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Hax: Tired of hearing the ‘B’ word

Fri., Dec. 24, 2010, midnight

Hi, Carolyn: I have noticed the word “bitch” being used far too often in TV, movies and real life. All of my friends around my age (25) have been called a bitch at some point, including me. I also dislike it when my husband uses the terms “getting bitched at” or “you’re always bitching at me.” I have told him multiple times to not use that language around me. How do I get him to change? – J.

Since “that language” is the problem, am I correct that you’d be OK with, “You’re always nagging/henpecking/ harping on/carping at/hounding/needling/ badgering me”?

No matter what you say, no, I’m not correct.

You can’t “get him to change” unless he’s willing to recognize that finger-pointing and stereotyping accomplish nothing but escalation and alienation. You can gauge his willingness, though, by changing your response to his rudeness.

Tell him that if there’s something bothering him – if he believes you manipulate him through hints and punishment, if he’d rather you both agreed on chores and left each other alone to do them, or even, worst cases, if he’s cheating and trying to push you away or just thinks you’re the little woman and it’s your job to wait on him – then please say it.

Stereotypes aside, he might actually have legitimate grievances; before you speak up, you need to look inward. Are you constantly on his back about something, or quick to criticize, or more comfortable hinting than saying, or otherwise vague about your needs but unequivocal when he fails to meet them?

If you aren’t nitpicky and he’s still angry, or if you are (or he thinks you are) blind to your own failings, or if even broaching this leads to a fight, then you might be beyond do-it-yourself marriage repair. For that I suggest marriage counseling or classes.

E-mail Carolyn at tellme@washpost.com.


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