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.

Join our conversation (47 Comments).
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  1. 21

    “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 🙂

  2. 22

    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.

  3. 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)

  4. 24

    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.

  5. 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.

  6. 26

    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……

  7. 27

    @ 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 29

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

  10. 30

    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.

  11. 31

    [email protected], one should not feel that one has settled in a relationship in the first place. Just get out of it and save time, energy (both physical and emotional). So isn’t it better for both parties to be with the right person and be their best self all the time?

  12. 32

    I don’t think being a blirter or quiet are really a bad thing.   I myself am more on the quiet side.   I don’t really like to talk on and on with nothing to say; I also don’t like people to ramble on and on to me either.

    If you don’t have anything worth to say, don’t talk to me.

    But, thats just me… Everyone has their own opinion.

  13. 33

    I am a non-blirter, and I find the trait of blirtatiousness exhausting.

    It could be to do with being an introvert and being sensitive, hearing a continuous stream of opinions and talkativeness takes a lot out of me. It’s not that I hold it against them, but I can only absorb so much before I have to check out.

    I get along vastly better with people who choose their words more carefully.  This goes for relationships too. I could never be with someone who engaged me in constant debate, or where there was a constant exchange of opinions and information about everything. I suppose I just prefer to spend time being reflective, and so I can fully understand how a relationship between a blirter and a non-blirter might not work out.

    I don’t think it’s necessarily an alpha thing either. I think you can be strong and successful, a “leader” type, and have opinions but still be selective about expressing them.

  14. 34

    [email protected] 3.
    I guess a blirter can be a positive one or a negative one. A blirter just doesn’t sensor their mind (at least that’s how I interpret it). If someone has a positive mind or a curious mind, then being a blirter may not be destructive.
    I just think being a blirter isn’t necessarily bad since I think there are probably different types of blirters and therefore he needs to focus on what type of blirter is the more destructive type.

  15. 35

    yes,i have seen it in action and I somehow find it tasteless to see a couple where the woman is the doer and the man is shy and quiet.Why? It doesnt feel right!It feels like they probably have it even worse at home and I also think that the man in the end becomes something he should not be.Probably sick. Not because the role should be the opposite according to tradition but because a woman is always more mezmerisi g when she is more relaxed and a man suits better to be initiator.It is simply more beautiful that way!That is why a very attractive very sympati. man can fit an ordinary woman but a strong personality of females should have a even stronger man.I just dont know exactly why:)  

  16. 36

    @ Karl:

    I think you’re missing my “bigger picture point” here.   My point is that there are women who aren’t going to go for the “outspoken vs nice” EVEN IF the “nice vs outspoken” are not available.

    I’ve often gone for weeks or months without a date, just for that very reason.   I do not like outspoken vs. nice.   It is to me, not necessarily WHAT you say vs. HOW you say it.   A point can be made, kindly, and directly at the same time.   What it requires is the presence of mind to be able to step back, breathe, and think.   Those are the kinds of men I have infinitely more respect for.   The kinds that just shoot from the hip constantly, are loud, etc. don’t work for me.  

    My point is that being outspoken rather than nice, is not always going to work.  

    @ Runnergirl,

    Yes indeed, I’ve been around a few of those types.   As a matter of fact, I was reading the latest “Baggage Reclaim UK” blog posting and the article mentioned folks like that one fellow you were mentioning.   The author calls them “Choppers” meaning they are out to bring you down with their words.  

    Overall, I’d much prefer a man who keeps his own counsel, thinks before he speaks, and doesn’t pride himself on just saying everything and anything that comes to mind.   I don’t think it’s an attractive quality at all, for either men or women.

  17. 37
    beth hawkin

    Evan, what happens if the situation is the opposite.The man is the nagger and the woman is the silent, non-confrontational type.

  18. 38

    I have experienced the frustration that comes from a silent partner, however later learned it was because he was hiding his own lack of integrity and knew it would be revealed if he began opening up.   I am occasionally blirtatious, but have never experienced the negative effects spoken of in the article.   Very interesting!

  19. 39

    ”  I don’t think people have to slap you in the face with their opinion to avoid being seen as “hiding” things from you.”

    And there it is.   

    Not everything has to be either/or, black/white, completely binary.

    Especially not in relationships.

  20. 40

    Being assertive doesn’t mean you’re right…

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