A few years ago, a good friend of ours totally called me out on something. I remember the incident like it was yesterday. We were sitting at our dining room table, having a discussion (about what, I don’t remember) but I do know that Todd and I were disagreeing. The conversation involved four of us…both my husband and myself, and another couple friend, who has walked with us through the worst times in our marriage…and pretty much earned the right to say anything they want to us. And so, our friend did.
Upon hearing Todd’s point of view on the issues (whatever it was), rather than making a snide comeback (as I am prone to do), I simply gave a dramatic eye roll.
You know, the kind that screamed “OMG..I have never heard anything so utterly ridiculous in my entire life…PUH-LEASE!!!!”…all without uttering a sound.
Our friend pointed out to me, that what I had done, without saying a word, had totally dissed my hubby.
(Don’t worry, this isn’t a mini-sermon about how wives should quietly just go along with whatever their husband’s opinion is…you should know me better than that!! Our friends are equal-opportunity challengers, and they’ve challenged Todd on plenty of things too. I’m just sharing my own dirt right now.)
I innocently exclaimed “What?? I didn’t even SAY anything.” But the fact was…and what our friend, Pete, flat out told me was…
“You rolling your eyes said a ton! It showed that you completely disrespect his opinion!”
You see, in the early days of our wedded (*ahem*) bliss I would regularly ‘bash’ my husband in public settings. I thought…or claimed…that it was all in good fun. I mean…what wives don’t make fun of their husbands? And vise versa?
Normal? Maybe. Good? Probably not so much. Disrespectful? Absolutely.
You see, the first time we were challenged on this (I believe also by the same friends, years earlier, that called me out on the eye-rolling incident), I didn’t realize…or want to accept...how actually hurtful this kind of disrespecting is. When Todd pointed out to me that it really bothered him when I did that…made fun of him in front of others…I initially wanted to blow it off. I said I was just teasing. I said what I was saying was true. I tried six ways to Sunday to justify it.
But then I realized something, and it snagged my heart.
I realized, he almost never made fun of me in public, and the very few times he had, it really had kinda stung. I wasn’t even aware of the fact that he purposely chose not to engage in this kind of talk, much less appreciative of it…but it was true. And the reason he didn’t make fun of me was basically because he knew how hurtful it felt to him when I did it.
Now, I’m not talking about good-natured teasing…I’m all for believing that it’s completely healthy (and a necessary life skill) to be able to laugh at yourself. But if you have ever hung out with a group of married couples for any length of time, you probably know what I mean… There’s this weird point where, what may have started out as good ‘fun’, suddenly gets really awkward, and you realize that the good-natured teasing has crossed over into firing little nukes at one another. The loaded comments about the in-laws, the housekeeping, the appearance, the job…whatever it is…you just know are a bit more real than anyone wants to admit.
There just seems to be this air of… “I’m-just-teasing-but-I’m-also-dead-freakin’-serious-and-you-know-it”…hanging in the room. There’s smiles all around, but also gritted teeth and flashing eyes.
And in the worst cases, the room suddenly joins in the battle, and the men and women square up on opposite sides. It becomes a Husbands vs. Wives throw-down. And while everyone giggles…I get a little uncomfortable.
I get uncomfortable because I know the reality all too well of, after hiding behind the cheesy smiles, getting in the car for the full-blown real-deal. I used to live this reality all the time.
Until somebody called us on it. Until Todd and I admitted to each other how much we hated these little fire-starters, and agreed that we should not publicly taunt or trash-talk each other. Until we agreed that it was disrespectful…by both of us, to both of us. Until we made a concerted effort to stop.
Again, let me reiterate…it’s different to have genuine playful teasing or bantering. An example, for us, of innocuous banter would be Todd teasing me about being, what he refers to as, ‘fiery’ or ‘passionate’. I don’t mind when he makes fun of those things, because I know the reality is…he actually LOVES those things about me. There’s no hidden agenda, no underhanded attempt to air grievances. He knows quite well the flash in my eyes, and the set of my jaw…and he is always telling me how it makes him laugh and that he finds it attractive. So if we are in a group setting and he starts poking fun of my ‘fieriness’, there’s no sting at all, because no matter what he’s saying in that moment, I am fully assured that he has no problem with that part of my personality.
I’m talking strictly about taking opportunity to, basically, shame, ridicule or otherwise publicly insult your spouse, under the guise of ‘joking’. It’s not cool. It’s hurtful. And it’s something that wise spouses won’t do. It took me a bit to learn that, and even when I thought I had…I still had a bit more to go. (Let’s be honest…I still do.) But I at least try to be aware, (especially when I’m upset), not to resort to the sarcastic, biting, public ‘roasting’ of my hubby.
Even when it’s only done with my eyes…because they can speak volumes too.
Don’t be dissin’ the one you love.
That’s what I learned. Does this resonate with you? Do you tend toward taking pot-shots? Have you ever actually talked about it with your spouse, and been open to really hearing how they feel about these types of conversations?
Might I be so bold as to suggest you start a discussion with your loved one about this, and be open to making an effort to change in areas they say they find hurtful? I think you’ll find it has the potential to have a big positive impact on your relationship!