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Thursday, Feb. 28, 2013 03:27 pm

Gratitude adjustment

My boyfriend of three months seems wonderful. He is attentive and tries hard to please me, even in small ways (like always making sure I get tea I like when we’re out). Soon after we started dating, a relative of mine died, and he made a real effort to check in on my well-being. He’s always excited to see me; we kiss a lot right at the door. However, he never compliments me. He did it sparingly early on, telling me I had beautiful eyes, for example, but it’s been a while. He also seems uncomfortable being complimented. I called him handsome, and he mumbled something about it being dark. I guess I could fish for compliments, but I’m not so much looking to be complimented as I am trying to make sure I’m not being blind to some red flag. –Underappreciated

Movies reveal a lot about men’s and women’s differing expectations for how men will communicate. Chick flicks are pretty much wall-to-wall chatter, down to that final scene where the male lead gets the girl – after giving a big Oprah-worthy speech about what an idiot he was not to love her from the start. In male-targeted action pix, the guy also gets the girl. All he has to do is grunt, glare and incinerate 55 giant slimy things from outer space.

That said, the notion that men are mute lunks while women go around yapping like Yorkshire terriers, a claim made by self-help authors including University of California San Francisco neuropsychiatrist Dr. Louann Brizendine (in various editions of The Female Brain) just isn’t supported by the research. In 50 Myths of Popular Psychology, Scott O. Lilienfeld and his co-authors note that when psychologist Dr. Janet Hyde crunched the data from 73 controlled studies, she found only a tiny overall difference in male and female talkativeness. And when psychologist Dr. Matthias Mehl and his colleagues gave 396 college students portable audio recorders to walk around with, they found that both men and women spoke about 16,000 words a day.

Where men and women do seem to differ is in emotional expression. There’s a lack of conclusive research in this area, but it’s clear that men have feelings – deep feelings. They just don’t always communicate them in a slew of words. Many seem to walk the talk – showing their feelings instead of speaking them. And frankly, shows of affection are probably a better reflection of a man’s sincerity.

Since you say you don’t really neeeeed compliments, you could just decide to accept that there are two kinds of adoring boyfriends. The thing is, research by Dr. Sara B. Algoe and others suggests that when romantic partners articulate appreciation for each other – in their thoughts and by telling their partner – both the appreciated partner and the partner doing the appreciating feel more bonded and satisfied with the relationship. It seems reflecting regularly on what you’re grateful for – how your partner thinks, how Hottie McBody they look in that sweater – helps keep you aware of what you have, making you less likely to treat your partner like an old pair of shoes you keep forgetting to put out on the curb.

Got a problem? Write Amy Alkon, 171 Pier Ave., #280, Santa Monica, CA 90405, or email AdviceAmy@aol.com (advicegoddess.com). Weekly radio show: blogtalkradio.com/amyalkon. © 2013, Amy Alkon, all rights reserved.
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