Is His Stubborn Pride Hurting Your Relationship?
Hope & Help for Arguments
Men often point to women as emotional or irrational during arguments. They say they want logic, not emotion. The women who love them get frustrated over their man's stubborn unwillingness to see her side of things. She knows that having feelings doesn't prevent her from being logical, yet he can't seem to make sense of what she's saying.
To her, it looks like his pride won't let him admit when he's wrong. She thinks, "He's so concerned with being right that he can't be my partner!" If that sounds like your relationship, take heart. These simple tips will transform the way you resolve issues that affect your love life.
Boys Face More Uncertainty than Girls
Studies have shown important sex differences between boy and girl babies. Infant girls make eye contact more often and for longer periods than boys do. Male babies track movement better.
These natural tendencies influence the way their families and schoolmates interact with their children as they grow, which leads to girls and boys to experience the world and express themselves differently than each other.
Boys learn to master their domain through decisive actions. Girls learn to use talking and listening to influence their worlds.
By the time they're grown, boys feel out of their element when faced with situations in which they don't have a plan or a purpose. Girls don't experience the same degree anxiety. If she hears, "We need to talk," she may feel puzzled, curious, and worried, but she instinctively knows she has the skills to explore the problem and brainstorm solutions. She doesn't assume the messenger is delivering a blow to her ego.
Men, on the other hand, hear those same words quite differently. They're acutely aware that something is wrong, and they don't know what it is. Worse, even if they knew, they don't have a plan for solving it, and aren't certain they'll know how to get one. They lack awareness, purpose, and fear that their own actions may have caused it.
As if that weren't bad enough, they don't want to disappoint someone they love.
Taken together, these things lead men to feel a whole lot of uncertainty when relationship problems arise.
How Uncertainty Interferes with Relationships
Like it or not, men have been taught that they are defined by what they do rather than who they are. "I'm a lawyer." "I'm an artist." "I'm a machinist." A man will never say, "I'm Mr. Hersurname." His friends and family are almost irrelevant to how the world views him, and this is how his role has been reflected back to him since infancy.
Imagine for a moment how this poor guy must feel when the person he loves most in the world says, "We need to talk" in her unhappy voice. He doesn't know what is wrong, so he has no plan to solve it.
The first few times, he'll do his best to please her. Even if she's just venting about work, he doesn't want to disappoint her, so he offers solutions. He's not being bossy or controlling. He's just being a man and doing what he's been conditioned to believe is the right thing to do.
When it is directed at something he did, or if he's learned that she gets frustrated at his solutions, he'll do all he can to avoid showing weakness.
After all, he has learned that any sign of weakness is a fast path to failure. He learned it on the football team, when a sprained ankle sent him to the sidelines, or on the basketball team, when a broken wrist kept him out of the game. He'd rather pretend to be adequate for the job (even if he's not) than to find himself benched.
His conditioning is so opposite her approach that he may become "emotionally flooded" at the earliest signs of her displeasure. John Gottman, one of the premier relationship experts of our time, discusses flooding in his books and workshops. Men's blood pressure rises, their hearts beat faster, and they experience a fight or flight response that can interfere with collaborative problem-solving in relationships.
When emotion runs high, logic flies out the window. Men who are emotionally flooded find themselves in a position where their thinking is not orderly, rational, and goal-oriented. They literally cannot relate to what their woman's trying to say!
Their response to uncertainty aims to restore it. It may involve listening, deflecting the topic to something they're more familiar with, withdrawing, or dominating the conversation with their words, tones, or actions. In extreme cases, they may physically try to regain control of their environment and become physically abusive.
John Gottman's Books from the Love Lab
Now Shut Up!
Uncertainty can lead to emotional flooding and prevent a man from speaking his mind or listening to his partner, but it's not the only reason for his stubborn stance.
If he has disagreed and you've ignored his views, it may be you who's being stubborn! Ask yourself if he may be right, or if the truth is somewhere in the middle of his views and your own. And then tell him when he's right!
Continuing to press a point just to get your way can damage the relationship. Sometimes, it's better to adopt the old saying, "You can be right, or you can be happy."
What to Do
Use a non-threatening approach.
There are several techniques that you can use to help minimize the uncertainty that paralyzes him from taking constructive steps on problems:
- Ask for his opinion on an article that discusses a situation that's similar to the one you're concerned about. You'll have an opportunity to express your views, too, but avoid personalizing the issue. In other words, don't use it to bait him into talking about a specific view, but rather take an opportunity that lets him learn your views he may not have realized before. He's smart enough to connect the dots on his own later, and because he loves you, he will.
- Start a conversation with positive regard. Let him know several things you appreciated lately. Gently mention that you have one concern, and remind him of those positive things throughout the conversation. Let him see clearly that your concern is just one aspect of a relationship that is otherwise terrific, and ask him to solve the problem. Accept his solution whenever possible. (Don't expect perfection, because progress may be all you can get.)
- Avoid discussion altogether. Something happened. You didn't like it. You want to see a different response. Say what you want directly. "It hurt my feelings when you said I'm mean, and I'd like you to take me to dinner to show me that you didn't mean to hurt me." It's a concrete action that tells him, "You made a mistake, and I trust you to fix it. Here's how you can show me that you have."
- If he gets irritable when you're talking about something that's not his fault, remind him that he's not the problem, and that you're not asking him to take action. You can say, "I need to vent. I'm not looking for solutions, but if you'll listen to me for five or ten minutes, it would sure help me feel better." Once you clearly define your expectations, he knows exactly what he needs to do.