With this in mind, we offer the following insights for wives trying to understand the male mind:
•Men may seem unemotional, but what they emotionally react to and how they express those emotions are merely different. Men have strong positive reactions to respect and acceptance and strong negative reactions to shame and rejection. Typically, hurt feelings are expressed in one of two extremes: Withdrawal (going off by himself) or anger (yelling).
•Men are wired to want to feel competent, especially in the areas of work and in love-making. Shaming your husband in either area (“Why can't you earn as much as he does?” or “Is sex all you ever think about?”) will cause an emotional reaction that will poison your marriage. If you shame your husband and he clams shut, refusing to talk, it's because he's struggling to handle the emotional devastation he's feeling.
•Men are vulnerable to loneliness, as are women. But, while women seek emotional connection with other women, men seek comrades-in-arms, or teammates, with whom they can work shoulder-to-shoulder. When wives act as cheerleaders or supportive team members, they give their husbands a sense of connection, male fashion.
•Expert Willard Harley reports that, among male needs, “spending recreational time with his wife is second only to sex for the typical husband.” This makes sense. Men want a partner in the joys of life, not just the battles.
•Men are empathetic, but, again, in a male way. When women talk about problems they often want understanding, not solutions. When women feel understood, they feel emotionally connected, and it relieves the stress.
However, when men talk about problems, typically they're seeking help, because men see problems as something to fix. Indeed, Louann Brizendine, author of “The Male Brain,” describes the male mind as “a lean, mean, problem-solving machine.” For a man to “understand” someone's “problem” and not try to help “fix” it would be cold and uncaring.
When wives talk about a problem, husbands face a dilemma. Their male ears hear something that needs fixing. They try to fix it and get rejected as “uncaring.” This makes no sense to a male. The solution: Tell your husband, “I just want to be understood. This doesn't need fixing.”
•Men are hardwired to look at women, which can drive women nuts. There are several reasons for the male tendency to gawk at women. Brizendine explains that men have roughly six times as much testosterone as women and 2 1/2 times as much “brain space devoted to sexual drive in their hypothalamus.”
Testosterone also curbs the impulse control center of the brain, making it easy for men to look first and think later. Since men's eyes are constructed to estimate distances, they also have something like “tunnel vision,” making their gawking all the more obvious.
The good news for wives is that, although men ogle as if on “auto-pilot,” Brizendine explains, “they often forget about the woman once she is out of their visual field.”
•Women often complain that their husbands don't “get it” when it comes to relationships and understanding them. But he probably does, at least somewhat, although in a purely male way.
Brizendine suggests wives and their marriage will do better if they “celebrate their man for being a man and stop trying to make him act more like you.” Good advice.
©2012, All Rights Reserved. James Sheridan’s website is www.marriagedoneright.com. This column is the personal opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views or opinion of The News-Sentinel.