What Men Need More than Pep Talks When Feeling Stressed

how to help your man when he's stressed outMany of the women I know can give a motivational speech better than any keynote speaker.

If you’re having a tough time, these women are the ones you want by your side.

They’re supportive, encouraging, and positive. When they see that someone is feeling down, they make it their job to bring that person back up again.

I think that’s wonderful. I value having people like that in my life.

But I’m also aware that their supportive nature can backfire on them … particularly in romantic relationships.

Men don’t always appreciate motivational speeches. They don’t necessarily want help to feel better. But that doesn’t mean they don’t need a woman’s support.

In a minute, I’ll share with you an extremely effective way to help the man in your life when he’s going through a tough time.

But first, let’s look at why men and women respond to support so differently.

We live in a world where everyone is supposed to be happy and having fun all the time. Social media captures the highlights of people’s lives.  Which makes us feel bad when we compare our lives to their seemingly exciting lives, full of funny and interesting posts.

Things do get hard at times. But, because it’s not necessarily socially appropriate to share those things, most people don’t advertise what they’re going through.

As a woman, you want to know what your friends are going through so you can be there for them. You don’t want them to hide it from you. It would feel as if they’re shutting you out.

But, if your friend is a man, think twice.

Men and women have very different ways of dealing with stress.

Researchers have found that men are more likely to fight or flee. This can mean getting argumentative with you just because things are going bad at work, or withdrawing to his man cave and communicating only with grunts.

Women are more likely to tend and befriend. Talking it through and engaging in healthy self-care activities (yes, shopping counts) can get a woman through most things.

The stage is set for trouble when a woman assumes that “tend and befriend” is the best stress-management strategy for everyone, including her man.

She knows something is wrong, but he won’t talk to her. He keeps finding excuses to avoid spending time with her.

When she reaches out to help, only to be met by a wall of male resistance, she feels hurt. And then she starts getting mad.

how to help your man when he's stressed outWho does he think he is? Why get into a relationship in the first place if you’re not going to talk to each other? She knows he’s withholding something, and that’s not okay. Honesty is the foundation of a good relationship.

Fair enough. Now let’s see what he’s thinking.

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Stop Old Arguments from Wrecking Your Relationship Rhythm

Stop Old Arguments from Wrecking Your Relationship RhythmTry this quick experiment. I’ll explain why in a bit.

Think about the last time your boyfriend did something really irritating. For just a moment, 30 seconds tops, remember every detail you can.

Got a specific annoyance in mind? Good.

Okay, the next part is the important part. How do you feel RIGHT NOW?

The original emotions came back, right? You spent less than a minute thinking about something frustrating, and you felt yourself getting upset all over again.

You’re probably not surprised by that. I’m sure you already know that when you remember something, good or bad, it’s like reliving it. [i] The feelings always come back.

And, boy-oh-boy, are there times when that can wreak havoc. Like in the middle of a fight.

When conflict breaks out, it’s only natural to think of other times something similar happened. But when you do, it makes everything about the current conflict messier.

Silent Man - Relationship RhythmIn part, that’s because you’re piling negative emotions on yourself. Now you’re upset about two things instead of just one. But there’s another downside.

Once you think of ONE other time he’s been a…ahem…bonehead, you’ll likely think of SEVERAL other times.

In the world of psychology, this is called “kitchen sinking.”[ii] That means throwing everything into the current argument you can think of, including all kinds of past pain.

And, yes, guys do it, too.

Kitchen sinking will make any conflict much harder to navigate.

What’s more, a recent study[iii] found that even if you don’t actually mention past irritations during a fight, just thinking about them is as bad as bringing them up!

Luckily, there are two surefire ways to keep the past in the past.

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Go One Step Deeper than Good Communication

Go One Step Deeper than Good CommunicationIf you spend even a little time reading up on what makes a relationship work, you’ll come across a lot of advice on improving communication. Happy couples have good communication, right?

Well, yes. But are they happy because they have good communication, or do they have good communication because they’re happy?

A recent study from the University of Georgia[i] confirms that good communication and romantic success DO go hand in hand. But good communication seems to be a side effect of relationship success, not the reason for it.

Think of it like this.

If you’re fit and healthy, you likely exercise and eat right. While being in shape makes it easier to choose to hit the gym, you don’t work out because you’re already in shape. Rather, being in shape is one of the results of regular exercise and a smart diet.

Good communication happens when there’s already a special foundation built on something deeper than just conversation. To go beyond mere communication, you need a unique and powerful kind of intimacy.

Psychologist Douglas LaBier calls this level of romantic intimacy “Radical Transparency.”[ii] Radical transparency happens when two people are able to really be themselves around each other, totally open and honest at all times.

If you want to take your relationship to that level, you’ll need to do two things.

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One Response to Survive and Thrive Under Criticism

how to respond to criticismKaren thought it would bond them as a couple. A weekend workshop devoted to developing greater intimacy? Bring it on!

But on the afternoon of the second day, her world turned upside-down.

The topic was how to give feedback instead of criticism. The facilitator asked each couple to turn to one another and state the 3 things they most liked about the other person as well as the 3 things they most disliked.

Her heart was pounding as she told her boyfriend she’d go first. “What I like most about you is that you’re thoughtful, handsome, and loving.” She paused, trying to think of some gentle feedback that wouldn’t hurt his feelings.

“I wish you’d clean up after yourself more. I wish you’d be available more, rather than working so late. I also wish things were more romantic, like they used to be.”

He smiled and nodded warmly. She felt a rush of relief. This wouldn’t be so bad. “Okay, your turn,” she said.

“The three things I like most about you are that you’re beautiful, you’re warm and caring, and you make my life better.”

Karen’s heart soared. She grasped his hand tightly. “Thank you,” she whispered.

“The three things I like least about you,” he continued, “are that you’re always getting after me for things in a way that doesn’t feel respectful. You have really high standards, which are great, but it makes our life stressful in a way it doesn’t have to be. Sometimes I don’t think you really see what you’re doing. You think you’re being positive when you’re actually bringing everyone down.”

What?

How could he say that? After that moment they’d just had?

Even worse, he was smiling, as if what he said had been kind rather than completely devastating.

Karen jerked back her hand. She scooted her chair away from him. Through the white noise ringing in her ears, she could hear him ask, “Honey, are you okay?”

But she wasn’t.

And she wasn’t sure if she’d ever be again.

In all relationships, there are some things better left unsaid.

Like what you really think of his crude best friend, or his parents’ Christmas gifts.

But giving and receiving feedback is essential to healthy relationships.

So I’m going to suggest one simple phrase for responding well.

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