By Elaine Malec, Ph.D.
February is the month when lots of guys are looking for ways to create that “special closeness”. How do you proclaim your love or devotion: chocolates, flowers, dinner? If you are looking for an effective way to express how you feel and turn up the romance in your relationship, guys you need to read this first! Gals, if you have a guy in your life that needs to read this, cut it out and put it in his card.
How Men Talk: Many men perceive conversation as a form of competition or challenge-like playing office politics or jockeying for position in the passing lane. So, when their partner asks a question, they believe it isn’t “an answer” she’s looking for; “It’s the right answer”. If the conversation turns into an argument or debate, men naturally want to win. If a woman brings a problem or difficult situation to a man, 9 times out of 10, he will move into advice-giving mode.
It’s the basic nature of men to equate the rigors of conversation with more physical challenges. Men don’t want to “talk about stuff” they want to “do stuff”. Most men get their identities from their achievements, not their relationships. This makes it hard for them to see the value in simply having a talk, empathizing with a partner, or commiserating with her. They often get frustrated and believe the conversation has to have a point or goal. They want to address a concrete issue that has solutions and an action plan.
How women talk: This is often the exact opposite of what women want. Usually, all women want is to feel that you’ve heard them, regardless of whether the conversation comes to a resolution. When women talk with other women, it is very uncommon for them to debate each other’s position. They often try to find a way to see the friend’s point of view and give verbal examples of understanding. When this type of sharing occurs, it is often experienced as emotional closeness between the two friends. Women tend to believe that emotional closeness is a sign of a good relationship. In their relationship with their partners, they tend to associate emotional closeness with intimacy and physical desire.
That’s right, guys. If you really want to create that special closeness, you don’t need to spend a bazillion dollars on a fancy candlelight dinner. You need to stop trying to find the “right answer” or “solve a problem”, and begin listening for understanding and start reaping the benefits!
Dr. Malec is a licensed psychologist practicing at Malec, Herring & Krause in Mars.