One of the search topics that brings a lot of people to my website is dealing with nasty and harsh behavior from their wives. Because I see at least two new visitors to my website every day with a question about how to handle it when their wives act cruel, cold, or mean, I wanted to create a short series for the guys in committed relationshups out there on how to cool things down and make their marriage pleasant and romantic again.
I’m going to include a lot of book recommendations in this series, as well. This seems like a great time to help guys find some important marital resources.
The First Thing to Know
Is that nine times out of ten, relationship problems are communication problems. Once you two find a way to start having a meaningful exchange, the rest will tend to sort itself out. But communication is not just about using words, it is about using empathy to read your partner’s moods, and understanding a little psychology and using a little logic to figure you why a person is behaving the way they are behaving.
I will focus a lot on how to talk to your wife – and how to show her through your behavior what you want – in later sections. First you need to understand why your wife is acting the way she is.
Bad Behavior is Rarely About You
In his amazing book The Four Agreements, Miguel Ruiz lays out the four basic thoughts you need to hold in mind in order to get the most out of your interactions with other people. One of those agreements is “Take Nothing Personally.” And it is a great first principle to building a better marriage.
Your wife’s behavior isn’t really about you. It is about her, what she perceives, and what she feels. You cannot “make” a person feel anything; they look at the world around them, draw conclusions, compare their conclusions to past experiences, and feelings come from the patterns they see.
When a wife is acting badly it is because she looks at your behavior, and imagines something that may or may not be there. She is reading her situation and your actions in a way that may be entirely inside her head. And then she is comparing it to every time she was hurt, disappointed, abandoned, or afraid in the past. If she sees something too close to a past hurt, she will begin to feel afraid, and feeling afraid, she may choose to lash out.
And that is at the core of it: wives behave badly when they don’t feel safe.
They are forever looking for signals from you that you are emotionally strong, that you are paying attention, that you care about her happiness, and that you are loyal to her. After all, deep down what she wants in a husband is a hero who will protect her from danger, love her, and provide for her and her children. That has been the basic patter of relationships between Men and Women for all of human history.
Most Bad Behavior is a Test
Once you realize that the bad behavior of your wife happens when she is afraid that you will cheat, abandon her, hurt her, neglect your children, or wimp out in the face of danger, then you can start to see that every time she acts badly is an opportunity to prove those feelings wrong. They are a test of your character.
If you respond to your wife’s mean or cold behavior with a show of your personal strength and mettle, she will feel safe again. After all you just showed her that you are manly, know what she needs (without her having to spell it out) and won’t wimp out at the first sign that someone is angry at you.
In the manosphere they call most of the bad behavior “fitness tests” (as in, ‘are you fit to survive in the wild?’), “shit tests” (as in, ‘do you have your shit together?’) or “spine checks” (as in, ‘show some backbone, Man!’). Sometimes they can also be considered “loyalty tests”, where the woman is seeing if you love her and are loyal enough to her that you will stay loving through some rotten behavior.
When You Pass the Fitness Test, She Becomes More Loving
It is easy, when your wife is screaming at you, sulking, or trying to make you look bad in front of your friends or family, to just want to curl up in a corner – after all this is the person that promised to love you and care for you the rest of your life. Another part may want to just walk away and leave her to keep behaving like a grouchy brat on her own. There may even be a primitive part of you that wants to give her a good smack and yell at her to act her age. The compromise 80% or so of men I work with reach is to sit silently and take her bad behavior on the chin like a champ. None of these are the right option, because none of them show her that she is safe with you.
If you can make her feel safe with you, then the behavior will not only stop, she will change entirely over the course of a few hours. A woman who feels secure in the knowledge that her husband would stand between her and a saber-toothed tiger can become as loving and affectionate as suddenly as she seemed to turn into a screeching brat.
A man who consistently passes these fitness tests finds that they taper off, her behavior will become generally more pleasant. In a way this is an exchange: if you show her your most masculine self – the man of strong mettle, courage, and keen mind, then she will transform into her most feminine self – the soft, loving, and sweet woman with whom you fell in love.
If your marriage has been a battleground for awhile now, it will take time. You will need to pass many of these tests before she feels really safe again, but they will become less and less intense over time.
Mind you, the fitness tests never fully stop, even in the best relationships. When a wife or girlfriend feels unsafe or insecure because of other things going on in their life, they will look to their Man to be the rock they can cling to in the storm. That means you will sometimes be tested when other things make her feel unsafe, too. Many women crave their husbands’ masculine energy; they love seeing him show how tough he is, and so they sometimes will test him, just to see it.
In fact, the fitness test is part of the mating dance for most women. Before they can feel sexually attracted to their husbands, a wife must know that he is her champion. A woman is far more attracted to a man that will stand up to her, and who is her champion. Once you pass a few fitness tests, she becomes much more open to your sexual advances.
The Take Away, and How You can Use It.
So to compress all of this down into a tight argument:
When your wife is acting like a brat, she is telling you that she doesn’t feel safe. She wants to see you stand up and act like a Man so that she knows you will be there for her. That means solving the problem at hand, standing up to (assertively!) her if she is saying nasty things, and keeping your cool. It helps to think of bad behavior as a test of your character: ff you pass you get a loving wife who is feeling more attracted to you; if you fail you are stuck with the angry screeching brat.
So, when faced with bad behavior this sequence of thoughts will let you pass the test:
- This isn’t about me, it is about her being afraid.
- Her bratty behavior is actually a plea for help, she needs me to help her feel safe.
- I start that by showing her that I am not afraid of her or hurt by her. That I am calm, collected, and in charge.
- Then I show her that I am on top of the problem that made her feel unsafe.
I will discuss how to spot a fitness test, and how to pass one. The day after I will talk about when a wife’s bad behavior shouldn’t be taken as a fitness test, but is a sign of a bigger problem.
Next week, I will talk to you about what you can do to build a character that makes passing fitness tests easy, how to avoid arguments about stupid stuff, how to talk to your wife with both your voice and your actions to display your character, and how to deal if you are just too damned angry to want to pass the test.