We both want it all. Beyond that, research finds we have less in common.
I’ve spent most of my career as a psychologist examining the differences, as well as the similarities, between how men and women approach life and the experiences that make up that life: How they work, how they parent, how they love. (And, yes, whether they ask for directions.) And while you may recognise yourself in some of the following general dichotomies, you very well may not. That’s the beauty of human nature:
She wants it all. So does he. When we talk about how men and women define success, we often generalise: Women want balance, or to “have it all”. Men want status and its symbols – houses, cars, stuff. But that’s not the whole story. One recent survey found the ambition gap a little narrower than previously thought. More than half of women turned down a job due to concerns about its impact on the work-life balance. But so did more than half of men. And two-thirds of both sexes felt they could “have it all”. Both genders, meanwhile, ranked the qualities of career success in this order: Work-life balance, then money and then recognition.
She wears her heart on her sleeve. He tucks it away. If I’ve heard this once, I’ve heard it a thousand times, “He can’t connect emotionally.” It’s a universal complaint among women, it seems (along with unequal pay for equal work and the difficulty finding the perfect pair of jeans). But what I’ve found is that most of the women who say this are confusing love with the expression of love. While for women the two may be one in the same, for men they often aren’t. The truth is, both men and women feel; they just express it differently, if they express it at all. Women are often fine with sharing every last emotion in part because, for them, it’s a way of stress relief. Men, though, are more likely to “put on a mask” to conform to long-established societal expectations – and because the expression just doesn’t bring them the same sort of physical satisfaction.
She fights. He takes flight. Perhaps this sounds familiar: A bad day for her ends in tears and a desire to rehash what went wrong and who did what, followed by a plan for how to “fix” it. For him? A short outburst, and then, end of discussion — a night of TV or a glass of scotch. This is entirely common: Studies show that women and men experience and respond to conflicts at work in very different ways. Women tend to feel conflict more deeply, reporting higher levels of work stress, tension, and frustration than men. And so they respond by working harder. Men, on the other hand, are more inclined to call in sick or otherwise “check out”.
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