Mars Versus Venus
Written by listed counsellor/psychotherapist: Nick Haynes MBACP MNCS (Acc) Relate CC Cert Couples Counselling
26th January, 2010
One of the most common reasons that couples want to see a relationship counsellor are communication difficulties between them whether they are in an opposite sex or same sex relationship.
Miscommunication between two people can frequently be attributed to style rather than deliberate obstruction on the part of one or another.
One of the areas of conversation that women and men both often seem to find puzzling and frustrating is when one is describing to the other something that has happened that perhaps has felt stressful to that individual.
Women often complain that they do not feel listened to in the way that they want because the man gives them a solution and actually what they really want first and foremost is just to be able to express their feelings and talk about it and feel heard in a way that both acknowledges the content and the feeling of what they are saying and also empathises with it. If they fully experience this then they are more likely to be willing to look at solutions later.
Men are often confused by this because they tend to approach the situation differently themselves and try to get rid of a stressful situation by problem-solving, so that it gets resolved or goes away.
Equally, sometimes women are confused when a man talks about something that he sounds stressed about.She may show what feels to her like support or sympathy and he seems to be unaware of her efforts by sounding grouchy or dismissive or saying that there is nothing wrong. He may shortly end the conversation or become silent.
What is happening?
Well, the answer may lie in the assumptions and preferences that we all have as human beings about how life works.Some of these seem to show patterns of being specific to women and men.
Many women seem to approach conversations and relationships as an opportunity to maintain closeness and intimacy through meaningful discussion and negotiation and the disclosure and sharing of feelings. This gives a sense of being part of a network or community and keeps feelings of isolation and aloneness at bay.
Men sometimes will comment on what seems to them as mundane or trivial conversations that women are having in terms of content without realising the important social need that conversation represents and underpins.
In their world these men believe that content is all important and by and large only speak when they feel they have got some information that they feel adds value to the conversation.
Additionally men often feel threatened by conversations which may lead them to them revealing or talking about feelings, because in some cases they may feel awkward, weak or vulnerable. They also give a lot of importance to independence and being able to act autonomously in situations.
So when women and men experience repeated frustration in certain types of conversations that lead to misunderstanding, it may be because those conversations reflect values and styles to both that are core and essential to their view of themselves, their relationships and how the world works- and which they presume the other also shares.
It is in this presumption that the other shares the same approach that the fundamental misunderstanding occurs.
Finally, it may be timely to issue a caveat here that we are speaking generally and not talking about every woman and man fitting this mould as sometimes it is the opposite way around where the woman is the problem solver and the man just wants his stressful experience to be witnessed.
However we may be describing a general pattern that when identified will help both of you to relate better through adjusting your awareness of how each of you operates and perhaps accomodating more of your partner's style.
In doing so you will both feel closer, happier, better understood and experience a much more satisfying relationship.
Nick Haynes 2008 Oxfordshire Limited Edition
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