Football season is one of my favorite times of the year. There’s something about the display of natural aggression like a defensive linemen sacking a quarterback or a running back breaking a tackle that pumps up my testosterone. While I am amped to watch my team hit its opponent hard opening week, it’s to my dismay to see and find out at the same time all what’s going on with Baltimore Ravens player Ray Rice and his abuse of his wife.
I think the first thing we need to accept is that anger and aggression, especially for men, is a real thing. Studies show that men tend to be more aggressive than our female counterparts, and we have to understand that this in itself is neither good nor bad. There are times in life that it is justifiable to get angry; it could be something small like an awful driver or a bigger issue like someone hurting a person who is close to us. Enough anger and we want to hit a brick wall, smash our computer, or flip a table. Again, having anger is OK, but what’s most important is what we do with it.
What Ray Rice did to his then-fiancée-now-wife is never OK. But we know that already. I would bet HE knew that. What I would rather address is how to avoid being in that situation entirely.
Take a break.
Confrontation is healthy in every relationship. It promotes communication and the mutual feeling of being heard and understood. But when we are angry our communication isn’t well received, wouldn’t we agree? It may feel good in the moment to prove a point, but it won’t enable us to hear and understand our woman and will cause her to shut us off, too. Even if your woman says or does something that hurts you, it’s your job to NOT retaliate, as difficult as it sounds. My wife, Mimi, tells me that she’s not willing to listen to me until I’m calm. Before aggression really sets in an argument, I have to simply leave the room (or even the house) before I say or do anything stupid. But, with all that blood pumping, I need to let it out somehow: I’ve gone on a run, a walk, drove to the gym and took it out on the weights. One time it was too cold outside so I even just did jumping jacks and pushups in the other room. We have to do whatever it takes to remove ourselves from a heated, potentially aggresive moment.
Remember to say “I’m sorry.”
Once we’re cooled down and back from a walk, we’re ready to talk some sense. First thing we need to do is look her in the eyes and say, “I’m sorry.” Be specific and mean it. After a genuine apology, this is when each side of an argument is ready to be heard. This may sound corny, but “I” statements that address behavior work. For example, instead of saying “You should’ve done this like I told you to” we can say “I feel like I am not being listened to.” The first is harming, the latter is disarming. I feel I need to say I’m sorry even for little things every single day with Mimi. “Sorry I forgot the trash, honey, I’ll get it when I get off work. Then can we get some snuggles in?” Always get an eye roll after that.
Remember that we can’t take back what we say or what we do.
Anger impairs our decision making—it might cause us to say and do things we may not necessarily do normally. Ever gotten a cut and had that scar for months, even years? Well, it’s like that when we say or do things that really hurt our woman—it might be a temporary release for us but a deep wound for her that could take a long time to heal. In the heat of the moment, we will never be thinking about the repercussions of a single violent action. Showing her “who’s boss” by a physical or verbal push isn’t telling her that we are the man. Instead, it shows insecure, cowardly behavior—an indication that we have to overcompensate with physical or verbal roughness. We can’t take back hurtful actions or words. Cool off, and think before saying or doing anything.
Remember with great power…
…comes great responsibility. The Spiderman quote really tells it all. I imagine all guys are like X-Men—there is a harnessed power and aggression we all have that can do something for good or for evil. For example, without his goggles, Cyclops’ laser beam eyes become wild and he can tear up everything in proximity. But when properly tuned, he can sharp shoot the farthest bad guy. Our strong hands are made to construct, but they’re also capable to destruct. The true strength of a man is sometimes better shown by how he can control it. With great power comes our responsibility to use it the right way.
I think at the end of the day, we need to remind ourselves of how we want our woman to feel around us. Do we want her to feel protected and safe? Or afraid and fearful? Sure, we guys will get angry and we can screw up. But how big or small that screw-up is could be the difference between getting the chance at another first down or getting kicked out of the stadium. It’s up to us.