What To Do When Your Wife Has Been Emotionally Hijacked

Episode #692

What happens when emotions take control and derail your relationships?

In this episode of The Powerful Man Show, Tim and Doug explore the concept of emotional hijacking and its profound impact on your interactions with loved ones. They dive into the dynamics of emotional hijacking, providing valuable insights into how it can disrupt communication, hinder problem-solving, and create distance between partners.

By examining this phenomenon, you can gain a deeper understanding of the challenges you may face in your relationships and the importance of actively addressing emotional hijacking to foster healthier connections.

In this episode, you’ll learn practical strategies to navigate emotional hijacking and restore harmony in your relationships.

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Doug Holt  00:53

Hey, guys. Welcome back to another episode of the powerful man show. Tim, how you doing, brother?

Tim Matthews  00:58

I am doing well. How are you?

Doug Holt  01:01

Doing all right, man, I’m excited. I got tomorrow the men from the inner circle, which is one of our high end mastermind groups. A lot of those men are flying into the TPM ranch here, so we’re going to have three full fun days filled with growth and connection. Got a lot of fun things planned for these guys that we’re really just going to dive deep. So I’m very excited about that. And right after that, literally the next day, I head out on a  US Road tour, which is going to be fantastic to see the men in the movement and some of their families.

Tim Matthews  01:35

Oh, man, that’s going to be epic.

Doug Holt  01:38

Yeah, it really is. I’m really excited about it. I’ll be there with Coltyn, the gift, himself. He and I are going to drive all the way across the US. So we’re going to start here in Sisters, Oregon, where we’re based with the ranch, and we’re making it all the way to New England. So it’s going to be a fun trip.

Tim Matthews  01:55

And then in New England, you get to see your family, right?

Doug Holt  01:59

Yeah, the family will be out there. My wife’s from New England, so I’ll spend some time out there with them, of course, I never like to — I have kind of a rule of thumb for myself is I don’t spend more than two weeks away from the lot. You and I get a lot of epic adventures and travel. We were at Cuba recently. We’re heading up into the Banff area, you know, Canada, see jasper and all those areas, but I always keep it where I either see my family before, fly them in, or somehow make it work where I’m never more than two weeks away.

Tim Matthews  02:30

Beautiful. Nice rule.

Doug Holt  02:33

Yeah, it is a good rule. Well, Tim, what I want to talk about today is based on a post that came into our private community. And I’ll let this gentleman remain anonymous, but I responded to his comments where he had a question where for, you know? Lack of better term summarize, his wife got really emotional and kept on escalating what she was doing emotionally towards him, regardless of the way that he was responding. And I made a comment that it sounded like she was hijacked. Right?

And then I realized, as I do sometimes, you’re going through answering men’s questions and giving advice and there wasn’t enough context around that. And so he had some more questions and I thought I’d follow up with that with you on what to do when your wife gets emotionally hijacked.

Tim Matthews  03:21

Yeah, exactly. I’m just reading his comment here. He said, yeah, don’t know what that means, but would love to learn more about it. It’s great as well to see just kind of taking a step back, all the other men jumping in to support this guy in giving advice and context and just tons and tons of comments. Curious this guy as well for raising his hand and just putting the video out there into the private community, doing what a lot of guys don’t do, which is just like I said, raising his hand, asking for help and then just seeing all the other guys jump in and give some solid advice is beautiful. But, yeah, you raised a great point around it. Sounds like she was hijacked. So, yeah, let’s dive into it.

Doug Holt  04:02

Yeah. So first of all, what I want to clarify is what do I mean by your wife is hijacked? And what I’m saying there, guys, is your wife, she’s triggered and her motions have taken over, right? She’s so enveloped in this storm of emotion that she has no control anymore. She has lost complete control of her emotions and her reactions. And so think of it this way, if you’ve ever been angry before and as you’re talking to the person you’re angry with, your anger escalates.

Now, this happens a lot for men. It can happen in business situations and substitute anger with frustration or substitute with depression, whatever you want to, whatever emotion it is. But you can feel the building storm as you go through anger is an easy one for a lot of men to look at because, guys, we have higher levels of testosterone and getting angry just it can happen.

And so what happens for a lot of women and men, too, frankly. But in this case, this gentleman’s wife, it sounded like she lost control of her emotions. She was not able to regain her faculties in order to calm down, relax herself or remove herself from the situation so that she could take the time to calm down and relax and then come back and have an adult conversation.

Now, to be clear, I’m not calling this man’s wife a child. I’m just saying an adult conversation to me is where we can sit down, have it engaged in difference, which is something if you want to look at our previous podcasts, we talk about quite a bit and then move forward in a way that’s reasonable and at least respectful to each party. And this man’s wife and a lot of people have had this.

They can get hijacked by their emotions where the person that you love is no longer in control of the scenario, they’re no longer in control of their actions, they’re no longer in control of their feelings, and they’re no longer in control of the words that are coming out of their mouth. Now, Tim, this does not excuse them, let’s be abundantly clear. Does not excuse them for their actions, does not excuse them for what they say or what happens. However, we get to recognize as the leaders of our family, as the lighthouses, as the wolves in our homes, we get to recognize when this happens. And we’ll talk about this later in the podcast. What do you do when this happens?

Tim Matthews  06:17

Yeah, exactly. I’m just bringing up some terms. I hadn’t heard the term emotional hijacking as much either. It’s kind of interesting to read some of the definitions here because it is spot on. Right? I think the way you’ve described it is perfect. I’d probably use the word triggered, but I think hijacking in this scenario is so much better because yeah, that point where somebody loses control. The way I like to think about this is like a traffic light system. You know, red, amber, green, or I think, do you guys use for amber? Is it?

Doug Holt  07:00


Tim Matthews  07:01

Yellow, yeah. So if you were to imagine, like a strip of green, and then either side above and beneath this is the yellow or amber, and either side above and beneath that is the red. Now, ideally, as a guy being the lighthouse and the wolf, I’m not going to dive too much into this because we might talk about this later. You want to expand your capacity in the green, right? But sometimes, invariably, you’re going to move out of the green and go straight into the red.

When you’re in the red, you are emotionally hijacked. Parts of your brain will shut down, and you will lose the ability for reasoning. And some people call it red mist. Like, a red mist can descend, and you may say things that you regret, you may do things that you regret. You want to remove yourself from that situation as quickly as possible and get out of there. Quite frankly, this can happen to you as much as it can do to your wife. And like you said, Doug, it isn’t acceptable. Just because you’re triggered or hijacked doesn’t mean that isn’t an excuse for the hurtful things you say or do, and you get to guard yourself against it.

Doug Holt  08:15

It’s absolutely the case. And so one thing that I look at is if I have to say calm down to somebody, or somebody says calm down, to me or anyone else, usually that person is emotionally hijacked. Right? That means they’re escalating, and we tell them to calm down. That usually insinuates that there wasn’t a need for that reaction. Right? There wasn’t a need for it. It’s overblown.

Tim Matthews  08:37

And makes it worse.

Doug Holt  08:38

Also important to remember man — what’s that?

Tim Matthews  08:40

And makes it worse.

Doug Holt  08:42

Yeah, it always makes it worse.

Tim Matthews  08:44

Nothing worse. When you’re frustrated, someone goes, Calm down. You’re like ohhh….

Doug Holt  08:49

Don’t tell me to calm down.

Tim Matthews  08:50

I’m not angry.

Doug Holt  08:52

Yeah. And so in this particular situation, if you find that your wife’s hijacked, you also get to remember it’s not about that situation. Now, what I mean by that is when someone gets emotionally hijacked, it tends to be a previous past trauma, past indiscretion that they are bringing forward to the future or to the present moment, and that is escalating the current situation. So an example here could be I can make a joke to my wife. This hasn’t happened. Just want to be abundantly clear before I go into this example, because it’ll get me in trouble.

But let’s say I come in and my wife catches me looking on, TikTok at beautiful women, other women, as just an example. And then she just gets completely upset, starts yelling, screaming maybe she throws my phone. And as I’m talking to her, she just continues to get worse and worse and start stacking things that I’m doing wrong. Yelling, hitting me or whatever it may be.

Now, should I have looked at other women on the phone? Debatable. Right? Okay. But maybe not in her eyes. However, what most likely has happened here is something previous. Maybe she’s been cheated on, or maybe other men or myself have looked at women and taken it too far, or it’s made her mean that she’s less than whatever it could be. There’s a storyline there in the scenario that’s caused her to escalate.

Now, my wife doesn’t act like this at all, so just using this as an example, but if she grabbed my phone and she normally wouldn’t, she threw it, and she’s just spiraling out of control like a child. I would call that emotion. She’s emotionally hijacked. Right? So I can either, one, rescue her, two, leave the situation. Those are really the only things you can do.

And when I say rescue, what I mean there is what I do in my house. My wife and I used to practice this, and we just don’t get hijacked anymore. But we’ll call it out. Hey, right now, you’re hijacked, and you need to step away and take a breath so this doesn’t get worse. Right? And that generally works. Right, Tim? But both partners need to know what the definition of hijacked is. Both of them have to have an agreement, and both of them have to have a level of emotional and personal maturity to allow that to happen, or it can escalate.

So another thing you can do, guys, is when this happens, is simply say, hey, stop. I won’t let anybody treat me this way, including you. Right now, I think you’re emotionally hijacked. I need to take a step away before this escalates. And that’s when, guys, you remove yourself from the situation. As men, we tend to be physically stronger than our counterparts, and therefore it’s best for us to walk away sometimes because there are cases where the woman will start to get physical.

We have thousands upon thousands of men that are involved in the movement, and we get to hear the stories behind the scenes where the wife is punching, hitting, kicking the man. And for a lot of guys, we’ve been trained never to hit back. And so the guys just absorb it. And we have grown ass men who get black eyes and broken noses and things like that, and they’re ashamed. There’s a shame and guilt around that, right? That’s abuse. They’re being abused.

We don’t want to put up with that. So we also don’t want to hit a woman. So in that case, we need to remove ourselves from the situation until things de-escalate, and often they do. Now, you can come back and talk to your wife when she’s mad, but not hijacked. Right? When she’s mad or angry, you can have a conversation with her. When she’s emotionally hijacked, that means she’s no longer able to control her own emotions.

Tim Matthews  12:34

Yeah, I think it’s a really important point. There is no reasoning when somebody’s hijacked. There just isn’t.

Doug Holt  12:42


Tim Matthews  12:43

If you’re going to sit there, stand there, whatever it may be, and try and talk sense, the example you gave then, Doug, the thing I’d love the listeners to really maybe go back and just pay attention to was the simplicity of the instruction that you gave was very short, very succinct and very clear. It was very easy to understand, even for somebody who is hijacked, there’s no reasoning that really was taking place there.

And if you are going to try and make sense and make logic of a situation where somebody is hijacked, it’s just pointless. And, yeah, removing yourself from the situation, because in my experience, when somebody’s hijacked, nine times out of ten for me, that’s what I have to do. Hasn’t happened often in my relationship with Amelia, but it’s happened a few times where she has lost it to that degree and I have to leave because she is just not listening or not hearing, should I say, any request or command I am giving.

And as a result, I ended up just removing myself from the situation because it wasn’t healthy for her or for me to be in that situation. And we then returned to it, like you said. For us, it was the next day. It took that long for things to come back out of the red and get into not even the green, just the amber, because the green returns when you’ve actually been able to talk about things and forgive and move forward. But to your point, Doug, if there’s physicality involved and that’s a boundary for you, that process…

Doug Holt  14:38

Should be a boundary for you.

Tim Matthews  14:40

It should be, yeah, 100% should be a boundary.

Doug Holt  14:42

Be clear about this. Both sides.

Tim Matthews  14:45

Yeah, 100%. So, yeah, that forgiveness process is going to be different, right? It might take longer than a day or two, who knows? But yes, the simplicity with the command, the request, don’t try reason, and if need be, remove yourself from it. And just to reiterate, that boundary with the physicality is 100% necessary.

Doug Holt  15:12

Yeah. And so look at this, guys. So my kids are three and six, my daughter’s three, my son’s six. And oftentimes at that age, they get hijacked all the time, right? So little kids, their emotions are so big to them that they don’t know how to process it. And you read about this in the literature on raising kids all the time, and in that we just say, hey, my daughter’s only three.

She can’t process it. She can’t stop crying or she gets angry, she throws books, she’s frustrated. Her emotions have taken over and she doesn’t know how to express them effectively, and they’ve just taken over her body. And my son is the same thing, right? When his emotions take over, I just know, hey, he’s a six year old little dude. I hug him, he might push me or hit me or whatever, and I hug him harder, right? I hug him closer and I keep him closer.

And this is the same thing for your wife, right? Her emotions have taken over and she’s not in control. Now, I can tell you again, guys do this too, right? But mostly about, I’m going to guess because we don’t have the exact stats, but 95% of our listeners are men. We do have a lot of women that do listen to this show. And ladies, thanks for listening, but when your wife is doing this, just realize that her emotions have taken over and she is no longer in control. She’s not in the driver’s seat anymore. She’s not even riding shotgun. She’s in the backseat tied up. She’s been hijacked by those emotions.

And so you need to step aside and allow this to ride out if necessary. If you guys haven’t had a conversation about it, now, here’s something that you can do. This is what my wife and I did when we were not hijacked. So when we were in a good place, or at least a decent place, we talked about rules of engagement, right? So some of the rules of engagement in my house are we will not disrespect each other, we will not talk badly about the other person, to others, or in front of somebody, right? We just don’t do that.

There are certain words that we just don’t use. I don’t call my wife certain names, and I don’t need to repeat those. And it goes back to me. Which ones am I acceptable with? Ironically, I don’t really have a problem with the name calling thing she does. That’s fine. Right? That’s her boundary. But we communicate that also this idea of, hey, look, you know, sometimes your emotions or my emotions are going to take over more than we want to. So we need to call it out and agree that we need to step away from each other for a certain period of time.

And here’s something else we do, and I’ve talked about this in previous podcasts, Tim, my wife, and I will say we’ll come back to this conversation at X time, right? So we’re closing the loop. So if Tim is an example, some people call you my work wife, so I’ll just call him right now. So if Tim, my work wife here, talks and goes, hey, I go, Tim, look, we don’t have time for this conversation. You’re obviously frustrated. Look, let’s come back to this conversation in two days.

So at least what I’ve done is I’ve closed the loop for Tim here. So he knows, hey, look, I’m going to be heard in two days. This is going to be finished in two days. Because if you just say, hey, look, you’re hijacked, we’ll talk about this later, that can cause a lot of problems for a lot of people. Not usually type amen, but the wonderment of when is this going to happen? Right? That can be all consuming for someone who’s hijacked. So by closing the loop, you give them something to hang on to, a little breadcrumb in the road, if you will, that they have this reassurance that the agreements that they have, they can readdress at another time.

Tim Matthews  18:40

 Yeah, it’s the same for Amelia and I. Very similar rules of engagement around, not swearing at one another, not calling each other names, not attacking each other’s character is one. It’s more for me than it is for her. That just really or disrespect thing that really gets to me. And the same we call it if we entered the red zone, then we both just step away. Now, that one she tends to have a harder time with than I do. But nevertheless…

Doug Holt  19:16

The stepping away part?

Tim Matthews  19:17

Yeah. When she’s super hijacked, it’s me that steps away. She ain’t stepping away.

Doug Holt  19:24

It’s usually the way it works. She’s following you around the house.

Tim Matthews  19:27

I can see it already 100%. That’s happened a couple of times and I literally anyway, so yeah. And the same thing, we’ll revisit this conversation in tomorrow or whenever it may be. So it’s very similar.

Doug Holt  19:45

Yeah. And it’s a really interesting thing. And guys, this happens to a lot of people, right? A lot of men. Another thing that can happen is someone can get emotionally hijacked and then go to stonewalling. Now, Stonewalling, if you’re not familiar with that, is just completely shutting down. The emotions have overtaken them so much that they go into shutdown mode. They’re mad, they’re angry, they don’t want to talk, and they completely ignore you.

That is another word of version of hijacking the emotions. However, it’s not as in your face could be more hurtful, quite honestly. Right? Because that’s where a lot of things happen in a marriage or relationship, is one of the partners will just shut down completely. Usually it’s the male, usually it’s the man that completely shuts down. And usually when this happens, guys, you’re not in control. You’ve lost control of your emotions, you know, and you’ve completely shut down to a point where you can’t just come back. And that’s fine.

But for this point of this conversation, I want to stick to the more escalated reactions of hijacking. And again, guys, have this conversation now, you know, with your partner. Have this conversation now when things aren’t in a hijacked state of how you’re going to handle them. Right? And one good bridge that I teach the guys, Tim, when they want to address this with their wives, is talk about how you want your kids to see you, whether you have adult children or little children, like I do, how do you want your kids to see an effective relationship or effective marriage?

And you probably want them to view you or view the modeling of an effective marriage of two adults having adult like conversations rather than yelling and screaming at each other. And so a lot of guys that I work with, the one on one clients in particular, when I have them do this, the wives really get it right. They really get it to a core level. They can still be mad at the husband. Right? The client, the guy I’m working with. But they understand, like, oh, it’s not about him. It’s about the way our kids are seeing us. And some of our adult kids, kids in their 20s and 30s, and some are younger.

And now this idea of how do we model the great relationship actually puts both parties, the man and the woman, into this state of neutrality that allows them to be better, the best versions of themselves. And once you start getting that role modeling of the best version of yourself, you start to like each other better, too, and it becomes a snowball effect in the positive way rather than the negative.

Tim Matthews  22:17

Yeah, well said. It reminds me when you said about stonewalling, that’s one of the horsemen of the apocalypse for relationships, right?

Doug Holt  22:27

Yep. Right out of the Gottman Institute.

Tim Matthews  22:29

Yeah. Exactly. So, yeah, you definitely want to catch yourself if you or her are doing that, because it’s just not going to lead to a good place.

Doug Holt  22:36

No, we’ve done a whole podcast, I think, multiple podcasts on the Four Horsemen. I know we’ve done some trainings in the master classes for the men that are in some of our programs, so, I mean, stonewalling is a very common technique. But when you look at this idea of hijacking, I think when I think of it, I think of this escalation.

Like, the emotions start to escalate. Like, again, a storm comes in. And we always talk about, or often talk about the powerful man, about the leader of the house being the lighthouse, right, the lighthouse weathers the storm and the light never dims. And sometimes being the lighthouse means you need to protect yourself from a ship that’s just constantly ramming into you. And in this case, you do might have to remove yourself. A lighthouse doesn’t have that opportunity, you do and remove yourself from the situation. So problems don’t escalate.

Tim Matthews  23:28

Yeah, well said. Again, I love the idea of just going away and coming back to this and just putting a time frame on it as well. I think that’s really important, especially for the woman, too, in terms of creating that emotional keeping an emotional connection, even when you are choosing to create distance, right? Because it’s one thing you just walking off because of boundaries being crossed, whether it’s through physical or whatever it may be.

So by you saying, hey, we’ll talk about this tomorrow, or whenever it may be, I think is a really important way to, like I said, stay connected even within the distance, because otherwise you walk out. All sorts can go on through the person, even if they know that they have been, if they haven’t behaved very well, very nicely towards you, right, for name calling, physical violence, whatever it may be.

But like you said, Doug, it’s very common with the guys in the movement as well, that sometimes when they first come to us anyway, they’ve experienced a lot of this. And I’m really pleased for the way that they’ve been able to grow in this and be the lighthouse, like you say, and weather the storm, but at the same time take a stand for themselves and really take a stand for what it is they deserve and how they are willing to be treated and how they won’t be treated as well.

So at the end of day, get what you tolerate. So if you’re in this situation right now and you are not and this is resonating with you, then my advice would be, like we always say, we say it often, go back, relisten to it, take some notes and actually apply it. Obviously, don’t go and create some chaos. So you can just apply it, but definitely go and apply it the next time it comes up. And hopefully you won’t need to apply it for a long time. But if you do, apply it.

Doug Holt  25:28

Yeah. And guys, if you catch yourself getting hijacked, you catch yourself. Typically, it’s almost like you’re what? Because I’ve been there, it’s almost like watching yourself in third person. You’re like, oh my gosh, I can’t believe this. I’m just getting more pissed and more pissed then just go, hey, I need a break, and just walk away. Take your break. Regardless of what anybody says, calm yourself down, return to the situation. It’s better to return and apologize for walking away than it is to allow yourself to escalate because literally, the emotions have taken over, hormones have taken over, cerebrally. You’re not in control of the situation. Just be smart enough and mature enough to walk away from those situations.

Tim Matthews  26:10

100%. I had to do it the other day with Amelia.

Doug Holt  26:14

What’s she doing?

Tim Matthews  26:15

Only for 30 seconds or so. She was — It was one of those situations where I thought, we’re having a conversation, and I quickly realized we weren’t. And I realized we weren’t. When I realized that we were caught in a loop and it was just going round and round, and I’m like, this doesn’t make any sense. And I realized she was just triggered and it was continuing to escalate.

So I just needed to leave the room for just literally, I just left the room and said, hey, I need to go to the toilet. I’ll be back in a moment. I did that and just reminded myself, hey, this is just an emotional response. It’s not about me. It’s about her and what’s going on. Go back in there, validate hold space, and lead her out of it, essentially. So that’s what I did. And fortunately, about 20 minutes later, it’s probably about 2 hours, but seemed like 20 minutes.

Doug Holt  27:16

It’s like 2 days.

Tim Matthews  27:17


Doug Holt  27:20

Can relate. Well, it’s part of the practice, my friend. Part of the practice. That’s why a lot of our men and us included, we’ve married very strong women, and marrying strong women comes with its gifts.

Tim Matthews  27:33

It does.

Doug Holt  27:35

Gentlemen, as we always say, in the moment of insight, take massive action and get off the fence and just really move forward. If you’re not already in the activation method and you’re looking to take your relationship to the next level and save your marriage without having to talk about it, it all starts with leading, and you got to start with that leadership within yourself.

So if you haven’t inquired about the activation method and you are a business owner or an executive in business, go ahead and go over to thepowerfulman.com you can find the Apply button or the Learn More button. There’s going to be a short video that talks about the program and also an application that you can get in and get on a call with one of our advisors. There’s no risk to it, right? It’s just a phone call. It’s a conversation to see if it’s a good fit for you, but always keep moving forward.

Guys, don’t use these podcasts as educational masturbation. As I say, going from one podcast to another to another or one show on YouTube. Take some notes, take some action, and get the results. You deserve more than average. Take care, guys!