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Forty-One Defensive Male Responses
1996 Kris Rosenberg

Kris collected 41 relational red flags indicative of hang-ups in men. She wrote for women, but most of these communication problems work both ways. Many, maybe most, can be changed if their owners truly wish to. Unfortunately, politicians are often drive by their hang-ups, which sometimes reach compulsivness. Their naked ambition leads them into inconsistencies, thoughtlessness, and exploiting the system.

Ridding the world of serious hang-ups is pavement in the road to peace.

1. He is ambivalent about you, keeping you off balance; you drive yourself crazy trying to make sense of his inconsistencies and the contradictory feelings he expresses. This man thinks aloud or talks without thinking and so may appear spontaneous. (Don't confuse ambivalence with normal cycles of feelings; all of us hold a range of feelings about our partners: we are angry, amused, affectionate, hurt, impatient, irritated etc.)

3. He is the weak, silent type, passive, docile, agrees with whatever you say, never criticizes; he is probably fight phobic. He may smile gently much of the time. Everyone tells you how 'nice' he is and how lucky you are.

4. He is master of the snow job, says everything he thinks you want to hear. What he says may have no relation to what he really feels; it is a line, insincere, slick.

5. He is anger-compulsive, defensively hostile, ready to explode if you say 'the wrong thing,' which you invariably do even when you try hard to say the 'right thing,' because there is no right thing.

6. He is passive aggressive, never blows up but gets even by saying and doing things you don't feel justified in being openly angry about; if you repeat his words to anyone out of context, they probably don't understand why you're upset. Then you wonder if you're crazy.

7. He is anger phobic, skirting around any issue that might cause the two of you to exchange hostility or any other strong emotion.

8. He talks reports on events, scores, work problems, or other typical man-talk. If you say you'd like to talk about something else, he asks in puzzlement, "What else is there to talk about?"

9. He forgets whatever you tell him. Each time you talk, you have to start over and describe the cast of characters or remind him of the thread of an ongoing story. He forgets between conversations, because he only hears part or none of what you say, so you quit trying to talk to him. You start talking to someone else about everything you feel; the conversations between you and your man are increasingly empty: How was your day? Fine, how was yours?

10. He speaks in jargon which you don't understand or about people you've never heard ofby name. You ask questions so that you can understand; he bristles at the interruption or appears angrily frustrated because you fail to understand him.

11. He is the evasive type, who always throws you off the subject or pretends not to understand what you're saying.

12. When you start to engage him in any conversation more than an inch deep, he starts a filibuster, tells long stories which seem to you to have no relevance. He is free-associating, be careful, you are being cast in the role of therapist.

13. The everything-is-fine type is incurably optimistic, even in the face of disaster; you may think things are worse, but he says they are better. As one woman described her man: "If we had just been hit by a nuclear bomb, he would be making funny faces in the window."

Whenever you mention a problem, he tells you, "But things are better." He cites superficial evidence that this is so. He may even tell you how you feel: "You were fine yesterday." He may be fooling himself or simply glossing things over because he doesn't want to confront a problem. He may say, "We have a great relationship," which might mean his needs are satisfied, so what is there to talk about?

14. He is incurably pessimistic: people can't change, and he in particular can't change. "This is the way I am; I've always been this way"distant. As far as he is concerned, that finishes off the interchange you tried to introduce.

15. He is the sudden crisis type: you thought things were fine, he is ready to split. He never mentioned having a problem.

16. His cover-up consists of 'screen memories,' stories which sound meaningful and emotional, but which are safe and throw you off the track. Jack Nicholson has been quoted as giving another man this ad vic e about making conquests of women: "Tell 'em about your childhoodthat gets 'em every time."

17. He says, "I'll think it over," and never comes back to the subject. He forgets what he has said he will think over.

18. He is always much too busy; he will talk later, after this problem is solved or this project is done. This is the analogue to woman's "I have a headache, not now."

19. He forces you into the mother role, or tricks you into it when you're not looking, by playing the little boy and speaking of a limited range of vulnerable feelings which cover up his relevant hidden emotions.

20. He says he doesn't need to talk about feelings; he is self-sufficient. "I'm not a baby; I don't need help."

21. He lives in his fantasies and he wants to keep you as a fantasy figure. What he says seems entirely off the wall to you; it sounds like pure adoration, but somehow it doesn't match your sense of reality.

22. When you try to talk "with a capital T," as one of my clients expresses ithe says he thought "this" was the way you wanted things to be. He appears pitiful and you think you have hurt him, poor thing. As Eric Berne put it, "look how hard he tried."

23. He has a major secret and can't really talk about anything for fear he'll stumble over it and expose it. When one secret comes out, he continually manages to acquire another one, so that he must continually hide.

24. He feels guilty about his daydreams or some innocuous and quite normal behavior, and so projects your disapproval and avoids telling his feelings. In order to live with his guilt, real or imagined, he makes you into the villain and who could reveal feelings to the enemy? He acts as if you are disapproving and you don't even know what you are supposed to be disapproving of. You only know that you feel like his mother.

25. When you bring up a delicate subject and want to talk, he kisses you to keep you quiet. "Let's make love," he says sweetly, as if you are just so irresistible that he can't bear to talk. If you go along with it, then the crisis is over. If you don't go along with it, he wonders aloud how you can insist upon talk about problems when obviously you don't even love him.

26. When you bring up the source of tension between you, he says, "You are right," and ends it at that. [Exceessive acquiescence.]

27. He is always the good guy, claims not to have negative thoughts. One client carried The Road Less Traveled with him to his first therapy session to show me what his philosophy was: he loved everyone, he said.

28. He claims 'wisely' that there is no point in being upset, that he has learned to close things off and not think about them and you should do that, too.

29. If you are upset about something in your relationship and ask him to discuss it with you, he says, "Look at you; thinking and talking about feelings hasn't helped you," or "I have it all together it's your problem."

30. When you want to talk about a problem which involves your emotions but has nothing directly to do with him, he hands you a quick solution, and considers the matter closed: You should quit the job you hate. You shouldn't let your mother get to you. You should see a doctor if you're tired. As he sees it, he has given the solution to your problem, so why should you keep talking about it?

31. He nods and goes "hmm" and goes away without hearing the end of your sentence and without understanding; or he simply closes too quickly, not giving you a chance to talk. He may have a slight hearing loss, men often seem to. (Just try whispering something in another room.)

32. He knocks down all your ideas, makes you feel foolish to have had such feelings or thoughts. He tells you what the real truth is.

33. He is a delayed responder. You never know why he is behaving angrily because he was fine earlier and there has been no occasion since which could have set him off. He reacts emotionally a long time after the event he is reacting to.

34. He is ashamed of his feelings, thinks you wouldn't love him if you knew them, so he pretends to feel braver than he is, less angry than he is, more satisfied than he isand his words reflect that: it is clear that he is feeling one thing and saying another.

35. He assumes you can read his mind, so he doesn't need to tell you anything; then when you act as if you don't know what he's feeling, he is insulted or skeptical.

36. When you do seem to understand him, he appears to be frightened of being too well known; he thinks you can read his mind. He deliberately creates a secret self for privacy.

37. When you express interest in his feelings about work or anything else he does, he is patronizing: "Don't worry your pretty, little head about it."

38. The tear-phobic: If the two of you are talking, and your tears flow, he stops everything. If you mention that you need to talk, he says there is no point in it you will just cry and he hates emotional scenes.

39. He insists on setting the rules for any talking that is done. If you break the rules, he refuses to engage in any discussion. He says, "I don't like being forced."

40. He explains something vaguely and becomes angry if you ask a question or don't understand.

41. He communicates in long speeches, not accepting any 'interruption.' He has something to say and intends to say it all and that is that.

Ridding the world of serious hang-ups is pavement in the road to peace.


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