The fourth step to conflict resolution: no name calling. The most important thing to remember about name calling is you can’t take it back! Those words may haunt your relationship for the course of its life. During a quarrel, I find that women tend to name call like a BB gun: fast, sharp, and only making minor dents. But men, men hold back until they take out the bazooka and blow their women away (insert “c” word here). This usually shuts us up, right ladies? In therapy, men often report they don’t mean what they say when they argue and assume their partners should know that. Sorry to tell you, boys, women don’t think that way. Women tend to follow words more than actions. What you are trying to do by quiting us only confuses us.
Another reason not to name call: it is not what you are usually trying to communicate to your partner anyway. This is typically your frustration talking. Rarely does it accomplish anything when fighting and trying to resolve issues with your partner. If you were to say to your partner, “you are a selfish jerk,” he may not understand the why behind the message and only become defensive, which leads to him shutting down. If you were to say, “I feel hurt when my feelings aren’t being considered,” you are effectively communicating your thoughts and feelings without aggression and without blame.
Sometimes I may ask my clients whom they are seeing in their partners when they lash out. This person could be our mother, our father, or a past encounter. For example, I had a couple in my office not too long ago who fought like cats and dogs. When I asked the husband whom he saw when they argued, he said his ex-wife. When asked the same question, the wife stated she sees her abusive father. This would cause them to say during a fight, “you act just like my ex,” or “I married my father.” Do you see how this can get in the way of resolving the conflict?
My relationship with my husband was tested many years back; therefore, when we argue, I am triggered and brought back to that time in our lives when my husband was not his best self. When things get heated between us, I sometimes see “old” him and forget how far we have come since then. When I see that person, I attack and call him names that don’t apply to him today, causing him to retaliate. For my husband, I believe he calls me names because he doesn’t like the worst parts of me. He tends to hold me on a pedestal, so when I act “less than” he is tempted to point it out. Either way, we end up with hurt feelings and no positive progress has been made.
Natalie Nesbitt, MS, LPC, loves working with couples! Helping them find the passion in their relationship; remove blocks that are keeping them from being their best; learning to have a marriage they have only dreamed. Providing personalized couples therapy and life counseling at her private psychotherapy practice in Paoli, Pennsylvania, conveniently located on the Main Line. She has helped countless couples save their marriages and/or relationships and come back from the deepest of betrayals.