My post on the decline of male space
seems to have hit a nerve with over 150 comments and counting. The discussion appears to have drifted into how hard it is to find a woman that understands that a man might have his own needs, including the need for his own space and actually has respect for men, and hence, her partner. One important question that commenter dunkelzahn4prez asked me, "How does a man go about calling out behavior from a woman that is, at best, unacceptable? And what does one do when the woman's response is to escalate?"
That is a great question for so many men out there lack the resources and psychological tools needed to deal with women who do not respect them, both prior to marriage and afterwards. Acquiring these tools is a process, one that takes practice and patience with oneself, especially for the men out there who have been keeping quiet to keep the peace.
My friend Richard Driscoll, a psychologist, wrote a terrific book on the different communication styles of men and women entitled You Still Don't Understand
in which he highlights the difficulties that men have in relating their concerns to women. Men are more easily overwhelmed by emotional conflict than women and react more strongly to less provocation. Driscoll states:
Contrary to popular expectations, men are markedly more intimidated by angry women than women are by angry men. Men tend to become confused during such confrontations, more so than women, losing track of what is said and where the argument is going....Overwhelmed by female anger, men fold."
How do men explain why they often withdraw from their wives rather than arguing hard for a win? A man might say that he wants to "do what's right," or he does not want to "get his wife upset." He might say, "It is no use arguing with her because it just makes her mad".....
Men typically appear calmer than their wives, who are more visibly upset, so it is easy to be fooled. Remember that the appearance is merely a masquerade.....
The silence is known as "stonewalling" and it does lower stress for men and thwart their wives. Yet crouching behind a stone wall remains a tactic of those who have no voice and lack the will to confront the argument head on.
At best, you will end up bitter and removed, at worse, wanting a divorce and being so cowed by conflict that you give her everything you own. Learn to tolerate conflict. So, my basic advice to men who want to know what to do to gain respect in their relationship is to practice and learn to be more comfortable in male/female arguments. First, start with something that is not too intimidating like giving your opinion on an internet chat board--start with this one because few here will judge you too harshly for having non-pc opinions on gender. Branch out to boards where people are critical. Learn to deal with it, even if it means being called a jerk. See how it makes you feel. Bad? Learn to live with it because if you are male in this society and stand up for your needs or wants, you will
be called a jerk and worse.
Second, move onto a real world relationship, your mother, sister or female friend say something derogatory about men. Call them on it. Don't withdraw or let it go. For example, your mother says all men suck and never do any housework. Say, "I'm a guy and that makes me wonder if you like me much." Watch the startled look as mom realizes that she might be acting like a bad mom.
Finally, once you are comfortable with this level of criticism, look to your interpersonal relationship with your girlfriend or wife (though this one will be harder if you have been letting her get away with put-downs and disrespect). Next time your significant other shows what you feel to be disrespect or is dismissive of your feelings, speak up. Say, "I feel that you are not being respectful when you say X. Please don't do that." If she does it again, drop the please and say, "do not talk like that to me again." If she continues, if a girlfriend, think about whether she is the right one for you.
John Gottman, who studies marriage, points out in his book, The Marriage Clinic: A Scientifically Based Marital Therapy
that it is not so much the conflict that causes ill will--"What matters most is the ability to repair things when they go wrong." If your girlfriend or even wife refuses to even try to address your grievances, is this really such a great partner for life?
If you have any more advice on how to deal with girlfriends or wives who do not respect their boyfriend or husband, drop it in the comments.
Labels: male issues, Relationships