Why don’t women understand that men dread hearing, “We need to talk,” especially about feelings? (The hair on the back of my neck stirs as I write this!) It causes men to get defensive and suspicious, feel vulnerable and scurry off to the garage. In an attempt to pull closer, women cause distance. How can men better understand what intimacy is and how to bring more of it into a relationship they care about? Why do women assume that men have deep feelings they’re not sharing? It causes men to feel emotionally inferior and empty. Any thoughts?
Yes: Ditch the herd. Don’t posture behind “men” addressing a problem with “women.” Let yourself be vulnerable enough to talk about your own relationship experiences in the kind of detail that allows healing. The “men are from Mars, women are from Venus” mentality is popular because it offers a familiar dogma (one that echoes from traditional religious beliefs about gender) and attempts to validate the belief that there’s one set of rules that will keep you safe and solve all your troubles. The simple truth is that most humans need to improve their communication skills, especially in the area of conflict resolution. Mars-Venus was a great marketing hook, but I say leave the planets to the astronomers, or you could end up on Uranus. (Sorry, couldn’t resist.)
What I really think is important, beneath your questions about intimacy, is the fear of being caught doing something wrong—or at least not good enough. Harboring that kind of insecurity is stressful. How can you begin to listen to another person and understand that she or he is sharing an opinion and not necessarily reality? If you can shift to this perspective, your defensiveness will melt. After all, part of the adventure of conflict resolution is sorting truth from opinion while acknowledging that an opinion has value because it is felt and shared by someone important to you.
Next, let yourself notice and accept your shortcomings. The more comfortable you are with yourself, the easier it is to face the criticism of others. And when your woman says she wants more, be flattered, not frantic. She wants you, mister, and is willing to risk rejection to let you know it. Intimacy (into-me-see) is an invitation to see all of someone— the beauty and the terror below the social masks. Nurture intimacy through communication about the mundane and the remarkable things that touch your life. When you share what happened in your day or in your past or your hopes for the future and how you feel about those things, you build intimacy.
My boyfriend of one year still talks to his ex-girlfriend. She called to tell him about her new guy. Then I went on a business trip, and my boyfriend went to her house to return something. He told me this the day after I got home, not my first day back. Then she called twice within 10 minutes when we were “busy” at my house. I am jealous and asked him not to talk to her. He refused. My counselor said if he loved me, he would stop talking to her. His friends say not to tell me; my friends say find someone else. What do you say?
You can’t control who your boyfriend talks to, but it’s reasonable to expect him to cease contact with his ex if she intrudes on your relationship. If he loves you (or just likes you a lot), he wants your romance to advance. When you notice your man sharing more of his feelings, concerns or experiences with her than with you, break off contact. Likewise, if you are continually distracted, arguing or stressed. You deserve a man with healthy closure on his past.