Mars versus Venus
One of the most common reasons that couples want to see a relationship counsellor, is because of a communication breakdown between the two.
Miscommunication between two people can frequently be attributed to style regardless of same sex or opposite sex couples, 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 frustrating, is when one is describing a stressful situation. Women often complain they don’t feel heard in the way they want to because their male partner presents them with a solution. Actually what they really want first and foremost is just to be able to express their feelings and feel heard in a way that both acknowledges the content, and their partner to express empathy. If women fully experience this, then they are more likely to be willing to look at solutions.
Men are often confused by this frustration as they tend to approach the situation differently, by ridding themselves of a stressful situation by problem-solving, so it’s resolved quicker.
Equally, sometimes women are confused when a man discusses his stressful situation. She may show what feels to her like support or sympathy, but he may seem to be unaware of her efforts by sounding grouchy or dismissive.
What is happening?
The answer may lie in the assumptions and preferences that we all have as human beings about life. Some of these assumptions show common 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, with disclosure of feelings. This gives a sense of being part of a network or community and keeps feelings of isolation and loneliness at bay.
Men sometimes will comment on what seems to them as a mundane or trivial conversation that women are having in terms of content, without realising the important social need that conversation represents and underpins. These men believe that any form of content is important and by and large only speak when they feel they have information that adds value to the conversation. Additionally, men often feel threatened by conversations which may lead them to 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: the woman is the problem solver and the man just wants his stressful experience to be witnessed.
By describing a general pattern that when identified, will help both of you to relate to one another, through adjusting your awareness of how each of you operates and perhaps accommodating 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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