Okay, if you’re really interested, here is a really long answer that only represents the smallest tip of the iceberg.
The biggest thing I’ve learned about relationships is that majority of men and women have completely different perceptions and built-in assumptions that are so deeply ingrained that even the simplest interaction can turn into a fight, even when both people are feeling positive toward one another and even when they are in agreement.
For example, many years ago my wife wanted to make amends for being unkind and bought me a gift instead of saying she was sorry. (Note: for me saying sorry is really important, but it’s really difficult for my wife to do, and she prefers to see actions instead of hearing the words. So you can already see how complicated the underlying behaviors of two people can be, even though we agreed on her apology and I was happy to accept it.)
This particular gift held far more emotional signifcance to me than she imagined for a number of reasons. I was so touched and happy, I told her something to the effect “Thank you, this is the most wonderful gift you’ve ever given me.”
She got upset and said “what’s wrong with all the other gifts I’ve given you?” I don’t remember how that argument got resolved. All I remember was the shock of trying to express gratitude to the closest person in the world to me and having it turn into another fight.
Now, it’s possible you could think her reaction sounds completely insane (or not, as you seem very perceptive), but here’s what’s insane. I spoke to a woman friend about the conversation and her interpretation of my words was exactly the same (although she said she understood what I was trying to say, so it wouldn’t have made her angry). A few days later, she told me that all her girlfriends reacted the same way.
Think about that. How would you have expressed the same emotion I felt? Is there a particular change in adjective (amazing, thoughtful, beautiful) that would have elicited a different reaction? Would thing have been different if I put the emphasis on me (“I’ve ever received”) instead of her (“you’ve ever given me”)?
And how would you react if the roles were reversed? I said something from the bottom of my heart, so if she said the same thing to me, I would have accepted the compliment and been happy that I could make her so happy.
I started writing a series of articles about communication between men and women, based on the work of Dr. Deborah Tannen, a brilliant linguist who wrote “You Just Don’t Understand” which had a life changing effect on me.
Here is part one of If men are so good at fixing things, why do they keep breaking women’s hearts?