To stay abreast of thinking in the field of couple’s therapy, I read the latest books on the subject, go to lectures and speak with colleagues.
I don’t study every theory that’s out there as carefully as I used to because I notice how only certain concepts ring true and stay with me. These theories tend to explain how we are internally wired, and help me understand what must be recognized and accepted as intrinsic in order to make relationships work.
One of the most influential strains that is always present in my awareness is the factor of gender differences.
The first time I consciously thought about this issue was when I read Pat Love and Seven Stosny’s book “How to Improve your Marriage Without Talking About It” and learned that men and women just do not operate under the same rules.
Since then, although there are obviously exceptions, I see these differing gender needs and styles as normal for all of us. It helps me to think and talk about our ancestors in the caveman days, when women would be in strong community all day while men roamed the hills alone, looking to bring home the kill for dinner.
After a day apart, women would be so anxious to connect, talk, plan and thus get a close feeling with their men; men would need time to wind down, be appreciated, cared for, and, later, be made to feel welcome and powerful in their other role, satisfying their woman.
Normalizing these gender differences (which of course vary at times and exist analogously in same sex couples) helps put another light on annoying and unsatisfying behaviors, and offers a different approach to understanding ongoing styles (who wants to talk, who needs a break; who can't wait to connect, who needs transitional time), an approach where blame is just not relevant.
Accepting these differences and figuring out with our partner how to effectively handle them is our task.