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By Kris Rosenberg

Communication is the largest single factor determining what kind of relationships a human being makes with others. he manages survival, how he develops intimacy, how productive he is, how he makes sense. --Virginia Satir: People Making.

To communicate is the most magic thing there is... Gilda Radner: It's Always Something.

...and yet some studies show that the average married couple talk to each other for about five minutes a day. Women generally complain that their male partners won't talk to them about the relationship or anything meaningful or emotional. We often despair because we think our male partners really don't have the depth of emotion that women do--and men are brought up to affirm this fallacy.

What commonly prevents couples in committed relationship from experiencing intimate, deep and revealing dialogue, the element most essential to a dynamic, fulfilling relationship?

I have come to realize that women, like most men, are not socialized to disclose emotion straightforwardly either. We, too, often go through life in emotional solitude, separated from our lovers not only by their walls but our own pretenses. Men hide behind action; women hide behind "nice." The wall of emotional silence is maintained from both sides.

Men and women alike skate across the surface for fear that if we drop our disguises, no one will love us. On the contrary, only if we are known can we be loved for what we are. Only by daring to risk the vulnerability that disclosure involves can we experience the truth that talking connects us.

Talk to Me: A Therapists Guide to Breaking Through Male Silence.

...and so, we have a book with psychological and Sociological underpinnings. In the course of summarizing how we men and women get to be the way we are, I assert certain unpopular beliefs--always a controversial thing to do.

See what you think about the following truisms--or are they perhaps 'falsisms'?

  • If we allow others to know us, they will not love us, and are likely to reject us.
  • It is emotionally dangerous for you and your partner to "do therapy" with each other.
  • Most men who have affairs do so because they are sexually dissatisfied.
  • It is not within men's nature to bond tightly; their so-called commitment phobia means they have no desire for strong attachment.
  • Men don't need to talk about their feelings--that is a feminine activity.
  • Females are inherently more emotional and more vulnerable than males who are calmer and cooler.
  • We can give others reassurance by telling them that everything will be all right, that things aren't as bad as they may think.
  • While men are verbally closed, women are quite open.
  • We cannot be individuals if we are bonded to others--in achieving intimacy, we necessarily give up something of our person-hood.
  • We and we alone are responsible for our feelings; we cannot be made to feel anger, hut, or any other emotion by anyone else.
  • The only way we forgive is to accept a moral or religious imperative and, by an act of will, erase the past.
  • You cannot change the past It is over and done with and, if it is unpleasant, best forgotten.

Ref: Talk to Me: A Therapists Guide to Breaking Through Male Silence.

Editor's note: Hang-ups, which most of us in America have in abundance, are often behind the above communication problems that Kris outlined so well often lead us astray. See Dialogue and Conflict Resolution for more on this. Getting communications right in the family setting will go a long way toward getting it right with other peoples. We owe it to the next generation.

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