Repairing Relationships

Building intimacy and joy into your relationships

Why Can't We Just Get Along?

It's normal for men and women to view things differently

So many couples end up frustrated  because of basic conflicts in the mundane things in life. From reaching around your partner to show him the correct way to cook French toast in the kitchen to making a joint decision on what television program to watch, American men and women often end up completely exasperated with one another. Older couples warn that doing a home remodel or building a new house is often a great way to end a marriage.

Why do men and women have so much trouble working together on the little things? Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine have discovered that men and women are not going to approach a task the same way. A study of 949 adolescents and young adults found that men use one hemisphere of their brain while women's brains are hand wired to use both hemispheres. In laymen's terms, this means that there is a physiological basis for men wanting to be problem solvers that take immediate action while women are more concerned with discussing the problem among others, multi-tasking and coming to a reasoned resolution over a period of time. 

This is a huge factor for those who base their relationships on physical attraction and charm because the physiological differences accentuate the basic disconnection between the lovers after the Honeymoon period fades and real life slowly intrudes into their Shangri-la.

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As the physical intensity of the romance begins to wane, both partners will begin to see another, more unpleasant stranger than the agreeable swain of courtship. Even the simplest things can become matrimonial landmines. The pain of living with someone with few common interests, a differing world view and clashing temperaments accentuated by the neurological barriers to consensus will become acute. Physical intimacy will lose its narcotic effect as the relational and sex differences come creeping out from beyond the shadows into the light of day.

Unless the couple can accept the fact that they will always approach issues from a different starting point based on human biology, they may see their once hot romance begin a steady decline into daily nonstop bickering, tearful nights and angry dawns. They will have no idea why their frustrated mate is withdrawing emotionally and physically from them after they had been such soulmates. To stop the slide, we must take into account that men and women are different like different members of a team. Decide what the goals are for your unique "marriage team." Use each daily task we face as an opportunity to exploit the gifts each sex brings to a problem to find superior solutions, just as a successful president seeks out different viewpoints from his advisors and cabinet before deciding on a course of action. We all have blind spots so another pair of eyes and a different approach will be invaluable in navigating life's course. Instead of being surprised that men and women are different, take advantage of it!

J.R. Bruns, M.D., is co-author of The Tiger Woods Syndrome, a book about repairing relationships.

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