If we have a look at men who have been wronged, especially those who caught their spouses in an act of betrayal, we come to the heart of what personal perception is all about. Men who have been betrayed tend to have a singular "victim" viewpoint of what happened. They continually blame the spouse (and later all women) without wanting to really find out why the partner might have behaved in that way.
They would never admit that they might be boring whingers, who are also lousy with sex or emotion, because what one lacks one tends to seek elsewhere. They are likely to cite what a wonderful husband they were, who worked all hours in the day to keep their home intact while the hussy of a wife was disloyal!
But homemaking, and nest-building, no matter how good and luxurious, is just one aspect of a relationship. The physical, emotional and intellectual sides are all important to keep that union intact. Often it is sheer boredom, neglect and a lack of love, attention and affection why any partner strays.
As Carl Jung says, "To be appreciated is one of the strongest basic human needs." When a person is not valued, or perceives herself to be unappreciated, no matter how worthy the partner is, trouble is not far behind.
Differing Gender Perceptions
Most men tend to see themselves in terms of career and material success, which is evident in their toys, sports and activities, while most women tend to judge their value on emotional, nurturing and physical attributes. This discrepancy in perception is one of the biggest causes of relationship breakdowns.
So long as men believe that to be a good husband is to provide for material needs - to look after hearth, home and family - while women expect emotional and physical bonding, there will be a conflict of perception between the sexes and they will always be at loggerheads about what it means to value each other, especially when women can look after themselves these modern days!
My ex-husband is a wonderful homemaker. A very caring man whom I could not fault in putting his children and home first. But, as his attention and affection gradually lessened, I perceived myself to be less valued in the home, eventually feeling unwanted, unloved and unattractive. In time, feeling very lonely and low in self-esteem, I began to look outwards for that emotional attention I craved. He could not understand that. He thought I should be very happy with what I had, like "having a roof" over my head and the fact that that he "cared" for me a lot, as he used to say. I used to reply that I wasn't an "invalid" to be "cared for", that I wanted to be loved (as he rarely said he loved me) and I did not marry a house, I married a love partner. His increasing lack of attention and affection, and constant flirting with other women, especially when I had eyes only for him, gradually helped to destroyed the relationship.
His perception of all my genuine actions was entirely negative while my perception of how I should treat him was more positive. We could never achieve anything together unless those perceptions aligned with one another in a more acceptable and agreeable way and that was not going to be possible, in view of the resentment on both sides. Small wonder I began to look outwards for affirmation, which only confirmed his worst perception and expectation of me.
It seems that both genders have different needs. That is not so surprising in view of the difference in their brain make-up. According to neurobiologist Louann Brizendine (The Female Brain, 2006), "Women actually use different parts of the brain and different circuits than men to accomplish the same tasks, including solving problems, processing language and generally experiencing the world." For example, studies have shown that men think about sex on average every 52 seconds, while for women it is once per day. This could be because the part of the brain, where sexual thought and behaviour is generated, "is two and a half times larger in the male"!
Brizendine observes that the brains of male and female foetuses both look the same, up until eight weeks old, when the male brain is then "flooded with testosterone" which kills off the cells relating to communication and helps to grow cells relating to sex and aggression. Not surprisingly, communication is closely allied to emotion; the need for close contact, bonding, speaking and experiencing anxiety. With women getting the lion's share of that, it is small wonder that what they expect from a relationship, and what they perceive in a betrayal will be different from that of men.
Next time you expect your partner or lover to act like you do, and they are not same sex, stop and think for a minute as to the logic of this happening when different brains, attributes, hormones and ways of seeing the world are already in play!
Elaine Sihera (Ms CYPRAH)
Emotional Health Consultant
"Respect and love begin with the self. If we have none, how can we give away any?"