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Hope Forward: Surviving and Thriving through Emotional Pain: Spinning Away From Each Other (Reversing the Roll)

Monday, February 13, 2012

Spinning Away From Each Other (Reversing the Roll)

One of the most common, but painful, dynamics that can happen in a relationship between a man and a woman is this: The woman says something to the man, could be anything really, and the man answers with some form of logic, opinion, fact, thought, idea. The woman gets angry then and says something that sounds angry, or perhaps critical or dismissive. The man then either retreats, or argues or shrugs his shoulders in defeat. For example:

Woman: My sister called. She's cancelling on us again. She's such a flake.

Man: She is so busy with that job of hers, she probably can't get away.

Woman: You always defend her! I just don't get you.

Man: Well, you know how her work life is and the pressure her boss puts on her.

Woman: Forget it. Why do I bother to talk to you.

Man: (Shrug - thinking: I can never say the right thing. Feeling: useless, frustrated).

Woman: (thinking: he never has my back; he's never on my side. Feeling: abandoned, frustrated).

So what happened? The woman wants emotion (empathy) first and help second. It may in fact be helpful to the woman to hear a bit of logic, to hear or consider that her sister does want to visit, but that she is under terrible pressure at work, and really can't get away. The man's logic may be useful and even offer some relief to the woman. But the woman wants an emotion connection with her husband first. She wants her feelings validated and accepted, joined even. Then some logic. When a man offers the logic first, it feels abandoning to many women. Often, then, when a woman feels abandoned or hurt, she sounds angry. The anger then puts off the man, leaving him feeling defeated, ineffective or stupid.

And then it usually spirals from there. Couples get further and further apart. The dynamic repeats itself in so many ways, in so many conversations.

But we can reverse the rolling away from each other and come closer to each other. We can retrain ourselves to use different words. It takes some time, but it does help, a lot. Even when there are other issues, other things to unpack, other resentments to deal with.

The better dialogue:

Woman: My sister cancelled again. She is such a flake.

Man: That's too bad. I know how much were looking forward to seeing her.

Woman: I hate when she does this to me.

Man: I know you do. It's so disappointing. I'm sorry.

Woman: Thanks. I just get so hurt when she can't come.

Man: I know. She does have that boss who's always on her case about taking off days.

Woman: You're right. I just wish she could deal with things differently so she could keep her plans.

Okay, of course there's more too it... but you get the picture. Validate. Thank. Empathize. Go for the emotional connection between you. Roll toward each other.

Happy Valentine's Day.

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