Go Ahead and Blame Your Problems on Gender Differences!

Did you know that couples who regularly attribute certain types of conflict to differences in gender actually do better than those who don't?

Think about it, if couples don't "blame" it on gender, then often they are blaming it on their partner's character flaws or upbringing or bad habits. No good can come of this. It just breeds contempt and disrespect.

I'm not saying that all conflict stems from gender differences. There really are character flaws (or, at the very least personality differences), bad habits and damages from the past that can shape how we relate. But, a lot of the conflict I see in couples tends to boil down to differences in the way men and women think and talk.

For example, in general women tend to have running lists in their heads about what needs to be done. We also have sub-lists about what happens if each task does or does not get done. Men, for your information, it's always going in our heads and it's exhausting (especially for mothers).

So -- say a family is planning a trip to the mountains the next day. Woman thinks: "If I don't get this load of laundry done tonight then I won't have Suzie's blanket for the car ride tomorrow and then she'll get cranky, won't sleep during the car ride and then our trip to the mountains will be ruined." Man, on the other hand thinks, "Oh yeah...we're going to the mountains tomorrow. Huh. Whoa! Check out that shot!" In other words, they tend to live much more focused on a singular thing.

The trick is to realize that neither approach to the mountain trip is wrong. It just is. Men tend to think their wives are crazy for worrying and women tend to think their husbands just don't get it and are unhelpful.

We must, must, must communicate our expectations of how things should go. When we’re disappointed, we tend to have the bad habit of assuming the other person would think like we do or is inconsiderate, being dramatic, controlling, selfish, etc. When instead we say to ourselves, “Oh that’s just men or that’s just women” we laugh more, are gentler and we find ways to make it work for both of us.

Now, this doesn’t mean excusing bad behavior. And, it also doesn’t mean it’s hopeless. Women, take heart, if you approach it with love, good humor, persistence and acceptance, your husband will learn how to share the burden of being the task manager. Men, with the same approach, your wife will learn to let you watch the game in peace and stop sweating every thing (some of the time anyway!).