On the occasion of International Men’s Day, Saima Sabreen tries to explore the importance of healthy communication between men and women, and the need to understand men’s emotions and needs.
‘I get tired too’, ‘I expect you to be a little more understanding, more accommodating’. These are just two of the dialogues we often hear from men while communicating with their mothers, wives or sisters. Such types of conversations often go ignored because when we talk about emotions, it is often related to the female gender. We most often tend to forget that emotions are a part of a human being’s existence, irrespective of gender. The need and urge to be empathized is therefore instilled in both of them. As Leslie Jamison explains; Empathy comes from the Greek empatheia – em (into) and pathos (feeling) – a penetration, a kind of travel. It suggests you enter another person’s pain as you would enter another country.
For a successful relationship between two individuals, respecting individual differences, agreeing to disagree, valuing each other’s opinions and appreciating one another for small things that often go unnoticed helps in strengthening the bond and eliminating insecure feelings. Maintaining a bond and social relations are a part of an individual’s journey in this world. As the popular adage suggests, ‘No man is an island’, meaning no one exists in isolation. Our mental well-being and our behaviours influence not only our family, friends, and loved ones but also influenced by the relationships we maintain. This interconnectedness can set off a chain reaction, extending beyond our sphere and reaching those in our immediate environment. Events such as disputes, divorce, friendships, loss, and bereavement can both serve as sources of stress and depression and, conversely, arise due to stress and depression. This necessitates a deeper understanding of an individual’s personality; their method of dealing with emotions and individual perceptions, particularly in relations that often stay together, i.e., husband and wife.
The build of a man and woman is different as created by the Almighty, with each gender having its strengths and limitations. Often, females tend to unknowingly classify men as the offenders, thereby subconsciously neglecting the emotional support they wish to receive. For example, the way of communication varies between the two opposite genders. A separate field, termed gendered communication focuses on how men and women differ in terms of imparting or exchanging information through speech, pen or any other source. The communication style often used by men is ‘reportive’, meaning the usage of speech containing facts, and data and aims to solve problems. During a conversation, when a female puts out her feelings to vent out and feel better, men immediately begin analyzing the situation and provide solutions for it. John Gray in his book “Men Are from Mars and Women Are from Venus” published in 2004, conveyed the idea that men often make the error of anticipating women to think, communicate, and react like men, while women tend to erroneously assume that men should feel, communicate, and respond as women do. The essence of the problem lies in the overlooking of the inherent differences between men and women. Consequently, this misunderstanding leads to unavoidable friction and conflicts within relationships (Cinardo, 2011). Men may complain about women giving them the silent treatment instead of discussing issues openly. One of the major conflicts between a man and a woman is the indirect expectation of women to read between the lines. Women keep their hearts before their minds, worrying about how the talk can have an impact on the person, paying special attention to feelings. Meanwhile, men tend to be more realistic, and practical and speak what they feel. In the war of learning to communicate with a woman, repetitively trying to speak how their lady wants them to, men tend to become more harsh, stringent and unsympathetic. A little support from their partner on understanding how the brain deals with information reaching the minds of men could help prevent the inhospitable attitude that develops after a phase of life.
Furthermore, expectations in terms of gifts and gestures are higher in women than in men. Just like a woman would take the extra mile, and go out of the box and her comfort zone to give her man the best, she expects similar efforts from her man. Small gestures such as hiding posts in his book, and celebrating smaller events, for instance after completion of a short one-month course are more commonly seen by women as compared to men. However, what requires appreciation is the expression of his feelings. Although he may not be as vocal about it as his lady would expect him to be, respecting her choices, staying by her side during difficult times, and buying things that make her happy whenever she asks him for them are other ways in which men showcase their care and concern. Unfortunately, what goes unnoticed is often noted in dialogues we hear from women, such as ‘Ye tho theek hai you get things for me when I ask you to. But, what have you done by yourself for me?’, ‘How much time does it take to think about your wife and do something unexpected?’. Such conversations demean and are often taken as a disgrace by men. Some men may feel that women nag or constantly point out flaws, which can lead to frustration or feelings of being criticized. Men often seek recognition and admiration from others as a means of upholding their self-worth. This desire for acknowledgement extends to various facets of their daily lives, including their ability to provide for their family and their roles as partners or fathers.
In addition, when we look into the reasons for conflict between the two genders, we realize that the majority of them do not have a genuine cause. They arise due to overthinking or overanalyses of situations giving rise to unnecessary stress. This is a complaint often heard by men. Psychology experts suggest that women typically approach situations by considering multiple angles, while men tend to break down problems into individual components. Men frequently encounter distinct challenges in the realm of conflict resolution. Societal expectations, personal ego, feelings of guilt and shame can act as barriers to open and sincere communication. Men might react strongly when they perceive injustice or a threat to their masculinity. Indicators of potential anger issues in men include frequent or explosive emotional outbursts, verbal or physical aggression, and difficulty managing their emotions. Another concerning sign is the tendency to attribute their problems or challenges to others. They may become defensive or hostile when faced with criticism or feedback, struggling to take responsibility for their actions. Consequently, these issues can lead to breakdowns in communication and trust within relationships. Power and control dynamics often play a significant role in relationship conflicts, with such behaviours manifesting as attempts to dominate or exert control over a partner. This, in turn, results in resentment, erosion of trust, and heightened conflicts. The crucial initial step in addressing these behaviours and adopting healthier communication patterns is recognizing and acknowledging these dynamics.
Moreover, men may perceive that women have unrealistic financial expectations prioritizing financial security in a way that feels burdensome. An expanding body of research has highlighted a significant gender disparity, with women exhibiting higher levels of financial illiteracy compared to men (Fonseca et al., 2012). For instance, a study revealed that less than 20% of college-educated women in middle age could correctly respond to a fundamental compound interest question, whereas roughly 35% of their male counterparts of the same educational background were able to do so (Julie et al., 2008). The general perception is that women (particularly housewives) tend to save more money than their counterparts. However, in many households, men being the breadwinners of the family, look out for trust, belief and confidence in their financial decision-making skills as well. A little bit of trust and support would not only transform the confrontational conversation into a loving, friendly talk but also rebuild the confidence and reliance between the husband and wife.
These and many more such problems require conversation and understanding rather than running away from them and blaming one another for not being able to effectively handle relationships. As the saying goes, a stitch in time saves nine, by putting oneself in the shoes of a man and apprehending their point of view, friction may be avoided. This includes appreciating them for the little things that are often taken for granted such as taking the garbage out or even getting the grocery. What makes us sad, and what makes us happy can differ from one woman to another. Pouring out at those times when we feel the lowest instead of choosing to give a silent treatment can help men realise what went wrong and what could have been done better to avoid future conflict. Being silent and expecting men to console but behaving hostile would be assumed by men as space needed by their lady. Besides, providing space for men to do what they want just as men respect the space their wife wants, is also essential for building a healthy relationship. Taunting again and again only hampers the peace. Furthermore, women can recognize and respect the unique emotional experiences faced by men and not make assumptions based on stereotypes or expectations related to their gender (such as trying to justify themselves as this is a male-dominating society and men cannot accept defeat). This can help in preventing heated arguments.
Listening to one another’s point of view can sort out many issues between the two genders. As the Dalai Lama said, ‘When you talk, you are only repeating what you already know. But if you listen, you may learn something new’. Every conversation is an opportunity for new learning about how two humans made from the same clay can think differently and have different ways of expression. Keeping all the above discussion in mind, it is crucial to tackle these grievances with open and respectful dialogue to foster a healthy partnership. In any relationship, misunderstandings and conflicts can surface, and the key to resolution lies in a mutual willingness to genuinely listen to each other’s viewpoints, seek compromise, and discover shared ground.
Cinardo, J. (2011). Male and Female differences in communicating conflict. Thesis submission at Coastal Carolina University.
Fonseca, R., Mullen, K. J., Zamarro, G., & Zissimopoulos, J. (2012). What Explains the Gender Gap in Financial Literacy? The Role of Household Decision Making. The Journal of Consumer Affairs, 46(1), 90–106. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1745-6606.2011.01221.x
Zissimopoulos Julie, Karney Benjamin, Rauer Amy. MRRC Working Paper WP2008-645, 2008. 2008. Marital Histories and Economic Well-Being.