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"Don't Talk to Me Like That": 3 Ways Disrespect Seriously Damages Your Relationship

Demeaning, criticizing, threatening, emasculating, mocking, and cursing. Unfortunately, many of us have engaged in one of these activities with a spouse at one point or another. Contrary to popular belief (yes, that was a little sarcasm), these actions are completely inappropriate, terribly unacceptable, and extremely damaging to a relationship's success.

I'm always amazed by the amount of people who seem to understand the gravity of the impact that this kind of language has on other human beings, yet continue to use these destructive communication strategies in heated (and even not-so-heated) interactions with their partners. For example, I know a couple where both parties consistently tell one another to "fuck off" when in an argument. Now I'm surely not the swear-word police (many have said that I curse like a sailor), but I have NEVER EVER said "fuck you" to my husband or told him to go fuck himself or anything remotely like that. I would never stoop to that level of disrespect with him. And he has never said anything that disrespectful to me. That kind of language is just not part of our relationship's vocabulary. Cursing around your partner is completely different from cursing at your partner. I just don't get how you can talk to your mate that way and get away with it. I don't know about you, but if my husband told me to go fuck myself every time we got into a disagreement, we would have a major problem (a problem that would likely be a deal-breaker in our marriage).

Using hurtful words with your spouse is not the only way to disrespect. Criticizing (most of us don't even realize we're doing it!), name-calling, interacting with members of the opposite sex in a way that you would not if your partner was present, using negative humor, threatening your partner or the status of your relationship, flirting with other people, giving ultimatums, belittling your partner's ideas/thoughts/beliefs, talking negatively about your partner behind his or her back, and bossing your partner around are more sure-fire ways to engage in disrespect. If you want your relationship or marriage to succeed, these negative behaviors need to be completely eliminated from your spousal interactions.

Still don't think these things are that big of a deal? Below are three negative consequences of disrespectful communication.

Disrespect can create the dreaded parent-child relationship.
Disrespect, especially emasculation and criticism, can easily cause one partner to take on the role of parent, leaving the other partner to become the child. Sadly, the media normalizes the parent-child relationship as typical in American marriages, with bossy, bitchy women controlling their dumb, child-like husbands. The media’s influence coupled with the pressure of traditional gender roles passed down from generation to generation causes many women to become mothers to their husbands and husbands to simply become an additional child for their wives to raise. Many of you are in this situation right now. And some of you are perfectly happy with taking charge and being the “single parent.” But I would venture to say that there are more of you who are not fine with the current status quo.  It’s okay. You can turn things around. Begin looking at your partner like the adult that he is. You didn’t marry him because he was a cute little kid who you wanted to take care of for the rest of your life. You married him (most likely) because he was a man who you fell in love with. And as a man, he needs to be treated like one. This means that you cannot do everything for him. Let go of the control. This also means that you cannot criticize the way that he does things. Shut your mouth. This also means that you cannot tell him what to do. He is a grown-ass man. He can figure out his own life. This also means that he needs to pull his own weight. Talk about household chores, child-raising duties, and errands. Divvy them up in a way that makes both of you happy. The bottom line: stop being your husband’s mother. You and I both know that you’re sick of it.

Disrespect can make your partner hate him or herself.
Research shows that criticism from a trusted and/or loved other breads self-hate in the target of the criticism. Whenever I think about this, it makes me terribly sad. For a human being to have that much control over how another human being sees him or herself is so upsetting to me. But many of us have no idea when we're engaging in criticism. There's a clear distinction between positive and negative communication here. For instance, complaining about a specific action your partner has done (“I can’t believe you didn’t do the dishes yesterday!”) is not criticism. Instead, criticism leaves the realm of the specific and attacks a person’s character (“You never to the dishes!”). Saying something like, “You never do the dishes” has several implications. It’s most likely not true that your partner NEVER does this dishes. But by you saying that, you partner might infer that you think he or she is lazy, good-for-nothing, or even worthless. When you use terms like “always” or “never” to describe a person’s behavior, it’s criticism. Eliminating these words from your vocabulary is one of the best ways to avoid being critical, learn to effectively complain, and steer clear of breeding self-hate in the person you love. 

Disrespect can end your relationship.
While some of you out there will put up with disrespect for one reason or another, most of us (including me!) will not. And let me add that nobody should have to put up with it. There isn’t a person out there who is worth it. The end.

Overall, it is vital that no matter how agitated, angry, or pissed off you get, you avoid disrespecting your spouse at all costs. This is what mature love is about. And always remember that your partner has feelings (we all do). Speak to him or her as if you are being considerate of them.


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