I’m back from my very long hibernation 😀 Well, my hubby’s back from Hajj, I’m back home, and my mother in law is doing everything for me, so I can read again.
This is part five of the Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus series.
One of the secrets to a successful relationship is good communication. Men and women both use the same words, but the meanings of what they are saying are very different.
To fully express their feelings, women assume poetic license to use various superlatives (or in simpler words, exagerate), metaphors and generalizations.
Men, on the other hand, interpret everything as facts and information – because that is what they mean to convey when they are speaking. The number one complaint women have about their relationships is that they don’t feel heard. And even this is misinterpreted by men! Men would say that they do hear what women are saying because they can repeat back what their spouse has said. Perhaps a better translation for a man would be: “I feel as though you don’t fully understand what I really mean to say or care about how I feel. Would you show me that you are interested in what I have to say?”
Understanding Her Words
In previous posts, we discussed how Venesians like to talk when they are upset and how they use generalities and superlatives to express their emotions. Here are a few common phrases that Venesians say, what Martians hear, and what they really mean 🙂
Venesian: We never go out.
Martians hear: You are not doing your job. What a disappointment you have turned out to be. We never do anything together anymore because you are lazy, unromantic and just boring.
What she means: I feel like going out and doing something together. We always have such a fun time, and I love being with you. What do you think? Would you take me out to dinner? It has been a few days since we went out.
Venesian: I am so tired, I can’t do anything.
Martians hear: I do everything and you do nothing. You should do more. I can’t do it all. I feel so hopeless. I want a ‘real man’ to live with. Picking you was a big mistake.
What she means: I have been doing so much today. I really need a rest before I can do anything more. I am so lucky to have your support. Would you give me a hug and reassure me that I am doing a good job and that I deserve a rest?
Venesian: You don’t love me anymore.
Martians hear: I have given you the best years of my life, and you have given me nothing. You used me. You are selfish and cold. You do what you want to do, for you and only you. You do not care about anybody. I was a fool for loving you. Now I have nothing.
What she means: Today I am feeling as though you don’t love me. I am afraid I have pushed you away. I know you really do love me, you do so much for me. Today I am just feeling a little insecure. Would you reassure me of your love and tell me those three magic words, I love you. When you do, it feels so good.
Understanding His Silence
Just as the biggest challenge for men is understanding what women say, a woman’s biggest challenge is understanding why her man won’t talk.
Men and women think and process information differently. Women think out loud, sharing their process. Men, on the other hand, silently “mull over” things and think to themselves. They work internally and silently. To make matters even more confusing for women, if a man doesn’t have enough information to process an answer, he may not respond at all!
When a man is silent, he is saying, “I don’t know what to say yet, but I am thinking about it.” (And from personal experience, this may take a very long time!)
Women, however, imagine the worse. That’s because, the only times women are silent is when what they have to say is hurtful or because they don’t trust the person and don’t want to have anything to do with them.
When men are stressed, they go to their caves. No one is allowed there, not even the man’s best friend. Men will come out from their caves on their own and then everything will be fine. It is hard for a woman to leave a man alone, because what may be “giving space” to a man is “abandonment” to a woman. But women need to realize that talking to a man is counter productive when he is in his cave because it will only upset him more.
Both men and women need to stop offering the method of caring they would prefer and start to learn the different ways their partners think, feel and react.
Do not follow a man into his cave. Let him withdraw for some time. Forcing a man to talk when he is not ready may result in him saying something hurtful that he will regret later.
When a woman asks, “What’s the matter” here are a few responses that a man may give that should let you know he wants to be in his cave by himself. Also, their Venesian translations 😉
“I’m OK” : I am OK. I can deal with my upset. I don’t need any help, thank you.
“I’m fine” : I am fine because I am successfully dealing with my upset or problem. I don’t need any held. If I do, I will ask.
“It’s nothing” : Nothing is bothering me that I cannot handle alone. Please don’t ask any more questions about it.
Bottom line for women when their man goes into withdrawl mode: leave him alone and give him his space.
How to Communicate Support to a Martian
Offer a man loving acceptance. Only when he feels accepted will he begin to ask what his woman thinks. Men need to feel secure before they open up and ask for support. Never offer unsolicited advice or criticism.
So how to share what we’re thinking without be critical or mothering? A woman can share her feelings and make requests without demanding them. Be sensitive about how you ask. If he is bothered by what you said or sensitive, let him know that you are sorry and it wasn’t your intention to tell him what to do. Or just directly say that you want to talk to him about something, but you’re afraid of offending him.
Phrase your words in a way that expresses your feelings and does not tell him what to do.
Trying to help a man solve his problem and offering assistance makes a man feel babied. Trusting him to do it on his own means not helping unless he directly asks for it. Too much assistance can also make a man lazy or insecure.
What if your way is right or better? – as we often are right 😉 Never say “I told you so” (uh-oh…oops?) Trust that he will learn from his experience and do better next time. As a smart elderly woman once said, “Let a man be a man.”
The important thing here is that to enrich our relationships, we need to make little changes. Big changes generally require some suppression of who we truly are. This is not good.
A man does not need to suppress his true nature and forget about his cave. He just needs to reassure his wife that he will be back. Simple words such as “I need some time alone. I will be back.” make such a difference!
Help Him be a Good Listener
Remember we said that men only talk about their problems to someone else for two reasons: either to blame or ask for a solution. So when a woman complains to her man, he often hears blame. They don’t understand that we just want to share to feel better. A woman can easily convey this by saying something like, “Now that I’ve talked about it, I feel so much better. Thank you.”
Also, as she is talking about her problems, it is important to let support him by showing how much she appreciates things that he has done to make her life easier. For example, if she is complaining about the house, she can mention that she appreciated him fixing the fence.
The four magic words of support to a man are: “It’s not your fault.”
By letting your man know that you appreciate him for listening and that it isn’t his fault that you’re upset, you can help him be a better listener.
But what if I DO blame him?
The book says that you should take your resentment towards your husband to someone else. From an Islamic perspective, we should not discuss our marital problems with anyone else. (Unless, of course, it is very serious and the couple agrees on a third party to reconcile between them). A better option for a Muslimah would be patience. Write down your problems and thoughts, write a letter to your husband, etc. Once you’ve cooled down and centered yourself again, then go approach your husband.
For men, the can let their wives know when they feel blamed by saying something like, “When you say ___________, I feel like you’re saying it’s all my fault. Are you?” This gives her a chance to take back any blame he may have felt.
Although listening is important, sometimes a man just can’t because of stress. He should just let her know at these times that he can’t listen to her, but he’d be happy to talk later.
Relationships thrive when communication reflects a ready acceptance and respect of people’s innate differences.
It would be nice if we could understand each other all the time. Since Allah has created our psyche so differently, adjusting to and understanding these differences would take a lot of patience and love. So talk to your partner about these things and try to make it work together 🙂