Why Nagging Women and Silent Men Drive Each Other Crazy

Why Nagging Women and Silent Men Drive Each Other Crazy

Cognitive Psychologist Scott Barry Kaufman, Ph.D., wrote a fascinating article about dysfunctional couples last year. Kaufman knows a thing or two about the subject – he is Adjunct Assistant Professor of Psychology at New York University, and he writes the blog “Beautiful Minds” for Psychology Today.

Both Kaufman and I are both fans of Curb Your Enthusiasm, which he uses to make a point about compatible relationships.

Larry David is the perfect example of a “blirter,” which means “Brief Loquacious and Interpersonal Responsiveness Test”. High-scoring “blirters” express themselves easily in social situations, have little difficulty responding to others, and do so quickly. Low-scoring blirters are more reflective, cautious when expressing themselves emotionally, and are afraid of saying the wrong thing.

High blirters agree with questions such as “I always say what’s on my mind“, and “If I have something to say, I don’t hesitate to say it.”

Yes, you’re in the presence of one hardcore blirter.

Anyway, those scoring high on the Blirt Scale report higher levels of assertiveness, extraversion, self-esteem, self-liking, self-competence, and report lower levels of rumination, shyness, fear of negative evaluation, neuroticism, and negative emotions compared to lower blirt scorers. Thus, Larry David might actually have higher self-esteem than one would expect! It’s probably less that he’s neurotic and more that he just doesn’t care what people think.

How does this affect you?

Well, blirtatiousness also has strong implications for romantic relationships. According to Kaufman:

“While two blirtatious partners can make for a good match, couples in which the woman is more blirtatious than the man (“precarious couples”) are less intimate and satisfied than any other couple pairing. Interestingly, this doesn’t work the other way around: precarious couples are much more likely to experience relationship dissatisfaction than couples in which blirtatious husbands are paired with verbally inhibited wives.”

Essentially, blirtatious (read: smart, strong, successful) women tend to be critical – since they’re more likely to blurt out their true feelings – which can cause a less blirtatious man to withdraw. These couples are less successful at communicating and managing stress.

So, why in the world do these ill-suited couples partner up?

Blirtatious women are willing to make the first move, and are usually the initiator of relationships. This may start out well, but eventually the quiet male starts to resent the partner’s blirtatiousness, and the blirtatious women gets frustrated with the quiet man.

You can read the full article here: here, but before you do, please let me know if you have seen this phenomenon in action.

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Comments:

  1. 1
    DinaStrange

    Plenty of times. It can be very frustrating, since it seems those two attract each other, yet cannot communicate with each other.

  2. 2
    Paula

    I tend to be a blirter with people close to me, like my family or close friends. It depends on the context. If I just met someone for the first time, I tend to restrain myself but deep down I a blirter and just don’t want to have to filter myself.
    In the context of an emotional relationship, I think I would want to be a blirter because I don’t want to feel like I am holding back. It seems like being a blirter is a bad thing but I don’t think so. It’s good to know that at least you are with someone who isn’t going to hide stuff from you. People who never speak up can be just as destructive as someone who is always saying what is on their mind.
    I think the key is being both. sometimes you need to speak up, other times to not say anything.

  3. 3
    Evan Marc Katz

    @Paula

    “It seems like being a blirter is a bad thing but I don’t think so.”

    There’s a scientific article that you just read that says that “couples in which the woman is more blirtatious than the man are less intimate and satisfied than any other couple pairing.”

    And you STILL don’t think it’s a bad thing? What exactly would convince you?

     

  4. 4
    miskwa

    I was actually in the opposite situation. Though I fit the sucessful woman stereotype, I tend to think carefully before I speak in personal situations. I was with a male “blirter” for a short time as a romantic partner, it didn’t work so we were friends for about 5 years. He would criticize constantly, no filters whatsoever, no thinking that I had just come home from a long work day (he’s retired) and am exhausted. He’d diss my cats, dog, house, work schedule, etc. until I began to dread seeing him. No one likes constant criticism. It makes me wonder if core incompatability and not unequal verbosity is at the root of these couples.

  5. 5
    Fusee

    No matter what your natural impulses are, to me the most effective is to be a “blirter” for positive reactions and a “thinker before blirting” for negative reactions.
     
    For everything that triggers joy, I let my natural blirting tendencies out. For everything that triggers negative emotions, I take a deep breath and reflect on how to communicate them the most effective way. Sometimes it’s by not saying anything at all, sometimes it’s by using a calm tone and “I” statements, sometimes it’s by delaying communication until I figure it out. In some instances of more intense hurt it just comes out since I’m still a natural blirter, but after so many years of mindfulness practice I’m really good at self-control.
     
    And this spontaneity in positivity and self-control in negativity have greatly improved my relationships. All of them.

  6. 6
    Wendy

    I dated a classic blirter not too long ago (didn’t realize it had a name until today, though–thanks!). He was proud of the fact that he had “no filter” (his own words), but I found it hurtful in some cases. I was telling him a story once and he literally put his hand up to shush me because he was done listening. Another time I was talking about something and he said, “Has anyone ever told you that you talk too much?” It made me extremely insecure and afraid to say anything after that, and no, it didn’t last much longer. He was the only man who’d ever done this to me in quite this way. Maybe I DO talk too much, but other men have been kind enough to find a way to tell me without being cruel so I don’t think being a flagrant blirter is a good thing, as a man OR woman. I don’t think people have to slap you in the face with their opinion to avoid being seen as “hiding” things from you.

  7. 7
    Fiona

    I don’t think being a blirter is a bad thing either. You are who you are. Blirter women need to date blirter men. That’s all. 

  8. 8
    BeenThruTheWars

    I would score high on the BLIRTER scale and my husband would score low, and yet we get along beautifully, because we both know how to listen as well as speak, and he asserts himself when he feels the need on important (to him) matters.  Most of my strong opinions are about things he couldn’t care less about (politics, media, people he doesn’t know), and so all is copacetic.

  9. 9
    Leo

    I actually agree with Paula on this.

    couples in which the woman is more blirtatious than the man are less intimate and satisfied than any other couple pairing.”

    In general, that’s probably true.

    But I think there’s a lot of grey area here.

    A blirter who tends to always say what’s on her mind runs the high risk of saying the wrong things and thus, causes the man to want to shut down in a conversation.

    But people say the wrong things all the time (blirters or not).

    The only difference is whether you’re willing to apologize for it or not (if yes, do it immediately), and if your partner can accept it.

    So you can be a blirter, as long as you’re willing to take a step back, if you do say the wrong things.
     

  10. 10
    Sheba Wheeler

    I’m confused: This scenario would seem to be as EMK has expressed before — ie that of an alpha female type getting with a beta male, rather than alpha alpha. If I understood correctly in my past readings, it’s better for the alpha female to be with a beta male rather than constantly but heads with an alpha male who is too much like herself.

    Is this then, a case where alpha-beta relationships aren’t perfect?

  11. 11
    Heather

    @ Wendy:

    I was in a relationship very similar to yours, two years ago.  He was a very big blirter, proud of himself for just constantly talking, not letting me get a word in edgewise, always had to be the winner, on top.  It caused me to shut down a lot.  I was actually becoming ill from holding so much stuff inside, because he ridiculed me, shut me out, interrupted me.  He was very shocked when I finally had had enough and stopped talking to him altogether.

    To this day, I’m still very withdrawn.  If I meet blirters, whether men or women, I shut down, stop talking, and try to move away from them.  I don’t like being around overly assertive people.  I work around overly assertive alpha males all day long and it’s exhausting to me. 

    I can’t even really be friends with alot of blirters, because they just seem to run the conversation and I think well then why am I even here, you’re so happy with yourself and your talk, that there’s no need for me to even participate in this.

  12. 12
    Misha

    I think people are mixing up hypercritical, control freaks with blirters. I’m not sure of all the distinctions but someone who constantly criticizes doesn’t listen and steam rolls over you is just an asshole and is violating boundaries. I’m not sure that falls into this blirter territory.
    I took the test and found out which i suspected I’m a moderate blirter and it’s situational. I tend to say stuff off the cuff which with the right group is received with the humor it’s intended but in a work situation or w/ people i don’t know or people of authority,  i tend to be more reserved until I know they can handle my sense of humor. I’m know I’m not everyone’s cup of tea. I’m also sensitive enough to pick up on someone who is quiet/shy/reserved and talk to them accordingly.
    I don’t watch the show curb your enthusiasm so I’m not sure what all the behaviors are that are being referring to.

  13. 13
    Helen

    Evan, I disagreed with the analogy drawn here: “Essentially, blirtatious (read: smart, strong, successful) women…”
     
    Blirtatious people are not necessarily smart, strong, and successful. The most blirtatious people I know are not “successful” at all in the worldly sense anyway, and I hate to sound snobbish, but they also are not particularly smart. :)  Strong? Sometimes yes, sometimes no.
     
    I feel the need to point this out, because it seems to me to be a false analogy if we now go discussing why alpha women are less successful with men, when really, that is not what the article was saying at all. It was saying that blirtatious women are less successful with men. And again, I hate to sound snobbish, but the most blirtatious women I know are definitely not alphas.
     
    Besides, you asked us if we have seen this phenomenon in action. I have to say, no. But my anecdotes aren’t scientific proof, so I’m not sure how much my observations matter. What I’ve found more frequently is that the couples in which the man is blirtatious leads to greater dissatisfaction for the women, who are standing on the sidelines rolling their eyes. Rarely have I ever seen that type of quiet hostility when the woman is the blirtatious one and the man is quieter.  In fact, those tend to be the marriages that last, among our circle of acquaintances.

  14. 14
    Amanda

    @Paula & Evan-

     “couples in which the woman is more blirtatious than the man are less intimate and satisfied than any other couple pairing.” 

    Okay, so I’m with Paula in not thinking it’s a “bad” thing, but I can see the cons. I’m direct and to the point, taken seriously at work and respected. However I know others sometimes perceive me as “intimidating,” and I can see how a man would be put off by it if he weren’t as “strong.” 

    So what’s the solution – changing my way of dealing with people, or trying to find an “alpha male” to be the dominant one, but who probably won’t treat me as well as a quieter guy? (Thinking back to Evan’s post on how men don’t go both ways- the cowboy and the artist) I can “let him lead” when it comes to certain things, but it would be pretty hard to dampen my natural inclination to blirt.

     

  15. 15
    PK

    hm, doesnt the finding that two blirtatious people can have a good relationship run somewhat counttuitive to some of what gets advocated on this blog? that two outspoken, blunt people can’t have a relationship? Just food for thought. I have been in relationship where I was more relationship with a somewhat aloof boyfriend. The dynamic in the article very much happened to us, and I couldn’t even be mad. It just wasn’t in his nature to be upfront and direct, and I definitely had to chase him. I def learned from that and try not to repeat that relationship.

  16. 16
    Joe

    You might want to check out “Hold Me Tight” by Sue Johnson for a description of a slightly more severe version of this dynamic. It killed my last relationship (I found the book too late).

  17. 17
    Zann

    Low-blirter here, and totally okay with it.  First, I want to say that I agree 100% with Fusee, #5.  He/she is right on the money: be zealous with positive reactions, cautious with negative ones. 

    If you want to meet the textbook Precarious Couple, meet my parents. My mother is, to this very day, critical, strong-willed, and opinionated. She has most– if not all — of her thoughts out loud. Whether you want to hear them or not, she shares them. My father, on the other hand, is quiet, unassuming, reflective, a mathematician and writer who just wishes everyone would leave him alone to ponder his own his inner world. Which just always drove my mother right up the wall. They’ve been married 60 years and I have no doubt it’s only because they didn’t believe in divorce. She inquires, demands explanations and he makes himself scarce. Low, low profile. They did manage to have six kids, the majority of whom are mega-blirters. One of my brothers and I share more of the Dad’s personality, which means we were outnumbered and constantly wondering what all the fuss was about. Did I mention they’re New Yorkers? In my parents’ house everyone talks at once, loudly, until whoever is loudest and the most persevering wins. At which point, my mother will look up and ask, “Where’s your father got off to?” 

    I definitely speak my mind, but usually only after thinking it through. I consider that one of my stronger traits. I don’t feel hindered if I stop to take other perspectives into consideration. I’m not a doormat or shrinking violet, and I stand behind my convictions. On the other hand, I’m okay not having the last word every time.  

    For whatever reason, though, the majority of my women friends have always been high-blirters, and that’s always mystified me. I want to think they’re drawn to me because they value my diplomacy, insightfulness, my creative thinking. Truth be told, though it’s probably because they know I’m more likely to let them rant on uncensored, while their fellow-blirter friends will either interrupt them or tell them to shut the front door.
     
    I see this blirter-rating as yet another aspect to consider when faced with the challenge of finding a lasting intimate relationship. As someone else has said, I know many extroverts/blirters who are neither smart, strong, or even successful when it comes to maintaining harmonious relationships. Sometimes the really wise thing to do is to keep your thoughts to yourself.

  18. 18
    Shopaholik

    Reminds me of what happened in the movie ‘The way we were.’  He left her for the simple girl… Barbara’s character couldn’t be tamed. 

    I do beleive that if you are both strong individuals or if the blurter knows boundaries then all is good… honeslty, no one loves someone who can’t filter their comments into a constructive or kind manner… blirter or not!!!

  19. 19
    Heather

    Helen,

    I understand what you’re saying.  When I’ve been in a relationship with a blirter, there was definitely some quiet resentment that just built…and built…and built….and then, POP.  It wasn’t like I could talk to them about it because, surprise, they stemrolled me and yelled at me and made me out to be the problem.  So I swallowed alot of it.  It certainly wasn’t pretty when I finally had enough of their bullshit and gave them what for.

    I was in a relationship where I was definitely more outspoken than the guy, and it was a good relationship, but he just wasn’t what I was looking for in the end, it was an amicable breakup and no drama. 

    The relationships that I see that seem to last (my folks for example, married almost 40 years now) from my experience, have been where the guy might be a “bit” of a blirter, but the woman is strong and confident but not obnoxious, and can put him in his place, should he step out of line with her.  I’ve seen it with my Mom.  I’ve seen it with my brother and his girlfriend, she is feisty and puts my brother in check when warranted.  I do the same.  I let my boyfriend lead, but let me tell you, if he steps out of line, I don’t tolerate it.  I don’t yell and scream but I make it clear that I won’t have nonsense.

  20. 20
    Michelle

    I have to chuckle when (usually women) say they are ‘intimidating’ (inducing fear, nice description huh?), like the other person is weak (when they are not weak, they just have a different style and probably better boundaries overall) and it’s their problem.  It’s usually the “intimidating” person has poor boundaries.  I also find that with blirtacious people…for some reason, they feel entitled to say whatever pops into their head, no matter how hurtful or offensive.

    1. 20.1
      mikki

      Intimidating can also mean she has a very promising career that he just can’t handle.

  21. 21
    Mark

    “Blirtatious” is fine but TACT is NECESSARY in ALL relationships.

    And we ALL know how much men LOVE to be criticized.
    That NEVER works, at least for me :)

  22. 22
    Mia

    Doesn’t your conduct vary depending on whether you really like and respect the guy you’re with? With men I’m not that into, who I feel like I settled for, I definitely used  to speak more without a filter and could be quite annoying. But when I’m with a guy I genuinely like and feel lucky to have, I wouldn’t dream of being that way. I feel like I have to be my best self and don’t ever nag, criticize, or complain, even if I playfully put them in their placefor time to time.

  23. 23
    Karmic Equation

    I’m a low blirter, but I do what Fusee described so well (blirt the positive and hold back on the negative), and my current guy and all my exes except one were high blirters. But I wouldn’t consider myself beta, nor they alphas (I think two were alphas; two were betas, but current guy is alpha). I consider that I’m just more laid back they are/were.
     
    I agree with Leo’s perspective, that it takes two to tango.
     
    I would hypothesize that if both partners are easily offended OR tend to NOT give the benefit of the doubt to others OR tend to see the bad side to every conversation, those people probably do not do well together.
     
    Maybe there is a correlation between Alpha / Beta personalities in combination with Blirting / Non-blirting, such that they might cancel each other out? e.g.,
    Alpha Blirt + Beta Non-blirt = ok, if beta is male, but may be precarious if beta is female (e.g., resentment pervades)

    Alpha Non-blirt + Beta Blirt = ok and gender neutral (because the alpha can handle it)

    Alpha Blirt + Beta Blirt = ok OR precarious – flip a coin (neither is listening to the other or both are equally offensive LOL) — so either they cancel each other out or they are constantly fighting!

    Alpha Non-Blirt + Beta Non-blirt = ok and gender neutral (both think before they speak)

  24. 24
    Ruby

    I don’t see this as gender-specific, but I’ve no doubt that it’s more acceptable for men to be merely outspoken (let alone inappropriate) than women. I’ve known male blirters and females ones too, and female blirters who weren’t particularly smart or successful. Sometimes blirter is synonymous with a-hole as Misha, #12, said.

  25. 25
    Karl R

    Evan said:
    “Essentially, blirtatious (read: smart, strong, successful) women tend to be critical”

    I disagree.

    Looking at the studies in detail, there was no correlation between BLIRT and SAT score or GPA. There was a high correlation between BLIRT scores and assertiveness. The study made no attempt correlate “success” with BLIRT scores.

    There was also no correlation between BLIRT scores and age or sex.

    Interestingly, despite the strong correlation between BLIRT scores and assertiveness, there was no correlation between assertiveness differences and intimacy. That means assertiveness is not the cause of lowered intimacy.

    Furthermore, according to the studies, the high BLIRT score did not cause the woman to be more critical. In one of the studies, they tested the two variables independently. It’s the combination of high criticalness and high BLIRT scores (in a woman) that significantly lowers intimacy. If the woman had low “criticalness”, intimacy slightly increased as her BLIRT score increased.

    How women can apply this to their advantage:
    When you feel the urge to criticize, don’t. Otherwise, feel free to blurt things out.

    How men can apply this to their advantage:
    It pays to be outspoken. It pays to be nice. But it pays more to be outspoken than nice.

  26. 26
    Ellen

    I am both, depending upon my mood. In general though I would say I lean towards non-blirting, and being kind and circumspect….. My parents marriage was so-so ’cause Dad was a blirter bigtime and Mom, being the quintessential Southern Belle, was decidedly not. In 50 years of marriage she never got comfortable with his blirting.

    But with age, I’ve become a little bit more of a blirter often ’cause I just can’t be superficial anymore, not for a second. Never was really superficial to begin with, but life often forces us to pretend to care, pretend to listen, pretend, pretend, pretend…..so the blirting I do do, saves time. I can then “cut to the chase”…. 

    Like Paula says:
    I think the key is being both. sometimes you need to speak up, other times to not say anything.  

    And Zann is right: Blirters tend to like having the last word.  

    I mean, if you don’t speak up man people will walk all over you (I know too many people with huge egos). If people don’t speak up they end up doing a lot of passive aggressive stuff no one appreciates, you know? However, if you speak your mind too often you are going to be overbearing finally. And no one likes overbearing. Not even the overbearing (hypocrites!). :)

    Too many blirters are loud also. A saint wrote once to avoid loud people as they were inwardly disturbed in some way. Too much energy, most of it negative or confused (even they don’t know why they are loud)! They suck the air/life out of every room, every situation…..So I avoid them as much as possible.  

    PS an alpha male was just let go here where I work because he was a bigtime blirter, would curse too much, etc. Kinda served as the needed “vendor heavy” so he was tolerated a long time….Smart man but his emotional intelligence was low……

  27. 27
    Heather

    @ Karl R:

    Actually, I will disagree with you a bit about the “outspoken vs. nice.”  If I run into a guy who seems very outspoken and opinionated, I steer clear.  I tend to go for a guy who is for lack of a better term, “NICELY outspoken.”  Meaning, a guy can say what needs to be said, with kindness, tact, and grace.

    I’m much more likely to listen to a man who is soft spoken and nice, than loud and direct.  It actually is like nails on a chalkboard to me anymore, to hear a loud guy.  I cringe and have the physical urge to move away from him.

    My guy is a classic example of this.  He usually can say what needs to be said, kindly.  Yes, he does slip up sometimes, hey don’t we all.  But he doesn’t, as a general rule, raise his voice, try to dominate a conversation, etc.  He is not really a “yeller” and has only yelled at me once, for which I did confront him about and told him that I will not tolerate a man yelling at me.  If a guy feels he has to bark at me to make me “behave”, then I’m outta there. 

    I’m just not a big fan of most alpha males.  I work around it, was married to it, dated it.  Give me a beta guy who does have some gumption, (and there are those who do, I’ve met them) any day of the week.  My nerves are not built for alphas.

  28. 28
    Karl R

    Heather, (#27)
    “I will disagree with you a bit about the ‘outspoken vs. nice.'”

    Feel free to follow the links in the article and read the study yourself.

    Heather, (#27)
    “I tend to go for a guy who is for lack of a better term, ‘NICELY outspoken.'”

    That was what the women in the study preferred … but if those men weren’t available, they had more intimacy with BLIRTing critical men than the uncritical non-BLIRTing guys.

    Furthermore, we’re talking about BLIRTing here. What makes you think that there’s a correlation between BLIRTing and yelling? Or BLIRTing and speaking loudly?

    If there is a correlation, it wasn’t mentioned in either study.

  29. 29
    sharon

    So outspoken women do better with outspoken men….. Doesn’t that fly in the face of alpha women seeking beta men?

  30. 30
    runnergirl

    Nice post and helped me…last weekend I was with a blirter, although I didn’t know it at the time. It was totally uncomfortable. No matter what I said, he was so there. He brought his Native American looking craft he made when he was in camp when he was 10. We are 50-something. I felt so uncomfortable as he blirted just about everything about being a attention deficient, his ex, his ups and downs with his kids.  Is all I could do was try to focus on my pasta, which was delicious but it was such a downer to hear about all of his issues.  Needless to say, after hearing in detail everything that has gone wrong in his life, I wasn’t inclined to do it again. It was painful because he adored me according to him but it was just too depressing for me. In my opinion, the gentleman needs a therapist, not a girlfriend.
    @Heather, still with you and agree totally. Ohh, I’ve dated the loudly outspoken blirter who told me exactly how to think.  He informed me about everything, including creation, god, spirituality, and politics. Of course, according to him, I was dead wrong about everything. It’s not that I’m an academic snob but the dude didn’t have the foggiest clue. He just blirted a ton of sh+t that didn’t have any basis in evidence.  It was awful. We met in a beautiful place with tons of nice restaurants and he decided that we’d go to a greasy cheap pizza place. He revealed that he chose the cheap place because women are wine whores!  I couldn’t get away fast enough.  Sometimes the blirting phenomenon is helpful.

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