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Managing the Man Sulks


Call it what you will - the man meltdown, the man mope, or a good old-fashioned dose of the sulks - it's that strange male phenomenon where normally bright, lucid boyfriends/pals/ workmates prefer to sit in silence, offering only monosyllabic grumphs, while stewing in their own juice.

It's a very effective tool when said boyfriend is pissed off at you, life, work, his boss, or especially when his football team's just taken a hiding.

So why do we do it? Firstly, we remember how brilliantly it worked when we were four years old; it's been emblazoned into our brains for time immemorial. Or it's certainly a more assuaging alternative to the traditional blazing row. The truth is, we men have never been great at verbalising our problems. If something's eating us up, we'd simply prefer to sit in silence. Women, on the other hand, will call their mothers, their friends, anyone who'll listen, and then post it all over Facebook.

Not guys, however - it seems we'd rather tackle life's inevitable dramas by staring at a wall for hours with a fast-warming beer in our hands.

On the upside, the man meltdown rarely lasts a day or so before we're back to our usual chirpy ways. Typically, it's fast forgotten, but if it's not, then you may have problems. And we only do it when we think we're 100 per cent right on something or we know we've completely f&#*ed up somewhere. This solitary, emotional cone of reticence seems to be our personal affirmation of things. If we really wanted to argue the point and take you on, that's when the voices get raised, the doors get slammed and the tears start flowing.

But if and when you do find yourself confronting the inevitable man sulk, what we really, really want is to be left alone. Please refrain from asking us what's wrong 11 times in quick succession. After all, there's little reward to be had in prodding the hibernating bear.
John Aiken, relationships expert, psychologist and author (johnaiken.com. au), agrees that when your guy's in that mood, he's probably best avoided. "There are two reasons why they do it," he says of the man-shits. "It's conflict avoidance and it lets men soothe themselves. It allows them to be calm, to process things, to give them a sense of control."

But it's not that we do it on purpose, argues Aiken, rather "it's our natural default - guys are socialised from a young age to internalise their feelings instead of express them."
Yet, despite the fact the "shutdown" is probably in most men's arguing kit bag, Aiken says that it doesn't necessarily
make it a good thing. One: the issue often doesn't get resolved, and two: one party's silence can send the other person in the opposite direction.

And Relationship and Sex Therapist Pamela Supple agrees. She says letting your fella brood for 24 hours is a better option than inflaming things or sticking your nose in if he's proving a bit haughty."It'll always calm down in a day or two," Supple says. "When the tension does die off, don't ignore it, acknowledge it. Get him out of the house, go for a walk or a coffee. Don't say, 'We have to talk about this', instead say, 'Remember the other day when you were feeling that way?'. You want a conversation where there's no blame or accusations." What you don't want, Supple adds, is some nasty environment where the problems will all resurface.

So next time your man's suffering a meltdown, let him be, let him sulk. Anyway, most blokes don't have great memories and, in all truth, he'll probably have forgotten about it in the morning. To give us our dues, we do tend to be eternal optimists. And if you can get anything out of it, why not just enjoy the peace and quiet!


Article from "Cleo" - Managing the Man Sulks - August 2011