So many times I have heard from frustrated women who explain that when they need a loved one to listen to their situation, the man in their life seeks instead to “fix” things. They tell me that this leaves them missing that loving connection that comes from being heard and all too often leaves them with the fear that the man just doesn’t really care so much since he is more interested in fixing things.
Right. But wait. What doesn’t she know about men?
What the women are missing is that men have a natural tendency to want to fix things. Why do men want to fix things? Because it helps them feel better. I could tell you plenty of stories of working on an old car and being frustrated in getting one bolt out. I try and try and no matter what I do, it just won’t budge. Then when I figure it out and successfully pull out the offending bolt I am hit with a wonderful blast of feeling good! Men know this elation. It feels good to solve and fix things and men simply want to share that good feeling with those they love. When she tells him a problem he wants to give to her the same feeling he gets when things are fixed so of course he tries to fix it for her. He’s doing this because he cares, not because he doesn’t.
After explaining this to the women in therapy I let them know that there are things they can do to help this situation. One effective approach is to be sure the man knows exactly what you want. Be clear with him whether you want a consult or want to be consoled. If you want to be consoled tell him he doesn’t need to do anything, that you simply want him to sit with you and listen.
When women talk to their men about this good things happen. When he becomes aware that she doesn’t want a solution and simply wants him to listen he can relax! I have seen this repeatedly. When this is explained to men they are relieved to know what is wanted and make an easy shift to simply listening. Most men find this much easier than the responsibility for fixing.
Here’s something to try:
If you are a woman talk to the man in your life about being consoled versus being consulted. Work out ways to let each other know when you need each one. If you are a man, talk to the woman in your life and let her know you need her to be specific about what she wants from you.
When both know what is needed, good things usually happen!
Tom Golden is the author or three books, Swallowed by a Snake: The Gift of the Masculine Side of Healing, The Way Men Heal, and Helping Mothers be Closer to Their Sons: UnderStanding the Unique World of Boys. Tom was the creator of the youtube channel Men Are Good and served as the vice chairman of the Maryland Commission for Men’s Health. He has been a therapist in private practice for over 30 years.