A separated woman recalls teasing and insulting her husband in front of others.
Reading Gint Aras’ The Butt of the Marriage Joke, about wives who make fun of husbands online, got me thinking and remembering. Posting tasteless memes seemed like child’s play compared to what I used to unleash on my partner.
I am a separated 32 year old woman. I used to bash my partner verbally, in his presence and with an audience. I was the purveyor of silly jokes about men and husbands, thinly veiled attacks directed at him. I would call him an idiot, incapable, clumsy, forgetful, ungrateful, you name it.
On some level, I sincerely believed I was funny.
I started doing it with high school boyfriends. People would laugh. For a teenager, it was a great defense mechanism to hide her fears and inadequacies, and when people laughed (sometimes uncomfortably) I felt better.
Perhaps it was fine for a child to do this. But I grew up to become a mommy and a spouse. I never really moved over to think of myself as a partner, a member of a couple. I brought all my ammunition with me and used it. A lot. It was me against the world and against him.
We didn’t communicate well in private or public, and I used the audience to attack him at almost any chance. The most ironic thing is that I was studying Communication Science and knew better. I was getting out of hand. He tried to talk to me about it, and my sisters asked me to tone it down but I just could not be bothered. I really didn’t care.
I recently asked him how he would feel when I used to go at him like that. He said, “I’d feel fury and frustration.”
Of course, these were the same emotions that used to overwhelm me as well. I never fully realized, until I wrote it out for myself, how angry, frustrated and helpless I felt during the early years. I felt voiceless in my situation and blamed him. Looking back, I realized I had agreed to get married when I didn’t want to. But I couldn’t face that. Had I faced it, I’d have been forced to do something about the situation. We had a baby and were living together, so there was no way out. I felt trapped and scared, and I lashed out. It wasn’t just the verbal assaults, but my mood would swing and I’d withdraw emotionally.
I wish I had been truthful with myself earlier and had the guts to confront my situation and make a mature decision instead of cowering away. I look at wives who pick their husbands to pieces. I wonder how happy they are and what they are hiding. It’s true that people have different ways of communicating. I still wonder at the end of the day what point is being proved. If I had truly loved my partner, I would never have picked on him this way, in jest or otherwise.
Humour is supposed to be funny. Sure, we have a sick part in us that will laugh at wigs flying off in the wind; in my culture, we have tribal jokes thrown around. In American and British culture, stand-up comedians peddle racist, sexist and elitist jokes—sometimes satirically, sometimes not—and we consume them because we all have similar secret feelings. Deep down we know it’s just not decent or polite. These are expressions of our self-consciousness.
At the end of the day, too much damage is done under the guise of “humour” in interpersonal relationships. I look at the harm I have done over the years and it pains me. But I have learned my lesson.
This article is a response to the Marriage Section’s Call For Anoymous Submissions.
Photo by Patrick Doheny