Of all the issues included in past posts, comments and insights about emotional needs in a couple, today I want to offer a basic piece of information that perhaps can be a big “aha” point in your day. When we talk about different expectations between male and female in marital conversations, we needed to clarify this basic idea:
Both sides of the divide are seeing the interaction from different mindsets, and not knowing this can lead to misunderstanding, offenses and extreme loneliness.
Men need to get their daily self-esteem doses by a mix of satisfactions related to how well they manage their external environment, and accomplish external goals. Women need to feel loved and connected. Now the twist: Both sides expect the other to function as the mirror of their own accomplishments, which of course are “invisible” for each other. From here the bitter complaints about: “men don’t ever listen,” and “women always need to correct us.”
If women feel happy because they have helped a dear person in need, this is an implicit request for the husband to say: “I can see how happy it makes you to be able to help others in a big way.”
If men feel happy because they reached a milestone in a project, this is a request for the wife to say: “It’s wonderful to see how well you managed the challenges of the project and got to make it work.”
Of course, this answer almost never happens…and we get all kinds of twisted reactions instead. Our expectations for recognition are squashed. Why is there a conflict created by frustrated expectations? They never clarified how they see/need/express using different lenses to see what’s going on…
-Because for women, acknowledging goals reached is not a priority, but offering some suggestions to further improve them yes. And so they will do, risking to get an angry reaction from their husbands.
-Because for men, acknowledging intangibles as the fulfillment of the need for love and connection is useless blather…they will ignore this aspect and provide solutions for the next step, making wives feel unappreciated and lonely.
How emotional needs have different expressions?
A sign of great love for women is to involve themselves helping others without being asked. As proving one’s competence isn’t as crucial, offering help isn’t offensive, and needing help isn’t a sign of weakness. In a man’s world, though, he might feel offended as when his wife provides advice to him because he doesn’t feel she trusts his power to do it himself efficiently. And a lot of self-worth is balancing here!
Women don’t usually perceive this aspect of this male predisposition, because if somebody offers to help her, it makes her feel much more loved and treasured. Their emotional needs are expressed in a different way.
However offering help to a man may make him feel incompetent, weak, and even unloved. Their emotional needs ask for admiration, instead of help!
Why is it, if offering advice and constructive critique is an act of love, that if a woman attempts to better a man, he feels she’s trying to fix him?
He gets the message that he’s broken, or “not good enough” and thus can react with anger to this negative feeling. It even gets worse if she doesn’t recognize that her caring attempts to help him are instead humiliating him. She can see his anger, covering up the humiliation that she doesn’t see.
She erroneously thinks she’s simply helping him to grow. Of course, she does this at her own peril, oblivious to the fact that her man can be the survivor of a past childhood experience where he was never doing things right for his own mother…and now the last thing he needs is to have another edition of that control! Women forget that everything that happens with them through their interactions, is compared and tested against the archaic model of his past childhood relationship with his mother…
To summarize the 2 most common errors we make in relationships:
1. A man has difficulties listening to her woman’s feelings if she’s upset, sad or worried and tries to control the conversation by offering external, factual solutions to her issues, managing at the same time to ignore her feelings.
2. A woman constant attempt to alter a man’s behavior by offering unsought advice or critique is building up resentment.
Would you like some suggestions:
I propose that for the next week rehearse restraining from presenting any unsought advice and use appreciation of everything you find positive in his behavior a lot.(“I love the way you put up with so much resistance to your ideas from the contractor but finally got your way.”)
If you’re a husband, I advise that for the next week you rehearse listening to your partner, with the exclusive intention of respectfully understanding her feelings. Now, add a bit of recognition for her feelings: “I hear that you get worried when you friend is so depressed as to think of suicide…” . Rehearse biting your tongue if you get the urge to provide a solution (“why don’t we go to the movies to change your negative feelings?”).
Want to try our ideas? how can they help your present relationship? It would be great to have your feedback!