Men and women are such different creatures in so many ways, from our physical anatomy to the way our minds work. Countless books have been written for both genders in an attempt to help them better understand one another, but despite the numerous guides, movies, seminars and life coaches, we still find ourselves facing the same problems: Why does my boyfriend get so defensive? Why doesn’t he understand me/listen more? When will we all just get along?
The old adage Can’t live with them, can’t live without them comes to mind here. It’s an ongoing predicament that never seems to go away, and while there may never be one cure or solution for this issue, by attempting to understand the differences between the way men and women communicate, we are at least paving a smoother road for ourselves that will help decrease the severity of our issues with one another.
Women love to gather around together and just talk about different things, especially their feelings, and they tend to use communication to discover how they are feeling and what exactly they want to see. Women view conversation as a way to share and increase intimacy with their partners and often feel rejected or turned down when they discover that their boyfriend/husband doesn’t want to participate in this “bonding time” with them.
Men, on the other hand, view communication the same way they approach shopping: with a clear purpose. Unlike women who often just go to the mall to look around and hope to be inspired or motivated by certain items that cross their path, men don’t want to go out of their way to meander around. If there’s something they want, they’re going to go get it. If they aren’t seeking anything in specific, they’re not going to go out of their way. This is why men don’t talk as much as women – they like to have a deep conversation when there is a point that needs to be made or a problem that needs to be solved. When men say they are simple creatures, believe them.
Men tend to be more efficient when it comes to time management; women like to take their time when communicating to explore various issues, organize their thoughts and so forth in order to discover what exactly it is they are trying to say. Women aren’t necessarily trying to pinpoint a solution either; they just want someone to listen, understand and support them. This is why women can spend hours talking about their day, while their man will simply say that it was “good” or “busy.” Men try to filter the details and only share what they consider essential information.
When men become upset or stressed out, they often become quiet and withdraw into themselves, trying to forget their problems by watching television, playing video games or doing other mindless activities. They are less likely to want to communicate during these time periods and often withdraw further when their female counterparts try to press them to talk more (not that they’re Chatty Kathies to begin with). Women, on the other hand, misinterpret this silence as a sign that their partner is losing interest or that she is failing to be a good partner to him and that he is withdrawing from her as a form of punishment.
This can be alleviated by giving in to your partner’s need for space, which he will in turn take as you trusting him to work out his problem on his own. Most problems, like a bad day at work, come and go quickly and often won’t matter in the days to come. Sometimes they aren’t even worth talking about or getting upset over because by the time the conversation is started, the problem is already over with so why dwell on it further?
Men also respond to silence better than sound, which is interesting to note. Think back to when you were in high school and your parents would try to lecture you. Most likely you tuned them out or covered your ears and refused to listen to them. If you’re constantly yelling and nagging your man, he is going to want to push you away and not be around you. But if you back off, give him space and even ignore him a little, it’s going to have a greater impact and he is more likely going to come around and try to find out what’s wrong.
Telling vs. Suggesting
If there is one thing that anyone regardless of their gender hates, it’s being told what to do. Men have egos and can be sensitive when they feel that their performance, ability and manliness is at stake or being judged. All men want to do a good job and when their partner says “You should do X,” they take it as an insult and may even get defensive. We women think we’re being constructive when we tell them how they should do something but then it just ends up creating more conflict.
I’ve learned from my personal experience to suggest something instead of telling my boyfriend to do something. I’ve also learned that it’s in my best interest to reinforce positive behavior than it is to reprimand negative behavior. First off, I’m not his mother, so it isn’t my job to play disciplinarian and I know he would only resent me for that. Instead, when my boyfriend does something the way I like, I make sure to give him lots of praise and tell him how happy I am – after being met with this positive reaction, he will feel encouraged to do it again in the future.
Just like you hated being given limits by your parents when you were a teenager, the same goes for men. If you blatantly tell your boyfriend that he can’t have a guys’ night or do something, he’s only going to want to do it more. But if you just give in and trust him (and don’t get me wrong, this isn’t easy but it can be accomplished with practice), not only will you find that your boyfriend doesn’t argue with you but you’ll also discover that he won’t even want to do the things you don’t want him to do. In fact, he may even want to spend more time with you…