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Fighting Fair: The Power of Words

In my previous post, titled “Do You Need a Timeout?”, I suggested that even adults need to put themselves into a quiet place away from their partner when an argument turns into yelling. During an argument, the body goes into fight-flight-or freeze mode causing even the most rational adult to act and say hurtful things. A timeout is not a punishment, rather it is a break to gather your thoughts, calm down, as well as an opportunity to look at the problem in a whole new way.

In this post, titled “Fighting Fair: The Power of Words”, we look into how name-calling can have a direct impact on a person’s self-esteem and can have lasting negative effects.

We’ve all heard the rhyme, “Sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me.” As much as I wish that is true, it’s not. Name-calling creates serious consequences, both in the short term and later in life. For example, it can lead to self-harm acts like suicide attempts or cutting, it creates social anxieties and emotional problems along with long-term damage to self-esteem.

Name-calling is not ok. Period. It doesn’t matter if the person is 8 or 68. Name-calling is aggression, whether it is intended to establish dominance over another person, or an attempt to inflict emotional pain. Name-calling should never be allowed in arguments.

Most couples disagree. In fact, it’s normal. I had a couple tell me one time, “Brent, my wife and I never argue.” I asked the wife if that was true. She didn’t respond. She just smiled a fake smile that said volumes. I found out from her later that she was too scared in her marriage to disagree. He was the bully, whether he intended it or not, and we worked hard together helping him through his own abusive past and insecurities.

Disagreeing is normal and is a sign of a healthy marriage. Why? Because it means that each person is not afraid to stand up for what they believe in. BUT, if the disagreement involves name-calling, that is usually a sign of someone feeling unheard, angry, and insecure. So what do you?

If this happens, stop the disagreement immediately and invoke the time-out rule. The adrenal chemicals are overflowing and it’s time to take a break. When you and your partner come back together, apologize for the name-calling and reaffirm your commitment to solving the problem that created the argument. If the problem is a reoccurring one, or you need some outside perspective, consider marriage counseling. Marriage counseling can help you see the problem more clearly and help you create solutions.

In my next post, we’ll explore another toxic thing that often happens while arguing, which is bringing up the past.

Be blessed and stay safe.

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