Paul Cockayne – 07791 970406 – firstname.lastname@example.org
This is a sort of counselling “blog” to give you a flavour of how I work. You can find more information about me by clicking one of the links on the right of this page
The title of this piece comes from a client of mine, some years ago, during a conversation about the division of household duties. He claimed that he couldn’t help with the housework because men are incapable of seeing dust. How convenient if true! And wouldn’t it be great to be able to extend this to other jobs we don’t want to do? Men can’t tell whether grass is long or short – men can’t tell if shirts are creased or not – men can’t tell if babies need their nappies changing…..?
All these arguments are ridiculous, but often we can find ourselves hiding behind gender stereotypes : “Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus”, “men and women want different things” – these are messages that people often bring to counselling, along with a feeling that they are essentially different from their partner, and that there is no way to change this.
As a counsellor, I am working with individuals, not with men or women in general, so I am not much interested in whether men tend to be more logical than women, or whether women have more emotional intelligence than men, or any other such generalities about gender. If I am working with a couple, it may well be that the woman is more thorough than the man about housework, or that the man is better at putting up shelves – but it also may be that for this couple those stereotypes don’t work, that it’s the other way round, and a relationship is about you and your partner and how you interact, not about how most men or most women behave.
Sometimes gender stereotyping is very unhelpful and it can leave people trapped by their beliefs; “this is just the way women are, there’s nothing I can do about it”. But why do you feel like that? Why does it seem impossible to change? Usually it is not that people can’t change, but that they choose not to change – not consciously, necessarily, but that there is some sort of unstated fear there – a fear of failure (“my dusting won’t be good enough”), or of opening floodgates (“if I agree to do the dusting where will it end?”), or of losing identity (“real men don’t dust”), for example.
Rather than state our fears, admit to our weaknesses, we hide them – with tears, with anger, with spurious arguments, with gender stereotypes. I am sure that my client didn’t really believe that men are genetically incapable of seeing dust but it was a way of deflecting the argument away from whatever fears he had about picking up a duster.
While men and women are different, there are also a lot of similarities, and in working with couples I am keen to look at the things that both of the couple want. Of course these vary from couple to couple but they will often include security and stability, to love and be loved, to be respected and valued. Building from these similar needs, while acknowledging differences, can lead to a constructive atmosphere conducive to positive change.