Jane is angry. John is about to make a big mistake. What should John do instead?
Here is the scene. It’s 5:30 am Monday morning and John and Jane are back into their normal weekday routine. With 2 jobs, 3 kids and 1 dog, their mornings are usually a little hectic.
Jane: I really need your help this morning. I have to leave early because my boss called an early meeting today. I hate it when he does that on Mondays. I slept like crap too.
John: Okay. No problem. I’ll get the kids going and make lunches. What else do you need?
Jane: I hate when you do that.
John: Do what?
Jane: You should know what else I need. They’re your kids too. You shouldn’t have to ask me how to help out with that.
John: I know how to take care of the kids. I was just asking you what else I could do to help.
Jane: That’s what I’m talking about. You’re just clueless in the mornings and I feel like I’ve got to organize everything and make all the decisions. Nevermind. I don’t need your help with anything if I can’t count on you.
John: Clueless? Holy crap. What’s the matter with you? What did I do to deserve being talked to like that? Did you wake up on the wrong side of the bed or something?
You know how it goes from here. And it’s not pretty.
What is the mistake John made?
It happens all the time and it is the number one issue I see with men facing relationship conflict like this.
John’s mistake was that he took the whole conversation personally.
Don’t Take it Personally
This is so easy to say yet so hard to do.
John’s reaction to Jane came from a dark place that many men can relate to. It’s not just this 30 second discussion that has him feeling defensive and mad. He has been storing up quite a bit of resentment lately.
Jane used the word “clueless” twice on Sunday when talking about the plumbing repairs. She’s been dismissive for days and told him to get “his head out of his butt” on Saturday morning.
John has been hearing a lot of “You always” and “You never” attacks.
They haven’t had sex for 4 weeks.
It’s hard to not take everything personally when his heart is telling him it feels so personal.
But his feelings are steering him in the wrong direction.
John is in need of a mindset overhaul.
Think About This Differently and You Will Feel Differently
I’ve worked with many “Johns”. I’ve been John.
Nothing in John’s relationship will change if he cannot choose to think differently about what is really going on. The hurt feelings, disrespect, resentment and emotional distance will continue. These emotions will slowly tie themselves into a knot in John’s gut which makes him question if it’s all worth it.
Here is what John told me.
John thinks Jane isn’t just angry this morning – she is angry with him all the time. He’s wrong. She’s just angry this morning. It’s not all about him.
John thinks Jane might be right about his cluelessness. He seems to screw up a lot. He’s wrong. He’s a brilliant electrical systems designer. He is a very smart man.
John thinks Jane is treating him badly because she doesn’t like him or want him. He’s wrong. She is treating him badly because she feels stressed, scared, uncertain and over-whelmed. She actually loves him and has always loved him.
John thinks the knot in his gut is all Jane’s fault. He’s wrong. The knot in his gut is caused by his own feelings of inadequacy and powerlessness.
If he can just begin to see the truth, John will start feeling more confident and able to respond better to Jane.
What’s the Truth About John?
John and I talked for weeks. We designed a new pair of “glasses” for him. He began seeing things very differently and I asked him to write down his new truth.
I’ve always thought angry women were angry at me. I’ve always thought it was my fault and my job to fix something when women were angry. I believed there was something wrong with me. The truth is that I can’t own or control their anger.
I’m not clueless and I don’t live with my head up my butt. I’ve accomplished incredible things professionally that most men can’t even understand. I can learn how to better empathize with my wife and communicate with her in ways that support our marriage and don’t result in me being a victim.
When Jane treats me badly it doesn’t mean I’ve screwed up. It is not all about me and I shouldn’t see it that way. I feel less defensive and more connection with her when I see why she is feeling stressed and over-whelmed. I can respond more positively without feeling beaten up.
I own the knot in my gut. I put it there – not Jane. My feelings of anger, resentment and powerlessness came when I believed I had no control over her and the situation. I don’t need to control her or the situation. But I can control how I think about and respond to her anger.
Don’t take it personally.
It’s so easy to say yet so hard to do.
I think the difficulty lies in our thoughts. Our thoughts create our feelings.
When we give others the power to tie knots in our guts, we will always take things personally.
The key is to find our truth and respond from a new place of self-respect and confidence.
It’s only from there we can share authentic love, support and strength with our partner.
And in most cases, that’s all she ever wanted anyway.
I often give advice to men on how to better respond during arguments. Now it’s your turn. How would you advise John? What do you think he might have said or done differently? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!