For Men

Then You Get The Women, Part 2

So now you’ve met her!

A certain amount of anxiety when you meet someone is unavoidable and is best tolerated. It has been suggested that if a woman doesn’t make you anxious you probably shouldn’t pursue her. Remember the Buddhist tenet that the primary cause of suffering is desire. Wanting someone or something (e.g. a relationship) doesn’t make you miserable; it’s feeling like you need them and must have them in your life. Remember you don’t need what you want. Try to tolerate the uncertainty by not ruminating about what’s-her-name and try to accept that not only may she not love you but when you sober up you may realize you don’t want her yourself!

It may help to take a step back and think about what we are looking for in a partner. Soon the oxytocin fueled passionate phase will die down and different factors predict our ability to transition to the “companiate” phase where (if we are lucky) our lives will come together like vines. It may sound corny but things do change in all relationships. You had better share some basic values and interests (as well as still be eager to shag each other).

I think men are worse than women at not giving their prospective partner a checkup from the neck up and routinely violate the cardinal rule of “don’t shag anyone crazier than yourself." You must see the person in a broad range of situations over time to really know them and see how she deals with your IBS or her family. We will talk later about developing tolerance for those qualities of your girlfriend that you don’t dig, but we all have something that is hard to accept by others, and maybe that’s why most relationships do ultimately end. Moving on, women have always known that communication and a healthy relationship are virtually one and the same, so let’s take a look at our ability to listen and express our feelings.

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Early studies that taught couples to be open and honest actually may have resulted in more conflict and separations! We’ve learned that you must pick your battles carefully, speak softly, both in tone and actual word choice—try “upset, confused, disappointed” versus “frustrated, mad, etc.” Having said that it’s not uncommon for women to feel that when they are upset, it’s OK act upset and communicate with hyperbolic intensity. Don’t feel compelled to take them literally on a constant basis and see if you can learn to tolerate partners who can’t apologize, negotiate, empathize or acknowledge their part in some conflict.

Some men can accept this and forgive “bad” communication behavior. Some women will act in a forgiving way (e.g. initiate sex) but are hard pressed to directly apologize because they think it means that a full admission of guilt, which they understandably refuse to do.

Stephen C. Josephson, Ph.D., is a Clinical Associate Professor of Psychology in Psychiatry at Weill Cornell Medical Center.

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