Be Gender Wise, Not Foolish

by Patricia Pitta Ph.D., A.B.P.P.

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There have been many books, research articles and much media coverage attempting to define the differences between the sexes in relation to communication style, perceptions and the way one views his/her life. This theme is a constant in popular men's and women's magazines. Men and women have been puzzled about the differences between the sexes and how we interact for generations. A patient once asked me, "Can men and women ever find an "emotional place" where they are peaceful with themselves and each other?"

As a result of the women's movement that began over 30 years ago, many women have become financially independent; therefore, affording them the ability to begin to feel emotional freedom (freedom to choose). This emotional freedom has enabled women to redefine their roles in marriage. Also they have learned to get their needs met. As a result of women feeling more powerful, new demands, pressures and perspectives have been placed on the marital bond. Women want the ability to further develop their emotional awareness, and sense of personal freedom with their mate.

The men's response to female pressure has been to begin their own emotional awareness movement. This movement is enabling men to get in touch with their male and female power in different ways. The effect is that men are relating more effectively. They are able to have more satisfying relationships in all arenas of life, particularly, in their personal relationships. Men's emotional awareness is peaking and men are trying to meet the women's emotional needs. As a result, men are now requiring women to meet their emotional and companionship needs. This is a dance of growth and development rather than the typical dance for power and control.

Therefore, to become Gender Wise, do the following:

* Respect each other's differences.
* Don't try to change the other. You can only change yourself.
* Ask for what it is you want and need in the relationship, rather than wait for it. the other to do "IT." You might be waiting a life time.
* Learn from your spouse's strengths. Put simply,"Copy your spouse's strengths."
* Men can learn to express themselves by imitating their wife's or girlfriend's style of communication.
* Women can learn to deal with issues in practical and functional ways as their husband or boyfriend deals with problems. Men are great fixers!
* Whatever you do, don't scream, yell, curse or be sarcastic. As the saying goes, "You get more from honey than from a lemon."

The ancient philosopher Lao Tsu said, "Wise men bind with their plights while fools fight for their rights." That means in this context: men and women, stop fighting and change yourself and appreciate your differentness.

5/29/98

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Dr. Patricia Pitta is a clinical psychologist practicing in Manhasset, New York, for more than 20 years. She is a Diplomat in Family Psychology of the American Psychological Association and an Approved Supervisor of the American Association of Marriage and Family Therapy. Dr. Pitta is also the President of the Long Island Association of Marriage and Family Therapy.

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