Beware of The Bully Lurking in Your Office
[as always all personal details below are changed]
Despite being the 21st century I find many men shy away from discussing relationship problems. To be fair to them what their partner see as an "issue" they might think is a little blip that doesn't mean anything.
It can be a positive when a man thinks, "X, Y or Z’'s no big deal so why worry about it?" Perhaps that's an attitude that would serve women well rather than picking over the tiny details of assumed slights.
But let's qualify this: if a man’s going to discuss a relationship issue shouldn't he do so with his partner - the person he shares the relationship with? Definitely! Some men, though, confide in a best friend what they find hard to talk about with their partner. Yes, women chat to their girlfriends about relationship problems (crikey, they often speak of little else!) but in tandem with trying to get their partner to speak about it, too.
A client, Jessica, 34, was fairly devastated to discover that her live-in boyfriend, Mark, 36, told his best friend that they were skirting around the issue of getting married (she obviously wanted to while he wasn't in a hurry). Yet he’d found it hard to discuss their respective marital expectations with her.
Jessica’s humiliation caused soul-searching on her part about whether to stay with him. I advised her to put the brakes on any breakup plans and recognise that men do this for a few core reasons and not to betray their partners. They see it as a "practice run" for discussing it with their partner. Confiding in a friend something troubling they gain a sense of control over it. And they often get goal-directed advice from another man that helps clarify those rather troubling things - conflicting emotions - over a relationship dilemma.
Of course women would prefer it the other way round but it's not the end of the world when this happens. Mark now knows he made a big mistake but Jessica also now knows it was his way of clarifying feelings in a way that he can now express them.
An edited version of this was published in The Times
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