There’s an old joke that goes a little something like this:
Two women sit next to one another in the park, chatting.
The first woman turns to the other and asks, “Does your husband talk to you?”
And the other woman replies, “All the time! He asks me what’s for dinner, he asks me if he has clean socks. Once he asked me how the microwave worked.”
There is usually a shred of reality and truth in jokes like this one, and I can see how and why this one got started. Traditionally, men have not always been comfortable talking about their emotions.
Normative Male Alexithymia is a very clinical sounding term that describes when men have tremendous difficulty putting their emotional experience into words. This can often put relationships on ice, because generally, women need to talk about emotions to feel a connection, and men often “just can’t go there.”
How Do Men and Women Communicate Differently?
By now we all know it can feel like men and women are from very different planets, but there are some striking differences in particular to how we communicate. For instance, did you know women typically use twice as many words as men? While women speak at 250 words per minute, men typically speak at around 125, according to Gary Smalley, author of Making Love Last Forever. That means over the course of the day, women speak about 25,000 words and men 12,000.
Men and women also have different conversational styles. Women often talk fast and become very animated. And it’s not unlike them to excitedly interrupt their partner, who may be struggling to find the right words to begin with. This can cause many men to shut down because they are already having a hard time expressing how they feel. In addition, many men experience difficulty in both processing feelings and thinking at the same time, making it even harder to keep up!
Understanding how men and women are different when it comes to communication can go a long way. It can help women empathize with men instead of always feeling frustrated at their lack of interest in opening up. It’s not that they don’t want to feel close with you, it’s just that they may not be doing it in the same way women do.
Something else that can help is working with a therapist who can facilitate open communication and ensure both parties feel safe and supported in sharing their thoughts and feelings.
If you are having difficulty talking with your partner and would like to explore treatment options, please be in touch. I would be more than happy to discuss how we may be able to help.