Why Men Fight Dirty in Arguments (and How to Take the High Road)
Fighting in relationships can get out of hand so easily.
You just want to communicate about an issue, a challenge, open up and share but very quickly, you can trigger a man’s anger and he can transform from your loving partner into a mean and competitive person.
And if you push, he might even say “I don’t think this is working out anymore.” And that can be more terrifying than anything else he says.
The good news is, you can change this pattern and return to love — even after he’s said the worst.
Ideally, we’re all perfect and nobody makes a mistake ever, but the truth is, we all do. In this post, I’ll show you how to deal with the reality of the mistakes we make and how to reconnect.
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 return home, I’m not greeted with cardboard boxes and a change of address form. What can I do?
Understand What Really Happened
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 levels of stress, there is eight 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 eight 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 (eight 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. He’s in it to win it now.
And that is how a loving husband can say something that horrific and unkind to his lovely wife.
Picking Up the Pieces After Battle
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.
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. You make me so happy. Take all the time you need. I will be ready with open arms when you are ready to reconnect. You know my number.”
Get Ready to Reconnect!
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.
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