Today, I went to lunch with a man about my same age that told me that he thinks his wife wants to divorce him. He said it sort of jokingly, but as we talked further, I could tell that he was sort of serious and a bit worried. So instead of just laughing it off, I asked him why he thinks his wife would want to divorce him. He said quickly and simply… “It’s because I’m mean.”
This surprised me because I’ve never seen this guy treat anyone poorly. In every single situation I’ve observed him in, he’s always been nice, kind, and giving. I’ve been around him a lot… so I feel like I’ve had enough interactions to know how he treats people. “Mean”… is not how I’d describe him.
When he said that he was sometimes mean to his wife, I told him I was shocked because I had never seen him be mean to anybody. He replied, “We always seem to treat those that we’re closest to worse than everybody else.” This man went on to explain some of the situations in which he’s allowed himself to get upset at weird petty things and say words that he would never say to a stranger, a business associate, or an acquaintance. He told me that he loves his wife. That he wants to be with her. And that he wants to make her happy. So what gives?
Why is it in life that we tend to treat those we love the most… the worst. Why do we say things… mean things, to those we’re close to that we would never say to someone at work, at church, or in the world. We might say and do things that are inconsiderate, unthoughtful or even mean to a wife, a husband, a mother or father, a brother or sister, or a good friend… that we would never consider doing to a transient acquaintance. Why…and where’s the logic?
You’re Taking The Closeness Of A Relationship For Granted
Sadly, when people feel like they’ve got a monopoly on a relationship, they tend to take that relationship for granted. It’s almost like the closer one gets to a person, and the more trust that has been established, the more a person feels like they are able to push the limits of that relationship. They take license to do things that would never be done to others whom they don’t even know or care about.
For instance, a man will generally bend over backward for a girl that he’s dating. He’ll say nice things, do nice things, and put in the effort to show her that he’s madly in love with her. He would never dream of yelling at her, giving a biting remark, or being overly critical of who she is and what she does. The man knows that if he were to act this way, that this pretty little girl would up-and-leave him in a heartbeat. His humility and insecurity in their relationship keeps his carnal negativity in check. So naturally this woman falls in love with this kind and loving man. A year or two into their marriage, the man’s tongue gets a little more unruly in vocalizing his negativity. A few more years go by and the man might take more liberty in vocalizing his disdain because he figures… well… he’s pretty much got this relationship locked up. He figures he can say what he wants or act how he’d like and there’s a very slim probability that his wife will make any life altering decisions. All of this, by the way, can and does take place in the opposite direction… from the woman to the man… and in many cases is happening in equal measure on both sides.
The person you love most is taking the brunt of your bad moods, your rants, and your attitude. When you take those you love for granted, you are living a life in which your most important priorities are out of whack.
Another major problem is when…
You Leverage Your Intimate Knowledge Of Them For Maximum Hurt
We have a natural tendency to use the knowledge that we’ve gained by our intimate association against a person whom we love. We use that knowledge to cut them down and gain an edge over them in an argument or disagreement. Many of us will cut someone down as far as we can based on the knowledge that we have of that person’s past weaknesses. It’s a human, carnal instinct to take advantage of the weapons at your disposal in order to protect your own turf. And really… many times that’s exactly what it comes down to. You, trying to protect and defend who you are, or your point of view, and you can’t help but use everything in your arsenal to discredit the other person and “put them in their place.” You know just the thing to say that will push their buttons, demolish their feelings, or leave them feeling worthless. We know just how to get under their skin and we know just how to say it in a way that is calculated to inflict the most pain. And all of this is because we have known and loved that person more than anyone else we’ve associated with in life.
The Apocrypha states that “The stroke of the whip maketh marks in the flesh; but the stroke of the tongue breaketh the bones.” (Ecclesiasticus 28:17) And according to James… the tongue is a fire, that no man can tame. Except you. You can tame your own tongue. And in doing so, your loved ones will be inclined to tame their tongues as well.
It’s dangerous ground to treat those you love the most… the worst. Prolonged bad treatment of a loved one could eventually take it’s toll and cause your greatest advocate in life to become allergic to your presence. Then what?
Dispair? Regret? Pain? Fallout?
I hope the man I went to lunch with finds a way to treat his wife much, much better than he treats me. Because if he treats her the way he treats me… then he’ll have no problem at home. And I hope that I’m never guilty of treating one of my loved ones in a way that will diminish the bond of love that has taken years to establish. My wife, my son and daughter, my mom and dad, my sister, and my closest friends… please make sure that you expect the best from me. Because you are worth it.