Ladies: Why Guys Hate Drama & What to Do About It

Posted by on Apr 12, 2014 in Blog, For Gals | 0 comments

Ladies: Why Guys Hate Drama & What to Do About It

Guys hate “drama” in their relationships with women. For most men, drama might be defined as a woman getting upset at them, blaming them, overreacting (from their perspective), and seeming irrational. Some men particularly dislike it when “drama” is accompanied by crying, and big discussions. For most guys, it can take days, or weeks, to get over an episode of “drama” and the experience will create a strong, unpleasant memory. And most guys will avoid confrontations and big discussions – and consider leaving a relationship, or just leave it,  when there is “too much drama.”

In other words, drama can be a dealbreaker in a relationship. So, if you want to be in a relationship, this is important!

So, why is it that men hate “drama?” (We’ll get to what you can do about it next!)

Part of the answer seems to be in how men’s and women’s brains are literally wired differently. Some of this is almost cliché:

  • Men’s brains are typically wired for “results” more than for “process.” In Men are From Mars, Women are From Venus John Gray says: “A man’s sense of self is defined through his ability to achieve results.”
  • Dealing with emotional issues is inherently a process situation. (See the book Men Are Like Waffles, Women Are Like Spaghetti, in the ‘Relationship’ section of the ‘Resources’ portion of this Web site.) NOTE: This is also why men are less likely to be fascinated with how and why your relationship communication works or doesn’t work. In fact, many men will get impatient with the following list – while many women will eat up this information with a stick and a spoon.
  • Also, men are not raised to focus on communication and collaboration skills the way women are. So, this is another reason they often feel out of their depth in this arena, and are typically less comfortable in it than are women.
  • Men’s brains are more programmed to deal with one situation at a time, handling that situation, before moving on to the next. Women’s brains can move from one subject to another with great fluidity, without resolving one issue before connecting it with the next. This is why the authors of Men Are Like Waffles, Women Are Like Spaghetti say that men’s brains are like waffles, and women’s brains are like spaghetti. Further, they state:

“A man will strategically organize his life in boxes and then spend most of his time in the boxes he can succeed in. This is such a strong motivation for him that he will seek out the boxes that work, and will ignore the boxes that confuse him or make him feel like a failure. …Men also take a “success” approach to communication. If they believe they can successfully talk with their wives and reach a desirable outcome, they will be highly motivated to converse. If, on the other hand, the conversation seems pointless to him, or he finds understanding his wife impossible, he loses his motivation to talk and clams up.”

  • When a woman is upset, she usually covers a lot of ground in her communication, linking one thought to another quickly. In keeping with the idea of women being like spaghetti, and men being life waffles, this can be maddening to a man, because he gets stuck three ideas back. He stops being able to follow her, especially if he is upset, and gives up because he feels like he is “failing.”
  • As part of their “results” orientation, men are “fixers.” When a woman is upset, it can appear to a man that there is nothing he can do to “fix” the situation. This can be very, very frustrating.
  • Most men want their girlfriends, partners, and wives to be happy. And this is one measure of their own success in the relationship. When the woman isn’t happy, the man feels like he is failing, and this can be tough on his pride and ego. He’d rather go deal with something that he does feel good at, like his work – or a project in the garage.
  • When a woman feels sad, hurt, or angry, most men will jump to the conclusion that the woman thinks this is his fault, and he is to blame. His defenses kick in.
  • When a person’s defenses kick in, the rational, problem-solving part of their brain, called the “pre-frontal cortex” literally stops functioning. And the person moves into a state of “fight or flight.” The man will literally want to fight, or run away. If you make him talk, he may feel backed into a corner, like a trapped animal – not a good feeling – and not a good condition for a productive conversation. John Gray says: “It is hard for a man when a woman demands that he talk. She unknowingly turns him off by interrogating him….”
  • And women are evolutionarily programmed to soothe themselves more quickly than men. In The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work John Gottman explains why:

…we evolved from hominids whose lives were circumscribed by very rigid gender roles, since these were advantageous to survival in a harsh environment. The femailes specialized in nurturing children, while the males specialized in cooperative hunting.

As any nursing mother can tell you, the amount of milk you produce is affected by how relaxed you feel, which is related to the release of the hormone oxytocin in the brain. So natural selection would favor a female who could quickly soothe herself and calm down after feeling stressed….But in the male natural selection would reward the opposite response. For these early cooperative hunters, maintaining vigilance was a key survival skill. So males whose adrenaline kicked in quite readily and who did not calm down so easily were more likely to survive and procreate.

To this day, the male cardiovascular system remains more reactive than the female, and slower to recover from stress….It’s a biological fact: men are more easily overwhelmed by marital conflict than are their wives…men have a greater tendency to have negative thoughts that maintain their distress, while women are more likely to think soothing thoughts that help them calm down and be conciliatory. Men, generally either think about how righteous and indignant they feel…or they think about themselves as an innocent victim of their wife’s wrath or complaint…


So, ladies, what if something isn’t working for you at the moment in the relationship and you feel you need to talk about it? How can you do that, without creating what he will perceive as “drama?”

I am not suggesting that you should “stuff” your feelings, or your needs. You need to be with someone who cares about you and how you feel – and truly does want you to be happy. Otherwise, what are you doing in that relationship? You need to love yourself enough to choose someone who will be good to you.

However, communicating what you need in a way that would make most men want to run away is counterproductive. It’s much more useful to be able to communicate clearly, simply, in the right way, and at the right time.

When I studied communication in graduate school there was an expression that I am still pondering to this day: “The meaning of your communication is the response you get.”

Now, this is overstating the case somewhat – you can’t take full responsibility for how your communication is received, because there are two sides to any communication equation. If a guy is completely disinterested in understanding how you feel, or being at all accountable for his side of the communication, there’s not much you can do. However, since all communication requires a sender and a receiver, what use is the transaction if the way you’re sending the communication makes it impossible for it to be received?

So, it makes sense, in a relationship, to learn how to communicate in a way that a man can “hear” you.

Here are some suggestions.

1. Check in on yourself: Are you feeling insecure? Are you in a low mood? If yes, DON’T TALK NOW! Maybe it’s even something you can just let go…

In The Relationship Handbook George Pransky says:

“If you want to understand why people do as they do and feel the way they feel, you need only understand the role of insecurity in life. Insecurity is the source of distress and all counterproductive behavior. Thoughts of insecurity periodically pass through our minds. If we dismiss these thoughts, we will remain secure, our ideal selves: easygoing, joyful, compassionate and wise. If we harbor our thought of insecurity, we end up in a state of distress….

‘Problems’ don’t really exist. They are mirages that appear to exist when certain conditions are present, such as an insecure state of mind. Problems are nothing more than situations seen through a filter of insecurity.


So, what does this mean for you, in avoiding drama?

It means that if you’re feeling insecure, it’s probably not the best time to bring up an issue with your boyfriend or partner. Because the insecurity itself will put you in a state of feeling vulnerable, hurt, sad, depressed. And when you approach him in this state he is likely to perceive that you are attacking or blaming him.

Instead, regroup, get a handle on what is going on for you, take a breath, and get yourself regrounded. Write in your journal. Talk to a friend or advisor. DON’T sell yourself or your worth short out of insecurity.

Then, when you’re ready, find a better time to discuss the situation when you can come from a better place.

Of course, this is simple to say, and not always so easy to do. And it definitely requires practice.

Maybe you’ll even discover that it’s not such a big deal, and you can simply let it go. DON’T make a big deal about everything. As they say, “Don’t sweat the small stuff.” Let go of as much as you possibly can.

If it is something that is important, move on to step 2.


2. Before you talk, get clear that your desired outcome is a “Win-Win” solution.

Conversations where you just want to vent or complain rarely end well. As Stephen Covery says in The Seven Habits of Highly Successful People, begin with the end in mind. How do you want this conversation to end with your boyfriend or partner? How do you want both of you to feel, and to be communicating? Focus on a positive outcome, for both of you – or, as Covey also says, focus on a Win-Win outcome. If you “Win” and your partner “loses” then, ultimately, you both lose – and vice versa.

Remember, you are part of the “Win-Win.” I am not telling you to turn yourself into a pretzal to accommodate your partner.


3. Before you talk, focus on meeting both your and his needs, not on a specific outcome.

Since men are “fixers,” it’s better if they can participate in crafting the solution, rather than being given an ultimatum about what they need to do, or else.  In fact, that rarely works.

And coming to an understanding that works for everyone is usually about getting everyone’s needs met, not deciding on specific outcomes that are required. There are many outcomes that can meet a set of needs – as the saying goes, there are “many ways to skin a cat.”  This is about BOTH of your needs being met.


4. Pick a good time.

You’re unlikely to have a good result if you pick a time when your boyfriend or partner is stressed, rushed, exhausted, or not feeling well. You’re also unlikely to have a good outcome when he clearly needs some space. As John Gray describes, men have a cycle of intimacy during which they become close, then stretch away from their partners, regaining their autonomy, then become close again. If you run after him and try to force a conversation when he is needing space, he will resist, and is likely to become even more unavailable until he gets the space he needs.

It’s also important for you to pick a time when you feel grounded and centered.


5. Begin by saying there is something you need to talk to him about – and you want his help in coming to a solution. Tell him you are NOT blaming him.

And mean it. Ask if he understands that you are NOT blaming him for anything before you move on.


6. Keep it really simple. Use fewer words.

Don’t barrage him with four gazillion words – in texts, in emails, in phone messages, in person.

Distill what you need to say into language that is as simple as possible.

Say it – or email it – whatever is most appropriate in the situation.


7. Then, give him space.

After you have said your piece, don’t keep pounding him with new layers of information.

Sometimes, if a man is upset, he will need some time to go away and process and come to some understandings or solutions of his own before he can finish the conversation with you. Remember that it takes men longer to soothe themselves.

Don’t chase him. Ever. Give him space and time. He may need space, and you need to maintain your sense of your own self worth.



  1. Check in on yourself: Are you feeling insecure? Are you in a low mood? If yes, DON’T TALK NOW! And, maybe it’s even something you can just let go…
  2. Before you talk, get clear that your desired outcome is a “Win-Win” solution.
  3. Before you talk, focus on meeting both your and his needs, not on a specific outcome that you require.
  4. Pick a good time.
  5. Begin by saying there is something you need to talk to him about – and you want his help in coming to a solution. Tell him you are NOT blaming him. And mean it!
  6. Keep it really simple.  Use fewer words.
  7. Then, give him space.

These steps are simple but not necessarily easy. They definitely require practice. And when you’re in the heat of the moment – and upset – the hardest part is being able to remember and stop to follow these steps. Why just this week I completely forgot all of them and messed up a communication with a man…..

But with practice, I know you – and I – can get decently good at these steps. Personally, I’m highly motivated to do so, aren’t you? Because who wants/needs unhappiness and confusion and disconnect in their relationship? Once the “drama” happens, the impact can be very painful and difficult to heal. Instead, if we get good at these steps we can help our sweeties and partners hear us, and feel like they’re succeeding in communicating with us. We can avoid lots of “big conversations” and having things that come up become a “big deal.”

Wouldn’t that be awesome?

Let me know how it goes. I bet we can learn from each other.

Want to read some steps I’m suggesting a man can take when he thinks a woman is in “drama?” Check out Men: How to Deal with Drama & Why it Matters”

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