This topic has come up in many different areas of my life lately, and is causing consternation among my man friends. I am omnibenevolent, so lemme explain a really basic fact about women and problem-solving.
If you want to get a pen and a notepad, I'll wait.
Ready? Great. Here we go.
If a woman in your life complains about something, vents, or otherwise orates about a difficulty, she is not actually asking you for help in solving it. I know, I know, seems crazy right? WHY would she spend all of this time -- all of YOUR time -- talking about this thing if she could figure it out on her own? Wouldn't she just sit quietly and think it through, perhaps will fixing a carburetor?
That's how (many) men operate. You ponder. You brood. You excogitate. And in only the direst of circumstances will you actually approach a buddy and lay it all out there.
Most women (not ALL, so Dear (Female) Reader, don't get huffy) need to unravel their problems out loud to decide on the best course of action. So if she's talking to you about it, she is actually in the process of problem-solving. When you start to offer solutions, it is perceived as follows:
1) You don't think she's capable of finding the solution;
2) You think she's an idiot, because OBVIOUSLY she's already thought of the first three things you said;
3) You are trying to hurry her up so you can get back to whatever dumb thing you want to do, like fix that carburator.
This may seem nutty. You may say, "Well, jeez, THAT's not what I meant at all! Why would she think that way? I'm just trying to be helpful."
So, lemme help you out: when a woman wants you to provide a solution to a problem, SHE WILL TELL YOU. She will turn to you and say, "Darling dear, I just don't know what I should do here. What do you think?"
If you do not get that very clear verbal direction, STEER CLEAR OF PROVIDING SOLUTIONS. Offer clucks of support, a tsk, a shake of the head while she describes her latest burden. But do not ask her if she has done X, Y, or Z, or when exactly she thinks she will resolve the issue at hand.
Hard to understand? Well, I won't argue that. Chacun à son goût. But I'm not asking for your comprehension. I'm just sayin' that if you don't want a conversation about your ladyfriend's problem to devolve into an argument about how you don't clean the bathroom properly*, then just take my advice. The first few times you try it, you may have to ask her, "Honey, do you want my help with this? Or do you want me just to listen?"
That kind of ham-handedeness is actually okay (at first). She may still be annoyed that you don't know already, but it helps establish the pattern.
*Actually happened to a friend of mine. Who is now separated from his wife. SEE? Do you see how this goes?