Women, on the other hand are trained to be relational, nurturing family and marriage. They tend to care for the well-being of others and are naturally able to handle emotional intensity.

Given this troubling scenario, what is the answer? Here are several things to consider and ways to change this pattern.

First, understand that you both participate in this troubling pattern. Since you have settled into this pattern, you must step back and look at your part in this situation. There are no victims or villains. It will take concerted effort on both your parts to shift the relationship back into a healthy direction. Both must look at their part in the pattern, agreeing to change it. Denial by either partner can be devastating.

Second, encourage him to participate in counseling, showing him the benefits of such action. While he may initially resist, when a woman is really serious about her husband being involved in counseling, and helps him see the benefits, he’ll usually join her. If you are consistent with your message that change must occur, he will get that message. Please see my book, Nine Critical Mistakes Most Couples Make to learn more about changing destructive patterns in marriage.

Third, understand and agree to end the power struggle and work on cooperating with each other. Everyone loses in a power struggle. The woman must end the pattern of pushing while he resists. There must be a fundamental agreement to end this dysfunctional pattern of relating. Both must notice and take responsibility for this pattern, agreeing to end it.

Fourth, the emotional work ultimately succeeds by invitation and patience. Women who are emotionally intense and volatile should expect a man to withdraw, while an agreement to approach issues cautiously and with equanimity will often bring positive results. Reassure him you will be patient in the emotional work, prepared to take a ‘time out’ if things heat up. 

Fifth, agree to manage the ongoing emotionality in the relationship. Anticipate that things will heat up at times, preparing ahead of time how you will take time outs. Women are usually willing to take ‘time outs’ if given reassurance that hot topics will be addressed at an agreed upon time. When women feel discounted or pushed away, they often feel even more anxiety and press in harder.

Finally, encourage each other as you change these patterns. Notice the progress made as you deal effectively with issues. Notice the positive impact of taking co-responsibility for issues, as well as finding solutions to problems. Thank her for managing her emotional intensity, and offer kudos to him for being willing to talk about touchy topics. Delight in the intimacy that results from keeping the emotional slate clean from issues.  

If you are married to a man who tends to act like an ostrich, burying his head in the sand, I’d like to hear from you. Let me know how these strategies work, or whether you’ve found other strategies for balancing your relationship. Please feel free to email me at TheRelationshipDoctor@Gmail.com or see information about The Marriage Recovery Center on my website.


Dr. Hawkins is the director of 
The Marriage Recovery Center  where he counsels couples in distress. He is the author of over 30 books, including When Pleasing Others Is Hurting You, Love Lost: Living Beyond a Broken Marriage, and Saying It So He'll Listen. His newest books are titled  The Relationship Doctor's Prescription for Healing a Hurting Relationship and  The Relationship Doctor's Prescription for Living Beyond Guilt.  Dr. Hawkins grew up in the beautiful Pacific Northwest and lives with his wife on the South Puget Sound where he enjoys sailing, biking, and skiing. He has active practices in two Washington cities.