So often in couples therapy, I hear my clients complain that the other person doesn’t understand them. “He hears me ask him to do the same thing ten times, and then claims I never said it!” “She talks constantly about what she’s feeling and I can’t get a minute to breath!” Sound familiar? This dynamic is all too familiar for most couples, and does not seem to get better over time. In fact, the majority of my work as a couples therapist surrounds the topic of communication. My job as therapist becomes that of a translator, hearing and interpreting what each person says for their partner.
So, why are we so different? It seems that the answer to this question lies in both nature and nurture.
Our genetic differences set us on different paths before birth, with men having difficulty with attention, whereas women are able to efficiently multitask. Men are also born with less verbal fluency and emotional understanding then women. This is compounded over time when boys are socialized to be tough and girls learn to empathize with others. This stark difference in how we understand and experience emotions puts us on different playing fields, and this difference is quite obvious in relationships.
As adults, women feel their emotions on a multitude of levels; first acknowledging its presence, second trying to understand where it comes from, and third communicating it. Men typically don’t share this ability, instead having difficulty with their emotions, and burying them below the surface due to a lack of understanding.
In order to get start speaking the same language, women can try two this two-step technique that will help them communicate (i.e. speak menglish) with their partner. Start by remembering that men have a limited focus, and wait until you have their complete attention to speak. Next, give your partner some time to think about how he wants to answer you. Emotions are complex, and working through them can take time, especially for someone who is not as well-versed or high in emotional IQ.
Originally posted on PhiladelphiaMFT.