I’m a big believer that the universe delivers us the lessons we need, when we need them – irrespective of whether or not we actually want those lessons. And a lesson that I seem to be lumped with on a pretty consistent basis involves the fine art of relationship communication. Or more specifically – the kinda aggravating way in which men communicate (or don’t) with us.
Over the past couple of years I have slowly but surely come to the realisation that if I desire to have a loving and respectful relationship with my partner, I need to adjust my attitude, expectations AND communication style - pronto.
Because like a lot of women I can find myself seething with resentment when I feel that I’m not being listened to, empathised with or taken one thousand percent seriously when in conversation with my partner. Because to me, what I am talking about is super important. And it is his duty to listen to my every utterance and agree with most of it. And THIS is where I believe the problem starts – our differing expectations. I know it - I just need to remind myself of it regularly.
Now, let me share with you what else I have learnt from one failed marriage AND one current (otherwise beautiful) long-term relationship. Of course, not all men are wired the same – just as all women aren’t wired the same. What I am talking about here are the basic differences between men’s and women’s communication styles - there will always be exceptions to the rules! Here we go:
What I have learned about men and how they communicate
1. More than likely, he is not deliberately being difficult
He probably thinks YOU are being difficult (or at the very least – confusing as hell). His brain is literally preventing him from communicating with you as you would like him to. He is hard-wired SO differently to you that behaving in a way that would seem one hundred percent satisfactory to you all of the time would be a near impossibility for him. And the same is true vice-versa.
The sooner we (as in both men and women) can become aware of and accept these differences in our wiring - and hence our needs - the easier and less painful it will be for us to communicate. Easier said than done, I know!
2. Men generally communicate factually, not emotionally
If you’re a woman and anything like me, you want to know how a person is FEELING. You don’t just want to know how his day was – you want to know what was going through his head at any given moment and what drove him to make the decisions he did (OK – slight exaggeration, but you get my drift).
Men? Not so much. You ask him how his day was, and he will probably answer with one or two words. He is not necessarily angry, upset or not wanting to speak with you – it’s just that in his mind, there is simply no need to embellish the facts. Some days, I want a long and meaningful discussion about what we each got up to. THESE are the days I find this difference between men and women difficult. Him? Well, it simply doesn’t occur to him to talk at length about this kind of stuff.
The great thing about men is that they usually mean what they say. They are actually pretty simple creatures when it comes to communication. The problem is that we women often hear things differently (again, not our fault – just the way we are wired). He says ‘I won’t come over tonight – I’d like to catch up with Ben’. We hear ‘You are boring and/or unattractive and I’m rapidly losing interest in you and our relationship. I’d much rather see my mates than be with you’. See the difference?
3. When you have a problem – he wants to SOLVE it
I find this INFURIATING (unless it’s a practical issue which I actually NEED solved – such as a broken-down car). If it’s an emotional/friendship/work issue, all I want is an ear and some comforting words at the end of my story. In the past, I have found it almost hurtful when my partner (both current and exes) scrambles to find me a ‘quick solution’.
Because when he does this, I feel as though my issue is being invalidated by him. That it really isn’t terribly important and that there is an obvious solution at hand – a solution that I wasn’t smart enough to come up with myself! Again – it comes down to our wiring. As women, we want to talk and connect and feel. Men prefer to solve and fix and move on to the next issue. My partner hates seeing me in a state of distress - I need to remind myself that this is why is he attempting to solve rather than sit back.
4. When he is stressed, he may retreat. LET HIM GO
Have you heard of the man cave theory? I am well familiar with it (thanks to both personal experience and Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus by John Gray). It goes something like this:
He is faced with a problem that is causing him considerable stress. He ‘shuts down’. Shutting down may mean not calling or texting for a day or two, or if you live together - not speaking. It is almost as though you are invisible to him and it HURTS! If you’re anything like me you go into panic mode – ‘What have I done? Why doesn’t he like/love me anymore??’
But here is the thing – the problem most likely isn’t you, or the relationship. But whatever it is, he ‘needs’ to solve it. And to solve it he needs solitude so everything – including you – is invisible to him for a time. Of course, if he was a woman, he would be on the phone to his friends, his mother and his counsellor to talk about it. But he’s not a woman. He is a man. And painful as it is for us when this happens – as a man he NEEDS to solve it on his own.
So, hard as it is - LET HIM GO. Don’t call or text or turn up at his house. If you live with him, give him his space. Occupy your mind with anything but him. Literally forget that he exists for a time and do something beautiful for YOU. If it lasts for more than a couple of days, then and ONLY then attempt to communicate with him.
I’m actually becoming quite good at this. I’ve learnt that if I allow him the space he needs he will come back to me refreshed, appreciative and more loving than ever. And the beautiful irony? The more space you give him, the less he’ll need it. AND you get some quality time just for YOU. Win win!
Do you have any other tips for communicating with the opposite sex? Share in the comments!
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