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Rx For Women Involved with Insensitive Men

QUESTION: There are some times that I wish that my boyfriend was more sensitive to my opinions, views, and feelings about some issues, even though he listens to what I am saying. When I express myself about an issue or something, he tries to correct me or make a better point of it. And after some time of arguing, I sometimes give in to him because his point seems better than mine. I feel so misunderstood in certain ways, because I feel that I have understood his views, opinions and feelings more than he understands mine. And I tell him that I feel it's not fair that he always has to make a point out of an issue while we are just supposed to appreciate each other's views and opinions on it.

Does it have to do something with me not feeling understood in the past?

ANSWER: Regardless of your past, your experience of your boyfriend is a valid one for you. And feeling "understood" is a key element of any successful relationship. Though your man may not agree with you, it is important that you feel he can empathize with you most of the time. But you must be clear about the difference between needing him to agree with you and feeling understood.

Reflect on whether or not your boyfriend is "opinionated" or just having an opinion. To be "opinionated" means that the person has an opinion and his view is the only "right" one. If he very often invalidates your opinion because he believes his perspective and feelings are the only ones that should be considered, then he is missing the value of differences in a relationship. Consider also the reasons for "giving up" your opinion. Have your views and feelings been altered by a fresh perspective which you decide to incorporate, or do you just feel "worn down"?

Let your boyfriend know how you are feeling in the relationship. Discover what the meaning of these discussions holds for your relationship. Is there some way to share your feelings about your views and opinions separate from the "point" you are trying to get across?

Focusing on the process of how the dynamics of the discussion feels to both of you is far more important than settling the content. The health of your relationship derives from your feelings about each other. And the extent to which you both find your relationship nurturing is pivotal to having a future together, regardless of your shared similarities or divergent perspectives.

Healthy relationships allow for differences in points of view without diminishing the good feelings of love and respect that flow between you. Differences are inevitable in any relationship. Consider just the fact that one of you is raised as a female and one of you as a male! This alone can create totally different experiences and perspectives of the world. The richness of your relationship is developed through sharing the very different perspectives each of you brings to the table. Though your boyfriend may never experience things in exactly the same way as you do, it will benefit him to be curious and interested in understanding the world through your eyes to better know and appreciate you!

Listen to your instincts about what you need in your relationship. You are right to believe in appreciation of differences rather than "winning" an argument!


Gayle Peterson, MSSW, LCSW, PhD is a family therapist specializing in prenatal and family development. She trains professionals in her prenatal counseling model and is the author of An Easier Childbirth, Birthing Normally and her latest book, Making Healthy Families. Her articles on family relationships appear in professional journals and she is an oft-quoted expert in popular magazines such as Woman's Day, Mothering and Parenting. . She also serves on the advisory board for Fit Pregnancy Magazine.

Dr. Gayle Peterson has written family columns for ParentsPlace.com, igrandparents.com, the Bay Area's Parents Press newspaper and the Sierra Foothill's Family Post. She has also hosted a live radio show, "Ask Dr. Gayle" on www.ivillage.com, answering questions on family relationships and parenting. Dr. Peterson has appeared on numerous radio and television interviews including Canadian broadcast as a family and communications expert in the twelve part documentary "Baby's Best Chance". She is former clinical director of the Holistic Health Program at John F. Kennedy University in Northern California and adjunct faculty at the California Institute for Integral Studies in San Francisco. A national public speaker on women's issues and family development, Gayle Peterson practices psychotherapy in Oakland, California and Nevada City, California. She also offers an online certification training program in Prenatal Counseling and Birth Hypnosis. Gayle and is a wife, mother of two adult children and a proud grandmother of three lively boys and one sparkling granddaughter.

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