By Duana C. Welch, Ph.D.
Gregory Smith, Founder of Midlifebachelor.com, for male translations / commentary
January 1, 2015
|Ever know a woman who’s always right – or at least, one who thinks she is? Of course, nobody’s perfect. And great relationships rest on the ability to tactfully deal with differences.
But how do you do that? Fortunately, science has answers. And it’s some of the best-conducted relationship research in the world.
Dr. John M. Gottman studied couples for more than 35 years – not only
adding new couples each year of the study, but continuing to observe those who were there from the start. And he and his team figured out, definitively, what makes for relational happiness.
Fortunately, they also discerned how you can do it, too – in three mostly easy steps that ensure a better sex life, fuller wallet, greater happiness, and better health. And did I mention the sex?
Midlifebachelor comment – the predicted results sound way too good to be true, unless these “steps” involve alcohol, and / or noise-canceling headphones.
Now that I’ve got your attention …
Step 1: Recognize and respect your Relationship Mechanic’s work.
Most men gallantly discharge tasks including lawn work, car care, and open-flame cooking. Some – God love them – scrub toilets. Meanwhile, women maintain relationships. But whereas men’s chivalry is appropriately acknowledged as important work, women’s efforts are frequently called by another name: nagging.
Although this can be painful to the more Silent Sex, fully 80% of difficult issues are brought up by the woman in heterosexual couples. And neither cars nor relationships run well without maintenance. In the happiest couples, the woman does *not* accept a lackluster relationship as the norm, nor does she ignore problems as her anger builds. Instead, she does the vital job of complaining, insisting on protecting and enhancing the relationship.
Midlifebachelor comment – I am not sure that all “complaining” has the goal or objective of wanting to protect and enhance a relationship. I’m thinking of several example complaints I’ve heard, such as, “Why won’t you assemble this furniture – are you lazy?” or maybe “Quit telling me to please get waxed – that’s annoying.” Sometimes women get downright nasty with their comments – examples of which I cannot write in this article (due to the foul language involved) … but I’ve dated a fair number of dramatic women, and earned my stripes for having taken many verbal bullets in the past.
So make a mental shift to honor your Relationship Mechanic’s work. It’s the couples who are disengaged – living separate, lonely lives, often without bothering to fight anymore – who are at the greatest risk of misery and breaking up.
Midlifebachelor comment – “Relationship Mechanic”??? Are you kidding me? Is that like a “Domestic Engineer”??? Ahhhhhh!!!! I need a beer!!!
Step 2: Prevent harsh startup by including her input.
Some women are better Mechanics than others, though. Difficult Women criticize instead of gently voicing a mere complaint about the specific behavior at hand; just because research shows criticism never helps a relationship doesn’t mean women have gotten The Memo. If “Remember how we used to cuddle? Let’s do it tonight,” has routinely become “You selfish jerk! You never consider my needs,” it’s a statistical guarantee that you’re headed towards For Worse.
Fortunately, you can reverse the Difficult Woman metamorphosis, especially if you still admire and like her. Most women only turn Difficult after months or years of feeling disrespected when their input is ignored. So the solution is straightforward: Include her input. :
Midlifebachelor comment – Agreed. You have to at least appear to be including her input.
Does this mean saying “Yes, Dear”? No; constant agreement is impossible. In fact, 69% of problems are unsolvable in all relationships, including the happy ones. Instead, convey respect by considering your sweetie’s perspective in life’s decisions and discussions, big and small — whether or not you ultimately do it her way. Concretely, this means calling her before you agree to a night out with the guys; asking her opinion on what TV to buy; listening if she has ideas about skim vs. 2 percent; and doing the difficult discussions instead of tuning her out.
Midlifebachelor comment – I often try to include her by saying something like, “I’m trying to form an opinion about (insert whatever IT is here). What do you think about this (or know about it)?” Then whatever she says, I tell her something like, “Okay – that’s great input.” Be careful though – if she insists on her item or approach when you ask for her opinion, you will need to talk her down a bit … just say something like, “I understand you are passionate about this.”, then go do something different which may involve leaving if she is chasing you around looking for a commitment on the subject.
Some call these men whipped. Researchers use a different term: Happy.
Midlifebachelor comment – you can still do what you want BUT ONLY IF you become good at SELLING your ideas to her. This takes practice, and you do have to compromise at least some of the time. For example, if she thinks you drink too much, then come home with a 12 pack instead of a full case of beer. Tell her you are cutting back because you love her, and value her input regarding your health. You get the idea.
Step 3: Recognize a flooded engine, and know what to do about it.
It’s happening again: The woman in your life has broached a sore subject, and she’s done it harshly. Take your pulse-really. If it’s over 100 beats per minute, Gottman’s science says you’re “flooded” and won’t process another thing right now.
What most men do at this point is called “stonewalling” — watching their mate’s mouth move while failing to respond in any way, and hoping it will eventually be over. Although research shows that men stonewall to avoid escalating a fight, it usually has the opposite effect. And of the four destructive disagreement techniques (in order: criticism, defensiveness, contempt, and stonewalling) – habitual stonewalling is the deadliest for a relationship’s longevity, heralding an end that is near indeed.
So don’t stonewall. Instead, take a break. You’ll require 20 to 30 minutes of TV or some other non-alcoholic distraction – after which it’s vital for you to return to the discussion. Imagine your Difficult Woman’s shock when she assassinates your character, only to find that your response is to calmly stop her, tell her you want to continue the talk after you’ve had a half-hour break – after which you actually return to consider her opinion. The goodwill you’ll buy will prove priceless. And over time, you’ll win. Not the battle – not the war – the peace.
Midlifebachelor comment – 30 minute breaks don’t work with highly dramatic women. You will need one-half to a full day of time before re-engaging the discussion. If she is asking you a question rooted in jealousy, then it might be best to be dismissive. You won’t win in any case, but at least you will still have your front teeth intact.
If you follow these steps, your entire relationship will improve, because very few Difficult Women continue behaving badly in an ongoing atmosphere of respect.
Midlifebachelor comment – everything depends on the LEVEL OF DIFFICULTY with the woman in question. Some women are just maniacs regardless of what you do – and in that case, my suggestion is that you kick her to the curb and start fresh with someone new. Be careful NOT to attract the same “type” of woman – see the midlifebachelor.com article, Types of Women for an overview of what’s out there, and what to watch out for.
Plus, you’ll be right in every important sense. Always.
Duana C. Welch, Ph.D., is the author of Love Factually: 10 Proven Steps from I Wish to I Do. To get a free chapter and see more, please visit http://www.lovefactually.co
Gregory Smith is the Founder of www.midlifebachelor.com and www.been-cheated-on.com, and is the author of How to Successfully Recover from Having Been Cheated On, and also Signs of Infidelity – How to Know for Sure If Your Partner is Cheating (both books can be purchased on www.been-cheated-on.com)