Posted On February 10, 2010 by Print This Post

Wayne Wednesday: When Men Argue

Welcome to Anatomy of the Male Mind a.k.a. Wayne Wednesday. Today, Wayne’s going to touch on what it means to a relationship when men argue.

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. :grin:

* * *

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’s Bio:
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.

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13 Responses to “Wayne Wednesday: When Men Argue”

  1. Wayne –

    Happy Wednesday! As a gal who loves a good debate, I can understand that arguing can be used for gaining intimacy.

    My question is this: how do you get to the point where you can freeze that nanosecond before things get out of control? And how does the arguer/ee know what to say to him/herself and recognize what’s going on?

    Hope this makes some sense!
    Kelsey

    Posted by Kelsey Browning | February 10, 2010, 2:20 am
    • We spend a lot of time on that nanosecond. It takes practice to get conscious. First you have to make a commitment to stop arguing. Without the commitment, nothing happens. Then you begins to pay attention to your body and get familiar with what usually happens right before you launch. What I usually suggest to men is to tell themselves to “shut the f*ck up, for a moment, and then start identifying what’s actually going on. It works when you commit.

      Posted by Wayne Levine | February 10, 2010, 8:53 pm
  2. Hi Wayne,

    Thanks for another great post!

    Tracey

    Posted by Tracey Devlyn | February 10, 2010, 6:49 am
  3. morning wayne!

    great post…thanks! a lot of times an argument will bring up other past arguments….is there any way to keep an argument “on track”?

    carrie

    Posted by carrie | February 10, 2010, 9:16 am
    • The problem is that we usually are arguing about the past, whether we’re aware of it. Again it’s about commitment. If the two of you have an agreement to leave the past out it, then as soon as it happens, the discussion stops and you assess whether to continue. Individually, it’s important to commit to never bringing up the past in an argument. It’s infuriating and never productive.

      Posted by Wayne Levine | February 10, 2010, 8:55 pm
  4. Wayne,

    Thanks for sharing! One thing I find hard is I tend to portray the “victim” in an argument and can clearly see this is unfair to my poor husband, who is a pretty laid back guy. I need to have a better handle on the “poor me attitude”. Any advise??

    Posted by Jane L | February 10, 2010, 11:11 am
    • A lot of men are afraid to engage with the victim because they’ve lost before they’ve ever begun. If you want to have a mutually respectful marriage, first agree to stop arguing, and then start talking to each other like adults, saying what’s on your mind and opening up to what the other has to say. The victim thing is your little girl. It’s as helpful to your marriage as his little boy. Silence those critters!

      Posted by Wayne Levine | February 10, 2010, 8:57 pm
  5. Hi, Wayne. I’ll agree with you on this because my husband and I don’t argue a lot, but when we do, it’s generally not about the thing we are fighting over. I’ll just have to keep on my toes with that nanosecond!

    Great post!

    Posted by Adrienne Giordano | February 10, 2010, 11:52 am
  6. Sometimes is helps to just drop on the floor—literally—and surrender as soon as you’re aware of it. At that point, an argument cannot continue…you’re too busy laughing. 😀

    Posted by Wayne Levine | February 10, 2010, 8:59 pm
  7. My husband and I (30 years together) are not successful arguers at all.

    The few times that we have, it usually goes like this. —I finally bring up something that’s bothering me or making me feel badly about myself, that I want to fix, (say– he is referring to me as Lucy(from I love Lucy)- he means it as a term of endearment, I’m receiving it as a critisism.) He takes offense to my bringing it up. Saying – “Fine, I guess I’m just an A#@$%S,” we get off subject, now we are both unhappy. When all i wanted was him to stop calling me lucy! It seems once your in the argueing frame of mind, you start argueing about semantics and nothing is accomplished so we try not to go there.

    Solution- I try not to bring anything up and just swallow the things that bother me.

    Question do all men take offense or take it as a personal threat if you ask them to change something?

    P.S. Love this guy to pieces and he does end up changing but the process is painful so I’ve always got to ask myself firsrt if the change is worth the battle.

    Posted by Darceeyates | February 11, 2010, 10:38 pm

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