Gender Gap

Voice Card  -  Volume 2  -  Dionne Card Number 1  -  Fri, Nov 4, 1988 2:00 PM

[Next day]

It occurs to me that an ongoing discussion of male-female differences would inevitably be lively and engaging, if not fruitful. I have in mind a column, called Gender Gap, in which I would present current research and wild personal speculations on the subject each month. Replies from other members are of course solicited.

In the next fifteen minutes (I have a class), I would like to introduce a major difference researchers have found in male-female communication and intimacy styles.

1. Females express intimacy chiefly through TALKING and sharing FEELINGS. Males express intimacy chiefly SEXUALLY and through shared ACTIVITIES.

2. This leads to endless frustration on the part of both males and females in intimate relationships: "He never wants to talk!"--"All she wants to do is talk, talk, talk!" "He won't share his feelings with me."--"All she wants to do is analyze our feelings and our relationship all the time." And so forth. The man's reluctance to relate in the way which the woman finds most significant and intimate is intensely hurtful and frustrating to the woman; her efforts to get him to "talk" are seen by the man as intrusive, bothersome, threatening.

3. What ensues is often what psychologists call the "pursuit-avoidance dance": she badgers him more and more to talk, and he works harder and harder to avoid talking. It becomes a vicious cycle, with the actions of each partner spurring the other on to even greater efforts.

This dynamic is of particular interest to me because it has played a significant role in all my intimate relationships with men. I now see clearly that what was seen as a bizarre aberration (by the man) was in fact normal (for our culture) female behavior--AND a normal response to male talk-avoidance.

I wonder whether any of you who have had a long-term relationship would care to comment on this phenomenon, and its relevance to your experience. From my experience, the only women who are NOT particularly interested in talking about feelings or the relationship are those who are not interested in getting too close to the man or in continuing the relationship--which accounts for the few exceptions I've observed.

Let's see how our unsystematic personal "research" stacks up against this; I'd like to hear what the men and women in the group have to say about this!