<p>Three steps to deal when she ups the emotional ante.</p>
There is no man in the world who doesn’t understand exactly what another man means when he says, “She’s crazy.”
There’s a reason for this. Women feel most emotions much more strongly than men, and they also tend to be more influenced by hormones, anxiety, social pressure and so on. The prettier she is, the more likely she is to be a bit nuts sometimes. Don’t blame her. Blame everyone else in her life, male and female, who treated her differently because she’s attractive—and not always in a positive way, either.
(I’m not trying to give men a free pass. Guys can be as frustrating and incomprehensible to women as women can be to men. In fact, my book for women addresses this—order it for your single female friends here—and most women certainly don’t feel like they have it easy in the dating world.)
Here is your three-step survival guide for “crazy”:
She has to “get out” whatever is bothering her. It’s been proven over and over that women generally solve problems by talking through them while men usually prefer to suppress or avoid them. So let her handle things in her way. Show her that you are listening. You might be able to hear her just fine while you’re checking e-mail, but she won’t feel listened to. Stop what you’re doing, look her in the eye and don’t interrupt. She should start calming down already.
Don’t focus on the specific points she is making—especially if some of them are “wrong”—but rather on the emotions behind them. For instance, if she’s giving you crap that you were out all night with your buddies and you didn’t call even though you promised you would, she’s not actually upset about the missed call. She probably feels that you don’t value her or respect her as much as she’d like and is using the “missed call" as a way of communicating this.
This is really important, and it’s something that’s easy for guys to mess up. Our brains naturally want to find the logical truth behind an issue. But even if you could prove that you never promised to call last night, you won’t have solved anything. If she is feeling devalued, she will feel defensive about your calling her out and move on to another example of a time you didn’t appreciate her. This is consistent with her emotional truth but can be incredibly frustrating to men, who often interpret this sort of behavior as her “causing drama” or “picking a fight” or … “going crazy.”
In this example, you might say something like, “If I’m hearing you right, you’re frustrated and feel that I’m not always as attentive as you’d like me to be. Am I right?" If you’re not right, ask for her help and keep trying until she gives you an explicit “yes” that you have it right. Maybe she’s upset because she feels she can’t trust you to keep your promises, or because you never invite her along when you go out with your friends, or whatever.
Keep rephrasing until you get it right. For one thing, you can’t solve a problem you don’t understand properly. For another, the neutral conversation trying to put her emotions into words will itself decrease the emotional tension and let her feel more in control of the situation (or “less crazy”).
Just going through this process and being able to express and validate what she is feeling should solve most small problems most of the time. She might say something like, "Yes, I did feel a bit ignored. I appreciate that you can understand that.” Or, “Yes, I did feel a bit unappreciated, but it seems kind of silly/I’m over it now.” Even if you’re not totally home free, you might be within range—it’s a pretty easy and logical step to tell her you don’t want her to feel unappreciated and that you do appreciate her, for example.
I’m not saying be a pushover. If it’s important to you to address an issue, now (not before) is the time to do it. Starting from her emotions makes the process a lot easier. For example, “I’m sorry you feel disrespected. That’s not how I feel about you at all. If I’d known you were waiting for me, of course I would have called. This has come up a few times now and I’d like to solve it. How about next time you’re expecting me to call and I don’t, you just call me and we clear up any misunderstanding right away?”
Of course, conflict-resolution skills won’t save you if you really did screw up. No woman is going to say, “Thank you for understanding that I’m pissed off that you slept with my best friend. I feel all better now”. But even when you really screwed up—actually, especially when you really screwed up—you’re going to get to a solution a lot quicker if you start by letting her vent, listening for her emotional truth and then neutrally testing and refining your understanding of her emotions until you and she are on the same page. It won’t save your ass, but it’ll give you a fighting chance.
Nick Savoy is a professional dating coach and President of Love Systems, the largest and most successful dating coaching group for men. He is also a frequent contributor to Playboy.com and co-copyright holder on The Mystery Method: How to Get Beautiful Women into Bed.