Friday, January 18, 2008

Crossing Wires

With the increasing wisdom gained from the great teacher known as Dr. Life Experience over the years... Well I've known for awhile that men and women are "wired" differently. We think differently. Not better or worse than one another, just different.

I know a lot of gender issues are attributed to a breakdown in communication. But is the breakdown in communication coming from not understanding what one another are saying or is the breakdown coming more from not understanding where one another are coming from? That is to say, we know and understand what we're saying to one another but we still haven't taken that critical step of understanding WHY we think/feel the way we do? It's not what we're saying to one another-- it's the WHY we're saying it and HOW we're wording it.

There is, after all, an inherent difference in the way men and women think and that difference is reflected in the way we speak to one another. We use different words/terms because our focuses are different from one another. Women are traditionally focused/centered more on emotion and men more on logic. Now there are both advantages and drawbacks to both approaches. Being more focused on emotion allows for a greater degree of empathy and an a greater acceptance of all those shades of gray that exist between black and white. Too many shades of gray can end up complicating what might otherwise be simple issues. Being more focused on logic is more conducive to critical thought, snap decisions-- sometimes emotion just gets in the way. The trouble with this is that when it comes to logic there is little room for gray-- it's black or it's white with little or nothing in between.

To put it into a simpler context (albeit some of you may argue this is oversimplified) think of men as coins and women as a deck of cards. An issue arises and the man sees two possible solutions to the problem and weighs which makes more sense and acts accordingly. The woman sees 52 different possible solutions and weighs them accordingly.

I recently read an article in The Globe and Mail, Ghost Dad, Not Deadbeat Dad, the basic gist of which was that divorced men who tend to distance themselves from their children don't do so out of spite, cruelty, or malice but out of shame. As men, our lives are measured in success or failure-- that carries over into not just career but also marriage and fatherhood. A divorce is seen as a "failure" and when men fail we feel ashamed. Unfortunately, for some divorced men, they look at their children as reminders of failure and it makes them feel ashamed. Upon reading that I felt rather crushed for these men-- Can you imagine any time you look at your child being reminded of a failed marriage and thus feeling shame? Feeling shame when you look at your own kids?

Unfortunately, that only compounds the problem. In being so ashamed of their failed marriage these very same men end up failing at fatherhood which only compounds that shame... A vicious self-perpetuating cycle. Keep in mind, I'm not referring to deadbeat dads here. I'm referring to the dads who do pay the child support but are noticeably absent from their children's lives.

To extrapolate this back out to the bigger picture-- I read another article awhile back (which I've long since lost the link to, unfortunately) that stated that in many troubled marriages it's actually more often the husband than the wife who is willing to work to save the marriage. This was/is largely due to the whole success/failure mentality. The men having a mentality, "if I can't even make my marriage work, I'm a failure at life."

This isn't an issue that touches me directly-- my parents have been married for over fifty-two years, all of my siblings are currently in happy, healthy marriages. I know their marriages aren't always perfect or easy but I also know they've found whatever model they need to follow to work through the rough spots. And being relatively new to the marriage gig (just under 3 years) I know I'm still essentially just a tenderfoot, I'm still working on that model with my wife. But I'm also a strong proponent of men's rights.

We're so often portrayed as violent, cold, uncaring. And admittedly many men are assholes. There are some real jerks out there who give the rest of us a bad name. The trouble is, we don't tend to hear much about the "good guys"-- which I honestly believe is most of us. There have been enough of jerks, creeps, perverts out there to put women on their guard and to make it that much more difficult for us to "connect" with one another as people. And the mass media only further complicates this by focusing on and perpetuating the negative stereotypes... Not just of men, but of women too. Some of those stereotypes as a result become self-fulfilling, life imitating "art" (I use the term VERY loosely in this context).

I guess I'm just trying to do my part to break down some of those barriers, shatter some of the stereotypes, and maybe give some of the other "good guys" who are still out there a reasonable chance at meeting that special someone and maybe help some women better understand us.


Mike said...

Here's how it works.

She expects you to know what she's thinking.

You go happily about your day, expecting her to tell you stuff you need to know.

Her, expecting to just know, gets really, really angry when you expect communication.

She has a tiff and you don't understand, which makes her MORE angry.

Are we seeing the problem here?

The common denominator in the problem is HER!!!!!

Yes, I am single :P

Barbara said...

I see why Mike is single. Just kidding. There is some truth to what he said, women need to speak up but men need to ASK and not always try to FIX things and learn to just listen.

Ok, that said - DARRIN! This is an excellent post, very informative and interesting with the potential for being helpful. We not always appreciate or like the differences in the sexes, but to deny them is to harm our own relationships. I think this should be published in a magazine or something.

I have one issue with what you said about divorced fathers and shame - Get Over It! Do you love your kids? Then stop viewing them as reminders of your failure and spend time with them to better their chances of growing up to have healthy long lasting marriages.

My son's father is a selfish, immature jerk and I don't care if its out of shame or what...he has chosen to NOT spend time with his boy and now my son HATES his father and I can't say I blame him.

Lauren said...

As far as the father's not seeing their kids after divorce because of shame I have to say I am in total agreement with Barbara. There's understanding someone and being empathetic and then there is just plain old making excuses for bad childish behavior.

About your thoughts that you think there are more good guys out there than bad, I just have to disagree. Otherwise there would not be such a large population of still single people. I think this is the first time in history there are more unmarried, never married people over 30 than ever before. I know there was a study that came out recently on this.

I also don't think anyone has to try to so hard. If "you" are one of the good guys, BELIEVE YOU ME, it will be EVIDENT. And I will scoop the first good guy up for sure!

Lauren said...

OH I almost forgot, consider yourself tagged in Drowsey's I am quirky game. After me, I can't think of a better person to tag. HA!

Perplexio said...

Mike: I'll likely get slapped for this but I believe Jack Nicholson explained things quite well in As Good As It Gets. His character was asked by a ditzy blonde: "How do you write women so well." His response: "I start with a man and I take away reason and accountability."

Barbara and Lauren: Don't get me wrong, I'm not letting ghost dads off scot-free. I was merely commenting that I understand the "shame" aspect. I don't agree with it and I did state that the whole shame thing creates another whole issue of failure. If looking at their children who are products of a divorce reminds them of the failure and causes them shame... I think that should steel their resolve to be good dads-- they may have failed as husbands but that's no reason they have to fail as fathers.