Happy Father’s Day. Thanks to those of you who inspire me to be a better dad.
Today I write on behalf of us men. Often when I write these articles I spend a lot of time reviewing, cutting and pasting, and editing for content and flow.
Today, however, I just speak from the gut. I certainly hope not to offend, but I want to deliver the message as openly and raw and honest as possible. So, here we go.
Women, many of you need to chill out. You are scaring us guys. It’s not that we are opposed to input, ideas, suggestions and even redirection, but please decrease the intensity.
Why does a message need to be delivered with yelling and screaming and such force that our heads are spinning? I know what many of you women are thinking: “Because that’s the only time he listens!”
Granted, you may be onto something. Just like the women need to focus on toning it down a bit, us men need to become better listeners. She wouldn’t yell so much if we would just listen the first time.
However, it’s Father’s Day and this one’s for the men. Trust me, the men have their article coming about being a better listener.
In the research, when a woman brings up an issue with force and bluntness, it’s called a harsh start-up. Because women bring up the issues 80 percent of the time, they must be careful not to use harsh start-ups.
The problem with such an abrasive start-up is that us guys feel attacked. We feel scared. And when we feel this way, we run and hide, or we attack back.
The research shows this is not all intentional. We don’t think in our heads “Hey, maybe if I yell back, it will make things all better.” We really aren’t stupid enough to think that fighting fire with fire is a good idea. Especially against our wives.
When the male brain gets overloaded with the intensity of the conversation, it’s called flooding. When the brain gets flooded, it automatically switches into the fight-or-flight brain.
This brain, which is our caveman brain that kept us alive back in the day, has one goal and one goal only: survival. And if shutting down and playing dead works, we’ll do it. If it’s attacking back, we’ll do it.
It’s not a purposeful reaction at that point, nor necessarily a wise one. After all, it’s our wife who is attacking us, not a saber-toothed tiger. But to our brain, it’s all the same.
So automatically we flip into defense mode and the rest is history. We can’t think straight, our blood pressure is up, we feel shell-shocked, and we’d rather be just about anywhere besides on the receiving end of this “corrective feedback” marathon.
Sensing we’re not listening, the woman’s natural tendency is to increase the intensity. You know, so the message will get through.
As if just saying it a little louder and with a little more vigor each time will get us to say, “Oh, now I get it. I couldn’t hear you the first ten times you yelled it at me.”
What’s amazing is the female brain gets flooded at a much slower pace. So she‘s thinking “We’re just having a conversation” and by then his male flooded brain is sending out every warning signal and defense call possible.
Sooner or later the chaotic fight must end. Maybe it’s because he walks out. Or maybe he shut down enough (plays dead) that she finally gives up. Either way, it’s finally come to an end. But it’s usually not pretty.
Afterward, believe it or not, most men are pretty shaken up. His heart is racing, as are his thoughts. Muscles are tense. And his mind is filled with feelings of defensiveness and victimization.
Had his wife started the conversation a bit softer, it doesn’t guarantee all would have gone well. Men seem to be defensive by nature.
But there is an old phrase in couple’s therapy that says harsh startup means harsh ending. And there’s advice all the way back to the days of Jesus that suggest a harsh word stirs up anger.
So takes it for what it’s worth. Maybe I’m way off in left field. But years of research, and many men, suggest that I am not.
But if you disagree and you want to discuss it with your spouse, just be sure it start the conversation off with a gentle tongue. You know, simply to make sure all goes well. And let’s hope he’s ready to be a good listener.
In the words of one amazing female client, “I need to ease up, and he needs to step up.” So women, this week, ease up ... and men, be ready for next week’s article, because it’s time to step up.
For more tips on keeping your love alive, visit www.panhandlecouples.com.
Remember, couple relationships are easier than you think, but harder than you act.
Mark Anderson, MS, LIMHP is a mental health therapist specializing in couples therapy at Oregon Trail Mental Health in Scottsbluff. He can be reached at 635-2800 or online at www.panhandlecouples.com