Friday, March 14, 2008

Being Tough When Women Need It, a Survival Skill in Relationships and Marriage

Sometimes a woman needs you to get a little tough with her. How do you get tough without being abusive? Think “leadership”…

Yesterday was a really odd day. Everyone I know was having what you would call an “off day” of one kind or another. Hay fever, colds, arthritis, lousy weather, vendor incompetence, boss incompetence, employee incompetence, monthly cycle – you name it, somebody was going through it. The oddest thing was what happened with one of my best friends, Daphne.

We met over ten years ago, and when we did, she was a mess. Totally submissive, living for the approval of others, and living under the thumb of a predatory husband and a highly-manipulative mother. She asked me one day fairly early in our relationship how I had come to be so tough and independent, and how I could live caring absolutely nothing about what others thought of me, I steered her to some excellent reading, especially some of Ayn Rand’s work, and we talked about different problems and how to solve them.

She became fiercely independent, ultimately “wearing the pants in the family,” and presenting such a strong image to her mother that her mother went from being dominating and manipulative to seeking Daphne’s approval at every turn. That was about nine years ago, and she’s held the line ever since…that is, until yesterday.

There had been a lot of turmoil over the weekend, including a funeral, a couple of family problems, a severe migraine, etc., and by Monday morning she was so mentally fatigued that her self-esteem became challenged, and she suddenly started acting like she had when we first met, very dramatic, needy, approval-seeking, etc. As the day wore on, it was getting worse instead of better.

To finish putting this in perspective, Daphne is one of the brightest women I know, with an IQ of around 130-140, very emotionally aware, and extremely competent at self-evaluation. She’s one of the top three women on the support staff who helped with the development of "THE Man’s Guide to Great Relationships and Marriage" and who continue to respond to surveys, questions, reader dilemmas, etc., with useful insight because she can “step in and out of herself” at will and remain entirely objective through the whole thing, which is very unusual among women, who tend to get wrapped up in the emotion of an experience and don’t want to quickly shut it down and analyze it, even when it would be to their extreme benefit to do so.

Do you have the picture now? A smart, fiercely independent woman who is quite adept at side-stepping her own emotions to rationally examine them has reverted to behavior not exhibited in nearly a decade, and as the day wore on, as I tried to point out what was happening, it got worse instead of better. I knew what was coming when she said, “I just feel like I need a good cry.” Why?

She’d been to a funeral and yet she needed a good cry? Danger Will Robinson! Danger! That’s a major sign of emotional energy build-up looking for an outlet. Emotional energy is like any other kind of mental energy. Thought is the result of chemical reactions in the brain causing electrical impulses at the nerve synapses. This tells you what?

That the stress of all the emotion from the weekend had put her brain chemistry out of balance. Some women have more of a problem with this than others, but the symptoms are the same; they get weaker and more clingy, then needy, then irritable, and finally they sound like they’re spoiling for a fight, and you can hear the stress and anger start building in their voice looking for an outlet. The big question is “what do you do?”

First, you have to avoid the urge to let her engage you in a fight. If she gets bad enough, she’ll say something to put you on the defensive and then jump to get you to jump back. Giving her a good fight will reset her brain chemistry, but it will also create a lot of embarrassment, hard feelings, scars and other aftermath that neither of you really want to deal with. We’ve all seen how things, once said, cannot really ever be taken back, no matter how much they weren’t really meant at the time. You need a confrontation, but not a fight. How do you do that?

Remember the many times I’ve mentioned leadership as a biological trigger for attraction? The chemical balance in the brain is a biological matter, is it not? When she finally had things built up to try to start the fight and made a snide remark to try to provoke me, I took a stern tone that she had probably never heard me use before, and said, “Just hold it! You are not going there with me!”

That’s leadership (decision-making), but it’s also a confrontation (denying her the fight and doing so in a stern tone). I thought for a second she had dropped the phone until I heard her breathe, and then continued, “This is not about me and you, or even me or you separately. It’s about all the emotional turmoil that you went through over the last few days, and you’re looking for a fight to sort it all out. There’s a better way to handle this.”

I went on to explain what had happened, maintaining the stern tone of a friend who is verbally roughing up another friend for doing something silly, and gradually softening it as I proceeded over the next couple of minutes. After a couple of minutes of silence as she took it all in, she interrupted me in mid-sentence with, “Oh my God! I’ve been doing this all day, haven’t I?”

It was like hearing somebody come out of a daze, and Gentlemen, you MUST understand this, for many women, it really is like coming out of a daze. When they get off balance like that, they are truly in an altered mental state, and may not even remember some things that happen or have an accurate sense of the passage of time. This does not in any way make them inferior, weak, or any other kind of sexist nonsense. It’s just the way they are, and something that we have to be aware of and work around if we are going to have a long-term relationship with them. It goes with the territory.

Eventually, after talking for a few minutes (and Daphne making several apologies and sounding very embarrassed), we got back to the point in a prior discussion about her saying that she felt like she just needed a good cry. Sometime before we spoke today, she watched some old sad movie, had a good cry, and was herself when I called this morning to share a reader e-mail with her. This brings up the other VERY important point…

When women say they “need a good cry,” they’re not being prissy little wuss-bags. They know that they are off-balance, and have learned over time that it’s going to take some kind of extreme emotional event that is sustained for a fairly long time (as emotional events go) to get things back in balance. It is VERY difficult to create a positive event that can create this intensity and duration of emotion, so they usually use something negative but inert, like a sad movie, to get them started and keep them going, and by the time the movie is over, they’re okay. Are you with me here?

Women don’t like sad movies because they enjoy being sad, they like sad movies because they provide a needed emotional rush and release that rids them of negative energy and sets their body chemistry right without having to engage us in a fight and damage our relationships. Hence, when your partner wants to watch a sad movie, don’t interfere. You don’t have to sit there through the whole thing, and in fact should invite her to invite a girlfriend over to watch it with her, but…

If there is no girlfriend available or she doesn’t want to do that, you don’t want to be cast in the role of girlfriend because it kills attraction over time. Tell her that you don’t like sad movies and that you’ll be in another room, but if she gets upset and wants to be held a bit you’ll be happy to “pop in” for a few minutes if it gets rough for her. Being a strong shoulder to cry on is a far cry from being a girlfriend sharing in a drama festival.

Monitor her as she watches, and if you notice tears starting sit down with her for a bit and snuggle her up, then a few minutes after the scene changes and she’s dried up for a few minutes excuse yourself for a bit. She doesn’t need a baby sitter, but it will feel good to have you there holding her when the tears come, and it will be endearing to her to have you tolerate a few minutes of that movie to help her get through it. Don’t feed into it, or egg her on, or start crying yourself (perish the thought – that was the beginning of the end of masculine men back in the 80’s!). Just sit still, pull her close, and do whatever you do when she doesn’t feel good and you snuggle her up.

Women are like us in a lot of ways, but in the ways they differ from us lie the potential for a lot of misunderstanding and lack of appreciation, not to mention good old fashioned BIG trouble. They try to tell us what they need, but one of those differences is how they communicate with us, which really throws a wrench in the works. But, there’s help if you’re smart enough to know that you need it and man enough to accept it…

I got a group of 118 couples together and worked them over nine ways from Sunday to find out what went right and wrong in relationships, how men and women differed, how to communicate with them, and how to make or break that wonderful feeling of attraction, that emotion that women so desperately crave and which truly brings out the best in them when they feel it, so much so that they will literally kill to protect that feeling.

That research was compiled into my e-book, "THE Man’s Guide to Great Relationships and Marriage," which was given back to the couples for testing and fine tuning, and all of them, as well as everyone who has bought it since (unless somebody has failed to complain and get a refund when they felt like it, and can you imagine that happening today???) has improved their life and/or relationship. Some relationships can’t be improved because they never should have been formed in the first place, and this book helps you to identify and exit them peacefully as well. And the best news of all is…

That you can have it now! It’s an instant download at
http://www.makingherhappy.com, 118 pages in PDF format, single-spaced and optimized for printing on standard letter-size paper, so you can read it on your screen or carry it with you and read it on the train, plane, or your favorite easy chair – YOUR CHOICE. Just choose! Go for it now, so you can start replacing boredom, frustration, and fights with happy times and a higher standard of living and self-esteem, because life is too short to spend it just wondering why things aren’t going so well when they could be going great!

In the meantime, live well, be well, and have a wonderful day!
David Cunningham

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