Monday, March 19, 2012

Argument Clinic

This is either going to be a great discussion or going to get everyone mad at me again.  I hope it generates good discussion because I really need to know what I’m dealing with. 

What I want to know is: do women all argue the same way, or just every one I’ve been with?

I swear, I really try to understand and argue fairly but sometimes I have to wonder if there are any rules of logic that apply.  I’m not just talking about Pinky here, I’ve seen this from everyone with whom I’ve been in a relationship.  It doesn’t matter what the argument is about, or whether it’s trivial or life-changing. 

Here’s what I see:

Get out of jail free card.  It comes out like: “Because I was the one that did the job, it doesn’t matter that I did part of it wrong… Example: “I just did all the shopping.  So what if I didn’t get the one thing you put on the list?” 

I don’t see why it’s an argument.  She’s shopping anyway, I put it on the shopping list, I mentioned it, and then she either forgets it or gets the wrong variation.  I don’t care about the zillion other things that I won’t eat or use, I needed the one thing.  But I’m the shit for mentioning it because she did the shopping?

Litany of side issues.  Starts when I disagree with an idea or notion.  I can expect a whole list of issues and statements to be brought up, none of which have anything to do with the situation at hand.  These usually come up right around the time I begin to win the argument on facts.  Once penned in by logic, change the subject.

Twisting my words to suit her needs.  This is when she takes what she thinks I’m saying, changes it into some unholy perversion of what I actually said, then attacks that.  (In other words, the “Fox News Defense.”  Also known as the “Straw Man” technique.)

Claiming personal attack when there is none.  Haven’t we all been taught not to attack the person, just the argument?  I try to do that but it doesn’t really matter.

Me: That’s a ridiculous statement.
Her: Don’t call me ridiculous!

Now for the rest of the argument, I get to hear how I called her stupid.  It doesn’t matter if I literally say, “Honey, I don’t think you’re stupid, but that idea is just not right (and list the provable reasons,)” all I hear back is the “you called me stupid” refrain.

List of Grievances.  Pretty much every argument I’ve ever had with a female devolves into a list of perceived slights, errors, grievances and everything I’ve ever done wrong since the moment we met.  In almost all cases, none of it has anything to do with the case at hand.  The Ex-Wife was particularly adept at this one, in fact, it was her specialty.  It guaranteed that we would be having the same argument in perpetuity, any time we disagreed over anything.

Do ladies really keep all those transgressions ready to use at a moment’s notice?  Or is there a sacred list that you keep somewhere so that when you get together with your girlfriends in the restroom, you can compare notes on how awful your husband or boyfriend is?

As far as I’m concerned, anything that happened 2 months ago is inadmissible.  There has to be a statute of limitations in there somewhere.  This also goes for anything I’ve ever said.

I honestly don’t know how women do it.  When I have a conversation, I pretty much consider it a transient event and when it’s done, it’s gone from my head and I move onto the next thing.  I’m constantly amazed when a partner can trot out something I said 6-months ago, although it’s not necessarily something I said, but something she heard.  (See the “that’s ridiculous/you’re ridiculous” effect.)  But I can’t prove that because I don’t really remember the conversation.  I only know it’s inaccurate because it’s some wingnut statement that I would never make, without the influence of hallucinogens.

Seriously, can you remember a conversation you had with your mate 2 weeks ago?  I can’t.  That shit would take up too much room in my head.  I might run out of space to put the cast members of MASH or what year Bat Out of Hell came out.

Constant interruptions.  This one drives me berserk because it usually happens when I’m making a solid point.  Apparently, the best defense is to not let the complete thought be expressed, so loud interruptions (usually on side points) are the natural defense.  Works on talk radio…

Raging generalizations or over-simplifications.  I hate them.  I should have a T-shirt made that says “Generalizations are Always Wrong.”  (See, that’s a joke, but I kind of mean it.)  The ones that start the most arguments are like “All [these people] are…” because I can’t stand such broad-based swipes.  If all I have to do is come up with one instance where the claim is not true, then why make such a claim? 

The one I so frequently hear during the quarrel is the accusation of “Yeah, you’re always right,” or “You’re always perfect.”

To which I answer, “So there, was that so hard?” 

Naturally, that rarely ends the conversation.  So I say, “Of course I’m not always right, no one is… but I am this time.”

No, that doesn’t end things either, but it’s so hard to turn off the Smartass Button.

Is all this really just an inbred difference in the way men and women think?  Is it as simple as men needing things to make sense but women are not so encumbered?  Please tell me that there are women that can have an argument in a rational manner, without throwing everything in the warehouse against the wall to see what sticks.  (I know that my Mom is one.)  I would be so happy to know that logic and reason still have a place in domestic disagreements.

I should note here that I’m only talking about disagreements at home.  All but a very few women with whom I’ve worked make their points during a disagreement or discussion at work in a completely logical and rational manner.  I have to assume that domestic issues with a loved one trigger a different set of impulses.

I also fully acknowledge that my choices of companionship may have a lot to do with it.  I tend to seek out feisty, high-spirited types.  Could be I’m just getting what I’m asking for.

I know that the obvious answer, the one that’s been passed from Father to Son for generations, is to just drop it and let her win.  And you know, I used to do that, a lot… and not just with women but with everyone.  But the older I get, the less I’m content with letting things go.

Is that just a natural consequence of getting older? 

Or am I just becoming a more of an asshole?

I know there are some points I should not even start with but sometimes I can’t help myself.  And most of the time, I’m perfectly content to just let the point drop.  But unfortunately that rarely stops the argument; it just means it continues one-sidedly.

Please weigh in… I really want other women’s opinions on this.  Do you go batshit crazy during an argument, or do you calmly and rationally work out your differences of opinion?  Be truthful… how many of those things I listed do you do?  The last thing I want to do is labor under a raging generalization of my own.

Meanwhile, the clip below demonstrates the Male Argument at its best… one of the all-time great Monty Python sketches.

46 comments:

  1. You are not alone! I think every woman likes to dig up the past and use it as ammo! I absolutely hate arguing! I try to avoid it at all cost.

    I also just love it when they try to take your words and use them against you, twisting and turning it all to how they see fit.

    This is a nice rant here and I'm with you 100%!

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    1. Thanks Dan.

      While I love a good philosophical argument, I hate when it crosses into the vicious and personal.

      I didn't mean for this to be a rant... just a plea for knowledge and understanding.

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    2. Rant or not... I can understand and relate to every point you touched on here. Couldn't have said it better myself!

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    3. Believe me, I appreciate the support!

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    4. It's called "carpet bagging". My mother was the champion of it.

      Dan and I agree WE WILL NOT DO IT.

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  2. I can say honestly that in my adulthood, I'm pretty sure I'm not guilty of any of those (and I'm pretty sure The Guy would agree with me). All that shit would drive me nuts, too.

    With regards to bringing up past events and arguments, I agree that they're inadmissible UNLESS they constitute a pattern of behavior. For example:

    Her: You seem to do X every time Y happens.

    Him: When have I ever done that?

    At that point, she is free to list any/all examples she has at her disposal. HOWEVER, it's not kosher to reopen old wounds. If it's over and done with, it's over and done with, and if it's not, well, then you've got a whole 'nother set of issues to deal with.

    The Guy and I have had exactly two "fights" in our relationship, and I can't even remember right now what the second one was about (the first was about him accepting a role in a show with a hellacious rehearsal schedule. He thought it was OK because it paid).

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    1. Wow, you have an amazing track record then.

      I completely agree with the scenario you present. Prior actions that are relevant are perfectly valid to bring up. Unfortunately, what I most often see are things that have no relevance whatsoever, other than it's something I did once and she didn't like. That's why it drives me bugshit.

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  3. I have no idea, but I'd love to hear the discussions that followed this posting.

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    1. What? You don't KNOW if you do any of these things? Cop out! Cop out!

      Anyway, stay tuned for further developments.

      Delete
  4. I don't think most of us have any idea how to deal with conflict in close relationships. Normally the argument is not about what just happened, but rather, is triggering deep-seated insecurities in both parties. That's why both men and women flip off into crazy town rather than being able to sit and really listen to each other. I don't know how anyone can have a long-term relationship or marriage without the help of a couples counselor.

    The thing I've been learning most recently in therapy is how to listen. How to just sit on my defenses, emotions, knee-jerk responses, etc. and try to really listen to the heart of the matter. To how my partner is feeling. He has learned how to do this for me and I have to say, it is amazingly powerful to have someone just listen to you get out all your bad feelings without interrupting you or defending themselves. In fact, by the time the whole thing is said and done, I'm not angry anymore.

    It is my life's goal to develop this ability to listen to someone's frustrations and anger without reacting and without making it about me. I think I could change my whole world view if I could master this one thing.

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    1. Thanks so much for your thoughtful, considered response.

      I fully admit that if I could just keep my big yap shut when I see or hear something that irritates me, I’d be much better off. It’s just very hard to deal with when you hear someone you care about carrying on about something you find reprehensible.

      I also realize that the issue is often something beneath the surface and not necessarily the topic that’s being discussed. That’s something I need to get better at gauging.

      Delete
  5. Argument is good mental exercise. Emphasize mental. Domestic spats get messy with outa control emotion in control. Why waste time and energy. Turning the other cheek is much easier, all four.

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    1. Turning my cheeks is my best defense. Leaving the room works wonders.

      Like I commented earlier, I do love a good debate. There’s no point in having opinions if you can’t defend them. Not to be able to do so indicates a weak position.

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  6. Dude, you've inspired me to write quite a reply. I'll come back when I have it fully formed (prepare yourself :) ). Hope you don't mind if I also link this post on my site with my response, too. Great topic!

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    1. Not at all. Take your time… we’re not going anywhere. If you have something significant to write, it’s certainly easier to write it in Word or something, edit there, then paste it into comments.

      Delete
  7. Yaaaaaaaaaaay, sexism!

    I do all of these and am perfectly justified.

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    1. Sexism? Just for asking about some observations I've made over the last... oh... 30 years? I don't think so.

      If I WAS making the case that all women argue this way, you would have just bolstered my point.

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    2. Bluz: "What I want to know is: do women all argue the same way, or just every one I’ve been with?"

      That is sexism.

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    3. I was partly purposely bolstering your case, Bluz, because it was funny to me that I saw myself in these, though I really and truly believe that I'm justified in the moment. And I was partly calling you out on this "all women are the same" attitude. Somewhat as a joke, because you've written feminist things in the past, and somewhat not, because yeah, you're clearly prejudiced against what you see as a women-only way of operating. "Women don't need to make sense in arguments, and men do." Maybe all the women you date are the same, in which case you need to date some different ones who you can respect in an argument.

      Delete
    4. Cassie:
      No, it is not. The commonalities exist within my past dating pool. In spades. I’m asking if it’s common elsewhere. It’s a question, not an assumption. I’m not trying to make a case; I’m seeking answers.

      Mundane:

      Sometimes it’s hard to tell with you Katie. Sarcasm is notoriously hard to translate in print.

      But you and Cassie are making the case right here… If you read carefully, I’m NOT making generalizations of all women, I’m asking about it, based on my own experience with an admittedly small sample. But it seems all you’re seeing from me is “All women are irrational harpies,” now here come the pots and pans flying.

      OK, that was probably sexist.

      But I totally consider myself a Feminist. But just because I think y’all are equal and should be paid the same as men and left alone about what you do with your bodies, doesn’t mean men and women perceive things the same way. I do believe that men and women are “wired” differently in a number of ways. There are hundreds of books and studies that say so (that I’m too lazy to look up right now). That’s not a value judgment because I don’t think any one way is better than another. It is what it is. Pink/blue… hunting/nesting… house care/lawn care… pool/pond.

      I wish I could provide more concrete examples of the kind of arguments I’m talking about, but the old ones, I probably couldn’t recall enough specifics to do them justice, and the new ones… well, I don’t want to air our dirty laundry here.

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  8. Oh I fully admit to the "get out of jail free" tactic, but I honestly feel it's justified. If I've spent the whole day cleaning, child rearing and grocery shopping while my husband has been relaxing and then goes through the groceries and complains about the one thing I missed or purchased wrong, it's all over. I understand that he wants one specific thing, but also understand that he should be appreciative of all those other things that were taken care of that he didn't have to do. He didn't have to fight through the grocery crowds and that mean old lady just to come home to a complaint.

    We have a rule about this now. If he wants something, he has to put it on the list. If it's not on the list, there is no guarantee and no complaints allowed if it doesn't show up.

    Can you tell this has happened a lot in our house?

    Otherwise I am for logical arguments. After then initial flare up, we take turns. Tell me why your upset, now I"ll tell you. We help each other understand why we're mad. Sometimes it takes forever, but I swear it's also what has kept us happy over the last nine years.

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    1. I am all for the sanctity of The List, but if it's on the list, and the shopper refuses to actually BRING the list because she can "remember everything," and my items on The List are missed... I'm sorry, I have a problem with that. And I've always been perfectly willing to do the shopping myself.

      Suffice to say, our roles are not exactly parallel. I'm the one with the 50 hour week and there are no kids.

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  9. Before I go any further, here is something very important that you should know. During the course of an argument, if sore points from one's past are thrown out yet again, it is because those things were NEVER RESOLVED to begin with. Think about that.

    O.k., now no one I know wants to get into an argument with me, because I am way too calm when I am angry. I plan, I plot, I think ahead. I try to get the upper hand by using words that a lot of people don't understand. This confuses them because they can't figure out what I am saying, and they don't want to appear stupid by asking me what I mean by that. It throws them off. They lose their train of thought.

    Oh, and those words? Well, I read a lot and do crossword puzzles, and I tend to remember those obscure words. I also have a copy of Roget's that I read just for fun sometimes.

    Rod knows he should NEVER forget anything on the shopping list, or get the wrong brand, so he calls me from the store at least twice just to make sure. He hates it when I get really calm.

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    1. I'll have to argue with you some time, Judie, because no one out "vocabulary's" me. Even if I don't know the word (which is rare) I can deduce the meaning via context.

      I rarely think ahead, though. I'm more, "read and react."

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  10. What's up man? Red Town Blues is officially back.

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    1. Dude! Welcome back... but... "little help?"

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  11. I'm confused. Are you generalizing women in general, or are you generalizing all the women you've dated? I certainly think that with most arguments, one must look at themselves in the mirror. No one is perfect. Especially me. When Matt and I have discussions, he uses reflective listening which is not only annoying, but subsequently eye opening and effective. Am I an annoying individual? Sometimes. Is he? Heck yes. We are flawed.

    Most of the time when I'm in a discussion, I find that my point is completely invalid because the person I'm talking to is already thinking of their counter answer. So, what's the point? I see none. It's like trying to turn a die hard Left into a die hard Right. It ain't gonna happen.

    I also whole heartily agree with Judy. If it's brought up again, it's not resolved. Perhaps that should be taken care of before it gets worse.

    Also, when Matt wants something and if I don't go get it, he's a big boy and can go get it himself. Self sufficient should be common sense.

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    1. Lastly, it seems like you've generalized women as a whole. Perhaps you needed to have dated different kind of women? We're not all like that. Some of us are actually enjoyable company.

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    2. I’m not generalizing anyone. I’m looking at commonalities among the women I’ve dated and with whom I’ve argued, and wondering if it’s them, my relationship choices, or if there is a larger well of similarity among women. Because I see the same shit happen over and over again in pretty much every relationship I’ve been in.

      My issues involving the List of Grievances stem from bringing up things that really aren’t “settleable.” Like, say I did something wrong (in her eyes) in the past. There is nothing to resolve... it happened. Maybe I’m right, maybe I’m wrong, but it would keep getting trotted out in any disagreement, as a chip. “You did that wrong, and that other thing wrong… (so I want my way here.) It didn’t matter if I agreed I was in the wrong or not, it would be repeated for every argument ever after… It was especially irritating when it wasn’t even remotely similar to the issue at hand; just a reminder of a past spat, and one more thing to throw at the wall and hope sticks, to cover up for a flimsy current point.

      I’ve functioned self-sufficiently all my life. But as far as I’m concerned, if my significant other wants to do the shopping, (something I’ve never minded doing myself), and she’s buying $120 worth of stuff on my credit card, the least she can do is bring home the one or two things I need, (and have written down) without my having to make another trip to the store. It’s not like it’s a complicated set of obstacles. If you’re going to do the task, do it right.

      And should I point out, after: “Hey, you didn’t get the (whatever), that I put on the list,” all I need to hear is “Oops, my bad,” and then I drop the point. I don’t need to hear a whole spiel about whether I appreciate the shopping or any other list of services performed across time and space. Of course I do, but I still need the (whatever) that I put on the list and mentioned specifically that I needed, so I can either do without for a week or two, or make a separate trip to the store.

      Re Pt 2

      No, I’m not generalizing anyone other than those with whom I’ve had a relationship and quarrels. I fully admit that my choices in partnering could have a great deal to do with the whole situation. That’s why I wrote the post… to seek information from outside the bubble of my own experience.

      Of course some of you are enjoyable company. More than “some.” That’s why outside my 2 buddies from back home, all of my closest friends have been women. (As well as the overwhelming majority of blog writers on my blogroll.) And that’s also why I seek your counsel.

      Delete
    3. It's seems as though, when you ask for our opinion, you should hear it and not get defensive. When you post brief complaints, and don't get into the specifics as you did in the comment above, I'm going to deduce that you're being an ass. Plain and simple.

      In the past, you've been a huge woman's lib and supporter of women in general. This blog post totally took me aback. Lately, with all the fire and hatred towards women, hearing such a generalized post really put me over the edge. Airing dirty laundry is one thing. Making generalized statements is another. If you're saying, "This is strictly based on the women I've dated," and not going into a schpeal about how all women are xyz, then OK. Fine. I'll have plenty to say about that. Perhaps it's the choices you've made, perhaps you're too demanding, perhaps you've just got things you need to work out with the chick you're with. That's neither here nor there. What I, and many others it seemed, gathered from this post is that women are annoying, complain too much and are just a pain in the ass. Which doesn't seem like you.

      In response to the whole, going out to the store and not getting what they want, deal, yes, a simple, "My bad" is good. Obviously that's not what you're getting. But, are you getting rude when you ask why it has not been purchased? Because, that's what I get. I get rude. So yes, I give a long winded speech about how I'm not appreciated and I do so much work, blah, blah, blah. That's what he'll get. Then he'll go get it himself and wonder why he even opened his mouth.

      What you fail to realize in inter-personal arguments is that there is history, and an emotional one at that, so when arguing, sometimes women can't help but take things more personally. Men are fixers, women are not. We analyze and analyze and spin and spin and spin. We just don't think the same way as men. It's as simple as that.

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    4. Like I always say, “When they stop attacking, I’ll stop being defensive.”

      Your last paragraph says it all. “Men are fixers, women are not. We analyze and analyze and spin and spin and spin. We just don’t think the same way as men.”

      First of all, I agree with that. And second, if I was the one that wrote it, I’d be accused of being sexist or generalizing.

      You seem to be putting way more into the grocery scenario than should be there. It’s really as simple as looking around and going, “Did you buy the breakfast bars?” (or soap or Kleenex or whatever). Maybe she couldn’t find them. Maybe the store was out of stock. Maybe she forgot. But there’s no harm in asking and there’s certainly no reason for a diatribe on any other things that she’s accomplished. It’s a simple question and not meant to be a criticism. If I don’t ask, how else do I know if it’s not here, or if I just haven’t found it yet? It’s a question, not an accusation. But one wouldn’t know that from the responses I’ve gotten.

      I agree that there’s an anti-woman vibe running through the right side of the country now and you know that I’ll be the first one to come to your defense. In fact, it’s pretty much my objective for the year; to beat back these idiots that want to insert their own warped judgment into the private lives of others. I’m on your side and I will stand beside you with a pitchfork and a flamethrower to fight these incursions into your rights.

      But that doesn’t mean y’all don’t drive me crazy every so often…

      Like you, in no way do I claim to be perfect, not even a little bit. I further agree that the one common element among my prior relationships is ME. And that is exactly why I wrote the post in the first place. I’m looking to the outside to try to see what’s what, where I’m NOT in the equation. What I’m learning is that it is out there, but like with any generalization, sometimes it applies and sometimes it doesn’t.

      This has truly been an illuminating and interesting discussion, and I thank you and everyone else for your participation. I have a lot to consider.

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  12. Ah, Bluz! You're a man after my own heart! The English language is slowly dying in bits and pieces, as people are getting lazier and lazier about writing/speaking, but that's a post for another day!

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  13. Pinky Here,

    After viewing the Monty Python sketch I feel the second sketch fairly represents Bluz in an argument (The one sitting at the desk)

    Frustrating!

    Try being herd through that.

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  14. An argument is not just contradiction, Bluz.

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    1. Can be. (snicker.)

      I never contradict without a reason. It's not arbitrary.

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  15. Note: Pinky posted a longer comment earlier, which I have since deleted. I had a response comment already composed, but really, all it would have done is thrown gas on the fire and put even more personal shit out there.

    All issues I’ve brought to bear in the above post and comments are an amalgamation of things from current and prior relationships. I have no intention of having the specifics of our relationship issues trotted out here, our put our business out there for a “jury” to decide.

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  16. “There's two theories to arguing with a woman. Neither one works.” --Will Rogers

    Arguments are negotiations. Or, they should be. It should not be about winning. If there's one thing I've learned in 19 years of marriage, it's that you never win an argument. Even if you win, you lose because the person you love most just lost.

    And I know you would probably claim that you are not trying to "win," but to get your point across. For that, you need to go beyond the rational to the emotional. You have to know what makes your partner tick. Why they are the way they are. Not to take advantage of it, but to avoid land mines and help them feel safe.

    For instance, I know Jean has a deep-seeded fear/loathing of appearing or being called or doing something stupid. If my argument--even if I am totally in the right--ever veers in that direction, it will cause damage to her very soul that will supersede the issues involved in winning or losing a debate. It's lose/lose. In every "argument" or discussion, my primary goal has to be making her feel safe. If I succeed in that, I find that she will WANT to go my way, do my thing, get what I want at the store---even if I was wrong in the first place.

    Chris Rock says: "“Don't argue! You cannot win. You cannot beat a woman in a argument. It's impossible. You will not win. Cause, men, we are handicapped when it comes to arguing cause we have a need to make sense.”

    That doesn't mean that women don't make sense, but it does mean that sometimes, all men care about is that the logic of their argument prevails. If you fail to address the emotional, it doesn't matter. Maybe what you need to communicate is not whether or not it makes sense for Pinky to get what you asked for. Maybe you need to communicate to her how it makes you feel when that happens.

    Just two cents from a long-time married dude.

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    1. I appreciate the input, my friend, I really do. I’ve seen both the Rogers and Rock quotes before and they certainly apply. If only I could think of them at the opportune moments, when they might do me some good.

      I just had hope we could get past the “just let her win” premise to actually affect an understanding.

      You and Cassie are right about the fixing vs caring quandary. I’m totally guilty of that. My first instinct is always to fix the problem rather than to deal with the emotions of the circumstances.

      She says, “The coffee pot is broken.” A girlfriend will sympathize about her not getting her coffee. A guy will try to fix the coffeepot. (Or suggest she take a trip to 7-11, which would be somewhat less helpful. OK, much less helpful and likely to open up a whole new topic to argue about.)

      Suffice to say, this is yet another topic that would have been much better suited to a happy hour discussion than this arena here.

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  17. I don't argue like any of the above. Dan would back me up on that. The List of Grievances is known as "Carpet Bagging" in relationship therapy speak (no offense to Carpetbagger). My mother was a pro, and having been on the receiving end of that a number of times in my life, I do not go there.

    Dan and I work at 1. Using I statements. And not "I think YOU are being a jerk." 2. Being less passive-aggressive -- this is more his style of fighting, learned in his household growing up. I call him on it. 3. Not using the Quid Pro Quo (I think this relates to your grocery shopping dilemma). I did XYZ so you should do ABC -- or whatever. It's not cool. If there is an equal division of labor, or set expectations, that's one thing. But working "in trade" doesn't seem to pan out, in my experience.

    Lastly, even long term relationships with a lot of love need maintainence. If you keep revisiting the same issues and/or fights, there's nothing wrong with therapy if you want to keep the relationship going. I would say it's pretty important, as a matter of fact. Dan and I have two or three issues that we keep revisiting, and after our most recent "revisit", we decided we needed a third party because neither of us had perspective on the issue at hand. I don't feel like my relationship is at risk at all, and neither does dan. When/if we get counseling (or do a Marriage retreat or whatever) the aim will be to strengthen our relationship, not to prove ourselves "in the right".

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    1. You and Dan sound very much like “grownups.” That’s how it should be.

      I’ve always tried to use a number of those tactics, but they haven’t helped. Like I will definitely critique a statement or point of view, but it invariably has been taken as a critique of the person. I hate that.

      Also agreed w/ the quid pro quo, though maybe for different reasons. I see it as a problem to be solved. I know she’s not omitting my items on purpose. They’re on the list. The problem was a refusal to bring the damned list! It doesn’t do any good leaving it at home. So to solve the problem, I would again bring up the point that she should bring the list and don’t leave until everything has been put in the basket.

      To me, having a list of unrelated issues, or a list of my past transgressions thrown up into the discussion in no way addresses the issue. Anyway, that particular issue has been put to bed. She brings the list and I don’t complain about what she buys. And I take the occasional trip to Target or Wally’s to get the stuff that I need.

      I appreciate your outsider’s “inside” advice.

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  18. Sorry it took me a while to get back to this (story of my life lately). Here’s the link to my post on my blog in case this attempt at commenting goes wonky or is too long: tomncristy.livejournal.com/231643.html. I'm catching up on some of the other comments here, so I apologize if my response is out of touch for some points. I’ve split it into 3 comments, so hopefully it’ll fit in the character limits:

    I’ll answer your points first, and then I’ll regale you with my own experiences in temper management and the art of arguing (I know you’re looking forward to it).

    Being a black-belt arguer myself, I think I'm particularly qualified to answer this question. :)
    Here are my thoughts on your original points:

    1. Get out of jail free card.

    My first response to this is that she doesn't feel appreciated for the stuff she does do right, and feels like all you're noticing is the bad. I've found this to be a veeeeeery common theme between the sexes. Guys (in my experience, including, very much so, the hubs) aren't into complimenting what's expected anyway. You may be great tippers at restaurants on principle, but a lot of men tend to be terrible pat-on-the-backers. If a woman has been doing great with some to-do item for a long period of time with no acknowledgment of a job well done, a complaint about a single failing can pop the top off a resentment she's probably been trying really hard to hold back otherwise. It's a balance thing - if there are no good comments for acceptable behavior, the lone bad comment tilts the scales because it’s by itself. {Warning: Psychobabble talk time} My main Love Language is Words of Affirmation. This means I am particularly needy in the compliment department. I've gotten to the point that I warn the hubs before he comes home when I've been working on something that I need him to notice. This is probably on the extreme side, but it works for us because his compliments are always honest; if he's not impressed or finds fault with it, he doesn't sprinkle daisies on my head (though he tries to be gentle).

    2. Litany of side issues. See #5.

    3. Twisting my words to suit her needs. This is when she takes what she thinks I’m saying, changes it into some unholy perversion of what I actually said, then attacks that. See #4.

    4. Claiming personal attack when there is none. Haven’t we all been taught not to attack the person, just the argument? I try to do that but it doesn’t really matter.

    Me: That’s a ridiculous statement.
    Her: Don’t call me ridiculous!


    In my opinion, this is an honest difference in communication methods between the sexes. Women tend to assign emotion to everything in our lives; men tend to not. I know there are tons of exceptions to this, and to avoid further generalizations, I will use myself as the example here. *I* do not have the ability to separate what I’m feeling from what I’m thinking. I happen to be a VERY analytical and logical person, but things I say tend to reflect how I feel AND think about something. If someone tells me that what I’ve said is ridiculous, they are, in my mind, telling me that what I FEEL is ridiculous, and since no one likes to be told that their feelings are invalid, I, naturally, take offense to that. They’re all connected in my mind.

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  19. 5. List of Grievances.

    Tom and I have a problem with this one, too. A few things are typically going on here (at least, with us): A) Pattern in behavior (& fear of its continuing/happening again) – If Tom does something that seems to be a repeat of things he’s done in the past (& it’s behavior that I dislike), I will include the previous actions in the conversation. The problem with this is that he doesn’t always see them as related, and honestly, his motives for doing them may be completely different, which is probably why he hasn’t linked them. Motive/intent ends up being a big part of most of our disagreements. He insists that if he didn’t intend to hurt my feelings, naturally, my feelings shouldn’t be hurt. We’ve gone round and round on this one, but trust me that there is probably a link in her mind. B) “We’re all gathered here today…” or the “while I’ve got you in argument mode, there are some other things I really need to discuss with you…” maneuver. I’m not saying this one is fair, but I know I’ve done it in the past, so there you go. If it’s neither of these, and she’s just listing everything you’ve done wrong, I would say that’s an argument that’s at the name-calling phase and won’t be productive no matter what you do.

    6. Constant interruptions.

    My defense of this one, I believe, is valid. My hubby can recite what I say word-for-word, but it frustrates me to no end that he often cannot remember the last thing he said. So, what this translates to is the need to address each of his points as he says them. It’s not that I’m not allowing him to give his argument; it’s that I want to make sure I address all of it and want to make sure he understands parts that may relate to the whole.

    7. Raging generalizations or over-simplifications

    I try *really* hard not to do this one. I read somewhere how people just tune you out after a statement like that is started, so the rest of your argument is lost because they automatically assume it’s not valid. I get what you’re saying, but also as you said, nobody’s perfect. ;)

    …it’s so hard to turn off the Smartass Button.

    Dude, you’re shooting yourself in the foot on that one. Come on.

    Is it as simple as men needing things to make sense but women are not so encumbered?

    Please tell me that there are women that can have an argument in a rational manner, without throwing everything in the warehouse against the wall to see what sticks.

    All but a very few women with whom I’ve worked make their points during a disagreement or discussion at work in a completely logical and rational manner.


    Okay, you know that every one of those statements/questions is sexist beyond belief, right? Of course women need things to make sense, too, and of course there are lots of us who can have an argument in a rational manner (I’m choosing to ignore the wall comment).

    I tend to seek out feisty, high-spirited types.

    Um, hel-lo? What exactly did you think you got with that package?

    …just drop it and let her win. And you know, I used to do that, a lot… and not just with women but with everyone. But the older I get, the less I’m content with letting things go.

    Don’t blame you a bit on that. I think we just get to a point where we’re tired of dealing with BS and want to have a reasonable discussion.

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  20. Regarding my own experiences, I'll say that my method of arguing has *vastly* changed since being with Tom (almost 10 yrs now). I believe it’s because I don't want to "burn any bridges" with him. Maybe that’s a sign of desperation or dependence, but I’m not ashamed to admit that I’d really prefer he stay in my life for a long time and that I’d like him to happy during that time. Pre-Tom, my arguing style included a lot of screaming and slamming of doors and (loud) cussing and making "him" (whoever "him" was at the time) stop the car so I could stomp off to who-knows-where. Yeah, you would've *loved* me then, I'm sure. ;) I didn't give a flying flute what those guys thought at the time because, to me, every argument was a "we're going to break up/divorce" argument - THAT wonderful lesson was passed down to me by my parents. *sigh*

    Anyway, I have since learned to identify when I'm reaching my boiling point, and I now try to streamline my thought process when it's happening (I said “try”). I ask myself questions like: "Why am I angry?" "Is it really about what just happened?" "Has Tom upset me or is it something/one else & I'm just taking it out on him?" I also have discovered (and cherish) the ability to admit that I'm wrong DURING an argument (believe me, my family was shocked the first time they witnessed this). This one was particularly tough for me (& still is), and I could not have developed it without being in a place of complete trust with Tom. He has helped me learn how to not be on the defensive all the time.

    Another important growing point for me was giving up on the myth that "If he loves me, he'll know what to say/do." It is HARD for a woman to give this up, especially for women who've never had a good male example in our lives. You see, if we haven't witnessed healthy relationships during our lives, we tend to end up with fairy tale expectations instead of realistic ones. Basically, what this means for me is that I have to swallow my princess fantasies and just TELL HIM WHAT TO SAY IF I NEED TO HEAR SOMETHING SPECIFIC. Now, I will say that it only works if he honestly does mean whatever-it-is (he just couldn’t word it to my satisfaction). And, really, if he doesn’t mean it, the process of my explaining why I need to hear it gets us on the right track to understanding each other anyway, so it’s a win either way. This one is also tough and super-anti-intuitive, and again, it involves trust. There is no flippin’ way I would’ve done that with my ex-husband or any of the boyfriends. It just doesn’t work unless you’re in a place in the relationship where you’re willing to be vulnerable AND patient AND the other person is, too.

    Tom and I still have arguments, some quiet and dignified, some where I have to go cool it in the bedroom for a bit, some where I still get to the point of yelling and cussing, but we have gotten so much better at it that it feels like we make progress when we do argue. I’m Irish and come from a looong line of hot tempers, so my getting heated up isn’t going to change, but what I say (and do) when I do can (and has).

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    1. Thank you, Cristy, for your thoughtful and very thorough response. There's a lot to chew on here and I appreciate that you took the time to get all that down.

      It sounds like, when yours and all these comments are boiled down, that men and women just don't think about things the same way. Sometimes I wonder how we ever survive together, as a species.

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