While talking about feelings can be soothing to women, for many men, it has the opposite effect, according to psychotherapists Patricia Love and Steven Stosney, co-authors of How to Improve Your Marriage Without Talking About It. Stosney’s research, which includes studying hundreds of human and animal responses, shows males and females respond differently to stress from birth. For instance, baby girls need to make eye contact if they hear a loud noise, while boys need to withdraw to prevent overstimulation. As they get older, girls and women use talking to cope with stress, while boys and men pull away to cope.
The authors explain men tend to feel shame if they feel they don’t measure up. So, a woman initiating a conversation about relationship problems can cause these feelings of shame to well up. Other likely results: glazed eyes, defensiveness, or withdrawal (to TV, man cave, sports, etc.).
Why? Love explains when a man feels shamed by his sweetie’s criticsm, the stress hormone cortisol floods his body. A woman might feel a similar stress hormone rush if her husband yells at her.
So are there better strategies to address relationship issues? Thankfully, yes. Stay tuned for the next post, which will give you the four new tools to keep you both calm and cool, and perhaps more likely to please one another.
Let’s hear from you. If you’re a man, do you agree with this assessment that talking about your feelings is about as pleasant as eating sand? If you’re a woman, do you find relationship discussions put your partner on edge, or are they successful?