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Arguing 101 continued

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There are two basic techniques for arguing with your girlfriend you need to master before moving on to a more advanced level. They are:

Basic Arguing Technique #1: Getting very upset, yelling in a high-pitched voice and waving your arms around in helpless frustration.

Basic Arguing Technique #2: Reasonable problem-solving.

Each of these should be deployed at the proper time for best effect. Arguing Technique #1 should be rapidly deployed when the 'you don't really care enough about me, now do you?' issues are bubbling heatedly up to the surface. If she is saying things like 'it just seems like you don't really care that much', this is your cue to get upset. Slight correction: this is your cue to get fucking upset!

If you are saying things like 'you always hide things from me. It's like I can't really trust you' this is your cue to get upset. Getting upset is important in these situations and we'll explain why.

If, on the other hand, you are arguing about towels, what kind of take-out to get, the remote control, or what movie to see, it is a cue to deploy Basic Arguing Technique #2. You might want to indulge in some mild upsetness as warm-up (Oh come on! Devil Girl From Mars is a classic movie! How can you not want to see that?!), but you should have the ability to shift rapidly and smoothly into Reasonable Problem-Solving or you are going to spend the rest of your relationship life swimming through very deep shark-infested 'You really don't love me at all, now do you?' waters for no good reason whatsoever, other than that you are a self-centered jerk.

Let's recap. If there is a practical issue to be solved, use Technique #2. If there is an emotional issue to be resolved, use Technique #1.

Let's dive into the nitty-gritties.

The reason it is important to master Technique #1 (and it is very important to master this technique) is that emotional issues can only be resolved through emotions. Upsetness is your magic gateway to whatever emotion needs to be conveyed, from aching tenderness to furious rage. Upsetness simply signals that things are churning around, prepping themselves to be revealed, thus going to the underlying point of an argument, which we easily remember from the last page is Information Exchange.

Let's walk through a sample situation to help us get the hang of it. So your girlfriend is saying 'Do you even care about me? It's like you don't really care. You never call. And you're never at home when I call. I never even get to talk to you.' And so on. Now you might think the right thing to do, or the sensible thing to do would be to say something like 'I care. I call. Besides, you always call when you know I'm playing basketball.' This doesn't make any sense! What the hell are you saying? That you care, but you shouldn't have to? Or that maybe you don't care but she doesn't either? That you care but she is too stupid to realize it? What the hell are you saying? You people frequently get in conversations like this and the truth is, neither you nor the other person has the slightest fucking clue what the hell either of you mean. No wonder these issues drag on forever.

Or maybe your instinct is to offer mild verbal reassurance 'of course I care honey, I'm here aren't I?' And so on. Whatever your own, argument-avoiding, rational-seeming, strategy might be. You might feel a little wounded or bewildered but you try to act nice. This doesn't make any damn sense either.

What you should be doing is getting immediately huffy and over-reacting, like this: (loud and high-pitched) For Chrissakes! How can you even say that?! I drove seventy miles to see you tonight. I'm always doing things to show I care! Always! I call you all the time and you never even return my calls! You should be saying this in an upset and somewhat irrational manner and signaling distress by changing your body position, such as by getting up, emphasizing your point with exaggerated gestures, pulling away, and in general trying to act as though you are enormously upset that such an accusation would ever be leveled at you. If you are just play-acting, you will have perhaps a hard time being convincing but if there is any underlying upsetness or nerve-grinding or tense and agonized weariness going on, let it show. Don't be patient, be fed up.

Here is why. You may think to yourself that you are establishing an appropriate level of caring enough by driving seventy miles, taking her on a trip to New Orleans, paying for dinner, disarranging your entire schedule to see her and so on. You may be confused and just plain not that happy that such a discussion is taking place. You may wonder why women initiate these discussions at all. The reason is that all these things that you are doing could easily be part of a deception on your part. Sure you drive 70 miles to see them - so you can woo them over, steal all their money, throw them in the trunk of a car, and ditch them in the woods of Wisconsin. Sure, you may have sprung for a nice getaway to Las Vegas, so you can have as much sex as you want with them and them dump them mercilessly while telling hugely embarrassing stories about them to all your mutual friends. Yes, you may see them every weekend although you live in different towns and the schedule is killing you, but you may easily be doing that as clever preparation for breaking their heart. All human beings know, at least on a subconscious level, that all other human beings are capable of deception. Even the ones that seem really nice, or where you can't figure an ulterior motive for it.

And all human beings know, at least on a subconscious level, that it is much much more difficult for a deceiver to deceive when he or she is upset. Upsetness brings the underlying truth out. Attorneys in a trial always try to upset the goddamn witnesses, precisely so they will blurt out the truth in an unwary moment of upsetness. You may wonder why women want to test your love this way. Because they would be just plain stupid if they didn't. Sure there are argument-avoiding women who will never do this. These are the type of women who marry bigamists and profess amazement later. These people are foolish. Avoid them. If your girlfriend has any fucking sense whatsoever, she will try to provoke a few arguments like this, particularly at key moments. People are fools if they think love lasts, if they think because you were nice yesterday, you love them today and will love them through all tomorrows. You won't. In fact, you won't even know whether you do, unless you get fucking upset enough to find out.

Upsetness establishes your ability to be truthful. A key to doing this is to raise the pitch of your voice. Raising the pitch of your voice is a universal distress signal. Giving this signal indicates 2 things to your girlfriend. One, you are distressed and therefore you must have actual human emotions as if you really care, and two, that since you are in distress, you are in need of aid, or comfort, or assistance, or reassurance. You have cleverly turned the tables on your whiny, yet sensible, girlfriend. You have rocked her on her heels. She was expecting to hit another fucking blank wall that in no way whatsoever would give her any reliably truthful information as to whether you really have a deal or not, and lo and behold, you have alarmed her with a sudden display of emotion. You have also started an argument. Thereby indicating a hitherto unsuspected level of commitment.

Some of you are really terrible at this. If you cannot raise your voice because it's been beaten out of you, or you have a sluggish thyroid, for god's sake, pace around, wave your arms, speak more rapidly, hiss, get insanely sarcastic, widen your eyes, and in general display distressed agitation. But in general, your best bet is just to yell in a high-pitched voice. If you yell in a low-pitched voice, it indicates instead that you are about to attack in the manner of a lion, that you are threatening, and far from being caring or committed, you will ferociously defend your territory of not calling or whatever it is. The truth will come out. Get upset and the truth will come out. Which is what it is supposed to do. You may not want it to, but that's what it's supposed to do.

If you are the one who needs to initiate an argument about 'you didn't tell me you were still going to the gym with Joe every day', the same principles apply. It is the same type of argument, you don't really care about me, do you? and therefore you need to get high-pitched and agitated. She will have no fucking idea what you are on about unless you do. She will not think it's an important issue unless you signal distress. In fact, she doesn't think it's an important issue. She doesn't think there's anything the least bit important about going to the gym with Joe like she always has. Or sure, she lied about going to the mall with her friends and spending several hundred dollars on shoes, but why the fuck should you care? She's embarrassed, but that's not your problem. In fact, what is your problem? She will not know unless you get distressed. Don't get mean - get distressed. Don't get logical (you always fucking want to do that, even if your version of logic would stump the leading scientists at MIT), get distressed.

We'll say it again, logic will not help you in an argument with your girlfriend. You have undoubtedly discovered this from personal experience but you still don't believe it. The attempt to get logical, whether you intend it this way or not (and usually you do) indicates that you are trying to win. We already pointed out that you don't want to win. Winning a 'you don't really care enough about me, now do you? argument is not to your advantage. If you get all logical and try to win, all you are succeeding in doing is proving to your girlfriend that you are an asshole who really doesn't care enough about her, now do you? She's trying to find out if you love her enough to make it worth the incredible hassle of associating with you, and by being logical it is as if you keep shouting 'NO! I'M TOO LOGICAL TO LOVE ANYONE! I REALLY REALLY DON'T CARE ENOUGH ABOUT YOU, NOW DO I? BECAUSE I AM TOO STUPID TO STOP BEING LOGICAL FOR A MINUTE AND FIGURE OUT WHAT THE PROBLEM IS!' I can assure you, that from her point of view this gets incredibly frustrating. She won't necessarily leave you right away, because all that loud and useless logic will often convince her that the problem is that you must have the emotional IQ of a severely retarded bag of peat moss, and that probably you really do love her but are way way too dumb to realize it.

But if you keep this logic business going for long enough, one of two things will eventually happen. You'll either be forced to drop it when you realize with increasing panic that it is only making things worse and that she is going to dump your ass for no reason whatsoever that you could possibly comprehend except that she really doesn't care enough about you now does she. Or she will develop the habit of explaining to a wide variety of people how abusive you are, and eventually enact a complicated and injurious revenge. This kind of shit happens to you people all the time, and you almost never understand why nobody of the opposite sex ever really loves you. I am explaining it to you now, so listen up. It is partly because you attempted to respond to emotional situations, arguments, and vitally important you don't really care enough about me, now do you questions with logic. QUIT IT! We'll say it again, because sometimes it takes awhile for this kind of thing to sink in. Don't get logical, get distressed.

All righty, we can calm down now. Once you have established distress and started yelling, the two of you need to keep yelling until one person or another, maybe both, have revealed a Mortifying Insecurity. Mortifying Insecurities are what it's all about; neither of you is self-aware enough to know that your insecurities, far from being mortifying, are highly rational and embedded by thousands of years of evolution, rather than by your own pathetic life pock-marked with emotional injuries.

So just keep yelling until one of you has yelled, entirely against their will, I'm just afraid you won't like me because I'm not as pretty as Sharon! Or 'you want to get back with him, don't you? He's good-looking, successful, he's got everything going for him WHY WOULD YOU WANT TO HANG AROUND WITH ME?!' or whatever it is. At the point a Mortifying Insecurity has been revealed, both people should be beside themselves with upsetness and a huge burst of reassurance can come pouring out. 'God, how could you talk about Sharon - I love you!' Or 'Dammit Dennis, will you LISTEN TO ME, I don't want to be with Joe, I want to be with you!' Or whatever it is. And the reassurance will be trustworthy, because it was revealed during upsetness, during which it is hard to lie, and then you will start kissing each other and then you will be tearing each other's clothes off and so on. It'll be great. If one or both of you is crying, that's even better.

If you're not getting to this point, something is wrong. While being upset you need to keep probing for information. I know it is hard to be upset and do anything else at the same time, but try to keep the basic premise in mind. The two of you are searching in the dark, with your voices raised, and your arms waving, for vital information that will allow you to determine whether you can stand each other or not. So you need to keep asking questions, and revealing things you don't want to reveal (namely, Mortifying Insecurities) in an agitated manner. That means, easy on the vicious accusations, and full speed ahead on the anguished questions and truthful yet unpleasant revelations. Sounds delightful, doesn't it? Of course it doesn't. But at least it's straightforward and you have a clear-cut choice. Go through this process with someone worth going through it with (hopefully someone who will give you the right answer eventually) or pretty much resign yourself to spending the rest of your life solo. You can avoid this process and pretend to be in a relationship, but you're not really in one (and maybe some of you don't really want to be, not ever) until both of you have revealed the kind of Mortifying Insecurities that can be used as blackmail later. Nothing binds two people more closely than mutual ability to blackmail, combined with awe-inspiring and touching restraint from ever actually doing that. This is what all that trust and vulnerability shit that professional relationship books babble on about really is. It is arguing loudly enough that you end up shouting out something about yourself that you never really wanted to know and then living it through with someone who doesn't take advantage of it. The end result being something that makes you feel so good, so high, that it flat out beats drug addiction (attractive as that is). There is nothing like accidentally taking a big risk and surviving it to charge your chemicals with delirious high-inducing energy that makes you want to...Engage in Make-Up Sex. When it works, it's an almost perfect system.

When it doesn't, one thing that may be wrong is that the truth is that one of you indeed does not really care enough about the other person, now do they? Another thing that may be wrong, is that neither of you will ever fucking admit it. You've got the upsetness part down, but damned if you'll admit you really care enough before the other does. A third thing that may be wrong is that you are not getting all the way down to the goddamn Mortifying Insecurity. One or the other of you is holding out on your Mortifying Insecurities. That's bad.

So let's just recap the basics of this Upsetness Arguing Technique. If you are having emotional issues with your girlfriend, whether occasioned by her unhappiness or yours, and you have not yet gotten upset, you need to do so as soon as practicable. I know some of you are afraid to start arguments, but at the very least you can be snappy until one starts and then just get more upset from there. This may make you feel vulnerable or weird, but too fucking bad. I can't do anything about human nature and neither can you. Bite the bullet and get upset.

 

If upsetness is occuring but Make-Up Sex is not, troubleshoot in this way. If she is getting upset and you are not - start getting upset. If you are getting upset and she is not, try harder to get her upset. Be meaner, more irrational, louder, more distressed, more insistent, make a big deal out of withdrawing, stomp around, be unccoperative, and just generally make it clear that nothing resembling a civil relationship is going to occur until she gets upset. You can do this, believe me. You may be afraid of the truth she will reveal when she gets upset, but if you are pissy enough, eventually you will find out. And you need to find out.

If you are arguing in an upset manner over a period of time but nothing seems to be getting resolved and the Make-Up Sex thing isn't really working out, do this: Argue more or less continuously until the situation is resolved one way or another. Finally own up in the heat of the moment 'Well maybe I'm not really sure about this relationship!' or keep arguing with her until she finally admits 'Okay, well, I am just having second thoughts, all right? I'm not so sure we're cut out for each other after all.' Or whatever. By the way, do not believe these kinds of hesitations unless they are shouted out in a volley of upsetness. Otherwise, they are just thoughts, not feelings. Everyone has them. When they scream them at the top of their lungs as though it's being dragged out of them by wild boars, then you know you have discovered the Reluctant Truth.

By the way, if the Reluctant Truth is being revealed in a manner or moment that is clearly insane, such as in the heat of an argument about diapers shortly after the birth of your first child and you are saying well where is the goddamn diaper pail then! and she is saying MAYBE WE JUST NEED TO GET A DIVORCE IF YOU CAN'T CHANGE THE BABY'S DIAPERS, then you need to back off, cool down, and address the underlying Mortifying Insecurity ('what if I can't take care of the baby, boo hoo hoo) when you are not quite so stressed out. Reluctant Truths often hide even deeper Mortifying Insecurities and sometimes that is just part of the deal.

And we also need to acknowledge that both Reluctant Truths and Mortifying Insecurities can float gently to the surface after a furious storm of Unresolved Upsetness. So don't despair entirely if the screaming leads nowhere at first. Half an hour later one of you will be saying, if you really have a deal, I guess I just didn't really realize how important blah blah blah was to me (or how important blah blah blah was to you). It was the upsetness that sparked the realization and that's what it's there for.

Anyway, if you are during a negotiation period, expect to confront various Reluctant Truths and Mortifying Insecurities until the key points have been negotiated.

Final step - weather the storm, whatever it is. If it's 'well i'm just not ready for this,' deal with that. If it's I'm just afraid I really love you and I'll end up getting hurt, deal with that. Continue relationship or break it off. Once you have gotten all the way down to the Reluctant Truth or the Mortifying Insecurities, things will settle down for a while. Until something happens to activate things again. All you are doing is getting to the truth of things, for better and worse, and it's a very simple process, at least conceptually. The screaming part may get a little wearing, but once you are in it, you are in it, and it's like being in a rowboat in the ocean. You can take a break when your arms get tired, but bottom line, you gotta row all the way to the shore. Whatever the shore may be, you gotta get there. It will be helpful to remember this when you're in the middle of the process. Don't start asking yourself existential questions like 'why am i in a rowboat in the middle of the ocean?' Such questions will not get you to the goddamn shore. Just row. You can decide later how far you want to venture out next time.

Okay, enough about getting upset. Now that you have learned how to get upset, we need to learn how to avoid getting upset. Because if you are forced to get upset about every little thing you could possibly get upset about in a relationship, you will get very very tired and decide it isn't worth it anymore. This is why you don't like it when the two of you are arguing all the time. Now that you know how to resolve underlying emotional issues by dredging up Mortifying Insecurities and Reluctant Truths, you need to know how to not turn every discussion of which pizza to order into some sort of 'you don't really care enough about me, now do you?' debate.

Thus, we need Basic Arguing Technique #2.

 

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