Revisiting a Quiet Day In the Office
There is more to say about the middle-aged couple who could not hear each other. You might recall that the wife was trying to invite her husband to grow their emotional connection. She didn’t say that exactly in those words. She said other words that were vague and implied there was something wrong with the relationship. This is human nature. It is common to invalidate the status quo when we want something more.
The problem also was that her invitation was abstract and therefore unclear. Besides implying something was wrong with the relationship, there was no concrete request that was actionable for her man to make things right for her. This translates to her man, any man in a similar conversation, a vague message of criticism with no way to win with his woman. This does not feel good to any man. The result is defensiveness.
Not surprisingly, it was a failed communication, and it created an upset. What is going on here? Let’s look at it more closely. My point here will focus on what is missing on the feminine side of development and what is missing on the masculine side of development at this midlife time in the couple’s journey together. It is predictable and not a personal criticism. If you can see this and apply this to your life with your partner, you can grow together exponentially.
Let’s start at the beginning of the couple’s conversation. The wife began by saying she wanted “something more.” She was not satisfied. She felt her husband had too much control. He “didn’t listen.” The husband responded that he didn’t know what she meant, then continued by defending himself. What is going on here?
I understand that they were each coming up against the limits of their present development. The wife has an inkling that there is something more, but she cannot articulate it clearly. This is a right-brain challenge: how to translate an intuition, a feeling, a big picture, an inspiration into bite-sized pieces that can be understood and solved by a left-brain dominant man.
Yes, I am generalizing that a goal-oriented businessman is left-brain dominant, and a creative woman and mother is right-brain dominant at this time of their lives. An essential part of our developmental life project is to balance the hemispheres by integrating feeling and thinking in midlife.
When you stand at the precipice of your right-brain dominant mind and try to articulate what you see on the horizon, you are limited because you see the big picture, but you are not able to see the small pieces and how they fit together. Similarly, left-brain dominant individuals are focused on the mechanics and details and struggle to see the big picture if it is not in their concrete language. This dichotomous functioning of the brain has been confirmed by research with left and right brain stroke patients.
The conversation with this husband and wife opens the door for the woman to become more familiar with her left-brain function and integrate it with her right brain. For the husband, the invitation from the wife to share feelings invites exploration and development of his right brain, which can weave the inner world of emotions with his left brain. This will take practice and time, but the rewards for each partner and the relationship are more than worth it. The richness of feelings attached to thoughts and the connection it creates for their relationship will be deeply satisfying and provide maturity and wisdom that is an invaluable gift of the marriage relationship.
This is what is possible over time in your committed romantic relationship. There is no other relationship that makes this demand of you. There are other demands as well that improve you and mature you in this relationship. Before you reach midlife, you will need to learn responsibility and the value of telling the truth. You may have learned this in your growing-up years, but the stakes become higher when life becomes more complex.
This couple represents the inevitable need to integrate the mind and the heart. It is an essential step in integrating your life and experiencing the love and meaning you want to create for yourself and your loved ones. We want that for you. We also need this for our culture. We need to talk about our differences, our vision for the future, and our desires for ourselves and our family members and hear each other with both our hearts and mind. This will enable us to move forward, solve problems, and grow our relationships and culture. Practicing with our partner and growing our relationship is a good place to start towards developing understanding and connection.