I have had the displeasure of talking with a few women who believe that maltreatment by their men somehow equates with care and love. When I say maltreatment, it ranged from physical abuse to verbal disparaging. While someone who is physically being hurt is an obvious no – no, there seem to be a better acceptance of others making nasty verbal criticism towards someone else. Many women are very familiar with this; on the other hand, men who experience verbal abuse are less likely to fess up to such occurrences in their relationships. The reference to a human punching bag, for the purpose of this blog, means any sort of maltreatment that ranges from physical contact to saying unkind words deliberately in front of or behind a person’s back.
Manipulation, lying, face to face put down, behind the back put down, malicious criticism, name calling (being serious or in jest), threats, shoves, intimidation, physical contact are all things that many people seem to endure all in the name of love. During a conversation, someone relayed a story about an older family member couple in which the ‘man was the kindest and sweetest person’ who runs to the beck and call of his spouse who is very dependent on him and consistently (throughout the many years of their marriage) treats him very poorly and “never says a kind word.” There is a hint of pity for this older gentleman who chose to do the right thing and honor his marriage for all these years; however, in my mind, this gentleman made a choice to honor a relationship that has slowly poisoned his soul.
After that story, I could not help but reflect on a coworker who recently celebrated her 3 year marriage to another ‘nice and patient man who loves her;’ however, she too is unknowingly walking in the footsteps of that old cantankerous woman who has taken advantage of a ‘good man’ and misused him because he stayed in the name of … love? duty? desperation? I was taught and learn very quickly that saying mean things even in jest towards a person whom one claims to love is a very hurtful thing. I also learn that when such behaviors begin, unless you stop it, then it will continue and escalate.
The irony is that the 30 something coworker who celebrated 3yrs of marriage claims she loves her husband despite the things she expresses. “Dumb ass,” “pussy” are not words that I would find listed in 1 Corinthians 13 or any how-to-have-a-good-marriage guide. Yet, people who consistently or inconsistently put down their significant other will boldly claim their undying love while not realizing that the two are an oxymoron. The sad part of all this is that the spouses either take it quietly, brush things off, or they do not forcefully express that these behaviors are unacceptable.
One hard and fast rule of behavior is YOU TEACH OTHERS HOW TO TREAT YOU. The problem with being constantly or occasionally punched is that it leave bruises and scars that do not emotionally and psychologically go away. The person being punched do not readily see these long lasting bruises and scars because over time they become a part of him/her. It becomes acceptable and normal. It becomes “that’s just how Jane/John is.” The things we say to ourselves and to others (and allow others to do or say to us) do not just materialize from the ether. It comes from a complex cycle of how we think and feel about ourselves and others – usually the self talk is not very positive.
They say love makes us do strange things. I would vehemently disagree with this statement. Love has nothing to do with our behaviors. Human beings are inherently selfish and we do things according to what we want to get out of a situation – good or otherwise. While the idea or feeling of love can be a motivating factor, it does not control behaviors. We love someone else because we want a return of that love. We do nice things for others because it also makes us feel good and there is a hope that someone else will do something nice for us when we need it. The look of love is very different for everyone – it can be beautiful and it can be dysfunctional.
Being a human punching bag is an elective behavior. When the first punch is thrown, then it is the time when ‘NO’ should be employed as a protection strategy. I cannot reiterate that each person sets the tone for how he/she will be treated by others. The first put down, name calling, or malicious word should be the first and the last time. Love has nothing to do with being mistreated – actually that is more in align with hate. Bad behavior is hate coming from the person doing the hurting and ultimately a hate/dislike for one’s self for accepting the hurt. Just imagine for that 30 something coworker, it is as easy to call her husband wonderful as it is to call him dumb ass. It is easy to say thank you as it is to call ‘your love’ useless. Kind words are easy; however, they also have to come from the heart. It is a mistake to believe that being a human punching bag for anyone is any evidence of true love.
I like my 30 something coworker and I would agree that her husband is one of those nice guys. He does not stand up for himself and I can not help but quietly cringe at some of her words. Sometimes, I make it a point to nicely say to her that she should not be mean or she should say something nice to him. I doubt my words have any effect because the person who should be saying those things is the man who loves her. Until he realizes that her ‘joking’ is actually disrespectful and damaging, this couple may fall into the same pattern of the that older couple with the nice guy and cantankerous wife.
I do pray for a different outcome for them. I like the couple and they seem good together. The prevailing knowledge is that to have a good functioning marriage, it takes work and a kind word can go a long way in strengthening a relationship. I hope they both realize that before the damage become permanent.