One Major Difference In How Men And Women Bond Causes Way Too Many Fights In Relationships

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man and woman wondering why they bond differently

There are many differences between men and women, including in the types of communication styles they use to bond and create intimacy in relationships. And when couples aren't on the same page, these differences can cause unnecessary tension.

Unfortunately, one particularly major difference that causes otherwise easily avoidable relationship problems has to do with the ways men and women form bonds differently.

As an example of how such a difference can play out, I'll use an example a client I'll refer to as Andrew (not his real name) shared with me.

While his wife, Ceceila (also not her real name), was getting something for him, he jokingly said to her, "Don't break it..."

She came back with a fairly harsh, "What's going on with you?" He then reacted to her judgment of him, and it didn't go well from there.

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After a few minutes, they calmed down and talked about it. She understood why her tone upset him, but even though they talked about what happened over and over, he didn't understand why his joke upset her. He judged her as being too sensitive, and she ended up feeling even more hurt and unheard.

She believed his judgmental 'jokes' were passive-aggressive, and she wanted him to address this. However, as hard as he tried to see what he had done when it came to making the sarcastic jokes, he couldn't find any aggression within himself, passive or not.

This is an example of the importance of understanding one major difference in how men and women form bonds.

I told Andrew that I, too, would not have liked the comment and asked him if he was open to going deeper with what was going on. He was on board.

"This is the way I and my guy friends are with each other," he said. "We are constantly sarcastic, insulting and ridiculing of each other. But only with my close friends. We make fun of each other a lot and it's fun. You know, guys don't share their feelings a lot and this is a way of being close."

"I understand," I replied. "So it's not actually passive-aggressive. But I know that you know that Cecelia hates it. Why do you do it with her?"

"I just forget," he explained. "I slip up. I'm with guys a lot and we do this all the time so sometimes I just forget."

Andrew later sent me a Reddit thread about this same topic. One of the comments summed the issue up well:

"Men socialize by insulting each other, but don't really mean it. While women socialize by complimenting each other but don't really mean it."

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I think there is some truth when it comes to gender differences between how men and women forms bonds during socialization.

Women often compliment each other, even if insincerely, as a way of connecting. And men tend to rib each other, even if, for some men, the bantering can be hurtful rather than bonding.

The real issue for both men and women that many people never learned how to have an open heart and connect with their feelings when communicating.

Men likely learn in their families to connect with insults and sarcasm, and women learn to connect with compliments and gossip.

Yet, these forms of connection can leave each person feeling empty and unsatisfied, if there is a lack of the authentic energy of love.

For both men and women, these indirect behaviors can be tricky, depending on the intent and context. If you are a person who has learned to relate to others this way — whether it's "masculine" insult or banter or the "feminine “cattiness" — it is important to really examine how the behavior makes you and the people with whom you engage in these behaviors feel.

If you both feel a genuine sense of intimacy, ease, connection, caring, and fun, then great. If not, it is worth looking at the behavior to see if it might be one of the many ploys of your wounded self to try and feel in control or to keep others at bay (which is most likely), rather than connecting.

The only thing that truly fills us is love.

As you practice Inner Bonding and learn how to love yourself, you may find that you no longer enjoy the way the wounded self has learned to connect and communicate.

If you are a sensitive man, you may find that you have had to ignore your hurt feelings regarding the insults and judgments you might experience with other men and it no longer feels okay to ignore it.

Being true to yourself is always the important thing to do and often it takes some work to discover that truth.

Inauthentic ways of communicating often leave us feeling bad, while authentically sharing love and intimacy is always deeply fulfilling.

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Margaret Paul, Ph.D. is a relationship expert, noted public speaker, workshop leader, educator, chaplain, consultant, and artist.

This article was originally published at Inner Bonding. Reprinted with permission from the author.