The “No-Miss” Fathers Day Gift - Understanding
June is the month we honor fathers. Trust me, there are no more meaningful gifts than understanding, validation, and a good relationship.
So I thought this is would be great time to learn some things about men you may not know (and some men may not know themselves). When you understand how your partner thinks (and how you think if you're a guy) communication and relationships make way more sense and life seems a whole lot more fun. ** Actually, the truth is that both men and women can have these tendencies some of the time—men just have them more on average.**
Here are 6 things you need to know:
1. Men think "fix" first. The way a guy's brain is set up he is usually great at problem solving and not so great at empathy—or at least they focus on problem solving first. This is because they want you to feel better as fast as possible (and so they can get back to the "good stuff" of the relationship). For most guys the idea of talking about how you feel seems impractical and usually doesn't even enter into their mind when a problem comes up. It's important to realize they are doing this because their brain is literally organized to do this, and they are doing to try to help (motivated by love and caring). What guys need to know/remember is that in personal (especially romantic) relationships empathy, validation, and listening to how the other person feels IS the fix in most cases. At the very least, getting to a solution is way easier once everyone feels heard and understood.
2. Men can't read your mind—but are great at following directions. One of the most frustrating sentences I heard in my early dating career was "Well, if you don't know what's wrong, then I'm not going to tell you." or "you should know what you did." or some version of this. Men (and women) can't read their partner's mind. It's easier on everyone if things are directly stated and discussed ("I'm upset because you didn't say thanks when I ________. I feel taken for granted a lot of the time."). Usually when a guy understands what you need (and how important it is to you) he is happy to do it. If not, then that's information about the health of the relationship and whether this is a good fit for you or not. A fun way to apply this concept is a love menu. You guys write down several things that are special and feel like love to you and then exchange them. Then you/he can just pick something off the list to show you love (and you can do the same) with out having to guess and miss horribly.
3. Men want to protect (but sometimes end up hurting). In our culture men have been taught to "carry the burden" and not STRESS out their partner. This actually ends up causing more STRESS in the long run. Your partner, family, and friends can tell when something is off. By not dealing with it directly they have to make things up and they usually make up really dysfunctional and STRESSful stuff. The "harsh truth" is more kind and less STRESSful than the protection. Let your guy know that he can and needs to talk to you about things so you can deal with things and not STRESS out imagining the worst.
4. Men need context. We all need context. We learn better and are more calm when we have it. When you set up what is expected and how things are going to flow everyone feels more relaxed and things tend to go better. Something like "Hey honey, there's something I need to talk to you about. I need about 15 minutes and I just need you to listen while I talk it out. Is this a good time?" Remember point number 2 — if he knows what he needs to do he is usually happy to do it. When there's is no context he will try hard but also be more frustrated because he cares but probably isn't giving you what you need. Tell him what you need and for how long while giving him an out (ask permission). This works for women to guys!
5. Men can shut down when there are intense emotions. In most cases girls grow up spending more time around and being more comfortable with emotions. They way a woman's brain is set up also helps them to process emotions more easily (the corpus callosum is twice as thick in females). Because of this, intense emotions (even positive ones) can put guys into fight or flight. This withdrawal actually puts their partner into fight or flight also - and then you got the viscous cycle that wrecks it for everyone. So go slow; (setting the context helps) and ask for breaks if your a guy. By the way, facial expressions and tone of voice are also a very strong forms of emotional expression so be aware of how you may be coming across.
6. Men need to know there is an end or that they can call a time-out. Everyone does better when they feel they have choice and some control in a situation. If you both agree that if things get too intense for either of you both of you have permission to call a timeout (respectfully) the conversation will go way better. When you feel trapped you feel STRESSed and then everything falls apart. But remember: you have to reschedule the discussion and then FOLLOW THROUGH!!! Or else it's just going to lead to more STRESS for both of you.
So do yourself and the men in your life a favor—figure out how men tend to function and work with who they are when you can.
This really is the best gift you can give this Father’s Day.
Listen to the related interview on 630CHED.
Dr. Ganz Ferrance - holds a Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology and an M.A. in Developmental and Educational Psychology from Andrews University in Michigan. He is the former Public Education Coordinator as well as the former Vice-President of the Psychologist’s Association of Alberta. Dr. Ganz enjoys sharing how people can get more “mileage” from their lives. For more information about Dr. Ganz click here.