“I love profanity, but I think if it’s used too much, it just sounds a little trashy. I think it’s more effective when it’s dropped intelligently. I like intelligent profanity.” – Katie Aselton, director
“…I’m being abused in my marriage!”
Geoffrey was a big man with a deep, dark complexion that emphasized his 5 o’clock shadow. I never asked him about his ancestral heritage but suspected it was either First Nations or perhaps, Mid-Eastern. He was one of those people who looked uncomfortable in his own body, moving awkwardly and with a hesitancy. But, he had a warm manner and gentle voice that seemed to neutralize any caution you felt about his size, like when you meet a stranger with a stern face on the street and they suddenly give you a friendly smile.
Geoffrey went by his full name and expressed no interest in the shortened, more efficient version. But, he did it in the softest way with an almost apologetic response to my inquiry, “Ken, I actually prefer Geoffrey…I think it sounds stronger and more assertive!”
When I asked him how I might serve him he replied, “I think I’m being abused in my marriage!”
Then he added for clarification, “Emotionally, I mean!”
“I’m not against profanity. It’s an important part of the language when used properly.” – Robert Klein, comedian
“… she walks right over me like I’m her door mat.”
“Tell me about your marriage, Geoffrey!”
“Well, Georgina and I have been together almost six years and we have a three year old daughter, Glenda and five year old son, Grant. I love my wife and we have supportive families on both sides. But, Georgina is a very strong woman with a mind of her own. And, Ken, I knew that going into our marriage,” he said as if to remind you he wasn’t naive just something else he couldn’t identify.
“It sounds like there is a ‘but’, Geoffrey. Tell me about that!” I said.
“But, sometimes, I feel she walks right over me like I’m her door mat. And, it seems to be getting worse lately and it’s bothering me more.” he replied, his hurt and frustration emphasized in how he avoided eye contact, instead looking down and from side to side.
“Would you give me an example Geoffrey so I can get a sense of your situation?”
“… and do it herself, pushing me aside.”
He thought for a moment, staring way up to his left to access the memories he needed to present his perspective.
“Just the other day, I think it was Tuesday after supper was over and it was my turn to get the kids ready for bed. I was drying the kids after their shower,…they love the shower…they call it playing in the rain,” he said smiling at the thought of his children’s perspective.
Then he continued, “Anyway, Georgina came into the bathroom ranting about something that had happened at her work with a colleague. Then, she proceeded to tell me I had not washed their hair with the right shampoo, had not selected the right pyjamas for them and was not drying them properly. She then proceeded to take over the situation and do it herself, pushing me aside. And, what I remember most clearly was the confused look on the kids’ faces!”
“What did you do at that moment and how often does this happen in your relationship, Geoffrey?” I asked, looking for a pattern.
“I just skulked away, hoping to not upset the kids and to minimize conflict with her!” he replied.
“Did it work?” I asked him.
“Sort of!” he said in an off handed, awkward manner.
“How ‘sort of,’ Geoffrey?” I asked.
“Well, the kids didn’t get upset and she was able put them to bed. And, I just let it go and didn’t mention it later when she came down stairs. It wasn’t worth fighting over!” he said, knowing he was lying to himself and to me, at the same moment while he avoided my eyes, yet again.
“But behaviour in the human being is sometimes a defence, a way of concealing motives and thoughts, as language can be a way of hiding your thoughts and preventing communication.” – Abraham Maslow, psychologist
“I can’t use that kind of language…”
“How often do these kind of events occur?” I asked him.
“Ken, that wasn’t even a really bad one! One time, about a month ago, she jumped at me about something and got into name calling and profanities I couldn’t even repeat. What she said still haunts me!“
“What did she call you, Geoffrey?”
“I can’t use that kind of language, Ken! I just won’t lower myself to that level! It’s just disgusting and profane!” he replied, clearly uncomfortable with some language his partner found comfort in.
“Let’s talk about language and profanity, Geoffrey. You seem hesitant to express yourself as strongly as you wish at times. It sounds like you have been seeing profanity as only a bad thing. Is that true?” I asked.
“Well, it’s certainly disrespectful and offensive to me, Ken!” he replied with indignation.
“No matter how I do this, my best songs have profanity in them.” – Liz Phair, musician
“…to say and spell in the language of my Irish ancestors…”
“Let me offer you another perspective with a little story. Two years ago I was doing a workshop for about forty therapists from around the globe at a conference in Toronto. As I was waiting for them to arrive in the room I asked those already present if they would write down the two most powerful words in any language. When everyone had arrived, I collected their opinions.
I received suggestions including: forgive me; love me; shut up, go away, come here, help me, and several others. I told them that their suggestions had not been my findings. I had noticed another two words which I was going to say and spell in the language of my Irish ancestors, so as to minimize the shock to them when they heard them.
They looked at me like I had gone off the deep end and they had picked the wrong workshop. Then, I simultaneously said, and wrote on the flip chart beside me, the two most powerful words in any language, ‘FECK OFF!’
“… fear of saying ‘FECK OFF!’ was a huge handicap…”
I went on to explain how beneath these two words was another word, ‘NO!’ And, then I suggested under this word were two more, even more important,words, ‘ME FIRST!’
I elaborated with examples of various clients who struggled with self esteem, and of course, self confidence, because they avoided putting their own welfare first, avoiding saying “NO!” to specific people who were disregarding them. So, their fear of saying ‘FECK OFF!’ was a huge handicap to their life, and especially, their relationships.
Geoffrey was quiet for a few minutes while he processed my story.
Then, he said, “If truth be told, there have been many times when I felt like saying that, or something like that, to Georgina. But, I didn’t, Ken!”
“Geoffrey, you may be too young to remember, but many years ago, Simon and Garfunkel had a hit song entitled, 50 Ways to Leave your Lover. There must be at least 50 ways to say ‘No!’ or to say, ‘Me First!’ besides using ‘Feck Off!’ It just requires us to use our imagination. But to do so is vital to have a healthy relationship with anyone, regardless of who it may be.”
“Under certain circumstances, urgent circumstances, desperate circumstances, profanity provides a relief denied even to prayer.”
– Mark Twain, author
“Nature sends us the same lesson in different forms until we learn…”
“Do you mean I need to be willing to fight for my own self even with my wife?”
“Not just your wife, also your children, parents, siblings, friends, cops, lawyers, everyone Geoffrey!”
“But, I thought she should respect me because she’s my partner!” he said, confused.
“My best guess is she thinks she does respect you! But she is using her values and experiences as her reference point, not your values and experiences. You will need to help her understand what respect means to you…what forms it needs to take for you to feel respected!” I said.
Then I added, “I’m wondering who you perceive disrespected you in the past Geoffrey?”
“Why would you ask that, Ken?”
“Nature sends us the same lesson in different forms until we learn the perfection of it in our lives. So, I would bet there was someone very significant to you in your past who disrespected you, in some similar manner. Is that true?”
Shock and surprise spread across his face.
“Do you know who she sounds like, who she reminds me of, and who I also put up with throughout my childhood?” he asked, the anger in his face rising like bile in his throat.
“…made you strong enough and wise enough to get to be here today…”
“Who was that, Geoffrey?”
“My grandmother! She lived with us when I was a child. She was a tyrant, a bully and a grouch. You never knew when she would explode. And, when she did…watch out!”
“How did you cope with those situations?”
“I learned to keep my head down and my mouth shut. It was the only safe thing to do!”
“It sounds like you still carry confusion about being bullied by your grandmother and how it impacts on your life. Once you clean that up you will be in a better position to deal with Georgina. Are you interested in doing that work, Geoffrey?” I asked.
“How would digging into my relationship with my grandmother help me with Georgina? I don’t see the connection, Ken.”
“It sounds like you perceive you were bullied by her, and at times wanted to tell her to ‘Feck Off’ as well. Is that true?”
“For sure! I wouldn’t even cry at her funeral I was still so mad at her! And that was only about three years ago.”
“Yet, Geoffrey, you are a person with a family, career, friends and other measures of a successful life. So, however you dealt with your grandmother made you strong enough and wise enough to get to be here today…so that relationship has been useful to you.” I offered.
“ I suppose that must be true in some way, but I certainly don’t see it.” he said.
“That’s my job! To help you understand how it was useful. When you do, it will free you from that past relationship and enable you to deal with your present one with Georgina, so you can continue with your future. Are you ready to start?”
“Lead on, Ken!”
“…so they can learn they have a right to be who they are…”
Geoffrey did the work he needed and discovered his grandmother was instrumental in helping him learn not just how to protect himself, but also, how respectful relationships work and when to assert himself. Then, he went on to connect these abilities to his work as a police officer.
Once he broadened his perceptions of his grandmother using the Demartini Method™, he went on to include his perceptions of himself and his wife. Then, he was ready to tell Georgina to ‘Feck Off’ …but not with those words. Instead, as he described it to me later, he used the word underneath, the ‘No!’ word.
One incident he mentioned was when Georgina tried, yet again, to push him out of an interaction regarding his children’s care, which she felt he was screwing up. It involved taking his son for a haircut.
Georgina tried to tell him which barber, which style, how much he should be charged, and so on. Geoffrey reported he raised his hand about six inches from his own face and said to her, “No, Georgina! Those are my decisions in consultation with Grant. Leave us to it and get on with your day!” And, he walked away with their son.
Geoffrey reported this was the start of a new kind of relationship with his wife. A new kind of respect. He said things have progressed well since then with only an occasional glitch. He seemed pleased with his evolution and his relationship with Georgina.
One of the last things I remember him saying was, “I have a new respect for the F-word and its value to people so they can learn they have a right to be who they are…regardless of what other’s may think!”
“I’m a firm believer that language and how we use language determines how we act, and how we act then determines our lives and other people’s lives.”
– Ntozake Shange, playwright
Until Next time…
Now you know, your use of language has an important role to play in your relationships and your evolution. Be fearless and yet respectful in your relationship language so you can optimize your own evolution and that of those around you!
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Namaste, (I salute the grandly organized design of the universe, manifested in you!)
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