Friday, December 16, 2011

Don't Let Hot Buttons Kill Your Relationship or Marriage

Watch out for somebody pressing one of your “hot buttons,” and for you pressing somebody else’s as well. Whether inadvertent or intentional, the fallout can wreck a relationship quickly, and even permanently, and when it hits, it will likely come out of nowhere, so know what to do before it happens…

I started my day today with a big cup of home-roasted coffee and my e-mail, and found the following letter, which would have been funny if it hadn’t been so profoundly wrong and out of character, but there’s a very good lesson in it for you, so hang with me, because you’ll definitely find that it’s worth it. Meet Carol:

David,

You and people like you make me sick! All you can talk about is how to pick up and seduce us, or how to manipulate her to get what you want out of her, like we’re all stupid and can be led around by the nose like cattle. It’s no wonder women can’t get any respect these days. Thanks for being yet another a**hole helping men to screw up my life. I really feel sorry for your wife.

Carol

In every one of my newsletters is a link to the archive of everything I’ve published since switching to Aweber Communications as my newsletter broadcaster several years ago (my previous broadcaster didn’t provide an online archival service), and anyone can plainly see that:

1. I don’t ever write about picking up anybody. I leave that to the dating gurus.

2. I only write for people in committed relationships or who are trying to prepare for the time when they are in a committed relationship (including marriage, the most committed relationship).

3. The only context in which I ever mention “seduction” is in explaining to men that women enjoy doing it to their man if properly motivated by having a man create attraction for her, and it works out far better for everybody than for him to try to seduce her.

4. If I had a nickel for every time that I’ve publicly said that most women are smarter than we give them credit for because we don’t recognize that they simply do things differently, I could buy a country and retire there.

5. As for respect, see what one of you who has read "THE Man’s Guide to Great Relationships and Marriage" had to say about how my work relates to respecting women:

“It's funny how these things work, but all the studying I've been doing about understanding women and how they think HAS LEFT ME WITH MUCH MORE RESPECT FOR THEM THAN BEFORE [caps Larry’s, not mine], where I was often just frustrated or disgusted with their behavior. I seriously doubt anyone could read AND UNDERSTAND your book and not have the same experience. Another reason [my wife] should read it.” -- Larry

And this one:

Hi David,

In these uncertain and confusing days, you are a jewel of unlimited value. Because you leave no confusion in the minds of your readers. And you provide a wonderful service. You are not out to simply make lots of money on phony theories with sensational story titles. YOU ARE THE REAL DEAL WHO IS NOT OUT TO EXPLOIT WOMEN, BUT RATHER TO TEACH US MEN HOW TO VALUE THEM FOR THE FANTASTIC CREATURES THAT THEY ARE [caps Ron’s]. You want to preserve relationships and marriages when possible, not bust them up. I commend and thank you. I place you on the same list as the greatest of the greats. You deserve a thundering round of applause. And I personally thank you for the wisdom you share in your writings.

I remain your devoted fan,

Cordially,
Ron

Add to those letters the fact that Carol has been subscribing for a little over two months, and has sent me a couple of e-mails complimenting my understanding of women and hoping that I’m successful in teaching other men how to do the same. She also impressed me as being fairly bright and reasonable. So this outburst appears totally out of character and illogical, right?

So what happened?

The only thing that ever causes such an instantaneous and explosive departure from expected, normal behavior is what many refer to as “pressing a hot button,” “touching a nerve,” etc., accidentally triggering a memory of a bad event that alters one’s perception of what is happening now and changes the way they would normally respond to it.

It’s too common to avoid, so what do you do when it happens?

As tough as it sounds, just let it go, at least until the person who explodes at you has a few minutes to calm down and realize that they just exploded at you for something that somebody else did sometime in the past. Don’t apologize, don’t argue, don’t try to explain anything. Just calmly say, “We’ll discuss this later when you’ve calmed down,” disengage, and don’t take it personally. It’s not you that they are upset with; it’s that demon from the past that they’ve never managed to vanquish.

Later, when the discussion resumes (and you should be the one to reinitiate it for the sake of taking a leadership position, so pay attention to her mood), let the aggressor speak freely for a few minutes, and if they aren’t apologizing for jumping on you for something that you didn’t do, point out to them that they have taken whatever was said or done out of context, and that they are upset about something else. If that’s not good enough, just let it go.

If it becomes a pattern of abuse, it’s time to start looking at options like professional counseling, and if they refuse to acknowledge it’s a problem, it’s time to move on, because you can’t help somebody fix a problem they won’t acknowledge having and life is too short to spend it with an abuser that makes a habit of punishing you for someone else’s sins because they have a terminal case of victim mentality. Even Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is no excuse if they refuse to acknowledge the need for fixing the problem because they in fact use it for license to be abusive.

If somebody pushes one of your hot buttons, which you’ll know they have because you’ll feel a sudden escalation in your emotional energy level along with an unusually strong urge to either defend or attack, try to stop the eruption by telling yourself, aloud if you must, that something isn’t right and you need to think about what you’re doing before you say or do something that can’t be undone. The discipline to step back from an emotional surge and make sure that it is rooted in reality is one of the most useful skills you can ever develop, for your own sake and that of those around you.

If you can’t recognize it and stop it before it happens, don’t be shy about apologizing to whoever catches the brunt of your upset. I am not a big fan of apologies because a lot of people tend to use them as license to behave badly, thereby nullifying their credibility and the credibility of others who offer apologies, but in these circumstances, it is necessary and appropriate that you volunteer it as a lead-in to discussion. No matter who has their hot button pushed, make it a top priority to determine what the unresolved issue is that triggered the eruption; get it resolved so you or they can heal from it and not be bothered by it again.

Life has enough troubles waiting for you each day without continuing to harbor trouble from times long past, and while those who care about you may forgive you for your outbreaks, you may not, and they may not after a while. Failure to address a problem that you know about is the result of choice, not fate, and sooner or later you will be held accountable; as I was saying above, apologies will no longer be accepted and relationships will suffer and ultimately be lost. There are few feelings any worse than those that come with the knowledge that you ruined a great relationship that didn’t have to be ruined.

Speaking of which, there are just as many ways of unnecessarily ruining a great relationship as there are of building one, and the bad news is that building a great relationship by accident is highly unlikely while accidentally destroying one is next to inevitable if you don’t know what you need to know to build and protect one.

Building and protecting a great relationship is not at all difficult, it’s simply that the path to success is not obvious to the vast majority of us. For every person who knows what it takes and is willing to share it, there are thousands who don’t know what it takes but are all too willing to poison your relationship with their pet theories and opinions as if they were giving you knowledge and expertise. My refusal to engage in opinion and theory is well known – and much appreciated -- among those who know me, and has been the secret to my success as a counselor, coach, consultant and troubleshooter all my life. Among my favorite phrases of all is, “I don’t know, but now that you’ve given me a good reason to find out, and I’ll be back with you shortly with facts in hand.”

There are no theories here, no opinions, and plenty of proof to back up every word I put in front of you, in this newsletter, every post I’ve left on our forum at http://forum.makingherhappy.com, any reports I offer you, and my e-book, "THE Man’s Guide to Great Relationships and Marriage," which you can download at http://www.makingherhappy.com, that is, if you’re a man who’s tired of not knowing what women want from a man and guessing wrong more often than right. I have facts in hand for you, derived from extensive research with 118 couples before the initial release and the comments and successes of thousands that have followed since.

Life is too short for you to be stumbling along blindly stepping in crap and more crap when information like this is so easily and quickly available to you. Regrets aren’t born of the things we try, but of the things we fail to try, are they not? Think about it, and then exercise the only reasonable option open to you: ACT!

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

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