How To Respond To Mansplaining From Your Partner

by Megan Grant
BDG Media, Inc.

Mansplaining can happen anytime, anywhere — in the workplace, out with friends, even in your most personal relationships. This last scenario brings up an interesting question: What are the best ways to respond to mansplaining from your partner? It's a delicate conversation to have, because there's a chance your partner might not even realize that they're speaking to you in a condescending or belittling tone. How, then, do you approach the matter and explain to them how and why they're mansplaining, and why it's not OK?

As is the case with any conversation and in any relationship, open communication, honesty, and respect are key. That being said, you have every right to point out why your partner's words are unfair, unwarranted, and even a little degrading. While navigating the murky waters of mansplaining in the workplace may be tricky territory, in your own home — where boundaries are vastly different and much less is sugar-coated — you should be able to speak your mind.

Next time you feel like you're on the receiving end of mansplaining at the hands of your partner, here are a few ways you could respond to the situation and hopefully resolve the issues at hand.


Point Out The Mansplaining Sooner Rather Than Later

Don't bottle it all up and let it sit inside of you. That's never a healthy idea. Some research has even found that people who hold in their feelings are at least one third likelier to die young compared to people who express their emotions. Keeping it all inside is detrimental to both your emotional and physical well-being.

Instead, once your partner has made his mansplaining intentions clear to you (even if unintentionally), respectfully shine a light on them. It's going to come out sooner or later; so you might as well do it when you're in a level-headed state of mind. If you wait too long, it's likelier to come out as a string of expletives.

Even if the conversation surrounding your partner's mansplaining does turn into a bit of a disagreement, you could still feel better after all is said and done. Studies have shown that getting angry can be good for you because it reduces the negative impact of stress, helping to send more blood to the left frontal region of your brain — which plays a big role in feeling positive emotions and a sense of closeness.


Address Why Said Mansplanations Are Incorrect

One of the reasons mansplaining is so frustrating is because it holds no validity. Maybe your partner is mansplaining to you how to manage the finances or do basic repairs in the home — stereotypically masculine responsibilities. You could perhaps point out to your partner that prior to living with them, you were 100 percent responsible for everything in your home, and you faired just fine.

But telling someone that they're wrong isn't always easy — not for them, anyway. To help soften the blow, we can all learn something from 17th-century philosopher Blaise Pascal, who explained that to help change someone's mind about something, you should first try point out something they said that you agree with. This might not always be possible with mansplaining; but if it is, it's worth a shot. Maybe your partner doesn't realize you're able to fix the toilet because they've always done it themselves. In this case, you might acknowledge that yes, they normally handle the repairs; but, that doesn't mean you can't.


Defend Your Position

Getting defensive is often deemed a bad thing: What if it means you're insecure? What if it makes you look like you have something to hide? Well, maybe, just maybe, you legitimately have something to defend. Using the previous example, it could be pointing out to your partner that you've always been responsible with money and are perfectly capable of managing the household finances. Defending yourself doesn't need to be a bad thing; it simply means you have something worth sticking up for.


Ask For Examples

If you're still not having any luck, ask your partner for examples to back up their mansplaining. If they're saying you shouldn't be in charge of the money, ask them why that is. If they think you can't handle fixing the toilet or a leaky faucet, inquire what convinced them so. When they come up empty-handed, the mansplaining could very well hit them like a brick in the face, and they'll realize their concerns and beliefs were unfounded (and kind of insulting).


Try A Little Mansplaining Of Your Own

This isn't to say you need to give your partner a "taste of their own medicine." Rather, mansplaining something to them might help them understand how it feels to be the recipient. Sometimes, we have to experience something for ourselves before we can truly get it. This isn't a revenge plot, and it's not something you should do to "get back" at them. The goal is to help them see your point of view — because truly, it might be really difficult, especially if they don't even notice their own mansplaining.


Walk Away From The Conversation

Sometimes, we walk away mid conversation in a passive-aggressive move that we hope will have our partners chasing us. (No judgment. We've all done it at some point.) That's not what this is. If your repeated efforts to address and stop your partner's mansplaining are falling on deaf ears, then explain to your partner that maybe you both need a bit of time to cool off and think things through, and then you can pick up with the discussion again. This isn't ignoring. It isn't avoiding. It's just a little space so you can both clear your heads.

Nathan Cobb, Ph.D., explains, "A time-out is also an opportunity for each person in the relationship to think about personal responsibility. What should I do next? What was really happening? How was I coming across to my partner? What was I doing or saying that made it difficult for my partner to accept my message? How was I part of the problem? What do I need to change?" A "time out," as he calls it, is a chance to settle down and get back to a peaceful state of mind where you can solve problems together.


Don't Be Afraid To Be Emotional

Whereas in the workplace, you might need to maintain a little more composure (whether that's fair or not is another conversation), at home, feelings are fair game. If you want to cry, it's OK to cry. If you're angry, it's fine to say so. Romantic relationships aren't professional — they're emotional. Ask any relationship expert and they'll tell you one of the biggest keys to longevity in your partnership is open communication.