After you have been dating for a few weeks, both of you start to become familiar and comfortable with each other. At this point, you may suddenly experience an experience that is as thrilling as a roller coaster ride. This experience is common in any partnership, as conflict is inevitable. We’ve talked in previous chapters about how what men want in a partnership, besides more sex, is less arguing. Believe us, more sex and less arguing are closely linked. Although one may choose to believe in the so-called “peace at the end of the bed”, arguments do reduce a woman’s sex drive. The same is true for men. The good news is that you can learn how to reduce arguments and resolve conflicts more quickly. What’s even more pleasing is that once you learn this, you can get more sex.
The key thing you need to remember is that a woman will not have sex with you if she is angry or frustrated, or if she feels that you don’t listen to her, don’t understand her, or don’t care about her feelings. Whether these emotions are caused by you or not, she will not have sex with you. When she is angry or sad, you can neither bully her nor theorize with her. You are not able to solve this problem of her sadness. You also can’t use your logical reasoning and negotiation skills in this situation, and while these may be useful in the office and on the sports field, and you can communicate rationally with the man you are playing poker with, they are useless in front of your woman. If you can accept this in advance, you can both avoid a lot of headaches.
When conflict occurs, the only thing a woman needs is a good listener. In the face of conflict, a woman’s goal is to hope that her partner, that is, you, can understand her better and that problem solving is secondary, while for men, problem solving is the primary goal. Men like to solve problems like the U.S. Army took Iraq, a massive strike deterrence strategy. This is no different from their ancestors. Primitive men were adept at using mass-strike deterrence tactics when hunting bison, attacking neighboring tribes, and teaching other primitive people who tried to come near their caves and women.
If you want to resolve a conflict with your woman, I’m afraid this deterrent strategy won’t work.
The trigger for women’s anger
Conflict occurs without rhythm, and it doesn’t even need to have a cause. According to psychologist Paul Ekman, conflicts are “regrettable events”. These events are inevitable in all partnerships. Even if you are the happiest and most joyful partners in the world, conflict will still occur.
How do these regrettable events occur in most cases? Is the conflict about family? Or is it about sex? Research shows that most conflicts occur for no reason. That’s right, most conflicts arise for no particular reason. Despite contrary to current popular theories, most men and women really don’t feel anger any differently. James Averill, a researcher at the University of Massachusetts Amherst (University of Massachusetts Amherst), conducted an experiment. He asked the men and women who participated in the experiment to record in a diary the moments when they felt anger, and found that there was no significant difference in how men and women felt in the presence of anger.
Although there was no difference in how men and women felt about anger, the study showed that men and women manage their anger emotions differently, especially men. Sandra Thomas of the University of Tennessee led the first large-scale, comprehensive empirical study to measure the daily anger of the average woman, the Women’s Anger Study. The study showed that women’s anger can be divided into three categories: feelings of powerlessness, feelings of injustice, and feelings of irresponsibility on the part of others.
So, if you don’t listen to your partner or if you don’t want to relinquish control of her, she will become angry. Because that’s when she develops a sense of powerlessness. If you don’t treat her as an equal subject in the decision-making process, or if you betray her trust, then she will feel unfair and then become angry. If you fail to do your due diligence in the family or disappear when you promise to show up, then you are being irresponsible to others and she will feel angry as well.
Raymond DiGiuseppe, chair of the psychology department at St. John’s University in New York, surveyed 1,300 volunteers on anger issues. He found that there was no difference in the frequency of anger between men and women, but there were differences in how anger was felt and expressed. The findings also showed that men are more likely to use physical aggression, passive aggression and retaliation to deal with anger when they are angry; women are angrier for longer periods of time, but are less likely to let it out directly, so they feel anger more than men. Women tend to express anger indirectly, so if women are angry with you, they are less likely to yell at you directly, but more likely to be silent. Of course, this may not be the case with your partner either.
So, when your partner stops paying attention to you, how can you tell when she’s angry, other than the fact that it’s more than obvious? What should a successful man do when a woman is angry?
Don’t be defeated by the “Four Horsemen of Doom”
We will tell you two secrets that we found in the love lab. First, when conflict arises, men are actually more easily overwhelmed and defeated by their emotions than women. Second, once overwhelmed by emotions, only men who can calm down can reduce the criticism, stigmatization, defensiveness and silent resistance that comes with coping with emotions. These are the four behaviors we call the “Four Horsemen of Doom” in a partnership. If you use any of the methods of criticism, slander, defensiveness or silent resistance to escalate the conflict, you have an 81% chance of ending your marriage.
Imagine you and the girl of your dreams have come home from a long day at work. She wants to talk to you, and you want to watch TV. You want to turn on the TV or a video game and she wants to tell you that her co-worker took a great idea she had for a big project for herself. At this point, she’s not mad at you yet, she’s mad at her co-worker. Maybe she feels powerless to change the situation at work, or she feels unfair. At this point, she has two of the three common reasons women get angry.
You aren’t listening to her. Although you care about her, you are also very tired. You yourself have worked hard all day and now you just want to take a nap and relax so that you have the energy to cope with tomorrow’s life. At this point, you will hear her say, “You’re not listening to me.” Most men see this as a criticism and don’t realize that it means their partner needs your attention and wants to bond with you. If you ignore this statement, then soon she will say, “You never listen to me.” That’s criticism.
If you are unconsciously under the influence of the Four Horsemen of Doom, you may ignore the criticism and want the conversation to end quickly, when one of the Four Horsemen is influencing you to resist in silence. Or, you may continue to watch TV and say, “I’m listening!” But you’re actually defending yourself. Or maybe your response is, “I don’t want to listen because you complain about the same thing every day. If everyone treats you so badly, why don’t you just quit?” Or: “You’re always so negative.” (Criticism) Or: “I don’t want to hear it because you are always complaining and irrational.”
Does the above conversation sound familiar? Either way of responding can exacerbate conflict. If your goal is to reduce conflict, then you need to avoid responding to her with criticism, slurs, defensiveness or silent resistance. Because this will only lead to greater conflict and a stronger sense of self-defeat for you.
However, when men are overwhelmed by emotions, they naturally use the above 4 methods of response. But in this scenario, what the woman wants is understanding. She wants someone who can listen to her, empathize with her, and reconcile her emotions with her.
When you hear anything critical, you feel like you’re being personally attacked, so you immediately activate your defense mechanisms and then you’re overwhelmed with emotion. Your heart rate goes up, you become hyper-vigilant to danger, and you are always ready to defend yourself against attacks. At this point, you are in a state of physical defense. We studied over 3,000 partners and then found that it is almost impossible to communicate effectively with people when they are in this mental state. If your heart rate is over 100, then you should be aware that you are overwhelmed by emotions. Your adrenaline starts to flow and you begin to enter a DPA state (10). At this point, you lose your sense of humor, you can’t listen well, your hearing and peripheral vision are affected, and you tend to repeat yourself over and over again, or what is known as “self-summary syndrome”. These are signs that you and your partner are not in tune with each other’s emotions.
Being overwhelmed by emotions is the greatest enemy of constructive dialogue and effective conflict. We understand emotional drowning better through our Love Lab research. There are 3 factors to emotional overwhelm: (1) shock at being attacked and the need to activate defense mechanisms, (2) emotional shutdown, and (3) loss of self-soothing ability. We have found that emotional overwhelm is a significant factor in lower levels of domestic violence.
When you’re trying to watch the game after a long day at work and she says, “You never listen to me.” If you’re a cartoon character, then this is the time when your face should turn red and steam should come out of your ears. Being overwhelmed with emotion is what it feels like. Your adrenaline spikes and your gut tells you to go into fight mode, or immediately grab your hat and clothes and run from the scene.
Any of the above coping methods are harmful if you want to build a successful partnership.
So, what should you do when you are overwhelmed by emotions? Even the wisest man can be overwhelmed by emotions whenever he feels criticized or attacked. Successful men have 3 simple but effective ways to lower their heart rate and deal with their emotions. The first is to take a deep breath. Deep breathing and counting is an effective means of suppressing central nervous reactions or soothing oneself. Deep breathing stimulates the vagus nerve, which in turn lowers the heart rate and blood pressure.
If, after deep breathing and counting, you find that you still want to attack your partner verbally or even physically, then you should use a third strategy, which is to take a break. There is a clear difference between taking a break and running away. You can’t get halfway through a heated argument and then just leave your woman alone. You have to say something to let her know why you’re leaving, like, “You know, I’m having a really hard time listening to you right now, so I’ll be back in 30 minutes so we can keep talking. If you don’t, she will feel deeply hurt by you and fear that you will abandon her and never come back. Remember, when you are in fight/flight mode and in a state of physical arousal, you either become an escape machine or an assault weapon polished by evolution. Anthropologists believe that men, including male primitives, have evolved to be alert to danger.
Men were primarily responsible for protecting the tribe from predators and enemies. They need to be alert, watch for danger signals, and respond quickly, all of which require men to be in a constant state of physiological arousal. Staying alert means being in a constant state of physiological activation and remaining anxious. Male primitives were very good at maintaining anxiety and alertness, and modern males, as descendants of male primitives, have inherited this trait completely, as males without this trait would have been eliminated long ago in the evolutionary process. So, although men have evolved a lot, they will still be as alert and in a state of physical arousal as primitive man when faced with danger. If you are facing real danger, then this physiological characteristic can be very useful; but when you are in conflict with your partner, I’m afraid your attempts to stay alert and in a state of arousal will not be very useful.
Why is it not useful? The physiological arousal state narrows your field of vision because a number of non-critical physiological functions of your body are shut down. These non-critical physiological functions include digesting food, supplying blood to the kidneys and reproductive organs, and maintaining calm and thoughtfulness. At this time, you lose peripheral vision and hearing. Glycogen stored in the liver enters the bloodstream and is converted into glucose so you have the energy to defend yourself and to protect your family and tribe. This physiological adaptation mechanism is great for fight or flight, but not for listening to your partner’s needs or for creative problem solving, empathy, and seeing things differently. When faced with partner conflict, your biological adaptation mechanism for coping with danger will only backfire. So when you are completely unable to empathize in a conflict, you are likely in a state of DPA and overwhelmed by emotions.
On the other hand, modern women have inherited the infant-nurturing function from their ancestors. Nurturing a baby requires that a woman’s breasts produce milk when the baby sucks on the nipple or cries. This biological function requires women to have the ability to soothe themselves. Female primitives create a sense of security through mutual support and connection with close friends, which in turn contributes in part to the ability to self-soothe. As any woman who is breastfeeding will tell you, tension can interfere with milk production.
To facilitate calm and self-soothing, women, and even nonhuman primates such as rhesus monkeys, create a social atmosphere conducive to mutual support. In this way, women are able to nurse their babies. Rhesus monkeys groom each other, sit close together or walk together, and can be very sensitive to each other’s expressions and even the slightest tension in their voices. Rhesus monkeys create a social atmosphere of mutual support through these behaviors, which are completely different from the evolutionary traits of males. This is why females have a better social support system than any male on the planet.
What are the actual effects of these sex differences? In an anxious state of conflict, men are more likely to go into fight/flight mode than women, while women are better at self-soothing and want to talk their way out of conflict. This means that in a sea of conflict, women can swim at ease while men can drown. When in a state of physical arousal, what do most men do? They will run away, they will choose to resist in silence. They want to calm down and hope things don’t get worse. It doesn’t matter how men have evolved or whether it’s a real spear or a verbal spear that’s being shot at them, their level of physical arousal is the same.
What you also need to remember, however, is that if a woman has had a traumatic experience, whether that trauma was physical, sexual or emotional, they will be in the same emotionally overwhelmed situation as men, but they will behave differently when they are overwhelmed. They will look powerlessly into your eyes, dull-eyed, and look as if no one is home. They are physically here, but emotionally completely withdrawn. This is their way of escaping reality and seeking security.
This withdrawal or escape may have protected them when they were young or vulnerable and reduced the harm of the trauma. However, this emotional “absence” can make it almost impossible to resolve the current conflict situation. She also needs self-soothing and security in order to be free from her own emotional overwhelm. Getting angry at her at this point will only lead to the opposite of what is desired.
The third strategy is to take a break, but this strategy only works in two situations: first, when you take a break from thinking about how you can get even with the other person; and second, when you don’t feel at all like you’re just an innocent victim. If you rest with these thoughts, then you will still be in a state of physical arousal as well as being overwhelmed by emotions. You need to completely and utterly distract yourself from the conflict.
The break needs to be at least 20 minutes because it takes a long time for emotional hormones to subside. If you haven’t calmed down after 20 minutes, then go back to your partner and tell her you need a little more time before you can respond to her conversation. Our research shows that even after a conflict, a man’s heart rate still doesn’t drop when he thinks about his wife’s negative traits.
What will bring the heart rate down? Reading magazines. When you’re overwhelmed with emotions, all you need to do is distract yourself. You need to think about something other than the object of the conflict and the conversation you’re having when you’re overwhelmed with emotion. Thinking about something else is good for self-soothing and suppresses the central nervous system. Think about your golf game or baseball, or England. In short, think about things that are completely unrelated to the conflict so you can keep your mind clear. Some physical activity will also help, such as walking, reading, listening to music, running, yoga, or meditation.
Our research on domestic violence shows that when conflict occurs, not only do partners who experience domestic violence have no “retreat” or “exit mechanism” to deal with the conflict, but one partner also prevents the other from withdrawing from the conflict. The lack of a calm approach between partners after a conflict has occurred is the cause of 80% of domestic violence.
If your only response is to explode, then it’s best for everyone to take a break. It takes a long time for people to recover from vitriolic language. Taking a break is necessary if you don’t want to say something that you will regret. Once those regrettable words are out of your mouth, it is very difficult for the other person to recover from them. If you are a man who is particularly prone to physical arousal, you would do well to discuss this with your partner when the conflict has not occurred. You can tell her, “When I’m in fight/flight mode, I say really bad things. I don’t want that to happen, so I want to do something to stop it.”
You can set up some ritual activities ahead of time for when conflict occurs so that when problems occur, she understands what’s going on. Smart men will do this, while dumb men will just stay in a state of primitive aggression, frozen in the middle of the conflict, or even add fuel to the fire and slowly watch the relationship break down completely.
Problems will always happen
Building an emotional relationship with a woman, or even living together, means more than just love, passion and harmony. When a woman talks about a topic, about 40% of the time, the man has no idea what the woman is talking about. We found this out in the Love Lab, and we also found out how smart men solve this problem.
Smart men pick up on the fact that when women are in pain, they don’t express that pain directly, but instead resort to criticism, even if it sounds like a personal attack. But if men are good with their partners, they will try to actively find out the real meaning behind the complaints and criticism. A smart man will find out what a woman’s pain really is by asking the following three questions: What do you need? What are you worried about? How do you feel?
We found that many of our subjects tended to run away from conflict when faced with it, and this was also running away from their partners. You don’t want to let your partner be in pain, and if you avoid or escalate the conflict, then any such event becomes a small stone in your shoe. As more and more stones accumulate, you will no longer be able to walk. Eventually, you will be at the end of the road. In short, you can’t ignore each other’s pain.
If your partner criticizes you, complains about you, or brings up another issue between you for no reason, she actually wants to become closer to you or wants to feel safer and trust you more. You should always keep in mind that the biggest thing a woman needs from a man is trust. She needs to make sure that you are in the same boat as her, not against her. Therefore, it’s also impossible to really separate the time you spend with her from the time you spend with yourself in life.
If she is angry, it means that the matter makes her feel powerless, or unfair, or that she feels that you are not taking your fair share of responsibility in the relationship. There are times when these issues are emotional; other times, they are practical. The key is to keep your promises and your word, whether your promise is not to cheat or not to throw dirty socks.
A really good man understands that he needs to listen to his partner’s needs, fears and pain. He needs to listen not only to what his partner says on the surface, but also to care about the unspoken subtexts. Yes, all men need the approval of women. That’s why they feel hurt when women attack and criticize them. Everyone makes mistakes, and women, on the other hand, tend to feel the mistakes you make.
We also found this little secret in our love lab: the way you respond to each other during non-conflict time and the quality of your partnership is key to getting women to criticize you less and choose questioning patterns more during conflict. Running your relationship well during non-conflict times is like keeping money in the bank, which will reduce the frequency and intensity of conflict.
It is the man’s job to restrain the way he responds when a woman has strong emotions or even critical comments. This means that you must not show aggression, neither humiliate her nor criticize her. This does not mean that you should commiserate and just nod your head in agreement. It just requires you to be a strong listener. We’re talking about really listening to the other person’s thoughts. If you need to, take a break to make sure you can respond calmly.
Then, you can show your manly side and set out to find out why your girlfriend or wife is suffering and what you can do to ease her pain. Doing so does not mean that you are inferior. On the contrary, it shows your true manhood. Your partner will feel safe and love you immensely for it, and she will fight alongside you no matter what happens. You will discover how fascinating such a woman can be.