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.
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