Have you heard that men need more emotional space? My man needs a lot of personal space. I am only really starting to work this out, despite having first met him nearly five years ago. I follow him around the house, I talk over his favourite TV shows, I try to cuddle up to him on the couch when he just needs some air and I try to drag him to many social appointments that he really doesn’t want to go to. Do men simply need more emotional space?
Do women have greater emotional needs than men?
I know, awful, right? While this isn’t one of the world’s greatest problems, I thought it was worth talking about. I am a card-carrying feminist, so forgive me for what I am about to say. I recently read a great book by an Australian author called Lesbian for a Year by Brooke Hemphill, a terrific writer. There is one section of the book she is dating a woman and remarks on how much more ‘work’ it is to keep up with the conversational needs and rationalisations of a woman, compared to men she’d dated.
While I don’t think that all women (or indeed all men) are the same, or have the same needs, it did strike a chord with me. Sometimes I get the feeling that my husband would just prefer some ‘quiet time’ rather than having to listen to how my day went (in detail). I should say that he is really good with listening to me (mostly) but I often feel that I am talking too much, about subjects he doesn’t really care about. So do men really need more personal space? Or am I just a bore?
Do women actually talk more than men?
There is an old adage that suggests that women speak hundreds (or thousands) more words per hour than men do. So, I thought I would try to find out a reputable source to tell me whether that was true or not. Opinions still seem to be divided on this one. In one recent Harvard study, “to ensure accurate measurements, participants wore small digital devices called “sociometers” around their necks, which recorded who they were near and how much they talked.”
The first experiment showed some difference (indicating that women did in fact speak more) but the second study showed no remarkable difference between the sexes. Another US study proved the opposite, that women spoke 20 000 words compared to men’s 13 000 – but that study (for some reason) used squeaking rats rather than humans in its testing. Not sure how much I’d rely on that data!
Men miss their partners MORE than women do
Your Tango reports that the type of men who get into committed relationships actually miss their long term partners much more when there is an extended period of separation. “When 1040 married couples were surveyed in 2012,” the survey seemed to show, “that husbands are keener on spending time with their spouses than are wives and that husbands miss their spouses more when separated than do wives.”
Should men speak up more when they need space?
Some men (and not all men) can be accused of not sharing their feelings as much as women – so often when they do need space, they may fail to communicate that. Dr Cat Saunders talks about men’s needs and an early relationship she got into where she didn’t know what her partner needed, as he couldn’t (or wouldn’t) communicate with her.
“During the first two years of being with Bill,” the doctor says, “I couldn’t really get a sense of Bill in the relationship. In those days, he didn’t share much about himself. In fact, he barely even talked at all. As a result, it was hard for me to get to know him as easily as I let him get to know me.”
She says that her partner, “repeatedly said he trusted me more than anyone, and he said that he shared more with me than he’d ever shared with anyone else.” But she did not believe him. She came to feel that she spent too much time trying to “get him to communicate” rather than waiting for him to come to her.
“In retrospect,” she says, “I think I was sometimes invasive with Bill, in terms of trying to get him to share more before he was ready… At some point, I realised I was the one at fault and I needed to back off.”
Ways to give your partner more space when they need it
Dr Cat suggests owning your own “stuff” and taking the focus off what you think your partner needs, and turning the focus back on you – and what your “stuff” is – your needs, your issues, your problems. This of course has to be done within the confines of a safe and welcoming relationship, or it won’t work.
Ask Mars Venus gives two tips, one for men, one for women. They suggest that women should consider, “the activities that make (them) happiest and make a mental list of what (they) enjoy doing on their own.” Have a good list of self-satisfying activities that you can undertake when you find that your partner is inaccessible emotionally.
Their advice to men is really different. “Resist the urge to disappear and busy yourself with other things, and do your best to support her lovingly and with all the care you can muster,” Ask Mars Venus says. “If she is inexplicably emotional, this is a sign that she needs the comfort of your love and understanding – anything but advice.”
Quick tips on giving someone space:
- Learn to read their emotional cues
- Don’t take things too personally – not everything is about you
- Resist the urge to ‘force’ someone to talk or to ‘force’ your advice on someone
- Build up your own emotional strength and look for fulfilling ways to ‘self-soothe’
- Understand that we have different needs on different days
- Try not to sweat the small stuff
- Feeling anxious? Turn the tables back to your own “stuff” and look at “you” and what “you need”