If a judge were to give you a choice of talking to your woman about your relationship or spending a weekend behind bars, you might be tempted to ask what they serve for lunch.
It’s a sentence that makes most men cringe: “Honey, we need to talk” .
When a man hears these awful words, he knows that he’s about to be blamed for every negative feeling the woman in his life has ever had. He’s going to be told how he’s failing as a husband or boyfriend. She’s about to recite, in chronological order, all the things he’s ever done wrong. And it won’t matter if he starts doing what she wants, because he didn’t think to do what she wanted without being told!
No wonder that so many men regard ‘relationship talk’ as an alternative jail sentence. If a judge were to give you a choice of talking to your woman about your relationship or spending a weekend behind bars, you might be tempted to ask what they serve for lunch.
It may come as a big surprise to most women, but research shows that men are right. Talking about your relationship is more likely to make it worse than better. That’s because talking about feelings and relationships lowers anxiety and discomfort for women but raises them for men.
“I’d feel okay if you would just talk to me”, she says.
“I’d feel okay if you would just give it a rest”, he counters.
A large part of his discomfort is purely physical. When males feel emotion, they have significantly more blood flow to organs and muscles and a lot more electrical activity surging through them. When a man feels something, he wants to do something, not sit and talk. If he tries to suppress his discomfort, which he’s likely to do at first to keep from making things worse, he fidgets or squirms and seems not to be listening even when he is. This just makes her madder and him more frustrated.
Believe it or not, your woman doesn’t put you through the ordeal of ‘relationship talk’ because she likes to see you squirm. She doesn’t enjoy endless verbal wrestling matches any more than you do. It’s just that, when she feels emotionally disconnected, she needs to talk – and here is a huge difference between women and men. Women talk about emotions and relationships to forge a connection, which seems especially important if they feel anxious or isolated. If you make them feel more anxious or isolated, you make them want to talk more.
What’s more, if you fidget or squirm while she’s talking, she will get more anxious and talk still more. When it comes to relationship talk, it’s pay me now and pay me later.
The trick here is to think prevention. If you don’t want to have those cursed relationship talks you have to make her feel connected. The following is an amazingly successful formula to avoid the dreaded words, “Honey, we need to talk”, before she can utter them:
- Be aware of how important she is to you. She gives meaning to your life. Just think of how empty it would be without her.
- Feel connected to her. Connection is a mental state and a choice. You like yourself better when you choose to feel connected, and you like yourself less when you choose to feel disconnected.
- Think positive thoughts about her when you’re not with her. That will make you want to connect when you’re together.
- Come home looking forward to connecting with her.
- Make small connection gestures a part of your daily routine. Say or do something brief to let her know that she’s important to you at four crucial transitional times: when you wake up, leave the house, as soon as you come in, and the last thing at night.
- Hug at least six times a day, holding each for a minimum of six seconds – this gets the connection chemicals flowing.
- Surprise her. Unlike men, who love routine, women like to be surprised.
- Help her around the house. She’ll feel isolated and want to complain more if you don’t.
All of this takes a surprisingly small amount of time, if done on a daily basis. It will take nowhere near the amount of time you’ll spend talking about your relationship when she feels disconnected.
The good news is that most men actually like to talk about emotions, if they feel connected. So if she feels connected, she’ll be less anxious and talk less. And if you feel connected, you’ll talk more – the two of you will meet in the middle!
Steven Stosny, PhD, is the founder of CompassionPower in suburban Washington, DC, and author of several books on improving relationships. He has offered hundreds of workshops all over the world and has presented at most of the leading professional conferences. He has treated over 6,000 clients for various forms of resentment, anger, abuse, and violence. He has taught at the University of Maryland and at St. Mary’s College of Maryland.
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