Find out what your man is really trying to tell you

By Caitlin Moscatello
November 17, 2009
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It's no secret that men and women communicate differently (a whole book was written on how we're not even from the same planet)--but is there really no way to translate Mars talk to Venus speak? Dr. B. Janet Hibbs, a psychologist, couples therapist and author of Try To See It My Way, says there's hope as long as you're willing to adjust your "filter"--a.k.a. the part of your brain that processes what he says, spins it around and reacts to it. Ready for a practice run? Here are eight common communication problems in relationships, no matter what stage they're in.

WHAT HE SAYS: "I'm sorry you feel that way."

WHAT YOU HEAR: "You're being a psycho."

WHAT HE MEANS: "I just really want this argument to be over." Women like to hash things out, talking issues through from start to finish in one DIY therapy session. Guys, on the other hand, have much more of a flight instinct when it comes to confrontation--especially if he doesn't fully understand why you're so upset.

WHAT HE SAYS: "If you feel undervalued, ask for a raise."

WHAT YOU HEAR: "Ugh, your problems are so simple--just fix it."

WHAT HE MEANS: "Work's bothering you? Let me help!" The truth is, men tend to see themselves as problem solvers in romantic relationships, and so what comes across as condescending can actually be your guy's way of trying to help.

WHAT HE SAYS: "Uh huh. Right. Yeah."

WHAT YOU HEAR: "I couldn't be less interested in what you're saying."

WHAT HE MEANS: "I want to hear your story, but it's been 10 minutes and still no punch line." Men don't process information in the lengthy, big-picture way that women do (fact: Women use three times more words a day than men), so telling him a story in the drawn-out way you would to one of your girlfriends isn't going to work. In short, cut to the chase and you'll get more of a reaction.

WHAT HE SAYS: "I didn't tell you about the layoffs?"

WHAT YOU HEAR: "My job's in jeopardy and I didn't even bother to tell you."

WHAT HE MEANS: "I didn't want to worry you." Don't take his "forgetting" to fill you in on his job situation too personally. Most men don't like to advertise their fears or what they might perceive as weaknesses--especially to the person they feel they need to protect (that's you).

WHAT HE SAYS: "It's not a big deal."

WHAT YOU HEAR: "How trivial."

WHAT HE MEANS: "Let's not dwell on it." Men come from the school of suck-it-up, while women tend to need more reassurance if something is bothering them. If you two are out to dinner on Saturday, just about the last thing he wants to do is hear you harp on and on about your coworker's testy e-mail--from Thursday.

WHAT HE SAYS: "I'm so in the mood."

WHAT YOU HEAR: "I'm thinking about sex."

WHAT HE MEANS: "I'm so in the mood-because I'm thinking about sex." This one's not brain surgery. Men have seven to eight times more testosterone running through them than women do, making them hardwired for sex, even when you're just trying to cuddle.

WHAT HE SAYS: "I need some space."

WHAT YOU HEAR: "I don't want to be with you."

WHAT HE MEANS: "I care about you, but I also want some more independence." In many romantic relationships, men use this blanket phrase instead of being more specific, as in: "I love the connection we have, but I miss spending time with my friends as well." Use your judgment: If he's still being affectionate and just feels a bit smothered, give him some breathing room. However, if you're only hanging out once a week to begin with, it might just be that he wants to end things-in which case, walk (scratch that, run) away.