Psychologically Speaking: Two people, two planets

While women can go through many themes in a conversation and still follow, men get lost.

couple love marriage 224 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
couple love marriage 224
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Dear Dr. Batya, I often think my husband does nothing. He thinks I nag. Meanwhile things don't get done around the house unless I do them. I'm feeling used, unloved and underappreciated, and by Friday I'm exhausted and he looks at me and tells me how hard his week was! I feel as though we are on two different planets. - G.S., Hashmonaim Sounds like you are having some communication failures. You both want to be heard and understood, yet neither of you feel that you are. As a result, you are probably both frustrated. Men and women really do have significant differences in the way their brains function, which is why you feel as if you are on two different planets. If you don't take this into account, then when you each see things differently, it will be easy to blame your partner. That won't help. Sometimes it can create a rift that over time intensifies and impacts on both the communication and the goodwill of a relationship. Men, for example, are often seen as being more aggressive, think about sex more frequently, tune out the world and have far better spatial mapping and navigational skills than women. Women on the other hand, tend to have an incredible memory for details, multitask, have a better sense of smell and are more sensitive to noise. And yes, sadly, women are often better at talking about their emotions. So, while I suspect that you love your husband dearly and don't want to complain, nag or even kill him, you do need to let him know in a way that he can hear that you need him to help you more with the children and the house. Here are a few thoughts: Plan your conversation for a time when he is able to hear you. In other words, if you try to talk when he is watching television, walks in after a hard day or is falling asleep, you won't have his undivided attention. It's better to plan to talk over a quiet dinner for two, a walk, or even at a time when you won't be interrupted. Be very specific. While women can go through many different but tangentially related themes in one short conversation and still follow each other's thoughts, men get lost. They need you to say what you mean and mean what you say. If you want him to help you do specific tasks state exactly what you need. The fewer words the better. Be very concrete and clear in terms of the behavior you are requesting or the tasks you need help with. If you simply ask for more help but are vague, it won't happen. Spell it out. You can read his body language and respond to nuances. Men can't. Don't make assumptions and don't make him guess. He can't read your mind. If you want him to buy you flowers for Shabbat, tell him so nicely. Yes, it may feel less romantic to do so but there is no romance when he doesn't magically appear with a bouquet and you feel hurt because he "should have known." He won't know what you want unless you are specific. This is true in every realm of your marriage. He can't do it your way, if he doesn't even know what your way is. Keep it simple and be clear. Women tend to give lengthy explanations and then become offended when men aren't interested or don't listen. Men generally lack patience for extraneous details. They often want to find a solution, fix it and move on. Let him know when what you need is just to vent and that you're not looking for an answer. Otherwise you'll feel frustrated by his telling you what you have to do, and he'll be angry that you don't heed his advice. If you are simply asking him to listen and be sympathetic, tell him. Women multitask and men don't. While it may be painful for you that he can focus on only one thing at a time, you'll lose him if you give him more than one task to do. When he finishes one job, he will then be ready to go on to another. In the end, it will all get done, so try and keep this in mind and don't get frustrated. Women often think that men are doing nothing and this drives women crazy, as you have a ton of things he can do to help you out and to fill up his time. You are not the boss of his time and your jobs are not necessarily more important than his. Women tend to be more future oriented, whereas men tend to be in the here and now. He may finish his job and never think to ask you what else needs to be done. Accept that he may not feel the same way or even feel anything when you are feeling upset over an issue. He may not even know how he is feeling, certainly can't describe it and may not have a clue how you feel. Take a deep breath and remember, if you both work hard to listen and understand each other, you may be pleasantly surprised by the results. The writer is a licensed clinical psychologist in private practice in Ra'anana.