Dr. Warren, I'd like your opinion on this matter. It has been my experience, and those of my women friends, that men are just less willing to work at communication and intimacy. They seem afraid of losing themselves in a relationship. Do you think this is generally true?

-Amy

 

Amy,

It has been my experience, during thirty-five years of counseling men and women, that men are less likely to be skilled at communication and intimacy. This doesn’t mean that they are less willing to work at these skills, but unlike women, men are often raised without being taught to value their inner dialogue.

Most men are "outwardly" focused. If we think about the way boys are raised, it’s easy to see how this happens. When a little boy falls down and starts to cry he’s often told, "Big boys don’t cry." By the time a boy is fourteen or fifteen he’s probably been told to "be tough" or "act like a man" hundreds of times. As a society, we tend to want our men to move ahead and conquer the world without spending much time assessing how they feel inside.

Of course, girls are usually treated quite differently. Great value is placed on raising women who are nurturers, probably because this is vital to successful mothering. We tend to permit girls to express their emotions and examine how they feel about issues they value. This produces adult women who are comfortable with intimacy. Most women have been taught how to discuss their inner world much more effectively than most men.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that a man cannot learn to communicate his intimate feelings--and many men have put great effort into building these skills. I firmly believe that in order to have a brilliant relationship, both partners must be willing to talk about their feelings in a meaningful way. This "verbal intimacy" is the absolute foundation for every successful relationship I’ve ever encountered.