Saturday, January 5, 2008

It's Reactance!

On New Year's Day I remained in my flannel pajama bottoms, sweatshirt, socks, clogs, and knit cap. I sat in my kitchen getting caught up on banking and cleaning up. As usual, I was listening to WBEZ, the local public radio station. Dick Gordon's The Story came on and the episode, titled "You're Not Listening," featured a couple, both psychologists, who had done a study on a behavior that she had noticed in him shortly after they were married. Briefly, whenever she asked him to do something, he would always not do it, or do the opposite. They termed this behavior "reactance," and I found it fascinating, because this has been a problem to varying degrees in a few of the men I've dated (reactance is far more common in men than women).

Anyone who has been driven to exasperation, who has found herself transformed from a sane, rational, mature person into a bug-eyed, shrieking shrew by this kind of behavior might find this interesting (and cathartic) to listen to. I followed the links to their website info, and sent them a joint email thanking them for a word that encapsulates elegantly a particular crazy-making behavior I've come across more than once. In the past, when asked why particular relationships of mine had failed, I could only say, "because he was impossible; he refused to see that he was driving me crazy."

I also suggested to the guy that he needs to grow the hell up and realize that he's treating his wife in away he would never stand for. Although, you know, in nicer language.

Anyway, it was interesting. And given that it's far more prevalent in men, it may help explain why I've observed that I'm far more happier as a batchelorette than as part of a couple.

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