This week we are continuing on with examining how men and women have different ways of relating to their partner. The book “Why women walk and men talk” has some fascinating insights into male and female behaviour in relationships.
In a couple who disconnected, she may not know that he, like most men, has a heightened sensitivity to feeling shame and inadequacy. (How could she?) His impulse when he feels shame is to hide, so he can’t tell her about it. Instead, he disguises it with annoyance, impatience and anger.
She does not understand that each time she tries to make improvements in their relationship, the overriding message he hears is that he is not meeting her expectations – he’s failing her – which sends him into the pain of his own inadequacy.
While trying to ward off feeling like a failure, he is no longer sensitive to her fear of being isolated and shut out. In the beginning of their relationship, he sensed her need for connection and wouldn’t have dreamed of shutting her out. But now he has no idea that each time he rejects her concerns or raises his voice in anger – purely to protect himself – he’s pushing her further away and deeper ino the pain of isolation.
It’s so easy for couples to slip into this pattern, because the different vulnerabilities that so greatly influence men and women interact with each other are virtually invisible. In the beginning of the relationship, the fall – in – love chemicals our brains secrete make it easy to focus on each other’s more subtle emotions. But once the effects of those chemicals wear off – within 3 to 9 months – we need to make a more conscious effort to protect each other’s vulnerabilities. To do this, we need to understand the different vulnerabilities of men and women and how we manage them in relationships.
We’ll talk more about that next week.