As a woman who spent much of her formative years with my dad, tinkering with cars, climbing trees, playing football, cutting the hair off of my barbies and stealing the Action Man's clothing to put on her, let alone his Hot Wheels (I'll stop) I wasn't exactly the girly type.
I was way into my teens before thinking about boys as anything other than a close friend, not to mention willingly wanting to wear skirts.
To this day, I'd quite easily sit in a room full of men and have meaningful conversations, so it probably comes as no surprise that I work with as many men as I do women but there are often some very striking differences (and similarities) that I enjoy working through.
As with all things there are exceptions, but I have noted when talking to colleagues etc that there is a striking theme about when men ask for support, help, guidance or an ear in their journey.
We often talk about the 'man cave's but never quite in this way.
I refer to the man cave that men retreat to mentally and emotionally.
The place they decorate with narratives about seeking freedom, fun, excitement... and this can range from anywhere between innocent little day trips with friends to play golf, video games, collectors items, and general interests- to more adrenaline fuelled activities and/or thrills that involve a more mischievous nature.
Now this isn't to say women don't also do these things - its more that there's less 'cave's and 'retreat or thrill-seeking' involved in favour of and more 'escape, peace or adventure' seeking (in my opinion/ experiences).
How this sometimes shows up in relationships is quite intriguing.
I'll often hear the girlfriends and wives complain of the limited conversations, emotional shut down and 'he's here, but he's not really here' .
Now it has to be said that for ease of reading etc I'm stereotyping with my examples, because these are the more common ways we'll all be familiar with. That and and I also need to say thateach case varies.
So, the responses are something to the effect of men wanting space, peace, quiet to not have to talk and communicate and just 'enjoy' their chosen activity, feeling torn between their enjoyment and feeling guilty for not being available or knowing of quite what to say, nor how.
So its always interesting when (this being the common narrative we all hear about) I open up conversations about how women also retreat and shut down or avoid conversations.
Again, this varies but the typical ways we all know about are by the timely deep clean of the house, sudden organisation of everything, desire to redecorate, change their hair, take on a new course etc.
All of us have our own communication styles and needs, but we also all have mechanisms we use when we don't want to communicate.
Typically we all have some notion that shouting, screaming or crying aren't what we'd like to do ideally and so we avoid these with shutting down communication.
This avoidance can not only lead to issues for ourselves but our significant others.
Whereas women are typically socialised and condtioned from a young age to talk, given cuddles when they fall etc.....men are given very different messages growing up passed a certain age.
"Big boys don't cry", "man up" , "be strong"
These messages shut down the opportunity for boys to express their feelings properly and create a void in how they can ask for help, express their own emotional needs and the opportunity for reassurance.
As such, they learn to seek a response from other means where they either gain some intimacy feedback I.e. praise, admiration elsewhere, but not to effectively communication their needs, and in many cases won't really know what their needs are initially.
Its important to acknowledge these differences between the sexes as it goes a long way into explaining more common communication issues in relationships.
With that said, if this feels overly familiar there are ways of breaking these cycles get in touch.
Keen to know your thoughts and experiences on this one so share your thoughts and hit the heart if it resonated.
Til next time...