I’ve been married for over 30 years. It ain’t easy. There are times when both of us wished we had access to a backhoe and a bog. We are a couple with strong personalities, bad tempers and unusual stubborn streaks. (One of us is more stubborn than the other but I’m not naming him.) We have had some horrible lows and some amazing highs. We’ve muddled through as best we could. Neither of us hold degrees in “Successful Personal Relationships”, we just love each other, warts and all.
Over the years I’ve been witness to arguments between couples and this will always give you a good indication of who is going to go the distance, building a strong relationship and who will simply go on to exist as two people living in the same space.
One of the best indicators is name calling and epithets in a heated disagreement. Calling your partner a name is damaging. You may not believe it but it is. It is cumulative damage. If you partner does not believe he/she is the best thing in your life, then you are doing something wrong. Telling her, “YOU ARE A SELFISH BITCH” is cumulative damage in the works. Screaming at him, “YOU ARE A USELESS ASS!” is also cumulative damage. Cumulative damage can’t be repaired after a while.
What can be said then, when you are really pissed? “You are behaving LIKE a bitch.” The difference may seem small but it isn’t. You are not calling your partner a bitch, you are saying that a behaviour is indicative of bitchhood. The same goes for the second example, the use of comparatives in an argument is the difference between a deep hurt that can’t be seen, therefore, not allowed to heal and the pointing out of inappropriate behaviour.
Never call someone “stupid” unless you really do not value a relationship. You can say that behaviour is stupid but not the individual.
Just a little something I’ve learned along the way. It is a simple thing but can really make the difference between a constructive argument and a fight that will never really heal. There was a television show in the 70’s – All in the Family; there is one episode that always stuck out in my mind and it is something that comes back to me, whenever I find myself angry at my husband. It was true then and it is just as true now.
Edith Bunker: [Edith has just broken up a fight between Mike and Gloria] When I was a little girl, my mother and father got into a terrible fight that started just because there wasn’t enough maple syrup for my father’s pancakes.
Michael ‘Meathead’ Stivic: Ma, what we’re arguing about is a little more important than maple syrup.
Edith Bunker: Just a minute! I ain’t finished! They didn’t talk to each other for three whole weeks! And even after they made up things was never the same between them. Now I know that maple syrup is just a little thing, but would you rather break up over something bigger?