Relationships, Part 48: Constructive Conflict: Don’t be Evil

If you are unfamiliar with the reality of evil in the world, watch the news. If you’re unfamiliar with its presence in yourself, ask your wife.

Or husband. Partners know very well how evil we can be . We can be evil to the people we love in ways we never imagined being evil to anyone else.

There’s even a term for it that we marriage counselors use: normal marital sadism. Sadism means that you get pleasure out of inflicting pain on another. Marital, in this case, means any close, committed relationship, including marriage. Normal means you do it. Add it up and it means you enjoy inflicted pain on your partner.

Who, me?

Yes, you. You don’t have to commit violence to be a sadist. Have you ever gotten even, held a grudge, let go of (rather than lost) your temper, withheld sex, or felt justified and entitled to retribution when your feelings were hurt?

Of course you have.

What is that, if it’s not evil? It’s deliberately done when you could just as well choose not to. It’s primitive, punitive, petty and vindictive. You know where his buttons are, so you push them. You know where his skeletons are buried, so you dig them up. You perversely derive satisfaction from making him squirm. Screwing with people’s minds is fun. Face it, it’s evil.

Even God-fearing, peace-loving, romantic types who never seem to fight, engage in covert combat. Especially them. The brighter the light, the darker the shadow.

To be sure, there are some who are more evil in their relationships than others. If you want to learn to spot them before you get hitched to them, remember what I said in the beginning of this series about being an adult. Marriage is for adults only. Not everyone over the age of eighteen is an adult. Many, very many, are immature. They will not take responsibility, comfort themselves, and are unable to endure temporary hardship for meaningful long term goals. You can’t take them anywhere because if they are not in the right environment, they feel unaffirmed and everything goes to hell. People who don’t handle frustrations well, who take things personally, will cause mayhem all over the place in the name of self-preservation.

You might expect that this evil will happen if the relationship was weak, if you didn’t care about your partner. Actually, weakness or lack of importance has nothing to do with it. You can expect this behavior when the relationship is fused, when all your feelings are tangled up in hers, when you don’t know where one person ends and the other begins.

You might think you want this kind of close relationship because it’s what you experienced as a child. Even if you had a terrible childhood, when you started out as a fetus you were indistinguishable from your mother. You are supposed to grow up and grow apart and become progressively more independent. Furthermore, your partner is supposed to help you.

When this developmental imperative is not obeyed, that’s when evil shows up. You get sadistic when you’re clinging too tightly. It’s function is to drive you apart from people so you can learn to stand by yourself. Evil does something useful, you see, but it’s still unnecessary. You can stand, grounded, on your own two feet just fine, without being hateful.

So, chill out, let it go, grow up, and don’t hurt him back, even if he deserves it. Don’t be evil.

Click here to go to the entire Relationships series.

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