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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  1. 1

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

  2. 2

    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


    “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

    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

    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

    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

    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

    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

    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

    @ 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

    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

    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

    @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

    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

    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

    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

    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


    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

    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

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

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