Thursday, November 13, 2014

Poisoning the Well

Not too long ago Madh Mama wrote a great post about "Your Husband is Your God" and Other Sexist Notes. One thing that really struck me in that post is this:
The husband can complain about the wife; but when the wife complains about the husband, she is a "nag" or "a complainer".
To be honest I didn't realize this was a cultural thing in India. In the circles I've traveled previously in life it was typically the woman who did all the complaining about her husband in gossip circles and it was much less common for me to hear men saying things about their wives that were overly negative. (Unless of course such things were true and widely known already.)

I guess I really need to differentiate between the truth and gossip. It's one thing for you to go to a friend and tell them that your husband hit you. It's quite another to go to a friend and fuss about how your husband didn't take out the trash before dinner like you wanted him to. It's yet another to exaggerate or dramatize your story about your spouse and tell everyone you know. (You know, the type of story fishermen tell and the fish gets bigger every time they tell it.) 

There is nothing wrong with going to your friends or peers for support on an issue you're having. This quite healthy. We need people to help us remain level and grounded in our decision making. We need others to bounce ideas off of and get advice from on the things we don't know how to manage ourselves.

That being said, I know I have talked about my husband here and I have done my best to be as truthful as I could and to always identify what was a feeling or opinion and to not exaggerate the situation. I did the same with my in-laws and the things I faced in India. I'm generally a very level and grounded person so I hope that is how I came across. As far as I remember, the majority of what I have said about them has been good. My struggles were my own and I did my best not to blame them for things out of their control.

What is really striking about Madh Mama's words is that I have found them to be true. I just didn't realize this is what was going until she wrote it. See, with all the things I've said on this blog, the vast majority of what I wrote about my husband and in-laws was good (uncle-ji excluded). I love my MIL and FIL. They are genuinely good people. Despite the fact it was mostly good, I have been reprimanded in the past for saying anything at all. Actually, one of our first fights after hubby came to America was over me saying something good about MIL.

When these things are discussed among people you know and see on a regular basis and you're not sincere about the situation, you're causing damage to your relationship. It is not harmless chatter and you could be causing irreparable damage to your marriage. Each comment you make leaves the listener with a negative impression that your spouse may not deserve and this impression won't go away.

If your venting sessions start with phrases like this:
  • You will not believe what a lazy bum my husband is.... (When he forgot to take out the trash or something small)
  • My wife is such a bitch.... (All because dinner wasn't on the table when you got home or something small)
Then you really need to check yourself. Look how out of proportion those statements are. Is your husband really lazy all the time or are you just irritated you didn't get your way right that minute? Is your wife really a constant bitch or was dinner just 5 minutes late? Your spouse will pick up on the negative vibes even if they never find out what you said. It's highly likely they will find out what you said and then they will begin to build a wall between you and them. Bashing your spouse destroys trust, deadens positive emotions towards you and begins to tear the two of you apart.

Think about how your spouse would feel in this situation.

A husband routinely bashes his wife to his friends, often telling exaggerated stories so he can gain sympathy for himself. A husband and wife are friends with another couple. The wife works with the male in that other couple. The husband talks to the male often and in many conversations tells the male how his wife never cooks or cleans. The stories progressively get meaner and the husband begins to tell the male that his wife is non-affectionate and never helps him with anything. Eventually he paints her as the coldest, cruelest spouse a man could ever have.

How do you think the wife feels? He's telling this to a man she has to work with every day. So now she daily has to face a man who's been told things about her that aren't true. The male can't see her as a friendly coworker now who does her job well. The male sees her as a lying, manipulative, horrible person. He doesn't realize the conversation's with her husband were exaggerated and he's never had a chance to process the negativity he's heard about her or balance it with any positive things she's done for her husband.

The wife knows about the bashing and feels shame every time she has to face the male coworker. She becomes stressed knowing there is nothing she can say or do to resolve the situation. Her work performance is affected. Her marriage is now affected double. Not only does she have to face the husband who bashes her regularly but now that bashing is affecting her outside of the home and relationship in a very serious way.

This is how relationships are destroyed by spouse-bashing. It starts small, you're just venting and before you know it that invisible wall has been built between you and your spouse. Your spouse becomes distant toward you, less friendly, less loving, etc. It's human nature to protect ourselves this way and it's not something you can continue venting about and ignore the side effects.

There are healthier ways to vent as well as healthier places. If you positively need to get it out of your system, I recommend these websites:
You should check those out even if you won't use them. Look at how differently men bash women vs. women bash men.

Have you been bashed by your spouse? How did it affect you?


  1. We recently 'cut off' a newly married American couple that we were friends with.
    All they ever did was complain about each other to us (privately behind each others' backs) & complain about their financial troubles (basically living paycheck to paycheck with no savings & buying things they didn't need & couldn't afford.)
    Why 2 university educated people can't work out their differences (either between themselves or with the help of a therapist) in a mature, constructive manner is beyond me.
    I guess I shouldn't have been surprised when they publicly insulted us on Facebook.
    I'm still shocked a couple in their 40's pulls such 'high school' BS.
    Oh well, you live & learn.

    1. I think this kind of behavior is far too easy to get trapped in. It becomes a habit. I definitely agree that by the time you're in your 40's there's no excuse left for not being able to manage your finances.

  2. Thanks for linking me hunny! Xo
    Great post...

  3. I think that when you lack coping skills that's all you CAN do... some people don't know what healthy fighting looks like. And some people are afraid to be honest about the situations with their spouse.

    Here where I live, I chat with some of the moms but NONE of them bash their husbands to me. Instead, it is either maid complaints or talking about the weather, schools, or recipes. THAT IS IT.

    1. That's a good point. With the secrecy about relationships in many homes before marriage, these coping skills aren't learned.