There's a game that many couples play with each other. I call it "Poke the Monkey." It may be that the man is the game's actual initiator, but it usually has the appearance of being initiated by the woman. She starts with a gradual escalation of increasingly insane provocations until the man starts jumping around, arguing loudly, hissing, slamming his fist into the wall, and throwing coconuts. At that point, the woman wins. There is little point to this game other than the entertainment value for the woman.

The game gets its power from the fact that it's entirely unconscious with both parties. It loses its power when either the man or the woman becomes conscious of it, realizes they are both making fools of themselves and getting nowhere, and one of them decides to stop playing. That may not end the conflict, but it ends "Poke the Monkey," and sometimes a heated but productive dialogue can begin.

"POKE THE MONKEY" is owned by Mark Mercer. Permission is granted to republish or redistribute so long as attribution is given to Mark Mercer, Einstein Idiot and http://MarkMercer.blogspot.com

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