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RELATIONSHIP ADVICE

Why men fight dirty in arguments (and how to take the high road to love!)

Lauren Gray

Dear Lauren,

I made a mistake-I yelled at my husband to the point that he retreated into his cave. I followed him in there and he said, “Leave me alone!” but I kept pushing. He said some really hurtful things like he doesn’t think our relationship is working and that he doesn’t want to have kids with me because he doesn’t think I’d be a good mother. I left him a note that I’d be back in two weeks and went to my parent’s house. I thought he needed time alone. I don’t think he really believes what he said to me. I just hope when I when I return home, I’m not greeted with cardboard boxes and a change of address form. What can I do?

-Annie

Dear Annie,

The biggest baddest problem EVER

When a woman yells at her husband, she is in a heightened emotional state. We women might think it’s no big deal to raise our voices but under moderate stress there is 8 times more blood flow to the emotional center of a woman’s brain than a man’s brain.

The only way a man would yell or get that upset is if his problem was 8 times more dramatic than yours! So naturally a man will misinterpret a woman’s strong emotions as an over-reaction. Or worse he’ll actually believe that she’s facing the biggest baddest problem EVER!

Since you were unhappy with him, your husband devised that HE was the (8 times more dramatic) problem.

And here’s where we get into a pickle.


The caveman’s instinct: flight or fight

He can’t be the stud-muffin-knight-in-shining-armor-hero when he’s the bad guy. So he’s left with two options- fight or flight.

No man wants to hurt the woman he loves so he picks “flight.” He withdraws into his dark and mysterious cave.

When you pursue, he says, “Leave me alone” in a last ditch effort to be a gentleman.

When you pursue even more, you corner him and push him into “fight” mode. And here’s where things get dangerous…


Oh no he didn’t!

His testosterone starts pumping, his lizard brain kicks in and suddenly it’s a competition.

For every one complaint you come up with, he comes up with two.

Normally a man wouldn’t dwell on these “complaints” because to him they’re not that big of a deal but in the context of a competition they become fuel for his argument. As Randy Jackson would say, “he’s in it to win it.”

And that is how a loving husband can say something that unkind to his lovely wife.


Love is a battlefield part two: The remains

It’s good that you can see that what he said was just a heated reaction and not the whole picture. But now we’re left with the aftereffects of your epic battle and we need to pick up the pieces.

You left angry and he’s left with his guilt at saying those harsh words to the woman he loves. This guilt can extend his cave time quite considerably.

This then leads to the question: Does he pull away because he doesn’t love you or because he is afraid to face your hurt? In his mind he might be thinking,

“How could she ever forgive me? How could she ever love me again? I’ve failed her.”

It might be very awkward and uncomfortable for him to reconnect with you because he doesn’t know if his love will be reciprocated anymore. He knows he said mean things and he’s probably afraid that he’s ruined everything.


A return to love

You know that yelling at him and pushing him was wrong and it sounds like you’re happy to take responsibility. So my advice is to write him an apology letter and drop it off at home while he’s not there.

(Men are notoriously good at not noticing details unless it’s right in front of them; so leave it somewhere he can’t miss it: like on the TV or stuck to the refrigerator door.)

In your letter, don’t address what he did or said. Just apologize for your part. Say something like,


“I’m sorry I pushed you. I know how important it is to give you space and respect your wish when you say, ‘Leave me alone.’ I won’t make that mistake again. I love you very much and I feel so fortunate to be your wife. Take all the time you need, I'll be ready with open arms when you're ready to reconnect. You know my number.”


Get ready!

Until he reaches out, it’s your job to fill this time with fun, oxytocin producing activities such as dancing, cooking, shopping…whatever feels good to you. Treat this time away from home not as an exile but as a vacation.

Make yourself happy so that when he calls, he’ll know you’re in a good mood. This will make him feel safe to reconnect with you. Then you can move forward together in love and the fight will be something of the past.

Hopefully history won’t repeat itself. Now you know: you go into the cave, you face the dragon, you get burned.

With love,

Lauren



   

read more blog posts from Lauren Gray
  • Lokie
     7/30/2016 7:59:25 AM
    As a guy myself I can honestly say this is the best advice I have seen on the net. The 8 times more dramatic thing though doesn't sound right though. I think that varies on the individual.
  • jlilolme
     11/10/2015 5:03:57 PM
    now what if my situation is identical but the man is using the mutual bedroom as the man cave. him retreating is commendable but him taking over the bedroom will i feel like i have been ousted when i pay most of the bills is just an aborition. the rest of the rooms in the apartment are just miserable, and he made it that way by damaging the stuff i used to have. i feel like a whore that was used and thrown out. and he started the bullshit by exclaiming at 4 am that i prevent him from falling asleep just laying on my side of the bed. and told me i magically cause is stomach and gut pains. when i put my hand on his shoulder trying to be supportive he bitched " im in enough pain cuz of you, don't touch me". sorry but his man cave bullshit is nothing but to hurt my feelings and make me feel like less of a person who deserves to live in shambles, rejected, and hurt while he plays man cave and blasts music so i cant atleast be hurt in silence. IS HIS BEHAVIOR REALLY COMMENDABLE?...
  • nbk8a6v
     10/20/2015 4:34:37 PM
    You lost me at this statement: "The only way a man would yell or get that upset is if his problem was 8 times more dramatic than yours!" 8 times? Really? This morning my boyfriend got upset and yelled, no, ROARED at me "That's the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard!" and leaned across the counter at me, and slammed his hands on the counter for emphasis. In response to . . . a disagreement about whether or not I cleaned a light cover. In the amount of time and with the energy he expended to argue with and then yell at me, I think he could have easily cleaned the light cover himself. I'd like to know exactly how this problem was eight times more dramatic than any of my problems. Ever. After that, I retreated into MY cave. And there I shall remain until Mr. Mars apologizes. When I mistreat him, I apologize right away or soon thereafter, even if I'm feeling really bad about myself, yada yada yada. Or even if I thought he had a part in it too. So if Dude won't man up and apologize for his behavior today, that's his issue, not mine. When I don't have a part in it, I do NOT apologize, and I do not make peace. I am not a doormat....
  • Celeste65
     3/1/2015 8:00:31 PM
    I could never express my feelings to my husband, because it would turn into an argument most of the time. He would twist my words around, or diminish what I was feeling. We divorced. I would like to have a man in my life. One I can trust. One who will respect me. I have horrible communication skills, and at almost 50..I don't think it will happen for me.
  • sweetpea4373
     2/13/2015 9:04:42 AM
    I hurt my boyfriend deeply by not being open with him about conversations I have with other men. I left the doorway open for other men to contact me through facebook. (not that I acted on them). The biggest problem is trying to help a guy out giving him advice from a female perspective I gave him my phone number to talk - but failed to mention to by boyfriend that this guy and I have talked at worked briefly at times. My boyfriend - the man I love deeply - thinks this is the biggest betrayal and that this was not our first conversation concerning other guys. I never meant to betray him or make him feel as though he was in competition with other men. Now he thinks he is not enough for me and that I apparently want more and he is unable to give me. He and I are so good together, we mesh. I am trying to reach him, but failing because I am unable to express to him that I am not cheating nor disrespecting him when his back is turned. My heart tells me that I need to give him time and all will be well. But he is not living it down. I have gone through every measures to ensure him. Can I restore the trust and how? ...
  • Reenskies
     1/11/2015 3:52:14 PM
    Hi Lauren! My boyfriend and I have been in a LDR for almost three years now. We broke up once about 8months ago and it took 3 months of space until we got back together. We aren't the very best at communicating our differences. Recently we've been arguing about the smallest of things, mainly I get emotional when he's gone at times and I go about explaining them in the wrong way. He told me he needed space and I followed him into his cave. We've shared only a few texts these last two weeks. He told me in anger that he thinks were just too differnt and aren't meant to be. When we argue things go back to the way they are and it snowballs from there. He told me a week ago when he comes home he will not be with me. It's the easy way out and I'm not sure what to do at this point to let him know we can work through this and I know not to follow him into the cave!! He will be home at the end of the week, I know he's thrown in the towel but I know we can push past this! I need your help Lauren!!...
  • Lauren Gray
     1/9/2015 12:12:19 PM
    Tkaye, Wow! I'm totally impressed. You clearly know your MarsVenus. Your FYI messages in addition to the apology are just the right thing to do to pave a path back to peace. It may be awkward initially but your heart is in the right place. As long as you come in with an open heart and show physical affection - not necessarily sex, just touching - he'll feel that intimacy with you. Good luck!!
  • Tkaye
     1/8/2015 11:36:19 AM
    Boy are you ever right on target Lauren! My LDR guy and I had a painful fight that came on like a thunderbolt! The last few weeks have been really hard with the holidays (he couldn't come home) and I have felt the distance in a huge way. I expressed some feelings to him totally the wrong way (yes..I own that) and he blew up! Said that I had "sealed my fate" with him and "if I thought he was so mean I could find another". After we both calmed down a bit we agreed to end the conversation and sleep on it. That was 12/29...and we haven't spoken since! I'm a huge MV fan and I left an apology voicemail for my part a few days after to keep the door open and hopefully relieve some of his anxiety that he had "failed me". I've sent a few FYI emails and he has responded with brief replies. I've tried to give the space for him to do his "work" and take care of my own as well. He is coming down in a few days and I am really looking forward to seeing him. But it is awkward because I'm unsure of how he is thinking about us and our relationship. I guess I'll find out in a few days! ...
  • rez123
     1/4/2015 1:46:01 AM
    me and my boyfriend had an argument and I said something hurtful and awful things to him. I apologized to him but He said he doesn't know how to love me anymore and he needs few days to think it through and find what he has lost. Should i give up?
  • Magicalsun
     10/13/2014 4:14:21 PM
    Me and my bf had an argument which resulted in me getting dropped off at home...alone. I apologized in the car and also later that night sent an apology text. Since he so conveniently lives across the street I walked over to try to end the night on a positive so we don't go to bed mad. He never came outside and the afternoon of the next day I get a text saying his phone was on silent and he didn't know I was outside. I responded with "ok I came by to try and make it right so the night wouldn't end that way". I haven't heard from him since. It's been exactly 1 week. This has never happened and I'm crushed and beyond confused. I didn't think he could go this long without saying something, anything! I wanted to leave him alone and let him come around on his own time. But it's been what feels like forever and I really don't know what to make of it all. ...
  • Magicalsun
     10/13/2014 4:13:07 PM
    Me and my bf had an argument which resulted in me getting dropped off at home...alone. I apologized in the car and also later that night sent an apology text. Since he so conveniently lives across the street I walked over to try to end the night on a positive so we don't go to bed mad. He never came outside and the afternoon of the next day I get a text saying his phone was on silent and he didn't know I was outside. I responded with "ok I came by to try and make it right so the night wouldn't end that way". I haven't heard from him since. It's been exactly 1 week. This has never happened and I'm crushed and beyond confused. I didn't think he could go this long without saying something, anything! I wanted to leave him alone and let him come around on his own time. But it's been what feels like forever and I really don't know what to make of it all. ...
  • Magicalsun
     10/13/2014 4:09:50 PM
    Me and my bf had an argument which resulted in me getting dropped off at home...alone. I apologized in the car and also later that night sent an apology text. Since he so conveniently lives across the street I walked over to try to end the night on a positive so we don't go to bed mad. He never came outside and the afternoon of the next day I get a text saying his phone was on silent and he didn't know I was outside. I responded with "ok I came by to try and make it right so the night wouldn't end that way". I haven't heard from him since. It's been exactly 1 week. This has never happened and I'm crushed and beyond confused. I didn't think he could go this long without saying something, anything! I wanted to leave him alone and let him come around on his own time. But it's been what feels like forever and I really don't know what to make of it all. ...
  • summerleelove
     10/5/2014 7:34:38 PM
    Thanks for the video! Where is your blog on "How to return to a relationship after a major fight?" I looked everywhere but couldn't see it. Thanks! :)
  • John Gray
     7/9/2014 2:47:59 PM
    i love the video and your responses to the comments. Such great wisdom. Everyone needs to hear this. With your insights, so many people to avoid painful and abusive arguments. I am so proud of you.... Dad
  • jay
     7/5/2014 6:24:42 AM
    Hi lauren. Its so hard to be in control when ur so mad at him. I love my guy but i have a real difficulity in telling him what i want then they burst out. And n we r in the stage of fighting with mean words . I feel sorry for him. Just wish i can let go of my fear and anger so that i can be who he fallen in love.
  • Lauren Gray
     7/4/2014 12:31:44 PM
    Hi Amy84, Great question! Walking away actually shows a sign of maturity. If you can't say anything nice, best to walk away and not say anything at all. This takes a lot of self control. Sticking around, saying mean things, pushing to win and be "right," this is us indulging our younger selves. Just like men think women "over-react" because they don't understand us, women can think men are "over-reacting" because we don't understand them. It's good practice to just honor your partner's reaction for what it is…it feels real to them, therefore it's real. This is how we can respect and honor each other even though we're different. :-)...
  • Lauren Gray
     7/4/2014 12:31:19 PM
    Hi Amy84, Great question! Walking away actually shows a sign of maturity. If you can't say anything nice, best to walk away and not say anything at all. This takes a lot of self control. Sticking around, saying mean things, pushing to win and be "right," this is us indulging our younger selves. Just like men think women "over-react" because they don't understand us, women can think men are "over-reacting" because we don't understand them. It's good practice to just honor your partner's reaction for what it is…it feels real to them, therefore it's real. This is how we can respect and honor each other even though we're different. :-)...
  • Amy84
     6/30/2014 4:01:21 AM
    So running into the cave during a fight is actually a sign of care and/or love? I once had a fight with my BF. We were outside. He turned his back and left me, just like that. Something inside me told me not to follow him or call him back. I just let him go and texted him an apology the next morning. I knew since his reaction was so dramatic (at least in my point of view), I must have done/said something really bad to him. And although I couldn't figure out what my mistake was, I wanted to take responsibility for my part. He replied back, saying it's OK and he's not mad anymore, but I annoyed him at the moment. In this case, it is me who thought that HE was over-reacting. Why should a man just run away? Isn't that childish? ...
  • Lauren Gray
     6/26/2014 10:38:14 AM
    Trimac, Wishing you and your sweetie a loving and peaceful resolution.
  • trimac
     6/26/2014 2:53:24 AM
    Wow; this is EXACTLY what happened to me. She (soon to be the ex-wife) started arguing with me and continued following me into my cave and kept poking me till I said something horrible and she moved out. She says she still loves me but I would have rather worked it out rather than divorce. She went to a lawyer and that is when I moved on and the battle is on!
  • Lauren Gray
     6/24/2014 12:51:55 PM
    That's a great question Heather! I'm putting in a folder now for a future blog post. :-)
  • heather_h12
     6/23/2014 7:26:22 PM
    Good advice - high emotions make it hard to think straight! What you have said here makes sense, and seems fair...my concern is what to expect from my boyfriend when he decides to return from the cave. I have no problem apologizing and taking responsibility for myself...but what about him? How do I accept blame without accepting responsibility for the entire situation? My boyfriend is one of those guys who has a hard time saying he's sorry, and I guess what I'm really trying to ask is how to proceed this way without setting the expectation that it's okay to say these mean things to me? I will take responsibility for my part, but how do I gently address the fact that what he said hurt me and it isn't okay to speak to me like this? I'm just afraid he'll think it's acceptable if he doesn't apologize, and I don't address it. Thank you!...
  • Lauren Gray
     6/23/2014 12:10:31 PM
    Hi writer123, Thanks for your share. Its human to feel good while you're lashing out. But it's not your heart speaking, it's your fear and your ego. These are parts of us that we need to learn to manage. It's like that 2 year old voice inside of us that throws tantrums…we wouldn't let that 2 year old drive our car, would we? We wouldn't let that voice make real decisions, would we? So, in the moment when you feel that 2 year old start to throw a tantrum, disengage. Walk away. Hang up the phone. Listen to her, call a friend and have them listen to her. Then, let your adult self (heart) take the wheel and initiate conversation your partner again. It's okay to have strong emotions. I have strong emotions. It just means we need to learn how to honor our emotions without letting them make impulsive decisions for us....
  • writer123
     6/22/2014 1:48:54 PM
    I love your advise and I've heard this before, yet when I was very hurt and angry I withdrew from him and cried for three days and then got so angry that I called him and said things I'm very sorry I said. I did this often and he did try to instigate me, so it;s no doubt better it ended. But when my emotions are so high, it felt good at the time to be hurtufl towards him and boy am I sorry I said all those things since I never would do any of it and yet he believed me.


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