Believe it or not, men tend to feel responsible for a lot, and until you probe the depths of their minds (good luck), you’re probably unaware of it. The topics that guys don’t want to talk about are usually the topics that need discussion. And once again, I’m not trying to say all men, just a vast majority.
When a woman brings up ‘the talk’, which usually means going into an in-depth discussion about feelings and relationship processes, guys seem to cower. I mean literally; you can see them squirming in their seats sometimes. Or, if you’ve got something to complain about, depending on the type of man you’re with, they may become defensive, yell at you and try to turn the conversation back on you. Or you’ll get the nod-and-apologize response. Both ways aren’t helpful and leave the women thinking, “Did they really understand what I just said?”
A guy might say, “Yeah, he gets it, look at him nodding.” But hearing and listening are two very different things. The guy needs to listen by repeating back to her what she’s said, by showing her he understands how she arrived at feeling the way she does, and then, if a guy is lucky, she’ll be ready to move onto problem solving.
Whether defensive or overly apologetic (feeling guilty), both of these reactions are unhelpful. Often a woman isn’t intending to lay blame, she just wants to talk about what’s wrong. And guys, if she sees your behaviour as a key player in that, it’s probably just coincidence.
It’s interesting, because this is the time when women need those problem-solving skills from their men. This is the time for guys to engage the woman in finding a solution. She’ll tell you what’s wrong, what you could do better and how that will lead to better outcomes in the relationship (I hope women out there are doing this and not just complaining). But it doesn’t seem like that’s what the man hears. It seems what he hears is:
“You’ve made me upset. You aren’t doing this right. You aren’t working hard enough.”
Even if those things are true, the woman is simply looking for a way to make it work so her needs are met. This is an opportunity to be close to her, to listen to her and to make your relationship stronger.
As my friend said:
“This is an area in which I also falter. Sometimes she needs to talk about things in our relationship, and I tend to feel like I need to defend myself, or our relationship. I feel … not quite panicked, but I have the lack of coherent thoughts that usually comes with panic of some kind. So I end up not thinking of anything to say except possibly for stating what I want, and what I feel. And even then, I usually want to keep this to myself.”
After some investigation, it does seem to me that men feel the need to carry the weight of the happiness in the relationship. If the woman is unhappy, then that means he’s doing something wrong and instead of problem solves, feels guilty or fears the relationship will not work out.
“It’s easier to change the focus to the other person’s feelings, and try to analyze them, in the hopes of resolving and discussing emotions by only addressing your own behaviour, and not really your own emotions.”
My friend says that sometimes he has things he wants to express to his partner, but he’s afraid it will just make her more upset and less confident in the relationship, and so he keeps those things to himself. The problem I see with this is that keeping things to himself may turn to resentment. Why? If you fulfill your partner’s needs and they don’t fulfill yours, you’ll feel resentful, right? This can come about, also, because guys devalue their own emotional needs in comparison to their partners.
Tip For Men: Guys, you need to be assertive. Learn to communicate your feelings appropriately. Your woman needs to know what’s going on inside her guy’s head, so that when you both work to fix a problem in your relationship, it’s totally fixed. Don’t use band-aids to make her feel better, because the problem will just come back up again, and again, and again, until it starts to chip away at the solid foundations of your relationship.
The intention of this blog is not to pick on men, but to reveal the motivation for some of the common reactions men have when faced with a woman’s emotions. In fact, I’m going to write my next blog on women. Because while women do tend to credit themselves with having the better communication styles, I think there’s more they/we can be doing to help our guys to feel validated and supported within a relationship.
Happy Relationship Talks!
Image by David Castillo Dominici