What's the deal with the way men and women fight? Do they all fight the same way, or is it just the couples I know? From what I've heard, it seems like all men get totally irrational and all women need to be right. All men blow things way out of proportion, and no woman in the entire world has ever apologized for anything…..ever! Women are genetically incapable of taking criticism…just ask any man. Men, on the other hand, accept criticism with grace…again, just ask a man.
Women provoke confrontation; men try to avoid it. Except when women raise their eyebrows, or shake their heads, or smile (that was a smirk) or stay very very quiet. Then men confront doggedly. "What's that supposed to mean?….what are you thinking?……what am I supposed to do now?" What? What? What? What? What?. If a woman answers, "Shut the f..k up" she has just escalated into another dimension. If she answers, "I don't know," or "Nothing," or, if she doesn't answer at all, the "what" questions become increasingly confrontational. There is no correct answer for any question beginning with "what" posed by a man to a woman in a fight.
Men don't get defensive; they react. When a woman reacts, she's being defensive. Men can slam, and shout, and throw things when they're upset; when women raise their voices, upset or not, they're "yelling." No man can tolerate it when a woman "yells" at him. Men can say hostile, nasty, mean-spirited things, but it's always because women provoke them by being sarcastic, superior, manipulative. Men can look at women with anger and resentment oozing out of their eyes, mouths, pores, but women are supposed to know not to take it personally. Women can say "I don't know," or "I can't answer that right now," and men are blown into tiny pieces, positive the relationship is over.
Women need to leave the
fight when the heat is gone, when all the hostility
has dissipated, and go on to something else, like
writing in their journal or talking to a close friend.
Men can't seem to leave it without more closure;
they pace like tortured souls waiting for something
beyond the calm, something more conclusive than
the last soothing words. Men want more than a peace
offering, they want resolution. Men, in the end,
want to be cradled. They want their women to be
their mothers and rock them, stroke their hair,
love them unconditionally. And women, after the
adrenalin-fueled anger rush is over, are just worn
out. The very things that usually make them want
to be loving, able to be affectionate and comforting,
have vanished. Not forever, not for long even, but
just at that moment when men seem to want it so
badly. At that moment, the accumulated years of
nurturing-her children, her family, her friends,
everyone-all the strength it has taken to comfort
and reassure, has been depleted. It always
comes back. But the timing is off.
Conventional wisdom says that men distance and women approach. Women are needier. But not after a fight. What women need after a fight is peace, and a little distance so they can replenish their reserves of love and nurturance, empathy and support. What men need after a fight is an embrace…a finale so they can proceed with their "other life," the one in which they seem, at times, to be so distant. It's like when women are upset or depressed and all they want to do is talk about it; all they want is for their men to listen. But men can't stand to listen; it's so pointless and frustrating….they need to solve the problem. Because once the problem is solved, they can go back to their other life. A man can only be distant if he's had his embrace or solved the problem. A woman is distant only so she can come back whole to her man.
And of course, if I were to read this to a man, any man, he'd probably say, "Well, if you're so insightful, if you realize all that, then why can't you just……………" And then I'd answer, "Because I'm a woman."
Actually, this column began as a journal entry, written immediately after my man and I had one of our rare, but nevertheless agonizing, fights. When I finished "replenishing my reserves," I went into the next room where he was still staring miserably into space, waiting for the finale. So I read to him what I had written, all but the last paragraph. I saved the last paragraph because I wanted to prove how smart I was, how I'd anticipated his response so accurately.
But when I'd finished reading, he looked up and said, "That's brilliant." I was torn between loving him and his response, and being slightly disappointed because I hadn't predicted it; I wasn't so smart after all. He then went on to say, "You know, men are just like dogs. You can shout at them, push them away, even kick them so they run away in fright. But all they need is for you to pat them on the head and say, "It's OK." And then they're fine again, as devoted to you as ever."
And that's when I realized just how smart I really was…after all, this was the man I loved, the man I had chosen to spend my life with. So, I got up, tousled his hair, and said "It's OK." And it was.
Send me your opinions at Lynn@netlistings.com