[Author’s Note: This article is for dealing with extreme bad behavior, and offers a short-term solution. If you are dealing with everyday rudeness, or you want a long-term solution to conflict with your wife, consider also checking out my series Ending Conflict and Building a Better Relationship with Your Wife starting here.]
I have lately spent a lot of time talking with men whose wives get out of control. They use rotten behavioural tactics to try and bully their husbands. This can involved slammed doors, deriding husbands in front of their children, throwing things, breaking possessions, manipulative crying, locking men out of their own bedrooms, throwing the idea of “divorce” around freely, screaming and calling them degrading names, or acting badly in public to humiliate their husbands.
This sort of bullying, emotional behaviour is designed to make a man feel guilty and afraid. For a man who has been strongly enmeshed in feminist doctrine, he can be made to feel like a monster simply because he is faced with an upset woman and he somehow feels like it is “his fault”, as if a woman didn’t get to choose her behaviour. For other men, this can create a fear in them that their wife is dangerously irrational and might divorce him frivolously or level a false abuse accusation at him. In both cases, the response a man has to the behaviour is often to back down and try to make his wife feel more loved.
This is one of the worst things you can do in the situation, however: it teaches his wife that she can get what she wants using the behaviour, and can control him and the marriage simply by behaving badly. It encourages one’s wife to behave childishly and disrespectfully, because your actions say “I will love you no matter how badly you behave, so please make this marriage into an environment where you can do anything you want with no responsibility to me or our children.
It is important to remember: we train other human beings how to treat us with every interaction. If we allow ourselves to be bullied, we invite others to bully us. A lot of this training happens on a subconscious level, and makes it hard for any but the most disciplined people to control. You don’t realize you are inviting your wife to bully you, and she doesn’t realize she is being a bully, because it all happens so effortlessly. It seems to be the way things ought to be.
The only effective way to respond to this kind of bad behaviour is to hold one’s wife accountable for her actions like a mature adult worthy of real respect. That means calling her out on her behaviour and teaching her how you would like to be treated. This takes a blend of assertiveness and inner strength that many men need to teach themselves.
I call these dramatic behaviours “Hamster Attacks”, because they are usually controlled by the worst part of our nature: the irrational, petulant, childish, selfish part of ourselves: the parts that do not want to behave as a reasonable adult or make compromises. In Game, these parts of ourselves are collectively called the “Rationalization Hamster.”
When faced with a Hamster Attack there are several tactics that work, which I will describe below. All of have both merits and demerits. Not all of these tactics are necessarily playing fair, but then, you are dealing with someone who is already breaking the rules. By meeting bad behaviour with a little unkindness you are discouraging your wife from using bad behaviour to get what she wants in the future.
The Three Ps
Before I talk about them, a quick thing to remember: Presenting solid Alpha during these conflicts can be easier if you remember the 3 P’s: Posture, Poise, and Position.
Posture: keep your back straight, legs apart, and shoulders square; if you are taller than her make sure that is all-too-apparent. Arms akimbo on your chest or hands on your hips makes you look powerful and mildly intimidating.
Poise: Keep cool. Shouting does you little good when dealing with an upset woman: it only feeds the need for more drama. Instead keep your flat and even voice even, or if you can’t, then bring it down into your diaphragm and tighten your throat so that you have a deep voice with a bit of a growl; this makes you sound dangerous and angry, but under control. If you really want to put her off your game you can instead try for amused mastery, which involves using a lightly sing-song voice and a smirk (imagine she is a petulant child, it helps.)
Position: make sure you take up space. If you are taller than her, make sure she knows it. Put yourself in a position where you are free to move around but she has less space – standing between her and a doorway or sitting on a chair or stool, if she is on something with arms. Get closer than your usual speaking distance buy an inch or two.
Tactics for Handling Hamster Attacks
When I talk with men about these problems, and I look back at all the ways I and the men in my life have handled it when their wives have acted badly I have noticed four tactics that generally work well.
1. The Challenge: This is a pretty simple communication tool, and the one that hopefully will become the default. Sadly it is also the most difficult to to make work when a woman is acting out in an intense and dramatic way. It is one you ought to use regularly for less dramatic behaviours to help make it an effective tool in your relationship.
The Challenge is very simple. It begins by saying “This behaviour is unacceptable to me.” in a calm and rational tone. Then it is followed by asking your wife to examine her behaviour: does the situation warrant it, is it reasonable, is it mature? This works best by keeping it to I statements. A useful formulation might be: “I need you to look at how you are behaving right now and tell if you really think it is appropriate.”
This will get your wife into the habit of examining her reactions and evaluating them, which will reduce the drama significantly.
2. Just Walking Away: This tactic is simple: you refuse to engage or reward the behaviour with attention. It lets the your wife know that there is no reward forthcoming and forces them to develop different behaviours. For this one to work you have to use it repeatedly and consistently, Stay remote and don’t engage until they come to you. Keep necessary communication flat and as simple as possible. When they start to behave better, warm back up, thus rewarding civility.
This is a good one, if the person is self-aware enough to realize that they are behaving badly, and is in the habit of owning their behaviour. People blind to their own behaviour can mistake this for passivity and assume they have won. If you have been running a good assertive map for 8 months or more and she is sued to you putting down fitness tests this one is most likely to work.
If the behaviour was mild, make no bones about it afterwards. If it was notably rude or disrespectful, ask for an apology.
3. Walking Away After Creating Awareness: This is where you refuse to engage but you let them know you refuse to engage, this can be done assertively with something like:
“I will not continue this conversation while I am being spoken to in this tone; come back to me when you are ready to communicate like an adult.”
or it can be done with a shock by using harsh, coarse, and insulting language:
“You’re a bitch when you don’t get your way. Try again when you are ready to be civilized.” or “You’re behaving like a spoiled child, and I’m not playing.”
Assertive is calm, non-confrontational, and doesn’t spin the hamster up more. It is best used as a teaching tool for patterns of behaviour you want to break. It also builds mild attraction.
Shock will cause drama, it will make her angry and you can expect screeching or sulking as a result. Continue to refuse further engagement. This is best used when assertiveness is failing you, or she refuses to change her pattern. It forces her to look in the mirror and see a pretty painful picture. On the upside, it builds a lot of attraction fast… which is why so many couples that fight have “wild make-up sex” afterwards.
Do not make a habit of shock, because it can be construed as abuse if overused. Shock also skirts the edges between Assertiveness and Aggression, and I consider it a defeat in previous communication to have been pushed to the point of needing it, and a call to improve communication in your relationship.
Again, do not engage until she comes to you. Monosyllable answers to important questions will suffice. If she tries to engage with rudeness or accusations respond by pointing out that you are waiting for her to address her previous behaviour: “I’m still waiting o talk about you behaved about X, are you ready to talk about it.” or “You behaved poorly to me, I’m not about to reward you by pretending it didn’t happen. If you are ready to talk about that, then I’ll happily start talking.”
Once she does engage, ask for a full apology first. Then address the issue. Also, remember that if this drama is created by some real problem that your family is facing, the first thing a good Alpha does is make a plan. Then they assure their wives that they have shit handled, and tell her the plan. Bonus points if you have a first step you can do immediately, or while you are waiting for her to apologize. Double bonus points if you have a homework assignment for her to help her feel like she has input and accountability for the problem while still being under your leadership.
4. The Stare-down: This tactic handles problems on the spot, but it is taxing on you. If you try walking away and the behaviour continues, this should come out in very short order. This technique has the power to end bad behaviour fast, and teach. It can also be sexually arousing. However, it is built on intimidation, and used too frequently can create a bad undercurrent in a marriage – you can cease to be perceived as dominant and instead be see as dominating or bullying.
Start by breaking the pattern by giving a simple command like “Stop.” or “Enough.” Remain as even as you can, or allow only an edge of danger in your voice. Again, shouting shows a loss of control that will make her feel like she has won.
Position yourself in a way where she will have trouble simply walking away and lock eyes with her. If the situation is not volatile, and she will not interpret it as an attack, holding her dominant wrist can help. Scowl and do not break eye contact.
Once she has stopped the behaviour, explain that her behaviour is unacceptable. Use one sentence, where you make sure to point out that her behaviour is poor, intolerable, and clearly is motivated by more than the situation. I like: “Your behaviour has been disrespectful, and totally inappropriate.”, or “You are completely out of line.”, or “Obviously there’s more going on here than what is apparent to me, because this shit is so far beyond the pale that I am speechless.”
Finally give her an open ended, short, and forceful command to justify her behaviour. “Explain!”, “Spill!”, “Justify your actions!”, or “Give me a good reason why I should put up with this.” are all excellent examples.
Once she is talking, be ready to call her out on excuses, rationalizations, projections, BS, and lies. When she starts talking allow only facts and her feelings to be relevant to the discussion. “This is about how you were acting.” or “This about you.” are good re-framing tools.
Again, ask for a full apology after she is done talking.
If she attempts to disengage at any point repeat the break, or make it clear that walking away is not an option. “Stop” is often enough. If it isn’t then be sure to use harsh and shocking language. Some phrases I have used in the past have included “Don’t you dare walk away from me after behaving like that”, “I don’t recall giving you permission to walk away”, and “If you walk away from me without an apology, there will be consequence to our marriage that you will not like.”
If she insists on walking follow until you get a door slammed in your face. If that happens, switch to tactic 3. I recommend assertiveness over shock, but shock can have an effect.
Men are prone to an experience called “catalytic anger” where your anger triggers an aggressive response, that makes you even angrier, it becomes a chain reaction where you keep getting angrier and angrier until you lose it and blow your top in some way. Do not let a woman’s bad behaviour push you to this point. If the temperature is rising use this technique immediately. It will defuse the situation for you.
Closing with a Kiss
Once an apology is made and a serious conversation about the behaviour is had, you need to reward the choice your wife has made to apologize. And make good on her behaviour. This will encourage her to communicate and treat you with respect and dignity in the future. I try to end any encounter like this with a kiss and a reminder to my wife that I love her.