NOTE – if there are very serious issues in your relationship (uncontrolled mental health issues, active drug/alcohol addictions, abuse, or serious unrepentant sin) I am not writing for these kinds of situations. I am writing for women who are seeking to be godly women and live for Christ wholeheartedly and who are dating or engaged to men who desire to live for Christ wholeheartedly and who want to treat each other well and have good-will toward each other. If you are in a relationship with serious issues or with a guy who is consistently selfish, disrespectful, and rude – please seek appropriate, trusted, godly counsel from someone one-on-one who is experienced in helping people with severe relationship issues. I am assuming that I am writing for women who have generally strong, healthy, godly relationships, not for those whose boyfriends are super controlling, not in their right minds, or who are violent. (Some other resources: www.leslievernick.com for emotionally abusive relationships and www.thehotline.org for physically abusive relationships.)
When a couple is having an argument – according to Dr. Emerson Eggerich in “Love and Respect” – she is most likely feeling unloved, and he is most likely feeling disrespected. Women tend to cry when they are feeling unloved, men tend to get angry when they are feeling disrespected. (Check out God’s design for the marriage relationship to see what God commands wives and husbands to do – Ephesians 5:22-33)
Bob Grant describes how a man’s emotions and especially anger can get VERY intense very quickly. And in “His Brain, Her Brain” by Dr. Walt Larimore M.D. – he gives us a glimpse into the anatomy of male and female brains. The female brain has MANY more connections between the two halves – which makes women much more able to connect words and feelings QUICKLY. We can spout out pages of words, emotions and connections and it can be difficult for men to keep up with us. Men can’t access their feelings very well. Most of them don’t like a waterfall of negative emotions – it’s scary! And it takes men on average about 8 hours to work through their thoughts and feelings after an emotional exchange where women usually can identify how they are feeling almost immediately.
Another HUGE difference is that the limbic system in women (the center of emotions) is MUCH bigger than the limbic system in men – part of why women are so much more emotional, nurturing and sympathetic – and why we react with LOTS OF WORDS when we have negative emotions. And a man’s limbic system is more heavily connected to the spinal cord than a woman’s – which, along with testosterone levels, is why men tend to ACT OUT anger physically.
WHAT DOES ALL THIS MEAN IN MY RELATIONSHIP?
It means that your guy is wired to be a fierce, strong warrior. God wired him to react physically to a conflict. He is made to protect, defend, fight and battle with brute force if necessary. We girls must respect this. Bob Grant describes that a lion tamer knows that even though a lion has been trained, he is still a wild animal and that if the lion tamer provoked the lion, hitting him in the face, or grabbing his tail – the lion is still wild and dangerous and could attack.
Men are similar to that lion. Women must respect the inherent brute strength in a man and not purposely try to provoke them. A gentleman knows to never hit a lady. And there is NEVER an excuse for a guy to hit you. NEVER. But it is also your responsibility to treat your man with respect, realizing that he is stronger physically than you are and that he is built to fight. So it would be unwise to try to rile him up, try to tick him off, try to make him angry, try to get in his face in a confrontational posture with confrontational, angry sounding words, trying to force him to engage in a verbal battle or a physical fight with you. He will either try to shut down (to keep himself under control to protect you), fight you (for his honor) or leave (which would be an honorable thing to do rather than fight you, since you are a woman). He is attempting to act under the rules of respect, but he may be feeling that you are violating all the unwritten codes of masculine respect and he may not understand why his sweet girl is acting like an opponent, an enemy… it’s hard for him to know what to do with such conflicting information.
A godly, feminine woman doesn’t argue. She doesn’t have to. She doesn’t raise her voice. She says what she wants and how she feels plainly without manipulation, control or guilt. She accepts her man’s answers graciously. She speaks calmly, slowly, quietly… and when she has something MORE important to say – she may even just whisper it. She has self-control, peace, grace, poise and confidence. She knows her power and how to use it. And she knows there is no power in trying to battle against a man.
IF HE LEAVES/HANGS UP
He’s not going to listen to you if you are screaming at him. He is going to be trying to defend himself against your verbal attack. And since he can’t access his feelings and words as quickly as you can, it’s easy for him to feel like he is drowning in your intense storm of emotions and he may feel like he needs to escape. His blood pressure is probably through the roof. He is in survival mode. The escape is for two reasons:
- He needs to protect himself from what feels like a barrage of verbal bullets from you.
- He needs to protect YOU from his wiring – from his fierce anger. He knows if he lets it flare up, he may not be able to control it, and he could hurt you. He doesn’t want to do that.
WHAT’S A GIRL TO DO?
PLEASE, DO NOT FOLLOW HIM AROUND FROM ROOM TO ROOM OR CALL HIM BACK OR TEXT HIM. Let him have some space. If a girl was upset and stormed out of the room, she may feel unloved if her man didn’t follow her and check on her. But sometimes what seems loving to a woman (to follow someone and try to resolve the conflict right then) can feel disrespectful to a man who needs to get his blood pressure under control and calm down.
If he is shut down and you are very upset – calmly leave or politely say goodbye. You may say “Ouch!” “I’m very hurt.” “I’m so sad.” OR – “Did I do something disrespectful just now that upset you, Honey?” If he continues to not speak – give him some space and wait until he contacts you – that is my recommendation. Do not pressure him to talk. Men sometimes need time to process their emotions. Continue the discussion when he is ready after he has had time to think through his thoughts and feelings.
A guy leaves the room because HE NEEDS SPACE. To follow him, text him constantly, call him non-stop and to try to MAKE him have a discussion RIGHT NOW = disrespectful and counter-productive since he may need to think by himself for awhile to know what he is feeling and thinking.
Some things to do:
- calm down!!
- forgive him, take your hurt to God!!!!
- praise God, sing to Him
- serve others if you need something to do for a few days. Bake cookies for neighbors, visit a nursing home, volunteer to help with children or pets – keep yourself occuppied in pleasant ways as you pray and wait for God to work and ask God to help you in the forgiveness process.
- wait patiently. If it is the next day or a few days – that’s ok. Wait on him to initiate calling you or visiting you. He will be curious why you aren’t calling him. He’ll have worked through his feelings. Eventually, if you give him long enough, he’ll start to miss you. He’ll start to feel guilty about how he treated you. He’ll start thinking about apologizing. IF YOU INTERRUPT THIS PROCESS – he won’t be ready to apologize yet! And he may be able to peg YOU as the wrong one and blame you for things not going well without taking responsibility for his own mistakes. I know this is HARD! WAITING when there has been conflict is HARD! It is torture! It seems unbearable! But things will probably turn out much better if you are able to let him process feelings than if you cram all your words down his throat before he is ready. That will just alienate him further, sweet girl!
- realize that when he has calmed down, he will contact you. Try to let him be the one to initiate contact. If he loves you and has feelings for you – it is extremely likely that he will call you. It just won’t be on your time table. You may have to be patient for several days – maybe longer – depending on the situation and the guy and your level of commitment.
- realize that while he is away, he is thinking and processing all of your emotions and words. He needs time to decide what to do and how he feels. When he’s ready, he will call you or come back. This process usually can’t be rushed. That’s why it is better NOT to argue and fight! Telling him your needs in positive, pleasant ways without arguing, yelling, name-calling or fighting gets MUCH BETTER results than losing control and going into battle mode.
- try to concentrate on some other things, and realize that things will probably be better in a few hours or a few days if you give him some space and time.
- understand that just because he left does not mean he hates you!!!! It doesn’t mean he doesn’t love you. It doesn’t mean you won’t reconcile later. It means he needed some space to think and breathe. It is a gracious gift to give him that space.
- Be ready to apologize for anything you did wrong during the heated exchange. “I am so sorry – I was really disrespectful.” “I am sorry that I lost my temper.” “I’m sorry that I yelled at you. You didn’t deserve that.” Don’t explain or justify, just apologize sincerely – once.
- Be ready to listen and really hear what he is saying. He may tell you something you did that hurt him. Don’t defend yourself. Apologize where you were wrong. Hear his heart. Really strain to listen to him and don’t be thinking so much about what you want to say. He has spent hours or days working through his emotions – what he is saying to you in this moment is CRITICAL! If you want things to work with this guy – this is the most important time to listen!
Help us to learn to communicate without yelling, arguing, name-calling, cussing, character assassination or sin. Help us not dig things up from the distant past. Help us to see our own sin clearly and take responsibility for that. Help us to hear our guys’ hearts and be sensitive to their feelings and desires. Help us to be respectful even when we disagree or don’t get what we want.