HOW MEN AND WOMEN
ARE DIFFERENT - - SO DIFFERENT!
WITH AN AWARENESS OF HOW MEN AND WOMEN ARE SO VERY DIFFERENT, WE ARE THUS FREED FROM THE TENDENCY TO TRY AND CHANGE OUR PARTNERS AT THOSE TIMES WHEN WE ARE NOT GETTING WHAT WE WANT. ( Please read that sentence again.)
With a greater level of acceptance and understanding, not only does love flourish, but we can also much more wisely and effectively apply new skills for getting what we want.
Through understanding our historical and evolutionary development, we can take what is useful from our past and update it in ways that do not reject our genetic makeup, but can expand or stretch ourselves to be more of who we can be.
Trying to ignore differences , however, only creates more confusion and frustration between the sexes. The generalizations I make about men and women are certainly not true for everyon e at all times, but they are certainly true for a lot of people a lot of the time. When they do not apply to your situation or experience, just set them aside like an outfit that others may buy but that you don’t. What is most important is that when the differences do show up, you will have positive and useful relationship skills for coping with them.
Understanding these broad categories of differences helps you to accept them in a noncritical way, and then assists you in working with them instead of against them. I have found that these differences begin to show up even more when couples once begin to have intimate relationships; in some cases, they begin to show up even more when the couple has children.
In recen t years, a multitude of scientific studies clearly indicate many differences between men’s and women’s brains as well as in the way they use them. While these studies do concretely show differences, it is still too soon for scientists to know exactly what these differences mean.
In general , however, it can he said that women tend to use both sides of their brains simultaneously, while men use one side or the other. This means that a man tends to use either his left brain language skills or his right brain spatial problem- solving skills, while a woman uses both at the same time.
Studies have revealed that some women have much more corpus callosum, or connective tissue, between the two hemispheres of the brain, which would account for a woman’s tendency to use both sides of the brain simultaneously. Even though some women do not have more connective tissue, MRI brain scans reveal that these women still have a tendency to use both sides of the brain simultaneously. While some men may have more corpus callosurn than some women, these men still use only one side of the brain at a time, while the women use both . The impact of this difference is staggering.
While we eagerly wait for more studies that will reveal just how men and women use their brains differently, what has already been discovered can dramatically assist us in understanding some of the great mysteries between the sexes.
BODIES, BRAINS, AND HORMONES
Over the course of evolution, men’s and women’s bodies, brains, and hormones have become very specialized to best support their different roles and activities. A man, for example, is most efficiently wired to cope with strong emotions by silently problem solving. As a hunter and protector in the jungle, he adapted to his role and coped with strong feelings of fear, anger, and loss through silently problem solving. By planning his strategies to protect himself and his family, he was able to most effectively cope with his feelings.
Women, on the other hand, have adapted to their role of nurturer and have learned to cope with feelings and problem solving primarily through talking and sharing with others in the family and community. Not only does this reflect a woman’s tendency to use both sides of her brain at the same time, but repeatedly in scientific testing women show an advantage when it comes to left brain language skills, while men have an advantage when tests require right brain spatial skills.
HOW OUR BRAINS ARE ORGANIZED DIFFERENTLY
That talking is an integral part of femininity makes perfect sense when we learn that the female brain is organized in a way that allows her to communicate feelings more efficiently. Females’ extra connective tissue, which is comprised of billions more neuroconnectors between the feelings and the language center of the brain, allows little girls to develop language skills before little boys do. Most commonly, at an earlier stage of development girls will use many more words than boys. This difference is repeatedly validated in the testing of children.
While a girl’s brain is developing to express her communication abilities, a boy tends to develop his spatial skills. Spatial skills, for example, help us to determine how far to throw a ball, or where to run to get help and how to get there. The development of spatial skills allows a boy to “do something about it” when he is emotionally distressed. Spatial skills for him are an integral part of problem solving.
As any parent knows, at an early age a girl’s impulse is to talk, sometimes without thinking, while a boy’s impulse is to act, sometimes, as well, without thinking. When a girl feels supported in talking without the fear of rejection or loss of love, then she is eventually able to grow the neuroconnectors that allow her to feel, speak, and think at the same time.
As an adult, when she is upset and is not thinking clearly, she will instinctively want to talk to someone who will just listen. This support helps her to reconnect her thinking to her feelings and make sense of the situation to determine what to do. When a woman is distressed, she seeks out help in the form of some one to listen to her articulate her feelings.
On the other hand, when a boy feels safe to act without fear of abusive punishment or the loss of love, he has the freedom to act, make mistakes, and then think about what he did and correct his behavior . This self-corrective mechanism allows him to learn from his mistakes . Eventually, he can grow the neuroconnectors needed to feel and then think before acting.
When a man is upset and not thinking clearly, he will instinctively want to move around. He may simply pace back and forth just to satisfy his urge to do something before he has figured out the right thing to do . Any simple, mindless activity will help him to express his feelings of wanting to do something while he is trying to use the right side of his brain to figure out what to do.
Just as spatial skills are required for playing games like basketball, soccer, and football, they are also required for the hunter to stalk his prey, accurately throw a spear, and then find his way back home. When we consider how long men have specialized in being the hunters and protectors, it is no wonder that our brains are organized so differently.
While a woman may be quicker to speak out about her feelings, a man will tend to more quickly act to solve a problem. While she will want to explore a problem more fully through talking, a man will be restless to do something about it. While neither approach is necessarily better, the best approach is when we work together.
From the dawn of time, a man’s ability to throw spears was essential for his very survival, just as a woman’s ability to talk and form relationships was responsible for her survival. It is no wonder that our brains develop so differently, with a woman able to more efficiently communicate her feelings, while a man can more efficiently detach from his feelings to consider a problem and its solution.
A man generally has to think about a feeling before he can talk about it. A woman can feel, talk, and think all at the same time. She most efficiently sorts out her own thoughts and feelings by talking. He, however, silently mulls things over.
DIFFERENT BRAIN MAPS
We can visually imagine that as a girl’s brain develops, billions of neuroconnectors are mapped out from her emotional centers to the talking center in the brain. In a boy’s brain, other priorities are operating. The right side of the brain, required to shoot arrows, hit a target, and then find the way back home, develops first. Eventually, a boy does develop his language center and a girl develops her action center, but the way we use these centers as adults ends up being very different. As a result of this different order of development, a man’s emotions are more tied into action problem solving and not talking, while a woman’s emotions are more tied to communication and then problem solving.
A man’s brain first develops billions of neuroconnectors between his emotions and his action center. When he is emotionally charged or upset, he generally wants to do something about it. Finding a solution is his priority. Certainly, a woman will also act to solve problems, but because of the way her brain develops, her initial tendency is to first talk about it.
A woman has billions ot neuroconnectors between. her.feelings and the talking center.. In a sense, she has. superhighways ..connecting her feelings to. speech. When a man attempts to put his feelings into words, he needs to first think about what he wants to say. For him to express his feelings in words, there are no freeways and he has to take winding back roads.
First he has the feeling, then he wants to do something, then, in analyzing the feeling and what he can do about it, he decides if it is useful to talk about it. He then has to move over to the left side of the brain and begin formulating the words for these feelings . After he talks and new feelings come up, the whole process then has to start over. This is hard for a woman to instinctively understand because, as mentioned before, she tends to feel, talk, and think all at the same time.
BOYS WILL BE BOYS AND GIRLS WILL BE GIRLS
This difference in brain development is most commonly seen in various childhood behaviors . One study revealed this difference in a very dramatic way. In the experiment, a mother was asked to enter a room where her toddler was already sitting. In the room, the mother was separated by a glass wall from her child. She was instructed to stand in front of the glass wall with a neutral expression. The results of this experiment showed a very clear difference in the way boys and
If the toddler was a boy, he would see his mother, become distressed that she was not holding him, and begin crawling to her. When he arrived at the glass wall, he would attempt to push it over or try to climb over it. Eventually, his mother would reach over the wall and pick him up.
When the toddler was a girl, she would see her mother and, like the little boy, she would become distressed that she was not being held. But then instead of crawling to her and trying to overcome the glass wall like the little boy toddler, the little girl would make eye contact and then cry out. The boys consistently expressed their feelings through action, while the girls expressed their feelings verbally.
MALE AND FEMALE COGNITIVE DEVELOPMENT
At a later stage in the brain’s development for both boys and girls, the logical or cognitive centers begin to develop. At this stage of development, billions of new neuroconnectors are made to the cognitive or thinking parts of the brain. Again we see this development reflected in common male and female tendencies.
When a woman is upset, her first tendency is to talk about it, then as she continues to talk, her cognitive abilities set in and she can think about what she is saying and feeling and thus sort it out . She starts out in the feeling part of the brain, then she travels to the communication part, and from there she goes to the thinking portion. This is her most natural route because this is the order in which her skills developed. Gradually, over time, she develops the ability to feel, talk, and think at the same time.
For a man, his process of dealing with feelings is different because his skills developed in another order. First his feeling center develops, next his action center, and then his thinking. When he is upset, his first tendency is to do something about it. Action leads him to clearer thinking. Gradually, over time, he develops the ability to feel, act, and think at the same time.
Because of these very significant differences in the way our brains develop, men and women behave and communicate very differently. Men use communication primarily as another tool to express their thinking in order to achieve some goal or solve a problem. Women use communication for this reason as well, hut they also depend on communication as a way to connect with their feelings and as a way to clarify their thinking. Communication has a much greater significance for a woman.
In a similar way, action is more significant to men. Action is like a pump that activates the thinking part of a man’s brain. Like men, women use action as a way to solve problems, but for men it is much more. Action is the most significant way for a man to find mental clarity and to express his feelings for someone.
HOW OUR DIFFERENCES AFFECT OUR RELATIONSHIPS
Women do not instinctively understand a man’s need to silently reflect on his feelings and thoughts at the times when she would want to talk and share. Conversely, men don’t instinctively understand a woman’s need to talk about problems. As a result, we experience endless frustration in our relationships with the other sex.
Quite commonly I hear women express the following complaints:
1. When he is upset, he will not talk.
2. After we get close, he pulls away and doesn’t want to talk.
3. When I talk about my feelings, he can’t just listen and feel what I am feeling Instead he starts problem solving.
4. He feels very uncomfortable when I cry.
5. He rarely, if ever, says he loves me.
6. He doesn’t open up and share his feelings.
7. He just doesn’t understand what I need when I am upset.
8. When he argues, he always has to be right.
Understanding our brain differences can help us to understand why these many complaints are so commonly expressed by women about men. For example, when women are upset, they commonly tend to resolve their feelings by talking. Through talking, they are able to think about their feelings, sort through or “process” conflicting feelings, and find resolution.
Men “process” feelings differently. They silently feel their feelings and think about what is bothering them, and then begin problem solving. Simply by using his right brain to problem-solve, he temporarily disengages from his feelings and automatically cools off . This is what happens when, as I put it in Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus, a man retreats “into his cave” to cool off.
With this extra insight from understanding how our brains are different, women can begin to understand the answers to their biggest questions about men. Let’s look again at the eight complaints listed above and explore briefly how both men and women can solve these problems.
1. When he is upset, he will not talk. It is not necessarily a fear of intimacy that causes a man to withdraw emotionally and not talk about his feelings, but it is commonly his most efficient way to cope with strong feelings, negative or positive. His brain is organized to problem-solve as a way to minimize feelings and regain control of himself.
While many men will always do this, they can, however, eventually learn to open up later, after they have sorted things out, and then share what was bothering them.
2. After we get close, he pulls away and doesn’t want to talk. When a man gets close, many times strong feelings come up. To a certain extent, when these feelings come up, his mind goes blank and he loses a sense of control. As we have discussed, it is not easy for him to feel and think at the same time. He feels awkward and really doesn’t know what to do or say . To regain his grip, he feels a pull to engage himself in some easy problem-solving activity before he can return again to intimacy.
While men, to various degrees, will always pull away after a period of closeness and intimacy, the amount of time a man needs for himself eventually becomes less and less as he feels that his partner accepts this tendency. On the other hand, if she is always wanting to be close to him, he will feel a greater need to pull away.
3. When I talk about my feelings, he can’t just listen and feel what I am feeling , instead he starts problem solving. While it is easy for women to feel, talk, and think at the same time, it is much more difficult for many men. A man will tend to listen and talk (left brain activity) or he will feel, think, and problem-solve (right brain activity). When a man listens and connects with a woman (left brain activity), he suddenly wants to minimize the uncomfortable feelings he begins to feel through problem solving (right brain activity).
To shift to problem solving, he has to use his right brain and hence stops listening, or using his left brain. Remember, men use either one side of the brain or the othei; not both at the same time like women. While this may work for him, it actually interferes with her way of processing feelings.
To a great extent, for a man to listen (left brain activity), after a while he will always feel a need to begin problem solving (right brain activity). This does not mean, though, that he can’t be a great listener.
Once a man really understands that when a woman is upset the problem she needs solved is her unfulfilled need to feel heard, then he can stay focused on her feelings without problem solving because he doesn’t feel immediately responsible for solving her problems. He can listen better because he is motivated to stay on the left side of his brain . H e knows he can support her best by listening to what she is saying and trying to understand why she must be feeling the way she feels.
When he recognizes that no matter what she is upset about, he is solving her problem by understanding the validity of what she is saying, then his left brain mental activity of listening is not disturbed by his usual tendency to shift to the right brain to solve problems.
4. HE FEELS UNCOMFORTABLE WHEN I CRY.
After listening and connecting to what she is feeling (left brain activity) while she is crying, he then moves back to his right brain to feel his feelings in reaction. As his right brain feelings emerge, he then automatically begins to problem-solve.
After offering his solutions, he doesn’t know what to do because she is not in a place where she is open to solutions. Feeling powerless, he becomes increasingly frustrated, which makes him feel the need to find a solution even more, which then increases his frustration.
“This pattern is easily transformed when a man understands that by listening and understanding her feelings without offering solutions he is solving her problem. With this awareness he can relax and not get frustrated because he knows that he is doing exactly what is needed.
5. HE RARELY, IF EVER, SAYS HE LOVES ME.
Quite commonly, when a man feels emotionally connected or attracted to a woman, he will suddenly become inarticulate when asking her out on a date . It is hard for him to think straight and communicate when he is feeling strong feelings. Remember, he has less connective tissue between his feelings (right brain activity) and the communication center of his brain (left brain activity).
The stronger his feelings, the less he is able to put them into words. When he feels strong feelings of love, he is commonly speechless. This is hard for women to understand because they are not.
Certainly, men do say “I love you,” but when they do, it is not just a spontaneous expression of a feeling easily translated into speech, instead it is expressed to solve a problem. it is his way of letting her know his intentions. In essence, when he says “I love you,” there is a “point to saying it.” And once he has said it, he doesn’t instinctively have a reason to say it again and again.
Once a man learns that women thrive on being told they are loved, then a man has a reason for saying it more often. If saying it will solve a problem, then the feeling of love is more easily translated into speech. With a little practice, it can almost become spontaneous. Not only will she benefit, but he, too, will experience the pleasure of feeling his love for her each time he says it
6. HE DOESN’T OPEN UP AND SHARE HIS FEELINGS.
This is hard for women to understand because when they have a problem they generally feel a need to talk. Repeatedly, this difference in brain wiring is revealed through MRI brain scans. When women use the language centers of their left brains, they also use the problem-solving skills of their right brains.
When a man is bothered by something, he first needs to calm down by trying to solve his problems by himself. By using the right brain to silently solve it, he can get a grip on the problem and begin to relax. If, however, he immediately talks about it, using his left brain, he loses his right brain grip and can easily he swept away by emotions of fear, frustration, et cetera.
Most of the time, he withdraws to mull things over and eventually he minimizes the problem and his negative feelings go away. He may say to himself, “It is no big deal, I will just forgive and forget.” Then, when he is back and available for a relationship, because his feelings are released he has nothing to say. This creates a lot of confusion. She commonly misunderstands and thinks he is withholding his feelings when, from his side, there really is nothing to talk about.
If a man and a woman have a tense interaction or unpleasant argument, it is very healthy to take a time-out. With this understanding of men, it helps a woman give the man the time he needs to cool off and mull over what happened.
To reconnect, however, it is very helpful if the man initiates a conversation about what happened. This is a new skill for men to learn. Instinctively he feels there is no point to talking because he has already resolved his feelings and has nothing to say . However, taking into consideration a woman’s need to talk, he now has a reason to initiate conversation even when he has little to say. Advanced relationship skills require a man to initiate conversation not because he wants to talk but because he knows she needs to talk to feel connected.
To initiate a conversation after he has cooled off is important because a woman generally panics when he doesn’t want to talk about what happened. A woman fears that he is suppress-ing his feelings and that they will eventually turn to resentment. She is afraid because if she doesn’t talk, she instinctively knows she will begin to feel resentful.
Through understanding this potential problem, a man can learn to solve it by now initiating a conversation even when he has little need to talk. When he is back and feeling better, then he can easily initiate a conversation in order to assist her in talking and feeling that she is heard. Men don’t generally do this because the last thing they would do is start a conversation when they have little to say. The total situation changes when he understands the value in supporting her in talking more
7. HE JUST DOESN’T UNDERSTAND
WHAT I NEED WHEN I AM UPSET.
When a man is upset, he moves to his right brain to problem-solve, cool off, and feel better. He does this through analyzing what is bothering him, thinking of solutions, and minimizing the problem. When a woman is upset, rather than just encouraging her to talk more, which is what she needs to do, he attempts to prevent her from talking by offering solutions . He doesn’t realize how he is making it worse for her.
When she says “You don’t understand,” he becomes even more involved in explaining his solutions to prove that he understands. With this new perspective, a man can eventually learn to support her by focusing on understanding why she is upset rather than offering to solve her problem. When a man experiences how helpful it is for her if he just says nothing and tries to empathize with her feelings, then it becomes much easier for him to be a better listener.
By learning to stay calm and centered while listening to a woman, a man is actually developing more connection between his left and right brain. This will eventually give him the ability to share his own feelings in a calm and centered way.
8. WHEN HE ARGUES,
HE ALWAYS HAS TO BE RIGHT.
When a man experiences strong emotions, it is imperative that he uses his right brain to problem-solve and find control, otherwise he has the tendency to do something without thinking.
There is a reason why 90 percent of the people who go to jail are men. These men had strong feelings and acted on them without thinking, It is not that they were necessarily bad people, but instead they hadn’t developed the billions of neuroconnectors in their brains to restrain themselves from acting on strong feelings. As a result of their crimes, they then go to jail where, hopefully, they can learn to think before they act.
When a man is upset, it is imperative for him to calm his feelings through clear thinking. Then, based on clear thinking, he can act successfully. This is why men instinctively feel a need to be right whein they are upset. If they get upset and they are wrong, they not only cause a lot of trouble but also get into trouble.
Women do not feel such a strong need to be right when they are upset because they are not about to do something. When women are upset, they are more apt to talk first rather than suddenly doing something without thinking. This difference shows up statistically in the number of women who go to therapists to talk about their feelings. Ninety percent of the people who see therapists are women. This, however, is not so surprising when we understand how women use their brains differently.
When women are upset, they are not emotionally attached to finding the “right thinking to solve the problem”; instead, they are emotionally attached to being heard so that they can sort through their feelings, and then if there is a problem that needs to he solved, they can focus on the solution.
Unfortunately, a man’s tendency to he right has the effect of making a woman feel that her feelings are wrong. When she is upset with him, he instinctively explains why he was right in what he did or said. As a direct result, she feels he is saying that she does not have the right to he upset.
Once a man understands this problem, he can solve it. Instead of being right, he can focus on solving the problem by “doing the right thing.” As he learns that listening and validating her feelings is the best solution, he can let go of his defensive tendency to explain away her feelings and be right.
Understanding this difference is also very important for women. If a man is upset and wants to be right about a certain point, the only way to be heard is to postpone the conversation and give him time to cool off. As a general rule, the more upset he gets, the more he will want to be right and the less able he will be to empathize or sympathize with her point of view.
TAKE A DEEP BREATH AND COUNT TO TEN
WE HAVE ALL HEARD THE OLD ADAGE THAT TELLS US TO TAKE A DEEP BREATH AND COUNT TO TEN WHEN WE GET ANGRY. This particularly applies to men. When a man counts or does math problems in his head, he begins moving to the problem-solving part of his brain and his turbulent emotions gradually subside. This shifting to the right side of his brain gives him more objectivity to understand what is bothering him and what he must do about it . It protects him from acting on his feelings without first thinking.
This shifting is particularly helpful when he is using his left brain and is about to say something to communicate his angry feelings. The best thing he can do is to not talk but to shift gears by moving to his right hrain through counting to ten or doing math problems.
This technique is not designed for women, and it doesn’t work as well for them. Instead of counting to use her right brain, it is much more helpful for a woman to use her left brain. When a woman moves to the left side of her brain to formulate her thoughts to talk, it actually helps her to gain the objectivity she needs to better understand herself and the situation.
HOW MEN DEAL WITH FEELINGS DIFFERENTLY
When a man puts his feelings into action, he is able to more effectively sort them out. Simple, goal-oriented activities like sports allow him to more fully activate the thinking part of his brain and more effectively deal with emotions.
A close male friend of mine was given the very terrible news that his daughter had cancer—which I knew about from my wife before he called to tell me. After a normal exchange of greetings, he announced that he had bad news, then paused. “I already heard from Bonnie,” I said to spare him having to go through the bad news again.
After another pause, he asked me if I was free to play some tennis . I said I was, and we arranged to meet at the neighbor-hood courts in a few minutes.
When I told Bonnie where I was going, she understood perfectly and told me to give my friend a hug for her.
During the game, when my friend and I changed sides or went to the net to retrieve balls, we’d exchange a few words. Then we’d play some more, then talk some more. For him, playing tennis—something he did well and enjoyed—allowed him an opportunity to express his feelings about what had happened. Talking was how he could sum up his ideas and then receive my feedback and support. But the way he connected with his feelings in the first place was by playing tennis.
In focusing his attention and energy on keeping the ball in the court, he was able to contact and express his frustration at not being able to remove the cancer: when he hit it long or wide, he was connecting with the pain of not being the perfect father and reflecting on possible mistakes he had made; when the ball stayed in, he connected with his desire to do the right thing and be the best father he could. By connecting with his desire to beat me and win, he fueled his desire to beat this cancer and save his daughter.
After the game, sitting on a bench by the court, we explored different ways of effectively supporting his little girl through the coming ordeal. Throughout our conversation, he automatically connected with and occasionally expressed his fears of losing his daughter, along with his deep feelings of love for her. At this point, I gave him a hug from me, followed by the one Bonnie had asked me to send him.
This story has a happy ending. My friend’s child was successfully treated, and today is fine.
In pointing out how men need to do things to help process their feelings, I don’t mean to imply that it is not helpful for a man to talk about his feelings. Every man has a female side, and talking is the means by which it can most effectively be nurtured. However, he must first take care to think and cool off before talking.
HOW MEN RECEIVE LOVE DIFFERENTLY
It is through his actions that a man can most directly connect to his feelings, and it is through acknowledging and appreciating his actions that he feels most loved. Appreciation of a man’s decisions, efforts, and actions is the most direct route to his heart. Likewise, it is forgiveness of his mistakes or actions that also nurtures his masculine side. This acceptance frees him to most effectively experience the fullness of feeling loved, and in return become more loving. Women do not instinctively understand this because their feelings are directly connected to the brain’s talking—not acting—centers.
Women mistakenly give the kind of loving support they themselves want without intuiting a man’s needs. When a man is distressed, women think they are being very loving by trying to get him to talk. They do not instinctively realize that the best thing they can do is to lovingly accept him by giving him lots of space arid then, when he is directly supportive, to respond warmly in a way that says she is glad to have him in her life. With this new awareness of how men feel loved, women can begin to focus their support in ways that matter most to their mates. On a very basic level, our brains and bodies have, over the millennia, developed specifically to deal with the unique stresses of traditional men’s and women’s work. Although modern lifestyles are rapidly dispensing with those roles, evolution has yet to catch up and produce new coping mechanisms.
Chief among the traditional female coping mechanisms is communication. For the nurturer women of long ago, talking in a non-goal-oriented way, while giving and receiving sympathy, was essential to peace of mind and generated feelings of security and belonging. Years ago, women with children were much more vulnerable and were dependent on the goodwil l of others. Before government welfare programs and expanded legal rights and educational opportunities, women had to rely on others for security and safety . If her husband left her or died, a woman depended on her family and community to take care of her, so she had to maintain strong relationships with those around her . Talking connected her to her support network and made her feel secure. When a modern woman today is upset and begins talking, she is automatically connecting with that time-honored feeling of security.
* * * * * * * * * * * * *
WHY WOMEN NEED TO
TALK ABOUT PROBLEMS
As a common practice, nurturer women shared their problems with each other not to directly ask for help but to share sympathy and community . Problem solving was secondary to the exercise of the cooperative spirit.
Women supported each other unconditionally, without being asked and expecting nothing in return. This cooperative sharing strengthened relationships within the community and ensured a woman’s and her children’s survival should she be widowed.
Talking about problems, sharing feelings, and ,articulating desires became a feminine ritual to create greater intimacy and express loyalty to the community. Today, when a woman goes to a counselor, she is seeking out that same support. Most counselors and therapists, it should be noted, are trained to listen most attentively rather than focus on problem solving. Hence, the process offers tremendous support for women in coping with day-to-day stress.
Through talking and feeling heard in therapy, women come to feel nurtured, and the weight of their problems lifts. Once able to relax and proceed at a more easygoing pace, they can begin to deal with their problems.
WHEN MEN OFFER ADVICE
Men instinctively don’t understand this and, unlike therapists, are not trained in how to support feelings effectively. When a woman talks about her feelings, he assumes she is seeking his help to solve her problems and instinctively responds to her feelings by offering help or advice.
Take a fireman, for example. When he receives a call, he must get the size and location of the fire as quickly as possible and then do something to put out the fire. Asking a lot of extra questions and offering empathy is no t part of his job
Imagine thi s scene . A fireman receives a call and responds by saying, “You have a fire. How awful. How does it feel? Really. Have you ever been in a real fire before? It is hot . I’ve been to a lot of them. I’m. sorry it’s. so. hot.. Are. you all. alone?. .... . “ Obviously, this kind of empathetic response would be out of place.
This simple but dramatic example helps women to understand why listening with- out offering solutions can be so difficult for men. It is truly a new job description for a man to learn to listen without trying to immediately put out the fire.
When a man becomes restless while listening to a woman it is not because he doesn’t care about her . It’s because every cell in his body is saying: If there is a fire, let’s get out of here and put it out. If there is a problem, he wants to do some-thing about it (even if it’s wrong) and not just talk about it.
MODERN MEN NEED TO UNDERSTAND THAT MODERN WOMEN NEED, MORE THAN ANYTHING ELSE, THE OPPORTUNITY TO TALK ABOUT THEIR FEELINGS WITHOUT FOCUSING ON SOLV-ING THE PROBLEMS THAT CAUSE THEM. By responding with some empathy, sympathy, and understanding, he makes sure that her female side is well nurtured so that she can throw off her feelings of being overwhelmed. Gradually, as she shifts back to her female side, her heart will he full of appreciation and love for him. In a practical sense, by just listening he frees her to forget the urgency of her problems and remember what a great guy he is.
When a woman is unhappy and talks about problems, a man must remind himself that it is not him but modern culture that demands that she must bear the stress of having two full-time careers—homemaker and wage earner—at once. Remembering that he is not the prime source of her frustration helps him to not feel blamed when she is unhappy. This awareness frees him to better sympathize with her rather than defend himself.
HOW MEN COPE.
Men commonly cope with stress differently. For instance, by working at achieving a simple goal like driving the car, or hitting a tennis hall around, teeing off, or shooting hoops, a man sorts out his thoughts and concerns, clarifies his values and priorities, and develops a plan of action. It gives him a sense of security.
Remember, a hunter’s survival is ensured by moving quietly and then striking. Through his hunting—or problem-solving—skills, his family’s security is ensured. It is the subconscious hunter, buried deep inside the contemporary man, who feels secure when he lobs a paper ball into the wastebasket across the room.
If a man can put his feelings into action, he begins to feel more in control. By just simply pacing back and forth when he is frustrated, he can find the same relief a woman might feel through talking. Through understanding this vital difference, men and women can more effectively support each other.
WHY MEN DON’T UNDERSTAND WOMEN.
When a man solves a problem , he feels relieved and happy. So when a woman talks abou t problems, he mistakenly assumes that to feel better she needs to solve them rather than to talk about them and be heard.
Without being taught that she needs to be heard, he will interrupt by offering solutions. When she doesn’t feel appreciative of his solutions, he then also feels upset . Instead of getting the nurturing she needs in order to cope, a woman feels even more stressed . Instead of successfully solving her problems, he feels like a failure.
After a few arguments like this, she will close up to a void making things worse. In the long run, this will only increase her level of stress . She will become ever increasingly overwhelmed, and communication will become more and more difficult.
SILENTLY SITTING ON A ROCK.
It’s crucial to remember that one of the most significant differences between men and women is that while women cope with stress through sharing in nurturing relationships, men cope through solving problems. Traditionally, men have dealt with their problems by silently and patiently thinking up solutions.
Ancient hunters would sit on a rock and silently search the horizon, looking and listening for their prey, or looking across the plains at their target, studying its movements and planing the attack.
This process of sitting, waiting, scheming, and planning allowed him to relax and conserve energy for the inevitable chase. Focusing kept his mind off the fear of being attacked or of missing his target, and when he achieved his goal he returned home a happy, stress man. One happy warier!
WHY MEN WATCH TV.
When a modern man comes home, quite commonly he sits in his favorite chair and either reads the newspaper or watches TV. Like the ancient hunter who needed to recover from the stress of his day, he instinctively finds his rock to sit on and begins gazing off into the horizon.
Through reading or listening to the news he is, in effect, looking out over the world or scanning the horizon. As he picks up the remote control and begins searching through the stations, or turns the pages of his paper, he is once more in control: he silently and swiftly continues his hunt.
As he assumes this ancient posture, deep and reassuring feelings of security begin to emerge. Feeling in control, he is able to most effectively cope with the stress of not having immediate solutions to the problems of his life. Through this instinctive ritual he is able to temporarily forget his problems at work and is eventually ready for the relationship.
WHEN WOMEN DON’T UNDERSTAND MEN
When men today attempt to fulfill their need to be solitary, the modern woman commonly misunderstands . She mistakenly assumes that he wants her to initiate a conversation. She thinks he is waiting for her to notice that he is distressed, and that he wants her to ask him what is bothering him. She does not realize that he really wants to be left alone.
When she persists in asking, he becomes increasingly annoyed and sends her what he thinks are clear messages to leave him alone, but she misinterprets his cues. Here is a common pattern.
In each of these examples, the woman’s reaction is based on a misunderstanding. If a woman is to support a man in coming back to the relationship, her new job description requires her to understand this difference and accept his need for space. As we will continue to see, this doesn’t mean that she must sacrifice her need for conversation. What is required, however, is a new sense of timing.
For a woman to get a man back into a relationship, her new job description requires her to accept his need for space.
WHY MEN PULL AWAY
When a woman learns the skill of temporarily postponing her needs and allows a man the time he needs to shift gears from his work life to his home life, she creates a fertile ground for him to find his love for her and then act on it. As he grows accustomed to this support, he begins to anticipate it. At this point, just the thought of returning home begins releasing his stress. The more he gets this kind of support, the less he needs to pull away from his mate.
Without this advanced relationship skill a woman unknowingly prevents her male partner from successfully making the transition from work to home. Through her demanding more of him or reacting negatively to his need for private time, he may never relax enough to come back into the relationship. If the downward spiral continues, it can actually hinder a man from contacting his loving feelings. He may even believe that he doesn’t love his partner anymore.
When a man arrives home to a needy woman, he continues to pull away and never learns how to open up. The more he feels pressured to talk or be “in relationship,” the more he needs to back off to relax. He can most effectively forget the demands of his job when he feels no pressure or demands from his mate.
When a man returns home to a non-demanding woman, he feels free to take the time he needs to relax. He can then automatically shift gears and give his partner the love she deserves. When a man is not expected to give more, he automatically wants to. Literally thousands of women who have studied advanced relationship skills report that this single insight has magically transformed their relationships.
WHEN MEN DON ‘T UNDERSTAND WOMEN
When a woman is emotionally distressed, a man mistakenly assumes that if she is to feel better, she needs some solitary time just like he does. He will tend to ignore her and give her lots of space because that is precisely the kind of support he would want. To ignore her, however is the worst thing he can do.
Even if he asks her what is bothering her, he may misread what she really needs . Again, let’s look at a common pattern. Tom say s to Mary, “What’s wrong? You seem upset.” Mary says, “Oh , it’s nothing.” Mary is silently saying, “Nothing is bothering me, unless of course you really care. Then you will show m e by standing here and asking me more questions.”
Tom says, “OK, ” and walks away . He is silently saying, “It’s OK if you don’t want to talk about it. I understand if you want some space . I’ll support you by acting like everything is OK . I trust that you can handle it.”
Tom actually thinks he is being supportive and has no idea that he has just failed the test. Most men thin k like Tom , but almost any woman would instinctively understand that when Mary said , “Nothing’s wrong,” she really wanted him to ask more questions and draw her out. When a woman says “Nothing’s wrong,” something usually is, and she needs to talk about it to a listener who is interested and cares. She wants to be asked questions that will eventually help her to open up.
WHAT YOUR MOTHER COULDN’T TELL
YOU & YOUR FATHER DIDN’T KNOW
Copyright @ 1994 - J. G . Productions, Inc.
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© Church of the Science of GOD, 1993