“I need to have my reaction” – Dealing with your man’s crisis

My diet of TV has been trimmed down to the point that HULU can satisfy any mindless fix I need. While Family Guy and American Dad are necessities a relatively new show, to me anyway, has become an immediate favorite – Modern Family. Seeing as I am the poster child for the show’s analogous title I clearly have a point of reference. Yet this doesn’t explain why I like the other two shows, but I digress.

The most recent episode has Cam freaking at the possibility his homosexual lover (and co-parent for their adopted child) might have an illegitimate son from an illicit encounter at a high-school reunion some years earlier. As Mitchell attempts to calm his man down by urging rational restraint, Cam retorts

“Mitchell, I need to have my reaction”

This scene was an immediate reminder of how different we all handle life’s difficulties. This thought was then driven home the next day as a fellow blogger posted how she responded at her man’s reaction to challenging news. During which she summarized her feelings

“Here’s the thing that I’ve learned from watching men in my life…when men feel pissed/defeated in life, self-destructive behavior kicks in.”

In this same post she went on to say how he had gotten upset with her for the approach she took to his situation. The post generated a good bit of interest from commenters talking about how they suffer the same problem and offering possible solutions.

There is one area of a man’s life that is kept close to his vest and when it goes sideways their behavior can be at best unpredictable. It’s where men put so much of their passions and tie to their identity. That area is their careers. Look at the men in your own life, if their job (we’ll use this to include any career aspects) is going great then everything else is normally rainbows and butterflies. The world is beautiful and life is good. But when things on the job go in the wrong direction, woe be it to anyone getting caught in the cross fire.

Because women view their jobs differently than men do, I think it is hard for many females to relate when her man’s job takes a turn for the worst. In the attempts to be supportive, many times, she does more harm than good. I can recall instances in my past where the job didn’t go as planned, a sale got lost, a month blew up in my face, a client went with someone else, these can be all it takes to send a man off the edge into darkness.

How men react to such a crisis can be as varied as the man himself, some will simply embrace the darkness by going off into their cave licking their wounds and emerge ready to fight another day. Other men will crawl into a bottle for a night to drown out his frustrations, waking the next morning with nothing worse to show for his endeavors than his nuclear headache. And yet others do much much worse and take their behaviors to the extreme (this post isn’t for them, they need serious help). I have come to realize that when I face a job crisis there aren’t many things the Queen could to make the situation better, but there are many things that can be done to make it exceedingly worse.

One response in particular that used to just send me deeper into the abyss was “We are going to be OK” On the surface this doesn’t sound like much, but to many men (including me) you just called us average at best. Few men want to just be “ok”. We know we’re going to be ok, but we want more than that.

Then there is the desire to help solve the problem. Just as most women don’t want all of their problems solved this is usually an area where we don’t need or want help. Because we are logical thinkers chances are we have already thought through ever conceivable alternative.

My advice to T’s situation was

“Many men do find irrational behavior as a way of dealing with life’s downs. However, I don’t think that would be a standard behavior. Men look at issues much more systematic than women do. Often, I find, that men will go into their cave if they are experiencing issues especially with their career/job as it is so much a part of their identity. They want the solitude and quiet to process what is happening.

I would admit to wanting to be heard however the common feedback of “things will be ok”, or “we will be fine” doesn’t have the intended consequences.

A simple reply, “this totally sucks, is there anything I can do?”, in my opinion is the best response that can be given to a man in your Gentlemen’s situation.”

This response shows two things (1) that you empathize with our current situation but you don’t seek to fix it nor are you handing out sympathy. (2) that you are offering support from a distance. This says you’re here for us and  are aware that we need time to process all of it but you will be here when we are ready. I find that men first prefer solitude to work through a life challenges, once he has gotten his head around it then he’ll be ready to talk crisis and the best thing that a woman can do will be to listen.

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14 responses to “I need to have my reaction” – Dealing with your man’s crisis

  1. Again I thank you for this sage advice.

    During our great weekend together, I only noticed once or twice that he retreated into his own head for an hour or two. He stayed focused on me 99.9% of the time. Very nice and very unexpected, considering his circumstances.

    However, now that I’m back home, I can feel his heaviness. I can’t help but stay positive and talk to him about faith. He says he wants to believe (and he does… as you say, in every aspect but career) so I feel like I’m trying to help but I also back off when he shows any resistance. It is his battle to fight until he chooses otherwise. God waits patiently to step in and offer His strength as well.

    Yesterday he was very complimentary about my “strength, perseverance and compassion” and said he would “reward” me for it. Maybe that is his own way of “putting on his battle gear” and “fighting for the princess”. I know he will bounce back. He always does.

    I am most of the way through Wild at Heart as well. Great book. We talked about it quite a bit over the weekend as well. Thank you again for the reminder about that book.

    I will allow him his cave and not get in the way. What I’ve realized is that I have to have faith in God’s plan for him as well.

    Appreciate the link love, CP.


  2. Great post CP.
    I love Modern Family too.
    I would agree that providing support form a distance is an excellent piece of advice. Let the man vent but don’t offer to fix or suggest things he can do. Let him bounce things off of you but hold back on the advice. He’ll get there when he is ready.
    Oh… and you should also check out TBS’s “Men of a Certain Age” with Ray Ramano. It’s on hiatus right now, but it’s a good one.
    Best of luck

  3. I saw that show once, after about 10 minutes it made me feel like a complete loser. Because it portrayed those dudes as 40 something year old kids. Maybe it was just me or the episode.

    Thanks jack!

  4. It’s not uncommon for guys to believe in God’s intervention in other areas of life, except the career. That’s supposed to be our territory it’s what we can control. It’s how we size up the competition.

    I hope he understands that this will be viewed as a learning experience by him later in life and I’m certain he will be better for it, though it’s probably hard to see that right now.

  5. 3girlknight

    For a while, during the attempts at reconciling my marriage, I would think quite a bit about ‘triggers’ and how certain situations generate reactions. I’ll admit that there were a couple of times that she communicated well enough to help me see how I would react to some situations. What I took from that was an ability to recognize those triggers and head them off before they became a problem. Knowing how transparent I was in my reactions was a bit of a shock really. It was interesting to learn how predictable I was. A couple of times, she saw a very specific reaction and deduced what had happened to evoke that.

    One thing I read during that time was a tactic for the spouse to use to diffuse the spouse with the bad reactions. Make it a bigger deal than it really is. Plant the idea that it could be a lot worse. With that tactic, they’re supposed to ‘just get over it’ quicker.

    Good post CP!

  6. As I grow older (not that I am all that old or mature for that matter), I am consistently surprised by some of the more fundamental differences between how women and men view situations. When I am super stressed and it feels like the world is weighing me down or something super crappy just happened, I want to go grab a beer, put on some Cash and do something completely engrossing. Build a book shelf, or read a book, or watch the ocean. Spend a good couple of hours in my own little world. I mull the problem over a bit, but mainly I let my unconscious mind chip away at it for a while. Afterward, I feel I have a better perspective. After being with my wife for 10 years, she knows exactly what I have to do. If I don’t want to talk about it, she won’t press it. I know it kills her not knowing how I am handling it or exactly what went wrong, but she just rocks that way.

    I, on the other hand, simply suck at the old “listen and only offer support” thing. Whenever my wife has a problem, I constantly and impulsively run through possible solutions. Half the time, I cannot help but offer my advice. It takes monumental effort on my part to not give those solutions, why they are good and will work and how I would go about it. To just simply sit and listen, only offering reassurance it seems is so fundamentally against my being it seems. A constant struggle.

  7. Berserk, by you simply stating that you struggle with the problem you are a million miles ahead of virtually every other husband out there. It took me a lot longer and a failed marriage to get that little nuance even understood.

    Thanks as always!!!

  8. I had to read your 2nd paragraph twice before I understood, but now I get it. Like myself, you learned a great deal from your marriage which will go far and your new relationship will reap the benefits of your past challenges.

  9. Danielle

    I love hearing your view. I am constantly amazed at how truley different men and women think. It is such great insight and help.

  10. I just came here from T’s site after seeing your comments on her latest post regarding this topic. I couldn’t agree more. When I was married, I think one of the issues that constantly came up between us was that when I had a problem, I needed to get away or hit the “man cave” to figure it all out and she never accepted that. I wanted to figure things out on my own. She didn’t want to necessarily solve my problem, but talk about it, when I just needed to think.

    I was the opposite and when she had an issue I was guilty of offering solutions and if I didn’t have a solution handy, I just kind of shut down and couldn’t think of much to say, hoping she would work through it on her own. I think she thought I didn’t support her because of it.

  11. BloggyDaddy, thanks for stopping by man! You are certainly not alone in what you went through with your wife, I think we can all attest to that at some point. In the end all we can do is hope for the best and that we learned from our mistakes.

    Stop back by anytime! And thanks for taking a moment to say a few words.

  12. Wagthedad

    I think you hit the solution dead-on there.  “this totally sucks, is there anything I can do?” would work in 99.9999% of situations where I need to hear something but either hear nothing or something about how I need to do something I don’t want to do.

    The other .0001% of the time, when I’m on fire, I just need somebody to piss on me.

  13. Andrea

    But…. What if the “world was beautiful and life was grand” and it was, but when that shattered, you find out that his whole existence was this truly fragile house of cards built on continued success in business? Underneath that top card was a mountain of fear and insecurity, anxiety and worry? Buried issues, never dealt with, suddenly set loose in the water likes sharks in a suburban swimming pool. Who knew? I can’t hide a single feeling. He buried them all. I can’t offer a solution, I wouldn’t know where to start. He’s been full throttle self destruction mode for over a year….

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