When I was growing up, it was not uncommon to hear the women in my family call their husbands less than desirable names. Whether it was over a misplayed card in Bid Whist or for not taking out the garbage, hearing, “Old Black Dog” or “Imbecile” was typical repartee. I always felt sorry for the men because they were forced to suck up this degrading treatment because they were gentlemen and they respected their women. Noble, for sure, but extremely unfair.  

One of my sister-friends was in an extended argument with her longtime, live-in boyfriend. She’d discovered he’d been dishonest about some of his past dealings with his ex-girlfriend and his professional achievements. She’d found an e-mail from one of his friends discussing the issues and became instantly furious. He was due home from a business trip and so she had hours to brew.  

By the time he got home, she was at full steam and tore into him about the message and his apparent dishonesty. He didn’t immediately admit to it, which made her even angrier. She explained to me all of the things she said to him until he finally confessed. He apologized profusely and even sobbed over it, begging for her to forgive him.

About a week later, we were on the phone talking and she was explaining that she was still hurt by the incident, but knew she would eventually get over it. “In the grand scheme of things, he’s a great guy. But, I’m going to make him suffer,” she proclaimed. She then went on to recount all of the expletive filled rants she had towards him. She basically had called him everything but a child of God.

“I know you’re mad, but you might want to pull back on the name calling,” I cautioned. Sticks and stones may break your bones, but words last in your spirit forever. Although her boyfriend was taking the abuse like a man, because he was in the wrong, those names were undoubtedly stinging him in a way that could be irreparable. I encouraged her to express her anger differently — without calling him names.

She snapped back, “I don’t care what you say, it helps me get my point across. At least I didn’t punch him like I wanted to.” I knew she couldn’t see passed her anger to hear my point so I tried to make it clearer. “So, you’re saying the man you’ve spent the last 8 years with is a [expletive]? That must mean you’re attracted to [expletive] and the father of your child is a [expletive],” I questioned her.

I went on to explain how I had seen over the years men emasculated by women via name-calling. Thankfully, the guys that are subject to the abuse tend to be gentlemen and adhere to the double standard that women enjoy in a relationship with a gentlemen. Quite frankly, the jerks out there wouldn’t put up with being called names and hit – they’d retaliate. Now, I’m in no way justifying a man disrespecting a woman in any way, but I also don’t think women should disrespect the men in their lives either.

I went on to explain that in my relationships, I have a no name-calling rule. Even in joking, you can’t call me outside of my name. Just thinking back to the mean days of high school when everyone was name calling, it was hurtful and many of those incidents stick with us to this day. So imagine what those words are doing to your man, his ego and ultimately your relationship.

I told my sister-friend, “You’re intelligent enough to think of a non-abusive way to express your disappointment and loss of trust with him without running the risk of causing permanent damage to your relationship.” After an hour, she was able to see through her anger and hear what I was saying. “You’re right, I have been brutal. I mean, he deserved it. But, I can let up on the nasty names and just express my point,” she conceded.

She actually did take my advice and began to express her feelings in a more civilized manner. She discovered that she got further with him than when she had been irate. Usually when we’re angry and expressing ourselves through anger the other person doesn’t even hear us. We all have a protective mechanism that kicks-in when we’re being attacked and can’t fight back. Although she’d been screaming at the top of her lungs, her boyfriend hadn’t heard a word. At least now, he was listening and they could begin to fix what was broken.

I truly believe that I learned everything I needed to know in Kindergarten. One of those things is, “Don’t hit people!” Words hit and hurt much harder than a punch. We need to be careful what we say and what we call our lovers because those words may have a lasting impact on your relationship. And, you might find your partner saying, “Stop calling me out my name!”

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