Friday, June 5, 2009

I Said I'm Fine!!!

Many times a man who is deep in thought may say they are 'fine' in response to their partners query when their body language clearly says otherwise. How do we respond to this dichotomy?

We ultimately call this type of response mixed messages. It can be confusing to a partner who sees one thing (body language) and is told another (verbal message). Although he is technically being dishonest, there are times in relationships when one partner is lost in thought, not focused on the news, processing the events of the day. He may be processing an issue and not be clear enough in his mind to be able to discuss it yet. It may not even be related to his partner.

Many men and women process very differently. Women often process through talk and sharing (outward) whereas men often process through thought and reflection (inward). Many times women attempt closeness and reconnection after being apart from their partners by talking and sharing about their day. They may feel the need to reconnect even more strongly during times when men are distracted by TV or the newspaper. Men, on the other hand, do not reconnect in this same way, thus his answer of "fine" may be his way of getting some mental space to work through the processing of his day. He may not feel it is important to talk about it, not realizing that his partner may feel disconnected by his response.

Women may feel disconnected from their men when partners return to one another after their day and have opposing needs. Men may need to relax and have down time...time to process their day within themselves. Women may need to talk and reconnect. They need to process their day by sharing it with their man. This dichotomy may cause many problems when couples don't realize why they feel differently and misinterpret their partners actions.

Someone asking, "What's the matter?" to a display of body language that says closed (crossed arms) and thinking (wiggling foot) seems to be modeling behavior that says, "I care about you and want to know if you are upset about something." However, the recipient may feel reluctant to discuss a problem or issue that has not been fully thought through, not wanting to seem indecisive or unable to come to a conclusion on their own.

Thus we have a dilemma. If we are able to realize that we are different from our partner we can use our tools to practice self care while we allow our partner to process their day in their own manner. If we need to talk while our partner needs to introspect, we can either wait until he is ready or we can call a friend to chat. If we need to introspect while our partner needs to talk, we can either choose to wait to process our day or ask her to give us some time to relax first. As long as we choose to communicate effectively and respect each others differing needs, we can overcome these obstacles to connection and resume our intimacy without conflict.

Using our tools keeps us grounded in our needs and allows us to recognize that it is our differences that make each of us unique individuals. We can respect each other within the relationship while still being able to meet each others needs when we bend to compromise. In this way we both eventually have the chance to relax and reconnect leading to healthier relating and intimacy.

We practice our tools in our daily lives giving ourselves the gift of self care. In this way we increase the mutual respect in our relationship and allow our partner the freedom to practice self care as well.

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