Ball and Chain
A 20th-century slang term meaning wife.
Words matter. Happy words make us feel happy, sad words make us feel sad.
When I was a child, my dream was to live the life of a character in one of any of my favorite stories. Those stories all had a common theme. The protagonist had found a one-of-a-kind person to spend the rest of their life with. To explore with, to conquer dragons with, to dream with, to grow old with.
I loved those stories. That is what I wanted. That became my dream.
I was always curious about the dynamics of couples when I was younger. If I was going to grow up to be one of the characters in those stories, I was going to have to learn how to have a partner. My mother and father always seemed ill-fitted as a couple. I only remember my mother and father kissing once in the 12 years they were married. It always made me curious when I was younger that there wasn’t more kissing or holding hands. There seemed to be laughter, but it was mostly around picking on each other. It seemed sarcasm was a reliable communication method for my parents. There were very few occasions of loving phrases and words. I have distant memories of hearing phrases like “ball and chain” and then hearing laughter. I guess I thought it was kind of a term of endearment. As I grew older, I recognized that my parents were not the best model of what I was looking for, so I just chalked all the observations up as “what not to look for”, and left it at that.
Many years later, I was at work with a colleague and asked them if they would be interested in getting some dinner while I was in town. Their response was “let me see if I can get a hall pass.” On another occasion, a person actually referred to his wife of 15 years as “the old ball and chain”. Both times, I remember inwardly wincing. Those phrases didn’t radiate love, to me they radiated unhappiness. I asked one of the persons about the phrasing and they said, “oh, well, I just meant it to be funny.”
The idioms “ball and chain”, “hall pass”, “wears the pants”, “cat’s away”, “the missus” are all somewhat telling. My experience is that they are used much more by men. Each of these idioms has a negative connotation. If the person who was being spoken of was asked to give their input, I wonder how many of them would say that the words are funny.
I consider myself very fortunate to have found a partner in life whom I truly enjoy being around. My partner is my best friend, my lover, my teacher and so much more. We both love to laugh but not at each other’s expense. Sometimes there is discourse or disagreement. Of course there is, we are human’s and that is the only way we grow. However, when that does happen, I will not disrespect my partner. Since I didn’t have any great models for relationship dynamics, it is very important for me to be a model for my children. One paramount lesson for my children to remember is that you should never say anything about a person that you wouldn’t say to their face.
Words have such power, and my wish for those people in relationships is that they would always speak of their partners in the most amazing, flowing prose possible. If speaking like that is too hard, write a love note on a sticky pad, and leave it for them on the mirror.
When we start out in any relationship, there is rarely sarcasm or negativity. There are terms of love and of promise. As people get to know each other, they seem to fall into a pattern of forgetting to use those same loving words. I wonder what the divorce rate in the world would be if we all remembered that the partner standing beside us likes to be referred to in a loving manner, and not as a “ball and chain”.
This post is republished on Medium.
Improve your writing, expand your reach, and monetize your craft.
We welcome all experience levels.
Photo credit: Shutterstock