The Theory of Male Relational Dread

Communication problems | Couples counselling Brisbane

When asked to describe communication problems a couple will almost always say something like, “We don’t communicate well”, she will say “our communication sucks” and one I hear a lot is “He doesn’t know how to communicate”. It will come as no surprise to you that women often complain that their partner is unable, unwilling or just plain devoid of any ability to make an emotional connection. Of course, there are plenty of men out there who do a wonderful job of connecting with their partners but equally so there are men who seemly can’t.

Emotionally charged conversations and communication problems

Because of this perceived inability for him to connect many women feel isolated in their relationship. There are probably countless reasons why he can’t or won’t connect but one well researched theory suggests, for a large number of males at least, that it is about the difficulty in holding the space in the emotionally charged conversation. It is not so much about having the conversation but what to say and do in the conversation. This should help you move away from our communication sucks to something different.

This theory is called Male relational dread and it goes along way to explaining the sometimes strange behaviour he might display when talking to you. But before we go there a little background is necessary. From the very moment we are born we at connected with our mothers. We are cuddled by her, nurtured by her, fed by her and bathed by her to name just a few things. All the while she is talking to us. This connection with our mother is vital to our wellbeing. Early in our development it is believed that we think that us and our mum are one person.

Various theories, including Male Relational Dread, suggest that as little boys we start to differentiate ourselves from our mums at about age 3. Somehow, we recognise that we as boys are different from our mothers and we start the process of identifying with the significant male in our life. As we distance ourselves from our mother the emotional connections that were so strong in the early years get weaker and weaker until they are almost lost.

For the most part girls generally stay connected and learn to master the intricate world of emotions and relationships with others because of this continued connection with their mother. Therefore, you may have a distinct advantage over us males when it comes to communication and emotional connection. As a women you understand empathy, you get emotional connection, you connect with feelings and you engage well in community with others.

So, what seems natural to you is often terrifying to us. That is because as men we forgot our first language and started speaking ‘guy speak’. This new language is often foreign to you. On the way to becoming men we have watched you, listened to you and generally observed you, then got on with building stuff, breaking crap, making things and, in effect, being busy creating and doing.

So, it is not so much the communication that is the problem but the terrain. The emotional terrain. What might look like a beautiful open field to you often looks like a cliff face to us. Next week we will look at why he wants to solve problems and generally do stuff but in the meantime if you are in a committed relationship ask your man what it feels like to be in a conversation that appears to have no end and see what his response is.