“There is no secret to a long marriage – it’s hard work … it’s serious business, and certainly not for cowards.”
Why do men and women struggle so much in their relationships? Our differences are at the core of what makes marriages so difficult.
Here’s one big difference:
- Women speak to connect.
- Men listen for how to solve the problem.
Women mostly use communication as a point of connection, as means for understanding one another. We like the back and forth banter and sharing of ideas. It creates a sense of closeness and intimacy, connection and community.
Because men are the providers and problem solvers, they listen to understand the problem so that they can provide a solution. This discrepancy has been around forever and yet, we continue to struggle here.
What to Do Differently:
- For men: Ask, “How do you want me to listen to this?”. Be open to the idea that she is using this as a way to connect with you more deeply. Listen closely, share your perspectives, ask questions …
- For women: If you want him to connect with you – rather than solve your problem – you need to tell him so. Be specific. Tell him what you need.
Our differences are the reason we struggle so much in our most intimate relationships. But once we understand and acknowledge those differences (rather than push against them), maybe we can understand one another a little better and even feel a little closer to one another.
Marriage becomes hard work once you have poured the entirety of your life’s expectations for happiness into the hands of one mere person. Keeping that going is hard work.” Elizabeth Gilbert
There are many differences between men and women. If we accept and seek to understand one another better, we can use that to create more fulfilling relationships.
Here’s another one of our differences:
- Men don’t recognise their need until it is urgent.
- Women recognise their need early on but easily get distracted and put that need on hold (or subjugate the need entirely).
To illustrate, let’s use an easy example:
A man will go most of the day without ever stopping to think, “Should I eat?” or “Am I hungry?”. But when he’s famished or feels a hunger-headache coming on, everything needs to stop so that he can eat.
A woman, on the other hand, will get a sense that she’s getting hungry and will think about going to the kitchen and grabbing something to eat … “right after I do this one more thing … and then this other one thing …”. It might be several hours later before she will go get her hunger need met.
So, as women we will often put our needs on the back-burner and then wonder why our needs never get met.
We have also learned that we should put others’ needs before our own. This often leads to us never getting our needs met and teaching those around us that we either: (1) have no needs, or that (2) our needs are unimportant.
And because we will put others’ needs before our own, we assume when our husband doesn’t put our needs before his – he’s being selfish. Nope. Men were not taught that they “should” subjugate their needs or that it’s the “right thing to do.” (And in reality … it’s not really working out that well for us, ladies).
What to do differently:
First, notice when your husband is getting his needs met (or attempting to get his needs met) that he treats those needs as urgent. Stop short of judging that he should behave differently.
Second, and most importantly, stop overlooking your own needs and making them unimportant – to yourself and those around you.
We know how that works out and we cannot resent our needs not being met, when we’re the ones pushing them aside.
Men are not hairy women.” Alison Armstrong
Ladies, have you ever noticed how it feels almost effortless to hang out with a female friend?
The conversation just flows; the laughs come easily; you understand one another.
Have you ever wondered why communicating with your husband feels well, not so effortless?
That’s because he’s not your girlfriend and never will be.
He has different ways of communicating. He relates differently to his needs (and yours by the way). He has different strengths and different motivations.
When we stop trying to get him to be who we need him to be so that it can feel easy, we might be able to see, accept and experience him as he actually is.
(And yes, the same is true from the man’s perspective as well. We’re not just a dude in a dress.)
This is the way we move forward together, with far more success and a lot less suffering. We gain a better understanding of one another and rather than fight against the centuries of gender-specific programming, judging and trying to change each other, we begin from a place of acceptance and adjust our approach so that we can create the kind of loving, connected relationships we desire.
Author: Merryl Gee, BSocWk, AMHSW, MAASW, MACSW, MANZMHA, MPACFA.
Merryl Gee is a psychotherapist working from a strengths-based, person-centred framework. With over 30 years’ experience, she has a particular interest people who have experienced trauma such as sexual assault or childhood sexual abuse.
To make an appointment with Brisbane Psychotherapist Merryl Gee try Online Booking. Alternatively, you can call M1 Psychology Loganholme on (07) 3067 9129 or Vision Psychology Mt Gravatt on (07) 3088 5422 .