Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Relationship issues are not always the man's fault

Relationship issues are not always the man's fault

By Elia Gourgouris

Dear Dr. Elia,

I have been following your articles for the last couple of years. Although I enjoy reading them, I have noticed a certain pattern. You, and others who offer advice about relationships, seem to favor women and their points of view. It gives the perception that women are usually innocent and that men are typically the "bad guys." Has that really been your experience? I would appreciate any insights you might have on this topic.

Sincerely, John

Dear John,

Thank you for your question and your willingness to explore a very important topic. First of all, let me say that the majority of my Mormon Times readers and those who pose questions on are women. This may, in part, explain why there is a perception that women seem to get the better deal. Because they write the majority of the questions, the issues that are brought up come from their points of view. I cannot speak for any other advice columnists, but I certainly don't believe that men are usually at fault and that women are 

Perhaps it is the topics that are brought up that play a bigger role in this misperception. When we talk about sexual addictions, pornography or gambling, these typically tend to be men's issues. That is not to say that I haven't worked with women who struggle with these issues, but they involve men more frequently. Because these addictions can cause such spiritual, emotional and mental upheaval in a relationship, they receive a lot more attention. Oftentimes they may even lead to divorce or a breakup.

On the other hand, when I have dealt with eating disorders or food addictions, it is mostly women who have struggled with them. Although these issues can also have a detrimental effect on the physical, emotional and mental aspect of a relationship, they lead to breakups less frequently. There also tends to be a lot more empathy for the one struggling, and the reaction typically is, "What can I do to help?"

Another issue that comes up frequently has to do with abuse — be it physical, sexual or emotional. For the most part, physical and/or sexual abuse is something associated with men, so they typically receive the blame. It is rare for a woman to be the one who perpetrates such abuse. When it comes to emotional abuse, however, I would say that falls more along the 50-50 line between men and women. Sadly, I have seen women be just as cruel verbally and emotionally to men as the other way around.

Making withdrawals from the relationship's love account is not gender-based. Men and women may do it differently, but the results are equally devastating. In reality, when a relationship ends, the trust that once existed has almost always been eliminated.

You asked what my experience has been, so I will make one final point. After 25 years of helping individuals, it is my sincere belief that women have more courage than men when it comes to seeking help and accepting responsibility for their actions. Women seek help sooner and are more open to receiving advice. Oftentimes, men will seek help only after their spouses threaten them with divorce or when their ecclesiastical leaders strongly suggest it. Perhaps this does have something to do with gender. For example, why else do men refuse to ask for directions (myself included) when lost? Perhaps it is our pride or our expectations that real men don't or shouldn't need help. After all, are we not conditioned from early on to be self-sufficient in all things? Asking for help can be considered a weakness or unmanly.

From a spiritual perspective, however, I find it interesting that if our goal is to become more like the Savior, we must ask for help every single day of our lives. That is one big part of our prayers: seeking help, guidance, comfort, answers and so much more. I would certainly like to encourage more men to be more open in asking questions. More balance would certainly improve the perception that, in the end, we all make mistakes regardless of our gender.

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