She said something that pushed a hot button, and next thing you know, blind rage takes over.
Words are exchanged and within a matter of seconds, you’ve made the switch from protector to destroyer.
The woman who was once your beloved partner has now become your adversary.
In place of the woman you once adored in an immature, hysterical, crazy, hot-mess who won’t let it go.
You elect to choose the high road: discontinue the conversation to protect her from your wrath– because continuing to engage means subjecting her to greater potential emotional battery from your verbal assault.
Whether or not you politely request a timeout or bark the demand to be left alone, you make it abundantly clear you need space.
Trying our very best to grapple our emotions, some women turn into researchers. A simple Google search can cue up a number of various articles written by psychologists, couples’ counselors, dating coaches, and self-professed gurus. They all suggest one thing: “Give the man his damn space.”
Your female counterpart acknowledges, on a logical level, the benefits of your retreat. Upon your return, you come back calmer, less stressed out, more cooperative, and open to reconnection. We can agree the de-escalation is mutually beneficial. However, on an emotional level, completely removing yourself from your partner feels you’re withdrawing—an equally destructive action.
Meanwhile, during your absence, she falls into a holding pattern of analyzing and overanalyzing. She begins to enter a state of catastrophic thinking, questioning you and your relationship. A time-out during an argument provides you an opportunity to allow your mind go blank. However, it becomes a devil’s playground, where her imagination begins to run wild.
When you walk away from a fight, you see it as walking away from a situation. She sees it as you walking away from her and checking out of your relationship. She perceives it as abandonment, and as stonewalling. Instead of feeling calmer, she feels a sense of panic. Instead of reducing negative emotions, it causes her stress levels and anxiety to rise. Instead of moving toward a place of feeling centered, she feels even more confused and apprehensive.
She wants answers. She wants to fix the situation—for you and for the relationship. She wants to resolve things, right now. Complete with her own set of blinders, she is also seeing red.
She’s seeing Code Red: “Must revive and save this relationship, STAT.”
Remind yourself of this when she chases after you after you walk away, when she begins to blow up your phone, or bangs on your door to force a conversation. Understand this behavior is a result of the crazy making too much time and space can do to a woman ill-equipped to deal with an abrupt departure.
So what should you do?
Following are 5 tips to help navigate the distance and reconnection for a successful transition back to a thriving relationship.
1. Understand that women are not less hairy versions of men. Honor our differences by acknowledging your biggest complaint will be not having enough space and hers will be not having enough intimacy.
A time out is absolutely necessary, particularly during the most heated debates. However, despite how escalated she is, she does not benefit from prolonged exposure to silence. Understand the hours, days, and/or (God forbid) weeks you require to decompress can be excruciating for her. She feels isolated and abandoned.
2. Provide her reassurance of your return, and if possible, a timeline for your absence. Her mind will wander into the territory of wondering if things are over between the two of you. If you are certain the time alone you need is a result of needing to blow off some steam, include this confirmation when you ask for space.
Indicate how much time you need alone. Tell her you need an hour to be alone and reassure her you will return after an hour. If, at the end of the hour, you require more time, contact her in an hour to indicate how much more time you need. Repeat these steps as necessary.
Added bonus, letting her know you aren’t leaving her. You are only disengaging from the argument, not her as a person.
3. Preemptively strike by providing each other with Rules for Engagement. Set each other up for success by exchanging information of how you’d like to be treated and spoken to when disagreements happen. Share with one another a list of known triggers and actions, including specific words, phrases, or behaviors that send you from zero to sixty. Update this list as frequently as necessary.
Also, exchange information regarding your responses to hostile environments and what your needs are within a time of chaos. The awareness is both empowering as an individual, but also empowering for your partner.
4. Upon reconnection post-fight, be fully open to understanding her experience and be ready to support her transition to reconnecting. There is no one true version of a story. Your version of what happened is far different from hers, so acknowledge that her subjective reality was an experience that was very real to her. She might’ve been angry, or alone, or felt destroyed. Let her express her feelings to you and lend her some much needed empathy.
Perhaps the time away provided an opportunity for her to self-soothe, but in order to repair the relationship, all hands have to be on deck. Allow her to guide you on what she needs to re-establish that connection with you. Not sure what she needs? Ask her.
5. Play detective: determine what true emotion was beneath the anger. Anger is just the manifestation of the feelings boiling underneath the surface. Determine if the fight was triggered by the need to protect yourself from feelings of shame, fear of rejection, or threat to your emotional safety. Increasing your self awareness raises your emotional intelligence. Understanding what triggers you to lash out provides you an opportunity to engage in proper prevention (refer to tip #3).
We, the women in your lives, understand on a logical level the needs to respect your boundaries and space. However, when tensions run high and emotions run deep, all logic gets thrown out the window. Know it’s not always the argument that breaks a woman’s heart; sometimes your reaction to everything after the fight that do the most damage. It is in this space a woman is typically most vulnerable. Advancing your knowledge of your lady’s experiences can stimulate and increase your level of empathy and compassion, thus enhancing the quality and longevity of your relationship.
If you believe in the work we are doing here at The Good Men Project, please join like-minded individuals in The Good Men Project Premium Community.
The Good Men Project is an Amazon.com affiliate. If you shop via THIS LINK, we will get a small commission and you will be supporting our Mission while still getting the quality products you would have purchased, anyway! Thank you for your continued support!