You should be able to share anything with your partner, kind of. There’s value in choosing the right medium for any message. Ideally, you marry someone with whom you feel you can share any thought, fear, concern, or insecurity. Hopefully, you feel it’s safe to speak up when your needs aren’t being addressed, or if you’re worried about something. But, if we are able to have some tact, choose our words wisely, and consider how the message is received in other areas of our lives – like our careers – then why shouldn’t we do the same in our love lives? Doing some thinking and preparing before sharing information with a loved one doesn’t mean you don’t feel safe sharing. It just means recognizing that everyone has a different past, different traumas, and different lenses through which they see information.
We spoke with blended family expert and relationship coach Aria Craig about how couples can share information with each other in a constructive way that protects the feelings of those involved. Aria Craig is the author of the award-winning “Single Mother Diaries” series and coaches clients on how to thrive in the three most important aspects of life: parenting, career, and relationships. She is also working on the last stage of becoming a certified holistic mental health coach.
In this interview with Craig, we focus on ways men and women can better understand how the opposite sex feels heard and appreciated so partners can adjust their communication strategies accordingly. You can follow Craig on Instagram @Aria.Craig for more relationship advice.
Understanding inverse love languages
“You need to talk about love languages. A lot of times that’s where that [being able to share openly] fits in,” says Craig. “A lot of times, [partners’] love languages are the opposite of each other. Women feel disconnected when their partner isn’t communicating. Men feel disconnected when their partner is not having sex with them. Sex can be how they release from stress. We [women] release from stress by talking things through.”
Just how important are these two factors?
Research has found that men are more likely to end a relationship over lack of sexual intimacy, and women are more likely to end it over lack of emotional intimacy. These findings are important to understand when questioning why a partner feels distant. Men wondering why women are pulling away sexually can benefit from assessing their own emotional vulnerability. Women wondering why men are pulling away emotionally can benefit from asking, “How has our physical intimacy been?”
Respect from his and her perspective
“In terms of respect, women want to be respected just as much as men do,” says Craig. “But a man’s respect is really tied to his ego. Women equate love with feeling safe and through emotions. Men equate love with being respected and validated. Because of their egos and their pride, they feed off of being affirmed. Women have to affirm them to let the man know that he’s doing well for her and the family. He’s making the right decisions.” This still applies to couples who don’t have kids, says Craig. Men still need to feel their partners trust that they make good decisions for the couple, as a whole.
The nature of a man
“Men ultimately believe, just from tradition and history, they are the head of the household,” Craig says. “So [they believe] the family is going to go in whatever direction the man leads them. So if the woman is validating that they are doing well, they feel comfortable, they feel safe with their decisions, and the man feels like he’s doing a great job.”
Men find respect where they can
Men can feel triggered if you doubt their ability to lead your family. “Don’t tell your partner he’s sensitive. He sees that as you see him as weak,” warns Craig. “Definitely don’t say anything to a man that’s impacting their manhood. Men will, if they feel like they’re not being respected…they will find someone that’s going to stroke their ego and make them feel like they are a man,”She said, explaining she’s referencing infidelity – both physical and emotional.
Men don’t always share emotional struggles
Craig expanded on how women need to be subtle in assessing and addressing their partner’s emotional state. “Men have a hard time expressing if they’re going through a depression. With men and women, there are varying degrees of the ways men and women go through depression,” says Craig. But men may not react well to being asked if they’re struggling emotionally.
Women need to play detective a bit
“If a person [a woman] can tell that there is a difference in the way that their partner is behaving…if he’s having a hard time getting out of bed….he’s more withdrawn…. not taking care of his hygiene…doesn’t want to leave the house…you need to definitely sit down and have a discussion about what is going on.”
You can bring up therapy, but…softly
If you have realized your partner is suffering from depression and have spoken to him, Craig says, “At that point, if you feel like you’re not getting through, definitely seek a professional. And don’t judge. Every single person on this earth has gone through some sort of depression. It’s all about how you handle it.”
A note of caution, “A lot of men don’t like to go to therapy. They feel like it’s attacking their manhood” Craigs says. So you may need to approach this subject delicately.
Same page; different language
“If there is an argument, a lot of times, it’s human nature to not thoroughly listen to what the other person is saying. We’re so busy waiting for the other person to stop talking so we can give our feedback….So a lot of times you don’t realize you’re saying the same thing, you’re just saying it differently,” says Craig. “Men and women process and relay information differently.”
Take a deep breath. And squeeze.
“When it comes to arguing, this is something that I implement, and I encourage other couples to do the same thing,” said Craig, going on to explain that, she and her ex used to have a stress ball. During arguments, whoever’s turn it was to speak, that person held the stress ball, and only the person holding the ball could speak. “The stress ball is helpful because you’re flexing it while you talk. You discuss how long [the argument] it will go. Set boundaries, like ‘we’re not going to cuss each other out. You’re not going to disrespect the other person. You’re going to respect their views, even if you disagree.’”