Pushing buttons, stirring the pot, poking the bear, etc. are all terms used to get someone worked up to the point where a reaction takes place. Usually the reaction caused is not a positive one.
I was working with a couple and at some point, in the process, received a request from the husband. His request was for me to instruct his wife that it was not okay for her to get angry at him. This request seemed innocent enough on the surface but since I don’t spend much time on the surface, I proceeded to ask some questions.
What I found was she got tired before he did at night. After the children go to sleep the pattern is for the husband and wife to spend some time together. At some point, she will recognize her body is shutting down for the night and will communicate this to her husband.
He, however, is still desirous of continuing their time together and so begins to push her buttons. At some point, a line is crossed, and she responds angrily. This is what the husband wished me to fix. Once we got to the end of the story and began to backtrack, the husband said with a sheepish grin on his face, “Well, I suppose I do push her buttons.”
The advice given was to plan ahead. If you don’t want your wife to get angry, don’t push her buttons. When she tells you, she is finished for the night and needs to go to bed, let her. As the evening begins, in your mind, plan ahead to the point where she tells you she is done. Rather than protest and push the button, stir the pot and/or poke the bear, give her a hug and kiss, tell her you love her and send her on her way. This way, she is happy, you will be happy and the button hasn’t been pushed.
There are people who seem to get a sadistic pleasure from pushing buttons. It is like pure joy is received by pushing somebody to the edge and then with one final poke, watch them go over the edge while laughing hysterically. Or, if not that, then claiming total innocence to what happens after the final poke.
The problem with this, is the likelihood is great that at some point, they really will go over the edge. Any relationship can be chipped away at only so much. Eventually, the relationship will implode and folks like me get called. Plan ahead. Don’t push the button. Find another way to enjoy life.
In fairness we also discussed ways for the wife to respond without expressing inappropriate behavior when her buttons were getting pushed. As my grandmother used to say, “Two wrongs don’t make a right.”
So, repeat after me, “I will not push the button, I will not stir the pot, and I will not poke the bear!”
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