Perhaps the single most difficult aspect of relationships is effective communication. When a woman asks a man how he feels about a contentious issue in their marriage, he frequently answers with what he thinks instead. The “I think”, versus the “I feel” conversation quickly becomes a circular argument with neither person successfully making his or her point.
Men are unaccustomed to talking about how they feel, so it’s not hard to understand why they revert to what they think instead. It’s become a comfortable default position for men, but unfortunately, not a position likely to lead to marital bliss.
The problem with this communication disconnect is that when women talk about how they’re feeling, they are expressing their emotions, their feelings. Those expressed feelings are a woman’s absolute truth. There’s no debate about feelings because they are a person’s deepest truth. A woman who expresses that she’s not feeling sexual isn’t saying she doesn’t want to have sex, she’s saying that something is missing in her heart at that moment that is preventing her from feeling sexual. She’s not necessarily accusing her partner of instilling those feelings in her, but unfortunately, that’s how men often understand it.
When a man counters that he doesn’t think they’re having sex often enough, he’s expressing his thoughts, not his feelings, and thoughts are always open to debate, opinion, and judgment. That’s when the argument becomes circular. It goes round and round, the woman expressing her feelings, and the man expressing his thoughts, until one or both become angry, frustrated, and tired of arguing. No one wins, and both partners feel unheard.
Once men accept that expressing what they think is helpful in certain circumstances, like where to go out for dinner, what movie to see, what clothing to wear, and at the same time accept that none of these have anything to do with feelings, they will begin to understand the process of communicating effectively.
Sadly, many men still believe that feelings are “girly”, and not “manly”, and while they cling to this belief, their relationships fail because they fear what’s absolutely necessary, emotional dialogue. There is nothing feminine about discussing feelings, and that archaic belief has to be the first fatality in a man’s psyche. The truth is that “real men” do in fact talk about how they’re feeling because they realize that that’s their deepest truth, which is exactly what women want to hear from them.
For a man to try to make his relationship point by sticking to what he thinks, i.e. his opinions and judgments, is foolish to the nth degree. It is a stubborn, totally ineffective manner of communicating his needs. Sex in a marriage is at times about how both partners are feeling about each other. That shouldn’t be difficult to express considering the sex that might follow. A man who tells his wife that he misses the warm feelings that are a part of sex has opened the window to sexual possibilities. He hasn’t lied, and in fact has stated his emotional truth.
It’s not a game, though it might appear so because expressing love and warmth make sex more likely. What is actually happening is that the husband is telling his wife how he’s feeling about sex. That’s all any woman can ask for.
It takes a bit of practice for men to become comfortable expressing their feelings, but successfully navigating marital problems is the best reward for encouraging men to continue on that path. I suggest that women think in terms of being patient and accepting of their men’s first efforts in this new arena. In time, men can express their feelings, get what they need, and not feel remotely “girly”.