Take it away, Wayne!
First, it takes two to have an argument. So, if he’s arguing, she has to be arguing, as well.
Let’s be clear about what we’re talking about. We’re not talking about being obstinate, angry, or shouting. That’s something he can do on his own. To argue, you both have to participate. So when we talk about arguing, we’re talking not just about men, but women as well.
So why do we argue? What are we trying to accomplish? To be right, to be heard, to make someone else wrong, to defend, to attack, to deflect, to skirt responsibility, and when it’s just not fair, to name but a few reasons.
We also argue to gain greater intimacy, believe it or not. For those who grew up in highly dysfunctional, hell-raising homes, arguing was the closest thing to true intimacy they may have experienced. Later, these wounded souls bring that distorted form of intimacy to their new homes and relationships.
So, what actually happens in that moment, that nanosecond, right before someone decides to dig in and argue? In that fraction of a second there are more actions and reactions taking place—at the speed of light— than one could hardly imagine.
For instance, a man may hear his mother’s voice—in his wife’s tone—scolding him. Well, the truth is, he often hears his mother’s voice coming out of his wife’s mouth. You know it. You can sense it with every fiber. However, he’s usually unconscious to it. He just reacts.
And to be fair, he sometimes hears his father’s voice, as well, emanating from the little lady.
When we’re hearing the voices of our parents, or other critical voices from our past, we’re not in the moment. And I would suggest that whenever we’re arguing, we’re not truly in the moment. We’re reacting to something else, someplace else. We feel powerless and under attack. Though we’re probably not at risk, we behave as if we are. What moment are we in?
When we argue we’re in our pain and ego. We’re living in the past. But when our commitment is before our ego, we (men) are more concerned with our women and the health of our relationship, than with making our goddamn point. Make sense?
The solution comes right out of my book. We need to listen and we need to express ourselves without defending. Easier said than done.
But I can tell you, after having worked on my dysfunctional self for nearly 20 years, once we start paying attention to what’s actually going on in that nanosecond before we engage in an argument, we begin to consciously make new choices. Slowly, we build muscle and are eventually able to be in the moment, and participate in a discussion (or just listen) where once an argument would have taken place.
If any of you RUers have any contrary thoughts about this post, I’ll be happy to listen…without arguing.
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RU Readers, are you in the moment when you argue with your significant other, or someplace else?
Be sure to stop back on Friday when author Nicole North teaches us the down and dirty of writing hot love scenes.
Wayne M. Levine, M.A. is the director of the West Coast Men’s Center in Agoura Hills, CA, where he coaches and mentors men, and facilitates men’s groups. He also created the BetterMen Retreats for men, and for fathers and sons. In addition, Wayne is the founder of BetterMen.org, a life coaching and mentoring resource for men.
Wayne’s interest in men’s issues began in the early ‘90s with his participation in men’s work activities. His experiences with men’s groups, as a participant, leader and program developer, taught Wayne to “father” men and to support them in making difficult and important changes in their lives.
He earned his Master’s in Clinical Psychology from Antioch University/Los Angeles. Wayne also received his BA in journalism and graduated Magna Cum Laude and Phi Beta Kappa from the University of Southern California.
Wayne’s been married to his first and only wife, Ria, for over 25 years and is the proud daddy of Emma, Austin and the family’s menagerie of animals. Wayne strives to be a better man, husband and father each day in Oak Park, CA.
- Wayne Wednesday: Moms and their Sons
- Wayne Wednesday: Men’s Fantasies
- Wayne Wednesday: How Much Do You Really Need and Want to Know?
- Wayne Wednesday: When Men Retreat
- How Do Men Talk to Other Men about Female Troubles?