We went to a party yesterday and a couple that were there did something which always makes me squirm when it happens in public. They had an argument. It wasn’t the usual kind of what I call the well-intentioned argument where a wife is looking out for her husband by saying: I don’t think you should have any more of the cheese dip, dear. It’ll be terribly high in fat and you know how you have to watch your cholesterol.
This argument was nasty in nature and obviously had its origins well before the party had begun. It very quickly degenerated into she going down the always route.
You always say one thing and do another.
To which he countered with –
And you’re really, really fat.
Why do people do that in an argument? Why do they feel the need to bring it down to its most hurtful level by making it a commentary on physical appearance rather than on behaviour?
My husband does that and it drives me crazy. A few years back his sister stayed with us while she was on holiday from New Zealand and they got into an argument which ended in him calling her Thunder Thighs. She was upset about it for days. The size of her thighs are something she’s sensitive about. I also know that the woman at the party is sensitive about her weight and no doubt still feels upset that her husband had to bring things down to such a base level.
Little kids argue like that all the time.
You would think that as adults our style of arguing would be much more sophisticated, but often it is not. You would think we would have moved on from what is basically just name-calling. But many of us haven’t.
I have been told I am a difficult person to argue with. I can be quite hot-headed, but in an argument I am uncharacteristically calm. I choose my words carefully and don’t throw ugly truths around. I don’t see the point of honing in on a physical characteristic someone is sensitive about and exploiting that sensitivity. It is careless and irrelevant to what you are arguing about. It can also be very difficult to forgive.
My husband tried that tactic with me last year when we were having an argument about him coming home late three nights in a row. I was calm. I stated my case – how his behaviour made me feel. There was no hint of character assassination whatsoever.
And his response?
You always have to have things your way.
And the comment that damned him for a good six months –
You’ve lost your looks.
Following the initial premise stated in this post that the arguers hone in on physical areas their victims are sensitive about; you might be led to believe that I am sensitive about getting older. That is actually not the case but my husband thinks it is. He thinks I have used what he calls my cutie-pie blonde looks to get what I want throughout my life. When I think about it that is fodder for another post, another week’s worth of posts; but mostly, it reveals more about him than it does about me.
It hurt me that he said it. There was no need. It had nothing to do what we were arguing about. And it had an unexpected consequence. It gave me ammunition whenever he started griping about something else.
ME: Oh, I suppose you’re going to go on about how ugly I am again.
HIM: I should never have opened my mouth. I should have thought before I spoke.
Think before you speak in an argument because if you don’t those hateful, horrible phrases will come back to haunt you.
Because ugliness just begets ugliness.
And that’s the truth of it.