Back to top

It's a widespread complaint of women: men don't know how to listen without rushing in to give advice and offer a solution. "I'm not looking for advice," many women say, "I just want to be heard, to get something off my chest." Through some mysterious blend of nature and nurture, guys just want to find a fix.

Women: try a prompt.

Is there a more banal question than How was your day? When asked, we often treat it as a throw-away and reply with a quick and mindless "fine" or "okay," our eyes never leaving the computer or the television screen. We rarely expect it to be the start of a conversation.

We know that hunger can leave us susceptible to poorly-handled arguments with a partner (see Nibble, Then Quibble).1 So, too, can insufficient sleep.

Women once sent love letters on scented stationery, hoping the fragrance would arouse the object of their affection. Those days are largely gone, but the wish to arouse a loved one still remains. Only the vehicles of communication have changed.

Imagine that for twenty minutes, your 4-year-old has been fussing at the playground, crying and complaining and kicking sand at other children. Feeling growing irritation, you inch toward delivering a serious scolding. But you sense the watchful eyes of parents nearby, and so you suppress your feelings and handle the moment with faked aplomb.

Tell your college-age sons and daughters that more than 1,800 college students die from alcohol-related accidents each year, and nearly 600,000 are injured while drunk.1 Tell them that over half a million are assaulted by another student under the influence, and 97,000 are victims of alcohol-related sexual assault or date rape.2

“I’m sorry” doesn’t always end couple conflict in a satisfying way. Often something more is needed, an expression in words or actions that speaks to and “corrects” the underlying experience of one or both partners.

Marriage has earned a reputation for offering health advantages: longer and happier lives, fewer medical challenges. But “it’s not the case that any marriage is better than none.”i Some studies have found better health among divorced or single people as compared to spouses in high conflict/high stress marriages.

“You’re going to remember your first sexual experience for the rest of your life,” a wise mother said to her teenage daughter, “so think carefully before you make a decision that can end up haunting you forever.”

”How was school today?”
“Fine.” 
“Did you do anything interesting?” 
“No.” 
“How did that test go that you were studying for last night?” 
“Okay.”