A close female friend told me something that is less than truthful. When I found out from her daughter of what she had done, I went into reaction. Even though I know better (intellectually) than to lay blame I watched myself do this. How could she do this; how can I trust her when she exhibits this behavior.
Underneath this “blame” behavior I knew I would not “get” the true value of this incident until I took personal responsibility. Since the reaction creating “incident” did not involve me directly, how could I possibly be responsible?
I knew the answer had to come from the “meta” perspective. Even knowing this, I was not willing to look there. As my ‘reaction” started to subside last night, I remembered when someone fails to be truthful it is usually driven by one of two factors: the desire to be liked or to avoid rejection.
I went deep inside as I looked at these two alternatives. I realized, what is now obvious, I have not created a safe enough “context” for her to dialogue/discuss this issue. If I had created a safe space she would not have done this.
It is my role to make the context safe. This means I have to be able to allow the other to “make the un-makeable statement” or “make even the most un-makeable request” without me going into reaction. Clearly, I have not done this.
Doing the research, I came across Dr. John Gottman who seems to have revolutionized the study of marriage. He has been doing this for over forty years. His books: The Science of Trust, A Couple’s Guide to Communication, What Makes Love Last?, The Man’s Guide to Women, Principia Amoris are well known.
The one I am addressing is The Seven Principles of Making Marriage Work. This book is definitely pro-women. In this book, he points out that, in general, females do not go into destructive reaction as quickly as men. Even when they do, women come out of their reaction much more quickly.
He feels natural selection favors a woman who stays calm. This is the opposite for men. Natural selection favored males whose adrenaline spikes quickly. This natural selection causes a mismatch between the sexes.
Men go into reaction must easier and more quickly than women. When this happens, men need to withdraw; they need time to integrate; they need to have space to recover their equilibrium. It takes far longer for “reaction” to subside in men. As a result, men often “stonewall” the situation.
For women, it is just the opposite. Gottman’s data shows that women’s stress hormones spike when men stonewall them. When women are in reaction they want to “talk” and “connect” more. This lowers female stress levels. Yet men need to have time alone to lower their stress levels.
This feels like what is going on. I need space; she needs to talk and connect
In addition, on a meta-level, I need to create an environment that allows her to “make the un-makeable statement” or make even the most “un-makeable request” without me going into a reaction.
For that to happen, I must create a safe space for us to dialogue/discuss the breakdown. Hiding from this breakdown without address weakens our foundation (on all levels).
When this happens, giving the man space feels like to best response. Even though women are in reaction want to “talk” and “connect” more. It is best to allow the male the space to cool down and integrate. Let the man come to you; that action should signal he is now ready to dialogue and discuss the incident.
Attempting to approach the male BEFORE he makes his overture to you usually creates more reaction in him.
I am a comprehensivist:
“What can I do for you?”
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