Gender Differences in Bonding and Friendship

Have you ever noticed at get-togethers with adult family and friends that frequently people naturally separate into two groups? Often the women will gravitate to one room to converse with one another while the men gather in another room to watch a sports event, play video games, or engage in some other activity. There is a reason for this tendency. And, the same concept relates to marital intimacy and efforts to bond with your spouse.

Women generally bond through conversation and sharing information while men generally bond through participating in shared activities. Read the previous statement again because it may be key to understanding a lot of frustration you have with your partner. There are exceptions, of course. And, both men and women will have elements of both in their interactions with others of the same gender. But this tends to be the pattern with which most people feel comfortable the majority of the time. This phenomenon can be seen in many social situations.

For example, when lady friends plan a night out often it will involve going to some venue where they can enjoy talking with one another. This does not mean that women never participate in other activities or that they don’t enjoy sharing pastimes together. It’s just not as common. When women do choose an activity it is often one in which talking can take place simultaneously - or at least one that can be accompanied by conversation before or after the activity.

Men, on the other hand, will typically plan to engage in some sort of game, sport or other activity when they meet together as friends. The activity is seen as the reason for and focus of getting together. When discussion does take place it is often related to the activity. This does not mean that men don’t like to talk to each other or that communication is not important to them. It is just not typically the main objective for their leisure time together. Talking is not the primary way in which men naturally bond.

Most people sincerely want to build and maintain intimacy and friendship with their spouse. But, sometimes this can be challenging for a variety of reasons. The gender differences between men and women regarding bonding inclinations certainly do not account for all of the issues involved in building and maintaining friendship in marriage. However, this insight does explain one of most common and frustrating obstacles. It will definitely be quite useful if your goal is bonding with your partner, achieving greater intimacy, and strengthening the friendship you share.

Here are a few tips…

(1) Move out of your comfort zone. Both you and your spouse must be willing to make some sacrifices in this area in order to meet one another’s needs. For you men, chatting over a cup of tea may not be your favorite pastime – but it won’t kill you. For you women, going bowling may not seem like the ideal night out on the town – but you will likely survive it.  Take one for the team.

(2) Compromise and be creative. Find things to do together that incorporate the activity the man likes and the conversation the woman enjoys. There are many activities you can do together while simultaneously engaging in conversation. Or, an activity that requires focus and concentration can be followed by a leisurely chat. You can also agree to change it up. Let your spouse decide how to spend time together one night with the understanding that the next time will be your turn.

(3) Don’t read too much into it. Ladies, don’t take it personally if your husband isn’t as excited about engaging in conversation as you are. Men, don’t get upset if your wife does not show a lot of interest in sharing your favorite hobby or activity with you. In either case it doesn’t mean that your spouse is not caring, loving, or committed to the relationship. To a significant degree this is simply the way human beings are wired. This is not an excuse to never be supportive of one another or for refusal to attempt meeting each other's needs. But we also must allow our expectations to be tempered with the reality of gender differences in this area.
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