In addition to living an insanely funny life (as you can tell by my bizarre posts), I am also very blessed to live a peaceful life with very few urges to grab a baseball bat and start swingin’! But that minimization of violent urges didn’t happen overnight. Something that has greatly helped me over the years is learning how to fight with my mate in a way that actually accomplishes something other than blood shed, calls to 911, short stays in prison, etc…
Below is a chapter from my Intimacy book. I hope it helps you the next time you find yourself carrying a cast iron frying pan and in your best Jack Nicholson voice calling out to your honey.
17. Fight in a fair and constructive way
When a fight is over, it’s over.
This may be one of the most difficult things to do, but it’s also one of the most important. No one, including us ladies, likes to have things they’ve done in the past thrown in their face. It’s not fair (I hate that expression, but it holds true here) to keep bringing things up time and time again when you are angry with your man. Let me assure you that when you say the following things, your man immediately either gets angry, defensive, offensive or tunes you out completely:
- Why do you always…
- Every time you…
- Remember 6 months ago when you…
Believe me, from the moment you utter those words, he’ll be mad and worse yet, dismissive of everything you say from that point forward. Once a man is in this frame of mind there is no point to arguing with him because nothing you say will get through to him and the whole point of an argument is to try and resolve something. If, in his mind, he’s thinking, “La la la la la…football, porn, video games, I wish she’d shut up…” while you are berating him for things he’s done in the past, you aren’t going to accomplish your goals.
So, how can you fight in a constructive way?
Here’s a solution that works with most men. Yet again, it’s about figuring out how and when to talk to a man. If you need to have “a talk,” make it a bulleted list, not a screaming, crying dissertation. If he walks in the door from work and you launch into him (even if it is sorely deserved!), he’s not going to want to deal with you. Or, even if you wait until he’s had his first beer and is relaxed, if you come at him cursing and yelling and crying, you’ve already lost the argument. He may say tons of things to placate you (read that as: make you shut up), but ultimately, most things accomplished by a long, drawn out, weeping, yelling battle are only temporary solutions. What you want is a real solution. So, how do you get that?
While this may feel completely unnatural, especially when you are piping-hot mad and looking around for some sort of blunt object, try arguing like this and see how it works with your man.
1) Ask him, “Honey, do you have a few minutes?”
- Whatever you do, don’t tack “To talk” onto the end of that sentence. That immediately puts a man on edge as they fear those two words more than prostate cancer.
- By asking him if he has a few minutes, rather than telling him you need a few minutes, you’re allowing him the opportunity to say yes or no. If he says no, then ask for a specific time when the two of you can chat.
2) When you are both ready to start this conversation, take him somewhere private, other than the bedroom or the living room. Outside or the kitchen can be good places.
3) Once you’ve both sat down, reassure him that you love him and tell him that you want to discuss something with him.
4) Slowly, calmly and quietly explain what your concern is, without attacking him personally.
- “When you do X, I feel Y,” is a great way to start. It’s not accusatory, it’s explanatory. And there is a HUGE difference between the two.
- For example:
- When you drink until you pass out, I feel worried and scared.
- When you are short with me, I don’t understand why and I start to wonder if there is more to it than you just being in a bad mood.
- When you come home late from work without calling, I worry that something has happened to you.
5) Then let him talk. Let him fill in the silence. Don’t feel the need to do that yourself. Allowing him time to think of his response is critical. Chances are you’ve been plotting this discussion for hours, days, weeks, etc…but he’s just now hearing about it, so he may need a few minutes to figure out his answer. That’s okay. Silence is okay. Plus, he’s busy trying to think up his defense anyway, so any talking you do is falling on deaf ears.
6) When he does respond, listen to him, even if what he says is total bullshit. Give him a chance and then calmly explain your side of the story in greater detail. But don’t call him names or raise your voice or tell him he’s a knuckle-dragging pig that you wish you’d never met (even though you may be DYING to say that!).
7) Once you’ve discussed what the issue is, end the discussion with “Thanks, baby, for listening to me. I really appreciate it,” and then some kind of physical contact—a hug, a kiss, a held hand.
Now, I know you may be thinking, “ARE YOU CRAZY? I want to rip his nuts off and choke him to death with them! That bastard deserves to be drawn and quartered!” Believe me, I understand that urge. But this is all about how to have a healthier relationship with your man. If he dreads “the talk” or you yell, cry and call him names during “the talk” then he’s going to do everything in his power to never have “the talk” with you again.
Unfortunately, him not wanting to suffer through “the talk” doesn’t mean he’ll necessarily stop doing the things that make you want to kill him. Instead it means he’ll make “the talk” such a miserable experience for you that you’ll stop wanting to even have them. Slamming the door of communication like that is one of the worst things you can do in a relationship.
It takes patience and practice to have an effective argument. There is a lot of trial and error, and as every man is different, you’ll have to tailor your argument style to suit your man. Some men give in if you subtly guilt them. Some men give in if you are a solid boundary-drawer. Most men will listen if you just lay it out, in a verbal bulleted list without all the (what they perceive to be) “lady-drama.”
It’s important to know that this doesn’t mean you aren’t allowed to cry during an argument. Sometimes, you just can’t help it. But be aware of how your man will react to your tears when deciding (if that’s even possible) whether or not to show that kind of emotion. While there are many types of reactions men have to tears, I’ve identified a few of the main ones. Try and figure out which type of man you have and that’ll help you know whether or not to really fight the urge to cry during an argument.
- The Placater: This guy jumps right into “fix it” mode where he will say anything to make you stop crying. Unfortunately, what he says won’t necessarily happen once the conversation is over. It’s typically just a salve to get you to not cry anymore. He may even be well-intentioned in the moment, but quite often he’s just grabbing at straws to stop the flow of tears and probably won’t even remember half of what he said an hour later.
- The Deer in the Headlights: This guy immediately shuts down and becomes a mute. Your tears terrify him and he has no idea how to deal with you, so he stops interacting completely. This type of communication shutdown keeps the conversation from moving forward even an inch, and then you have to try and recover from it and start all over again.
- The Jerky Prick: This peach of a guy thinks, “GREAT! Here come the waterworks!” It may be that he sees your tears as manipulative and/or melodramatic, so he dismisses them automatically. When he dismisses your emotions like that, there is no way any continuation of the conversation will help you at all. (My suggestion is, if possible, to run from this type of man as fast as you can. If he sees your true emotions and scoffs at them, he’s probably a jerky prick in a lot of other areas as well. Why suffer the rest of your life with that???)
- The Self-Pitying Child: This type of guy gets defensive as they perceive your tears as a personal attack on them or they feel so instantaneously guilty that their reaction becomes knee-jerk instead of calmly responsive. Once they start to sulk and give you that, “Yeah, I know, I’m horrible and I hate myself,” routine, the real forward progress of your conversation has come to a screeching halt. They are too buried in feeling sorry for themselves to actually process anything you are saying.
- The Attentive Sweetie Pie: A good and loving man will see that you are truly in pain and will want to really work through the issue with you. Your tears will be an indicator to him of just how deeply hurt or angry you are and he’ll want nothing more than to resolve the issue with you. (God bless this type of man and I hope most of you ladies have this kind of guy.)
Regardless of which type of man you have, even if he’s not listed here or is a combination of a few of them, just remember that your tears have power and if you cry wolf with them, they lose that power. Tears should always be a genuine display of emotion, not a manipulation tactic. When you are real and honest with your emotions, you set up an environment where it’s safe for him to be real and honest too.
A final thought on this subject. While the Golden Rule of Communication is to treat others as you want to be treated, the Platinum Rule of Communication is to treat others as THEY want to be treated. Knowing that men are such different creatures from us, you have to keep in mind what is most effective in speaking with them. Keeping calm and rational may drive you crazy, especially when all you really want to do is hit him in the head with a cast-iron frying pan while weeping hysterically. In the end, however, it will help you better resolve your arguments (I prefer to think of them as “discussions”) and isn’t that the outcome you are hoping for?
Image procured from http://www.123rf.com/clipart-vector/hitting.html