“Why doesn’t he listen to me?’
“Why can’t he remember what I tell him?”
“What is it with him and that remote control?”
Sound familiar? Yep, I thought so. It’s not uncommon for women to feel that their partner is not listening to them. This is not to say that all men refuse to listen, but it’s a common enough trend among them to at least raise this issue.
When I told some of my male friends I’d be looking at this topic, I asked them for their thoughts and insights about men and their ability — or inability — to listen. Many of them laughed a knowing laugh, while others agreed, “It’s because you gals don’t get to the point fast enough.” Here are some of the common complaints men had about their partners’ “conversational style”:
- Women talk too much.
- Men assume they’ve heard it all before.
- They feel their partners are yelling or nagging them about something.
- The topic at hand is really not that interesting (ouch!).
- Or simply: There are more pressing matters to attend to.
According to some of the current research out there, it’s our brains that are to blame. And this difference may start even before we’re born. Testosterone (for men) and estrogen (for women) flood our fetal brains, which leads to marked differences in brain development and neural connections. Male brains tend to have less area for word use and word production. The male brain also produces less serotonin and oxytocin than the female brain. Serotonin helps to calm us down and oxytocin helps us with bonding behaviors.
So what does this all really mean? Men may not take in as much conversation as women do, because they have fewer verbal centers designated for it. This may also make the man in your life want to end conversations more quickly than their female partners do. The male brain may also rejuvenate differently than the female brain. Men like to rest and chill out more than women do. Women may want to bond at the end of the day to rejuvenate and feel connected, because of the oxytocin found in their brains. So what’s the answer? We know that couples who don’t listen to each other eventually head for disaster, so that’s clearly NOT an option. Here are some tips to help the ladies out with the men in their lives:
- Timing may be everything. Think about the best time to bring up important discussions. It’s probably wise to wait till he’s done with the TV or newspaper before having your say.
- Keep it short and to the point. And remember, the end of the evening may not be the best time to go into details.
- Pause regularly and maintain eye contact to make sure your partner is still listening to you.
For the guys out there: Remember, your partner is not giving you a final exam. Women just want to be emotionally supported and attended to. If you communicate that you care and get the emotions behind your partner’s story, your efforts will be greatly appreciated and probably rewarded, too. Now that doesn’t sound too hard, does it? The bottom line is: We all want to feel important and loved in the right way … and nothing beats talking to and finding a way to hear your partner, in order to achieve that very worthy goal.
Psychotherapist Dr. Robi Ludwig has hosted two seasons of TLC’s reality show “One Week to Save Your Marriage” as well as GSN’s reality game show “Without Prejudice.” She currently has a private practice in New York City where she treats both individuals and couples. Find out more at drrobiludwig.com.