MEN & WOMEN: DIFFERENT BUT LOVING

Are males and females insulated from arguing with each other? Considering that none of us is infallible, the answer is a resounding “No!”

But how each gender reacts to arguments varies.  The first thing to take into consideration is that men and women have physiological differences.  In plain English, they are wired differently.  Therefore, what is normal behavior for men when handling problem-solving is caustic for women.  The sooner that they come to terms with this reality, the more harmonious relationships they will enjoy.

But nothing is simple in this life.  Even after men and women realize that they are different and make necessary adjustments to their problem-solving techniques, there is usually an elephant in the room that remains addressing.  And that elephant is what men and women were exposed to when they were young and saw how their parents treated conflict.  Dysfunctional or abusive behaviors by the parents and witnessed by children leave indelible scars that must be addressed aggressively before harmony can be restored to their households.

The main complaint that women have in relationships is that men simply don’t listen.  The main complaint that men have is that women are always trying to change them. 

Here is the disconnect.  When a woman argues with a man, the latter listens for a few minutes, assesses the situation, and proudly offers a solution.   What the woman is looking for and what she needs is empathy, not solutions.  For men, it is difficult to sojourn to the world of feelings. Moreover, men like to solve their problems by themselves, while women seek help and enlightenment through their families and friends.

Following is a case in point that illustrates the tendency of men to be goal-oriented.  When they go to a restaurant, they view it as an efficient approach to food management: no shopping, no cooking, and no washing dishes. But for women, going to a restaurant provides an opportunity to nurture a relationship – both giving and receiving validation from a friend or spouse.

Considering that women are not obsessed in proving their competence, offering help comes natural and needing help is not viewed as a sign of weakness.  To men, receiving unsolicited help from a woman could make them feel incompetent, weak, and unloved. 

Another sign that men are solution-oriented is their motto that if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.  Men have a habit when they like something to stick with it.  Ergo, when they find a dinner entrée at a favorite restaurant, they repeatedly continue to order it.  Women, on the other hand, are more adventurous and prefer to try new main courses. 

I can recall when I went to a Peruvian restaurant in Virginia with my wife to celebrate my birthday, and I announced that I would order my favorite entrée: “lomo saltado.” My wife prodded me to try something different.  I responded by telling her that of all times, I was not going to order something different and run the risk of having an unsavory experience on my Natality Day.

Now we come to the point where there is an argument and how box sexes react to it. 

Men suddenly become introverts and go to a private cave to think about the problem that triggered the argument and to find a solution.  When they succeed in finding a solution, they feel great and are ready to come out of the cave.  This process can take anywhere from three to seven days. 

But keep in mind, that if they can’t find a solution, they automatically will do something to forget their problems.  They will watch the news on TV, surf the Internet, read a book, or engage in a project that has been on their to-do list for the last eight months.  By doing these chores, they can relax. At times like these, they love to take the tranquilizing drug of “don’t worry/be happy.”

When men are in their caves, they are highly stressed and become very distant, forgetful, and unresponsive.  They need time in seclusion.  There is no question about this.  But some women misinterpret this aloofness as a sign of not caring because they are not talking to them.

It is unnatural and toxic for a woman to deny a man to go to his cave when facing an argument.  To expect a man to deal with a problem shortly after it happens is to rob the man of his physiological and emotional make-up.  To use a word in the vernacular, to do this represents the emasculation of his manhood.  Once this happens, this man would be ghost of his past and an unsatisfactory partner – a laughing stock of the many. 

Turning over to women, they prefer to turn to someone that they trust and share in great detail what’s bothering them.  This helps them to feel better and less overwhelmed.  Women are not ashamed of having problems.  Their egos do not mandate them to feel competent all the times.  Instead, they aim to being in loving relationships.

The right move is for the woman to wait until she’s more loving, centered, and forgiving to talk to her man.  By doing the latter, she sets the right mood for the man to listen to her feelings.  This is to say that a woman does not have to suppress her feelings or change them to communicate with her man.  She does definitely need to express them in a way that doesn’t make her man as if he’s being attacked, accused, or blamed.  If the man feels attacked, he’ll take out his sword and go back to his cave again, which proves counterproductive to the entire problem-solving routine.

Men’s greatest fear is that they’re not good enough.  Therefore, they concentrate on activities that will bring them success and achievement.  To become better human beings, men have to learn how to give more, and that it’s okay to fail, and that he doesn’t need to have all the answers all the time.  To get to this level, men need their women to be loving and forgiving through all their mistakes.  When men react negatively to a woman’s projects, it’s not that they think less of her.  It simply means that they fear failure.

To further underscore the differences in the way that men and women think, it’s helpful to examine the reconciliation stage.  When seeking long-lasting absolution from his wife, a man thinks that he will get plenty of indulgences or goodwill credits by doing something really big for her.  So to secure prolonged insurance from the doghouse, he goes out and buys her car, takes her on a long vacation, or buys her expensive jewelry.  If he were a physician or a lawyer, he thinks that his wife would be much happier with the extra income that he would bring by opening a new clinic or law office.  To his way of thinking, doing the more mundane things for his wife – like opening the car door, buying her flowers, or giving her a hug – count for much less.  At the end of the day, this formula will not work because women have a different way of annotating their scorecards.  When a woman is scoring points, each gift (regardless of how big or small) is allotted but one point.  On the other hand, a man thinks that a small gift is worth one point, while a big gift merits sixty points.  Here is the disconnect.  He fails to understand that to a woman, a single rose is worth as much as paying the rent on time.  To the physician and the attorney who thought that bringing in extra cash home would keep his wife happy, they were in for a rude awakening.  Their wives countered by telling their husbands that while they contributed one important thing to the household (going to work and paying the bills), they did the washing, the cooking, the cleaning, and the accounting.  Doing the little things and doing them consistently will make the wives much happier and engender the peace and harmony that husbands are always seeking.  

Let’s discuss now incidents that happened in the past that act as barriers to present-day problem solving.  I’ll present two case studies that I’ve concocted to illustrate these challenges.

Ricardo was eight years old when he lived in Communist Venezuela and Nicolas Maduro was in charge of the government.  With the diminution of civil rights and basic liberties by the communist regime, his father made the decision to emigrate to the United States.  Considering that the government is the sole employer in a socialist society, Ricardo’s father got fired from his job.  As his father was the sole breadwinner in his family, he had to resort to dealing in the subterranean black market to make ends meet.  To get an exit visa from the Venezuelan Government could take anywhere from three to four years. 

Ricardo was enrolled in the fourth grade in a government-controlled public school.  To indoctrinate the children in the Marxist/Leninist ideology, the Venezuelan Government passed a law to force parents to send their kids to government schools.  This brought a lot of confusion to Ricardo, as he was learning communist ideology in the public schools, learning the democracy ideology at home, and Catholic dogmas in catechism on weekends. 

Ricardo became a very rambunctious boy, and he got into lots of trouble – at school and with other kids in the neighborhood.  His father got scared that Ricardo’s troubles might interfere with the Government’s willingness to grant his family an exit visa to the United States. 

Under enormous stress, Ricardo’s father beat the heck out of him.  Ricardo was an intelligent and sensitive boy.  He realized that sometimes he deserved to be punished, but other times he thought that he was innocent of the charges.  By denying Ricardo his due process rights, he resorted to cursing his father out as his only line of defense – which only brought about more beatings.

Ricardo thought that he could have engaged his father in a fist fight, but this was anathema to the Hispanic culture and Catholic doctrine.  So, he had to eat it up, and get over it. 

This trauma rose its ugly head after Ricardo was married, and he got engaged in arguments with his wife.  After he came out of his cave and his wife attacked him verbally, his reaction was to take out his sword and go back to his cave again – for longer periods than it was necessary.  Just like cursing out his father in his youth was a defensive move, the cave served the same purpose.  But the bottom line is that neither one of these defense mechanisms solved the problems or arguments.  Going to the cave for three to seven days was normal.  Staying there longer was unnatural.

Ricardo’s wife, Teresa, was also from Venezuela.  They met when they were attending college in the U.S. Teresa’s father was also the sole breadwinner in a family of three girls and three boys.  The mother was a stay-home mom, with her sole responsibility being meeting the needs of the three girls.  Her husband suffered the same hardships that Ricardo’s family went through after announcing his intention to emigrate to the U.S.  To find relaxation, the husband turned to alcohol often and resorted to denigrating and insulting his wife – at times, in front of the children.  Considering that the mother was fully dependent for all her needs on her husband, she had to put up with all these indignities. 

Teresa made an oath to herself that she would never tolerate similar abuse from a man.  After she married Ricardo, she found him to be her Prince Charming.  He could do no wrong.  But as the romance wore off by confronting every-day’s challenges, she reverted to her early childhood when confronting an argument. 

When Ricardo retreated to his cave, Teresa thought that he was inconsiderate and chauvinistic.  She demanded that he address the challenge of the moment immediately – not three or seven days later.  A delay on Ricardo’s part got interpreted as a frontal attack on her feelings and womanhood.  She thought that this business of Ricardo going back to his cave was more appropriate for cavemen – not 21st century men.

This made problem-solving very difficult and very frustrating.  When Ricardo came out of his cave and was ready to talk to Teresa, she attacked him verbally for taking so long to deal with the challenge.  This resulted in Ricardo going back to his cave, and the entire dysfunctional cycle started all over.

Before Ricardo and Teresa can have a loving marriage, they need to validate their past traumas.  They can help each other out to overcome their past demons.  They need to bring them out of the dark.  After doing so, they must conclude that what’s in the past needs to be buried in the past.  Times change, cultures evolve, and people outgrow their past hurts.  When they reach the conclusion that the best is yet to come, they’ll be on their way to securing that loving relationship and enjoying those loving feelings. 

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