Tuesday, November 9, 2010

He Said, She Didn't Say

In this post I will be making some sweeping generalizations, but they are based on my observations - which are not at all scientific.

Yesterday Steve and I both accompanied Soph to the dentist and while Soph was getting her teeth cleaned, I was telling the hygienist how we try to get the tartar off Soph's teeth, but it still built up despite our very concerned parental efforts. Steve jumped in with, "She's worried you'll think we're bad parents." I was about to snicker and deny that, when the hygienist very kindly said she didn't think we were bad parents. Wow - how easy was that? My fear laid right out there, by my hubby, and then vanquished!

This is not the first time I have been in awe of my husband's blatant honesty and the results it brings. While he was in graduate school he came home very late (common occurrence at that time) and told me of a falling out he had with his colleague/very good friend. I listened in shock as he relayed the language they used in communicating their frustrations and when he was done, I simply responded, "Wow, you guys have been so close. How sad." Without missing a beat, Steve said, "We'll be fine," and they were. They put it all on the table in very colorful language and then moved past it.

My observation is that women tend to lean away from the uncomfortable, even when it is obvious. The result from this seems to be unnecessary anguish and a whole lot of talking behind others' backs.

I've been watching reruns of Sex & The City lately and if you followed that show you may remember the episode in which Berger tells Miranda that a guy who did not call her the next day is just not that into her and how freeing she found his honesty. Her girlfriends were trying to comfort her by giving her a myriad of reasons for the guy's behavior - none being that he might not have liked her.


  1. I'm not sure I agree with you re: the gendered division of open and direct communication that you describe ... Yes, women are conditioned to be more conciliatory and empathic whereas men, um, just are not. Men ARE, on the other hand, conditioned to just get over it. But do men REALLY get over it? Suicide rates for men are 4 times the rate they are for women so my impression is that men may act more direct and "honest" but, in truth, they often are hiding a lot. In your example, Steve did a good job of being open about YOUR fears/insecurities. And maybe some men can be direct about what their partners/wives are worrying about. But can they be as open and direct about their OWN fears and insecurities and share those in a genuinely healing way? This therapist's experience says it's rare in American culture.


    p.s. I don't have the stomach for a single episode of Sex & the City. The writing and the acting are god-awful, in my view, and even the portrayal of sex didn't seem imaginative or real to me.

  2. Good point Dani - I didn't think of it that way and there are many men who do not communicate their feelings appropriately. This is why I post my thoughts, to be challenged and hopefully to expand my awareness. I still envy the relationships I've witnessed between men who seem to know exactly where they stand with one another. They support one another, they root for one another and there aren't displays of cattiness - that I've witnessed. As I stated, these are generalizations based on my minimal observations.

    You don't like Sex & The City?! It is my current vice. I relish its ability to alleviate all my worries.

  3. Ha ha ha! This has totally been a topic of conversation around our house lately. I've had a little issue with someone lately who I don't dare approach to discuss my feelings. Jason sees it as being so simple- just tell her! But I know how much it would cause all kinds of drama between myself and this other woman... I wish it weren't so complicated in my own mind, and that I could handle it the way Jason would. It's exactly like you said- I shy away from confrontation, even when it is causing an obvious problem. I'm a big, fat chicken!

  4. As a mother of 2 boys it has been really interesting to see how they deal with friends. 2 examples... My oldest son got in a huge argument with a friend at school. I told him how what the other boy said and did wasn't what a friend would do and I strongly suggested that he not hang out with this boy anymore. 2 days later, my son is telling me about playing with the boy again. I was shocked and told him I wanted him to stay away from this boy. I told my husband about it and he told me I was way off base. That that is how boys deal with things. I learned to back off and be a listening ear instead of trying to "fix" it. Example 2- my younger son didn't get invited to another boys birthday party (this is going on as we speak). I told him it didn't mater and that the little boy probably could only invite a certain number of kids. So, my son was making a list of kids to invite to his own party and he added the boy how had not invited him. I said no way. He didn't invite you to his party why should you invite him to yours. He repeated to me what I had told him when the boy hadn't invite my son (I had said what I said to my son to spare his feelings but I was mad at the boy for not inviting him). It was so interesting that he really didn't have bad feelings to not being invited. I was so proud of him and disappointed in myself.

  5. ooh... but I agree with Dani. I think that men get it out but I think there is plenty left kept in.

  6. Brooke - ok, let it out - what'd I do??! :) Miss you, my spunky friend! Wish I were there to chat over this with you.

    Linda - how cool that both your sons are able to include others and not allow what happened to them to not do what is right! I think as a mother, it is so hard to see our kids hurt and those claws come out - but when they are willing to forgive and move past it, wow, it sure makes us proud, yes?

  7. But, the real lesson to me was how different boys and girls think. I really have learned from them. I am still a girl and think like a girl most of the time, but having lived with my boys (husband included)... I have lightened up about some things for sure. I love how men think. I love how they react to things. I think we can learn from each other though.