Why Men and Women Struggle With Different Problem-Solving Styles

Is your husband a problem solver?

Is your boyfriend a super duper fix-it man?

Or maybe it’s your wife who’s the fixer-upper in the relationship?

It is very normal for one person in a relationship to be relatively better at solving problems – especially concrete, logical problems – while the other part of the couple usually balances this out by being relatively better at dealing with emotional issues. In heterosexual relationships, problem-solvers are more commonly men, and there are good reasons for this (think about men’s typical historical roles as hunters and bread-winners). Women, on the other hand, have historically had to play a role of emotional support both for their husbands and their children, leading them to be more in tune emotionally with those around them.

Today, gender roles in relationships and families are typically more fluid than they were in the past, as men and women actively participate in both the workplace and at home. This has led to significant conflicts in how couples manage their households. Much of this can be boiled down to the difference between a rational vs. emotional approach to problem-solving:

Rational problem-solving

  1. He typically sees problems (even emotional ones) as a problem to be fixed
  2. If a solution is found the problem goes away and everything is better!

Emotional problem-solving (some call this emotional intelligence)

  1. She tends to see problems (even concrete ones) as something that affects her emotionally and needs to be discussed
  2. If she can talk about her feelings and she feels understood, then everything is better!

In my practice, I have seen the conflict between these two problem-solving styles over and over and over again! The thing is, they both hold value and are necessary life skills. Those who are able to navigate between both of them tend to be the most successful. So it seems the problem-solver Superman isn’t enough…. I guess we need to make sure Clark Kent is there with him!

In my next post, I will talk more about how to move through these types of problem-solving conflicts. In the meantime, feel free to be in touch or if you’re ready to work on something, schedule an appointment. We’d love to hear from you!