Women are irrational, that's all there is to that, sung Professor Henry Higgins in the Broadway play and movie of a few years ago, My Fair Lady. In the song, Why Can't a Woman Be More Like a Man, he was implying that it's better to be male - objective and rational - than female - emotional and irrational.
Higgens' bias is an age old one but is not supported by psychological research. To many men, it implies that it is far better to be rational than emotional. To them, rationality connotes calmness, control and strength, while emotionality connotes irrationality, lack of control and weakness.
A frequent complaint I hear in my marital therapy is from wives who describe their husbands as emotionally distant. They complain that their spouses do not share their feelings and that they themselves feel lonely in their marriages.
Research has found, however, that men in fact do feel just as strongly as women. The difference is they don't talk about their emotions as much but express their needs for intimacy in different ways.
In our Western culture, men have been socialized to be more interested in success, power, status and wealth than have women. By training, they are more aggressive and competitive. They tend to be more comfortable expressing their intimacy needs with women sexually rather than verbally, and to be intimate with other men primarily in some shared activity or sport.
Women, on the other hand, have been socialized to be more concerned about interpersonal relation. They are no less rational than men, but can more easily express their feelings. They usually prefer romance and emotional intimacy as a prelude to sexual intimacy and usually develop closer and deeper friendships than do men.
Which style is healthier? The answer is a combination of both.
Research has shown that the mentally healthiest persons are those who combine so-called male and female characteristics in their personalities. They are flexible individuals who can be assertive, rational and competitive when they need to be, but also expressive and compassionate when necessary.
By contrast, the least healthy persons are those who are strongly stereotypically male or female. The macho man who can't share his emotions or the unassertive, dependent female are both more vulnerable to breakdown under stress. They lack a variety of coping mechanisms to deal with stress.
Emotionality and rationality are necessary in a full, well-balanced life and successful marriage. People have to know what is happening within themselves emotionally before they can bring a rational analysis to their problems. After acknowledging and sharing their deepest feelings about an issues, they can then rationally decide what to do about it.
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