His Brain Versus Her Brain
Since moving to a new country and leaving my safety and security in England for adventure here in New Zealand with my Kiwi, it's been one hell of a rollercoaster ride.
I've had my ups, my downs and plenty of the loop-de-loops in between.
I've had moments where my partner has not always understood how I felt or has not known how best to be there for me... It's the feeling that sometimes he just doesn't get it.
After many chats over wines with my girlfriends, it has become clear that I may not be alone in these moments. These moments of; ’God, he is on a different planet!’, ‘How can he not understand/get it?!’,‘Seriously is he blind, deaf and dumb?!'
That last one is still up for debate!! Hahaha...
Yes, in those moments of infuriation, annoyance and frustration, we could physically hurt them. Then, that turns into the snotty, uncontrollable sobbing because we feel our partners just don't get it - us or the situation.
So, if at any point reading this there is an internal giggle - or even better yet a ‘hell yes girl I feel ya!’ - then I am going to share another relationship secret with you...
Fasten your seat belts ladies because this one may blow you away…
Drum roll please…
We are different from men!
*Cue the dramatic music*
I KNOW RIGHT!
Now I'm not talking about the cliche difference between us enjoying shopping and them being married to their X-Box.
Nor their insistence on playing golf every weekend, while we’d much rather take a yoga class.
And I'm not even talking about them disappearing to the pub to have a beer with the boys, while all we want to do is have a girls' night in with face masks, wine and a good chick flick.
I'm talking about the differences in our biology. More specifically, I'm talking about the neurological differences in how the average male and female brains are formed.
Now, I am imagining you all having a moment of, ‘durrr this makes perfect sense'. You have probably known - or suspected - for a long time that men are most likely from a different planet with a different language.
But now there is science to back it up.
One of my first introductions to understanding the neurological differences in women and men was through the book ‘His Brain, Her Brain’ by marriage specialist Dr Walt Larimore and his wife, Barb Larimore.
Yes, you saw right. This husband and wife team openly chose to draw upon both scientific evidence and relationship experience as a married couple to show just how different we are biologically.
They focus on discussing the unique brain development and hormones of both females and males, and how they result in different habits, tendencies and differences in thoughts and actions. These differences then affect the ways we think, feel, perceive, react, respond, love, need and appreciate life.
I recommend you all give this book a read. However for now, I am going to introduce you to a few of these differences, how they affect our relationships and most importantly, how understanding these differences can improve our relationships, hopefully in an easy-to-get, non-technical, non-gobbledy-gook way.
Expressing Emotion/ Communication
So ladies, when it comes to talking, you know that good old natter we all enjoy over our spice chai lattes? Well, we were actually built to be good at this, do it a lot and enjoy it... YAY!
As women, our Hypo-Interferes Cortex is highly developed. Yes, this is the part of our brain that stimulates a desire to discuss matters during the final minutes of that tightly contested playoff game on tv.
The neural connection between our emotional processing and memory centres are larger, more active and better connected to the verbal centre of the brain than in men. We are designed to connect memories, words and feelings.
Men have a smaller hippocampus, which results in remembering fewer emotional experiences. As the portions that process emotions are smaller and less connected, this can mean that their capacity to feel and express emotions is physically separated from their ability to verbally express them. As you may have guessed, their emotions are instead expressed more through actions.
The average male brain actually contains 6.5 times more grey matter (‘thinking matter’) than a female brain, while we have 9.5 times more white matter (‘processing matter’). What does that mean? It means there is now a reason to understand and appreciate mens' stick-to-it nature and steadfastness, while we, as women, are better able to use our intuition and have a better ability to read people.
Linking to the above is the difference in the way that we problem solve.
I know for sure that my mind can race with different questions and queries when I'm trying to sort or solve a problem. But I can look across the couch to my partner and he is sat there, switched off and zoned out watching the cricket. This is the moment my mind screams: ‘Are you kidding me?!’
As women, we are wired to want to talk it through and vent, while their system is wired to think and talk to themselves, rather then others. Men use the right side of their brains to solve a problem and it's difficult for the left side to listen or speak at the same time. Their compartmentalised brain is designed to do one thing at a time.
This difference also means that for females, when we're talking things through, our brain signals the production of oxytocin - a natural high that relieves stress and tension. However for men, this can have the opposite effect.
So, this all means that when he doesn't talk or when he looks like he has no cares in the world, it isn't always a bad thing. Yes, even while our little brain people are running around in chaos. (If you've watched 'Inside Out' you'll know what I'm talking about!). It's about remembering to give them time to connect everything.
Research shows that this may be a while... I'm talking a whole seven hours longer (on average) than us to process emotional stimuli, thoughts and feelings.
Okay ladies so all you now need to remember is this word:
- Give him a time, place, and a plan.
This appeals to the design of the systemised and compartmentalised male brain.
- Make an appointment.
At breakfast you may say; ‘Hey babe, tonight after dinner can we talk about our plans this weekend?’
- Give an agenda.
‘I want to talk to you about when we are best to start furniture shopping?’
- Let him know there is a time limit.
‘Can you take a ten minute break at half time to chat?’
- Let him know what your looking for.
Be clear with communicating whether your looking for a solution, or just for him to listen.
I know this is just a small introduction to a few neurological differences, but I hope that it has helped you to understand that maybe we are designed to Complete each other rather then Compete.
With this in mind, I believe we need to use this knowledge to help see the value in each other and to understand how our unique designs and the differences that come with it can actually be used to communicate more effectively. It is key in discovering what we each need, and how to meet those needs.
So ladies, go 'knowledge up', as understanding our design differences provides another effective way to strengthen your relationship.