Do you ever find yourself saying, “I just don’t get men sometimes,” or “I can’t figure out what women really want?” Men and women are alike in so many ways, but when it comes to relationships and love, the differences also distinctly stand out. There’s no denying it. What might surprise you however is just how many and how real these differences are.
Hang on though, you don’t want to run and hide or ignore these different ways of looking at love and relationships. My research finds that becoming aware of the differences between you and the opposite sex will lead to a stronger and happier love relationship in the long run.
Let’s first talk about what you need to understand about women and relationships.
1. Conflict lingers. Men and women process conflict, arguments, and disagreements in fundamentally different ways. My long-term study on couples finds that women are more sensitive than men about conflict and problems when they arise in a relationship. When a woman has a disagreement, it lingers in her mind for two to three days. She replays it over and over. She analyzes the details of the disagreement. And, she wants to go over the argument the next day. In contrast, when men have a conflict with their partner, once it’s been discussed, it’s resolved. The fight doesn’t linger in their minds. They have already moved on to thinking about something else.
2. Don’t fix. Men need to understand that when women have a problem and they come to share that problem with you—they don’t need the problem solved. Men want to repair or fix issues when women bring them forward. Instead, women just want you to listen, empathize, and say you understand. You can do this by shaking your head up and down, by giving her a small hug, or letting her know that what she just shared with you is difficult and you understand.
3. Women connect through talk. Women connect and feel close to others by talking and sharing personal information. Talking time is therapeutic to most women. If you want a woman to feel close to you, she needs to open up to you (and you to her). Ask her questions, respond to her answers, and listen carefully. In contrast, most men feel connected by doing activities with others (play cards, sports).
Now, what do you need to understand about men and relationships?
1. Need affirmation. Men need affirmation from their partners. Affirmation is the degree to which you are made to feel loved, cared for, and valued or special. Studies show that long lasting relationships are ones where men feel affirmed. Women also need to feel cared for, but they have so many other people to get affirmation from—their sisters, their best friends, their mother, even the neighbor down the street. Men typically do not receive affirmation from anyone besides their partners!
2. Express feelings through actions. Men are action oriented. They often have trouble verbalizing their love. Men can learn to speak up about how they’re feeling, but they’re more likely to express their love and feelings by doing rather than by saying—like filling up your car’s gas tank, picking up your cleaning, or getting you coffee. Romantic? Perhaps not by a woman’s standards, but to men it is what love is all about. Don’t miss the ways he shows you that he cares.
3. Talk equals problems. Men don’t like to be criticized. And when women bring up the need to change something in the relationship (or them), men interpret this type of talk as criticism. Women may have the best intentions at heart, but men hear trouble and it is their fault. So next time you are tempted to talk about your relationship, go up to him and first praise or acknowledge his strengths. Then sneak in the necessary change.
Dr. Terri Orbuch (aka The Love Doctor®) is a relationship expert for OurTime.com, as well as a professor, therapist, research scientist, and author of 5 best-selling books, including “Finding Love Again: 6 Simple Steps to a New and Happy Relationship,” available at amazon.com. Learn more about her at: DrTerriTheLoveDoctor.com.