Monday, October 04, 2010

Men and Communication

You know how the experts always tell you you keep being attracted to the same kind of men and have the same kind of problems? And these are probably problems that you had in your childhood? Upon careful analysis of my behaviors and love interests, I have come to the conclusion that the men I'm typically attracted to don't like to talk too much about "intimate" subjects (ie. relationships, deep inner feelings, etc.) My Dad definitely did not show me any of his vulnerabilities. And though he loved to discuss politics and academic "stuff," when it came to deeper emotional stuff, he was a closed book.

Now, though it may be a generalization, I'd say it's relatively common for men to be less interested in discussing relationships and feelings. There certainly are exceptions. I've had a few short relationships with guys who were very communicative about their feelings. Overly so. For example, there was one guy who I really liked until we got into the 'making out' stage of the relationship. His kisses were very "wet." (I'm not really sure how to describe this, but I had a strong urge to wash my face directly after the kissing.) He also kept his eyes open during kissing. Presumably my body language gave away my less-than-ideal reaction, and he wanted to talk about it. I absolutely did NOT want to talk about it. He called me from his car on his way home from a date, wanting to talk about our relationship. I thought to myself, "So this is what it feels like to be on the other side... I will never again pressure a guy to talk about a relationship..."

Dating coach Nicole Johnson recently wrote an article called: "Testosterone: Why Men Don't Understand What Woman Want," in which she talks about some of the basic differences between the way men and women communicate.

Men can make modifications, but will never react or communicate on your level. They do not possess our emotional or verbal prowess. (Even men with PhDs and MDs are inept.) The majority of male energy is focused on burgers and blow jobs.
They are not thinking about honing their emotional or communicative capabilities. Women need to accept this reality, and take responsibility for putting UNNECESSARY pressure on men.

Again, I think this is a generalization, and I've met plenty of men who communicate very well, just differently. The men I've loved, including my ex-husband and father, have had two things in common: 1) they were very intelligent and liked to talk about intellectual subjects 2) they were uncomfortable speaking about emotions... especially negative emotions. They typically would rather avoid having a conversation than confront a problem.

But as I examine my own communication styles, I realize I am not really that different. I love talking about subjects that are "comfortable" and I enjoy talking about relationships, but I avoid conversations which I'm afraid might hurt someone. When I think back about the relationships I've had where I wasn't into it as much as the guy was, I was the one who was not very communicative. I guess one difference, however, is that in those situations, I would usually let the guy know, in hopefully a diplomatic way, that it just wasn't working out for me... so at least I would have that conversation.

In any case, I agree with Nicole in that we cannot expect men to communicate like women... and actually, when they do, I find it a little annoying. I also think it's not fair for me to expect a man to explain why he's not into me unless he wants to be in the relationship. I'm not sure I even want to hear the reasons.

But if we've been in a marriage or long-term relationship, it would be good to have some explanation when one person wants out. I went through months of agony trying to figure out why my husband stopped loving me when he wanted a divorce. It turns out he was in love with someone else, but I didn't find that out for several months. Now I'm sure there were plenty of problems or things about me that irritated him and maybe even drove him to look for someone different. I didn't really need to hear every detail about what he didn't love about me or what he did love about the new woman. But it would have been nice for him to at least clue me in a little about what was going on with him instead of such an abrupt end to our marriage with no explanation or communication.

This isn't necessarily gender specific. A male friend of mine told me recently that he'd been dating a woman who just "disappeared" with no explanation. He called and emailed her several times, but she hasn't responded. It's this kind of disappearing act that can be so hurtful.

So, in summary, here's what I've concluded:

- People usually like to talk about stuff they know about.
- People don't usually like to talk about stuff that might hurt or anger someone else.
- If you're breaking up with someone, give them some explanation, but there's no need to go into details about all their character flaws
- I'm not attracted to sloppy kissers


Dave T said...

Just gotta say, quoting a so-called expert who says that "The majority of male energy is focused on burgers and blow jobs." makes me not only instantly discount anything the "expert" says, but makes me a bit skeptical of what you're saying too, Yvette. I think that any sort of generalizations based on even a decent sample size is suspect, and as a guy, reading what a woman thinks about men makes me inherently skeptical, just as I expect you'd be skeptical if I were writing about women based on my own experience and some dorky PhD guy with his Great Expertise on the subject.

Oh, and that wet kisser? Yech. I agree that there are some people who just kiss in a sympatico way and it's niiicccceee while others? Yeah, not so much. :-)

Yvette said...

Hey Dave!
Yes, the quote about "burgers and blow jobs" wasn't my favorite in that article, so you really should read the whole article before you discount it entirely. The comments from men left on the article seem seem to concur completely (at least the ones I read).. in fact I think a guy even suggested that be written on a T-shirt! Plus, it's that kind of controversial stuff that gets discussion going. point is definitely not that men only have burgers and blow jobs on their minds. Though I'm sure that's true for some, my circle of male friends are much healthier eaters! ;-)

The point that I agree with is that women should not pressure men to talk about things they don't want to talk about. If there are problems in the relationship, they should be addressed, but sometimes trying to force someone to talk about the relationship will just make it worse.

To address this situation, I'm working on "The Complicated Relationship Game" coming out soon... Stay tuned!

Nicole Johnson said...

Yvette, thank you for supporting my Your Tango article, and thank you for understanding the light hearted nature of the piece. The "burgers and blow jobs" comment has received a lot of attention, the majority positive. You are correct Yvette, I included this phrase to illicit a response and encourage a zealous discussion. I incorporated the phrase into my article because my husband always facetiously says, "Guys will do anything for burgers or blow jobs." So, I would like to thank Rob Johnson for helping me stir the proverbial pot !

Regarding Dave T's comment:

Dave, nowhere in my biography do I refer to myself as a medical or psychological expert. I am an expert in my educated field, Communications + Dating / Relationship Coaching. My writing is designed represent and support all men and women in the dating marketplace. My tone is always lively, evocative, and articulate. My clients find my assessments intelligent and applicable. I apologize if the "burgers and blow jobs" comment offended you. Offense is never my intention.

Yvette, I love the conclusions you stated, especially when you say, "If you're breaking up with someone, give them some explanation, but there's no need to go into details about all their character flaws." Well said !
I continue to tell my clients that saying nothing is not an option.

Nice post Yvette, thank you once again for your support !


Nicole Johnson

Kevin said...

I recognize that to some degree this entire piece is a bit tongue in cheek and so I didn't take offense to the "burgers..etc" comment. Saying that I do find it interesting that so many are ready to speak to how men are somehow deficient in regards to sensitivity due to their unwillingness to talk about relationships. A tune that is very similar to the one relating to "what men fear most is 'commitment'".

Why do women feel the need to spend so much time talking about relationships? Maybe its the women that are so confused that they are in need of additional instruction? Maybe its the men that have it all down pat and see little need to discuss the obvious? Or not....

Here's the real question...if you are really frustrated with your relationships with men and you find yourself insisting on talking about relationships with those same men...maybe..just maybe... there is a 'relationship' there that you are missing.

Still, I liked Yvette's willingness to accept males for what they can give rather then being disappointed by all their failings.

Yvette said...

Nicole and Kevin,
Great getting comments! I've always been fascinated by communication, especially the communication between men and women in dating situations.

Of course, any statement that says "Men communicate this way..." or "Women communicate that way..." is a big generalization. It interesting that as much as I enjoy personality systems like Myers Briggs, enneagrams, etc., I also am sensitive about "labeling" people in any way or assuming they will behave or communicate the same way as other who share their gender (or "type" or whatever...)

We all are unique and we may guess at how someone may communicate based on gender, age, culture, societal norms, or all kinds of things... but it's kind of fun to be unpredictable, too!

Anyway, I'm trying to get more disciplined about blogging, so I may carry on with this theme for awhile. If any of you are up for a short (7-9 minute) podcast on the subject, let me know!

Kevin said...

I read an article (which I cannot find now) about how Men and Women handle physical pain. What I was surprised to see in this article was the conclusion that, in general, Men handle pain better. I admit that I've always assumed the opposite to be true and have heard many times the classic statement that females handle pain better in part because they have to handle the pain of childbirth.

This article however, was referring to how we handle chronic pain on a more emotional level. The findings seemed to imply that while chronic pain causes significant life changing behavior changes, the impact is most often one of depression. Further, the article noted that females are much more affected. The article also noted that females are more responsive to therapy when they do become depressed and that they report a reduction of physical pain as a result. The primary cause noted by the researchers was that women tended to take the pain personally. Men, on the other hand, tended to respond with the attitude, " isn't going sucks... but its time to go get a beer with the buds so I'll whine about it later".

I wish I could find the article but let's assume for a moment that I didn't just mis-quote this really badly. With that in mind let me ask this question... does this response to physical pain match our response to emotional pain? Are females more likely to turn their evaluation of a relationship into a dissertation on their self worth? Is the need to talk about their relationships a way of coping with the emotional pain?

Regarding wet kisses...generally they are messy and unwelcome, but they do have a place... at the right time... and the right location...etc etc.... and then you get a beer and a burger.

Yvette said...

Hi Kevin,
Interesting... Yes, I think there is a huge difference between handling physical pain and emotional pain. Regarding whether or not men or women handle either of these better than the other gender, I'm curious about how this can even be measured.

I think (in general, of course) women prefer to talk more than men. Talking about their emotional pain may be viewed as handling it worse. On the other hand, by not talking about it (or processing it in some way) it might build up into anger or other unhealthy behaviors...

I also think how a person talks about their pain is an indication of how well their handling it. If they continue to stay in victim mode, it would indicate they weren't handling it too well... (Not to mention become very annoying!)

Kevin said...

This is the article I was referring to:

If you google on this subject you'll find a number of other studies relating to gender and pain. Again, the reference to 'better' is usually related to some concept of how well they cope with it but there are some studies that imply that females actually feel it more. But you make an excellent point in regards to how does one really measure that?

I think your last point, if I may summarize, is that talking about your pain or your relationships is not inherently a problem but rather how or what you are focusing on may indicate an issue. I particularly like your comment on wanting to avoid getting into victim-mode.

Let me add another potentially gender-biased thought.

I think that some people 'talk' because they like the process while others 'talk' in order to reach a goal. If I am frustrated with a relationship I do talk about it occasionally but when I do it is primarily to vent and to clarify (for myself) why I feel hurt or frustrated. The process of doing this is, in itself, painful so I only do this in order to reach a goal. Once achieved I am very motivated to move on and talk about something else and I very seldom return to that discussion.

I find that others (not always female) really like the talking process itself and really do not talk in order to accomplish anything. If those individuals are talking to someone else that likes processing they have a great time and I do think they genuinely benefit and it is very important to their well-being.

Put a processor and a problem-solver together and you get a nasty cross-goal conversation. The processor is frustrated because the PS'er is always trying to solve the problem and the PS'er is frustrated with what appears to be 'obsessing' or 'bitching'. While these interpretations are both invalid the fact is the processor really needs to communicate in order to feel intimacy but the PS'er genuinely finds this processing to be painful and will only do it in order to solve a problem.

Although we like to think that all men are PS'ers and all women are processors I do not believe that to be true. Saying that, it is probable that the genders do tend to one or the other.

In any case, both types are wrong when they start to evaluate the value of their 'friend' or spouse on this single trait and use this to belittle one another. We are what we are...we need to love people for what they are not what we would have them be.