Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Guys Don't Want to Talk About Their Problems, Mizzou Study Finds

Posted By on Tue, Aug 23, 2011 at 12:00 PM

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Forget it, girls, there's no sense trying to convince us guys to talk about our problems. Sure, we've got issues, but do you really think expressing ourselves is going to help the situation? Now please excuse us, we've got football to watch.

Such sentiments, of course, have long been the rub of legions of girlfriends and wives (and mothers and daughters), who have continuously tried, and failed, to tap into the emotions of their xy-chrome counterparts.

Many of you ladies might assume we don't express ourselves because we don't want to appear weak. But that's not necessarily the case, according to psychologists at the University of Missouri. In a paper to be published in the journal Child Development , Mizzou researchers suggest that we guys really, truly believe that talking about our problems won't change a thing. In fact, it's a standard we developed in childhood.

Psychologist Amanda J. Rose and her colleagues conducted four different studies based on surveys and observations of nearly 2,000 children and adolescents. The researchers found that girls had positive expectations about talking about difficult personal issues. Boys, however, were more likely to report that discussing problems would be "wasting time."

The findings have implications in future romantic relationships, said Rose in a university news release. She cites a dynamic called "pursuit-withdraw cycle," during which one adult partner (guess which sex) engages in serious conversation, prompting the other partner (hmmm, who could that be?) to demur.

Let us pause to acknowledge the collective eye-rolling among readers: "Wait," you say, "this is actually peer-reviewed science? Can't we just watch an all-night marathon of Judd Apatow movies to come to this conclusion?"

Well, let's give the researchers credit for suggesting that the Cro Magnanesque behavior of American men is drilled into us at childhood. And perhaps future research will show parents, teachers and counselors how to topple some of our emotional walls early on, before the cement dries.

Parents, says Rose, "should realize that they may be 'barking up the wrong tree' if they think that making boys feel safer will make them confide. Instead, helping boys see some utility in talking about problems may be more effective."

Until that happens, though, women might take comfort knowing that they're not to blame for communication impasses. It's not you, it's us. We're totally aware of our problems, but we'd just like to forget about them, thank you very much. You might call that immature behavior. We like to call it a coping mechanism.

"Women may really push their partners to share pent-up worries and concerns because they had expectations that talking makes people feel better," Rose sums up. "But their partners may just not be interested."

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