Monday, April 5, 2010

The Brain Game

"I need you to say something nice to me."

Those were my wife's words the other day. We were in the middle of one of our "battles of coldness" when she hit me with that line.

It felt ridiculous at the time. What right did she have to demand something nice from me when I was (justifiably) angry at her. Why should her "needs" be important to me, when I felt like my own concerns were not being heard.

I tend to fight with coldness. I grew up with two great parents, but, man, they used to yell at each other something fierce. No violence, but crazy screaming and doors slamming. I always told myself that when I got married, my kids would never have to see that from their parents.

So, instead of getting hot, I get cold. It's not that I don't get angry. I'm constantly praying to God and trying to work on my temper, trying to slow down that anger reflex. But, even when I get angry, my first response is to shut down emotionally, not to yell or scream. My brother and I share this trait, and the women we've dealt with have complained about it over the years.

Lord knows my wife has complained about it. Still, I'm always surprised at how my cold attitude affects her. I can't understand why my lack of attention is such a hardship, hell, being left to my own devices never bothers me.

I got a little better understanding of the problem recently while reading a book called "The Female Brain."

The book is a study of how the female brain processes information due to its unique structure and hormone mix. I must admit it was eye-opening. As a man, I have always believed that there are fundamental differences in how men and women process information, but it was interesting to see how deep those differences go.
According to the book men and women clash so often because the basic structure of their brains is very different.

Now, the book has been criticized by several scholars for depending on faulty science and for making some fantastical claims based on a paucity of information. I've read of those critiques and they softened my initial enthusiasm about the book.

But, for some reason, many of the book's claims still resonate with me. That's probably because they validate my own preconceptions, but it might be because it actually provides great food for thought when considering male/female relationships.

For example, I got a better understanding for why my wife craves communication and emotional attachment. In the past I had been guilty of chalking it up to the general "spoiled" nature of all females.

But, after reading the book, I realized that she might just be built differently than me. That her brain craves and focuses on different things than mine, and while her needs may seem tedious and ridiculous at times, they are no less valid or natural than my own. Sometimes I need information like that to move me out of my rut.

After all, it's easy to get trapped into thinking that our worldviews are the only true reality. But, that mindset is particularly dangerous in marriages because successful marriages require a constant willingness to see the world from someone else's perspective.

I'm not ashamed to admit I have a LONG way to go in this regard, but I'm thinking this book might help make me make some strides.

Now I just need to read her new book on men.



Dirty Red said...

We must be related or something, because I get cold too. My wife has told me that she knows when to back off when ever we are into our "grown folk talks." She says my eyes lose all emotion. She says I look like a zombie, no life, no feelings. I never realized I was doing it. I just don't like to argue. But since she said it I have noticed that when I get mad I get calm, I mean a scary calm. I don't feel anything. I don't know if this is because of my up bringing or what, but I have been trying to work on it.

Big Man said...

Yeah man, you gotta work on that.

My brother and I talk about how we want to stop this, but we have to pray and really concentrate to stop the cycle.

It's partially because in my house, emotion was viewed as a weakness. Complaining was viewed as whining, and getting overly emotional rarely solved problems.

Now, my dad or mom could get emotional, but my brother and I were forbidden.

Plus, for some reason we picked up this idea that the proper way to display disapproval was to withhold affection. So, I might be all lovey-dovey when I'm happy, but when I'm pissed, I act like I hate you.

It can be hard for women to deal with, I think.

Raving Black Lunatic