Men Do, Women Process

I decided the previous post on this topic was a little too serious, so I’m going to have some fun with this next gender difference in relating.

Meet caveman Charlie Spearhead. (Okay, folks, get your minds outta the gutter! We’re not going to have that much fun.)

Charlie is really beat. He had to chase that damn elk halfway to the end of the world. As his stomach rumbles, he contemplates the rabbit stew that should be bubbling over the fire at that very moment, and afterwards a nice romp in the furs with his cavemate, Georgette. He grins even as his stomach growls a bit louder.

He soon discovers, however, that a fat elk haunch is not going to be sufficient to buy him a peaceful and fun-filled evening. Georgette starts in the minute he crosses the cave threshold. “You will never believe what that Gertrude Deerhunter did today when we were tanning hides.”

“Hummpf,” Charlie says.

“She had the audacity to imply that my hides are always stiff and I never get all the hair off. Oh, she didn’t come right out and say that but…”

Charlie yawns and scratches his chest, eyeing the stew pot hopefully.

“Charlie, are you listening?”

“Just ignore her. Why do you care what she thinks?”

“I don’t care about her, but she was putting me down in front of all the other women, and she was being so indirect about it that I couldn’t confront her. She’s gotten so high and mighty every since her husband got elected war chief… Charlie, what are you doing?”

“I’m cleanin’ my spear.”

I’m trying to talk to you here.”


“Charlie, are you listening to me?”

“Yeah, yeah.” He puts down his spear.

“As I was saying, I couldn’t confront her directly. I’d be the one who’d come off sounding like a bitch, and we’re all going berry-picking tomorrow. I know she’s gonna start up again–”

“Why don’t you go out early,” Charlie interrupts, “and strip all the berries off the bushes before she gets there.”

“I can’t do that. All the other women will think I’m trying to cheat them out of their share. I just can’t believe how she’s just gotten so full of herself since…”

Charlie starts to nod off, sitting by the warm fire.


“Hummf, I’m listening already. Can’t we eat while you talk?”

Georgette dishes up some stew for him. “And I can’t believe that nobody else said anything in my de–”

Charlie jumps in. “Hey, why don’t you wear your good dress? The doeskin one that’s so soft. That’ll show her.”

Georgette glares at him for interrupting again, then her expression softens. “Actually I kinda like that idea.”

“Good, glad to help. Man you’ll never believe how far I had to chase that elk today.”

“I still can’t believe that nobody came to my defense, not even Wilma–”

“Why are we still talkin’ about this, Georgette? We solved the problem.”

“Well. I guess you just don’t care that they hurt my feelings. After all, why should my feelings matter when your feet are sore from chasing elk!”

“Hey, why are you getting mad at me?”

“Cause you never listen!”

“Hunh? What have I been doing for the last half hour?”

“Cleaning your spear and eating your dinner.”

Kissing the idea of a romp in the furs goodbye, Charlie sighs.

Are you feeling a bit sorry for Charlie about now? Or are you thinking Georgette married a dimwit? This poor couple has stumbled into one of the most common pitfalls of male-female relationships.

This pitfall is caused by a major difference between the way men and women deal with feelings and problems. Men take action; women process feelings. I’m not saying women don’t act to correct a problem; they do. But they prefer to sort out how they feel about it first, and most women like to do that by talking about the situation and their feelings out loud. And sometimes they have to repeat themselves a few times until they’ve vented sufficiently to move on to a plan of action.

Men don’t get that, because that’s not how they are programmed. Their minds jump immediately to action-oriented problem-solving. So halfway (or sooner) through the venting/sorting out feelings process, they start jumping in to suggest what the woman can DO about the problem. They are then totally mystified as to why their woman is now mad at them!

Men, on the other hand, tend to mull it over inside their own heads when they need to sort out how they feel about something. Then if they think it’s relevant to share, they’ll tell you about it. So they get real quiet when something is on their minds.

Now, women tend to be fairly sensitive to the non-verbals of emotions (I’m not making this up; research has found this to be true). The woman catches on pretty quick that something’s bothering her guy. So she asks, “What’s the matter, honey?”

And what answer does she get?


“I can tell something’s bothering you. What’s the matter?”

“Nothin’. I’m fine.”

“Is it me? Did I do something to annoy you?”

“I said, I’m fine,” he says through gritted teeth.

Now she is totally convinced that he’s mad at her, and he is, because she’s not leaving him alone to sort things out. John Gray, in his book, Men Are from Mars, Women Are From Venus, talks about this. He shares the advice passed along by a woman who attended one of his workshops. She said her grandmother had told her, “When a man withdraws into his cave, do not try to follow him, or you will be burned by the fire from the dragon that lives in that cave.”

Image by Antonella Nigro, share alike license on Wikimedia Commons

Does any of this ring a bell for you? Have you ever been burned by the dragon fire? Any fun, or serious, stories to share about venters vs. mullers? Or maybe you know of some exceptions to the rule?

(Posted by Kassandra Lamb. Kassandra is a retired psychotherapist turned mystery writer. She writes the Kate Huntington mystery series.)

We blog here at misterio press once a week about more serious topics, usually on Monday or Tuesday. Sometimes we blog again, on Friday or the weekend, with something just for fun.

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  • Reply
    shannon esposito
    September 24, 2012 at 3:37 pm

    *snort* Well, we haven't come out of the cave as far as we think we have, eh? Great conversation! One of the main things that me and hubby had to work out was I'm actually the one who has to process feelings silently before I'm willing to share them. He used to get mad when I'd stay silent in a conversation until he figured out I had to think about something completely before I was willing to talk about it. Maybe it comes from knowing how important words are? You just can't take them back. It only took us…oh, about five years to get this settled. 🙂

    I loved John Gray's book. The one thing I remember from it is don't say “can you…” say “will you…” because can you implies they may not be capable.

  • Reply
    Marcy Kennedy
    September 24, 2012 at 3:41 pm

    This was a really fun way to look at this topic. And it definitely rings true. My husband gets so frustrated when I “just want to talk” about something. We've developed a system where he'll ask, “What are you looking for? Am I supposed to offer a solution or just listen.”

  • Reply
    Kassandra Lamb
    September 24, 2012 at 3:47 pm

    Yes, Marcy, that is the way to solve that part, by developing the habit of verbalizing what is expected from the conversation. Thanks for bringing that up.

    And good point, Shannon, about “can you” vs. “will you.”

  • Reply
    Louise Behiel
    September 24, 2012 at 4:13 pm

    where was this post when I was trying to sort out my feelings about leaving my ex. I knew it was the right choice but I needed to process it and everyone around me…everyone…told me to let it go and I'd get over it sooner. humphhhh.

  • Reply
    Kassandra Lamb
    September 24, 2012 at 5:28 pm

    Oh, Louise, letting go of feelings is so much easier said than done! (That's another whole blog post.) We definitely need to process them first. Hope you finally got them out of your system.

  • Reply
    Jennette Marie Powell
    September 25, 2012 at 3:46 am

    LOL this post is great! I tend to think things over ad nauseum, and yup, if my husband asks what's wrong before I've figured out how to articulate it, it's “nothing.” He tends to come up with solutions quickly, then act, whereas I need to ponder and research forever first.

  • Reply
    Kassandra Lamb
    September 25, 2012 at 6:41 pm

    Hey, Jennette, so glad you enjoyed it. Thanks for stopping by!

  • Reply
    JoAnn Bassett
    September 26, 2012 at 9:27 pm

    I just completed a 4,000 mile car trip with my hubby of 20 years. Need I say more? Oh yeah, and I went to my high school reunion (my first in 45 years, yikes!) during the trip. I had plenty to say that I knew would fall into the category of “fix it” stuff with him, so there was a lot of “dead air” between Seattle and Southern Arizona. I guess after 20 years (and this is a second marriage, so I've got a bit more experience under my belt than your average 20-year-married gal) I've learned (with a nod to Kenny Rogers) to “know when to hold 'em, and know when to fold 'em” in the venting department. Oh, and audio books are a godsend when you've got 2,000 miles to go; it's just you and your hubby in the car for eight hours; and you've just gone toe-to-toe with the mean girl who stole your boyfriend back in high school. Good times.

  • Reply
    Kassandra Lamb
    September 29, 2012 at 5:46 pm

    Ah, yes, I know about the wonders of audio books on long road trips. You are a wise lady to “know when to hold 'em.” I'm afraid I'm too much of a blabbermouth. When I'm feeling something, I have GOT to talk about it.

    And now I've got that Kenny Rogers song stuck in my head! Gee thanks, JoAnn 🙂

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