Tuesday, December 07, 2010

When to NOT Apologize, If You Want a Great Relationship or Marriage

Have you ever wondered why you can say something that to you seems entirely benign or even complimentary to a woman and she blows up in your face? Have you ever wished you could see it coming and head off the fight that you know is going to follow? Here are the answers you seek…

Women are going to take things you say the wrong way from time to time; it’s a foregone conclusion. They expect us to communicate like they do just as we expect them to communicate as we do, and as you may have surmised by now, we don’t. Same language, different protocols. They’re also going to verbally test you to see if you’ll buckle under pressure by spitting a little venom to see if you’ll get emotional (and wuss out or start a fight) or whether you’ll keep your head and act like a man. In any case, it doesn’t have to become a fight if you know what to do, and apologizing isn’t it…

It usually starts with something benign, or even complimentary. Most of us have had the following conversation:

Him: “Gee honey, that diet you’re on is really working! You look great!”

Her: “Oh! So I was a fat, disgusting cow before? Thanks, you asshole!”

Then the fight starts…

Him (somewhat apologetically): “Wait, no, I’m sorry, that’s not what I meant. I was complimenting you because I know that dieting takes a lot of will power and it’s hard, and I’m proud of you for going through all that.”

Her: “Oh, so I’m a fat, disgusting cow because I have no willpower now, huh? I make a little effort to try to look better for you, and you have to put me down! You’re an insensitive creep! I don’t know why I even try to put up with you!”

…And it pretty much goes to Hell in a hand basket from there, right? So what happened, anyway? And what can you do to fix it? Or more importantly, PREVENT it?

Many women are generally insecure about a lot of things. They’ve been hammered for so long to be insecure about their youth and appearance that most today probably don’t even remember why it’s an issue, and most men never knew...

It goes back to the days when women weren’t accepted in the work place and generally only ended up owning businesses if they inherited them, couldn’t get a decent job, and hence, marrying well was their only real means of survival. They had to compete with each other not just for a man, but for a livelihood, and were kept on the defensive. And that’s not been that long ago.

As women began to be more liberated and make their own way in the world, the fashion and beauty industries continued to keep the pressure on them, inundating them with advertising to foster insecurity and feed their competitiveness to the point that even the most successful and fiercely independent women still have attacks of challenged self-esteem far more frequently that what you would expect, or they want to tolerate.

This constant pressure keeps many women, as tough as they are, walking on the edge of feeling really crappy about themselves, and from time to time, when fatigue, illness, stress, etc., build up and weaken them enough, they fall into a mode where no matter what you say, they are going to take it in the worst way possible. Emotional energy builds up, testosterone falls and inhibition with it, and a blow-off needs to happen, and anything that triggers an emotional response, like touching a hot button around one of her insecurities, is going to trigger the eruption.

This is another one of those things you’re just going to have to understand and accept about women if you are going to live with one. It doesn’t make them stupid, or inferior, or weak-willed, or anything like that. We as men go through the same thing, except for most of us, it’s less frequent because we normally don’t live in an environment of people so aggressively trying to make us feel insecure about ourselves.

I say most of the time because sometimes parents, partners, children, or acquaintances can become depressed and try to make themselves feel better by putting us down, and we have a few advertisements for things like E-D drugs and hair restoration digging at our self-esteem, but for the most part, we usually don’t get in this state until we have a string of catastrophes get to us, like losing a loved one, a job, and a home all in a very short period of time. Believe it or not, it takes that kind of pressure to make the average woman do this, it’s just that she’s awash, all day ever day, in things trying to bring her down so the events that end up being the proverbial “last straw” don’t have to be as traumatic for them as what they end up having to be for us.

And as you’ve noticed in some of my other newsletters, this can also be brought on by a need for drama to vent pent-up emotional energy, as well as just be a test to see if you will wuss out and play into the drama or stand up like a man and reel her in. (Multiple causes, same predicament, and luckily for you, the same response is required to get through the predicament in good standing, so pay attention!)

Now that this is hopefully in perspective, how do you handle it? First, early detection is a must. You may have noticed right before one of these explosions that she suddenly becomes quiet or gets a puzzled or stressed look on her face that turns into pain and anger. It may only take seconds for her to explode, or she may put it off for as long as a couple of days before it finally gets the best of her. You cannot wait for the explosion to fix this.

Nor can you invite her to explode in your face with a question like, “What’s wrong?” When she’s in this state, “What’s wrong?” comes across as “What’s wrong with you?” and that’s not a question you want an insecure person responding to, because whoever you are, everything will suddenly become your fault because you have just volunteered to be the outlet for her overload.

So what DO you do? What is the “magic move” that calms the storm before it breaks over your head?

When you see a seemingly inexplicable change for the worse in expression, tone, or demeanor, don’t wait for her say anything about it. Take the initiative – leadership is attractive, remember? – and say something about it right then and there. What do you say?

No, you don’t apologize. Nor do you start a fight to try to back her down because she most likely won’t. Besides, leaders don’t fight. They lead. Take the lead:

“Okay, I see from your [expression/voice/demeanor] that you didn’t take something the way I was intending for you to take it. I was [trying to pay you a compliment/simply making a joke/simply making an observation] that was in no way intended to be disrespectful or hurtful to you. If you have taken what I said to mean anything but that, then you need to back up and ask whatever questions I can answer to clarify it for both of us instead of remaining upset and then getting angry and we end up fighting.”

If you can spot the sign that something came across the wrong way quickly enough and say this with the confidence of a man insisting on being understood instead of fighting or sounding like a wuss trying backtrack and wiggle his way out of a confrontation, she will gladly comply and get things straightened out.

Women like to see a man take the lead in a touchy situation like that and work it out for the best. What they don’t like are men who wuss out and start apologizing without knowing what they are apologizing for or that get really weasely and look apologetic while trying to convince them that they were “just kidding.” They also don’t like men who see things starting to go the wrong way and instead of trying to fix the problem, bristle and growl and try to bully the problem away, using control instead of leadership to get them out of the situation instead of fixing the situation.

All you have to do is speak as if you expect to be heard and understood and you will interrupt the chemical rush that would normally move things in the direction of a fight, and probably help her to feel better about herself as well, because you were indeed sensitive enough to see that she had taken something the wrong way and strong enough to lead her away from an embarrassing and destructive blow-up over something that didn’t happen.

The one thing that will help you the most to pull this off is to be truly attentive when speaking with your partner. Most women don’t multitask the same way we do, and they really resent it when we don’t maintain constant (or at least near-constant) eye contact with them when we’re speaking with or listening to them. (Women multitask, but they suspend multitasking when it conflicts with anything that is a social exchange of any kind, prioritizing eye contact and being polite above getting something accomplished, where we will speak to someone while holding our focus on our work or something else we’re doing and think nothing of it.)

Many women have said to me that men can’t multitask. I don’t know where that notion originates, because saying that men can’t multitask is like saying that women can’t drive a car, but it’s prevalent. Add to that the fact that one of the ways women show respect to each other is by either giving undivided attention or presenting the illusion of same if they’re not able to focus at the moment. Hence, the simple act of giving her your undivided attention as you converse will go a long way toward boosting her self-esteem, and will help elevate her mood a bit and keep her from being so quick to think that you are being insensitive, but it also has the added advantage of making sure that you notice as quickly as possible any change in her demeanor, expression, tone, body language, or anything else that can be a clue that she’s having a problem with what she heard.

Not only will she notice and appreciate it when you give her your undivided attention and make the extra effort to maintain eye contact, she’ll also notice that you don’t usually do this with others, and it will make her feel that much more special. Incidentally, the same thing goes for daughters – they’re women in training, right? It also goes for women you work with, neighbors, etc.

Men who truly know how to effectively communicate with their partner can literally go decades without a fight. One couple in our test group has been married since 1944 and claim to have not had a fight since their 20th anniversary in 1964, an argument that came up at their anniversary party over the appearance of an uninvited (and unwanted) guest that got out of hand. That’s 63 years of marriage and 43 years since their last fight. How did they do it? And how do they keep doing it?

They were well-matched and share very similar values (as well as valuing each other more highly than anyone else in their life, including their children) and compatible tastes. They learned over the course of many years how to communicate with each other so they could work things out instead of fighting about them. And Mason, the husband, is a master at creating attraction for his wife, and at 85 years old (and her at 81) they are still having sex at least every other day. Wouldn’t you love to live a life like that with your wife?

You can! Anybody can. Well, maybe not with YOUR wife, but with their own. ;-) Seriously, the secrets of their success and thousands of other couples, not to mention what women really want and what makes them tick, is all contained in "THE Man’s Guide to Great Relationships and Marriage." You don’t have to spend twenty years figuring out whether you’re married to the right woman and learning how to communicate with her, nor a lifetime wondering how to flip her switches and turn her back into that wild woman she was before you married her. A few hours to read and understand this book and start practicing what it teaches you are all it takes, and no, it’s not a lot of work. It’s a lot of FUN!

Got a few hours to spend making the rest of your life a honeymoon? Sure you do! So jump over to http://www.makingherhappy.com/ and download your copy of "THE Man’s Guide to Great Relationships and Marriage" now, and get started. And drop by our forum at http://forum.makingherhappy.com/ and see what other great tips and tricks you can pick up just for the time and effort to read them. Or would you rather keep fighting for no apparent reason? Nah, life’s too short for that, right?

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

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