Have you ever been frustrated when you talk to your guy about something that’s really important to you?
Do you find yourself arguing with him? Is he dismissive or condescending?
Recently, a woman wrote to me about how each time she and her boyfriend get into a discussion about challenges in their relationship, it would deteriorate very quickly into a shouting match with both partners angry and resentful.
What made matters even worse were his attempts to make up with her afterwards. He would pretend like nothing happened and try to lure her out on a date and even try to initiate sex.
When this happens, the natural response is to shut down.
I mean, yuck. Who wants to kiss someone who treats them badly? When this happens, it feels totally reasonable to give him the silent treatment, or to lash out angrily – to pay him back for his inexcusable behavior.
The problem is, when you do this, you miss a golden opportunity to get heard, and to hopefully change his behavior.
Here’s a not-very-well-kept secret about us guys – after we behave badly, we’re predictable in this way – we know we messed up and we’re very poor at knowing how to fix it, so we’re open to hearing you.
And you, the woman, have a decision to make at this point.
The powerful choice is to express your feelings, your needs, and your frustrations, in a way that doesn’t blame or accuse him.
This may feel difficult or impossible to do, but it’s the KEY to changing his behavior.
Your other option is to react overly emotionally. But know if you choose to lash out and treat him as badly as he’s treated you, you’ll compound the problem. If you put your guy on the defensive, he will shut down – guaranteed.
The last thing I want to do here is excuse his bad and inexcusable behavior.
However, in those moments, you have a great opportunity. In fact, you might not realize how much power you have.
We guys, after we act boorish, are often apologetic and try to make “nice nice.” When this happens, that is your opening.
So, how do you get your man to hear you?
The formula is: Authenticity plus Timing minus Blame equals Effective Communication (A + T) – B = EC.
In other words, being completely honest and real about your feelings (not just acting them out), expressed at the right time (when he is open to hearing them), without blaming, judging or accusing him, will lead to Effective Communication.
It’s simple, but not always easy to do.
So how do you start?
By using “I” statements and avoiding all versions of “you” attached to a complaint.
Here’s an example. You might say something like: “Sweetheart, I really appreciate you wanting to take me out, but I still have some strong feelings about what happened earlier. Can we spend a few minutes talking about that?”
If he expresses that he is willing to listen, make sure you stay away from accusing him of anything. You can say something like: “I feel frustrated and angry when we have those kinds of exchanges and I’m not exactly sure what to do about it.”
Saying this expresses how you feel. It doesn’t put him on the defensive by blaming him – even though you think he deserves it.
I talk a lot about how to handle these kinds of conversations in my eBook – “How To Talk To A Man.”
In one section, I discuss in depth how to identify the actual problem and then how to articulate it to him without blame and judgment. This is a skill that you can learn, but it does take practice.
I understand the urge to lash out or to try to teach him a lesson.
However, if what you’re looking for is results – more love, more closeness, deeper connection, and better communication – the answer is to NOT give him the silent treatment, but instead to speak honestly and authentically, at the right time and without blame.
Jeffrey Levine is a corporate coach and trained mediator (and Rori Raye’s husband) who works with both men and women to improve their communication, deepen their connection and remove the blocks that keep them from feeling and expressing love. He is the author of “How To Talk To A Man,” which contains invaluable advice, tools and solutions to help you avoid common relationship pitfalls, and clean things up when they go south. “Every moment presents a new choice for you: a decision about what you want – and what you believe you deserve.”