Normative Male Alexithymia: Let’s Talk About It
There’s an old joke that goes a little something like this:
Two women sit next to one another in the park, chatting.
The first woman turns to the other and asks, "Does your husband talk to you?"
And the other woman replies, "All the time! He asks me what’s for dinner, he asks me if he has clean socks. Once he asked me how the microwave worked."
There is usually a shred of reality and truth in jokes like this one, and I can see how and why this one got started. Traditionally, men have not always been comfortable talking about their emotions.
Normative Male Alexithymia is a very clinical sounding term that describes when men have tremendous difficulty putting their emotional experience into words. This can often put relationships on the ice because generally women need to talk about emotions to feel a connection, and men often “just can’t go there.”
Men and Women are Wired Differently
By now we all know men and women are from very different planets, but there are some striking differences in particular to how we communicate. For instance, did you know women typically use twice as many words as men? While women speak at 250 words per minute, men typically speak at around 125, according to Gary Smalley, author of Making Love Last Forever. That means over the course of the day, women speak about 25,000 words and men 12,000.
Men and women also have different conversational styles. Women often talk fast and become very animated. And it’s not unlike them to excitedly interrupt their partner, who may be struggling to find the right words to begin with. This can cause many men to shut down because they are already having a hard time expressing how they feel.
And speaking of feelings, women can think and feel at the same time, but men can do only one at a time. So when a woman wants to “talk” that generally means she is expecting her man to think and feel at the same time, and men’s brains are simply not wired that way.
Understanding how men and women are different when it comes to communication can go a long way. It can help women empathize with men instead of always feeling frustrated at their lack of interest in opening up. It’s not that they don’t want to feel close with you, they just don’t do it in the same way women do.
Something else that can help is working with a therapist who can facilitate open communication and ensure both parties feel safe and supported in sharing their thoughts and feelings.
If you are having difficulty talking with your partner and would like to explore treatment options, please be in touch. I would be more than happy to discuss how I may be able to help.