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Why Do Men Change? May 29, 2012

Posted by occhristiancounseling in classes, Dr. Debi Smith, Events, Q & A, understanding men.
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I’ve heard this for a long time … and from many sources … in one form or another:

Men change after they’ve won the girl.

Why do they do that?

One hypothesis is that once the chase is complete, they no longer have to work at winning her attention. The hunt is over. The prize is won. They get lazy. They turn into slugs.

But first …

We have to ask if it’s actually true that all men change after they’ve won the girl. Evidence suggests this is clearly not the case!

So are some guys just more romantic than others? Or is there something about the girl they’ve won who inspires them to continue the romance?

Wouldn’t it be great if you could increase the likelihood that YOUR man won’t change into a slug? Join me on June 18th to find out how!

Men are people, too. May 7, 2011

Posted by occhristiancounseling in Dr. Debi Smith, Q & A.
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The Psychology of Men ProjectBecause men express their feelings differently than women do, women often get the impression that men don’t feel.

That’s simply not true. Most men are emotionally healthy human beings; and they experience the very same emotions (e.g., anger, hurt, fear, sadness, joy, shame, guilt) that women do. In fact, when it comes to the woman he loves, a man feels everything more intensely than she does.

From birth, guys are more socially and emotionally sensitive than are gals. The problem lies in the lack of freedom they have to respond to their emotions. Vulnerability has two options for them: withdraw or attack. The usual pattern is to withdraw, which makes women pursue even more assertively. The men usually confess that they “take it as long as they can” because they love these women. But eventually, they crack and lash out in anger.

Does your guy withdraw from conversation with you on a regular basis?

Men Are Complicated April 11, 2011

Posted by occhristiancounseling in Q & A.
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Men always describe themselves as “simple.” But they’re really not.

In fact, they’re nothing like they tell us they are. And they’re not at all like our mothers told us they were either.

We’ve been lied to. Would you like to know the truth?

Just click here to ask a question. Dr. Smith will respond as quickly as she can.

A Woman’s Perspective June 22, 2009

Posted by occhristiancounseling in Q & A.
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He’s so distant, and you don’t understand why. Most of the time, he doesn’t even respond to you, and trying to communicate with him is like talking to a brick wall.

When you ask him what’s wrong, he mumbles “nothing” … or just ignores you.

If you press him to talk to you, he gets angry.

The only time he pays attention to you is when he wants something from you: it’s usually sex. But you’re not interested anymore.

You feel ignored, rejected, unlovable, alone.

You used to be so close to each other. You’ve tried absolutely everything you can think of to get close again, but nothing’s working. You wonder if he even loves you anymore.

You feel like giving up.

What is his perspective?

Why Does He Just Sit There? April 18, 2009

Posted by occhristiancounseling in Q & A, stonewalling.
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Sue’s Question: My boyfriend and I have been arguing a lot lately. He just doesn’t get it. Nothing gets resolved, and I am so frustrated with him! Now when I try to bring the issue up, he just ignores me. I can’t get him to talk at all! Why does he just sit there?

Dr. Smith’s Answer: The answer is both simple and confusing in that, despite popular male opinion, men are actually much more complicated than they seem. Most of us (men included) have been terribly misinformed! In reality, men are more emotionally sensitive than women. They will do anything and everything they can to avoid conflict with the women they love. Their fight-or-flight response kicks into high gear at the very onset of a disagreement, and because they don’t want to fight, they take flight (withdraw). Women also don’t realize that men experience the very same emotions that women do, but express them differently. Men don’t just don’t have the words to express how they are feeling, so most of their emotional expression comes out as indifference or anger, two extremes.

It doesn’t have to be like that. Both men and women need a better understanding of the male emotional experience. Click here to learn more.

Unable to Commit April 6, 2009

Posted by occhristiancounseling in Q & A.
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mothers_sons-bookSis’s Question: I have a male friend that I’ve been seeing for 3 years, it will be 4 years end 2009. He has a pattern of engaging in relationships with educated, spiritual, professional, very attractive women who he says he loved, but finds himself unable to commit, and generally interacting with other women at the same time. The question is why do some men seek consistent attention from other women when they have a great woman, and a great relationship with someone they love? Why are some men unable to commit their heart and emotions to one woman? His mother committed suicide when he was young adult, but he grew up with both parents. He believes his Mom did this because of the hurt she caused his dad for infidelity. What part could this play on his inability to trust himself to love and be committed?

Dr. Smith’s Answer: We all have difficulty trusting after we’ve experienced a significant hurt. But because men are more emotionally and socially sensitive than women are from birth, it may be especially difficult for them to regain trust. Men are especially vulnerable when it comes to their relationships with women, starting with their mothers.

Nevertheless, men naturally want (and need) to be close to a woman. If this desire is coupled with an intense fear of being hurt, they will pull away before a woman becomes too important to him. If she matters too much to him, she then has the power to hurt him. So he moves on to avoid the pain of being hurt again. This in itself puts men in the very difficult and potentially painful position of (a) wanting to love and be loved and (b) fearing it intensely.

For more information about how a man’s relationship is impacted by his relationship with his mother, you may want to read my book about Mothers & Sons … and/or Mothers, Sons, and Lovers: How a Man’s Relationship with His Mother Affects the Rest of His Life and Becoming Attached: First Relationships and How They Shape Our Capacity to Love.

Texting March 20, 2009

Posted by occhristiancounseling in Q & A.
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Lauren’s Question: I think this guy is interested in me. Why does he text me a million times a day but hasn’t picked up the phone in weeks to call me and set up a day to hang out?

Dr. Smith’s Answer: Men’s behavior can be really confusing, especially to women. The temptation might be to “get on with it already” and make the next move yourself by calling him up and setting up a day to hang out.

When I ask my students if they think it’s okay for a woman to ask a man out, most of them say “yes.” However, change the question slightly, and you might get a very different answer. Would you like it if a woman asked you out? The water’s a little muddier now.

Most traditional men want to know in advance what the answer will be when they ask a woman to spend time with them. That seems to hold true for questions ranging from “Wanna hangout tonight?” to “Will you marry me?” No man likes rejection. But most men still want to be the one to ask the question.

Is he interested? Maybe he is. Maybe he gives a different meaning to his texting. Maybe he hasn’t made up his mind yet. Maybe he’s unsure of your answer. Maybe he’s shy.

One thing you can be sure of: If he really wants to hang out with you, he will let you know.

But he might suggest it via a text message instead of a phone call.
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Understanding Dad March 20, 2009

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W’s Question: My Dad uses the phrase “I just don’t experience emotions in the way you do,” but I know this can’t be. Our family has suffered a lot and his coping mechanism has been to shut down and ignore the problem, or run away to work.

My question is, now that I understand how helpful it would be for him to recognize and express his feelings, and for me to hear that he has emotion, how can I help him understand himself? I am mostly concerned with the fact that I am suddenly aware of this and want to help, but I would never want to cross the line and make him feel somehow inferior or less of a man because of my interventions.

Dr. Smith’s Answer: This is a problem many women have in understanding the men they love. They confuse the experience of emotion with the expression of emotion. For women, emotional experience and emotional expression are pretty much one and the same.

Although men experience the same emotions that women experience, they often express them very differently. For example, women express their fears by talking about them, whereas men are more likely to busy themselves with activities. Men aren’t ignoring their anxiety; they are coping with it by doing something constructive. It’s not a bad coping mechanism. It’s just a different coping mechanism.

My guess is that your dad understands himself pretty well. What he could use is a little more understanding from you. In short, he needs your empathy. Not “girly” stuff, but something that fits where he is. You’re right in wanting to avoid making him feel inferior or less of a man by what you do and say, so you’ll want to consider the following:

First, male and female communication styles are very different. Women prefer “undivided attention.” However, men are more comfortable talking when they’re engaged in an activity with someone. So it’s better if you are side-by-side, doing something together (e.g., washing the dishes or going for a walk) when you talk to him about anything serious.

Second, when you sense that he’s having a hard time of it, you can say something simple like:

Things have been pretty hard around here lately, and I can only imagine how tough it’s been on you. I really appreciate you being here and taking care of us through it all.

Finally, after you’ve made your statement, stop talking! Shut up. End of discussion. If he wants to talk more, he will. If he doesn’t respond, don’t pressure him. No matter what he does, you can rest assured that your empathy (understanding) will have registered with him, and you will have made a bigger impact on him than you can ever imagine.
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Building Sandcastles March 16, 2009

Posted by occhristiancounseling in Q & A.
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Daniel’s Question: Why do men, including myself, continue time after time to take any situation into their own hands and try to solve problems through trial and error and, after failing, then we get emotional and frustrated?

Dr. Smith’s Response: Thanks for your question, Daniel. It’s an important one! I’ll start with an illustration:

Have you ever watched kids playing in the sand at the beach? Little Annie is having fun with her favorite pail and shovel while her mother watches from a few feet away. Another child, about Annie’s age, comes along and watches for a few moments, then grabs Annie’s shovel. Her mother immediately takes action! She retrieves the toy and promptly returns it to her daughter, comforting her little girl with a hug and scolding the other child as she does so.

What did Annie learn? She learned that others will be there to help her, to take care of her. She feels valued, though she won’t be able to express it quite that way. She feels secure.

A few yards away on the same the beach, little Tommy is building a sandcastle while his mother is reading a book nearby. Another child, about Tommy’s age, comes along and watches for a few moments, then tromps on Tommy’s castle, smashing it flat and destroying his work in a matter of seconds. Tommy’s mother turns her attention toward her son, but she doesn’t move. Tommy starts to whimper and immediately looks toward his mom, but she makes sure he doesn’t notice she’s watching. She waits. The other child walks away, and Tommy again looks toward his mom. She has already turned her focus back to her reading. So Tommy goes back to rebuilding his castle.

What did Tommy learn? No one is going to help you. You feelings don’t matter. You have to figure stuff out on your own.

Now repeat those themes over and over for 10 or 20 years. In what ways do women and men respond differently to problems?

Generally speaking, women turn to others to help them process and understand life’s difficulites. They want to be comforted and understood, and they believe they will be able to find the help they need…or at least that they have the right to ask for it.

Men, on the other hand, have be taught (socialized) that they must figure things out on their own. The thought of asking for help feels weak and unmanly.

Even so, men are not omnipotent (all powerful). They cannot solve everything on their own. They’re human, and they have feelings: strong feelings they frequently have to bottle up. They handle the difficulty for a while, but when it doesn’t get resolved, the emotional pressure reaches explosion level. Then others shame them and tell them they have “anger issues.” Who wouldn’t? They’re trapped: Don’t ask for help. Don’t get emotional. Don’t be weak.

It’s a tough row to hoe.
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