How to Understand the Way You Problem Solve


By Jami Keller

In our culture, the old stereotypes for relationship roles do not serve us very well. Masculinity and Femininity are shifting and our old ideas are not working anymore. 

While there are significant differences in the brains and abilities of men and women, the correlation that is often drawn from these differences to sex roles contributes to much confusion. Expectations can be devastating if there is not a better conversation inside the relationship to promote healthy connection. 

Statistically, women actually have a superior ability to switch tasks (multitasking is a myth, but switching back and forth does happen easier for most women) by rapidly keeping several projects going. We believe that this style of thinking is purely based on early development, and not tied to societies gender-roles. In our practice, we refer to this brain-switching as the “Infinity Brain” because it is one of the two styles we see in committed relationships. We see this skill in men almost as often as we do in women. 

When you are an Infinity thinker, you identify a problem and it remains an open idea until the root of the issue is actually taken care of. This means that when the issue resurfaces, every issue relating to it previously connects to you. The same goes for a positive experience or feeling. It is all encompassing, and all connected like a web of thoughts in continuum. 

So, women are known to switch tasks better than men. Men’s strength is a strong ability to watch football. Just kidding, my wife Marla is actually more of a football fan than I am, and cheering together makes for some awesome Oxytocin. In all seriousness, men’s strength is taking a task from start to finish. Imagine each major topic and event of life having it’s own box in a storage shed: when the time comes to talk about that or to think about that, the task is opened up, completed, then put back in storage. We call this “linear” thinking. 

Like the “Infinity” thinking, it is not limited to or exclusive to a particular sex. Women who claim this style of processing often have  partners claim the linear style of thinking. There is usually one infinity thinker and one linear thinker in a relationship. This brings us to the three areas to test for a healthy person:

1. Sexual Satisfaction, 
2. Healthy Emotional Connection and 
3. Strength of Work and Family Boundaries. 

Rate your life in these three areas right now. Zero being no satisfaction and 10 being nearly ecstatic. This can tell you where you need to put some effort into improving your life. The challenge in relationships is allowing for the differences and meeting where they are complimentary. Two of these three are intimately linked. 

Turns out when a man is tough enough to think like a woman, well maybe he is just tough enough to consider his partners needs.

Now to improve that rating think about the conflicts in your relationship, money, in-laws, housework, kids, and sex are the most common but just think of the last conflict. What style did you take and what style did your partner take? Infinity style says “This is what happened that last three (to twenty) times that this problem occurred,” and linear says “Let’s just problem solve this issue.” 

The difficulty often comes when we sink into a “style fight” rather than healthy conflict resolution. Healthy resolution often requires that you recognize the style difference and focus in on what underlying issue(s) are driving the conflict. 

We have found that just by understanding (and if the conversation allows, identifying) the two different styles verbally limits the pain and improves the outcome. It turns out that self awareness is the key for long term relationships and learning how your partner hears (or doesn’t) you can change everything. 

Here is how you can take action:
1.) Identify the styles present in your relationship.
2) Rate the emotional, sexual, and boundary health in your relationship.
3) Be aware of how you each use your style in conflict.

We think you might find some extra time to have some fun, instead of repeating old arguing habits and behaviors. 

Do you identify with linear thinking, or infinity? Does your partner seem opposite your way of thinking? Has this impacted the way you handle conflict?