I recently guided a client (let’s call her “Linda”) who believed she had a communication issue with her partner (let’s call him “John”). She wanted to know how best to communicate with him as she felt that the relationship was in trouble and she didn’t know whether to leave or stay. Turns out that her problem was not one of communication at all … at least not yet, but rather one of acceptance. In essence, Linda had an issue not only accepting her partner for whom he is, but also accepting herself for whom she is. Here’s her story. As usual, the names and locations have been changed.
Linda is an accomplished business woman in her 50s. From the beginning of her career, she worked to be financially “safe.” She’s even remained in jobs she didn’t like, some she even hated, so she could cushion her retirement funds. She knows what she wants and she does not hesitate to ask for it or go get it. From the moment we spoke, it was evident that she communicates her needs very clearly. In fact, she is a “man-style” communicator in that she uses short sentences with a beginning, an end and data in the middle. She was terse and the point, like most men. Hence, it was unlikely that her partner, John, would misunderstand her.
Linda felt that John was her lifetime partner but had a problem with the fact that he did not have a job. To Linda, it seemed that John waited to be out of cash (or as she put it “in crisis”) before he went out and got some type of job to see him through. She had told him that this was a sticking point for her because her mother had financially supported her dad and she didn’t want to be placed in the same situation.
Linda kept coming back to this issue so it was obviously central to our discussion. I asked Linda whether she would experience the same doubts about the relationship if John won the lottery, in which case whether he had a job or not would be irrelevant. Linda had never really thought about this. I reminded Linda that every partner acts as a mirror to ourself and invited her to examine whether John was simply mirroring a fear of not having “enough”, of lacking financial “security.” Linda took some time to think this over. As she did so, I expanded a little on this issue from John’s perspective. I noted that John is sort of stuck between the proverbial rock and hard place. Namely, he has been without a job and surviving without a job for a number of years. I emphasized the word “survival” to Linda because it is an important trait in most men. I reminded her that men evolved as hunters/gatherers, therefore the ability to “survive” is a very important one in a man’s reptilian brain. I noted that it was very possible that John had created this situation in order to feel “strong.” That is, that he could survive the “elements of nature” (replace “nature” with “modern world” and you get the picture). I also reminded Linda that a man’s reptilian brain tells him that he must be strong in order to find a mate as women are prone to pick the “strong” in order to ensure both their survival and that of their progeny. This is encoded in men’s DNA and still rules us at a subconscious level.
So, Linda then came along and John “fell in love” which means his hunter/gatherer instincts got even stronger. Linda had clearly communicated to him that his getting a job was a sine qua non, that is an indispensable condition, of the relationship. At a subconscious level this was a direct “hit” on his idea of being strong (i.e., his survival skills). Linda even admitted to “nagging” John about his unemployment situation and even tried to help him get a job, thus effectively emasculating him. Linda took on the role of the hunter/gatherer in the sense that she brought him the potential job (i.e., prey). Of course, this is all happening at a subconscious level.
This story was all the more interesting from Linda’s perspective as she had divorced her husband because she wanted to take a more feminine role. She felt her ex-husband had been too docile, too easy to get along, that she had to “wear the pants.” Yet, with John, she is still taking on and evidencing the masculine role. It was interesting to parrot back to Linda that she had delved to some extent on her apparent lack of romanticism. Moreover, she mentioned the fact that she seem to constantly surround herself with people who are romantic, including her ex-husband and John. Yet, she admitted that she “shut down” when a certain stage of romanticism was reached. I pointed out to Linda that this was entirely logical since being romantic is being vulnerable for you do not know whether the other person will react in a “positive” way. Hence, by being romantic we expose ourselves to potential hurt feelings. As such, Linda’s need to be in control (a masculine trait) overrode her desires. We discussed her relationship with her dad, and his relationship with her mom, which had a significant bearing on Linda’s fears and desires. I invited her to explore the possibility that the hurt she had experienced through her dad prevented her from being romantic. I noted that if she embraced being romantic, she could cut this cycle. What a gift John was giving her! Linda said that being “romantic” was difficult and that she did not know how. I assured her that there are plenty of books on the subject and that I could provide a few titles and that there was plenty to be seen and/or read on the Internet … some of it even worthy of consideration. I noted that romance is like a muscle: the more she exercised it, the stronger it would get.
At last, I reminded Linda that this relationship is about her. That it was very possible that John could be her life partner. So, I invited her to really examine the importance of him getting a job. That is, could she accept John for whom he is? I noted that the role she wished to play was for her to determine, keeping in mind, however, that she manifested this relationship in order to provide herself with the opportunity to expand. So, since she wanted to expand her feminine role, I invited her to think about how John allowed her to do so. I also noted that it is more than likely that she manifested this relationship in order to heal the wounds she experienced with her dad, which had allowed her to explore her angry side. This is a trait that still controlled her and with which she still had to come to grips and make her peace. Most people attempt to ignore or bury their “dark side.” Yet, doing so only makes that “dark side” want to come to the light even more (i.e., be acknowledged). When you make your peace with that dark side (in Linda’s case: her anger), you are able to let it go. It no longer controls you. As a final note, I told Linda that walking away from this relationship without resolving this angry side simply meant that she will manifest another partner and the circumstances needed to repeat this cycle.
Finally, we spent a little time reviewing how men and women are genetically programmed to mis-communicate. Like most women, she was not surprised when I told her that men’s brains are simple relative to women’s. However, she was surprised to learn that brain scans show that men do not have a speech center. Rather, when speaking, the entire left side of a man’s brain lights up as if we are searching for a speech center. Because we evolved as hunter/gatherers, we evolved to be unemotional speakers. That is, emotion, other than anger, is a sign of weakness, thus to be frowned upon. Men also literally have a ‘nothing box’ and consider silence a reward. That is why most men can go sit in a canoe in the middle of a lake for hours on end with “pass the beer” being the only words spoken. The “nothing box” is also used by men as their way of solving problems. It is wise not to interrupt a man who seems to be staring out the window or at a wall as he is likely to be internalizing a problem to find a solution. In all circumstances it is wise to remember that whatever a man does, he does to show his mate (actual or potential) that he is “strong” (i.e., good mating potential), yet another reason men resist asking for directions.
In contrast, women evolved to speak. Brain scans show that women have a speech center in the frontal left lobe and a small area in the back of the right cortex. Women use speech to create relationships and, hence, use indirect words, so as to avoid potential conflicts. Women are emotional speakers and solve their problems by speaking about them. It is wise for a woman to tell a man that she just wants him to listen to her, otherwise he will look for “data” in her speech to solve a problem. Women evolved as multi-taskers and carry multiple conversations on a variety of subjects all at once (highly confusing to a man who has evolved to be a uni-tasker). Women speak in five tones of which men only hear three. As such, it is difficult for men to know when women have switched subject matter in what appears to a man, to be a continuous monologue or dialogue between women. Silence is a punishment for a woman but it takes a man an average of nine minutes of silence from his partner to begin to think there may be a problem.
Oh, by the way, last I heard, Linda decided to accept John for whom he is and … guess what? Within a week he had found a job he liked. It seems Linda and John have settled into their respective and expected gender roles. May their relationship continue to provide them the opportunity to expand.
In love, always – Jean-Pierre
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