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The Language of Love: The Same For Men and Women?
by: Barbara Neal Varma
"We are born to a different speech style," says Dr.Tannen.

Whether a couple is well into their first date or year 50 of wedded bliss, men and women in love often find themselves entangled in a web of words that can seem as foreign to the other as the Clinique girl’s sales pitch to your average male.

“Women and men sometimes perceive the same messages to have different meanings,” says Cynthia Burggraf Torppa, Ph.D, Family Sciences professor. As eager as two people are to reap the perks of getting to know each other – shared popcorn, friend for life, carpool lane – one may still misunderstand the other’s message if not mindful of how males and females are wired to speak to each other.

“By knowing women and men sometimes see – and hear – things through different filters,” Torppa reports, “we can begin to share with one another the distortions we experience, and thereby find our way to clarity.” Couples should strive to link instead of lock their communication styles, and then a sweet synchronicity can be enjoyed. “We’ve discovered certain times are better in the day to talk about things,” says Susan, married 17-plus years. “I always wait until the coffee’s done in the morning. We talk about what we’re going to do in the day, what vacation is coming up. We have a great time.”

Deborah Tannen, Ph.D, author of You Just Don’t Understand: Women and Men in Conversation pioneered the theory that the battle of words between the sexes is more cross-cultural than interplanetary as proclaimed in the popular Mars v. Venus metaphors of the ‘90s.

Tannen’s theory on “gender as culture” explains we were born and bred to a different speech style than the other, destined to match and mate like two complimentary tastes that make up a delicious combination.

John, married almost twenty years, says: “When my wife says she’s sorry, then I’m prone to look at my mistakes, too. When she’s willing to admit her part, even when I might be more to blame… it just melts you.”

Research out of the University of California in Santa Cruz reveals a kind of détente is brewing between the sexes. Psychologist Campbell Leaper conducted a review of research into how gender roles affect communication styles, spanning from the 1960s to today. The studies Leaper examined looked at talkativeness and different types of speech under a wide range of various social situations and compared mixed-gender and same-gender conversations.

Along with fellow psychologist, Melanie Ayres, Leaper found a small but statistically reliable tendency proved men to be more talkative than women overall, especially in certain contexts such as when they were conversing with their wives.

“There’s a lot of history between us,” John says, “and that brings a deep understanding even the closest friends don’t have.” His wife adds: “We like sharing time together. Talking, dreaming. John’s a dreamer, that’s why I fell in love with him in the first place. He’s always fun to talk to.”


Barbara Neal Varma is an award-winning writer who has written for Image, Cup of Comfort, Kaleidoscope, and various other magazines and literary journals. Her essays have won awards from Writer’s Digest, the National Writers Association and Anthology magazine. Contact Barbara directly at

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