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!
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.
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