Hi @KMac, sorry to give a one-sided perspective only;
I liked the article; as it hit the nail on the head about ‘conversation overload’ . It’s spot on about how ladies and men process things differently; I know personally I don’t (unsure if I don’t like to, or if it’s even possible ) talk through my feelings in the heat of the moment, I process them internally and the implications of actions and follow all the possible ‘paths’ and results of my future actions. When I have finishing thinking about it, and a decision is made, I ‘shut the box’ on that area of life and move on to the next thing. Very compartmentalised.
It’s amazing how different God has made men and ladies! I don’t pretend to even begin to understand how complex my wife is, but can only try and be what God called husbands to be. Ephesians 5 also doesn’t say ‘men, analyse and figure out your wifes brain, and make some sort of value judgements about how it works like a science experiment’. major fail!! it says LOVE your wife as Christ loved the church; and my wife reminds of this sometimes when I get too analytical… I love marriage and wish everyone could have a happy marriage.
anyway, hopefully to restore some balance to my original post, here is the flipside from the ‘for women only’ book, especially about when men ‘check out’ of conversations (which I would have thought seems much more common??)… hopefully helpful…
A few years after the original edition of this book was released, I was at my desk working when the phone rang. It was a dear friend in another city, seven months pregnant with her second child, in tears after an argument with her husband. Each of them had hurt the other’s feelings, and when the conflict escalated, her husband had quietly left the house and driven away. “I can’t handle this anymore—he’s done this several times,” she sobbed. “How can he do this to me? He must not love me very much.”
One thing about writing these books about the inner lives of men is that I sometimes find myself very able to see things from the guy’s point of view—and it’s not always comfortable. Feeling like a traitor, I asked my friend, “Um, when you and he had your first big conflict, did he end up leaving the room?” I could hear the sniffles on the other end of the line. “Yes. Can you believe that? I told him exactly how he made me feel, and instead of talking about it, he wanted to walk away! I know he was upset with me too, but he wouldn’t even explain why!” “Uh … and did you follow him and continue to ask him questions about what he was thinking?” “Yes! But he wouldn’t answer me. He said he didn’t want to talk yet. He just seemed to shut down—like he didn’t even care that he hurt my feelings.” I told her that I was pretty sure why he had left the house and that it had nothing to do with him not caring. She listened in surprise as I shared my guess that he had probably left because he cared about her but couldn’t figure out how to respond in the moment. Her emotions had probably flustered him. Then he probably got angry that he was flustered and couldn’t think clearly. And then, I suggested, he most likely felt he couldn’t risk saying or doing anything for fear of hurting her even more. All he could do was escape. The next day she told me that when her husband had returned, he had explained it in almost that exact way—and she realized he had tried to get the point across plenty of times before, but she had never really understood what he was saying. Much to my friend’s surprise, I laughed. “Join the club!”
What I didn’t see before.
My husband is a thoughtful guy, but in the first half of our marriage, I often found myself completely baffled or hurt during a conflict by how Jeff communicated with me. Or didn’t. A typical scenario might have gone something like this: We’d stumble into a disagreement or misunderstanding. We’d each try to make—and win—our point. Temperatures would rise. Soon I’d feel hurt (he would too). But more than anything, I’d feel a huge need to talk things out. Right then, though, Jeff would want to step away. But why? We’d both been told in premarital counseling how dangerous it was to not communicate when there was conflict! My reaction would be to pursue him. Upset, I’d follow him down the hallway, asking him something like, “Well, what do you think about what I just said? Don’t leave before we’ve worked this out! At least tell me what you’re feeling!” But instead of talking, he would head downstairs, face tight, aiming for the solace of his home office. “I don’t know what I’m thinking, and I just can’t talk about it,” he’d say and disappear, leaving me shattered that my usually loving husband suddenly didn’t care enough to engage on such an important issue. Any of that sound familiar? As our research continued, Jeff and I realized that a big truth was hiding underneath the stormy surface of these conflicts. A truth that applies not just to conflict but to all areas of verbal communication—and can dramatically reduce how often conflict happens in the first place. You see, caring husbands or boyfriends want to communicate with the women they love. But how they need to go about it is likely to be very different from the way you or I automatically prefer. Understanding that difference offers great promise for our relationships, and that difference is what this chapter—new for this edition—is all about.
We’ve all heard comments similar to these from a husband, boyfriend, or son:
- (frustrated) “I don’t know what I’m thinking right now!”
- (wearily) “I just need a few minutes to decompress before you hit me with your day.”
- (angrily) “I figured it out already, okay!”
- (pleading) “Can we please talk about this later?”
- (in front of the television) “Sorry, honey … Did you say something?”
No matter how they strike us at the time, these are not necessarily signals of a lack of care or a lack of desire to address important issues. More than likely, they are signals of one of four significant differences in the way men seem to process and talk about thoughts and emotions—differences largely related to the wiring of the male brain.
Processing Difference 1: Men Often Have to Think Something Through Before They Can Talk It Through
Women tend to be verbal processors—we usually think something through by talking it through. We have lots of connections between the left and right hemispheres of the brain, allowing us to do fast, surface-level processing—and talk about—many thoughts and feelings at the same time. For example, if I need to figure out how to handle an upsetting situation with the kids, thinking out loud and talking it through with someone helps me deepen and clarify my thoughts. As I circle through the options (probably several times), I get more and more clarity. I also feel better because I have talked through—and thus processed—all those feelings. For most men, however, that process can be bewildering—and is certainly the polar opposite of their own. Men tend to be internal processors. In most cases (although not all), it is actively difficult for a man to think something through by talking it through. He can choose to do so, but the more important or emotionally demanding the issue, the more difficult that becomes. A man’s brain is wired to process one thing at a time, going deep within each one, rather than having all the interhemisphere connections that easily juggle many functions at once. So he’s more inclined to (a) talk about something, or (b) think about it, or © feel something about it. His brain will tackle each task deeply over a period of time, but it won’t easily do any of them together. (That is, if it is something requiring any thought. Rhapsodizing on his team’s last-second win doesn’t count.)
In practice, then, if someone (ahem) presses your husband, son, or boyfriend to talk, that makes it harder for him to think things through. If feelings are swirling around, he’ll struggle even more. That’s why many men have learned that it usually works far better to get some distance to think about something first. Let’s say he’s wondering how to handle a tricky situation with the kids. Here’s how guys have described it to me: He will think through each option deeply, finish that thought, with all its implications, and then move on to the next one. Then, perhaps, he’ll move on to exploring his feelings about the matter. Only when he has processed the issue internally will his brain be able to move on to the next item in line, which is being able to talk about it. And only then will he feel capable of the type of robust and multilayered discussion that is likely to occur when he finally does talk with his mate.
I often was skeptical of Jeff’s heat-of-the-moment comments such as, “I don’t know what I’m thinking” and “I don’t know what I’m feeling.” How can you not know what you’re thinking or feeling? I would wonder. But now I realize that he was essentially saying, “I don’t know what I’m thinking or feeling yet—but I will once I process it for a while.” The truth of this was clear on the second national survey. I asked the men what happened when they’d had a tiff and their wives wanted to talk about it and they didn’t. Less than a third said it was because they were simply mad and didn’t want to talk. Instead, more than seven out of ten gave answers that fell into the category of needing the space to process it and figure out a solution before they could talk coherently, or so they didn’t say something in anger that they’d regret later.
Thinking to Talk? Or Just to Think?
Now, it is important to note another piece of this truth: if a man is going to actually talk about something important, he has to know he’s going to talk about it, so he can include that in his processing. As one young man told me,
" I can think something through deeply, in order to decide on the right course of action, and still not be able to articulate it. I can have done the entire internal chess match in my head, and have thought through all the variables, but if I didn’t think about needing to explain them, I am sometimes totally stumped when my girlfriend asks, “Why?” It’s like I did the math problem in my head, not on paper, so I can’t show her the steps—even though I actually did do them."
He went on to say that he’s fine as long as he knows ahead of time that he’ll need to explain why: it simply means that “part of my thinking has to include how to do that.”
Feldhahn, Shaunti. For Women Only, Revised and Updated Edition (p. 79). The Crown Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
(book continues with other processing differences…)