I can get carried away with how opposites attract. The simplest way to enter this discussion acknowledges the different experiences of testosterone and estrogen. We all have more of one and less of the other. Carl Jung, the early psychologist, talked about masculine and feminine traits. Too wordy, how about this? Boys like to look and girls like to feel.
Imagine a man and a woman looking at an issue of Cosmopolitan. The woman sees but mainly feels. How would I feel in that? How can I get to that feeling, she wonders. I don’t have to tell you what catches the man’s eye. While watching HGTV, the couple looks at a log cabin. He comments on the structure and she says, “This just feels so homey and comfortable.” Standing three feet from each other, they see and experience the space differently.
This puts both in awkward and misunderstood situations. In that we perceive the world differently, we wonder why the other is saying or thinking those things. It’s like we have differently tuned radar and we don’t see the same things. Communication gets all scrambled. Feelings get hurt. We find ourselves frustrated.
He wonders why it takes so many words, angles, and tangents to tell a story. It takes a lot of words to describe the feelings. She wonders why he won’t talk. In his mind all of the pieces were in place, problem solved.
Here’s how it goes. She says, “lets talk about it.” He says, “we already talked about it.” She says, “we’re not through.” He says, “I was.” She says, “I had another thought.” He groans.
These fundamental differences arise in the experience of attraction and physical intimacy. Men tend to be more visually stimulated; women are interested in the whole experience, the romance and the mood. Have you watched a Hallmark movie lately? When she says, “I don’t feel like it,” he doesn’t know what language she is speaking.
As we approach Valentine’s Day, we should note that the trappings are important. Set aside for lovers, the holiday helps the unromantic think romantically. Real effort is applied in hope of a certain outcome.
A generic definition of romance reads “a feeling of excitement and mystery associated with love.” That’s why the young man looks so awkward with the flowers or chocolates in one hand as he pens a note in a heart drenched card. He hasn’t a clue how this part of the game is played. He really is trying to get past the mystery to the solution.
It is easy to disparage or condemn the other’s way. I suggest we work to understand the difference, even risk honoring that difference. Looking seems to be superficial and easy to disparage. But sometimes that same simplicity can get something done.
Women’s intuition is a real thing. With a complicated matrix of feelings fine tuned like precision radar, my wife knows me better than I know myself, predicting the future and putting the brakes on my mistakes. Don’t judge, work to understand, and allow your coupling to come to you.
Bruce Conn is a licensed marriage and family therapist, and works with individuals and couples. Contact him at 478-714-7189 and/or firstname.lastname@example.org.