The longer we live with them, the more we wonder: Is every man the same? Tell me this. Is it just my guy or is every man either confused (huh?) or defensive (it was you!) in an argument? Do all guys have a relationship off-button that they push the second they get to to work or are out somewhere with the boys? Is it possible that when it comes to relationships, the male brain is just wired differently than ours?
You bet. Here’s how.
5 WAYS MEN THINK DIFFERENTLY THAN WOMEN
1. Men’s Time Machines are Broken
What Happens: Women tend to see a bigger relationship picture than men and that leads to futile squabbles. You’re arguing about what happened last year, while he’s arguing about what happened 10 minutes ago. You’re trying to solve destructive, overarching patterns, while he’s trying to solve the problem in the here and now.
What You Can Do: Help us understand what you need by telling us up-front when you are discussing larger patterns in the relationship, rather than the present problem. We’ll be able to talk about the past and future when we understand why it’s important to you.
2. Male Brains Are More Modular
What Happens: Male and female brains are structured differently. A recent study showed that women have more communication between and within the hemispheres whereas that trend is reversed in favour of men in the the area that controls movement and coordination. Typically, men seem to interact more efficiently with the environment, while women seem better equipped at intuitive processing and nuanced social interaction. Combine that biology with the socialization in most cultures that discourages men from exploring emotion, and men and women can end up with a pretty wide gulf in relationship abilities.
What You Can Do: Differences in brain structures doesn’t mean men can’t get good at emotions (or that women can’t be every bit as effective at rebuilding carburetors), but it means we may need some help understanding where you are coming from emotionally. As one man said: Some of us aren’t raised to be open with our feelings. Help us; don’t judge us.
3. Men Often Feel Outmatched During Arguments
What Happens: Most men are taught early in life to be stoic and manly, which is useful but can leave us feeling outwitted when discussing emotion and intimate connection. As one man put it: When we have an argument it’s like I’m playing one-on-one against LeBron James. Why do [women] have to win every argument? A lot of guys feel anxious in their relationships because arguments feel like contests for which they’re hopelessly ill-equipped. It’s even worse when they’re unable to predict when they’ll have to (in their view) defend themselves for something they did or said long ago. Relationship discussions often get derailed into pointless quarrels when men become defensive because they feel they can’t win.
What You Can Do: Help us by pointing out the bigger picture. For example, You never take out the trash, could be reframed as I feel like I’m alone in the housework. Reframing helps us understand the issue and tells us what problem needs to be solved.
4. Men Do Commitment Differently
What Happens: Men are built for commitment but they approach it differently. Do you wonder how he can move in and out of the relationship and just forget all about you when he’s at work or with his pals? There’s a reason. Studies show that men possess a drive to participate on teams—to contribute to something larger than ourselves, and we tend to be skilled at compartmentalizing our lives. It’s easy to misinterpret that as a lack of relationship investment.
What You Can Do: Trust us. Know that when we step away from the relationship, we are all the more excited to “come back home” when work or play is done. Ironically, relationships become closer and more important to men when we feel free to set intimacy aside while we pursue other goals.
5. Men Need to Feel Useful
What Happens: Lack of purpose is a terrible thing for the male mind. Good men are a bit like border collies: we’re happiest when we’re useful. That’s why the life of a good man involves constant striving for direction and meaning. When it comes to relationships, most men want to be the most important thing in the world to the woman in his life. That means we go to (sometimes ridiculous) lengths to impress you, and we are driven to make you happy.
What You Can Do: Stay open. Don’t misunderstand us by getting caught in any number of traps related to the male way of doing relationships. The bottom line is good news: most of us are pretty easy to get along with if you willing to understand our strange ways, and to help us understand you.
Shawn Smith, PsyD, is a psychologist and author of The Woman’s Guide to How Men Think: Love, Commitment, and The Male Mind, and The User’s Guide to the Human Mind. He also writes a popular blog at IronShrink.com.