Monday, July 20, 2009

Improving Your Marriage

It won't come as news to readers of this blog, but it will surprise readers of O Magazine.

The most recent issue of the magazine offers this advice on marriage: "Forget everything you've heard about frankness, sharing your feelings, getting him to express his."

That is the way "O" introduces two psychologists from Austin, Texas who have recently written a book explaining that the path to a better marriage does not involve being open and honest about your feelings. If a woman places too much importance on having deep and meaningful conversation, her husband will most often react by simply shutting down. Link here.

The authors are Texas psychologists Patricia Love and Steven Stosny. Their book is: "How To Improve Your Marriage Without Talking About It."

Clearly, the book and the article are addressed to women. After all, the therapy culture has targeted, and even exploited, women in its effort to peddle the idea that open and honest communication is a panacea... both for what ails you and for your marriage.

Love and Stosny's research begins with the simple proposition-- which I highlighted as recently as yesterday on this blog-- that men and women have radically different communication styles.

Their reasoning is intriguing. They suggest that when a woman wants a man to express his feelings, whether she invites him, insists on it, or just expresses her own, the man will feel put upon and criticized.

He will react by feeling shame, as though he is being found inadequate. Then he will become defensive and refuse to communicate.

I would add that when a man is called on to express his feelings, he will feel that his wife wants him to be less of a man. Not only does he not understand what she wants from him, he knows that he will never master the game.

When it comes to expressing feelings, a man will necessarily fail to meet a woman's expectations. Thus, he will feel ashamed and affronted when he is called upon to do so.

So, how do you create domestic harmony when one person is looking for a soul mate and the other person is looking for a teammate?

Love and Stosny offer a simple and correct solution to the problem: doing things together. People connect when they engage in activities together, whether it is family dinner or a walk around the block.

(I would add that it is even better when those activities become routinized.)

According to Love and Stosny, doing things together produces a paradoxical effect. It allows men to open up and it allows women to feel satisfied with less conversation.

No comments: