There’s a terrible phenomenon that destroys otherwise good relationships. I call it the “Relationship Death Gap.“
Watch the video or read the script below.
This is what happens:
The more masculine partner in the relationship – the one who prioritizes logic over emotions – is ok with something. Could be anything. Maybe he (or she) wants to go out with friends even though his partner is sick in bed with the flu. Or maybe he wants to invite his ex-girlfriend to his birthday party. Or maybe a million other scenarios.
Whatever it is, his more feminine partner – who’s more feeling-oriented and emotionally connected than he is – feels upset about it.
If her upset isn’t immediately understood and validated, she gets even more upset!
He may not have actually done anything yet, but just the fact that he doesn’t validate her upset and instead defends his logic for being ok with whatever the thing, well … that’s even more upsetting to her.
Even if he agrees to stay home or not invite his ex-girlfriend – JUST to get his partner off his back and NOT because he really wants to or understands her feelings – it hardly matters. She remains upset, anyway.
Now he’s pissed, too. Doubly so. Because not only is he angry at himself for giving in to something that doesn’t make sense to him, he’s frustrated that she’s still not happy after she got what she said she wanted.
This is the Relationship Death Gap! It kills relationships slowly.
Here’s what’s actually going on, and what to do about it:
Naturally, his logic works for him. His reasons make perfect sense to him. He knows his ex-girlfriend is no threat. He knows he loves and is committed to his partner. He even believes a man who can stay friends with an ex is the mark of a generous, loving man. His current woman should be PROUD to be with such a man. And, he sees the countless things he does that prove his love for her! He sees no reason for her to worry or object!
Yet none of his matters to her. Her past experiences – and biology – may cause her to feel insecure about an ex. She may not feel genuinely, fully considered in his logic.
What’s worse, if he can’t validate her feelings because his reasons make more sense to him than her reasons for being upset, now she feels unsafe with him because she can’t trust that he truly cares about her feelings, which she experiences as not caring about her!
He sees what he sees. She feels what she feels. She can’t convince him to change his thinking. He can’t calm her emotions with his logic. The more they both try, the more defiant they both get.
This is how the same argument plays itself out for months even YEARS, as the Relationship Death Gap grows.
It’s maddening to the masculine partner who thinks what happened is long over. He might still think the offense was only imagined, anyway, yet as long as the feminine partner continues to feel that her emotional experience has never been fully embraced by him, the disconnect grows … until no connection remains.
Two good people swallowed into the Relationship Death Gap.
So, how do you close the gap?
It’s simple. Just not easy … because you gotta suspend your viewpoint for a moment and dive into your partner’s experience.
1. The more masculine partner needs to embrace her feelings, even if they don’t make logical sense to him.
In fact, if you can give up needing her feelings to make sense to you – and I mean EVER – just learn to accept that her feelings are real for her, and communicate that you support her feeling whatever she feels, most things will go much better for both of you.
All she wants is to be validated in what she feels, to know you don’t think she’s crazy. And I know her reasons for being upset might make her seem crazy to you, but so long as you orient towards her as though she’s crazy and you fail to embrace her feelings, she’ll feel that too, and she’s gonna be hell for you. She’ll either get louder or shut down altogether, and you don’t want either of those outcomes.
2. The more feminine partner needs to try to understand his logic, even though it may hurt.
Seriously, accept that he’s sharing his reality, and in his reality he never intends to hurt you. If you think he’s lying or he does want to hurt you or he just won’t ever take responsibility for how he affects you, you probably shouldn’t be with him. But if you do trust he genuinely wants to be a good man for you, then assure him you really understand that; that you know he never means to harm you – because that’s almost certainly what he’s aching for you to get. Tell him you can see his good or at least innocent intentions, and he’ll feel seen and understood. His resistance will relax because he no longer feels the need to keep proving himself to you.
I know both of you are worried you’re going to lose something: Your freedom. Validation. Connection. Your identity. Your sanity. But notice how your resistance to embracing each other’s reality is already causing you to lose all that.
You’ve got to understand you two are never going to experience life the same way all the time. Tiny gaps of misunderstanding will continue opening up between you for the rest of your lives together, at least if you’re committed to being real with each other.
The trick is not to get rid of gaps forever, but to learn how to close them quickly before they drain your intimacy of all affection, care and even respect for each other.
What’s surprising is that as you learn to embrace each other’s reality without denying your own, often whatever you were fighting about just stops being a thing because you stop being enemies. Your partner trusts you to have their back.
Which doesn’t necessarily make the ex-girlfriend at the party decision obvious, but if you’re the feminine partner, you just might be surprised how inspired he is to really take care of you once he gets that you genuinely appreciate his point of view.
If you’re the more masculine partner, you’ll be surprised how much she lets go and trusts you, even follows your lead because she feels that you’re going to really care about her feelings whatever may come.
What’s your experience? Please let me know in the comments below!
What would have happened if I’d known this years ago? I used to feel so bad for having feelings that upset my partner that I was trying to erase them, but of course they were still there driving me, against the brakes I was trying to jam them with. The above recipe sounds much healthier!
I am DYING from this right now!! Helllllpppp!! Idk how to fix it.. i’m afraid to talk, to say the wrong thing or not being heard. I get angry.. idk what… but we gotta do something.. FAST!!
Shayla, I invite you to do a Relationship Clarity Session with me … learn more @ https://bryanreeves.com/rcs
I can help!!
I do get the differences, the “seeing” on one hand, and the “feeling” on the other. However, what I had to deal with was a husband who kept nude photos of old girlfriends in a box on his home office desk, in OUR home. I didn’t know they were there until I as in there one day helping him input figures on my online tax return, and noticed the box with the top photo being of a young woman lying naked on a bed. I asked him what why he had it, and he said it was from thirty years ago but was in the past. I asked him why he kept the photos (there were other women’s nude photos there as well, and he said he couldn’t throw away part of his past, it didn’t “feel right” to him. I felt diminished and as though my home had been invaded. To me they were trophies – I asked him who the woman was in the first photo and he couldn’t remember her name, said she was a one-night stand from a conference he’d been to. We aren’t together any more, partly due to his infidelity (a few years after the photo incident), but I never felt as close as we had been when we first married after that.
I told a couple of friends, one was outraged, and the other said I should just see that it was in the past and asked why it bothered me. Any opinions?
I think you had absolutely every right to feel hurt by this, and to draw boundaries around not having such photos in your own home. Given he didn’t seem to get the import of the effect this had on you – which is in part your responsibility to give him EVERY opportunity to understand the impact on you – it isn’t surprising that he was eventually unfaithful.
There is no room for an X girlfriend in committed relationship or marraige. If a man is squawking over and X…he should probably go be with her once again. Ridiculous! Sorry, I disagree.
How fortunate we live on a planet where all kinds of perspectives are welcome 🙂
It’s so remarkable to see what I’ve experienced written so clearly. The odd thing is, I’ve experienced this in reverse. I was the more logically-minded female dating a more emotionally-driven male partner. Sometimes our roles flipped, but it was more consistently the former. Thank you for your insight!
Absolutely … this can go both ways!!