Don’t talk so much!
I am continuing my thoughts from my post a few weeks ago titled, Don't Talk So Much! I received a great deal of feedback from the first post and want to address some of it as well as expand upon my original thoughts.
To remind you, the basic premise was that while a majority of couples enter couples counseling with the (valid) idea that they need to learn better communication skills, after 20 years as a couples therapist my belief is that COMMUNICATION IS NOT THE PROBLEM!
The problem is NOT about communication. The problem is about CONNECTION! Or more accurately, about the LACK of connection.
We are all seeking connection. I believe that we are designed to seek out connection. However, men and women seek out connection in different ways and the two ways can sometimes conflict or nullify each other.
In general, women connect by talking. And by “talking” I more specifically mean talking about their feelings and “processing” them. Men connect more through shared activities and physical (including sexual) contact.
My experience in working with men is that most men would prefer NOT to talk about their feelings and especially prefer NOT to process them. If they really love their partners, they can go against their nature and listen to their partner's feelings and help them process them (if they learn these skills), but generally won't reciprocate. And this really does hurt most women, as they connect this sharing of feelings and processing with love.
Let me state that I am a clinical psychologist AND I have been in over two decades of personal psychotherapy. I worked hard to develop the capacity for and the skill set of communication and I'm pretty good at it. I earn a living with it.
AND, I don't particularly like to talk about my feelings with my partner either! It isn't my preferred method of connecting. I can engage in it when it's necessary, yet from my personal and professional perspective, it's not nearly as necessary as most of our female partner's believe it to be.
Which is why my recommendation at the end of the original Don't Talk So Much was for women to use the 80/20 rule. Take 80% of what you believe you need to share with your partner and share/process it with your friends or your therapist. The remaining 20% can and should be shared with your partner. Choose your battles wisely!
Women don't understand or appreciate the emotional "expense" to a man of engaging in communication/processing. I'm not saying this to have you feel sorry for men or to believe that they are broken or inferior in some way. In general, we just don't have the emotional muscles that women do. We can build them, but still probably won't be a able to keep up. Emotionally, we can sprint, but most men are not marathoners!