Look Me in the Eye!
I’ve written before about the fact men communicate better with less eye contact. Emerson talks about this in the Love and Respect Live Marriage Conference DVDs we have been watching. Since I heard him discuss this a couple months ago, I have been paying special attention to eye contact in my conversations and while watching others. (Being a people watcher is an occupational hazard!)
When I talk with other men across a table, we glance at each other occasionally, but we make very little eye contact. Most men would rather talk shoulder to shoulder – while walking or in a car. In these situations, we will go for an hour without looking at each other’s faces. I have noticed shoulder-to-shoulder conversations are deeper and better than face-to-face conversations. Men feel more comfortable getting “emotionally naked” when they are shoulder to shoulder. I see the same dynamics when I watch other men talk, be they adults, teens, or kids. Face-to-face is awkward and limiting, shoulder-to-shoulder is preferred.
When I watch women talk, I see something very different. Eye contact seems necessary. Women lean in to get close – literally “in your face”. Put two women in a car side by side and they will still take face to face – even if one is driving! In a group of women, all eyes are on the one talking. Heads turn each time the speaker changes and no one is looking out the window or at the table. Whereas male communication benefits from not being face-to-face, female communication is limited by not being eye-to-eye.
When I talk with my favourite gal, I try to look her in the eye a good deal. I know it matters to her, and because I care about her I want to honour that. However, I still find it easier to discuss difficult things laying in the dark together. It is as if I have only so much energy, and using some of it to look her in the eye leaves me less energy to get emotionally naked. This has certainly gotten better over our marriage, but even after 30 years, it still exists.
I understand why you want your husband to look you in the eye when you talk. God made you this way, it is normal for you. However, God made your husband differently. For him more eye contact means more difficulty discussing difficult or emotional issues. So which is more important to you – eye contact, or more open communication?
The next time you want to have a good discussion, try snuggling up to him in the dark. Take it slow, giving him time to think before he responds. I think you will be pleased with the results.
~ Paul – I’m XY, and prolonged eye contact makes me uncomfortable.
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