Sex Differences And Expressions Of Affection
There is an ongoing debate as to whether or not there is a difference between how men and women exhibit these various expressions of affection and how they desire to receive it. For example, Deborah Tannen (1990) suggests there is a difference in how men and women desire to communicate verbally with each other. Although both spouses are capable of utilizing supportive verbal behaviors, men tend to use report speaking, and women tend to use rapport speaking. Report speaking is a type of verbal interaction where the whole purpose is to inform. A husband might organize his thoughts into a list of things that he intends to communicate to his wife. He tells her the items on his list and feels that he has communicated. According to Tannen, this tends to frustrate women who use a rapport type of verbal communication style, in which the whole purpose is to build relationships and share meanings. Tannen argues that, in general, women are more emotionally expressive and feel hurt by men who do not talk about everything on their minds.
Some argue that men and women are predisposed toward particular expressions of affection. Men, it is suggested, are more likely to remember the occasion and effort that they put into giving a gift while women are more likely to remember receiving a gift (Areni, Kieckner, and Palan 1998). If a wife brings her husband a collectible item, he might appreciate it. However, when questioned about gifts, he would be more likely to say that he enjoyed giving her a gift, than receiving one himself. Men, on the other hand, might be more likely to desire physical touch.
As appealing as these differences may sound, and however they may accord with the experience of many, researchers have begun to think that, in general, sex differences in communication are minimal (Canary and Dindia 1998; Canary, Emmers-Sommer, and Faulkner 1997). At issue is not so much how different genders express affection but how individual spouses in a given marriage relationship express it.