Why are some women intellectually condescending when I have given them no apparent provocation? And, as a man, how should I respond? I’m a well-educated (lots of school, no degree), comfortably employed but painfully broke guy. I’m good-looking, fit, 36 years old, single and child-free. Being intellectually belittled is one of my hot buttons (regardless of who it comes from). I am usually seething long after one of these encounters. Constructive, objectively motivated ideas would be appreciated.
Ever watch the Discovery Channel? Predators have an uncanny ability to sense weakness in other animals and exploit it to ensure their personal survival. When humans act out of instinct in nonemergency situations, they reveal their placement on the evolutionary scale. Although we all fail to be our best selves at times, conscious humans try to choose values such as compassion, reason, equanimity, intuition, forgiveness and magnanimity as guides in their interactions with others. Of course, it’s important to understand that some people (you, perhaps?) solicit the attention of predators because it keeps their wounds raw. That’s right; your insecurity about your intelligence makes you the crippled gazelle in the herd. By maintaining the position of the victim, you never live fully or achieve your potential.
I won’t offer you quips to employ the next time a woman talks down to you. Instead, I suggest excavating your discomfort with being seen as less. Who do you credit with belittling your intellect when you were, well, little? You mother, grandmother or a teacher? Understanding that you are no longer that defenseless child will go a long way in helping you slice the wire to your hot button. This will help, too: Before you drift off to sleep, imagine yourself comforting the younger you. Eventually, this imaginative exercise will take hold in your psyche. After that, you will no longer fear the judgment of others but will recognize it for what it was: their insecurity meeting your own.
My wife likes to tease people. Her entire family is like that and, like them, she can dish it out but she can’t take it. They are all physically big people and become intimidating if anyone points out that they are being cruel, not funny. Their behavior literally makes me sick. I already suffer from depression. I am committed to my marriage, but after 10 years, I am really tired of this. What should I do?
Understand that your wife and her family are emotionally abusive. Anyone who relentlessly teases and is dismissive when others express alarm or hurt is abusive. And, anyone who actually becomes intimidating when asked to stop teasing is engaged in bullying. Your body is alerting you to the danger; that’s why you feel sick when your wife or her family attempts to dominate and control you with verbal violence.
I appreciate your commitment to marriage; however, you need to admit that your wife acts superior to you. A healthy marriage is two equals in a partnership that fosters the spiritual, intellectual, emotional and physical growth of each other. That’s not what you have. If it’s what you want, have a serious conversation with your wife about her behavior. Insist that she begin therapy to get at the root of her violence. Since she tends to respond to your requests by discounting you, write her a letter. Leave it for her when you know she has time to digest it. Then schedule a heart-to-heart conversation. If she refuses, you have a serious choice to make between your health and your marriage.