Individual Counseling, Couples Counseling and Sex Therapy

How To Nag Successfully

According to a recent study from the University of Southern California, men shut down emotionally when arguing with their significant other. Any wife or long-term girlfriend will tell you they didn’t need a study to tell them this. But, what is newly discovered is that when men are under stress, the regions of the brain associated with understanding social cues become disengaged from other parts of the brain. As a result, they withdraw. Women’s brains, on the other hand, stay coordinated regardless of how much stress they are under. Furthermore, women also use more of their brains for verbal processing, as opposed to men, who use it for spatial processing. So women have an unfair advantage even before the arguing starts.relationship counseling, couples counseling, marital counseling

Yes, I’m talking about what we relationship counselors call the “pursuer/withdrawer” dynamic. You know it as the “I want to resolve this issue but he shuts me out and tells me to stop nagging him” problem. Whatever you want to call it, what happens is that the woman will want to discuss an issue, the man doesn’t appear to care (remember: they are having trouble reading social clues right now), so the woman begins to get frustrated and escalates her irritated behavior, which causes the man to withdraw more to avoid her anger, which causes her to yell louder… yeah, we can see where this is going.

Ladies, he’s not trying to be a jerk. And you’re not a nag. Men freak out when their significant others are unhappy. Trust me, I’ve seen it over and over again. He’s probably just stressed out and has withdrawn because a) he’s panicked because you are unhappy; b) he can’t read social cues right now so he doesn’t really understand why; and to make it all worse, c) he’s no match for you because he doesn’t have the same verbal talents and capacity as you do.

Or maybe he really is a jerk who doesn’t care about your feelings. Sorry, can’t help you with that one.

What to do?

  1. Approach him gently. Be calm; try to use a neutral tone of voice. Allow him time to process and think about what you are saying.
  2. Then back off. Once you’ve made your point, back down and allow him to respond. This may take a few hours or even a day.
  3. Own your own feelings. Start sentences with “I”, state your feelings and do not be accusatory.
  4. Focus on the positive. Praise him and appreciate the good things he does.
  5. Consider your timing. Don’t approach him right after a stressful day at work, but rather during a time when he’s likely to feel relaxed.

You still may need help sorting all of this out. In that case, I recommend you seek the services of a qualified relationship counselor. Counselors with “LMFT” (licensed marriage and family therapist) after their name are certified by the state to be qualified to do relationship counseling.

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