Men are dense… in relationships. Men, I know this isn’t going to be a popular statement, but you know that it is true in many ways. We may state that women are not understandable, that they don’t make sense, they are not logical, or that the particular one we’re with is worse than all the others.
But, the truth is, we’re dullards when it comes to the deeper realities of relationships. There are exceptions, but not very many. For instance, my expertise as a marriage and family therapist is relationships. But I can tell you that any woman coming into my office knows more in her little finger innately about relationships than I do.
Women have been raised on them. When they come out of the womb they know that physiologically they are just like momma. So, they try to be even more like her. That’s a relational way to grow up.
Little boys come out of the womb and right away know there is a really big difference between them and momma. And then culture says, “Go out and find yourself. Find out who you really are like.” This sends us toward a non-relational way of growing up.
So, men, let’s face it, we’re playing catch-up with women all the way when it comes to the subtleties of making a good marriage, partnership, or dating relationship. We just don’t “get it” where and when we should.
And here is the rubber meets the road point of this article: We don’t get it about “fixing” women. We have grown up fixing things. And we also want to fix our mate’s problems because that’s what we think we’re good at.
Unfortunately, women don’t need to be fixed, they need to be listened to, and then they can go fix things just fine themselves. (Men, read that line again!)
The way I get around this with men is that I teach them that “listening is fixing.” It’s simply a matter of redefining what we think fixing is in this context. Remember, “Listening is fixing.”
OK, easy to say, not so easy to do. Here’s how my wife taught me NOT to fix her. One day she started saying to me, “This is not helpful to me.” Note, that this is a very functional “I” statement. No blaming, no finger pointing, and not inflammatory. Just a simple statement about her reality and she left it at that.
What did I do? I immediately started arguing with her, saying that, indeed, this WAS helpful to her. At this point she merely said, “And THIS is not helpful to me,” and turned and walked away. She was very self-composed and non-reactive.
This pattern continued a while (I don’t want to confess how long) until it started to dawn on me that I really did want to be helpful to her, and since I apparently wasn’t being helpful, maybe I ought to ask her what would be. This is where I learned about listening to women!
She taught me that “Listening is fixing!” That’s all she needed, just to be heard, and then she could go on and do whatever she needed herself. She just needed the embrace of the relationship.
I’ve just given you the condensed version. It actually took quite a long time for me to really “get it,” and I still fall into the old pattern, lo, these many years later. Pam merely says, “This is not helpful to me,” and I now catch on fairly quickly. Instead of arguing, I have learned to ask, “What would be more helpful right now?” Then she gets to tell me what she wants or needs from me.
Men, we’re dense, and we’ve got alot to learn.
Women, you already know it, but men are dense and have alot to learn. You can help the process or hinder it, by how you educate the men in your lives. We need to know what you want and need at any given time. My wife’s self-possession, self-restraint and willingness to educate me is an example of how to do so effectively. Just don’t think it works the very first time!
Steve Roberts is an experienced Marriage and Family
Therapist who shares tips and real life relationship secrets
from over 20 years of practice. Married 27 years to Pam,
his partner in Life and profession, he has personally
known the peaks and valleys of the couple experience.
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