Fighting with people you love: are you mean?

I am always stunned and confused by the way some…many…most???.. people conduct themselves when they are fighting with people they love, starting at the top with partners, of course. The incredibly cruel, vicious, cutting, nasty…just fucking horrible shit people can and do say to each other when they are angry. The kind of things that for ME would be death blows to the relationship.

I know that everyone can be pushed to a place where they just mindlessly lash out, I’m not really talking about that ONE time you went someplace unimaginable. I’m talking about people who pretty routinely engage in personal conflict by just shifting into being as mean and hurtful as they can be. By abandoning any pretense of fighting over whatever the fuck you started fighting over and turn it into a contest of who can hurt who more. This is amazingly common, and I don’t relate to it at all. I can’t call up an understanding of what that feels like and why people choose that, because it seems incredibly clear to me that it gets you absolutely nothing worth having. (I don’t consider hurting someone I love, even if I’m incredibly frustrated or angry with them, something I ever desire. Hurting them doesn’t change whatever it is I’m angry or unhappy about, it just piles on more conflict, rage, pain, frustration… it’s the biggest lose-lose there is.

I was going to make a poll, but fuck that, it’s too shallow. I really want to understand this. Particularly from people who are all grown up, who’ve had enough time on this earth to fully get that spewing hatefulness in anger is a shit strategy for increasing peace, love and understanding, but you just keep doing it anyway.

Help me enlarge my understanding of the human condition, please.

I think a lot of it is learned behavior, the way we watched our role models treat each other. The rest is about anger being tied up with aggression and revenge, wanting the other person to suffer pain. It is ugly, though. I’ve always been bemused by the fact that people will say the nastiest shit to the people they purport to love, stuff they would never say to friends or coworkers, all in the service of their “feelings.”

I did it with my second boyfriend, and that’s actually the reason we realized we weren’t right for each other - if we were so willing to hurt each other over stupid shit, then our flavor of love wouldn’t last through a marriage, let alone a lifetime. It sucked, and took us (me, really - he was insistent we could mature through it) a long time to get our heads out of our asses and realize we wouldn’t ever be good together, but I always loved him, even when we fought and tore each other to shreds emotionally.

  1. Part of it is that you really get totally engaged in the moment, and respond on instinct - to lash out and make the pain stop. Each of you knows the other one’s weak points, and whoever goes first hurts the other one badly, the rational thought just goes away, and all you can think is to hurt them back, so badly that they* stop hurting you*.

  2. Part of it is what you learned - my mother is a master manipulator, and I learned my lessons well from the time I was a small child. I have an arsenal at my command, of really awful emotional tricks to play on people to let me “win” whatever I’m going for. I had to consciously decide to not ever go those places with the people I love, and I have told all of my friends and family to check me if I slip - they used to call me out all the time, but I’m getting much better.

  3. People say the opposite of love is hate, but they’re wrong. It’s apathy. If you feel really strongly about someone, and you’re blocked from showing it because the relationship is dysfunctional, those passionate feelings are gonna come out somehow, and rageful tantrums are one popular option.

If somebody that supposedly loves me decides to vent she will quickly become aware that I am gone for good. I have boundaries that I won’t cross or allow others to cross. I had enough of that shit in my first marriage to last me a life time.

I am not mean and like the OP I’m boggled by the couples that fight and name call and hurl vicious insults at each other…and then go on as usual. My parents DID say vicious things to each other, things that have stuck in my mind that I have never repeated to another person. They seared my innocent little girl’s heart. My parents never called me names.

As a consequence I NEVER name call, not even stupid, idiot, loser…relatively mild names, let alone the various b- words. Don’t get me wrong, I USE them, but not AT anyone in the heat of battle. I have never in my life said “fuck you” to anyone, nor has anyone said it to me. And I haven’t been living in a cave either-- married twice and in at least five other LTRs. One guy called me a name early in the R, and I told him then and there it was something I never did and would not tolerate. He never did again, even though in his marriage, he and his ex those been liberal name callers.

Vicious fighting and name calling is not reversible. You cannot suck those words back into your head. Best to make a rule never to use them.

I may not be much help.

While I like to debate, I don’t like to argue or fight … while my wife, on the other hand, grew up in a family that routinely “communicated” that way.

It took a while and a few [somewhat] heated discussions to convince her that she did not have to communicate that way with me—I would, in fact, not be a part of that kind of interaction.

20 years later we get along better than ever.

I simply could not imagine relating to anyone I cared about any other way.

I never do it. Don’t have the urge to. My psycho ex obviously does, and often. He’s brutal. And he thinks I am too, because he doesn’t get that not everything he doesn’t like is him being mistreated. He feels bad so he strikes back, only it’s not “back” because I didn’t strike first. But he has 1-2 personality disorders so I’m not sure how much that can help you understand mean people in general and thankfully no other of my loved ones are like that. But then again, anyone who is so mean to their loved ones probably does have some serious issues.

OP, these people do NOT in fact love that victim of their hostility–their proclamations of “love” are simply lies. They just like to play games.

I don’t think that’s always true because it seems that would make them sociopaths and there can’t be THAT many sociopaths.

Plus there are a lot of people who are mean to their siblings when they’re teenagers, and then grow up. My sister was like that and she would never, EVER act like that now to anyone.

I can get mean with people, but I usually get there as a sort of last resort. In other words, I get mean after I come to a mental point of “I can’t get through to this person. If this person were anyone else, I would just walk away and give up entirely. But I’m trapped with this person and I can’t walk away and nothing else I have done has addressed this problem and this problem can’t be ignored. So there’s not really anything left to lose by being mean.”

So… really, once I get to the point of being truly mean, things are pretty much over one way or the other. I’m mean because I’m already at a point where you can leave and hate my guts forever and I’ll still see that as progress.

Now, I do want to circle back around to what someone said about how families relate, because that’s significant. In my family, raising your voice a little was just a form of being expressive and emphasizing how important an issue is to you. In my wife’s family, it would be seen as an over-the-top expression of being angry. So I kept being puzzled as to why we could never come to an agreement on anything early in our marriage. I either thought were making progress just as she abandoned the conversation, or I thought that all these things weren’t very important to her because she didn’t bother to argue her side. To her, I just came across and angry and demanding when that’s not at all how I thought I was being. Apparently, her family comes from a planet of psychics who are able to intuit what you want, and then offer it to you without you needing to verbally express your desires in any way. I’m not at all clear on how that works (and, frankly, I’m pretty sure it doesn’t. You tell my family to be at the restaurant at 5 pm, and the stragglers are showing up at 5:05… which is enough for the rest of us to talk about what a total failure they are for not arriving on time. Tell her family to show up at the restaurant and half of them cancel at the last minute, one shows up at 3 and the other one comes at 7 and nobody will talk about the fact that the plans for the evening are totally ruined. :smack: )

So, anyway, families have different ways of doing things, and appearances may not be the same as what is intended or perceived.

He has a bit of a point I think. If you are really willing to “go there” and intentionally hurt you probably have a real problem with the person even if you aren’t willing to admit it. People can think they are in love but in reality are trapped with someone instead.

Now tell us what he said to you Stoid! :stuck_out_tongue:

Love; it takes all kinds & one shoe doesn’t fit all. Some people can be cutting, others can seem innocent yet orchestrate the nastiest things. All I really know is that its rarely ever one sided; thats a Hallmark movie. One persons cutting remark as another person’s calling them on their sh-t. Does it make it right? Maybe not, but only a Fool would think any side has clean hands.

Now, some people step up & own their actions. When both sides do, there’s rarely a problem.

When it gets to that point as described in the OP I can’t stand how totally ineffective and stupid it is. It’s always really bad arguing, totally besides the point and arbitrary ad hominems. It makes me want to make the argument for them, more than anything else. Sometimes I do, I go back and say “no, you were arguing that I shouldn’t do such-and-such” - it never works.

My parents suck at arguments. My mum because she can’t deal with it at all and becomes an emotional mess and my papa because he only really argues when he is in the deepest pits of depression and nothing makes any sense anymore. I think that’s why I hate it when arguing is ineffective that way. I really did not follow my parents in that way at all.

My guess for why people do that is that they get emotionally wounded over the original point and then want to wound back instead of addressing the point. It must be a survival thing, but totally ineffective.

Well…often alcohol is involved. And the same passion that gets you to fussing, gets you to screwing and boy, make up sex can be pretty intense. So you get hooked into this stupid cycle.

Sometimes, sure. But then there are people like my psycho ex who are like that with all of their loved ones. He’s not completely incapable of loving anyone. He’s just nuts.

You must have very little experience with abusive relationships. Cruelty can easily be one-sided. Why couldn’t it be? I think it’s a given that some people are like that and others aren’t.

I understand them per se; I’ve even seen them & wondered (privately) “How… the Hell?”
I’ve known friends who were in one. I quickly observed that when two people are in one, and one is playing the “Asshat” role, calling that person on their crap publicly quickly draws a defense from the “Martyr”.
The “Asshat” then regresses to an infantile posture, usually making ‘baby-talk’ conversation with the “Martyr” while flipping the bird at whoever called him on his asshattery behind the “Martyrs” back.

I would never find either role comfortable and I generally file those relationships under ‘Other’. Hey, sometimes severely damaged and broken people find each other.
Neither makes the other ‘better’, but they can be… functional.


My mother’s side of the family can be very, very mean. My paternal side, nope. Recently Littlebro and me barked at each other a total of three times (well, ok: two barks and one growl of “ok, well, you’re right but I don’t want to admit it yet”) and Mom told The Nephew, who was present and had been having a lot of fights with his own sister, “as you see, siblings fight at any age, it’s not a big problem so long as nobody gets hurt”. The Nephew said “that was a fight?”, Bro and I looked at each other and said “sort of, we don’t get any worse than that, ever.” The kid seemed satisfied and has started fighting his sister smarter rather than louder (hey, being 3 years older does have advantages, you just need to find them).

The Grandparents from Hell were the “have yelling, insulting fights several times a day so they can make up as many times” kind. Their older daughter went for a “never argue with the husband, never let the children know you two disagree” model; the younger’s first marriage was a bitchfest including physical violence and her long-term affair with a married man wasn’t much better. I didn’t want to have children due in part to my fear of being as bad a parent as any of those four. Shit like that goes way beyond the two people directly involved.

50 years later I still remember the hurtful words my mother would throw at my dad. I resented her my entire life for that and respected my father for not responding in a like manner.