Spite Girl In my romantic relationships, conflicts bring out a side of me that I don’t like. I fly into a rage and end up making ugly comments I later regret. In the moment, it’s like I can’t stop. I’m shocked by the level of anger I have and I’m afraid to enter relationships as a result. –Exploding Woman There are obvious shortcuts in anger management, such as: “Never go to bed angry. Smother the unreasonable idiot next to you so you can get some sleep.” Anger gets knocked as a toxic emotion, but when somebody’s disrespecting or fleecing us, our blowing up suggests this won’t end well for them – in a way our being all, “Hey, no prob, bro,” does not. Research by evolutionary psychologist Aaron Sell suggests anger evolved as a “bargaining” tool to help the angry person resolve conflicts of interest in their favor. Sell observes that anger is one of a few emotions (like sadness) that “regulates” others’ behavior as well as our own. Anger rises in us when we perceive someone is treating us unfairly – not putting enough value on our well-being – and motivates us to get them to mend their ways. It motivates the person we’re angry at through two means: the prospect that we’ll “withdraw benefits” (like by shutting off the sex spigot or the perks of friendship) or...Read More
Category: Advice Goddess
Smear Pressure I’m a college sophomore and my boyfriend is a senior. He’s a football player and other girls have crushes on him. Recently, he was with his guy friends at a party. A girl came over and said I’d slapped her across the face. I’ve never even met her! Why would she do this? — Mystified Women are seen as the kinder, gentler sex because they tend not to leave a trail of bloody noses and broken barstools. But women go plenty aggressive on other women, just in ways they can’t patch up at urgent care – like when some mean girl dislocates your reputation and fractures your psyche in 36 places. In short, while men have Fight Club, women have Underhanded Snipe Club. Researchers find that women almost always use “indirect aggression” against other women – nasty gossip, ostracism, and “just trying to help!” shaming remarks – to vie for mates and jobs. Psychologist Kaj Bjorkqvist explains that this covert “social manipulation” maximizes the harm to the victim while minimizing the risk of counterattack on the perpetrator, who often remains anonymous –leaving the victim unable to trace how her social status ended up in the morgue. Women’s mate competition can be a beauty contest – hotting up one’s appearance to yank male eyeballs away from female rivals – or an ugly contest: using “competitor derogation” (disparaging the...Read More
Morose-Colored Glasses I’m a woman in my 20s. Some stuff in my life was going really wrong and I got depressed. I didn’t tell people, but it had to be obvious. I distanced myself from my group of girlfriends, meaning I missed birthday parties, didn’t respond to group texts, and was overall not a great friend. Still, I did what I could, like taking a friend for a spa day after missing her birthday the week before. Weeks later, I learned she was still harboring resentment that I had missed her birthday. Don’t I deserve a bit of a break?...Read More
Old Is the New Black What are your thoughts on women who are involved with much younger men? A friend who’s my age, 58, is dating a 23-year-old guy. She started seeing him when he was 18 and refers to him as her “husband.” I went on a day trip with the two of them and it honestly felt like we had a child in tow. He whines and pouts to get his way, feels a need to one-up everybody in conversation, and says and does weirdly inappropriate things (like skipping through a graveyard and talking openly about his...Read More
Job Corpse My girlfriend of a year is beautiful, intelligent, sweet, and loving and the first woman I could see having a future with. Last week, I was told I’m being laid off from my job at a large media conglomerate. I haven’t told anyone, but I’m feeling increasingly guilty for keeping it a secret from my girlfriend. The thing is I’m afraid she’ll think less of me, even if she pretends not to. To be honest, I’d rather break up with her than tell her. —Distraught Ideally, when you propose a date night activity, it isn’t a choice between,...Read More
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