Babes and gentledudes... gather ‘round.
We’re going to talk about something important. Let’s talk about bad relationships... and what makes them suck.
No doubt, you’ve heard of Love Languages. They are a valuable means of understanding your relationships, and how to make them stronger.
Here's a quick refresher. The 5 love languages are...
- Quality time
- Words of affirmation
- Acts of Service
According to Gary Chapman, who first formalized the concept of love languages, most of us have a primary and a secondary love language. We feel loved when we feel our preferred love languages expressed towards us, and we also tend to express love using those same languages.
We know what makes us feel loved, But do we know what makes our girlfriend / boyfriend / romantic partner feel loved?
What happens when if we don’t know our partner’s love languages? What happens if we aren’t practicing those love languages that our partner needs? What happens if we’re doing the opposite?
These questions matter to the happiness in our relationships.
Relationship therapists talk about love languages all the time, and focus on understanding the behaviors that your partner will most appreciate. What is not often discussed is that it’s also possible to do the exact opposite.
I call these opposites hate languages, and we can learn a lot from them.
So let's learn.
The 5 Hate Languages
Aka, “how to torture the person who loves you.”
Pretend for a moment that your goal is to show your partner that you hate them. How would you do that?
Really it’s not too hard.
Figure out what’s most important to them.. what makes them feel special, valued and loved... and then do the exact opposite.
The opposite of quality time.
There are a lot of ways to neglect someone. Here are a few.
Be apathetic. They are not a priority
Make zero effort to create quality time with this person. Make them fight for it. Act like the very idea of spending time alone with them annoys you.
When you cannot avoid them, act as bored as possible. Yawn frequently. Sure, you’ll be there, but only because you have to.
Make sure you never smile, or enjoy any part of being with them.
Make them feel unimportant
When you’re together, make certain the experience is never about being with them.
Distract yourself. Find something meaningless to give your attention to- and the more meaningless, the better. TV is a good one. Plunk yourself down in front of that every night, and pretend it’s your favorite part of your day.
When your partner is in the room, pretend they’re not there. Be detached, thinking about something else, like work. If they try to start a conversation, ignore them, or shut them down immediately. Bonus points if you can act slightly annoyed.
At breakfast, always have something convenient like a newspaper or magazine to place between you. Anything that can help you prevent locking eyes with your partner. Phones are especially good for this, most especially when you’re playing a video game, or texting friends instead of "being with" your partner.
Make it clear that others matter more
When you’re with your partner, talk about your friends, your family, or your kids... never about the two of you. Always be planning your next get together with other people, and act like it’s the only time you ever have fun.
When you and your partner are visiting friends and family, never talk to your partner. It’s best to act as though they don’t exist. Make them feel like they should just wait in the car for a few hours... that would be clearly best for everyone. Otherwise, they’re kinda... you know... interfering with your fun social time.
Of course, never spend time with your partner’s friends or family, because... gawd that’s boring. You’d rather pick toenail lint.
When you’re driving home from a gathering, look sad, like the most enjoyable part of your week just ended, and you’ll be sad and bored until you see them again.
The opposite of physical touch.
Avoid affection & intimacy at all costs
Never, ever hug or hold hands. If your partner doesn’t give you any choice, make it clear that you’re uncomfortable being touched by them.
For example, if your partner takes your hand, let them, but make it clear that you’re doing it out of a sense of obligation. Keep your hand straight and stiff. Make them hold on. If they release their grip even slightly, take the opportunity to let your hand happily escape.
Never show any enjoyment at being touched by this person. Mild disgust is far better.
Avoid eye contact
Avoid eye contact, except when you’re angry, or feeling judgy. Then go for the icy penetrating look. Daggers all the way.
Be distant, and joyless in their presence
Smile often, but never at them.
This is most effective if you can sour your expression as you’re turning towards them. Let’s practice. Look at the dog, and give a huge, warm, happy smile. Now turn your head, and notice your partner standing there. Evaporate that smile immediately. With your eyes alone, say... “oh... it’s you.” Got it?
Whenever possible, give affection to others
Cuddle and play with your kids, Roll around on the carpet with your puppy. Flirt like mad and be super affectionate with others, to emphasize that something about your partner is just... unwanted.
Obviously, make sure to do these things while your partner is looking.
Whenever possible, choose masturbation over sex with your partner, and make sure your partner knows this.
When you do feel overwhelmingly horny, and masturbation just won’t do it, yes you can have sex with your partner, but there are a few ground rules.
- Absolutely no foreplay.
- Any sex is about you. You’re doing this for your own enjoyment, and it’s up to your partner to figure out how to enjoy themselves.
- Make sure sex is mechanical, with no emotional connection. If you can, make them feel used.
- Have distractions. TV on is good, even better if you sneak a peak at the game, or laugh at a joke.
- When you feel satisfied, sex is over. Absolutely no talking or cuddles. You’re too hot, too tired, and you have a busy day tomorrow.
Even then, make it feel like you were barely satisfied. Act as though you were hungry, and wanted a nice juicy steak... but you got a raw potato. Blech.
Get the picture?
I’m going to put infidelity here too.
In most relationships, this is the 100 megaton nuke, because infidelity is impossible to “undo”, and it affects all of the love languages,
But to a partner whose primary love language is touch, it’s devastating. It communicates the message “I want to be intimate with someone who is not you.”
It's not just rejection... it's crucifixion.
Words of negation
The opposite of words of affirmation.
Practice the "silent treatment"
Interact with them as little as possible. Simply ignore them whenever possible, but when that’s not easy, make it clear that they are a very low priority to you.
Work, or hobby, or the kids... these matter far more.
Disapprove of everything you can.
Criticizing the quality of their work, like how clean the house is, or how long the grass is, are ok... but it's better to disapprove of behaviors, like "you chew too loudly."
The most powerful way to invalidate them is to criticize things they cannot change. Physical aspects... like their height, face, or specific body features. Aspects of who they are- their cultural origin, or their ethnic heritage. Even things about their past.
When in doubt, attack aspects of their identity. That will hurt the most.
Disrespect them frequently, and show contempt
Contempt is a form of wordless criticism, where your attitude and behavior communicate “you are beneath me.”
In The Gottman institute’s “the four horsemen”, contempt is one of the most powerful relationship destroyers.
Shame & humiliate them frequently
Make sure their opinion never matters, especially when you’re in a public situation - and most especially when you're with friends & family.
If you have the opportunity, belittle them. Put them down with small jibes about their mistakes, their job, or something about their body.
Whether it’s belittling insults in your private conversation, or a thorough public lashing, humiliation is a powerful way to damage relationships.
Acts of self-service
The opposite of acts of service.
Expect service from your partner
Whatever household duties your partner generally takes care of, act annoyed whenever they’re not done now. Is dinner a bit late? Is the trash full, or the laundry not folded yet? Did you see a dandelion in the yard? Clearly they’re not doing their job.
Even when their housework is completed and on-time, you can find fault in it. Dinner has no flavor, or it’s too salty. The shirts weren’t folded & hung the right way. You can’t find your favorite socks- and of course it's your partner's fault.
It’s best to get annoyed about extremely meaningless things- because your complaints will show just how worthless and inept they are, and how little their feelings mean to you.
If your partner is ever sick, or has a work crisis, never help them by stepping up to help with their responsibilities. Let them pile up to overflowing, and be annoyed at them about it.
Make them feel like they exist only to do your bidding.
Be lazy. Never serve your partner
Of course you should never serve your partner either. Make it clear that such work is beneath you. It’s far more important for you to drink beer, play video games or watch TV than it is to help make the home run well.
Make sure they have plenty of work to do. You can help create that by never cleaning up after yourself. Be.. like... slovenly lazy. Leave your socks on the floor, your muddy shoes kicked off by the door. This is most effective when your partner is already stressed and overworked.
Be fiercely independent
Another approach is to simply be unlovable.
To someone whose love language is acts of service, you can be the guy ( or girl ) who doesn’t want anything from them, and who is just annoyed when they try to do things for you.
Because clearly... they just can’t do it right, or the way you like.
The opposite of gifts.
What's yours is yours. What's theirs is yours, too.
Whatever things they have that they have an emotional attachment to, use them as though they were yours. But, don't take good care of their things, the way you would for your own.
Confuse them, by buying them something nice, and then treating it like your own. Buy a gourmet chocolate bar, gift it whole, and then eat 2/3 of it. Get them a new car, and then immediately dent it.
Especially go for unique things that cannot be replaced. Do they have a special necklace that their mother gave them? Make sure to treat it disrespectfully, and even to damage or lose it if you can.
Show a deep lack of appreciation for their gifts
Treat anything you’re gifted as though it’s meaningless. Show annoyance if possible.
"Wow... gee, thanks... a mountain bike... ( pause ) ... I guess I'll have to find a place to store it."
Or make them feel like it's the wrong gift.
“Yayyyyyy... ( trail it off ). Not really the one I wanted, but yay a bike. ( long pause ) Well... I guess it will do for now.”
Even better, be contemptuous.
“Oh I saw this on sale yesterday at the mall, for, like $10 bucks. Is that where you got it?"
This shows that you think their gift has no value, and that you think they are cheap. If they paid a much higher price, you can also make them feel stupid.
See how that works? Triple threat.
Leave that nice sweater you were gifted on the floor. Drop that new phone regularly. Break stuff. Lose stuff.
If you can get away with it, re-gift stuff your partner gave you, without telling your partner. Then make sure somehow that they see the new owner with it.
Give crappy gifts to your partner
Did they really want a tennis racket? Maybe you can find a beat up, used one, a bit warped. Or get something much too heavy for them to use.
Or, perhaps you can find one at the $2 store.
Meanwhile, make sure to give awesome gifts to other people.
Buy nice things often, but never for them
Make sure to treat yourself "right," but leave none left to share. Get others nice things too, and make sure your partner sees you do it.
This way, it looks like you just love yourself, or love someone else.
The big lessons
Heh. Did you cringe a little thinking about those things?
I hope so. If you didn’t you may want to take a psychopathy test- because you may be somewhere on the spectrum. That's not a bad thing, but it would be important to know- especially when it comes to relationships.
Assuming you cringed, what made you cringe the most?
It’s likely that you felt the most cringy around the things that you value as part of your own love languages.
And this is exactly my reason for writing this article. To help you feel and understand the emotional responses associated with these behaviors.
I learned a lot of things reflecting on this.
Love languages are full of subtlety & nuance
Love languages have more depth and nuance than I realize at first glance. Even subtle actions that are not overtly an act of aggression or rejection can cause a lot of pain.
When it comes to damaging relationships, it’s not always the big crushing blow that does the trick. As Esther Perel has pointed out, micro-rejections are just as devastating, over a long period of time.
The 5 languages are a bit deceptively named
For example, touch isn’t only about touch. It’s about physical intimacy, including things like eye contact, and the tone of your voice. It's about how close you stand together in the kitchen, and how you make contact when you brush past one another.
Quality time isn’t just about time. It's about attention.
Words of affirmation isn't only about words... it’s about all forms of communication, and about the ways that you make your partner feel special and valued by you.
These distinctions matter, and you can see that they've made their way into everyday social behavior.
Giving your partner a flower might be a gift, but if you stopped the car to pick it, it’s also a way of saying “I value you, you are special to me.” If you give it to them personally it's a moment of quality time, sharing a memory together.
Perhaps this is why we have a habit of giving gifts with a card, and delivering them personally when it's possible.
When you look closely, you can begin to see hints of the fundamental relationship drives in the nature of love languages.
Love goes both ways
You can cause pain to your partner by denying them the love language they desire- but you can also bring pain by denying them the ability to express their love language to you.
It’s a favorite of sit-coms and romantic comedies for one person to say I love you, and the other person to not answer, or even say... “thank you.” This is a sharp jab to anyone who values words of affirmation, but the same pain can be caused in other love languages too.
In a sense, you can deprive someone of the ability to love you.
Missing love languages is bad. Doing the opposite is worse.
Giving someone a crappy gift is worse than giving them no gift. Touching them coldly is worse than no touch at all. Criticizing them is worse than silence.
Everything is more potent in public
This is because, to the person being humiliated, it separates them not only from you, but from their tribe.
But there's another lesson here...
In many situations, the positive expression of love languages is also more potent when it’s done publicly.
I wouldn’t go so far as to suggest that every marriage proposal should involve a flashmob, And promposals frankly piss me off.
But when you see someone celebrate their partner’s birthday on social media or by organizing a party of their partner’s close friends and family, it's clear they understand this principle...
The more public it is, the more potent it is. Use this knowledge with care.
Small things can have a big impact
You might see a particular action or the specific words that you use as being of little importance... but to your partner, it could trigger emotions you're oblivious to.
Pay attention. Be empathetic. You'll learn what matters, and with that you can improve both of your lives.
Love languages amplify with jealousy & selfishness
One of the behaviors that seems to divide couples most is when Person A is expressing Person B’s love language, but towards someone else.
If your love language is touch, and you see your partner giving a shoulder massage to someone else, you’re likely to feel unhappy things.
Paradoxically, this is one of the challenges that children bring to the family. They consume so much of their parents’ time, attention, cuddles, and giving... that suddenly you or your partner are left feeling competed with.
The implication is “my partner loves that other person more than me.”
And it doesn't even need to be a person. A friend recently related that at one point, she even felt in competition with her pets, for her partner’s attention.
This can even happen if those attentions are directed towards yourself.
Imagine that gifts are your love language, and your partner buys themselves a nice, expensive watch. On the one hand, you’re happy for their happiness. On the other hand, do you feel somehow cheated?
Or perhaps touch is your love language, and you’ve just discovered that your partner has been pleasuring themselves, daily, for the past year. Probably, they’re allowed... but... how would that trigger you?
Will avoiding these destructive behaviors guarantee a good relationship?
Of course not.
But they’ll almost certainly give you a happier, healthier, and longer-lived relationship. If you're blind to these things, they'll slowly, silently corrode your relationship from within, like soda corroding the enamel on your teeth...
Just like Esther's micro-rejections.
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