Nobody likes to hear someone close to them be critical, blaming or shaming. It feels bad. And sometimes scary. It turns out that when women talk like that to their husbands, contrary to popular opinion, most men feel this intense criticism very strongly in their bodies. And because male bodies “rev up” faster than women’s in stress (heart rate, blood pressure, muscle tension, tunnel vision), in order to protect themselves and their relationships from too much emotion, men frequently, readily, as a default, go into Defense mode.
It’s vital for happy, flexible marriages to have partners who know how to manage difficult conversations. There will be many of them over the years.
As I said in my last post, women have to learn how to bring up their complaints softly, gently, and with a caring touch.
Men need to recognize their usual default of Defensiveness, and learn to lower their emotional walls quickly. If men can do this, while at the same time women practice being more gentle, the best situation for a positive interaction around difficult topics happens.
The most successful couples work on this communication posture change together. Trusting that the other is doing their best to move out of their “automatic” thinking/behavior/posture and tone to a more couple-friendly communication strategy.
Because I talk about these automatic couple missteps every day in my therapy practice, I know this is one of the most common couple problems. No one part of the couple can fix the problem completely on their own : each person in the marriage has a piece of the solution!