Keri never got angry. She saw herself as a calm person who got things done and didn’t get caught up in drama.
But inside she was starting to snap.
She loved her boyfriend Brad. She really did. She just wanted them to be happy.
And they would be happy…
If Brad would only stop being so annoying.
There were things in their relationship that bugged Keri. She tried to talk to him about it. She tried to suggest solutions. If they could just talk it through, she was sure they could figure something out.
But he wouldn’t do it.
He would NOT talk about it.
He told her she was always attacking him for one thing or another.
How could he think that?
Keri was always careful with what she said. She didn’t have a mean bone in her body.
At first, she thought it was because of Brad’s experiences with his ex, who’d accused him of things all the time.
But Keri wasn’t like that. Surely, the longer Brad was with her, the more he’d see that Keri didn’t intend to make him feel bad. She just wanted to work out a few things.
Isn’t that what all couples do? You want to stay together, so you work on your relationship.
To be honest, it made her mad. They could have this amazing relationship…
But Brad’s stubbornness was standing in the way.
It was time he grew up. He had to get over his fragile ego. She wasn’t going to live the rest of her life with someone she couldn’t be honest with about his behavior.
Why Men Hate Conflict
A lot of men just aren’t very good at conflict.
Unlike women, we men didn’t spend a lot of time as children sorting out hurt feelings and making sure everyone felt included.
We spent more time jostling for status and pretending nothing bothered us so we wouldn’t get teased!
But for us boys there was something fascinating about the world of girls…
Girls were so kind and encouraging.
It was such a different relationship with a girl compared with other boys. There was no need to keep proving yourself.
As these boys grew into men, they found that romantic relationships gave them a safe space to be affectionate, tender, and vulnerable.
Many men learned to integrate those two sides.
They embraced their masculine drive for competition and success, while balancing it with feminine qualities like empathy and nurturing. They learned to switch between the two, going from a cutthroat environment at work to being warm and loving at home.
But not all men learned to make the switch so easily.
When these men feel criticized at home, his masculine need to win kicks in. He doesn’t see that his partner is coming from a place of wanting to make things better. He just perceives her as implying he’s a loser, that he’s failing at the job of being a good boyfriend.
And men who fail are not “real men”…
Help Him Hear You
If your man isn’t listening to you, because he thinks you’re criticizing him or attacking him—even though you’re not!—these 3 strategies may help.
These strategies help him feel safe instead of attacked.
When you approach him with your feminine energy, he’s reminded that love is the appropriate response here.
You’re not fighting with him. There are no winners or losers between a man and a woman.
There’s just love.
#1. Soft Startups
The way you bring up a topic determines whether you’ll be able to have a good talk about it, or whether it will turn into a fight.
In fact, the first 3 minutes of a discussion determine how the rest of the conversation is going to go 94% of the time!
So always open a discussion with gentle, friendly energy. Stick with the facts. Don’t bring up more than one issue at a time.
Strategy #2. Complain, Don’t Criticize
We tend to think of both complaints and criticism as bad things, but Dr. John Gottman draws an important distinction between the two.
A complaint is a statement that focuses on a behavior and the way it made you feel.
A criticism is a personal attack on the other person. You’re making assumptions about his motives.
Avoid criticizing him. Stick to complaints instead.
Strategy #3. Bids for Connection
You can see how couples feel about an argument by their body language.
When they’re mad, they tend to square off. They leave plenty of space between them. Their bodies bristle with tension.
If you see an argument going in a negative direction, pause to reconnect.
Reach out and take his hand. Rub his shoulders. Make a joke. Breathe. Thank him for something.
These “bids for connection” reassure him that you’re not mad at HIM. You’re just upset about the situation.
Using these strategies creates a safe space for him to listen to you.
It can take some practice, but the more he realizes that you’re not putting him down, the more he can open up and see your point of view. You’ll feel heard. And that’s a great foundation for working things out.