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Informing

Air Date: 07/14/10 Dr. Rebecca Jankovich, PhD can be reached at 322-1839.7-15-10 Informing Couples fight in my office over how much information to share to keep one another informed about what they're doing, where they're going, how they're spending money, what they know about the kids, what's going on at work. As you might guess, women usually want to know everything and men require far less information. The husbands are puzzled in my office over why it's so important to their wives to be on top of all this information; it just doesn't register on their radars that these bits of data should be shared. When a wife asks her husband why he didn't tell her, one of the most common reasons is because he didn't think it was important. The other most common reason is that he's concerned the data would upset her; in order to avoid the distress and possible conflict, he just doesn't mention it. The men I work with tell me they don't like giving all this information to their wives because they feel controlled. The smoke signal for one of the big differences between us: women's personalities are organized around the theme of relationships and closeness whereas men's personalities are organized around the theme of independence. As women try to reel men into ever greater intimacy, men sometimes resist because the more the women try to get close, the more the men might feel controlled, as though they're losing their freedom of choice and independence. The struggle never seems to be resolved by fighting over whose position is most Right because both of you believe you're right. That leaves you with only a few options: you can just keep fighting and allow the strain to remain between you; you can give up and let the relationship come apart; or you can meet somewhere in the middle. If you want to stay together, I'd suggest you meet somewhere in the middle. Understand why the other person has their position on revealing information. If your partner is sneaky and trying to get away with doing things they know you can't abide, then it's difficult to work this out. But, if your partner is just acting true to their gender, then it's easier to work out because you can use your understanding to stop personalizing their approach to sharing information. The wife is not trying to control as much as she's trying to get close. The husband is not trying to create distance and get away with things as much as he's trying to maintain his need to not be controlled and still feel independent. Agree on the types of information that will always be shared. This means women have to compromise because they'd really like to know everything; so pick the most important bits you must have, and ask for those. Talk about timelines because I watch couples fight when the woman hears something about her husband from a friend and when confronted the husband says he was going to get around to telling her, it just hadn't come up yet. Be generous with each other's differences, meaning: when he doesn't think something was important enough to tell you and he made the wrong call, don't be too angry; when she wants to know more than you think is reasonable, give her a little more than you want to give. I watch couples get into spats when the husband feels that giving up the information is more like asking permission than informing. Neither of you want to be in the submissive position of asking the other for permission to live your life the way you prefer; at the same time, you're both on the marriage team and team-mates share information so they can pull together and support one another. Agree that giving one another information is not about asking permission. Saying you're going golfing and how does that work with her Friday, does not mean you're asking your mother if you can go. Saying you're thinking of a girls' night out on Friday and does that work in his schedule, does not mean you're asking permission from your master. Don't begin the informing by asking: Can I go play golf Friday? Is not the way to say it. Instead you inform about what you're considering and ask how that works for your mate. Some issues require mutual decision making and then we're out of the realm of informing and into the world of problem solving and conflict resolution. As a team you have to decide which issues must be mutual so you know when you're each free to make your own choices. The mutual bucket usually includes decisions that impact parenting, large expenditures, choices that effect both of you rather than only one of you. When women want to know what you're doing, it's usually because they're trying to be close, not because they're trying to control. When men resist giving information, it's usually because they're trying not to be controlled. Finding a way to inform rather than ask permission can gentle this strain.