father’s day, boomer men and communication

Have you bought into the commercialism of Father’s Day, thinking fancy ties and expensive tools would bring you closer – only to find that you still want better communication with your Dad? Are you not satisfied with just the occasional email from your brother or text message from your son? If you’re ready for more direct and open conversations with the men in your life, begin with your partner.

According to research findings on the effectiveness of marital therapy, communication was one of the most commonly reported and difficult to manage problems in marriage. It is well known that discrepancies in how men and women talk to each other can lead to further conflict as the partners begin to focus blame on themselves, each other or on the quality of the relationship.

Regardless of differences in attitude and opinion, long term partnerships often credit their relationship success to positive verbal interactions. Here is what a random selection of men had to say, in a recent poll we took, as they expressed themselves candidly.

“Stuart indicated that it took a lot of attention and conscious thought to improve communication with his partner. “We need to give each other space because when our arguments escalate we have little resolution. Empathy is important, and I’m working hard on developing that. When I don’t think my wife’s criticisms are justified, I get defensive and upset. Often I don’t want to let her down so I try to fix it, whatever the problem is. Eventually the issue is resolved and we both get over it.”

“Paul and his wife have been married for thirty years and they have gradually learned how to deal with one another. “We can sense each other’s moods and we communicate well most of the time. We try to understand, even if we disagree. On occasion we both are stubborn and see things only our own way. We usually don’t change our opinions very much. But while we are fighting the battles, we think about the war. What is this all about? Is it really that important?”

“Tim was sensitive to criticism and sometimes shied away from confrontations. “Usually I can say what I’m thinking and what I want. I feel comfortable communicating without being demeaned or laughed at by my wife. If we have an inconsequential argument, one usually gives in or we compromise. But when we have significant disagreements I withdraw first and then we talk later. In the kinds of situations that can lead to further misunderstanding, sometimes I don’t totally share my feelings.”

“Adam reflected on the process he and his second wife were still working on in couples’ counseling. “I’m committed to being fully present, to making requests and talking about what I need instead of complaining. I’m also trying to satisfy my wife’s requests and needs. This has become the core dynamic of our successful life together. We’ll schedule appointments to sit down and talk without distractions, then make agreements based on what is best for ‘us’. Sometimes we revisit these agreements a month later but usually not. But we both try to compromise and avoid resentment.”

“Like Adam, Carl was in the midst of a learning curve, thanks to the intervention of couples’ therapy. He was discovering the benefit of bringing feelings to conscious awareness as well as the value of sometimes even keeping his thoughts to himself. “I’m determined not to overplay my hand. My two older brothers taught me to be brutal and use my words like a weapon. I need to remember to slow down, to be patient. Especially since my wife is a person with a particularly painful background and certain fears.”

“When Jeremy closed his business he was worried about adjusting to an unstructured lifestyle. Retirement has brought many gifts to him and his wife, including fuller and deeper conversations. He attributes this in part to being under less pressure. He also gives specific credit to his own efforts. “Retirement has made it easier to talk to my wife. I’m no longer driven by making it in the business world or by work deadlines. I’m trying to be more reflective as well as more positive. My wife appreciates that. It’s obvious that my change in attitude has made a difference. She is more responsive to me and to what I need from her.”

As you can see, not all men think alike. With more flexibility in your beliefs about communication between the sexes, begin to appreciate and integrate the unique opinions and attitudes of the men who mean the most to you. This Father’s Day give the gift of understanding to your partner, your Father, your brothers and your sons. And continue to talk with your husband about building on communication skills as you strengthen the rapport in your most intimate relationship.

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