Women in Training??
Why do men seem not just not get it sometimes? It isn't stupidity or lack love. So what is it? Come with me as I explore a crazy postulation that just might turn out to be true.
Women have been training to be in emotionally communicative relationships basically since birth. As little girls we start sharing secrets with friends. Staying up late at sleepovers talking about everything. By the time we reach puberty chances are we have already discussed everything of small or large importance with a close knit group of girls.
Sharing secrets, finding similarities, making each other feel free to have differences, are all things that occur in a typically female relationship starting around age 5. It seems natural to us to cultivate these relationships. To talk about things that matter to us, and be vulnerable. We had fights and found our way back to each other. We have experienced deep love, betrayal and support beyond words.
Women show each love through emotional communication (i.e. talking to each other). Our teens are spent indulging in hours on the phone discussing feeling, words, actions.
In season 1 of the iconic TV Friends Ross and Rachel share their first, and now infamous, first kiss. Rachel tells Pheobe and Monica every detail in a long conversation including wine and lots of follow up questions about how she feels. Ross has a similar conversation with Chandler and Joey that goes verbatim like this (yes I have watched these enough to quote off-hand)
Ross I kissed Rachel last night.
This theme is repeated countless times throughout literature and film/television. Women like to talk to each other, men prefer to drink beer and watch sports. It almost seems too cliché to even mention. What I am interested in is the WHY? This is not a behavior they exhibit from infancy. Male children are just as talkative and emotional as female children are, it is not an innate behavior. So what changes and when? Below is my hypothesis on this quagmire for your consideration.
Women have been practicing to have intense emotional relationships from a very young age. We start sharing secrets early in our development. Starting around age 8 we have begun to develop close friendships based on sharing secrets and becoming close confidants. By the time we reach high school, our close friends are deep and emotional. Often times our friendships know more of our personal struggles than our family. We use these moments as a spring board to find a closer friendship. The things that you are scared to admit to the world. Secret truths that we are worried might ostrasize us from the world, make us a priryah in the realms of high school, are shared on 3 hour long phone calls (or at least they were phone calls when I was in high school. When text messages were still an expensive form of communication). These friendships were a physical manifestation of our diary. We regularly stayed up until the wee hours of the morning discussing, sharing, and grooming each other to be our best selves. We knew each other’s emotional spectrum and could often tell when something was “wrong” with a simple look or gesture.
Gaps in communication were not acceptable. In truth I still have a stack of notebooks that we would pass back-and-forth between classes. Thinking ourselves so brilliant for fooling the teachers into thinking we were taking intensive notes. In actuality we were discussing the juiciest topics of the day or providing our friends with a front row seat to our crazy stream on concisouness thoughts from the day.
We didn’t need birthday present recommendation or reminders of each other’s personally important dates. We knew.
It took me years of personal experience, and many many hours of discussion with my friends and sisters about their struggles, to finally come to the conclusion as to why. Those years we spent from middle school onward were our training on how to be in a meaningful relationship. The gestures of love and affection that we received from our friends became our standard of love languages. It truthfully never occurred to me, or any of my friends, that because men usually did not form these type of relationships in High School that they would not immediately be ready to jump into the deep end of a relationship.
I knew from the pop culture of the time, and witnessing my own brother, that his male relationships were meaningful...but that they did not develop the same deep communication skills that women did during that time. It would astound me to ask my brother questions such as “how is Tom doing with his parent’s divorce” and for him to either not have any knowledge of the issue or simply say “fine”.
Men often do not develop these type of emotional relationships until their first serious relationship. That is, until they are invested in a relationship with someone that does exhibit these emotional and communication aspects. Most of my teens and 20s were spent in deep contemplation with my friends as to “why he does this” or “why he doesn’t do that”. They care. We know that. The issue comes with the fact that they have not developed the relationship skills we have over years of tearful fights with friends. They have not learned the fragile intamacies that are created from a close emotional relationship. They don’t know how.
What I observed of male relationships usually consisted of them playing games or watching television next to each other. They did not sleep in the same bed. They did not cuddle with their friends. They did not cry to them. They did not hold them and tell them everything was going to be alright. I am sure they felt those emotions, but most often they were unspoken. So it stands to reason that this is how they would operate in all relationships. Leaving us feeling frustrated and upset.
Women have been trained that the way you form a bond is to do these things. We give each other verbal encouragement. We rarely even have to ask our friends for their opinions on our outfit or hair. They are quick to offer verbal affirmations, completely unsolicited. This is why women are so offended when men are silent or when we have to “beg for a compliment”. We feel that they should just know to do so. This can then become a point of contention. We have learned the communication methods of our friends and have had years of practe refining the art of effective communication as a result.
Even today I can go for several months or even a year without speaking with a friend and then pick up the phone and have a very deep and meaningful conversation with them. When this happens, my husband sometimes looks at me like an alien. He does not seem to understand how we can pick up at the same level of intimatcy after such a big gap in communication. My answer...practice.
So where do we go from here? After almost a decade with my now husband my recommendation is to try and remember how I approached my new friendships in the past. Truthfully it has helped me to simply consider this idea that they just haven’t refined this communication methodology. It is not that he thinks I look horrible, or doesn’t know me well enough to purchase a birthday present without precise input, but rather that he did not have the 15+ years of practice I had learning and cultivating these skills.
These week I will be discussing this and love languages in general with my husband on my Podcast, TEA with Coco. To hear his input and our discussion be sure to tune in on Apple Podcast or Spotify. If you have any thoughts please leave a comment or drop me a line here on the website or on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter. I always welcome feedback.
*Disclaimer- I use the word "Women" to describe very the female traits I have experienced. I have also had awesome LGBTQ friends of all genders fill this mold. So take it as a generalization.