Ending Conflict & Building a Better Relationship with Your Wife (pt.2-b)

Argument
Argument by Ryan McGuire

“Correcting”

When men tell stories, we throw in a measure of blarney.  Men rarely talk about how we feel directly.  Instead we use exaggeration and poetic license to create emotional content to our stories.  “I was scared of the dog,” is not something a man normally would say, but “the damn thing must have been part wolf, I swear it was bigger than me!” can let us express the memory of fear powerfully.  Other men will appreciate the nuance, rather than literally accept that you faced down a 100kg wolf-dog-demon hybrid.  Listening to a man’s story and reading the poetic exaggerations for what they are is a sign of respect.

Women do not necessarily understand this.  Generally speaking women are depicted as being nuanced, and men literal on the topic of language, but when it comes to story-telling the role is usually reversed.  Women want stories to be factual; when they hear a man exaggerating, poeticizing, etc., it makes them feel unsafe.  They worry that their man does not have a clear, factual grasp on reality.  And so, they feel the need to interrupt and “fix” the man’s story by pointing out the exaggerations.

Women honestly have no idea how disrespectful this is in the world of Men.  In the convention of Men’s conversations interrupting a story, or calling bullshit on his poetic license is an incredible insult.  It is often taken as a question of his honor and manliness.  And for men, respect and love go hand in hand – when we don’t feel respected, we cannot feel loved.  The level of insult and offense intended and the level given are often catastrophically different in nature.

So the first thing to do is keep your cool.  Remember that she corrected your story not because she doesn’t respect you, but because she was a afraid that you really believed your own blarney.  Laugh at her correction, and finish the story. When you have a chance later take her aside in private and let her know that this is a problem.

“I need to talk to you about what happened when I was telling my story.  I really didn’t appreciate you interrupting me and correcting me like that; it made me feel disrespected and unloved.  When I tell a story I add a little flavour, and the audience knows it.  All the guys there know exactly what really happened, and so do I.   Storytelling is fun for me, and I consider it an art.  I would really appreciate it if you let me tell it my way, or tell it yourself in the future.”

On a second offense you may need to be a little harsher:

“We talked about how I tell stories in the future.  You know that I take this as disrespectful and that it hurts my feelings, and yet you chose to do so anyway.  Should I conclude, then, that you wanted to insult me and hurt my feelings, or can I ask for an apology and a promise not to do it again?”

These are conversations that are meant to be had in private.  Don’t call her out in public, or the insult you give her will be easily as bad as the one she gave you.  And you will look like the bad guy.

Allison Armstrong, a relationship coach for women, has covered this topic beautifully in her works Making Sense of Men and The Queen’s Code.  She also did a short video for Prager University that discusses storytelling in detail as a major point of conflict in marriage.

Note: If you are outright lying or misleading people, rather than adding a little exaggeration to your story, you may as well grin and bear it.  There is a big difference between rudely interrupting a story because you are making it sound exciting, and keeping you honest.

Throwing Tantrums and Verbal Abuse

While they ultimately come from the same place as nagging, a tantrum, or verbal abuse are intentionally meant to hurt you.  They are light years ahead of the nag.  In this case, the woman is making a scene in public, shouting direct insults, screaming, possibly making threats.  Often part of the point of this behavior is to get other men involved, as the world is full of guys who will happily beat you to a pulp if they think that you are an abuser. (The technical term for this is “proxy violence.”)

If you want to see good examples of this look for the infamous “Take me to the lake” viral video.  This sort of behavior is excessive, and if you deal with it more than once, it may be a good sign that the woman in your life is mentally ill, at which point, you might want to hold off until part 3.

When an otherwise mentally sound woman starts heaping verbal abuse on you or starts acting like a lunatic, there is only one response that works: Assert then Disengage.  The Assert part works exactly like it did in nagging above; call her on her bad behaviour, tell her it is unacceptable, let her know that you are not going to put up with it.  But do not invite her to explain  or try again.  Once you have said your peace, you leave. End of story.  It doesn’t matter how unsafe she feels or what has got her upset, she has not earned your help.

  • “I’m sorry, this is totally unacceptable to me.  We are done talking now.”
  • “No. I will not be treated this way.”
  • “I don’t even want you to explain yourself.  I am done.”
  • “You’ve just hit your limit of shitty behavior. Try me again tomorrow.”
  • “I’m done. I will check back later to see if you can act your age.”

The fact of the matter is that if she is going to extremes, she needs to know that you are not afraid of her.  If you can’t stand up to her, then what hope would you have protecting her from wild animals or marauding rapists?  Being brave enough to say “No” to her is the way you are going to pass this test.

Overspending

Maxing out your credit cards on useless stuff can be the sign of a dangerous addiction, or it can be a way of dealing with insecurity.  If a woman buys a ton of useless stuff and puts you both in an awkward financial position once, it is the latter.  If it is a regular thing, then you need to get her some mental healthcare, stat.

Let’s assume this is a rare event.  In that case, the odds are good that her spending spree is coming from a place of insecurity.  People shop because it gives them a feeling of accomplishment, and owning things makes us less afraid of going without.  It can be a good distraction from a feeling of dread.  And if she is spending herself into debt with your money, the odds are good that she is feeling insecure about her relationship with you.

For many men, overspending their resources is completely unacceptable, and if you are not already in an established and otherwise trusting relationship, it should be, and she knows that.  If a woman that you have not been together with for a couple of years ends up spending herself into the hole and expects you to bail her out, you probably ought to break it off right now.  But in a steady, long-lasting relationship your mission here is to prove to her that you are a point of stability in her life.  You start by making it clear that you are going to handle the problem, and that you are going to stay together, but this is not okay, and that you will take measures to prevent it from happening again.

Here are some examples of how that will sound.

  • “Okay, things are going to be tight.  You are going to have to return a few of those things, and I am going to have to bag lunches for a few weeks, but I’ll make this work.  In the meantime, I need you to promise this was a one time thing.  We are going to sit down and work out a budget so that you know where your spending money limit is.”
  • “Yeah, I can help you on your half of the rent this month. But this isn’t something we can afford to make a habit. I care about you, but this is pushing my boundaries, and I want you to understand that.  So for next month, I am going to go shopping with you and help you save some extra cash.”
  • “Listen, I need to trust you.  I try my best to be a support financially, and I need to know that I am not taken for granted.  So I need you to give me a written budget for next month that covers the excess spending from this month.  And one that won’t make me have to do more overtime.”

One way or the other, you are going to have to take the reins of your finances and hers for awhile.  This will not just keep the overspending from happening again, but it will also show that you are in charge, forgiving, steady, and that you are committed to keeping the relationship afloat.

Creating separate accounts so that she has access only to the necessary funds used to be standard advice, and very good advice for men with wives who overspent, but I recommend getting some legal advice first.  In recent years this kind of solution has been classified as “financial abuse” in some places, and you may need written consent from your woman, or it may simply be illegal.

[to be continued…]

2 thoughts on “Ending Conflict & Building a Better Relationship with Your Wife (pt.2-b)

  1. This is great stuff; models and scripts for dealing with specific issues make life so much less stressful.

    I have dealt with “correcting” in conversations where my wife took issue with my specific choice of words and corrected them. I had interpreted that as a strategy for derailing the conversation, I’ll have to rethink that now.

    1. I have discovered that “derailing” tactics are very rare. Most of the time when people nitpick, argue points, etc., there is something else going on. They are feeling defensive or insecure or angry. Intentionally derailing a conversation with useless trivia is very rarely the aim of anyone when they quibble about things, although it can most definitely feel that way.

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