Last Friday night I had the great pleasure of taking popular speaker and best-selling author Shaunti Feldhahn out for dinner. She was in town to talk about “Highly Happy Marriages” and since my work is in the caregiving space our conversation naturally turned to the point where those two topics overlapped.
After reading her excellent and insightful books [For Men Only and For Women Only] I was struck at how different men and women react to the exact same situations. This is particularly striking in intensely emotional moments.
I had recently been moved by a story of a Facebook friend who was dealing with her mother having a very physically difficult reaction. While waiting for the ambulance her husband walked out of the room. She interpreted that as being non-supportive and uncaring. After reading Shaunti’s books I was convinced it was because he was overwhelmed by emotion and didn’t know how to handle it. So he went for a walk. Maybe not the best reaction in the world but far away from ‘not caring’.
I checked this observation with Shaunti and she absolutely agreed that men and women will generally have very different reactions to moments of intense emotional experiences. Her research indicates that men will walk away from intense emotional experiences so that they have time to process what they are thinking. This is because they don’t want to hurt their spouse not because they don’t care.
I found this general observation to be so helpful and enlightening…and I wanted to tell my Facebook friend – don’t despair over his attitude. Your husband probably needs time to process because he does care so much about you – and your mother.
Shaunti makes an excellent point: assumptions on the part of partners often leads to explosive confrontations. As my sweetie requests of me, ask for clarification. Asking the question “Did you mean to say” would have solved dozen of difficult moments in our relationship. Once the emotions begin to bubble up, we need guard for our unreasonable reactions. Appreciate the insights.