Dave gets a call from Ed, who invites him to play poker with the guys on Saturday night. An old college buddy is in town and will be joining them. Dave is excited to go. However, his girlfriend Susie has a class until 10pm on Friday, so Saturday is their only date night together. He senses that Susie will not be happy about this, but Dave knows he's entitled to a night with the guys. He forgets to tell her about his plans until 3pm that Saturday, while she is excitedly proposing a few things they could do that evening.
What happens next is totally predictable. You've been there. Susie gets pissed, they argue, she hangs up and calls her girlfriend to complain about Dave. Dave feels surprised and disappointed at how upset Susie got and feels resentful. He feels trapped by his relationship and doubtful that Susie is the right one. The right woman would be supportive and want him to have a life, right? Susie feels upset that she now has no plans for the evening, and feels that Dave doesn't actually care about spending time with her becuase he doesn't take her into consideration when making choices.
Men often complain to me about how they wish their women wouldn't get so upset about everything. My first response is usually, "Well, does she get upset about everything?"
Hopefully, upon brief reflection, the answer is no. Then we look at the types of actions and conversations that make her upset, like the scenario above, to see if there is something we might to do change that.
As an aside, if the answer is yes, it is possible that the guy is living with a truly unstable person. Guys, if your woman suffers from a diagnosable mental illness or personality disorder, you will have a different type of work to do.
But for the rest of you, healthy women will react emotionally when you bring up certain subjects. I know you wish this weren't so, but since it is, here are three steps to reducing the drama and increasing your sense of freedom in your relationship:
1) Learn to expect a reaction—When it's cloudy and humid, you don't put on your suede jacket and curse mother nature for screwing you over when it starts to rain, but this is what many men do in relationships with women. Your fear about her reactivity AND your resulting denial about the possibilities that she will be upset, compel you to behave in provocative ways. In fact, she is often responding more to what you have consciously or unconsciously done to avoid upsetting her, then what you were afraid might upset her in the first place. In this way, you create more of what you say you don't want.
Bring an umbrella. Learn to expect a reaction anytime you change what has become an expected pattern of interacting or unspoken agreement between you. For example:
- You usually spend Friday nights with her and suddenly you can't
- You need to take more time for yourself
- You suddenly become less attentive to her for any variety of good reasons
If any of the above take place, there's a good possibility (unless you are with a very mature person) that she will be upset. If you've been with your partner for a while, you can get a good sense of what types of things upset her. If you have a hunch that what you need to do or say will bring it on, prepare for it. This will make it much easier for the both of you.
2) Make room for the wave—A fire that has no fuel will extinguish itself. Do not feed the fire by arguing with her about her feelings or perspective. You don't have to take insults or jabs, but if you can stay calm and allow her upset to be, it will subside. If you are truly not trying to hurt her, then you can feel compassion for her hurt feelings , but you don't have to believe that you caused them. Your job is not to take it on, fix it or make it better but rather, allow the wave to break on the shore. (This is SO difficult for a lot of men, but totally doable, and I would love to help train you to do this).
It also helps to remember that she is not upset because she is controlling and manipulative, although her behavior certainly might be. She is upset because she loves you and wants to spend time with you, and doesn't know how else to manage her vulnerability and disappointment.
3) Show her that you are in the relationship. Your woman will move through her reaction very quickly if you demonstrate your care by taking her feelings into consideration. Things may have been smoother if Dave prepared ahead of time and gave Susie advanced noticed and said, "Hey listen, Saturday night I'm going to play poker with the guys, but next Saturday I would love to take you to that place you like by the water." A communiqué like that can lead to a disappointed sigh instead of a rant, and offers an excitement about the future and a feeling of being cared for that minimizes hurt.
It's pretty simple. She just wants to know that you care about her feelings, about spending time with her, and that you are not abandoning or taking advantage of her. Of course, anything you promise you must follow through with in order to earn or keep her trust.
If you follow these three steps regularly, a sane woman will respect you, and in turn become increasingly reasonable in response to your requests. And you will see that you can have your freedom and the relationship too. A good woman who loves you really wants you to be happy, as your happiness contributes greatly to hers.
Resonate with this dilemma? If you are a guy or a gal, single, dating or married, who would like help creating relationships that work, check out my upocoming online course Lovers and Leaders.
If you are feeling hopless about being in a relationship that allows you to be yourself and be connected, don't hesitate to reach out and request your free 20 minute consultation.
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