Rat­tled mate wants boyfriend to tone down pro­fan­ity-laden rants about pol­i­tics

The Washington Post Sunday - - DIVERSIONS - Carolyn Hax

Hi, Carolyn: I’m not an eas­ily of­fended prude, but I re­cently asked my sig­nif­i­cant other if he could tone down the curs­ing at home. I told him that I know it’s not di­rected at me but that his nightly pro­fan­ity-fu­eled rants about pol­i­tics, fol­lowed by the crude “com­edy” he watches for en­ter­tain­ment, are mak­ing me feel like I’m un­der at­tack.

I field phone calls from an­gry peo­ple at work and would like to come home to a more peace­ful space. I told him I wasn’t of­fended by the words, but rather the con­stant stream of ver­bal hos­til­ity, and I wanted a break.

His re­sponse has been to re­treat to rooms I’m not in and not say more than a few words to me in sev­eral days. Not quite the silent treat­ment, but close. Any thoughts on this?

Not Ask­ing for a Swear Jar!

Not Ask­ing for a Swear Jar!: You go back to him and say you meant a break from neg­a­tiv­ity, not a break from him.

Skip the sub­or­di­nate is­sues of curs­ing and TV and prud­ish­ness and fo­cus on your point. You come home from work rat­tled. You’re ask­ing for help.

This ac­tu­ally has very lit­tle to do with pro­fan­ity; some­thing can be pro­fane or crude and still fun­da­men­tally life-af­firm­ing. You’re talk­ing about anger — an­gry call­ers, an­gry pol­i­tics, an­gry en­ter­tain­ment, and now iron­i­cally an an­gry part­ner.

So speak only to that anger. Note how it’s spilling out into pub­lic dis­course right now and how he’s as much its vic­tim as you are. Your dif­fer­ent ways of man­ag­ing it are just out of sync, and that’s what you’re hop­ing to fix.

Have sug­ges­tions ready. Think of ways you used to spend time to­gether, hob­bies or in­ter­ests you’ve shared, or new things you’d like to try. Look for a new show with a lit­tle some­thing for you both, and in­vite him to watch it with you.

In the mean­time, don’t shut him down en­tirely, and lose the air-quotes around “com­edy.” Let him watch his show in an­other room for a bit while you de­com­press. Let him rant some be­fore you gen­tly say “enough.” If you ac­knowl­edge he’s as en­ti­tled to his way as you are to yours, then you’re more likely to find that wel­com­ing spot in be­tween.

Should he choose to hang on to his anger, though, re­mem­ber, you don’t have to hang on to him. Dear Carolyn: My only child mar­ried an only child. They used to talk about “when we have kids.” Now they’ve de­cided they’re not hav­ing kids (both mid-30s and, no, they are not try­ing). It’s hurt­ful be­cause I’ll never be a grand­par­ent and very con­cern­ing be­cause when all their par­ents are gone, they won’t have any fam­ily. The hus­band used to say he wanted to be a fa­ther, so it seems he’s just come around to the wife’s think­ing — that is con­cern­ing as well. There could even­tu­ally be re­sent­ment. Fam­ily gets more im­por­tant as you get older.

I don’t say much, but I have said to my child that when they get older, there will be no fam­ily to spend hol­i­days with, there will be no one to help them . . . . I think they think life will al­ways be as it is right now.

So, what words do you have for me, and, though cer­tainly they will do what they want, how do I let them know that life and think­ing change?

Weigh­ing on My Mind

Weigh­ing on My Mind: The first words I have are to urge you not to have words for your child. It’s not your de­ci­sion to make. It’s not your re­sent­ment to pre­dict. It’s not your some­day hol­i­day to pop­u­late. It’s not your think­ing to change.

You’ve al­ready said your piece. Just be­cause it didn’t per­suade them to re­pro­duce af­ter all doesn’t mean you get to keep lob­by­ing them till they crack. What it does mean is this: If it didn’t oc­cur to them that they might be alone when they’re old, they know it now — and still they’re mak­ing this choice. All the more rea­son to back off.

Here are a few more, if it helps: Peo­ple with lots of kids end up alone some­times, too, just as peo­ple with­out them can live and die amid tightknit cir­cles of friends.

Life and think­ing don’t just change in one uni­form way.

Peo­ple who as­sume they want kids some­times re­al­ize they don’t.

Peo­ple who de­fer to a spouse, even on life-chang­ing things, don’t al­ways come to re­sent it.

And fam­ily some­times gets less im­por­tant as you get older, par­tic­u­larly when child­hood prox­im­ity is all you still share.

I don’t say th­ese just to dis­cour­age you from med­dling, but also to en­cour­age flex­i­ble think­ing — once you’ve mourned the old mind-set, of course. You wanted a grand­child; this is heart­break­ing news you just got.

But there are other, pro­found con­nec­tions to be made when you’re ready to make them. Through proper chan­nels, of course, other kids need hold­ing, mind­ing, tu­tor­ing, men­tor­ing, some­times res­cu­ing. “Grand­par­ent” is a sa­cred role, but the vil­lage needs vil­lagers, too.

Write to Carolyn Hax at tellme@wash­post.com. Get her col­umn de­liv­ered to your in­box each morn­ing at wapo.st/hax­post.

Join the dis­cus­sion live at noon Fri­days at wash­ing­ton­post.com/ con­ver­sa­tions.


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