I'm fresh off the phone from explaining the difference between how men and women react to stress in relationships and the bad behaviours they prefer when they care about the situation.
I say 'prefer' because sometime the roles reverse.... but most of the time, a girl gets visibly upset (crying, moaning, angry etc), and the guy gets distant (silence, coldness, defensive etc). These tools we use to get our way, to get attention or to just deal with our feelings can happen almost sub-consciously. And before we know it we have alienated the one we love so quickly and effectively that its no wonder all my friends say they 'don't understand the opposite sex'.
Now i'm a girl and since i noticed my 'bad behaviour' i've been more aware of how it affects the men in my life.
Here's a breakdown of a typical female 'needy' reaction:
What - Emotion overload... crying, thinking 'poor me' and 'he doesn't care', getting depressed, sulking, nagging, slagging him off to her friends, moaning or getting mean and angry
Why - To get attention or 'caring' reaction to feed her ego. To see if the guy really cares.
When - In a stressful situation she can't control. To force the issue and confront it head on so the neediness is satisfied by drama
Outcome - Arguments & ultimatums
How to deal with it - A guy shouldn't pander to her sulks or crying with a hug or approval seeking behaviour. It will just reward her tantrums. Instead acknowledge she is upset, and tell her you understand why she reacting that way. Tell you care but you're not willing to talk about it until later (agree a time in neutral territory) when you are both calmer.
Now i understand this behaviour as it used to be mine. I know how it feels to want answers, to wish the guy would open up and just talk to me about the way he feels. Its like a steam engine... once it starts to build up momentum its hard to extract yourself from the crime scene with dignity. You have to kill the emotion dead at the first stirrings of 'doubt' and 'self-pity'. I find it very hard to do, mainly because my emotions lay just beneath the surface. I feel first and think later.
Now when a guy gets stressed he can have a completely different 'bad behaviour'. One that us girls don't understand. Because we don't react like that when we care about the situation, so why do men? This is the downfall of communication in a relationship. The women thinking the man doesn't care because he reacts differently. The fact is men don't react the same way... they react in a polar opposite. It doesn't mean they aren't affected by the issue or care less. It just means that they do care but they don't know how to handle their feelings in a mature way yet.
Here is a breakdown of a typical male 'needy' reaction:
What - Emotional shutdown... silent treatment, abrasive or flippant remarks, sulking, getting busy with work/x-box, seeking time alone, not listening and getting defensive.
Why - To get attention, feed his ego, or put off having to deal with it right now and hoping it will go away.
When - In stressful situation he can't control. When he needs time to think and make the right choice. When he doesn't know what to think.
Outcome - Cold fronts & Miscommunication.
How to deal with it - A girl shouldn't start to doubt that he cares or ask him 'whats wrong'. The first will lead to a build up of negative emotion which can erupt sooner or later. The latter will draw attention to the fact that you are sensitive to there being 'a problem', and he may deny it and you'll look and feel stupid for over-reacting. Best advice. Leave him be. Ignore it and then later when he is back to normal ask him in a calm, curious manner, if anything was on his mind lately. If he denies it then point out that you noticed his rudeness/coldness or lack of attention and how it made you feel and kinda upset you, but nothing you couldn't handle. Next time though maybe he could clarify what is going on inside his mind so you don't jump to conclusions?
So how to deal with stress so you don't fall into the behaviours above? Well honesty is a good start, and willingness to communicate, and it has to come from a place of reason and understanding of the other. You wouldn't fly off the handle or get cold and aloof with a colleague at work would you? And in a way a relationship is like a business. You both have needs and they need to be met and compromise negotiated. So in a stressful situation i like to try a method that works in any situation. I've stolen it from material on emotional intelligence (EI), a course i attended last year for work actually!
1) Be aware of how your behaviour affects others and the way they feel.
2) What do you feel and are you expressing it in an intelligent way to convey that feeling?
3) Stop thinking of what you want and what you need and instead focus on the needs and wants of the other person. Put yourself in their position.
4) Try to understand why they are reacting/behaving a certain way and communicate that you are trying.
5) Realise they will behave differently from you so don't compare to what you know and can make sense of. They are not you.
6) Now ask them to understand where you are coming from and convey your feelings.
7) Do not let your emotions overwhelm or control you. A reasonable response to any situation will always get the other person's respect.