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男人为何不愿谈论感情?

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A few weeks ago, Jane Wilcox and her live-in boyfriend had a blowout argument over a kitchen sponge that was left in the sink. There was ranting and accusations of shoddy housekeeping. He packed a bag and prepared to spend the night in a second home on their property. She called one of her boyfriend's buddies and asked him to come over and calm him down.

When the pal arrived, the two men took beers out to the porch. 'They sat huddled together like they were planning a NATO conference,' says Ms. Wilcox, 52, who lives in the mountains outside of Phoenix. 'I would watch and see them both nod, as if they understood each other. One would lean back and take a heavy sigh, the other would follow suit. Then they'd huddle into each other again.'

The topic of their big discussion? Motorcycle oil.

It's no big secret that men don't share their emotions easily. Numerous research studies -- and millions of baffled women -- can attest to that.

But is it really so harmful if men want to keep their feelings hidden? And don't women share too much, yammering on about their husbands to friends, co-workers and sometimes even strangers?

The answer to both questions is an emphatic yes.

Men and women could learn a thing or two from each other about when to talk about problems in their marriages or romantic relationships. It might help for men to reveal more to others outside the relationship -- and for women to zip it a bit more.

There are deep-rooted reasons why we share the way we do. Men don't want to appear vulnerable. (Why else won't they ask for directions when they're lost?) They are raised to be strong, after all, not to appear sad, scared or needy. Women, by contrast, are taught it's OK to be emotional.

'Women can go to their friends and talk and ask, 'Does he love me? What do you think?'' says Charles T. Hill, a professor of psychology at Whittier College in California. 'If men went to their friends and said, 'Do you think she loves me?' they would say to get a grip.'

Men also may clam up to protect their wives or significant others, worrying that their buddies might be insensitive, gossip or think less of their partners. They also may not want to get themselves wound up because it's hard for them to wind down.

Or, as a male friend of mine puts it: 'Men don't talk about their feelings with themselves, let alone other men. They usually have something to feel guilty about, even if it's just a bad thought or flirtation, so why look too closely?'

Biology plays a part, too. Scientists at the University of California, Los Angeles, have shown women respond to stress by releasing oxytocin, a feel-good hormone that produces a calming effect and helps them bond with children and others. Estrogen enhances its effects. (Men, too, release oxytocin in response to stress, but male hormones minimize its effects.)

Women don't need a study to confirm that they feel better from talking over their problems. Sure, they may get an oxytocin boost. But they know they will also receive empathy, possible solutions and maybe even a reality check.

Sometimes in the middle of an argument with her husband of 26 years, Marina Kamen, 50, who lives in New York, will go online and chat with a friend on Facebook, or even with a stranger on a Web site for working moms. She believes that this prevents the quarrel from escalating, and that it can help her put her life in perspective.

'Many single women will tell me, 'It's hard out here. Do you think you will find someone better?'' says Ms. Kamen, who, with her husband, owns a business that produces motivational fitness recordings and music with her husband. 'Then we will get in a dialogue about what my husband is like and all his good qualities.'

Her husband, Roy, 56, says he tends not to discuss his marriage with his friends. 'It's a guy thing,' he says.

He's not alone. In many cases, men wait until it's too late to ask for support or advice from their friends about serous relationship issues. 'Men will talk when there's nothing left to lose,' says Susan Pease Gadoua, a therapist in San Rafael, Calif. By not opening up earlier, she says, they miss out on a chance to garner support -- or even just a little reassurance that others have been there, too.

Julius Nagy, a 48-year-old father of five who is going through a divorce, says he rarely talked to friends about financial troubles in his 16-year marriage, both to appear strong and to avoid conflict. Because he had no emotional outlet, he often ended up in yelling matches with his wife, which only exacerbated their problems, he says.

'The big reason it didn't work in the end is that I kept bottling this up,' says Mr. Nagy, a former product developer in the bedding industry who lives in Winston-Salem, N.C. His wife couldn't be reached for comment.

Tony Dye's 24-year marriage had problems for years, but only recently -- now that he's getting a divorce -- has he started to tell his friends what's really going on: He's been having an affair.

'I think that exposing what's been going on in my life and getting some feedback earlier would have helped,' says Mr. Dye, 54, an information-technology consultant in Atlanta. 'I've had guys in the last year very lovingly beat me up over this relationship, saying, 'Tony, you can't have anything to do with her. You need to be working on things with your wife.'' His wife couldn't be reached for comment.

You should be judicious about where you turn for help, if you seek it outside of your relationship. Talk too much, and your words may come back to haunt you.

Just ask Kimberly, a 42-year-old mom in the Midwest who asked that her last name not be used. When her marriage hit a rough patch last year, she complained to everyone she could find: her mom, friends, co-workers, housekeeper, husband's best friend and two radio stations.

She says the attention was a relief -- at the time. But now that she and her husband have patched up their problems, they have a new one: Some of the people she carped to have ostracized her husband.

'It's an awkward situation,' Kimberly says. 'To this day, he's not comfortable around my family.'

Jane Wilcox, of the sponge spat, wonders if she shouldn't talk less, too. While her boyfriend and his buddy debated the virtues of synthetic versus natural bike oils, she called a girlfriend and analyzed every detail of the fight she had had with him. 'What they had accomplished in 20 minutes took us two hours,' says Ms. Wilcox, whose boyfriend could not be reached for comment.

The next morning, her boyfriend met her in the kitchen and offered her a cup of coffee. 'End of subject. End of tantrum. No apology. No talk. It's as if the entire incident had not happened,' she says.

'But he did change the oil in his bike to synthetic. It runs much smoother now.'

Have you ever shared too much -- or not enough -- about your marriage?

几个星期前,简•威尔科克斯(Jane Wilcox)和她的同居男友因为放在厨房水槽里的一块儿洗碗布大吵了一架。他们两个大喊大叫,指责对方不会持家过日子。她的男友收拾好东西,准备在他们房子的另一个房间过夜。她给男友的一位好朋友打电话,请他来家里劝劝男友,让他冷静冷静。

那位好友到了以后,两个男人拿了几瓶啤酒坐到了门廊。“他俩紧靠着坐在一起,就像是在计划一次北约会议,”威尔科克斯说。威尔科克斯今年52岁,居住在凤凰城(Phoenix)外的山区里。“我看到他们两个人点着头,似乎彼此非常理解。一个人往后一靠,长叹一口气,另一个人也会跟着做出同样的动作。然后他们又会紧靠着坐在一起。”

他们大讨论的话题?摩托车机油。

男人们不会轻易分享他们的情感,这已经不是什么秘密了。许许多多的研究──以及成百上千万困惑不已的女人们──可以证明这一点。

不过,如果男人们想要隐藏他们的情感,真的有那么大的害处吗?另外,女人们难道不是分享得太多了吗?她们会向朋友、同事,有时候甚至是陌生人抱怨她们的丈夫。

对这两个问题的答案显然都是肯定的。

对于该在什么时候谈论婚姻或感情问题,男人和女人可以相互学习对方的一些做法。向别人更多地敞开心扉对男人们可能会有所帮助──而女人们则应该适当地保持克制。

男人和女人分享心事的方式不同还有深层次的原因。男人们不想看上去脆弱不堪。(不然的话,他们迷路的时候怎么不去问路呢?)毕竟,在人们眼里男人就是要坚强,不能显得悲伤、恐惧或者需要别人的抚慰。相比之下,女人们受的教育则是:感情脆弱也无妨。

“女人们可以去找她们的朋友谈心,问他们,‘他爱我吗?你怎么想?’”加利福尼亚州惠特学院(Whittier College)的心理学教授查尔斯•T.希尔(Charles T. Hill)表示,“如果男人们也去找他们的朋友,问他们,‘你觉得她爱我吗?’朋友们会告诉他要理智一些。”

男人们保持缄默的原因还可能是为了保护他们的妻子或者其他心爱的人。他们会担心自己的好朋友们不够敏感、说三道四或者因此会瞧不起他们的伴侣。他们可能也不希望自己的情绪紧张起来,因为那样一来,他们会很难放松。

或者,像我的一位男性朋友说的那样:“男人们跟自己都不会谈起自己的感情,更不用说别的男人了。他们总是会对一些事情感到内疚,即使它只是脑海中一闪而过的一个坏主意或者是一次调情,所以为什么要如此近距离地审视呢?”

这一问题也可以从生物学的角度找到答案。加州大学洛杉矶分校(University of California, Los Angeles)的科学家们已经证明,女性在面临压力时会释放一种名为“催产素”的荷尔蒙。它能够帮助舒缓情绪,还可以促进女性和孩子及其他人之间的社交活动,而雌激素会强化这种荷尔蒙的作用。(男性在面临压力时也会释放这种荷尔蒙,但是男性荷尔蒙会将它的效用抑制到最小。)

无需什么科学研究,女人们就可以确定通过和别人的倾诉自己遇到的问题,她们能让自己感觉好起来。当然,倾诉或许能帮助女性释放更多的“催产素”。不过,女性还知道,她们同时也会得到别人的安慰、找到可能的解决办法,甚至是认清现实。

当玛丽娜•卡门(Marina Kamen)跟结婚26年的丈夫发生争执的时候,她会上网和Facebook上的好友畅谈一番,有时候甚至会和一个职业女性网站上碰到的陌生人倾诉。她相信这么做可以防止争吵升级,也能让自己客观地看待自己的生活。卡门今年50岁,居住在纽约。

“许多单身女性都告诉我,‘现在丈夫可不好找。你觉得你会找到更好的人吗’?”卡门说。卡门和丈夫一起开了一家制作健身录音和健身音乐的公司。“然后我们就会谈起我的丈夫到底是什么样的人,以及他所有的优点。”

她的丈夫名叫罗伊(Roy),今年56岁。罗伊说他不愿和朋友们谈及他的婚姻。“这是男人的特点,”他说。

罗伊不是个例。在很多情况下,等到男人们因为感情问题寻求朋友的支持或者建议时,一切都太晚了。“男人们只有在走投无路的时候才会吐露心声,”加州圣拉斐尔市(San Rafael)的临床医师苏珊•皮斯•加多(Susan Pease Gadoua)表示。因为没有更早敞开心扉,他们错过了获得支持的机会──或者是过来人的一点点安慰。

今年48岁的朱利叶斯•纳吉(Julius Nagy)是五个孩子的父亲,正在办理离婚。他说结婚16年来他很少和朋友谈起家里经济上的问题,一是为了看上去显得坚强,二来也是为了避免冲突。纳吉说,因为他把自己的感情完全地封闭了起来,结果经常导致和妻子大吵大闹,这只会让他们的问题变得更加恶化。

“我们的婚姻最终破裂的一大原因就是我把我们的问题掩盖了起来,”纳吉说。他居住在北卡罗来纳州的温斯顿-莎伦市(Winston-Salem),以前曾是床上用品行业的一名产品开发人员。我们没能联系到他的妻子置评。

结婚24年的托尼•戴伊(Tony Dye)遇到婚姻问题已经有几年的时间了,但是直到最近──眼下他就要离婚了──他才开始告诉朋友们事情的真相:他有外遇。

“我想,早点儿把我生活中的情况告诉朋友,并且得到他们的一些反馈可能会有所帮助,”戴伊说。戴伊今年54岁,是亚特兰大的一名信息技术咨询师。“就因为这份感情,去年我的一些朋友非常热心地敲打了我,他们说,‘托尼,你不能和她有什么联系。你需要和你的妻子一起解决问题。’”我们未能联系到戴伊的妻子置评。

如果你向别人寻求帮助的话,那么一定要对求助的对象慎重选择。如果你说得太多,那么你的话或许会带来后患。

家住美国中西部的金伯利(Kimberly)的情况就是如此。这位42岁的母亲要求我们不要透露她的全名。去年,当她的婚姻陷入危机时,她向能找到的所有人抱怨:她的妈妈、朋友、同事、保姆、丈夫最好的朋友,以及两家广播电台。

她说,别人的关注让她在当时感觉轻松了很多。不过,虽然现在她和丈夫解决了从前的问题,新问题又来了:她当时的一些倾诉对象开始排斥她的丈夫。

“这感觉很别扭,”金伯利说。“直到现在,他跟我的家人在一起时都会感觉不自在。”

然而,因为一块儿洗碗布而和另一半发生争吵的简•威尔科克斯却在想自己是不是倾诉得太少了。当她的男友和朋友谈论摩托车机油到底是合成的好还是天然的好时,她给她的一位女性朋友打了电话,分析了她和男友争吵的每一个细节。“他们二十分钟说完的话,我们花了两个小时,”威尔科克斯说。我们未能联系到她的男友置评。

第二天一早,她的男友在厨房里看到她,给她递过来一杯咖啡。“问题结束了,脾气发完了,没有道歉,也不必多言,就像什么事都没有发生过一样,”她说。

“但是,他真的把摩托车的机油换成了合成的,现在开起来顺畅多了。”
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