Ladies, if you have been in a relationship for three months or longer, you have probably asked your guy, “What are you thinking about?” And, you’ve probably received this answer more than once, “Nothing.” The majority of women immediately think their man is hiding something or avoiding a conversation. Well, I’m pleased to inform you that I have learned over the years that when Eric says he’s thinking about nothing, he’s actually thinking about… nothing.
If guys are being serious when they say that they are thinking about nothing, why do women have such a hard time believing them? Well, the main reason women don’t believe that men can be thinking about nothing is because women are never thinking about nothing. Women have anywhere from five to twenty-five thoughts going on at once, while men often have from zero to five thoughts going on at one time. This is why women, in general, are better at multi-tasking and also why women are often more emotional. The more a person has going on in one’s head, the more likely he or she will feel stressed and buckle.
Since guys generally have no more than five thoughts going on at once, they are less likely to break down emotionally. For this same reason, men don’t automatically know that their ladies are overwhelmed. I’m sure almost every man in a relationship has experienced his girl beginning a day in good spirits and ending it in tears or frustration. While it does happen occasionally, it is generally not the practice of men to come home from work (or school), throw things, and sob. Because of this, imagine how confused he must feel the first few times he witnesses his girlfriend, fiancée, or wife behave this way – I imagine it would be unsettling at best.
As men and women, one of our main differences is the rate at which we think and the way we organize information. You may be familiar with Bill and Pam Farrel’s book: Men are Like Waffles – Women are Like Spaghetti. The main principle in it is that men naturally compartmentalize their lives; whereas, for women, everything in their lives touches everything else.
For example, men have a “Home” compartment and a “Work” compartment. If a husband and wife fight in the morning before he goes off to work, the man will go to work and put his “Home” box on his mental shelf, take out his “Work” box, and not think about the argument while he’s working until he arrives back at home with the “Work” box on the shelf and the “Home” box back in focus.
In contrast, women are like spaghetti in that everything in their life touches everything else. If they have a fight at home, they emotionally carry that fight to the office. If they have a bad day at work, it comes home with them. This is completely natural and, for most women, it is extremely hard to separate one stressful situation from another. If a woman is going through the sickness of a close loved one, it is more likely to show in her work while a man can be going through the same thing and no one at work realize it unless it comes up in conversation.
Interestingly, there is a known physiological reason for this: the construction of our physical frame and brain. A man’s skull and frame are generally larger than a woman’s. The two hemispheres of a woman’s brain are physically closer together which allows the synapses between the two hemispheres to make connections much more often. Because the synapses are firing more often, women have more thoughts and emotions. For men, because the synapses are firing less often, they are less emotional and have an easier time focusing on one task or event. Men, think I’m kidding? When you’re in a restaurant and talking to your lady, ask her if she’s just listening to you or if she’s listening to you and everyone else around you. Chances are, she won’t be able to not listen to everyone else around you both.
Understanding this waffle/spaghetti dynamic has helped Eric and I avoid many arguments. When he says he’s thinking about nothing, I don’t automatically assume he’s brushing me off. I’ve also learned that he needs to spend time in the nothing box. Men need to de-stress as well, and sometimes simply thinking about nothing helps clear out the stresses of their lives. Men, when you need some time free from the drama of life, simply let your lady know that you need some time in the nothing box (if she doesn’t know about it, send her a link to this post). At the same time, realize that your lady endures a lot of inner-stress due to the way her mind works. Be sure to take some time each day to allow her to get her feelings out so she can sort out her noodles and dissolve those meatballs. She will feel cared for in a way that you will likely not ever understand, but your relationship will be so much better if you remember to do this each day.
Lastly, do this following exercise with your significant other. Time yourself and your partner for 30 seconds and simply tell him or her to think (the environment should be in a silent room). Don’t give any topical thinking recommendations… he or she should just think for 30 seconds. After your 30 seconds are up, you are to record (on paper) what you thought about. Note: (this is important) no matter how insignificant you believe any of the thoughts may have been, each and every thought should be recorded. After each of you have recorded what you thought about, then discuss with each other what each of you thought about. Respond to this post and let us know what you discover about each other.
How many thoughts do you have at any given moment?