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One Guy's Guide to Guys for Brides: All About (Most) Fiancés & Husbands


Guys can be a bit of a mystery--not only to women, but also, sometimes, to themselves. What's going on in there at those important moments when it can be hard to fathom what guys are thinking and feeling? Do they have feelings? Well, with some guys you've got to wonder. Then again, sometimes it's clear that they do. (Like when you step between him and a crucial Super Bowl play on TV.) But what about the times when they seem so opaque? Just because they don't show their feelings doesn't mean they don't have them.


Okay. Obviously we're talking about some gender stereotypes here. Not everyone is the same, but research tells us that on average men and women have some different bonding and communication characteristics that are important. But if your gender roles are not typical, some of what we're saying here may still be important to your relationship.


In most relationships there is one partner who is more tolerant and desirous of more intimate communication. Usually it's the woman, but not always. Usually, there is one partner who is more prone to emotional overload. Usually it's the guy, but not always. When we say 'guy' here, think 'partner who is more prone to emotional overload'.


To state the obvious, guys are not like women. (And vive la difference!) But 'la difference' can also be puzzling and at times troubling. Once you understand more about the workings of guys, the difference should be a bit less disconcerting. We've also got some suggestions for you on how to relate to them more effectively-before the wedding and after.


The first thing to know (if you haven't already figured this out) is that guys themselves often don't know their own feelings. Although gender roles have changed, men still tend strongly toward expressing themselves through activities, rather than talking, especially about their feelings. (Women, on the other hand, express themselves-and form bonds- predominantly through emotionally significant talking.) Men tend to build relationships and intimacy through doing things together with the other person.


So, when you're sitting together on the sofa watching TV, he's thinking: Isn't this great, we're really enjoying time together. Meanwhile, you may be wondering why he still hasn't mentioned the tiff you had before dinner.


And just what is it with guys and TV sports, anyway? Partly it's this male bonding thing: Even if the other guys aren't there in the room watching, they're watching somewhere, and they'll be talking about the big play all week long. Watching sports is also a way to escape stress, although it may not seem so when the shouting starts about the bad call by the umpire. Sports drives worries such as work problems right out of the male mind (at least for a few hours).


For women, all this can seem like an alien approach to life and intimacy. Our advice is to give each other's style a try. Think of doing things together with your partner as a way to bring you closer. Or at least realize that that's probably how he sees it. Think of your different styles as an opportunity for each of you to learn from the other and to expand your experience of closeness. Talk about your different styles of building intimacy with him. Then, ask him to accommodate your style occasionally and, of course, promise to do the same for him.


Of course, when it comes to weddings, the genders are usually worlds apart. Sure the wedding will be a special time for both of you. You can agree on that. But guys, unlike women, generally haven't spent a lifetime dreaming about the specifics (or even the generalities) of their wedding. Very likely, he never gave it that much thought before the wedding planning started. Hey, a wedding is a wedding, right?


This isn't his fault. The culture has different expectations for guys. You may have known the color of the bridesmaids' dresses since you were six, but he can still tell you the batting average of every player on the hometown team that won the World Series when he was a kid.


So if he doesn't seem quite as fascinated by decisions about the flowers and the invitations as you might wish, don't take it personally. It doesn't mean he doesn't care about the wedding or marrying you. He may have some ideas and preferences about the wedding, but sometimes guys hold back because they think or know that you have strong preconceived notions of how you want the wedding to be. Or, because they haven't been fantasizing about their wedding forever, it may take them some catch-up time to figure out what they really want from their wedding. Meanwhile, if you're, understandably, racing ahead under the wedding schedule deadlines, he may end up feeling that his input isn't needed.


Speaking of wedding planning, this brings up another gender difference that makes a difference. Planning is full of decision-making that can involve sensitive issues. (You just have to know that with money, relatives, religion and friends all involved, it's never going to be all that uncomplicated.) Guys have a real different way of responding to touchy issues. (Maybe you've noticed?)


Ever wonder exactly why he seems to disappear emotionally sometimes when the going gets rough? While women tend predominantly toward a style of engagement when it comes to handling sensitive issues, and are more tolerant of confrontation and conflict, this is not how most guys deal with these situations. Men tend predominantly toward a style of withdrawal and conflict avoidance. Research shows that the basis for these differences may be physiological differences in tolerance for and response to stress: Men become more easily and more quickly overloaded by feelings of distress. This also helps to explain why although some guys can dish it (criticism, anger, etc.) out, they can't necessarily take it.


Understanding these gender differences can help explain why he may grow silent just at the moment that you want and need a feeling response from him. He's not ignoring you and your feelings or emotionally unavailable. He's just temporarily unavailable while he struggles with the confusion that accompanies emotional flooding. We suggest taking a short break. Don't put your important concerns aside indefinitely, but just long enough to let him recover his composure. About twenty minutes is usually enough--if he can really relax during the break. It also helps to be sure to bring up sensitive issues gently, so you don't send him into emotional outer orbit (beyond Neptune) right at the beginning of a difficult discussion. Men generally handle communication better when there are some rules to make it more managable. For example, it may help to make an appointment for a mutually agreeable time to discuss an issue.


A final thought: Don't read his mind. Contrary to popular belief, women are not born with telepathic abilities. They just seem to have an almost genetic predisposition to try to read male minds. Actually, it's social conditioning that makes women especially sensitive to trying to read their emotional environment. When he's quiet, it's not an invitation to guess what's on his mind. Wait until he figures it out for himself and can explain it to you. When you assume that you know what he's thinking, it just puts more pressure on him and adds to the confusion.


And don't expect him to read yours either. He can't. If you really want that special birthday gift that you have set your heart on, you'd better say something about it. Many guys just aren't attuned to those little hints that women are so skilled at detecting. Things that seem obvious to women usually aren't to men.


So, there you have it: Our brief guide to fiancés and husbands. The best guide, though, is your partner. Talk with him about gender styles and agree on some strategies to compensate for and benefit from them.



Click here for related reading and references list.



Keep your relationship growing throughout your marriage, consider attending a Marriage Success Training seminar with your partner. MST helps couples handle the increased stress of the pre-wedding period in a much more healthy way, so that they can use the pre-wedding experience to deepen their intimacy--not stress their relationship--during this special time. Click here to learn about the benefits of MST.


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Copyright 2003, Patricia S. & Gregory A. Kuhlman. You may copy this article for non-commercial use provided that no changes are made and this copyright notice, author credit and source citation are included.




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