Tears and Anger: The Other Side

It’s hard to stand up for yourself when the person you are arguing with acts victimized. I think that’s the crux of why tears during an argument are so looked down upon. I said before that sometimes anger turns to tears for me, and I hate that. But you know what I hate worse? Having an argument with someone else who cries. It makes it so very hard to hold onto any sense that I have a right to my opinions or feelings, because look what a bastard I am, I made her cry.

The other thing that really gets me going, though, is any hint of passive-aggression. When the person I’m in conflict with says things that insinuate but don’t outright state what they want or are feeling, it just gets my dander up. And the thing is, I’m empathic, so I pick up on and magnify other people’s emotions. She might think she’s concealing her irritation, but I’m hearing it loud and clear, and it pisses me off in turn that she’s not just saying, “Hey, Nezu, this thing you — said/did/are saying/are doing/whatever — is bothering me.”

And then there is the “My life is hard” tactic, which also just drives me nuts. It’s my mom’s favorite, and honestly one I’ve been guilty of, too. But you know what? Everyone’s life is hard. That still doesn’t mean you get to be snarky and snappish with me with no consequence.

I resent like hell the expectation that I will intuit the other person’s needs and feelings and acquiesce to them, even while I’m drowning in intuition about her needs and feelings. It sets up this nasty little feedback loop inside me, and I have no idea how to short circuit out of it.

But here’s what really sucks: I react to that. My buttons get pushed, and I get angry and short, and I try like a demon to keep level-headed and in-control and not respond in kind, but it leaks out. I can feel my mouth muscles tighten, my belly clench, my eyes narrow. If I’m honest and say, “this is making me angry,” it just makes things worse half the time.

And then I am that bastard who picked on her and made her cry. Go me.

Help me out here, guys. How do you deal with arguments? How do you maintain your cool and not turn into an asshole, but not just cave in the face of conflict? Because caving leads to even more resentment, which is a big ugly thing I don’t want in my relationships.

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~ by Nezu on 23 February 2010.

2 Responses to “Tears and Anger: The Other Side”

  1. First of all, I remember their behaviors and reactions are not really about me. Not to say they are not hurt, or whatever, but I cannot dictate nor control how they approach it. I’m lucky in that I’m not a natural empathetic like you are… there is a book… I’ll have to think about this.. theres a good book…

  2. I think, first of all, it’s important to remember that just because they’re crying doesn’t mean they’re being/feeling victimized (I’m not, when I cry; you’re not, when you cry; why assume they are?), nor does it mean you’re a bad person for making them cry. It’s just another reflex.

    The passive-aggressive thing… well, I have two thoughts. One is that you can’t change their behavior, though you can change yours and call them on it. The other, though, is that sometimes people are passive-aggressive because they don’t always realize what they’re feeling. It doesn’t make it okay or right, but it’s something to try and keep in mind.

    The rest of it — I do just say, “This makes me angry.” And you’re right; a lot of the time it makes it worse. Sometimes I lose people over it (though you have a higher tolerance for forgiveness than I do). But at least things change, and don’t get stuck in a cycle that’s harming me.

    I have no advice, however, for feeling like a bastard when you make someone cry. I do that, too. I just make them cry anyway. :\

    J

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