Interplanetary Love Affair
Men are from Mars and women are from Venus. At least, so said John Gray in the early 90s in his best selling book of the same name.
Something in that idea resonated for many people. For some, it was this sense that men and women really are very different from each other. Our seeming difference provided an easy explanation as to why communication within relationships seems so hard.
It can feel like you’re speaking a different language than your partner…
Except that speaking literal different languages and coming from different cultures actually facilitates communication by incentivizing clarity and patience in relationships.
This Mars-Venus men-women explanation for communication difficulties is suspect. While it might feel like you’re speaking different languages, there’s likely something else going on underneath the surface.
Men and women both come from Earth.
Could it be we’re really not that different from each other? Human men and women are members of the same species, share the same home planet. The divide between men and women is something we make rather than something as immutable as being from different planets.
We Do It To Ourselves
You can’t really examine what is at work beneath the surface of dating, sex, and relationships without looking at gender. You’re born, and your parents decided that you are ‘boy’ or ‘girl’, and treat you differently on the basis of that label.
This gendered difference starts long before you have any say in the matter. Your parents might not even know that those choices will affect you throughout your entire life.
Do others see you as ‘boy’ or ‘girl’? What is allowed and what isn’t allowed on the basis of those labels? What is a boy ‘supposed’ to do? What is a ‘girl’ supposed to do?
The answers to these questions will vary from culture to culture and family to family. You can really spot these mismatched expectations of behavior if your partner is from a different cultural background. The experience of a cross-cultural relationship can be refreshing – it’s often fairly comical to learn what’s allowed and what isn’t.
The Obstacle That Ought Not Be
Think of it this way – if our evolutionary prerogative is to pass our genes to the next generation, isn’t it strange that men and women struggle to communicate, especially about dating, sex, and relationships?
Why is it so challenging to talk about desire? What blocks us from speaking more openly and vulnerably to each other about what we want? Doesn’t this all actually get in the way?
The way we are raised, and the way we are treated by the world on the basis of being a ‘boy’ or ‘girl’ has ripple effects that stick with us into adulthood. These effects extend out into the future when we pass them along to our children.
You Need Awareness… Lot’s of It
The biggest issue is that most of us are unaware of our socialization, and it takes effort to notice it.
Let’s say you become aware of your own socialization and are able to glean some clarity about your desires. Great!
But you still need an awareness of the socialization of others in order to be able to communicate effectively. It’s no small feat to be able to take a sense of meaning from your mind and have it interpreted and understood well by the mind of another.
If you’re struggling to communicate with your partner, you’re not alone. It’s ok to go easy on yourself – you’ve got centuries of socialization, norms, and taboos littering your path.
Remember – it’s not about finding the right words. It’s about having empathy for your partner and knowledge about the context of their life.