People are gonna freak out when they see this title! “What? You can’t make generalizations about men like this!” Well, no generalization about people are ever 100% accurate.
However, having been a therapist and social worker for 20-plus years, there are themes that occur repeatedly with couples. Sometimes these themes divide along gender roles.
If you see yourself or your partner in any of these generalizations, make a few shifts and you will see a big change for the better. Here are two big common mistakes that men make:
First Common Mistake: Men Tend To Argue With Feelings
Oftentimes, when couples come in and a woman is complaining about how something makes her feel, the spouse will get defensive and try to rationalize her out of her emotion. This only makes thing worse.
For example, Kirsten is mad because she feels like she isn’t a priority in Ken’s life. Ken disagrees. So, he replies with a “rational” debate on why that isn’t true. He might say something like, “Don’t be ridiculous. Here’s why that isn’t true….” Then he goes on to state his case. This just upsets Kirsten more and they end up no where and being even more frustrated.
What Is Happening?
Ken doesn’t understand her perspective and is trying to talk her out of it. He feels defensive and attacked. And, he disagrees. This never works. E-V-E-R.
- Ken needs to understand that his wife/partner needs to express her feelings and that needs to be recognized and respected.
- If he allows her to do that, and shows that he is interested in her perspective, it will relax her, help her to feel validated, lesson her frustration, and, help him.
- He can agree to validate her emotions without agreeing to the content.
- He can use words like, “Wow. I am glad you told me that. That must feel terrible. Tell me more about why you feel that way….” And, “I am sorry you feel that way. That isn’t how I feel and I am wondering what I do that leads you to think that…What are some things we can do differently?”
- This takes her feelings into account, and helps him to get information on what he can do differently.
Tada! Remember, feelings aren’t facts. They just are. If they don’t get recognized, they just get bigger.
Women are socialized to validate other people’s feelings and boys are taught early on to disconnect from feelings. It makes sense that this is often an impasse issue within relationships.
The Second Big Thing That Men Often Do Is Not Read Women’s Minds
Yes, many women don’t realize it but they unconsciously want their spouse/partner to “just know” what it is they need. This isn’t fair and it is difficult to deal with if you are in a relationship with someone who expects superpowers.
See, women are taught to subvert their needs and put others needs first. (I am not talking about narcissistic women, I am talking about normal, loving, caring and compassionate ones). So, it makes sense that they may not be comfortable saying what they need to say.
So in the above example, once Kirsten says she feels she isn’t a priority and Ken has validated and listened. Now, he can
- Sit her down, ask for specifics.
- Use questions like, “In what ways can I show you you are a priority? A weekly dinner date? Calling you more from work? What are some ideas you can think of?
- And tell her that your not knowing specifics ties your hands and makes it more difficult to do the things that make her happy.
- Or use his own version of: “When I don’t know what you need, I can’t be there for you. Please be specific.” Ask a few questions to get more information.
Clearly, just meeting your wife’s/partners needs and not having your needs addressed isn’t the right way to a contented relationship. It has to work both ways, and it should be equal on the give and take.
Please remember that if you are making an effort and trying to do your part, that can cause a powerful positive shift. I believe a whole system changes for the better when one person moves in a healthy, loving direction. If you would like more helpful guidance on shifts you can make to empower yourself and your relationship, check out my website and at-home e-courses at www.stopgivingitaway.com. Join our email list.
And, as always, take care,
Cherilynn Veland is author of Stop Giving It Away, a self-advocacy book for women. Stop Giving It Away is the product of 20+ years of social work and counseling individuals and couples. Cherilynn also blogs about home, work, life and love at www.stopgivingitaway.com.