake:  the only way that your girl is going to stop giving you tests of insecurity is through her own growth.

On the flip side, you have Tests of Strength.  “Come back with your shield, or on it,” spoke Queen Gorgo in the man-epic 300.

I sometimes think of these as Mom Tests.  You want to be lazy, step down, or run and hide.  Mom’s not having any of it.  “Don’t take that from bullies… you go back to school and punch him back!“  “A C+ on your test?  That’s it – you’re grounded this weekend, and you’re studying twice as hard next time.“  “Putting the toys under your bed doesn’t count as cleaning up – I want them where they belong.

They were bad enough when you were a kid, but they’re downright emasculating when you’re getting them from your girlfriend.  You want to tell her to shut up, that it’s none of her business.  You get mad at her for your own retreat and weakness.

And that’s how you know it’s a Test of Strength – it feels like a push… usually “out there” into the world.  Towards something, or against someone.  She’s trying to light a fire under your ass and give you the oomph you didn’t have on your own.

Why? Because she loves you.  And the man who she fell in love with isn’t lazy.  He doesn’t come home from work with his head hung low.  He doesn’t put up with shit from others.

But somehow, he’s failing.  It could be mere forgetfulness, or it could be outright defeat.  He’s lost his fire… his drive… his “primary value,” as we call it on Unbreakable.

There are two ways to pass these tests.  The first is to accept and reflect upon your woman’s words, seeing in yourself the man who she expects you to be.

It seems emasculating at first… “to hell with this, I make my own choices, I don’t need her telling me what to be.”  But if you’re honest with yourself, you’ll admit that that’s just your ego getting defensive.  It’s happy in its state of safety and inertia, and it doesn’t want to get out there on the edge.

So while you may think that fighting with her is “winning,” it’s not.  It’s wearing her down, and if you have enough of those fights, she may just realize one day that you’re not, in fact, the man who she imagined you to be.  That’s when you realize just how much you’ve lost.

But maybe it doesn’t get to that point.  In fact, maybe you pass these tests… just by being you.  Because you push yourself daily… because you’re already at your edge… because you’ve got fire and you breath it.

What do you think?