One of the most common refrains I have heard my women friends complain about is that their partners “just don’t listen”. One can’t help but wonder if the problem is whether they don’t want to listen or they just can’t listen. But either way, differences do crop up between couples when men refuse to listen and women resent not being heard out.
Take the case of Anya and Kaushal. Their fights most often revolved around Anya’s complaints that Kaushal just would listen to what she was saying. “Every time I try and talk to him he gets edgy. He always starts looking for things to do, or fiddles with the phone or his body language shows he is not paying attention. I don’t just get annoyed at his behaviour, I feel very hurt. It’s like what I say and feel is not important to him at all,” says Anya.
Kaushal on the other hand has how own side of the story. “I really can’t understand why women have this great need for conversation. I don’t mind listening but Anya goes into so much of details that it tires me out. I mean, how can I be interested in the love life and break-ups of people I don’t know and have never met? But because we are married, I am supposed to show equal interest in what her friends are going through,” he says.
Experts say that men have a different way of dealing with “feelings” and have different capacity for retention of emotional details as compared to women. If it persists, then differences in processing emotions and feelings often drive a wedge between the partners.
This is what happened with Moksha and Sakshi. Every time Sakshi waned to share something with Moksha about her friends or just vent out her frustration, Moksha was not very forthcoming. Gradually she stopped sharing things with him and their communication took a beating. “Every time I told him something he would behave as if he was doing me a favour by listening. I listen to him when he talks about his work but he shows no interest when I have to share anything. I felt hurt and lonely and then I started keeping things to myself. It didn’t even mater to him that we weren’t talking much anymore,” she said.
On his part, Moksha felt pressured every time they sat down to talk. “It was as if I was sitting for an exam. She wanted my undivided attention. She had a fixed idea about how I should respond, what I should say and not say, and the worst of it was, it just went on and on. I could show interest up to a point but after that it all got to me. And no matter how patient I was and how long I heard her rant, it was never enough. So when she stopped the so-called-sharing with me, I was relieved to say the least,” he says.
Counsellors say that in such a scenario, there are very strong chances of communication breakdown. Once couples get into the no-talking zone, they stop sharing, communicating and then without their even realising it, distance starts creeping into the relationship.
It’s important for both partners to understand each other’s point of view and limitations and move forward from that point of understanding. Women need to know that there’s an end point when it comes to men handling emotional stuff; and, likewise, men need to understand that being there to listen to your partner is a way of showing her respect. Only then can the couple have a companionship in the real sense.