Men and women – can we accept each others differences?

 In All, Relationships, Short questions


I wrote this last year after a stimulating conversation with friends. I would love to hear your opinion on this topic. Share your views #onthecouchwithcarly

Although I am a trained psychologist, I can honestly say that most of my knowledge and insights come from my everyday interactions with people in my social not my professional life.

It is from my experiences in relationships that I have learnt the most about the things I tend to reflect on in this blog.

Something that has been on my mind for quite some time is the debate around gender differences and more specifically around the differences between men and women in relationships.

Mostly, I spend time with other women and have conversations around their disappointment and disillusionment with regards to the men in their lives.

Typically, women complain about three things when it comes to men.

1) They don’t have the same interest in and capacity for communicating their feelings.

2) They want to have sex all the time, very often when the woman doesn’t want to and their ploys for initiating sex are unimaginative and unappealing.

3) Because of 1) they tend to bottle their feelings and then explode with anger or are extremely defensive and sensitive to criticism.

From my experience, all these reasons tend to become compounded to the extent that one’s intimate partner becomes characterized by all manner of insulting terminology or imagery… The Neanderthal, the sexed-up teenager, the tantruming 3 year old, the unromantic idiot, etc.

These reductionist and insulting phrases become fixed in our minds and we start to relate to the men in our lives from the position of “shame, poor guy” or “he’s ONLY a man, give him a break”. But imbedded in this mock pity is a huge amount of resentment, disappointment, and frustration.

Similarly, the male friends I have make reference to women’s need for control, their complicated and ever changing list of needs, and their emotional rollercoaster tendencies.

In a recent discussion with a very wise and emotionally mature male acquaintance, it was agreed that women seem to vibrate on a different frequency to men. This, for him, was not a problem but actually something he has accepted and has come to expect from his relationships with women. In short, he feels that he and many other guys have come to accept that there are fundamental differences between the male and female of the species but that the problem is that women insist on enforcing their way instead of accepting and embracing the ways in which men “fall short” of their expectations as differences not deficiencies.

What do you think of this analysis? Are men and women fundamentally different? Can we truly ever understand the other? And if so, should we be trying to become more alike or should we actually just learn to live with each other’s differences and respect the unique and amazing ways in which we contradict and complement one another?

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