Hi Doc!

I’ve been with my girlfriend for 4 years. I am planning to marry her in 5 years. She fulfills every criterion as my soul mate except one point: sometimes when she is under pressure even the slightest thing can set her off. She goes to the extreme saying hurtful things. She can’t take even the slightest pressure in her life and then start to say harsh things like, "You NEVER understand how I felt!"

When I try to talk things out with her and most of the time I am willing to listen and try to calm her down but she just disagrees rather than trying to listen to what I suggest. She doesn’t have a mental problem but she cannot take things rationally and things start to get out of hand.

I’m normally a very calm person but I can’t deal with her need to take everything to the extreme. Whenever we finish arguing and begin to talk things over everything calms down. I want to stop this problem permanently and I hope that you can give me some help.

I fully understand what you're staying here. This is one of the most frustrating things us guys have to deal with in relationships with women.

It might help to understand that women are often bundles of conflicting emotions. We guys tend to get these emotions under control and often are able to think through them logically without just reacting. Many women have difficulty in doing this - especially when things get heated. So, they tend to just react rather than take a deep breath and be careful with what they say and do.

Relationships are delicate things and it's entirely possible that a single overreaction can tear them apart. It's for this reason that women really HAVE to learn to control these emotional outbursts and to not overreact.

It's common for women to use huge emotional words like "NEVER" and "ALWAYS" when they are angry. In fact, you might have made a mistake (just as we all do), but it's not that you "NEVER" treat her with respect, or that you "ALWAYS" yell at her. At that moment she can't think of anything else and rather than trying to calm down and direct her emotions towards something that's healthy, she just blurts it out. Once something is said, you can't un-say it and the damage is done.

For these reasons, couples need to learn how to argue with each other. When you get angry or hurt is NOT the time to figure this out! Thus, you have to do it when you're both in a calm, loving spirit. Here are my basic rules of engagement:

1) Never fight when you're angry. If possible, agree that you'll go off and let the biggest emotional elements calm down before you talk about the problem.

2) Never fight when you're tired. I know you've heard the stupid advice, "Don't go to bed angry", but in fact, when you're tired, you're not going to give this the best effort. Further, some sleep will often help to put things in perspective.

3) When you argue or fight, always realize that you're doing this together as a team in order to improve aspects of the relationship - not to harm the other person. We all want revenge, but revenge has no place in relationships!

4) Make sure you have enough time to sit down and really deal with the problems. Decide CLEARLY AND SPECIFICALLY what the issue is! Then, deal ONLY WITH THAT ISSUE!!! NO bringing in other past problems and no creating new ones. You're there to ONLY deal with the one issue.

5) Further, it's usually only one person that is hurt or angry at the actions of the other. If you or your girlfriend are the one that is upset, you MUST NOT bring in any other issue right now. Agree that you'll deal with other issues later, but for now, you're going to talk about just this one thing.

6) When you talk - use "committee courtesy". That means, that one person gets to talk until they are finished. Even if they take long pauses between thoughts, they still have the "floor" until they give it up. The other person can take notes of they want to and address everything that is said, but the speak MUST STAY ON TOPIC. They cannot bring in other elements other than the one at hand.

7) When the speaker is talking about the problem, they can only use words like "I feel" and "I believe" or "I want". They can NEVER say "You did" or "You are" or "You act", etc. They have to deal only with personal feelings.

8) When a person is NOT speaking, they must be listening! By "listening", I mean "active listening". That is when you can take what the other person says and paraphrase it with the same meaning, but in your own words. In fact, it's a good idea to do this often. You might first ask if you can restate the issue and then do it in another way, asking if your understanding is correct.

9) If things get emotionally charged, either partner can ask for a "break". This is a 10-minute cooling-off period, where you get a drink or a snack and come back to it afterward.

10) Finally, always remember: this is all about growing the relationship, not getting revenge or trying to make up for hurts. Everyone is inconsiderate some times. Everyone has missed expectations some times. This is normal in relationships. It's how you deal with them that's important.

There are 10 rules of "fair and constructive fighting" in relationships. Sit down with your girlfriend and agree together that you'll use them to build, not tear down your relationship, and you'll make it to your 5-year goal - and beyond.

Best regards...
Have a love, dating, relationship, sex or man/woman question? You can write to me by going to: http://beingaman.com/ask_question.asp for answers. For more information about my books, "Being a Man in a Woman's Worldtm" (volumes I and II), and other products visit: www.beingaman.com. Check out the discussion group at: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/beingaman.

Copyright (c) 2007, Dr. Dennis W. Neder
All rights reserved.

Author's Bio: 

Dr. Neder is known around the world as a tough, but fair relationship expert, dealing with all sorts of dating, sex and relationship issues from a man's perspective. Having written 3 books ("Being a Man in a Woman's World™" series) and is working on others, hundreds of articles, been on hundreds of radio and TV shows, he is funny, direct and intuitive.

Do you have a burning question that needs an answer? Are you a man that wants to better experiences with women, or a woman that wants to better understand men? To learn more, go to http://beingaman.com.