When you have a problem, how do you tackle solving it? Research shows that men and women tend to tackle problem solving from different approaches. Women tend to take a more emotion-focused approach while men take a more problem-focused approach.
Think of the last time you were distressed. Perhaps you were angry with a co-worker or upset with a family member. How did you respond? Did you try to solve the problem or did you try to relieve your distress about the problem?
An emotion-focused approach means that you tried to deal with your distress without directly attacking the problem. For example, if someone is angry with a co-worker’s rude behavior, the emotion-focused approach might cause them to seek support from others to reduce their distress. They may also avoid their co-worker to help keep their stress level down.
In contrast, a person using the problem-solving approach, would go directly to that co-worker. They would discuss the problem and try to come to a resolution. This in turn would help relieve distress by solving the problem.
Women tend to seek more emotional support. This can be helpful in the fact that it may help them recognize their support system. However, it can also lead to more distress in the long term as they may feel like they have less control over their problems. Men sometimes use this approach as well.
The problem-focused approach can help people to recognize the power they have to change a situation. Feeling like things are more within your control can be helpful to your mental health. However, sometimes men become more socially isolated when they don’t turn to others for support. Of course, there are plenty of women who use this approach as well.
It’s important to recognize your problem solving style as well as your partner’s style. Husbands can learn that their wives may just be “venting” when they discuss problems and that they don’t necessarily have to jump to find a solution. Wives can also learn that their spouse may be more geared toward springing into action when a problem is presented but this doesn’t mean he doesn’t want to listen or that he’s not sympathetic to your issue.