It’s not that men don’t get resentful. They do, of course, but usuall
y not as much and not for as long. Does your husband complain that you have an “elephant memory”? He’s right! We remember emotional events from the past better than men do and we replay them in our minds more often. Why is that?
It’s not that we want to dwell on the negative, as men sometimes think. And it’s not just painful events that we remember. We also remember our weddings, our anniversaries and our children’s milestones in more vivid detail than our husbands do.
In recent years, scientists have discovered that men and women remember differently because of differences in their brains.
One explanation is that the amygdala, a key region of the brain involved in emotional response and emotional memory, operates differently in women than it does in men.
The left amygdala is activated by strong emotional experiences in both men and women. But the left amygdala is involved in encoding memory for the experiences only in women. In men, this process occurs in the right amygdala. (Stephan Hamann, Sex Differences in the Responses of the Human Amygdala, 2005.)
In The Female Brain (2006), Louann Brizendine devotes a whole chapter to sex differences in the processing of emotions. It makes fascinating reading if you’re interested in this subject.
For example, she reports that another region of the brain involved in the memory of emotional events, the hippocampus, is larger in women.
Now when my husband asks me why I’m still remembering that thing he did three years ago, I tell him it’s just the way I’m wired. And I have to talk it out to get over it.
Another reason for resentment is that women have higher expectations for their relationships.
That means we get disappointed more often. As the humorist Dave Barry says in Dave Barry’s Complete Guide to Guys (1995), women basically invented standards and men are just trying to make sense of them!
My male clients often tell me what simple creatures they are. They want fun, companionship, sex and your approval. If they get those things, they will happily put up with a lot.
But we women have a total vision for our lives and how our husbands fit into them. We want intimacy but also time to be our own person. We want romance. We want our homes to look a certain way, and we want an active social life. We want to give our children high-quality attention at all times. When our relationships don’t measure up to our vision, we feel a lot of anxiety. Something’s wrong.
Neuroscientists Ogi Ogas and Sai Gaddam believe women’s high standards serve as a survival mechanism (A Billion Wicked Thoughts, 2011).
In order to make sure their offspring survive, women through the ages have evolved to be picky about prospective partners.
A handsome face is not enough! In fact, we don’t care a whole lot about handsome faces. Unfortunately, we can’t just abandon our pickiness once we’re committed-it’s in our DNA.
I think one of the bonuses of living with the “simple creatures” is that they can teach us to lighten up, if we let them. Sometimes a beer and a T.V. show is the answer! But we’re still going to have some feelings we just can’t get past unless we talk to our husbands about them. And that means we either learn to get the understanding we crave, or our feelings build up and cause problems.
What do you think? In your experience, do women carry around more resentment? If so, why do you think that is? Leave a comment below and let us know.
Note: This is an excerpt from the book Save Your Marriage: Get Rid of Your Resentment. Want to read a longer excerpt? Click here to read the sample on Amazon.
By Claire Hatch