Interpersonal-Relationships Dealing With Our Differences
``Mid-life is a war between our
and reality.``Paul David Tripp
Many interpersonal-relationships are close to break-up because of so much stress. Our fast-paced society imposes more than his share of stressors that impacts our relationships with the people we love.
During the period of courtship, lovers’ imagination runs wild. They are in the mood to confront whatever obstacle to prove our love. They know that living together will not be the perfect paradise, but whatever obstacles that are to come, they feel that everything can be worked out. Optimism is in the air and they commit to each other.
The honey moon period slowly fades away with everyday stress...long working hours, the children comes...they have concerns about the best approach for the education of their children, as first time parents... there’s the increasing cost of living and the depts. Responsibilities of work and child care is difficult in a two-career-family that is living in a fast paced modern life.
In our past encounter we’ve stressed the importance of
to help bring support in your difficult relationship concerns. You’re also aware of the impact of
can have in your life.
To make the situation even more interesting, you will now journey one step further and make the effort in understanding this very important fact: Men and women’s reactions to stress are totally opposite from one another, as an outcome their approach to release this stress is also opposite...so are each partner’s needs. The reasons for these differences are biological, cultural and history related.
Partners need to identify and to understand their differences:
"Understanding our differences provide a completely new direction for men and women - it brings out the best in which increases intimacy in our relationships.
Men and women release stress in very opposite ways. To illustrate this I quote John Gray:
A man enters into his cave to forget the problems of his day; she wants to interact and discuss things...she’s looking for empathy but instead she’s getting solutions to her frustrating situations. In these situations "the message isn’t clear for both of them."John Gray
This is just one out of so many frustrations that couples encounter in their relationship. What are they? How do we deal with those differences? We can classify them under three major categories:
1. Biological (chemical and anatomy of each gender)
2. Historical ( anthropology)
3. Cultural or behavioural (upbringing and cultural influence)
1.Chemical and anatomy (also identified as Gender Brain Chemistry)
I am sure that it would not be of any surprise if I was to tell you that men and women are different, but what if I tell you that the brain of a man and the one of a woman are both wired differently...
1.1. Women anatomy
1.1.1.Corpus callosum (bundle of nerves that connects the right and the left hemispheres of the brain) is 25% bigger in a woman’s brain in comparison to the men’s brain. Compare the traffic on a freeway and the traffic in the back roads. The neurological messages communicate much more abundantly between the two hemispheres.
The brain of a woman is constantly active - in a never ending list of things-to-do - program. This difference in proportion of the women’s corpus callosum eases the ability of rapid messages to the feelings, and talk centres of the brain. (explaining the women’s strong ability for communication).
1.1.2.The Left brain hemisphere - Women are more sensitive to the feelings and movements inside her. Ex.: pregnancy, childbirth. Men will pay more attention to outer action.
(hypothalamus and the
The limbic system in a woman’s brain is larger in a woman than in a man.
is connected to the hypothalamus and to other regions of the body. The brain (left hemisphere) receives sensors much more associated with emotions than actions. As a result she has a greater ability to stay in touch with her emotions and will feel the need to bond, to feel connected. It is also an explanation as to why women can also be more susceptible to depression than men.
188.8.131.52 Memory emotional)
The amygdala reacts to connections between senses and memory and as a result there are quick responses to pleasant or unpleasant outer behavioural stimulations. For this reason, a woman will remember good or hurting incidents with much more ease than would do so, a man.
The man’s brain is twenty-five per cent smaller and highly high wired for using a specific part of a single hemisphere to accomplish a task. (Less connection between the two hemispheres)
Their brain function is comparable to opening and closing separate compartments that don’t connect with each other. Men concentrate on one thing in life at a time. As a result men have difficulty to shift their attention from a main task as they are one-task oriented able, in comparison to women who can easily multi-task.
3.1 Inferior Parietal Lobule (situated above the level of the ears) is larger in a man’s brain in comparison to the one in the women’s brain. This would explain male’s general pre-dominant mathematical ability, his ability to perceive time, and his ability to rotate 3D figures. Ex.: video games (90% of men have a higher ability)
3.2 Amygdala – is twice bigger than the woman’s amygdala and is connected to the action and visual centres of the brain.(right brain hemisphere). As a result, men become impatient, aggressive and impulsive when there’s a problem. Men react predominantly in action (in opposition to women becoming more emotional) to external environment. His instinctive reaction will be to look for solutions.
3.3 Memory (male)
The neural connections are situated in the different hemispheres of the man’s brain which decreases the speed of the neural response and the intensity of the message; as a result men easily forget.
3.4 Central Processing of the Brain
- grey matter -information processing centers - and white matter - type of neural tissues found in the brain and in the spinal cord; they interact between the information processing centers.
Grey matter is a major component in the men’s brain,(6.5% more than the women) and the white matter is minor.
The white matter (aprox.10% more in a woman) is made of
that circulates along axons - the stem of the nerve cell and through the dendrites - the little extremity branches that grabs the transmitters from one cell to another. The white matter determines the speed of communication – an element much stronger in a women in opposition to men - much more stronger in mathematics, physics etc,...and women stronger in the fields of communication.
3.5 Broca’s area and Weinikes (speech zone
The Broca’s area Is 90% smaller in men and because it’s smaller and situated in the men’s left hemisphere of the brain, men don’t feel the need to talk, exception made to solve problems. The women need to talk to release her stress, and in order to do so, she verbalises her concerns and needs. The Broca’s area is situated in the frontal lobe of the left hemisphere and its purpose consists in helping us understand language.
Hormones, from the Greek (ormoni) meaning - to set in motion or to stir up - are chemical reactors from “either a gland in general and regulates the activity of certain cells or organs in the body.”
1.Natural stress hormones
Adrenaline, also called epinephrine, and
are important survival functions, when these hormones are released in life-and-death situations. In overtime (or when the individual is not in a life-and-death situation) these hormones can disrupt our digestive and immune systems and as a result we develop:
a) Low energy and illness
b) Influctuation of blood sugar levels (leading to diabetes)
c) Produce moodiness, depression, sense of urgency, irritability, anxiety, general distress
d) Affects the relationship
2.Feeling Good hormones:
These hormones are essential for general health in both genders.
Oxytocin is the cuddling hormone. We find them at an equal level in both men and women. The oxytocin is boosted by other hormones in the female brain such as the estrogens. (also identified as the female sex hormone).
When the male has too much oxydocin in his body it increases men’s stress. It reduces his feeling good hormone: the testosterone. For example, too much oxytocin in men will make him feel exhausted and will withdraw after having sex.
Testosterone is the feeling successful hormone when found at an equal level in a man’s body. An overdose of testosterone makes the man become aggressive. If the level is too low, he will suffer of irritable male syndrome: withdrawal, irritability and depression.
Too much testosterone in a woman will lower the effectiveness of her oxytocin – reducing it. Ex.: Increases sexual cravings feeling unsatisfied. She never reaches a climax of fulfillment; she feels she never has enough.
To better understand the roles of feeling good hormones I strongly recommend the following book by Dr. John Gray Ph.D., psychologist.
Identifying the skills most attributed to each gender.
When women’s oxytocin is up to level the following skills are predominant in a woman:
a) Empathetic and compassionate
b) More developed verbally and socially
The woman has a stronger ability for building relationships as she is more sensitive to emotions in others and also more emotional than a man. Women are also more generous...more giving (even after death donating organs) ex. 9 women out of 10 will donate while men don’t).
When men’s testosterone is up to level men the followings skills are predominant in him:
d) Demonstrate greater spatial and mathematical skills
e) Risk takers
f) Excel in i) time estimation ii) making speed judgments
2.A little bit of history:
Why do men and women react so differently to stress? To understand we must refer to the age of cave men and women and how they coped with life.
For the longest time, the man was the main provider and the woman was the boss in the home; she would spend her time creating a beautiful home and family life. She would also be involved in the community – with other women. She raised the children – explaining the need for communication.
Men would leave - very often for days – to hunt for food for the family. Men were confronted to many dangers and therefore had to remain silent to protect himself from wild animals or to hunt. Time and orientation were two important skills.
Those roles have been rooted in us for many centuries, making it hard to adjust in today’s post-modern gender roles. (Ex. Both men and women must provide for the home and both must collaborate in the home) We don’t break those hardwired traditions in one generation period, nor in a day! Gender reactions to everyday stress:
Men and women don’t cope with stress the same way. Men need to withdraw into his "cave" to forget the problems of his day. He will either be doing nothing, thinking about nothing, or he will concentrate on a favourite hobby. ex. watching T.V. (This is possible for a man because his brain is hardwired for it. This method of releasing stress increases his depleted good health hormones.
This need may drive a woman crazy because of her need to talk and also, for a woman, doing nothing or thinking about nothing is impossible. She needs to talk her stress out...and, yes, those racing thoughts of things to do, even at home after work, gears her into more action. She needs to have an open ear and an understanding partner who will empathize and cooperate to her needs.
Ex.:"A man appreciates coming home to an orderly house, but he can very well come home to an unattended home and still relax watching T.V." This is not the case for a woman who notices everything that needs to be done. She cannot understand why the partner does not see the work that needs to be done. Coming home from work is a source of stress for her. I quote John Gray:
"Men and women need to understand each other better. Men need to recognize what women go through and women need to recognize what men can and cannot do."
To summarize, give yourself 11 minutes of humorous good time
Claim the support you need from your partner:
Now that you understand the needs of each partner, what approach do I take to help my partner?
a)Understand your need and claim it
A man needs to feel successful and a woman needs to feel that she’s not alone. You now understand how each partner’s brain is different and as a result will function differently in partners of opposite gender. You may now adjust your approach accordingly. Here are some examples of positive approaches to negotiate with your partner.
i)Female towards male partner
You now understand that men need to release his stress by going into his "nothing box" in other words simply relaxing doing nothing, or keeping himself busy in a hobby for a period of time in order to forget his stressful day activities at work.
You also understand that men are not partners with whom you can have a dialogue. Men talk to solve problems not to vent or release stress.
You need to know that men don’t feel comfortable in a routine task but more in projects. (He needs to picture the beginning and the end of the task – a task that he can plan and organize at his most suitable time). (Give him a list of things to do but don’t tell him it has to be done yesterday or you will have problems!
Give him some time space and some flexibility for organization. Remember; don’t expect a man to notice things that need to get done. Ask more than once because he cannot focus on more than one thing at a time, remember...men forget easily...it takes him a while to realize that you’re seeking his attention. He’s a single-task manipulator, not a multi-task manipulator.
ii)Male towards female partner
You now understand that the brain of a woman cannot shut down like yours and stop thinking like you can. She doesn’t have a nothing box in her brain! Her brain is much more active than yours, and as an outcome she cannot stop thinking about the what-to-do list of things.
Relaxing doing nothing isn’t easy if any way possible for a woman. Be opened to her needs; ask her what you can do to release her stress.
You now understand that a woman feels the need to talk about her day activities and her feelings in order to release her stress; she requires that you actively listen to her. Don’t solve her problems; that’s not what she wants; she needs an open ear in an open heart. Be compassionate, be understanding, be all loving. Believe me, she will love you for that! Simply confirm your understanding by practising the
A woman is much more sensitive and emotional than a man therefore, simply be there for her even though her reactions puzzle you, just like yours also puzzle her sometimes. The most important thing here is mutual respect for one another. Don’t try to change the person; don’t request your partner to be like you; love him unconditionally.
What to do when there’s a fight
In a fight the needs of each partner is different.
The woman wants men to listen without interruption and with support. She handles stress explaining her thoughts, feelings and reactions with a wide range of emotional tones. (Remember: women are hardwired to talk and to ask questions.)
Men rushes to resolve problems expressing a solution in a flat detached manner. Their focus is on the problem, not on emotions or dialogue. (Men are hardwired to take action - explaining the reason why men can appear arrogant, righteous or uncaring in a fight.)
In a fighting situation arguing about a problem:
1.Emotional reactions and misunderstood often will take over the source of the conflict. We often shift from the source of the problem to the partner’s reaction as a source of problem.
Men make the woman’s emotional reaction the problem and the woman makes the man’s reaction to her feelings the source of the problem. No solution can be found as we are spinning away from the centre of the conflict like a top.
Women confuse men when expressing strong emotions and requesting empathy and compassion. Men want to solve the problem and feels confused not knowing where the real problem stands in the first place.
2.The outcome result of these fights are:Disrespect towards each otherDisappointment (She feels he doesn’t care)She becomes offensive and there’s a loss of confidence. For the man, her tone of voice sounds mistrusting, in appreciative and downright critical.
3.Both men and women need to understand each partner’s perspective. Men feel successful when their partner is happy. Women need to be clear as to what would make you happy. Don’t ask a man what he’s unable to offer. Don’t ask a man to share his feelings. That is a source of stress for him. Be careful how you express your concern. (voice intonation, choice of words etc...) Be specific, control your emotions.
Men, don’t let the emotions of a women make you lose your cool. Ask for time out. Ex. Let me think about this and we will discuss this later when the emotion cools down. Insist. Re-schedule another time of dialogue when the circumstances permit. Accept to participate in women talk.
Men give the opportunity for your partner to express her feelings, her concerns or to vent. Concentrate on listening, on practising empathy, on being a support for your partner. Don’t solve her problems. You don’t need to understand everything; simply be there for her.
Ladies, don’t expect your partner to share his feelings. He wants to find a solution to problems. Pay attention to his interpretation and don’t react emotionally or you will lose him.
In a matrimonial relationship you cannot expect your partner to be like you and remember that nobody is perfect, so don’t expect that from your partner. Learn to appreciate each other’s skills and limits and work around them.
Ladies, create a network of communication (family, friends, or social groups where you can satisfy your need for sharing).
Don’t depend on your relationship as a couple to be the only source of communication or support.
Men must do the same thing in a men club where you can release your stress doing whatever activity you feel relaxing. The partners must not count on their intimate relationship to satisfy all their needs.
Women, you should not be a shame of your sensitivity and your nurturing gift of caring. In this post-modern age, women are called to be providers and caregivers. Those activities stimulated testosterone hormones and this hormone is not the feeling good hormone in a woman.
At home, learn to request for help and get the support you need from your partner. Find the most effective ways to help you relax and release your tension. Pay attention to the calls of your body, your inner soul, your heart. Become who you are called to be.
Why Mars & Venus Collide - Improving Relationships by Understanding How Men and Women Cope Differently With Stressby John Gray Ph.D., Harper Collins Publishers10 East 53rd Road Street,New York N.Y. 10022
Brain Chemistry: Why Should I Care? How an Understanding of Brain Chemistry and Stress Affects Your Life by Beverly Keyes Taylor. http:/www.brainchemistry.com
other educative links:
Lost in the Middle - MidLife and the Grace of God by Paul David Tripp, Shepherd Press Wapwallopen, Pennsylvalnia Copyright 2004