The sheer nature of boss-employee relationship, regardless of how laid-back it might be, guarantees that there will be at least some friction and tension. The boss, in essence, needs you to do some work for them and has a spectrum of tools to use in getting what they want out of you. This will always cause strain, that’s just how it is. Work-related stress falls under the top five life pressures for the majority of working people. Read more “Difficult Bosses: A Man’s Survival Guide”
In our previous blog “Attachment Styles and How We Relate to Others” we talked about four main ways in which we tend to form our relationships and try to satisfy our emotional needs
We also mentioned that attachment styles are something that we acquire in our childhood and mostly stick to it throughout our lives.
This post will dig deeper into what potential problems a non-secure attachment style can cause for our life and that of our partners, as well as why and how we can prevent or stop maladaptive behavior in romantic relationships.
Where is the problem?
Our attachments originate from our first attachment experience, that with our primary caretaker, usually our mothers. Following this relationship, we build on it over the course our formative years and add in different beliefs about the world and the people that surround us.
With time, we incorporate all our early experiences and form what we believe to be our own way of approaching others and needing them. Yet, the problem arises basically from the fact that, when we first acquired our attachment style, we had fairly shallow and necessarily limited understanding of the world. But we rarely revisit these deeply rooted feelings, ways and beliefs as adults.
So, if we grew up, for example, with our needs in childhood being inconsistently satisfied, or not at all, it is possible that we will form a worldview in which we, on one hand, have strong need for intimacy, but on the other, we strongly doubt that we are worth it.
In other words, the fact that our needs were unpredictably satisfied when we were growing up made us develop a profound feeling of our own inadequacy, of not being deserving of love and praise. We interpreted this situation as being our fault because we lack what was needed to receive the affection that we needed. And we hardly ever set our intention to address such conviction when we grow up – we just have an overwhelming feeling of not being good enough, while we also crave closeness and bond. We develop a preoccupied attachment style, and spend our relationships in an anxious and insatiable need for closeness that we never seem to satisfy to the fullest. This especially becomes a problem if we seek out a dismissive partner, which is often the case. Then our behavior could be, and often is, described as clingy, possessive, demanding of attention, and it is often what drives others away.
Or, if you grew up to be a dismissive-avoidant individual, you will most likely indulge in pseudo-independence, as you probably decided that “you don’t need anyone” as a way of coping with unsatisfied emotional needs as a child. You learned to shut down emotionally and to disconnect easily from others, often as a consequence of being or feeling abandoned by your caretaker(s). This might have worked for you at that moment and helped you cope with enormous pain of not being able to develop closeness with your mother or father figures, but such strategy prevents you from forming significant relationships and experience intimacy as an adult, robbing you of a very important aspect of life.
Fearful-avoidant attachment style is often developed in a household where the child could not count on his or her needs being met, even when it comes to the most basic ones. It is not uncommon that a fearful-avoidant adult survived a trauma as a child. Such person will realize the need for an intimate relationship with others and crave it, but also feel terrified of the possibility of being hurt. As a result, the romantic relationships that you will experience will be explosive, full of turmoil and stress, often described as passionate and wild, but basically highly unhealthy for everyone involved.
What to do about our non-secure attachment styles?
In short, as adults, we will tend to confirm our deep-seated and most commonly unconscious convictions of how interpersonal relationships should look like, and especially how romantic partners ought to interact. Unfortunately, if our attachment style is insecure, these beliefs will set a stage for countless troubles and heartbreaks. This is why it is important to determine our attachment style and to address any non-secure elements with a psychotherapist who will help you find your way through this maze.
Especially helpful for this kind of issue is eye movement desensitization and reprocessing therapy (or EMDR). For most of us, our memories begin with recollections of what had happened to us when we were somewhere around the age of 5. Yet, the relational trauma and the development of insecure attachment style mostly occurs even earlier in our childhood, when our memories are non-verbal and remain in the sphere of emotions. This is why EMDR is highly effective choice of treatment, as it mobilizes the brain’s adaptive information processing mechanisms and can, therefore, re-pattern our non-secure attachment style that was formed before our thinking became predominantly verbal.
By choosing to work on your attachment style with a psychotherapist, you can finally free yourself of your early experiences and your early understanding of the world, and liberate yourself to form authentic and meaningful intimate relationships.
Regardless of how many times a breakup might happen to a person, whether it is the first time or the hundredth, whether you are the one who ended it or you were abandoned, for whatever reason, after whatever amount of time spent in that relationship, there is one universal fact, and that is – it is a change, one that more often than not comes very difficult to both and brings many hardships.
People cope with this fact of life in many ways, usually finding their way to deal with all the emotions and to move on somehow. But, there are both adaptive and destructive paths on this journey. First might help you become a better version of you, while the latter could cause a lot of pain, problems, and negativity for both you and your ex-partner. This post will go over both what to do and what not to do when you find yourself single again.
3 Unhealthy Ways to Cope with a Breakup (or What Not to Do)
- Keep contacting your ex. If you were the one who ended it, but you’re having second thoughts or tough time letting go, it’s not fair to your ex to prevent her from healing. If you are sure about getting back together then by all means, do contact her, but otherwise don’t, and let her move on. And if you were the one who was left, then keep asking for your ex’s attention might make things direr. However it ended originally, this could cause a much worse and colder reaction and surely hinder your recovery.
- Ruminate over your relationship and the breakup. You do need to gain some insight from what happened, how you behaved, how you felt, and where you are now. In this way, you will understand yourself better and possibly know more about your needs, your habits, your mistakes. But ruminating over every aspect of the relationship and the breakup is a maladaptive pattern of thinking that will inevitably cause you to linger in what is long gone and loose the opportunity to grow and learn from it. Therefore, try to use these thoughts to recognize a pattern, learn something, and then let the thought go.
- Drinking, smoking, doing drugs or becoming sexually promiscuous. It is understandable if you feel devastated and you just need to numb the pain. But it is a mistake if you think that such self-harming behavior will help you in any way. In best case, all the pain and dilemmas will wait for you the second you get sober. In worst case, you might endanger your life to the point of no repair. But one thing is sure, and that is that you will end up with more problems than what you started with, and with damage to your body and mind.
4 Healthy Ways to Cope
- Take care of yourself. Dealing with all the emotions and changes that come with a breakup is hard for you, physically and mentally. In order not to let this experience destroy you, you need to take care of your soul and your body. Eat healthy, exercise, sleep regularly, maintain a routine to help you through, read or engage in any healthy activity you enjoy.
- Get the support you need. This is the perfect time to reconnect with other important people in your life. Reach out to your friends and family, and let them know you need support. You will be amazed by how much a genuine support and just having pleasant time with your loved ones can contribute to the speed in which you recover from a nasty end of a relationship.
- Experience all your emotions. It’s tempting to sweep the pain under the rug and bury yourself into work, or just pretend everything is just fine. But it’s not, and this is normal. And the more you postpone feeling the entire range of emotions (anger, guilt, sadness, despair, loss of hope, loss of meaning, fear…), the harder it will be for you to truly heal and move on. Not to mention how this will deprive you of the opportunity to really get to know yourself and learn about the richness of your inner world. Feeling pain is not a comfortable experience, but it’s a part of life. So acknowledge it and learn to cope with it, and the next time, you’ll be a stronger person.
- Use this experience to grow. Finally, the breakup happened. Whatever the reason, and whatever the future might be, this is a very valuable learning experience. You should use this opportunity to learn about yourself, and to find ways to use the breakup as a lever to your personal growth. Use the energy this gives you, be it a negative one, to produce something good for yourself. Explore your interests, explore your mistakes, explore your needs and desires. Understand your weaknesses and your good sides. And find a unique way to transform this unfortunate experience into a progress and self-growth.
Breakups are hard. Always. And we usually get through them somehow. But, whatever your personal situation might be, seeing a psychotherapist is always a good idea when a breakup happens. You might have troubles seeing things objectively, you might need additional support apart from your friends and family, you might need someone to help you deal with some deeper insecurities or destructive patterns in love relationships that you might not even be aware of.
As we already pointed out, a breakup is one of the life’s chances to grow and to learn. Having an expert help on this path is what will make a painful and tough experience a truly positive event in your life story.
You might refer to your pet as your “fur kid,” but have you ever thought about the relationship between your pet and your actual kids? New research from the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Cambridge suggests that the relationships between children and pets are far more important than previously thought.
The study was conducted by surveying twelve-year-olds in 77 households with multiple children and at least one pet. The results suggest that these kids prefer Fido to fighting with a sibling.
FIGHTING LIKE CATS AND DOGS
We’re all familiar with sibling rivalry. If a child feels they aren’t getting as much attention or recognition as their sibling, they will sometimes pick fights with a sibling or act out to satisfy their emotional needs. Childhood can be tough for kids with siblings to navigate; each child is struggling to find their own individual identity while competing for validation from adults.
A pet satisfies a child’s need for emotional connection, and according to the University of Cambridge, can have an important impact on his or her development. According to the study, participants reported more satisfaction and less conflict with a pet versus a sibling.
Matt Cassels, a Gates Cambridge Scholar, led the study. ”Even though pets may not fully understand or respond verbally, the level of disclosure to pets was no less than to siblings,” he explains. “The fact that pets cannot understand or talk back may even be a benefit as it means they are completely non-judgmental.”
PETS AND SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT
A child can divulge his or her deepest, darkest secrets to the family pet without fear of judgement or retaliation. This is an important element in child development, as it allows children to discuss their fears and thoughts in a safe environment. It may seem silly to lament your problems to an animal, but researchers have a different opinion.
“The social support that adolescents receive from pets may well support psychological well-being later in life,” says Nancy Gee, Human-Animal Interaction Research Manager at WALTHAM and a co-author of the study. “But there is still more to learn about the long term impact of pets on children’s development.”
There is still more research to be done, but so far the science points to pets having a positive impact on a child’s mental health and development.
LOSING YOUR BEST FRIEND
Owning a pet that you hold near and dear to your family can be a double-edged sword. On one hand, the animal provides emotional and social support to your kids; on the other hand, sometimes Fluffy doesn’t live as long as we’d like him to.
One study by Joshua Russell, an assistant professor of animal behavior, ecology and conservation at Canisius College, in Buffalo, N.Y. suggests that children react to the loss of a pet much differently than adults do. “They often see themselves as the center of their pets’ affections,” Russell said in a college news release. “They describe their pets as siblings or best friends with whom they have strong connections.”
Children see pets as best friends to share secrets and memories with. These pets are important members of the household, and it is important to remember this when discussing the loss of a pet with your child. Allow them to grieve, and explain to them that their pet did everything he was put on this earth to do. Encourage your child to open up with their feelings about the pet, and help them feel as supported and encouraged as Bowser did.
Childhood has changed drastically over the past few decades. With the introduction of video games, social media, and all sorts of technology, the digital era had a huge impact on kids and their traditional pastimes. And with such changes, came differences in children’s moods and overall mental state of being. Children have always been susceptible to depression, ADHD and other conditions (simply because they’re human just like us, but tinier, even more sensitive versions) yet since we began recognizing these mental disorders in the early 1900’s, the largest wave of diagnosis practically happened hand-in-hand with the digital era.
While we have developed medications geared towards aiding in these various conditions, we haven’t been nearly as diligent in making sure that talk therapy goes with them. Using prescription pills on the still developing minds of children needs to be closely monitored and providing therapy is key to preserving the integrity of their treatment.
First of all, the increase in diagnosis could be a direct correlation to the lack of time children seem to spending outside these days compared to past generations. According to Psychology Today, “Children are spending half as much time outdoors as they were before 1992 and 8-18 year old kids spend 7 hours and 38 minutes using entertainment media in a typical day, not including computer time for schoolwork. Only 6% of kids even play outside on their own.”
Gone are the days of knocking on your friends doors to see if they can play, because even toddlers can figure out how to communicate over social media now.
According to a study by the Journal of Biological Psychiatry, “… living in states with greater sunshine (solar intensity or SI) may protect against the development of ADHD.” And we know well that Vitamin D is a crucial tool in battling depression for individuals of any age, yet our interests continue to gravitate towards the tiny screens we hold in the palm of our hands.
The question becomes this: Do we curb kids away from technology and back towards the great outdoors? I think many would argue that yes, this is a great step towards helping our children to be happy and healthy. But is it realistic? One day of hiking isn’t going to distract them for very long and before we know it, they’re back to playing games and watching Netflix. So the diagnosis of ADHD and depression will continue and we continue to prescribe medication. But what about what these kids are actually experiencing? Numbing them to their emotions does nothing to aid them in the long run, though arguably, medication is certainly needed in some cases, and always according to a certified psychiatrist’s professional opinion.
While many adults have a difficult time grappling with their feelings and thoughts, it’s even more of a challenge for kids.
They have a limited perspective for what they’re experiencing and it’s our responsibility as adults to help them navigate those emotions. It may not yield immediate results, but talk therapy is the best and most helpful way to do so. Therapy can provide many different methods to help kids deal with anything and everything they are going through in a balanced and healthy way. There are many tools at our disposal to allow us to help children as the environment around them shifts – but at the heart of all of those tools is therapy. It is the foundation we should be building from and doing everything we can to help them develop into the best versions of themselves.
Could your child use some talk therapy to sort what’s going on in their tender, young lives? Are they not opening up to you as much as you would like and can’t bear to see them so sad? Contact me to set up an initial session to see if we are a good fit. It’s simple to start. Just click here or below to pick your own day and time that are most convenient for you.
They say if by the end of your life, if you can count your good friends on one hand, you are truly a lucky man. How many can you count? Have you noticed that as you grow older and age, your friends have started disappearing as regulars in your life? Times change. We know that. Our friends get married, have kids….or we do and they don’t and our interests change. Let’s look at men and friendship and find out ways to improve your current relationships and build new ones.
In fact, an Australian study reported in 2005 that “family relationships had little if any impact on longevity, but friendships increased life expectancy by as much as 22 percent.” We want to live longer, we want to have fun, we want social interaction, we want guy time, and we want friends. But why do they seem to drift away as we get older?
A lot has to do with effort. For whatever reason, if you get caught up in your head about having nothing to report, still pick up the phone and dial. Connect with your old friends. Call them and see what they are up to. They will probably be elated to hear from a friend too. Trust me, many guys are experiencing this same issue with friendship. It will be a welcome call. Ask your friend to get together and make a plan before hanging up the phone. Beers Friday at 8? Brunch at the Bacon House on Sunday? Bring the family over for BBQ in a couple weeks? Whatever your inclination toward fun and mutual activities you enjoy, make them. Just do it. Friendship is important.
Recently moved or just wanting to make some new friends? There are lots of women’s groups out there…men’s not so much. But, if you look, you can find them. There are book clubs, beer clubs, trivia clubs, hiking clubs, Crossfit groups, bicycle groups, running groups….you name it, it’s out there. Now, chin up and go. And, if you find one you like, be regular about it. You have to be consistent in order to form new bonds. You got this dude.
It’s easy for many to fall into “the marriage trap” of depending on your spouse or partner to be your best and only friend. Yeah they’re great and all (sarcastic with smile), but you need variety in your relationships to truly live a happy and balanced social life.
If you’re still nervous to venture out into the friendship pool on your own, try leveraging your partner. Can you find another couple who has similar interests as you? Bring the baby, put the sound reducing headphones on that kid and go to a concert together. Love your pups? Find a “bark bar” that allows humans and fur creatures and grab a bev. Camping’s your jam? Get your gear, grab your couple friends and spend a night under the stars.
Life with friends is better! Come out of the cave and interact with the world. You can do it. Still feeling a little shy? Contact me to see if maybe men’s counseling is for you. Trust me, I work almost exclusively with men and I’ve heard all the excuses (I’m fine, I’ll figure it out, I don’t need help, therapy is for wussies, etc.). Nope. It’s not true. Counseling for men is simply a space to vent without having to affect anyone in your life. Just think about all the times you’ve tried to tell your partner or family member something that’s going on with you, only to end up in a huge fight over a misunderstanding. Yeah, delete all that. Come see me. To start, just click here or below to pick your own day and time that work for you. I look forward to seeing you.
The nature of a psychotherapist’s work offers an insight into some perpetual misunderstandings that often go too far, and cause serious harm to otherwise loving and caring relationship. It is not at all uncommon to meet a couple who is completely drained by constant fighting. And none of the two seems to understand clearly where the problem is. The woman believes that the man doesn’t care for her and finds her annoying and boring; and the man feels baffled by what his loved partner wants from him, and thinks that she’s just trying to pick a fight. And none is right. The problem is simple, and should have a simple solution – if not left to spiral out of control. You probably heard this already – a woman talks to connect, a man talks to present and solve problems. But let’s explore this fact a bit more.
Purposeful? Yes, But What is the Purpose Exactly?
Men and women communicate, and interact, in very different manners. The post “The Silence of Men – How do Men Communicate in Relationships?” already outlined some of those differences, and explained one common source of misunderstandings between genders – a frequent avoidance of emotion-sharing from the side of men. Nonetheless, there is another significant difference that originates from such different perspective men and women have on how a conversation ought to look like. Men believe that every conversation needs to be a purposeful event. But, beware – women will probably argue that they do too! How come then that one so often hears about arguments over nothing? Well, the difference lies in the discrepancy between what the purpose of a conversation is for women and men.
A woman will come home from work and hurl an avalanche of daily frustrations to her man: “The car went dead 4 times before I got to the office. Again! Finally, when I arrived, as I was 15 minutes late for the damn meeting, everyone looked at me like I fell from the sky a minute ago!” And you know how it goes, when the day sets off like this, the whole day will be upside down! Then Alice snapped at me because I didn’t hear what she was saying….” etc. But we went too far – in practice, the woman probably wouldn’t get further from the car causing trouble again, before her beloved husband or boyfriend interrupts to say that they should drive it to the service shop immediately, before something truly dangerous happens. Men, practical as we are, think in problem-solution relations. And we mean it well. It is our duty to protect those who we love, and we do it by fixing things that could cause them to be hurt. But to our horror, women get annoyed and hurt when we do this, and the irrational argument is on its way!
Women rarely see our knightly instinct to protect them in this way. They see it as a symptom of us not being interested in what they have to say. Women are hardwired to connect through interaction and conversation. And they care less for taking the car to the shop, or how to speak to the Alices in their lives the next time Alice snaps at them, then they care if you listen to them. Of course you listen, you’ll say. Yes, but women define “listening” in a different way. It may be frustrating, but it is just the way your loved one sees the world. Listening for our gentle half means that you express compassion for her feelings in a situation, let her vent the frustration out by talking about it, and show that you are there for her – just to console her, not to fix anything.
How to Find the Common Ground with our Loved Ones
The saddest thing in case of relationship problems (if the above described miscommunication gets out of hand) is that most of them could have been so easily prevented or fixed. And the main postulate that gets so easily overlooked when one finds oneself in a horror of constant arguments is that it is a relationship between two people who love and care for each other. Remind yourself of that whenever you see that your conversation with your spouse or partner might get out of control. Having that in mind, there are several things you might do to prevent this simple misunderstanding from destroying your relationship.
Bear in mind that your wife or girlfriend processes her emotions and searches for a solution herself while she’s talking to you. She just needs a safe place to work through her problems, and all you need to do is to listen without interrupting her or offering solutions until she explicitly asks for them.
Be aware of her perspective – when you offer a solution, she probably doesn’t see it in that way. She might interpret this as you being annoyed or bored by all the details of her story. And consequently – as not being interested in her!
Instead of offering different solutions, try asking about her feelings, about what exactly is troubling her and finally – about how she thinks the problem should be solved. In that way, you will truly help your partner to reach a conclusion while tackling her emotional reaction as well. And you will give her what she needs – care and nurture.
She can handle the problems by herself, she just needs support from her husband or boyfriend, remember that.
Finally, if you recognized yourself in the description of a drained couple from the beginning of this post, it would be advisable to contact a therapist who will be able to help you see the situation more objectively, and stop the vicious circle you might have found yourself over such an easily solvable problem.
Having issues in your relationship or want to learn how to make it even more fulfilling? Please schedule a session today. It is a huge relief having someone to bounce ideas and thoughts off of. Are you ready? Click here to schedule your own appointment based on what works in your schedule. I look forward to meeting with you.
It is almost impossible to understate a defining impact a father has on his daughter. We already talked about how fathers influence their sons into adulthood, but the magnitude of the effect they have on their girls is equally great. The fathers are the ones who define not only their daughters’ future romantic relationships, but they also strongly influence the daughters’ academic achievements and career paths, their resilience to stress, and so many other crucial aspects of their lives. It may sound frightening, but fathering a daughter truly is a time when a modern man becomes a knight.
What a Daughter Learns from her Father
One rarely stops and thinks about the fact that, apart from some inherited predispositions (which are our own doing as well), our children actually “learn” their personalities! They learn the right ways to reach a goal (truly adaptive ways, or simply screaming one’s lungs out until the other side succumbs), they learn how to react when stressed, how to express their emotions, they learn their future social roles, their worldviews…
And girls tend to linger more around their parents. They are also more receptive and more engaging in family interactions than boys, so their young minds truly act like sponges. Numerous psychological studies agree that, without a doubt, fathers are indispensable factors in a healthy development of a future satisfied and successful woman. And it seems that the most important period of father’s influence is between the child’s ages of 2 and 5. These are the years in which every child discovers his or her autonomy, and begins to realize that they are individuals with distinct needs and wants; and precisely here a father is the one who will teach his daughter that she is strong enough to explore the world on her own.
Mothers do tend to over-shield their daughters, and try to protect them from the world as much as possible. This is, of course, done with the noblest intentions, but that is why the role of a father (or a father figure) is essential to provide a healthy balance – fathers love in a different way. Fathers allow and encourage self-sufficiency of their daughters, while providing a safe base where a daughter can always return to for encouragement – and be sent back to fight her insecurity.
You surely know this scene – a little girl gets scared of getting on a climber, and runs back to her parents. A mother will, almost certainly, comfort the daughter gently and tell her that it’s ok, they can go and try the slide, throw a ball or pick flowers. A father, on the other hand, will probably tell her that it is ok, but she’s got nothing to be scared of, and go right back to the climber with her.
Aside from learning self-esteem and resilience in general from her father’s behavior towards her, a daughter will be very impressionable (due to her natural ability to perceive non- verbal clues and social signs much more precisely than boys) to the clues about the rules of relationship between men and women. This is why each father inevitably teaches his daughter how the men in her life are going to behave towards her. More precisely, he teaches her what she can expect from men, and what is acceptable in that regard. How? With every word about and action towards her mother, grandmother, teacher, and all female figures the girl knows or hears about. In essence, how a father treats women is how a daughter will be treated by men.
What Does a Father Have to Do?
Regardless of how prepared you felt for that position, you now have a responsibility for yourself, your wife and your daughter – your actions will transfer through generations to come, as you are teaching your daughter how to see the world, herself and men, and she will teach her children the same. Therefore, you should try to do well in this role, and here is how:
– Always treat women with respect and tact
– your daughter will learn that no matter how annoyed her boyfriend of husband may be, she has the right to be treated with dignity
– Connect with your daughter – don’t hesitate to take her on a field trip, play ball with her, and show her what is interesting for you – rest assured that she will enjoy every minute of your time together, and learn that she is an interesting and versatile person herself
– Celebrate your daughter’s cleverness, beauty and spirit – your daughter will receive the ultimate confirmation that she has a reason to feel confident and to love herself, if her father is the one who is proud of her achievements
– Consult with an expert – Parenting is a scary role, and you should always turn to a psychotherapist whenever you feel overwhelmed, or simply in doubt what to do. A psychotherapist will help you tell the normal developmental phases from signals that something should be done in a different way. He will also show you how to communicate your emotions in a manner that will benefit your girl, including your disagreement. Childhood is a fragile time for your daughter’s young mind, and your actions can result in her becoming a healthy confident woman, or a distressed and insecure one; therefore, whatever you feel uncertain about, don’t hesitate to contact a psychotherapist.
When men and women communicate, it’s hard to say who gets more frustrated. Men sometimes feel as if women spoke in tongues, and women, on the other hand, often cannot remember the last time they heard anything besides: “What’s for dinner?” from their men. The reason behind this lies in the simple dissimilarities that cause storms in a relationship – in questions about when, why, and what men and women communicate to each other.
So What Are Those Simple Dissimilarities?
Simply put, the main issue is the fact that men and women experience the purpose of communication differently. It may sound strange, but let’s test this. If you are a man reading this, you probably think: “How can it be seen differently? Communication has one simple purpose – to communicate information to someone!” On the other hand, a woman will probably think that yes, there are numerous varieties of conversations, but mostly, they all build some sort of a relationship between the two, and help bring people closer to each other.
Now, it is not just a lay opinion that there are significant differences in communication patterns between men and women. Psychological studies confirm that women in relationships often talk simply to bond, without a real intention to communicate any sort of relevant information. And this is not a bad thing. But for many men, it is utterly difficult to grasp such an interaction, and they get downright confused and frustrated by this.
Men believe that if one speaks, they ought to say something new, informative, practical and logical. They should present a problem, or offer a solution, express an attitude… If a man doesn’t have something useful to say, he won’t speak. Oh, but this is where the problem arises. A woman interprets this as an alarm, a sign that her partner is growing cold – because conversation means intimacy and mutual interest. A woman then wants to talk things through, but speaking about emotions puts a man into a challenging position. Not only does the culture demand him to be strong and composed, but there is a neurological obstacle to these conversations as well. Women can feel and speak at the same time. Interestingly, men actually have to switch from speech to emotions and back, which takes a lot of energy and focus.
Are Men Really Born Reserved?
When this sort of conversation about gender differences is started in a company, one of the first things you will hear is that women are born better (and more prolific) speakers. You’ve probably heard that men are superior at mathematics and science, and women in verbal assignments, and that these differences are biologically (evolutionally) determined. However, even though this idea originates from psychological findings, the disparities are truly not that big. To be more exact, a 1988 analysis of 165 studies, performed by Hyde and colleagues, showed that the belief that females are more verbally skillful is not at all scientifically substantiated, not for any aspect of verbal processing (same goes for math and science skills among males). The differences in the abilities that were found were actually slight and meaningless.
Therefore, if you were convinced that it is a nature given trait of yours that you have to communicate in a certain way, it may not be completely true. What is closer to truth is that in Western culture, girls are believed (expected) to be more talkative and verbally adapt, and boys not to talk much, especially not about emotions. So these expectations are actually the ones that do cause a sort of a Pygmalion effect. Parents raise their children in accordance with cultural beliefs, and that is what causes adult women to speak about twice as much as men. However, knowing that this is not a biological prerequisite may be of help if you wish to improve your relationship.
How to Improve the Communication in our Relationships?
And this is where we get to the question of enriching the communication with our significant others. We now know that there is not an inborn obstacle to it. Also, understanding how differently each of the genders experiences verbal exchange in a relationship may help us all to be more empathetic towards our partners. Finally, the most important thing you can do if you care about the future and happiness of your relationship or marriage, is letting a professional assist you. You may think “I don’t need an outsider teaching me how to speak to my wife,” and that is alright. However, it never hurts to have someone who is an expert in the field give you input on how you can improve further.
In this case, a therapist can provide you with insights you might not be able to acquire yourself, being inevitably subjective when it comes to your relationship. You may also learn how to assertively express yourself without the risk of coming off as aggressive (again). A few visits may save you and your partner a whole lot of time and nerves. And without the risk of exaggerating, it may even save your relationship.
Hyde, J. S., & Linn, M. C. (1988). Gender differences in verbal ability: A meta- analysis. Psychological Bulletin, 104, 53-69