You are getting so intense – he said. No shit, I think to myself- every cell of my body is screaming.
Well if you stop ABC then I will stop XYZ he says, trying to fix the issue we were caught in. What!!!! He missed the whole point – that I worry about him, that my emotions have a logic, that we don’t live in a one-person universe.
For him, safety meant that I would stay calm and logical. For me, safety meant that I would be understood, that he could tune into my world.
Men and women are really different.
The other day Mike and I were buying eggs from a local woman who had chickens. There were some roaming about freely, others in a pen and still others, smaller ones in another pen. That third group looked like they were chickens to eat. She acknowledged that yes, that third group was for eating. Mike asked her if they had names. She put her hand up to the sides of her head, like putting on blinders to block out a thought or an image. She said that she still struggles with the butchering of the chickens. She raises these chickens and knows each one of them.
Later, we went to a local shellfish farm and bought a filet of salmon. Except it started (as they all do) as a whole fish. I walked into the back area to watch the fish be filleted. Mark the owner cut into the dead fish with a very sharp knife. Dark red blood flowed out and onto the sink. I hadn’t seen a fish gutted since I was a child and my father caught them himself. I hated that living and eating involved so much death and sacrifice. This fish was so clearly another life, with red blood just like mine. As a 3rd generation fisherman, cleaning and filleting fish was second nature to him. But it left me with an awareness of the relatedness of all of us.
Women have thousands of years of history attuning to others, to babies and children, to lovers and husbands and friends. Women are wired with an awareness of connection. When the baby cries they hold it and soothe it. When the baby is hungry they feed it. Women learn to read the needs and feelings of others. Their brains wire to be able to do this. This is what makes them feel safe and nourished. When women are aroused emotionally, it is because there is danger to a baby, or someone they are connected to, to the connection itself.
Men have thousands of years of history shutting off their sense of empathy and attunement while they are bringing an axe down on the neck of an animal for food, or going into battle. Survival depends on this ability. At the same time, heightened emotion is required to go into battle and possibly kill. Whether it is their own emotion, or the emotion of the enemy coming after them – emotions are dangerous. Interestingly, there is both an emotional charge which ramps up the adrenaline and a shutting off emotionally so that they can actually kill.
Men tend to struggle with the emotional intensity of females. Women tend to struggle with the ‘logical’ part of men. And because of this we can miss the underlying need to connect.
These ways of being are wired into men and women. They are patterns and tendencies that have developed as part of our survival since the beginning of our human history. They are encoded in our DNA. It is part of who we are. Yet, to have a successful relationship we have to be able to transcend this. We have to be able to understand each other and find a way to have a real communication about what is going on between us.
We can use our brains to help us. When my husband says, ‘you are getting too intense for me,’ I am now more able to stop myself and calm down. When I say, ‘you are trying to fix it and I need you to get what is really going on for me,’ he is more able to listen and understand what I am talking about.
This story is a bit black and white and simplified greatly, yet it explains part of what often occurs between men and woman. It is also more complicated than this. Our past history, the genders of those in the relationship, our own individual sensitivities, and a number of other factors enter into our personal relationship story. Our deep underlying needs to feel safe and seen erupt into view quickly when threatened. Yet this might give you a bit of a map to help yourself understand what is happening in some of your relational interactions.
Understanding what you are actually reacting to requires the work of looking at ourselves and unraveling the impact our history has had on us. It requires seeing where we felt unloved, threatened or hurt and how that is being triggered now.
As we dig down through the layers of our histories and difficulties, we can get to the part of our love that is beautiful and often fragile. We can step back and understand the big picture while we also appreciate the beauty of our partner, their vulnerabilities and songs their lives sing.
This doesn’t come quick or easy, but it is so worth learning.
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