It’s about connection; not communication – what brings men and women closer, and what tears relationships apart.
Pat: What we are saying in essence is that love is not about better communication. It’s about connecting without words. The stunning truth about love is that talking rarely helps when you are out of connection and there are more powerful ways for couples to connect.
Susie: Sounds like you are about to turn some ‘accepted’ ideas on their head in that most marriage education and counselling is based in talking and teaching people how to talk in more conscious, intentional and loving ways.
Pat: Yes that is true. In this book we illustrate that underneath most couples’ fights and their growing apart there is a biological difference at work. The difference is in the way the sexes experience fear and shame. Most men dread: “Honey, we need to talk”. This is because the usual reason the woman wants to talk is because they are upset about something and want to feel better. Men don’t want to talk because talking won’t make them feel better. In fact it will usually make them feel worse!
The real reason that the woman wants to talk about what is upsetting her – which often is delivered as a frustration, criticism, complaint, nagging or the like and accompanied by an energy of disappointment and resentment – is that the disconnection she feels leads her to feeling anxious, and, on a deeper level, isolated and afraid – and what she really wants is to feel close to him.
The real reason the man doesn’t want to talk about the relationship is that he thinks that she wants to tell him yet again that he’s failing her. Her dissatisfaction with him makes him feel inadequate and like a failure and, on a deeper level, he feels ashamed.
On top of that, his shame is too great to allow him to understand her fear, and her fear stops her from experiencing and understanding his shame.
Susie: This is groundbreaking information. There is so much in what you have just said. That last sentence, “his shame is too great to allow him to understand her fear, and her fear stops her from experiencing and understanding his shame”, creates such a cycle of hurt and pain, and we all know how very hard it is to recognise and be sensitive to our partner’s vulnerability when we are wrapped up in our own.
Pat: Yes extremely hard. The number one cause for the soaring divorce rate and/or separation is the male-female disconnection. Some 80% of divorcees say they ‘grew apart’. This is so tragic because it’s unnecessary. They are not disconnected because they have poor communication; they have poor communication because they are disconnected. In the beginning of the relationship, when they felt connected they communicated easily and often quite deeply. They talked for hours on end. They felt emotionally connected to each other.
Powerful points from Why Women Talk and Men Walk
To love a man
- Accept that the partner provides the meaning in a man’s life
- Understand his dread of failure as a provider, protector, lover and parent
- Connect more through routine, fun activities, touch and sex
To love a woman
- Acknowledge and appreciate her importance to you
- Make an effort to understand her
- Avoid controlling; protecting is fine
- Her fear of harm
- Her fear of your anger
- Her fear of deprivation
When you are aware of your innate impulses as a man or a woman
… you can choose how to act – and improve your connection and communication.
When you are aware of and respect and honour your partner’s fear/shame vulnerability
… you can improve your connection and communication.
The key is connection
… When people are connected—they communicate effectively.
Susie Itzstein is a director of the Institute for Relationship Development and Imago Matters. She is a relationships counsellor based in Perth, WA, and also Seattle, USA.
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