Updated: Aug 28, 2019
“Men need to remember that women talk about problems to get close and not necessarily to get solutions.”
― John Gray, Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus
Communications can be so confusing, especially when our culture seems to train men and women differently. What I notice frequently in my work is that women typically share information as an invitation to intimacy. Men, who seem to be trained to fix as a way of bonding, often don’t understand this. Instead, when they hear their partner talking about a mood or experience, they listen for problems and try to remedy them.
What starts as a woman inviting her partner into a relationship can rapidly turn into a conflict when a man, rather than sharing something about his mood or experience, offers solutions to what he hears as problems.
The complaint that men often bring in to therapy is something like, “My wife says that I don’t share my emotions.” or “My partner says I’m closed off.”
Several times recently I have had conversations with male clients regarding just this issue. When I explain that their partner sharing about their day might be an invitation to share, the clients seem completely surprised. I hear things like, “Well, I don’t see a reason to bring my work troubles home so I just don’t say anything.” or “I don’t really have anything to complain about so I just keep my mouth shut.”
I explain to these clients that they don’t have to complain, or bring work troubles home. What they might want to try is to share their mood and talk about experiences. This could be part of the intimacy of the relationship that their partner is looking for.
Recommended reading: You Just Don't Understand by Deborah Tannen