"SWEAT broke out on his brow, his shirt was damp with perspiration. He looked at the complex tangle of confused wiring, and swallowed dryly. Which wire to cut, the red one or the green one. Which one to choose, which one to diffuse the bomb, and which one to set it off. Slowly he reached forward with the cutters in hand…"
There are many men out there who have been in this situation.
It may not have been as dramatic as a Hollywood thriller, or a best-selling crime novel, but it was probably more tense.
It was the time when a man faced his wife or partner, and she was really, really angry.
Men who find themselves in this situation often may start to question themselves about what to do or what to say next.
Do the wrong thing, and it may all blow up in his face.
But with any good thriller, there is always a before story, the lead up to this tense climax.
For many women that 'before' moment can stretch on for a very, very long time.
It can be connected with all sorts of other issues in their lives; flows and cascades of emotion, pressures and meanings, expectations and disappointments.
Men don't always get this. For many men, doing the washing up is just doing the washing up. What's the big deal?
"Perspiration dripped from the end of his nose. Which wire to cut…?"
Some men will hear a voice in their head, perhaps one that sounds a lot like their mother, from their childhood, perhaps saying words like "Not with the good scissors!"
Sometimes this may cause them to hesitate, to pull back and doubt that they have the right tools to handle the situation. Some men will even clam up and not say or do anything, frozen with fear.
Some men will run from the situation, hoping to get to a safe distance, not wanting to look back at the carnage that they have created.
"The red wire or the blue wire? The countdown ticks down towards zero…"
In the meantime the pressure is building.
The man has got this woman in front of him building towards the big blow-up.
If only he can figure out the right thing to say, or the right thing to do. Then she will calm down, surely…
"He lunges forwards, now so desperate he is only acting on instinct. He reaches out and cuts the yellow wire…"
He then blurts out what his position was, and the fantastic reasons for what he did.
He explains with emphasis why he was right and why she was wrong. He justifies his position and asserts his righteousness.
Oh dear. Wrong wire.
The woman then goes ballistic.
It is what happens next which gets really interesting.
Because if the man can stand there at ground zero, in a state that is centred, supportive, self-assured and offering loving understanding, then it is possible for him to withstand the blast.
For a man who can retain his sense of self, his composure, his caring support, then the result is that his woman can then feel like it is alright to explode, that she does not have to contain it all.
That she does not need to compromise herself or let someone manipulate her into cutting one of her wires in order to calm down and be a good girl.
It makes it okay for the woman to express.
The result is that after the shockwaves have died down, and the ears stop ringing, the woman is able to feel like she is respected. More than this, she will respect the man more.
Rather than make her wrong, rather than take the explosion as being a personal attack, he can then face her, clear eyed and calm, and then to express how he feels about the situation.
Hopefully he will use his words wisely and clearly.
It takes a certain kind of man to be able to handle a wild and powerful woman.
Some men invite this to be an experience of pain.
Some men just don't have the courage to face it.
But some men can trust themselves enough to be able to stand in the heat, even when it can turn up in its intensity.
Paul Stewart is a personal coach with Compassion Coaching: www.compassioncoaching.com.au, and also supports the inSight Men's Circle, run through Hopelink: 07 4979 3626.