Newspaper Column Article #20: The Viralness of HIV/AIDs – Part VII: Men and women in love meet in our differences – not similarities

As it appeared in the Botswana Sunday Standard on June 9, 2013, Systemic Thinking Column

“She’s not my type” or “He is not my type”

Yet, that’s exactly what it takes a couple to come together.  As opposite genders, we do not meet in our similarities.  But in our differences.  Emotionally.

When a couple are in conflict, often times it happens because we are attempting to meet the needs for them from our respective perspectives.  We think they are the same as ours.  That’s where we can get this wrong.

In the past few weeks, we explored while a woman accords trust and accepts her man for who he is, her need is met for her when she sees the man care for her.

The column is currently exploring the link between the state of emotional fidelity that exists between couples and the state of HIV/AIDS prevalence that exists as a nation.

This week we continue to explore more of the twelve kinds of love that can exist between a man and woman in love.

First however, a sharing of interesting reactions by readers of the column.  In the course of the week, I received reactions particularly by women readers who share the extent to which they had placed trust on the man they love and how they accepted him for who is, yet, did not see their relationship last.

In many such instances, we also see the couple enter into sexual relationships very early on in their relationship.  Each story is heartfelt yet interestingly the story line repeats in much the same way across relationships.  In most instances sexual intimacy acted as a substitute for the emotional intimacy that can happen between a couple.  We thought the two types of intimacies are the same.  They are not.

There is a however a trick to helping build emotional intimacies between a couple.  Interestingly however, it is found in the first of the ABCs as advocated by government in their efforts to prevent  HIV/AIDs transmission.  And that is abstinence.  This “tool” serves a double-edged sword.  It could prevent transmissions of the virus.  It also becomes key to building the emotional intimacies between couples.

When the couple is sexually intimate very early on in the relationship, and yet emotional fidelity has not built up between the two, the latter is less likely to happen for the couple.  It can also mean it does not happen for life afterwards for the individual even with other partners.

So it is harder to say ‘we trust or accept someone’ because we have become sexually intimate with that person or for reasons other than for reasons attributed for that individual.  Building a level of emotional intimacy can take months to happen.  It does not survive short spans (over night or weeks) of time.

For emotional fidelity to grow, it needs to happen in a space where the couple have not become sexually intimate as yet.  In instances where the couple are successful in doing so, one would usually find they have taken the time to instead to build emotional intimacy between them.

This would seem harder than it is.  It is more so when reflected against a backdrop of seeming need  African men have to be engaged sexually and women’s fear that should they not give in, one would “lose the man” to the next person.

There is an emotional distinction in the sexual activity intended to build an intimacy with one’s partner and one that helps a man regain his sense of manhood or masculinity.  Can you tell the difference?  In one instance it would feel that the man regained or received his sense of masculinity while the other is where the woman feels she received affection rather than having given in to the man.

The man received and the woman gave.  There is a misfit here.

Women sense of joy comes foremost when they “receive” from their man.  A woman who finds herself giving or giving in to others, will usually find herself falling into depression.  The need to give is now running against her inherent nature as a feminine woman.

A man’s deepest sense of joy comes from giving.  When a man is at the receiving end (as when a woman pays for him financially), he may be happy in receiving the money, but not at the expense of he questioning his sense of manhood even so privately.  He may not present this emotional discomfort in front of the lady.  But it could lead him having the need to seek out more sexual conquests with other women as a means to compensate for declining notions of his manhood.

On the other hand, where women learn to build her partner’s emotional sense of masculinity by meeting his emotional needs (trust and acceptance), she would find that over time , this leads to his need for sustained sexual conquests to decline.  This now allows him to open up to build relationships with his partner emotionally.

And this includes now his capacity to listen to and fulfil a need for his woman that her man “understands” her.  This need is ultimately defined by her when it is met for her.

It is not an uncommon remark amongst men to share with each other how much “women do not stop talking”.  It is really not all that difficult to see this evident at checkout counters or at government service counters or to see service delivery delayed because of the women staffs’ need to talk with each other so as to be heard.  This can sometimes come across as incessant chatting.

It is now beginning to place a dent on the economy.  It is a sign that the man in their lives have not yet fulfilled this need for his woman.

Women easily fulfil this need for each other amongst themselves.  They are programmed to know how to ‘listen to another woman”.  Notice the ways when women talk to each other, how they would listen to the woman and respond by taking what they have heard and relating it to their personal experiences and sharing their reactions to the woman or just showing interest in hearing more of what’s been said.

Men however are not programmed to listen for the sake of listening.  He is designed to listen so as to take an action.  He is Mr Fix It.

So how then would a woman “programme” her man, so that he becomes ready to offer the listening ear she needs to feel she has been understood?

All she would need to start with is a request to her man: “Sweetheart, will you offer me a listening ear?  I do not need you to fix anything.  I had a difficult day at work, and it will mean a lot to me if you’d do just listen.”

A woman would not need to say such to another woman.  But she needs to remember to say that to her man.  We forget this subtle point with the opposite gender.  Now he knows exactly what to DO.  The “fix “for him is to listen.  He relaxes, downs his tools and prepares to listen to his woman.

Most men hesitate to take this step because when he sees that his woman is unhappy he believes the reason for her unhappiness has something to do with him.   And he is not sure what is causing it.  It is a risk for him.

But if she prepares him to listen, and he listens, he will soon discover that all she needed was a sounding board.

When a woman is allowed to express what she hopes her man would hear, two things happen for her.  She begins to calm down as when she sees someone listening to her, it allows her to complete her trains of thoughts that lead her to become clearer of what she needs to do next.  This de-stresses her immediately.  This becomes key to ready her to meet another need for her man.  And that is to appreciate him for what he does for her.  Her attention now turns away from herself (and therefore she stops talking) to her partner.

Don’t forget to appreciate the man for listening to you.  The gesture prepares him to better listen to his woman the next time.

The best gift a man can give to his woman is to offer a listening ear to her.

And the couple learns to meet these differences it prepares the couple to move to the next deeper level of emotional intimacy between them.

Are these how you see these or do you see these differently?

Ms Sheila Damodaran works as a Systemic Strategy Development consultant currently developing her practice with national planning commissions in southern Africa.  She welcomes comments and queries for her programmes at or call DID: 3931518 or email