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Why Women Don't Always Want a Fix

06/05/2015 11:26 BST | Updated 01/05/2016 10:12 BST

Some of you may be familiar with a viral film that made the rounds a couple of years ago, 'It's Not About The Nail' by American filmmaker, Jason Headley.

To sum it up, a woman complains about feeling pressure and pain in her head. The man nods contemplatively before offering up a practical solution - that she removes the nail that is sticking out of her forehead. 'It is not about the nail!' the woman retorts, before launching into a diatribe about how instead of trying to fix it, she is desperate for the man to just listen and sympathise.

Cue a generic couples' argument that almost anyone who's ever been in a relationship is likely to have experienced.

This sweet piece of film was shared by millions, loved for its witty summation of male/female relationship tensions. On the matter of communication problems between partners, it hit the nail right on the head.

This age-old battle between emotions and logic is the root of endless arguments between couples. More broadly, it's a communication barrier that subverts all kinds of relationships, not just romantic ones.

This problem really needs to be challenged, so if logical thinkers need logical explanations, here is an attempt to give them one.

Firstly, let's dismiss gender from this. I know the headline is 'Why Women Don't Want A Fix', but that was just to get your attention. Gender doesn't really come into it. A need for verbal catharsis is not exclusive to women. I've seen plenty of instances of histrionic displays of emotion from men - taking irrational tantrums out on co-workers, friends and Facebook-homepage viewers with unapologetic abandon.

Likewise, I've known pre-menstrual women to keep extraordinarily cool heads in situations loaded with as much pressure as an impending zombie apocalypse.

So instead, let's look at it this way: people are different. On one end of the scale, you've got your Niki Lauda types - people who respond objectively and rationally to every situation. On the other end you've got James Hunt types whose behavior is emotionally driven. Stick two people together who have different inclinations along this vast and complicated scale and tensions will naturally arise. Person A can become frustrated with what they may perceive to be a Person B's impulsive behavior. Likewise, B may see the A as cold, unsympathetic or difficult to excite.

There's also the matter of how different people show affection. The Five Love Languages is a concept developed by relationship counselor Gary Chapman, establishing five different means by which people communicate love - for example through physical touch, bursts of Shakespearean sweet-talk or fabulous gifts. Although the whole thing reeks of web-marketing bollocks, from the 'personal profile email subscription trap' to the 'life changing' e-book offer, it makes sense that people express love differently. Whereas one partner may think a practical solution is a sure-fire way to strike fire into their partner's yearning loins, the other may crave the simple validation of a pat on the head and a cuddle in order to assure them that everything is not terrible and they will not die alone.

With this in mind, if the bearer of the nail simply wants their partner to listen- like the woman in this film- and is provided with a practical response, she may ascertain that the partner does not care and feel her needs are not met. And if the nail bearer is like the man in this film and is offered only coos of sympathy, he may feel he is not being taken seriously and think his partner doesn't love him enough to help him fix the problem.

This is not to say that the woman in the film is in the right and the man is in the wrong. Those inclined to the 'Why won't you just listen?' response would at times benefit from doing just that - being more receptive to and understanding of their partner's efforts. If your other half is trying their best to relieve your woes with what they deem to be helpful solutions, try to appreciate that this is not a sign they don't care. It's quite the opposite. Ultimately, they want to make you happy and if there's a ruddy big nail in your head, their pair of pliers may be just what you need in order to move on.

On the other hand, solution-makers should recognise that some people occasionally just need others to listen in order to feel cared for, appreciated and loved.

For example, if the symptom is a crying partner who hates their job, you may think the following are great suggestions; 'Quit your job', 'Look for an alternative', or 'Life is hard. Suck it up, weepy'. And in all three cases, you're probably right. All three of these actions could result in a positive outcome. But will they result in a positive response from your unhappy partner at that moment in time? Hell, no. Because the tension and stress they are displaying is probably a sign the situation has become too overwhelming for them to respond well to an immediate, practical fix. The partner is likely to be desperate for validation that their efforts in life are not futile; that someone recognises their worth and has a reserve of sympathy they deem worth spending on them. Hugs are like the compassionate equivalent of superglue for a feeler on the edge.

So if you're the kind of person who reaches for the tool-kit every time an issue arises, try applying that quick-fix mentality to your emotional responses.

After all, it's not about the nail. It's all about the person whose head it's sticking out of.