The so called “typical guy” doesn’t exist and when we look closer at personal characteristics it is clearly understood that it is not exclusively gender based. For the purpose of this introduction we will put men into the abstract generalisation of a “typical guy” and reflect that they tend to look at their contribution to life and partners as a way of showing their expertise at solving problems, giving advice, having answers, and providing support and help in a practical way. Men find a meaningful role in their ability to solve problems, to provide answers in explanations and to fix things. When at times women reject their solutions men feel upset, sometimes critical, disappointed and not good enough. Why then are men’s practical strategies not working, why can’t women appreciate the time and effort men give to contribute in this way? After all men think that solving problems, providing explanations and giving advice will make their woman happy!
Similarly for the purpose of revealing some simple differences we can say that the so called “typical gal” wants to feel with her partner “presence in a secure emotional connection” that means her partner will be there for her when she needs him. She does not get this through his focused efforts of doing stuff, reasoning or explaining! She searches for signs as to whether he is there for her or just fulfilling his manly talents (both physical and intellectual) and oblivious to her inner emotional needs and processes. Can she find “clear signs” in the way he communicates that she can count on him in times of need and not be there only with logical explanation, reason and advice? Men’s instinctive behaviour is developed from their education and work life experiences. Women tend to solve their problems by empathetic talks normally with other women. Men are conditioned to fix problems in a practical way and tend not to talk about their inner emotional world, most of the time hiding their emotions if not ignoring them.
Men don’t understand when their advice is not accepted. A woman can often complain about a situation but is not looking for advice. Women prefer having someone that listens to them to allow them to vent the emotions that they feel inside, someone to share the inner experience. Men naturally want to help with advice but don’t necessarily get appreciated for this alone. This can lead to either partner thinking that he or she is not suitable in this relationship while the women in the relationship is simply wanting a man’s presence. This presence can mean that a woman will often stay talking about a situation for more than 20 minutes without any need for a solution. The test for the man is to evaluate whether he is just listening with empathy (preferred) or giving advice, explanations, reasoning and practical steps to solve the problem (mostly frustrating)?
Often when a man’s advice is not appreciated or is rejected he may begin to close down and he may look for ways to build a defence around his feelings and does this by a behaviour that suggests he wants harmony while he thinks this strategy will help to calm the woman down. However his objective words now focused on harmony often exacerbates the problem as the women interprets his remarks clearly as a sign that he is not present with empathy.
Reference to Dr. Sue Johnson:
These observations are developed in greater detail by Dr. Sue Johnson in the publication, Hold Me Tight which explains how our different roles play out in our close relationships. It is understood that there are three ways we attach to people: 1) Anxious (Pursuer), 2) Avoidant (Withdrawer), or 3) combining both at different times. Although we all have combinations of Pursuer and Withdrawer within us, but we generally are more dominant in one. It is now emphasised that the “typical guy” generalisation referred above is not a valid way to describe out different roles or types which are clearly not gender based. Also that these characteristics change at different times in our life cycles and even at different times during our day as our energy levels rise and fall. You may notice within yourself how differently you respond when you are tired!
Briefly the Pursuers wants to quickly resolve feeling disconnected as soon as possible and are often complainers asking for more discussion offering advice to their partner as to how to behave better. They often think their partner is making less contribution to the relationship. It is important to discuss differences otherwise relationships tend to stagnate. Their best chance for Pursuers to connect is to show their vulnerability in their explanations and requests and taking more time to consider their words carefully.
Withdrawer tends to want to resolve the disconnect by an internal process and to move on. Typically repressing bad feelings which is often required in keeping cool headed with deliberate level thinking especially in a work place or community activity. At home often finding a partner having a different level of emotional balance. Responding with the intent to keep things in control and minimal, being dismissive of issues, often providing a positive response or keeping quiet and withdrawing. The challenge for the withdrawer is to find safety in expressing their authentic selves and refraining from responses that appear to be insensitive. In most cases where anger is expressed the Withdrawer is looking for a way to be left alone while the Pursuer’s anger is wanting to keep the discussion going.
The “Attachment Theory” was developed by John Bowlby and Mary Ainsworth in the 1900s while Dr. Sue Johnson, Mario Mikulincer, and Philip Shaver, amongst others have developed this further. Emotional Focused Therapy (EFT) is now an established and successful therapy used across the world in enabling better relationship understanding.
Evelin Peach – EFT Therapist www.eft-paartherapie-berlin.de