Wednesday, July 13, 2011
Bashing and trashing may feel like support, but who is it really helping?
It isn't rocket science to understand that relationships are hard! Anyone who has been in a serious relationship or marriage knows that even under the most ideal circumstances, dealing with another person is not child's play.
Healthy relationships require a level of maturity, communication, commitment and trust which can consume a great deal of time and energy to be successful. But, as they say- you can't live with them, and you can't live without them. To many people, relationships are a mystery, to others a blessing.
So what happens when one person in the couple fails or betrays the other? It happens every day. Most of us have seen friends, family, and co-workers relationships fall to pieces. It is a fairly common human experience. But there are some individuals who feel personally indignant when they learn of a friend's relationship hitting a bump.It brings out a ferocity and venom that can be downright hateful. But why?
Very few people reach middle age without experiencing some heartbreak. If you believe the statistics, divorce is almost the norm. For those who have managed to master marriage and stay together, there are still often issues, deficiencies and serious problems.
Let's face it- relationships are difficult even under the best circumstances. Two adults attempting to work through life together, day in and day out, can find their relationship exhausting and discouraging. For all the wonderful aspects of having a significant other or spouse, there are also restrictions, limitations and inevitable frictions.
I have noticed that when a spouse starts to "vent" to their friends, others may feel they are being supportive or kind when they jump to that person's defense. And in doing so, the bashing can start. One very insidious occurrence is the incidence of bashing that occurs if a couple is fighting, or more especially, if they break up. Then the gloves come off and the nastiness flows. It is very easy to be drawn into these discussions and to jump on the bandwagon or bash-a-thon. In some instances, a friend may be venting some of their own anger while comiserating with their friend. This is not productive for either party.
"He is a low-down, cheating, jerk and you are better off without him." "She was a controlling, b*tch who always held you back." "He isn't fit to live." "She was a pathetic excuse for a wife."
And on and on and on.
But is it helpful to engage in this kind of bashing? Does it make the other person or injured party feel better? Maybe in the short term, but I think it is very sad and a bit pointless to engage in this sort of speculation. The only people who really and truly know what has happened in a relationship are those two people.
Even they have differing views and concepts of what has happened, so how is it that outsiders who have perhaps only glimpsed snippets of the couple's interaction and no one can fully understand the entire relationship dynamic. Certainly there are situations where people can speculate, but that hardly seems relevant or productive.
Let's use current events to draw from as an example. A famous married actor and politician has a child with the housekeeper and keeps it a secret from his wife and children for over a decade. Everyone has an opinion and the outrage is understandable. Of course we all feel decieved, lied to and disappointed that someone we may have admired would act in such a manner.
Suddenly, women everywhere feel entitled to bash this man and call him every name in the book. If they ever had a boyfriend or spouse betray them, they dredge it up and drag out all the dirty laundry. "All men are liars, cheats, jerks!" Perhaps it brings back the feelings of hurt and disappointment in their own lives; then when it happens to their best friend, they feel it is showing support for her to trash and bash her husband for being the same kind of jerk! But does it really help?
Does any woman feel better from hearing her friends put down the man she once loved? And even if it does make her feel better in the moment, is it productive or of any value? I can't imagine how it could make anyone feel better. If anything, it would make me feel worse.
Human nature is complicated. I believe we make it so much worse when we attempt to cast judgement on people in situations which don't involve us. We all make serious mistakes we wish we could change. No one is completely free of fault or poor choices. Of course we are entitled to opinions and feelings.
Naturally it is important to sympathize with someone who has been hurt or disappointed. There are ways to comfort, counsel and empathize without becoming hostile or caustic in reactions or words.
Perhaps a more constructive way of showing empathy and support is to point out that you can love a person but still be very disappointed and furious with their actions. Love the sinner, hate the sin is a very wise saying. It reminds us that while we may absolutely abhor a person's actions, we shouldn't lose sight of their humanity or fallibility.
No one likes to hear of a marriage or relationship breaking up- especially if one party has hurt or abused the other one in an extreme or public manner. But really, is it anyone else's business or right to insert their opinions into the fray? What good comes from saying nasty things about the person's errant spouse? What does it prove?
If negative, bitter talk provides any insight or clarity, I'll eat my hat. All it really does is stir the proverbial pot of anger, resentment, bitterness and perpetuate the belief that men are dogs, women are cats or whatever cliche you choose. Isn't it better to give both people some dignity and spare all the banal accusations and comments?
Next time a friend has a problem with their spouse or significant other, take time to listen, be compassionate and make positive suggestions. Don't sink down to the level of bashing or baiting. Keep your own anger and feelings of hurt to yourself and remind yourself that we all have our own weaknesses and issues to contend with.
When a relationship ends, no matter how "bad" one party behaved or what the circumstances were that ended it, there is loss for both parties. Give it the dignity it deserves. It takes a great deal more maturity and composure to keep positive and stay on the high road. Dipping into the gutter only makes you dirty.