One of the biggest issues that I work with is a guy’s simple inability to communicate his needs and feelings. It’s this lack of ability to communicate that creates seismic tensions in his marriage or relationship.
Guys are just generally less attuned to their feelings, and couldn’t possibly access their needs if their life depended on it, right? No so much. Guys are very much emotionally-based, as their women are, and need the same satisfaction of getting those emotions accessed and released as their ladies do. The problem has many origins and explanations, and to understand some of them, we look to understanding one simple fact.
A lot of the time, guys don’t have the tools to access their emotions and needs, and yet their women have a certain expectation that they should. This expectation wasn’t there 50 years ago, as society and culture shifted its focused towards the individual, self-expression and liberation in the 1960’s in America.
On top of that, guys have fathers that haven’t been able to teach them these critical tools. A lot of the time, their fathers behaved in the same ways that they did, although it’s harder to get away with it these days because of social pressures and expectations of men in relationships that we’re there back in the 1950’s.
What guys do if to suffer in silence, resort to pornography or alcohol, seek out friends whose advice is often not helpful (the friends are often struggling just as much as the guys themselves), or avoid conflict or adverse situations that would elicit their true feelings, which are often just “too difficult to deal with.”
What might help in relationships is to create a space to let those needs and feelings be more well known. Too often, we, as partners, get caught up in our reactivity patterns and can’t really listen to what is happening with our mate. We react to assumptions and expectations that our guy “read our minds” (read: women) and that “they should know what I need.” This type of false thinking contributes to the very communication problems that got us here in the first place.
Creating a space for your guy to communicate, or at least not react and avoid you, is key. Understanding what he is needing – straight from his mouth – is essential in helping your relationship along, because what you think he needs, and what he thinks he needs, are often two very different things. And not making the assumptions about where he is coming from is very important, because you may be reacting to him through your own assumptions. And that will make it worse.