Relationships…How Men and Women Problem-Solve

connie & mick--croppedMike and I avoided problems for the first seventeen years of our marriage.  On the surface, things looked great.  We rarely yelled at each other and held all of our accumulated anger inside.  Whenever a problem would occur, we would reach into our bag of learned tricks and pull out tears, stonewalling or controlling and poof…one of us won and the problem went away.  Of course, the problem didn’t really go away.  The fact is that we were stuck in a relationship that couldn’t move forward because of a huge barrier in our path.    It was too painful and we didn’t have the tools to get around that barrier or any of the other barriers we encountered….so we divorced each other in 1989.  

Then we started therapy at New Hope Family Life Center.  Therapy taught us two things about problems.  First, they don’t go away by themselves.  And second, men and women problem-solve in different ways.  When a man has a problem to solve, he uses his past experiences to filter through the possible options and then logically reaches a decision.  He might even use a mental or written list of options.  A man’s decision making looks concise and logical.  A woman also uses her past experiences to problem-solve, however she filters those experiences through her feelings to reach a decision.  No tidy lists used here…in fact, a woman’s decision-making process looks messy and sometimes illogical.  

Not having this information about problem-solving was a huge barrier to our relationship and created a pattern that was repeated over and over….Mike would make a decision quickly and always had a logical reason why he was right.  I was flooded with feelings about the same decision and couldn’t process through those feelings quickly, therefore I seemed unsure of myself and flighty.   Mike became frustrated and angry, then would declare his answer the “right” answer because it was the only answer that made any sense.  I became frustrated and angry because I felt bullied…so I would close down and not talk to him.  Our relationship revolved around unhealthy coping mechanisms because we simply did not know that men and women solve problems in different ways and that both methods work fine, but they must each be considered in a relationship.      

This knowledge, along with eleven other tools that we learned through therapy, allowed us to slowly work our way around each barrier to our relationship so that we remarried each other in 1990.  Hurrah!  That sounds easy….learn new stuff…apply it to relationship and poof…problem solved!  Ha!  On our journey from divorce to remarriage….we almost killed each other….we spent $27,000 to get the divorce….and we hurt other people by pulling them into the mess with us.   Therapy was critical at the end of that very ugly divorce…for Mike and I, for our children and for all the innocent bystanders who got in our way.  Otherwise, we were doomed to continue unhealthy coping strategies in future relationships which would…once again… destroy the relationship and deeply affect our family and friends.  

To learn more about how men and women solve problems in different ways… along with all the other concepts that we used to reconcile and remarry each other, check out my book "The Amazing Journey of a Relationship" which can be found at and is based on our therapy at New Hope Family Life Center.  


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About Connie

Connie Slagle Nolan is a Clinical Social Worker who has worked with thousands of individuals and couples on their life journey. She currently has authored a book called "The Amazing Journey of a Relationship" which shares what she learned during her own marital struggles and continues to use in her counseling strategies for others.
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