Cooling down communications is key to resolving relationship conflict
Imagine being in the throes of a heated argument with your mate, when suddenly his eyes glaze over and he turns stone deaf. Since he’s not listening to what’s bugging you, you turn up the volume, hoping to blast the wax from his ears. No use. Instead of understanding, he digs his heels and defends his actions. Now you’re really pissed, so you crank your emotional thermostat to the max and hammer harder. And big surprise; he’s more deaf, more defensive or just plain outta there is the flash of a firefly.
Why men withdraw from relationship conflict
Millions of women throughout the world are all too familiar with the way men distance emotionally or physically whenever relationship conflict erupts. The technical term for this conflict pattern is the demand/withdraw negative escalation cycle, more commonly known as husband withdrawal. According to research, husband withdrawal is the number one cause of relationship conflict and divorce as well as domestic violence.
Husband withdrawal is caused by a collision of two incompatible modes of handling conflict: that of the wife, who intensely expresses her hurt and anger and that of the husband who withdraws from the confrontation.
To extinguish this common fighting pattern, it’s vital to understand the biochemical imbalance that underlies it. Let me explain:
Men’s biology is hard wired to be hyper-reactive to stress and danger. This programming dates back to prehistoric times when men were hunters and needed to react with lightning speed: to flee or flight dangerous prey. Modern danger is no longer the ferocious tiger, it’s the pissed off wife or girlfriend. When she comes at him, baring her teeth and berating him with criticism, his body sees danger and involuntarily switches into ANS arousal, which triggers the fight-flight response.
Since most men don’t want to physically fight their partners, they flee instead.
There are three ways that men flee from relationship conflict
- The first type of fleeing is physical, when the man leaves the room or the house, hides out in his workshop or avoids coming home.
- The second type of fleeing is mental, or psychic fleeing, in which the mind takes a hike. The man is deaf, dumb, blind, and practically drools on his tie; he’s physically present but mentally gone.
- The last type of fleeing is what I call verbal fleeing in which the man justifies, makes excuses and defends himself in order to verbally escape responsibility.
Not knowing that these various fleeing behaviors are caused by primitive biological programming, a woman thinks that her guy is fleeing because he doesn’t care enough about her to resolve the conflict. Her hurt morphs into anger, which she expresses with great intensity, thereby unwittingly setting off more biological fire alarms, more fleeing, and a downward spiral of conflict is born.
How can you break this cycle?
The answer is what I call: Relationship Climate Control. Remember I said that heated fighting triggers a chemical imbalance in men’s bodies that causes them to flee. It turns out that cooling the climate literally shuts off the fight-flight response, which makes husband withdrawal magically disappear. Then and only then will a man stick around to resolve the conflict with you.
There are three primary ways to cool the climate. I discussed the first cool-down technique in my first blog. In this blog, I talked about the need to eliminate Fight Traps, which are those faulty fighting tactics that heat up the climate and cause more withdrawal behaviors.
In future blogs, I’ll discuss other ways to cool the climate.
Photo Source:Attractive man from MyStockPhoto.com