Wednesday, February 5, 2014

When To Ignore Negativity and Junk Behaviors and Vocabulary

A common topic among fellow pardesi's, and one I've written about here from time to time, is denial. Denial is a prevalent character flaw in many Indian families. This concept of denial is not unique to Indians of course and it also doesn't just extend to the state of Indian affairs or its people. Even in Indian families things are often dismissed, ignored, denied outright. This can be both good and bad but regardless, it is very different from how many westerners would address situations.

For example, let's say a couple argues over some random topic like a news story. The husband thinks that a person in the story is a liar and stupid. The wife thinks that same person has a valid point. They state their arguments, finish the discussion and 10 minutes later life is back to normal. They've both let it go and it no longer matters in their life. This is a prime example of how ignoring the argument that just happened is good. Clearly it doesn't impact their daily life, their marriage, their own personal feelings toward each other. So why would they let it fester and bring negativity into their lives?

Another example, the same husband and wife argues and one of them says something mean and hurtful to the other. It was a heat of the moment, hasty thing to say and the person didn't mean it. Instead of saying "I'm sorry" the person who said it forgets about it.

I typically find that in Indian culture, the hurtful words said in haste are generally thought not to matter. Sorry isn't expected and forgiveness is. Once the argument is over, life is supposed to go on as it was before, as if the words were never said.

However, from a western perspective, we're taught to seek closure. So the hurt words must be accounted for. Someone must say they're sorry and the couple must make up. Ignoring the words being said is offensive, fosters negative energy between the couple and creates future animosity. As in, next time they speak, the words are likely going to be tainted by the hurt feelings.

This can lead to many issues. The Indian person may not understand the animosity coming from their western partner. They may feel hurt and offended by the animosity itself. The issue begins to escalate and the problem grows bigger.

I think it's important for any pardesi in a relationship with a desi to understand what junk behavior is and when something should be addressed to resolve these minor issues before they become major issues. Yes, I realize "junk behavior" is a term commonly used to refer to children. However, that doesn't mean those behaviors are never carried into adulthood.

Junk behavior - Any inappropriate behavior that is not harmful to the person, those around them, pets, animals, etc. It's by definition, harmless but annoying behavior!

In an adult these behaviors could be:
  • shunning
  • rolling their eyes
  • throwing their hands up in the air (as if fed up)
  • storming off (not simply walking away) 
Furthermore, with the custom of Indian abusing, you may also hear words that tear your nerves up. Some things I would consider junk vocabulary are:
  • Oh yeah, well you....... (and they then recite something similar you've done)
  • I can't believe you said that! 
  • repeating statements more than once
I could go on and on with these lists but the basic idea is that the concept is no one gets hurt. You may be offended, you might feel attacked but you're not hurt. You may need to think about some of the situations you encounter. Sometimes the attack is an actual attack and other times it's a cultural misunderstanding.  You're not actually hurt or attacked if your partner says 'well, an Indian wife would ...." but it could very well feel like it. Change the wording slightly to 'you're not as good as an Indian wife because you don't ...." and then it becomes a hurtful attack.

You absolutely can and should ignore both junk behaviors and vocabulary at the moment they occur. It's not worth fighting over no matter how disrespected you feel. During the heat of the moment is no time to tell your partner that rolling their eyes offends you, that would only escalate the argument further. Wait for a time when you're both calm and can discuss the significance behind this. Why does your partner roll their eyes? Why does it offend you? Is it something you an learn to ignore or they can stop doing? You may even chose never to discuss it and just decide on your own it's not worth being bothered over.

If the behavior escalates beyond junk, then you need to take a step back from the argument entirely. Be the one to walk out of the room calmly stating you'll come back when things are calm. This is often easier said than done but you can learn to recognize your partners junk behavior by being aware of what is really going on before, during and after the argument. It's important to be mindful of when is and is not a good time to discuss things with your partner. For example, if they're typing up their thesis statement for college, it is not a good time to start asking questions about the children you plan to have 2 years from now.

You need to be especially aware of any coercive wording aimed to get control over you - this could be them bringing up something from the past to make you feel beneath them or to shock you into being quiet. Sometimes it's wording that is irrelevant to the conversation but they feel as if it gives them the upper hand. This kind of behavior is detrimental to the relationship long term and must be addressed once you realize it's happening (in a calm setting, not during the argument of course!).

Don't just discuss it. Ask your partner why they felt like things were out of control. Why did they feel like they needed to get the upper hand in the argument? There could be some underlying issues that you can talk about and end the problem permanently. Even in the best of relationships sometimes things are said and done innocently that make our spouses feel inferior in some small way. In an intercultural relationship it's easy to inadvertently offend your partner if there is some cultural aspect you don't understand.

A prime example would be celebrating your western birthday with a party after there had been a death in the Indian partners family a few weeks earlier. While this isn't adhered to everywhere, in some Indian families they don't celebrate holidays for a year after the death occurs.

Healthy communication is the only way to get to the bottom of the issue. Your communication won't be at optimal health if you're frustrated and angry over someone rolling their eyes, throwing their hands up in the air or ignoring you.

Be the partner who ignores the junk behavior and vocabulary. Those things won't define your future. Be the partner who walks away from anything that escalates beyond that. There are no laws or rules that say you have to stay in the conversation at that moment and can't take a break and come back to it once you've both calmed down. If that's not possible in your relationship or your partner won't let you walk away, then you should seek the help of a professional to help foster better communication. Unless your life or health is in danger. Then you need to seek outside intervention.

37 comments:

  1. I can understand your problems. There are many problems in a a marriage and add cultural problems to it, you have a handful. I can understand the celebrating your birthday few week after death in your husband family part. Technically after marriage, you are part of your husband's family so if they are in grief, then it is a mourning period for you also. So, this must have caused this cultural problem. We do not celebrate festivals, birthdays, enter the temple, perform pooja within one year of the death of a family member unless it is a daughter's marriage which cannot be postponed. After one year, the final "Shaardh" ceremony is performed for the peace of the departed soul and then you can resume your normal life. Ofcourse, there are shortcuts in religious ceremonies which the priests can advise you according to your needs.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Alexandra MadhavanFebruary 9, 2014 at 3:59 PM

    I can relate to this one! We have completely opposite ways of dealing with an argument. My hubby immediately shuts down, refuses to speak, and tries to distract himself doing something else. This indicates to me that he doesn't care for my feelings.
    I prefer to talk things out and get closure and then move on. If I don't get closure, my feelings will escalate for days and it will be a big explosion.
    For him, when he is angry, I have learned to leave him alone and then talk later. But for me, he handles me in that same way which doesn't work for me.
    Not only is is a men-are-from-mars-women-are-from-venus thing, but it is a cultural thing I believe. My hubby likes to show me he loves me with his actions and not his words. But sometimes I do need words! And some words have a deeper meaning for me.

    ReplyDelete
  3. My hubby also shuts down sometimes. Other times he blows up. Then other times he can talk openly. I like to think that I've helped him be more open with his feelings so we can communicate better but of course, I don't think I deserve all the credit lol.

    I'm like you too. I really need to keep talking until I feel things are resolved. I too have learned not every argument needs to be discussed now. Sometimes you have to walk away so things don't turn ugly.

    I think words and actions go hand in hand. Saying 'I love you' is almost meaningless if there are no positive actions to go along with it.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I think it's definitely a guy thing to want to avoid conflict, tune out the argument, save the resolution for later, etc. My desi girl (K) and I have our share of arguments and my first instinct is ALWAYS to shut down or escape.

    It's really hard for guys to express their feelings during conflicts. Be patient with us gals!

    Funny you mentioned eye rolling. I do it and she hates it. Trying to stop that.

    ReplyDelete
  5. You're probably right. It may be a guy thing, especially since rumor has it women talk twice as much. I'm not sure I believe the rumor as my husband is quite the chatterbox but I think in general it's at least close to being true. I know I often talk way too much and ramble on and on and on. Even in writing. :)

    ReplyDelete
  6. I get it. I like to fight it out and my husband will NOT fight back. It drives me nuts because sometimes a good fight it what we need to get it our of our systems.

    ReplyDelete
  7. I have to get things out of my system too. I'm working on that with hubby. Sometimes he gets quiet and holds things in and then later we argue. I had much rather get it over with while the topic is fresh. I find it much healthier than letting things fester.

    ReplyDelete
  8. I hate fighting. When my husband and I start to argue, I go for a run - literally. It gives us both a chance to cool off and if I am really angry makes for a great run. It is much better to discuss things calmly when you can both actually listen and learn.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Terry My Journey With CandidaFebruary 26, 2014 at 9:40 AM

    Words said in the heat of anger can cut like a knife. I try very hard not to say hurtful things when I am having a heated discussion with someone, but, If they start, sometimes it is very hard for me to keep my mouth shut.

    ReplyDelete
  10. That is a good point. Even though I prefer to finish the discussion while the topic is fresh, I do my best to keep it calm. Sometimes taking a moment to just breathe between sentences. There have been times I've had to walk away and come back later though. I think knowing when we need to take a break is a key to open conversation.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Words can definitely hurt. I'm like you, once they start I find it hard to keep my mouth shut. Many times I can do it but sometimes I find that constructively wording my replies is the best defense. Sometimes it helps to say the same phrase back to them so they can realize what they have done. Of course, I still won't repeat some things, there are lines I believe you just never cross.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Most times anger and words don't mix- they are like oil and water. I like to think as an adult, I am able to express myself when I am angry, without using hurtful words. My husband is the same way.

    ReplyDelete
  13. I will have to disagree with you. I was raised in the fully western culture and was fought to forgive and forget. Usually after a heated argument, we take a few minutes a lone and then go back as if nothing happened. I do not dwell in the past and neither have my family or friends.
    Don't get me wrong I know people who can hold a grudge and live in the evil past but it is not everyone.

    ReplyDelete
  14. I am an absolutely pro at ignoring junk behavior. It comes from years and years of being married to a very direct man. :)

    ReplyDelete
  15. I have to agree anger and words don't mix well. I try not to speak when I am angry because I know I can't take back the words that were spewed when I was angry.

    ReplyDelete
  16. It's hard to bite your tongue sometimes, even as an adult. My husband and I both try hard to avoid name calling and being rude when discussing issues in our marriage. For the most part, we talk things out without yelling or attacking one another.

    ReplyDelete
  17. Liz @ A Nut in a NutshellFebruary 26, 2014 at 3:50 PM

    It's really interesting to see how the culture makes such a difference in interpretation of things. It's definitely something to be aware of with a partner.

    ReplyDelete
  18. Great post! I actually do pretty well just letting things roll, so I think that helps. And I agree, communication really is the key!

    ReplyDelete
  19. I agree with this. It's sometimes difficult to practice this but when I'm angry I do my best to just not get into conversations. I tell my husband I need a minute or I can't talk about that right now.

    ReplyDelete
  20. Interestingly enough, this exact concept is what is practiced in India. Once something has been said or done, they act as if nothing happened.

    ReplyDelete
  21. I do okay most of the time. I'm working on pro status.

    ReplyDelete
  22. That's a great point. Once something is said, you can't take it back. I remind myself of that often.

    ReplyDelete
  23. That sounds a lot like me and my husband. Most of the time we do okay but occasionally we let other emotions affect us. We've both gotten comfortable with asking the other to lower their voice though if things start getting loud.

    ReplyDelete
  24. Communication is the most important in relationships. Without communication you have nothing.

    ReplyDelete
  25. Thanks for sharing! The difference between cultures is really interesting. I agree, communication is incredibly important.

    ReplyDelete
  26. Taking a break when things get heated is so important. But so is being able to be open and honest.

    ReplyDelete
  27. Great post! It's amazing how cultural differences can affect relationships.

    ReplyDelete
  28. Healthy communication is so important in relationships period. I think that lack of communication is the beginning of the end for many marriages. I imagine it is even harder to make things work when you have cultural differences to deal with also.

    ReplyDelete
  29. I never thought about it that much,. I honestly haven't had the chance to make any Indian friends so I am not sure of the cultural differences. It must be hard to try to maintain a relationship with the added stress of cultural differences.

    ReplyDelete
  30. Sometimes it is harder. You're not always sure what is a cultural issue and what is personality.

    ReplyDelete
  31. What a great post. It is very interesting to see the cultural differences and how that impacts our words and relationships.

    ReplyDelete
  32. I recently made an Indian woman my friend and we are very different people. She has started to become accustomed to our ways here in the US, so she forgives me when I'm doing such rude things.

    ReplyDelete
  33. It is a hard to maintain a friendship when you don't know about their cultures. You might say something that will offend them.

    ReplyDelete
  34. This is a great post. I knew there were cultural differences but not to this extent.

    ReplyDelete
  35. I see this too much in my own relationships. Sadly, I'm usually the one who lets it go instead of standing up for myself. :(

    ReplyDelete
  36. This information is very important because it helps to avoid a lot of negative situations.

    ReplyDelete
  37. I always shut people out when I'm mad to avoid saying things I don't mean. I see your point with this post though

    ReplyDelete