In general, I find that men are less skilled than women at coping with the emotional aspects of relationships, especially if the guy is dealing with some kind of male sexual problem. Many men are less emotionally intelligent than women and approach problems from a more analytical, “how-can-I-fix it?” point of view. But that doesn’t mean that men can’t learn more effective ways to promote harmony in a relationship.
One of the simplest—and yet most difficult—things a man can do to foster togetherness is to simply listen to his partner. That’s not as trivial as it sounds. As most guys know, it can be incredibly difficult in the heat of an argument to avoid interrupting and to let your partner say what she wants to say no matter how “off-base,” “illogical,” or “wrong” it may seem. Also, even though a woman may be talking about a problem she may be having (and not necessarily with you) she may not want you to try to solve the problem or even make suggestions—as odd as that might sound. Often women simply want their partner to listen to them, without judging them or trying to fix things.
Here are some suggestions for improving the quality of communication in a relationship:
- Stick to “I” statements—statements that express how you feel or think. Don’t presume that you know how she feels or what she’s thinking.
- Use reflective listening techniques to clarify what is being said. You can say “I hear you saying…” and paraphrase what your partner just said. This can help you avoid misunderstandings and also demonstrates that you really are listening to what your partner is saying.
- Avoid talking about sensitive or difficult subjects when either of you is under the influence of alcohol or some other substance that makes it harder to control emotions.
- Don’t threaten a partner with divorce if he or she refuses to pursue a particular option.
- If you feel “stuck” in a disagreement, back off, cool down, remind each other of the core values you both cherish, and then, if needed, take the discussion to a therapist or counselor with experience dealing with infertility.
Another important concept to consider is the fact that sometimes you need to talk about things with another person. Women tend to do this more easily than guys, especially if the thing that needs talking about has to do with sex. Men tend to avoid talking about these things with other men—which is a shame. Admitting to another guy that you have a fertility or erectile problem or can seem embarrassing or shameful even though, logically, it’s no different from any other medical problem.
I always encourage men to talk to a brother, a father, a best friend, or a clergy member about what they’re going though. It is comforting to be heard and helpful to air out your true feelings away from your partner. Opening up about your own challenges can also be really refreshing and liberating for the guy you’re talking to—it may give him the change to talk about something he’s been dying to talk about but just hasn’t found a way to get it out.
It’s also true that most couples at some point in their relationship will benefit from at least a few sessions with a counselor or therapist. You doesn’t need to be in crisis to see a therapist, either. In fact, it’s much better to see a therapist sooner, rather than later. As in medicine, it’s better to prevent a serious problem than try to treat it once it’s out of control.
Therapy doesn’t have to be a drawn-out affair—most of the time a great deal can be gained by short-term, goal-oriented therapy of between six and 12 sessions. Your doctor may be able to suggest therapists in your area, or you can visit the American Psychological Association’s website, which offers a way to find qualified mental health providers near where you live.
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