Men and Women: Equal Opportunity Offenders

Men and women, when behaving badly with each other, are basically “equal opportunity offenders.”

That’s right!

They will each get their digs in and twist the knife a little bit when they get the opportunity.

However, there is a basic difference.

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at

When behaving poorly, men usually scare women and women shame men. Take your choice? Both suck! The difference is that it takes much longer to recover from being scared than it does from being shamed.

Here’s how this seems to work: Men hate being shamed. It reminds many men of how they were controlled as children by parents, teachers or other adults in their lives. Usually when the shaming stops (“Oh no, John, it never stops,” I can hear some men saying), men recover relatively quickly. When women are scared by the men in their lives, the recovery time generally takes much longer. It just takes longer to recover from fear.

This helps to explain why, when both individuals are behaving better, the woman may hold on to her hesitation or reluctance to be close again a lot longer than the man does. It can be very difficult for the man to understand that even though he has ceased his scary behavior, she is still holding him off. She just may need more time to recover than he does.

Hang in there, guys. More often than not your patience will be rewarded, and your changed behavior will be much appreciated.

Chime in with your thoughts: When behaving poorly, do you agree men tend to scare women and women typically shame men?

By John Mariner,
Licensed Clinical Social Worker

One response - click here to join the conversation to “Men and Women: Equal Opportunity Offenders”

  1. Good observation that men’s defense system is to scare women, and women’s defense system is to shame men. However, I think there is another factor in how long it takes for either the man or the woman to get over the frightening or shaming behavior from the other person. And that is when a person is having a triggered response (i.e. a large emotional response) such as fear, when there is no actual danger, or shame, they are not actually responding to the other person. Childhood unconscious decisions such as “men are dangerous,” “I am not safe,” “I’m inadequate or weak,” are what is behind the triggered emotions. They are what cause the reactive response regardless of what is actually still going on in the present moment. How deeply entrenched that limiting decision is determines how long it takes for a person to get over it. And likely it can easily be triggered again, until the limiting decision is actually cleared.

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