MEN…AFRAID OF WOMEN? WHY MANY MEN ARE AFRAID OF THEIR PARTNERS AND WHAT TO DO ABOUT IT
Throughout the years, I’ve worked with many couples in which the man was highly reactive and prone to rage, control, and verbal abuse; not surprisingly, the woman was often scared of his anger. After living with the reactivity for several years however, the women in these types of relationships often get fed up and bring the men in as a last ditch effort: he either stops raging or she’s leaving. If he truly wants the marriage, he stops the rage and the marriage transforms. If he doesn’t, the marriage is often over.
This is not the case however, in my experience, when the tables are turned and the woman is the highly reactive one. In this situation the man is often so fearful of the woman that he does not call her on her behavior at all. He’s afraid she will get angrier, retaliate, make threats, or get hysterical, so he tries to placate her and wait until she calms down.
Unfortunately, this seldom works in the long run. If her reactivity doesn’t subside and he’s too scared to deal with it directly, many men begin to escape via work, affairs, porn or depression.
Should the man be fearful? It depends on the woman. Some women absolutely are very reactive. Some women have purposefully tried to seek revenge on their partner when he has done something she didn’t like. Some women can go on and on incessantly about an incident with such intensity that it would scare most people. And, at its extreme, I’ve seen some women threaten to harm themselves in the heat of the moment and scare the entire family with her behavior. Other times, it’s not the woman’s response that is off but the man’s need to avoid conflict, at any level, at all cost.
Either way, the least effective thing for a man to do if his partner is highly reactive, is try to avoid and placate her behavior (This is true for women with highly reactive men as well). Instead, the man needs to relationally and respectfully, call the woman on her behavior. Don’t placate, over-accommodate, say yes when you mean no, or duck. Instead, effectively step in and deal directly with the issue.
Every time you duck when she escalates, you teach her that what she is doing is okay. In essence, it’s like throwing a match to gasoline. Although you may think avoiding conflict is the best scenario, it’s not. Avoidance often leads to resentment, distance, and more frustration.
Address the issue and if she escalates, set a limit that you can follow through with. You can’t stop her from escalating however you certainly can stop yourself from standing there. If the escalation continues no matter what you do, you may have to put your relationship on the line.
Rage, control, and hyper reactivity are not okay to live with—for men or women. Set a limit and be clear, in your words and your actions, that you won’t have it in your life.
CHALLENGE: If you’re partner is highly reactive and you’ve been taking this behavior—stop it. Be clear to your partner that you don’t like it and it’s hurting your relationship and then set limits on it when it occurs.
If you’re highly reactive—stop it. Clean up your side and stop making life hell for everyone around you. It’s not okay for you or your family.