Dr. Harold Sala
Guidelines For Living
Simply let your “Yes” be “Yes,” and your “No,” “No”; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.
I was almost asleep when my wife exclaimed, “It’s obvious that a male wrote this book,” as she closed the book, one a publisher had asked us to evaluate. My wife, Darlene, is pretty low-key and cuts an author quite a bit of slack for individuality. “Why do you say that?” I asked. “Well,” she explained, “what he says is good, but it’s factual, and cut and dried. There’s no emotion or feeling in what he writes.” And with those observations she clearly defined one of the big differences between men and women.
Darlene is an author in her own right. She writes for women—and good stuff, too! I often say that she writes “gourmet style,” agonizing over paragraphs, often in the middle of the night, while I tend to write more “fast food style.” Every Wednesday I write the five commentaries you hear on Guidelines.
Her comments emphasized the point that men go straight to the bottom line while women enjoy the journey that takes them there, through the emotions and feelings—the “he said, and then I said” details that are important to women but not necessarily germane to the final outcome.
Men stress facts and decisions, but women are equally as interested in the development of the plot, the blow by blow, word for word description of the encounter that leads to the bottom line, and that is one of the reasons why men think they have communicated with a woman who shrugs her shoulders and says, “No you haven’t!” “But I told you want happened,” he says. But she honestly doesn’t think so. The “he said; she said” dialogue that you think is redundant, Mister, is what leads to intimacy in a relationship, instead of the “slam-bam-thank-you-Ma’am” style that you use with the janitor or taxi driver.
Today there is a growing data base of scientific information that explains why all of this is true. This includes how DNA is different, how brains process information differently; and how male and female brains are even physically different. Yet vast numbers of men, and not necessarily just those in their 20s who are striving to understand the women in their lives, couldn’t care less about the developmental structure of our brains. They just know that men and women use the same language but don’t communicate the same way.
What’s the solution to all of this? Consider the following suggestions that I will give without much elaboration.
For both men and women—set the stage for communication. It never works when you are under stress, when you are extremely busy, and when one or both of you are physically exhausted. That’s when you hurl angry words at each other which become missiles of your discontent rather than your attempts to bridge the differences between you.
For men—realize that your wife can live without the new car, the latest fashions, and the trip to your favorite resort destination. She can live without all kinds of things, but if your marriage is to be healthy, you have to communicate. Understand it means something different to each of you, and realize that you can effectively communicate. Excuses aren’t satisfactory, and the longer you take to learn how to do it, the more damage is going to be done to your relationship.
For women—when you say, “My husband just doesn’t get it!” you are right, but there are reasons for it. He’s not difficult or obstinate or dense. He doesn’t pick up on the non-verbal signals, the importance of registering your sighs on the discontent meter or what your raised eyebrows are trying to say. That means you’ve got to tell him in such a way that he does understand.
Charles Dickens, a man whose own marriage was miserable, advised, “Never close your lips to him to whom you have opened your heart.” Good advice in every generation.