Finding Middle Ground In Relationships


Can't see eye to eye with your partner? It may be time to look for middle ground through this lens.

It’s no secret that for women, intimacy is verbal, while for men intimacy is nonverbal. This means that men and women view, recognize, show, and define intimacy differently: women by words and men by actions. It’s a beautiful thing that we’re such different creatures, and it’s part of the perpetually unsolvable mystery behind attraction—but, at times, the communication gap can create unnecessary tension for couples when no one had any intention of picking a fight.

Does this seem familiar:

She tells him just how she feels about him, and is disappointed when he doesn’t say the same thing back.

When a woman wants to let a man know how much she loves him, she thinks to herself, “I’ll tell him! I’m ready to say it,” and she rehearses what she’ll say, over and over again, before she bares her soul. When the man hears her words, he’s probably overwhelmed with emotion, and whether he feels the same way or not, his automatic reaction isn’t to blurt out an equally vulnerable statement right back to her.

He spends all day washing her car for her, and is disappointed when she views it as simply a kind gesture or act of generosity, rather than the grand expression of love he intended.

When a man puts aside a sizeable amount of time for an act of love, he doesn’t just see it as a sweet thing to do. It’s an act of love! Just as the man couldn’t see how huge those words were to the woman when she spoke them, the woman can’t see what went behind the man's decision to do something for her.

Because men do labor or chores all day long, at work and at home, and women spend hours gabbing with friends or being their personal life coaches, over lunch and the telephone, we have trouble assigning meaning the to cues and gestures that seem completely uniform of the opposite sex.

Men think, “All women do is talk.” Having observed the way their mothers, sisters, and exes often frivolously and absentmindedly throw around words to (or about) other women, men sometimes can’t tell if a woman really means what she says. They can’t identify an accurate degree of intimacy behind a woman’s words.
Women think, “All men do is work.” Having observed the way their fathers, brothers, and exes have spent countless hours doing jobs or activities that they don’t necessarily enjoy or care about, women sometimes can’t tell if a man is doing something because he wants to or because he just feels a natural responsibility to as a man. They can’t identify an accurate degree of intimacy behind a man’s actions.

Since the zone of intimacy is so vulnerable for both parties involved, we often fear we’re being manipulated.

Have you heard that “men use love to get sex, and women use sex to get love?” This example illustrates the root of all miscommunications between men and women: manipulation stemming from fear of the unknown.

While it’s true that we sometimes selfishly and intentionally manipulate our partners just to get something we want, sometimes our little manipulations are unbeknownst to us. So how can we be sensitive to the differing zones or intimacy?

The key is to make intimacy a neutral territory. Don’t think something is either “his territory” or “her territory.” Make the effort to step out of your comfort (intimacy) zone—the man can write out a thoughtful card. The woman can go out and organize the man’s tool shed for him. Then, you’re sharing intimacy. You neutralize a zone that was once marked by opposing lines. You’re trying to speak their language! In making the effort to speak each other’s languages, you’ll both be speaking the language of love before you know it.

This article was originally published at Real People Dating Blog. Reprinted with permission from the author.