Men and women often have different communication styles and different approaches to solving problems. This can lead to misunderstandings and miscommunication in a relationship. Couples sometimes wonder whether they need help and support to sort out problems they encounter together. If they decide they could benefit from the guidance of an objective third party in a couples counseling setting they may wonder whether a counselor can, indeed, understand and support each of them.
Approaches to problem solving differ widely. Women often choose to talk a problem through. They first attempt to understand the problem by verbally examining all aspects of the issue. Many women feel the need to have a listener; someone who may ask a question or two, or offer an opinion if that’s appropriate. Women frequently avoid talking to those who have a tendency to rush to their rescue. A sounding board is most often what they require.
Men, on the other hand, frequently begin looking for solutions as soon as they feel they understand the problem. If they are the listener, they may begin to offer suggestions for a solution as soon as they believe they understand some of the issues involved. If they are the person explaining a problem, they may begin working on a solution even before they’ve finished identifying the issue at hand.
Neither style of solving a problem is wrong. Both can work. However, such differing styles can cause friction when two people are trying to work on a problem together. The woman in the relationship may wonder, “Why doesn’t he listen? When I try to explain how I feel, he jumps up and rushes around trying to fix it. I just need him to listen!” The man in the couple may ask himself, “What is going on here? I tried to help. She’s not listening to my ideas. Why can’t she just try my suggestions?”. Both parties may be missing the intent of the other.
It is as though the partners in the relationship are speaking different languages. The support which a couple’s therapist can offer is akin to offering to be a translator. Skilled observations and questions from the therapist can help individuals listen for the underlying messages when their partner speaks. As couples learn to use this skill, they begin to see the need to wait for their partner to identify what they need from a listener. Each partner can learn to determine what they want from the listener when they are the speaker. As the communication between partners improves, so does their ability to solve problems together.
If you and your partner find you are having difficulty solving problems or struggle with communication issues, it might be helpful to learn about couples counseling at Vermont Talk Therapy. We’re happy to explain how the process works and what your sessions might be like. Give us a call, we’re ready to help.