Building Bridges

Issue # 17 of 43 






David LeClaire
By: David LeClaire

Gender Wars

Many of the conflicts that couples face are related to the different perspective, attitudes, and behaviours of each partner. These differences can be the result of many factors, such as birth order, the area in which one was raised, the financial and social status of one's family, the decade in which they were born, or even how many parents a person had. Yet many of the most common differences are shaped by our gender as well as our unique personality style.

Too many couples find themselves arguing and fighting about these differences. In the next few columns we will begin looking at some of the gender differences and how they can affect a couple's relationship, and eventually, we also explore the element of personality differences.

Imagine that a sociologist was studying the behaviour of men in different parts of the country who had just purchased a newspaper. After watching 1000 men, they counted 900 who opened their paper and went directly to the sports section. It would be fair for this sociologist to draw some conclusions, thus creating generalities, such as most men first look at the sports section before the rest of the newspaper. While not every man does so, most do.

As I talk about any group, especially in the sensitive area of gender, please remember that I refer to the majority: what most men and women do, not all. There are always women who seem to possess some typical male characteristics, just as there are men who possess many of the characteristics typically found in women. Men and women are just too different and unique to be conveniently categorized. Yet there are commonalities that many men and many women share. While you may be the exception to the rule, please keep in mind that I refer to many and most throughout the next few columns.

Men and women often believe that their way of living is the right way, and when their partner shows up as different, they seek to change them. Men and women often feel their partner is broken because they are so different. They mistakenly believe that if they could only get their partner to adopt their own way of interacting with the world, they would both be much happier. Thus the tug of war occurs as men and women try to change each other to become more like themselves.

Fortunately neither person is broken, just different. By accepting these differences, we improve the possibility for long-term survival of the relationship with an increased level of mutual respect and appreciation. This is not to suggest that neither partner can grow and change by learning from the opposite gender. Rather, the challenge is knowing what change is reasonable and what we should accept as not only normal but also mutually beneficial.

For example, a woman recently told me that men are not emotional enough. She felt that women had to compensate for their man's lack of emotion, making women overly emotional. She stated that women could be less emotional if men would only become more emotional. This woman was determined to get her man to become more emotional. Is his calm and low-key approach balancing and a benefit, a limitation, or possibly both? Are her beliefs and attempts to change her partner reasonable, or will they simply frustrate both of them and end up being an exercise in futility.

Some men may be able to tell you all of the different but wonderful things about a woman. Yet when it comes down to a day-to-day life with women, men often wish their partner was more like themselves. Many men wonder:

  • Why women have to be so emotional?
  • Why can't they just let go of things?
  • Why can't they solve problems the way men do?
  • Why do women have to talk about everything?
In a sense, some men believe that if their partner was more like he was, she would be happier and have a better life. He could love her more, and their problems would vanish!

Women often operate in the same manner. First, they find a male who they think they can work with and who shows signs of hope, and then they set out to tune him to be who they want their partner to be. Many times these women become frustrated when their efforts don't create the degree of change they had in mind. Women ask:

  • Why don't men communicate like their women friends?
  • Why aren't men more emotional?
To many women, it seems most men's priorities are all wrong!

Maybe you've already overcome these human urges I speak of, but remember there are others out there who may be still facing this challenge. Understanding that we have this tendency to try to improve others does not change the fact that most of us still haven't mastered not doing it! We need to allow our partner to be different and not think of their differences as being limitations or faults. That is a challenge many will live a whole lifetime and never master.

David LeClaire has spent much of his time teaching at community college and private school, and lead communications training for Fortune 500 companies. Now a popular and active Seattle area sommelier, this graduate of Central Michigan University led seminars for a wide variety of organizations. LeClaire is the author of "Bridges To A Passionate Partnership." He can be reached at winelover99@comcast.net.

Building Bridges Table of Contents

Text © 1998, David LeClaire. Part of the original Sideroad.
More expert advice available at www.sideroad.com.