The phone interrupted our conversation. I rolled over in bed. 9:15 on a Saturday morning? Who could possibly be calling? We waited for the answering machine to click on.
“Justin, this is John from work. I just wanted to make sure you’re coming in today. You were scheduled for 9:00.”
“Shit,” my husband said as he grabbed his clothes. “Justin must have overslept and not gotten up for work this morning. I’ll go rouse him out of bed.”
“I’ll throw some bread in the toaster for him,” I said.
15 minutes later, as our son was putting his boots on to walk out the door, I was giving him advice on how to mitigate the damage. “Remember, apologize once sincerely and then move on. Don’t go in like a puppy with his tail between his legs. Don’t let it affect your frame for the rest of the day. Throw tons of positive energy into your work and work even harder than usual. Later on, you can come up with a long term plan to avoid this happening again, but for now, you need to recover your positive momentum. The stronger your frame, the quicker you’ll pull out of this. One mistake doesn’t mean you’re a failure. Recover and move on.”
My husband’s eyes met mine as our son walked out the door. “You need to write about that,” he said.
“What?” I asked.
“That advice you just gave Justin,” he said. “I could have used that advice when our marriage was so bad. Every time I lost frame and got squishy on you, it became an avalanche for me,” he explained. “I would screw up, feel like a failure, and then withdraw to avoid doing more damage at the exact time I needed to come on stronger and be more confident. I would lose all my confidence, and stop doing the dominant stuff that attracts you, and we would go through a week of feeling unconnected. It was a pattern for us. I’ll bet a lot of recovering ‘nice guys’ are the same way.”
I nodded. He was completely right. Not only for us, but for a lot of coaching clients. This pattern played out time and again in marriages where the guy was struggling to overcome his ‘nice guy’ issues. We had discussed the phenomenon many times in our coaches’ calls, coming up with strategies to help couples pull out of their Death Spirals more quickly.
Okay, so you’re a guy who just messed up with his wife. It doesn’t really matter what happened. You didn’t initiate, you initiated too soft, you said something that made her feel rejected, you didn’t arouse her responsive desire, you ejaculated too soon before she had a chance to finish, you lost your erection just when you needed it the most, you ignored her for video games, whatever. There’s an endless list. But it’s something that you’ve done time and again, and it triggered her and she blew up at you and it all hit the fan.
And you have absolutely no idea how to fix it. What you really feel like doing is taking cover until the fall out is over. Maybe peek out from time to time to see if she’s over it. Work later hours, retreat into your video games, cater to her like a puppy dog, pretend like the problem doesn’t exist and hope it all goes away soon.
I know this is what you are tempted to do. I get it. I really do. ‘Cause that woman? When she’s angry? She is mean as hell. Godzilla has nothing on her. Her voice gets higher and higher and louder and louder and no matter what you say, she’s going to take it the worst possible way. Sometimes she even throws things. Ahem.
The woman is crazy. Yup, she is.
Or she has completely withdrawn. She’s giving you the cold shoulder, and looks right through you as if you don’t exist. She gives a lot of those long drawn out martyr sighs and cries all the time. She’s said she’s not attracted to you and doesn’t feel like she will ever want sex again, and you’re to the point where you’re afraid to even touch her.
The woman is crazy. Yup, she is.
So, what do you do? If retreating isn’t the answer, then what works? How do you put an end to the Crazy cycle?