De-Bunking Gender Differences

March 9, 2011 — Leave a comment


Of course we have differing biology! The truth is that most sex differences start out small – as mere biases in temperament and play style -but are amplified as children’s pink or blue tinted brains meet out gender-infused culture; including tea parties, wrestling matches, cafeteria drama, playground scraps that dominate a girl’s versus a boy’s existence.

Obviously, girls and boys are not identical at birth: genetic and hormonal differences must launch the male and female brain down somewhat different developmental pathways. But it’s early experience, we now know, that permanently alters the chemistry and function of the genes inside cells, leading to significant effects on behavior. Bottom line: peers and parents perpetuate gender norms.

Boys and girls are different, but most psychological sex differences are not especially large. For example, gaps in verbal skills, math performance, empathy and even most types of aggression are generally much smaller than the disparity in adult height, in which the average five-foot, 10-inch man is taller than 99 percent of women. When it comes to mental abilities, males and females overlap much more than they stand apart.

Furthermore, few of these sex differences are as fixed, or hardwired, as popular accounts have lately portrayed. Genes and hormones light the spark for most boy-girl differences, but the flame is strongly fanned by the essentially separate cultures in which boys and girls grow up. Appreciating how sex differences emerge can reduce dangerous stereotyping and give parents and teachers ideas for cross-training boys’ and girls’ minds, to minimize their more troubling discrepancies and enable all children to more fully develop their diverse talents.

With all the bright and experienced minds in this world, it would seem that we could get definitive answers. Of course, we do have answers. So what is the problem? Why do we have so many misunderstandings and disappointments in our communication with our mates if we have the answers? Is it that we don’t like the answers? Maybe. Is it that we don’t understand the answers? Probably.

We think we understand but we understand through gender filters.

We interpret our mate’s communications (words, body language and meanings) through our own experience and goals. Of course, you say, how else could we respond? Well, as humans, we have the ability to empathize, to imagine and put ourselves in another person’s shoes. What do we do if we meet someone from another culture and we want to understand and be understood? We would probably want to consider what is important to that person so we would not offend or insult them. We would ask questions and clarify to make sure we understood one another.

WATCH OUT! FOR SIMILARITIES

1) Need for Friendship

The importance of friendship is often overlooked in marriage although it is equally important to men and women. All of the masters of marriage (couples in happy, long-term relationships) who have been studied talk about friendship in marriage and how loving and lovemaking is an extension of that friendship. Seventy percent of the passion, romance and sex for men stem from friendship; the percentage is even higher for women. When we have “friendship” within the marriage, it enables us to store emotional savings in the bank that makes repair attempts work following a fight or disagreement.

2). Need for Effective Repair Attempts

In real life we all occasionally do something thoughtless, hurtful and just plain dumb! When negative interaction occurs and you sense that you or both of you are escalating and losing control it is important to de-escalate and repair the interaction. This is particularly important for the men. Dr. John Gottman found that in stable, successful marriages the husband tended to make repair attempts when things were getting too heated. These men did not lose control when they responded to their wives expressions of anger, disappointment, hurt; they were able to calm themselves down. Their pulse rate actually went back toward normal and they expressed a quiet concern for their sweetheart. They did not become cold and stonewall or lose their temper. This self-calming by husbands and the desire to positively respond to their wife had a calming effect on both spouses. Obviously, if the wife is the one who is prone to lose her temper and escalate then utilize repair attempts, self-calming and sharing a positive concern for her husband would be needed. Needless to say, when one spouse begins to self-calm the other spouse should take the cue, accept the message and respond accordingly. Click HERE for marriage repair checklist

2) Need for a Love Map

One of the best ways to nurture friendship is to keep a richly detailed “Love Map.” That’s the term for the imaginary place in your mind where you store all the relevant information about your partner’s life – their dreams, aspirations, worries and fears. Couples with love maps remember the major events in each other histories, and they continue to update the map as the facts and feelings of their spouse’s world changes.

Love maps are about knowing your partner and being known. One of the most important things in marriage is being and staying interested in your partner and keeping your partner interested in you. No gimmick, like flowers, candy, nights away, will work unless your partner’s genuinely interested in you and their face lights up when you enter the room.

3) Need for Anger Expression & Management

In a good marriage, anger is like putting the italics or emphasis on something. The masters of marriages deal differently with anger than people in troubled marriages, and they accept their partner’s personalities. Anger is a healthy emotion and is not seen as hostile as long as there is no personal attack. If anger is not expressed, it can be destructive. Sadly, some men and women get out of control; almost anything can make them angry and their anger can escalate into belligerence. The mismanagement of anger is one of the top causes of divorce.

4) Need for Common Ground

Only about 1/3 of American husbands accept influence from their wives. Men need to especially look for areas of common ground with their wives. This is not about become a wimp; it’s about a man saying, “Yes, I agree with you on this, but not that!” A man can’t be powerful unless he allows himself to be influenced; there is needed reciprocity. The competent man accepts influence and becomes influential. In abusive relationships, men have little or no influence over their wives. They rule by fear, not influence. A good marriage has give-and-take. The reason most men are unwilling to accept influence from their wives is likely cultural. We have been raised with a critical culture that often tells us “No!” When you take that kind of culture into a family, it is very destructive. Creating a substitute culture of pride, honor and praise is vital to a successful marriage and family!

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Dr. Liz Hale

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