Relationships can be a frustrating thing when you just want your partner to understand you, especially when it concerns your emotions. After trying to talk to your partner, have you ever thought, “I just can’t read them,” “We just aren’t connected” or “I just need him to listen but all he wants to do is try to fix things.” Do any of these sound familiar to you?
It seems to be an age old problem: Men claim that women are too emotional; women feel men are too distant and cut off. How is this possible if we are all human and all experience emotions? Can we truly be that different?
Research Suggests We Are Both Different and Alike
I found an interesting study that was conducted by the National Institute of Mental Health that studied if men and women are equally emotional. They found that even though their brain activity showed the same levels of strong emotional responses, they processed these emotions differently. Women tend to feel these emotions within their body whereas men will shift these emotions outside of their awareness as to not feel the same amount of impact.
For example, women and men both find sexual infidelity to be devastating. However, emotional affairs tend to affect women in a more emotional way than men. In fact, research conducted by The American Association of Marriage and Family Therapy found that 45% of men and 35% of women confessed to an emotional affair. Men were also more likely to forgive for this type of affair, whereas women were not! Why? Women stated it’s because their partner shared intimate thoughts and feelings with the affair partner, therefore a relationship had begun. This leads women to feel they have lost their emotional investment to the original relationship.
What does all this mean? How are we supposed to maneuver through the battles of emotions when we process them differently? Below are some effective ways to help navigate emotional times:
Knock Out Assumptions.
Often times when we’ve been with someone for a long time we think we know them inside and out. This may be true in some regard – maybe you know their favorite food, their quirks or how they spend their time. This doesn’t mean you know what they are thinking or feeling. Assuming your partner’s emotions will lead to trouble. You can’t possibly read their mind, so ASK! It’s okay to say, “it seems like something is bothering you. I’d like to help”. This can avoid many disagreements.
What Does It Mean to be “Emotional”?
The battle of emotions can start simply because you and your partner may have completely different ideas as to what being “emotional” means. Ask your partner the meaning of emotions and you may be surprised. Men often feel like they are expected to have deep rooted, heartfelt conversations about their emotions. Many times that’s not the expectation. Most women want to be heard, encouraged and reassured. They are looking for a caring conversation and support, not for your to necessarily “spill your guts.”
Here’s How You Can Bridge the Emotional Gap:
People may have some day to day struggles but instead of leaning on their partner for support, they internalize these negative thoughts and emotions. Internalizing can cause stress and create distorted thoughts and assumptions. I have heard many men state, “I don’t want to burden her with my problems.” Instead they sit with their discomfort and outwardly become withdrawn or appear discontent. This often leaves their partner worrying about if they’ve done something wrong and feeling anxious because they don’t know what’s going on with their husband. This is where it’s crucial to build the emotional bridge between you and your partner. Disclosing your frustrations, fears and happiness will allow for connection easing that battle of emotions. It may sound counterintuitive, I know! However, it actually shows your partner that you trust them and want them to be involved in your life.
There is no real instruction manual for communicating with your loved one nor is there one for understanding emotions. Relationships take work and sometimes it can seem that whatever you do just isn’t working. Don’t give up! It is common for couples to get stuck in a negative cycle and not see a way out. If you need help, think about therapy! If you are in the Jacksonville area, the therapists at Family Therapy Associates of Jacksonville can help you break that negative cycle! Read more about our team and schedule online today. We’re here to help you work towards improved communication, connection and intimacy – that’s our speciality!