Relationship Advice Tips from Dr. Jeanette Raymond, Ph.D.
If you are a man it’s more likely that you are eager to shift away from bad feelings after having an upsetting interaction with your female partner. You get disappointed when your partner is reluctant to join you in a better place.
If you are a woman it’s likely that you need more time to deal with all your sad, angry and fearful feelings and it’s aggravating when your partner tries to cheer you up just to make himself feel better, without considering your pace of recovery. You get disappointed that your partner is not in tune with your needs and that makes you feel even worse. The lack of synchronicity heightens the tension between you and can create schisms that erode the ties of your relationship.
photograph copyright, Jeanette Raymond, Ph.D.
There is a way that men and women can find a better rhythm for coming out of bad moods and disappointments with each other by learning about each others styles just like Robin and Eve did after two years of incessant poking and prodding, withdrawals and silent treatments splintered their relationship to the brink of an irrevocable split.
Robin hated having the same old spats about the same old subjects in the same old way. It was wearing and lead precisely nowhere except to an impasse between him and Eve that left him hanging. No matter how uncomfortable the interaction, Robin felt he had stood up for himself which was his primary objective. But the consequences were horrible. He got anxious about being still being loved and wanted. Robin wanted everything to be okay again and he would try to make nice with Eve to get her out of her sad and angry place. The more he brought up new stuff to distract her and reconnect over joint goals or plans, the less Eve responded. She grew angrier and accused him of not taking her hurt seriously.
Robin and Eve kept their bitterness and fury inside.
They didn’t want to show how easily they could be hurt and pretended that they could handle the turmoil they experienced inside. Eve judged Robin as lacking depth and care because he closed off his feelings while trying to chivvy her up. Robin judged Eve as being obtuse and unresponsive because she wouldn’t talk about her feelings and let him change them for the better.
Neither of them appreciated that their styles of managing bad feelings were based on gender differences and that by trying to force one method over the other they were just adding to the mess that eliminated emotional intimacy.
photograph copyright, Jeanette Raymond, Ph.D.
What Robin and Eve discovered that led to more harmonious emotional connections
Research reported in the Journal Emotion, 2012 found that men and women who get equally down over their relationship issues remember more bad times overall. Men who try to suppress their feelings and not deal with them, stay upset but don’t recall a ton of past bad memories of their partner or similar relationship let downs. They recover quicker because they don’t get pulled down by more bad memories. Women who suppress their emotions in the moment are transported into a quagmire of bad hurtful memories that raises the temperature of the present upset, making it seem a lot worse. Women experience a double whammy of bad feelings, get more depressed and take a lot longer to change emotional gears.
So Robin and Eve learned that suppressing emotions was not helpful for either of them but worse for Eve.
Not speaking about their hurt, anger, sadness, sense of betrayal or rejection put them both in a negative place. After one of their disappointing encounters Eve became sealed in a tomb of misery while Robin tried to scratch at the wall from his sad place outside.
When Robin talked of feeling hurt because one of his old hot buttons got pushed, he was able to experience it as a familiar pattern that existed for him whether he was with Eve or not. That new perspective took the sting out of the spat and enabled Eve to feel less blamed, and with a right to have her feelings considered. She didn’t feel pressured to speed up her recovery and get into a better mood to fit Robin’s schedule.
In addition, Eve and Robin learned that if Robin was able to reconsider the squabble from a different angle, he could come out of his funk and be more available to Eve in a way that would help her feel more understood and accepted.
Once Robin and Eve found that looking at their distress and discomfort from another angle that didn’t put either of them on the hook, they were able to find connection by recalling happier moments and synchronizing around those times. Robin made more allowances for Eve’s time line for emotional shifts and Eve allowed Robin to be with her as he shared new perspectives without feeling like she had to obey his order to change.
Robin and Eve still have fierce interactions and withdraw. But they are practicing sharing feelings rather than suppressing them and looking at their situation using a wide angle lens. They are stronger and more flexible, knowing that these spats will not damage their relationship in the long run.
Copyright, Jeanette Raymond, Ph.D.
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Disclaimer: this article is for informational and educative purposes only. There is no liability on the part of Dr. Raymond for any reactions you may have while reading the article or implementing the suggestions therein. Interacting with this material does not constitute a therapeutic relationship with Dr. Raymond.