by Gale V. LaFreniere
In the beginning there was man and a woman. In some circles they were known as Adam and Eve, and the world was never the same again. In fact eons later we are still struggling with the differences in gender. Nowadays research has proven what we have known all along, that men operate differently than women. But a lot of couples are unaware or are unwilling to consider the impact of the gender differences in their relationship. These hard-wired differences are manifested in our day-to-day interactions which pile up and become enormous and can lead to a path of divorce and separation or at the very least inflict much emotional pain. It behooves all of us to understand and work through these differences so we can make different choices and have different outcomes.
For e.g. we know that men think of a solution first and then talk to others, while women talk to others as part of the process of getting to a solution. Research has shown that men and women use different areas of the brain, the man uses the gray matter while the woman uses the white matter. This simple hardwired difference has such great ramifications and yet couples continue to attribute this to poor communication or to an inability to understand each other. When I am able to clarify the conflict, i.e., the woman tells the man her problem in order to get support and validation; the man responds by being helpful and provides solutions right away; both react badly and the situation devolves to an all-out argument because their intentions were misinterpreted! Once they understand both have an "a-ha" moment, all their walls come down and it's a watershed moment...camera fades out!
Another big source of conflict is how men and women differ in how they manage stress. Suggesting some rest and relaxation to a man to help him manage an ongoing problem would be perfect but if this was suggested to a woman it would only raise a woman's anxiety level as she would feel irresponsible and unproductive. A woman feels better when she can accomplish more and achieve more by diving headlong into a problem. Afterwards, she can then relax. So when a woman sees a man relaxing while in the middle of a problem, the woman believes the man is just avoiding the problem and being lazy, while the man believes the woman is being crazy and frenetic; then walls go up and harsh words start to be thrown around...camera fades out!
It is not always about hard-wired differences but when the issue is about these gender differences, awareness and psycho-education is a must to ensure less conflicts. If the couple could learn to recognize their partner's behaviors and attribute it to gender differences and not as personal attacks, they can then begin to work towards a genuine appreciation of each other's approaches.