Imagine a six-year-old kid asks his parents if he can have a piece of candy an hour before dinner, and gets the standard answer of “No, you’ll spoil your appetite.”
But this kid really wants that piece of candy, so when his parents aren’t paying attention, he sneaks into the kitchen, opens the candy drawer and pulls out a Tootsie Roll.
And right then, in walks his mom, catching him in the act. “You little thief!” she exclaims.
From then on out, this boy is known as “the candy thief,” and it flies out of his parents’ mouth left and right. His mom loses sight of him for five minutes and calls out, “Where are you, candy thief? You better not be getting into that candy drawer again!”
Everything else he does, everything else he is, is tainted by this label.
It doesn’t matter that he learned a valuable lesson. It doesn’t matter that it’s the only time he’s ever done it, then or since.
He’s still “the candy thief.”
Labels are very common in our society, and we throw them around like confetti.
Sometimes they come from other people, but often we slap them on ourselves.
And of course, we’re quick to apply them to our partner when we can’t get them to do things our way.
Paul and I are very careful about labels. Sometimes they’re useful to make a concept relatable, like saying masculine energy and feminine energy.
But in our experience, most labels are not only highly destructive, they’re a source of another relationship myth we hear a lot from our Relationship Transformers.
It’s called the “But my partner IS…” myth. As in, “This marriage can’t work because my partner is [blank.]”
It might be that your partner is “depressed,” “abusive,” “an asshole,” “a narcissist” – whatever label you’ve slapped on their behavior. (Or that they’ve applied to yours.)
I remember one client of ours who insisted her partner was abusive, and the meanest man alive.
After helping thousands of people, I’ve learned that there are certain words that don’t actually have a “blanket definition”. Meaning, everyone has their own concept of what that word means. Abuse has become one of those words. I never assume what someone means when they say “abuse”, so I asked this client for clarification.
She explained that when she and her husband got into an argument and things got heated, he would shut it down and refuse to discuss it. She’d wait for a while and try again, and again, and again, always pushing, but every time he’d adamantly refuse.
Because she just “had” to discuss it until she felt it was resolved (whether he was ready to or not), and he refused, she labeled him “abusive.”
For the record, any masculine man would do exactly what this lady’s husband did. Instead of unleashing his full intensity on her, he shut things down to avoid subjecting her to a level of intensity he might use with another man, but never on the woman he loves.
In his mind, he’s protecting her from himself. In her mind, he’s “abusive.”
Labels can not only be destructive and unfair, they can blind you to the reality of what’s actually going on.
There are MANY labels that you place on your partner (whether you realize it or not)… and your kids too. In episode 8 of The Relationship Transformer Podcast…you might hear Paul and I bust through that label for you so you can stop unknowingly breaking down your relationship!
AND…if you’re labeling your partner, and believe your relationship can’t work because they are _________, click here to listen to episode 8 of The Relationship Transformer Podcast: The Lies About Relationship: Part 3.
In addition to learning how you can stop labeling from destroying your relationship, you’ll also hear what I tell people interested in our program who ask us, “Can Relationship Development help me if I’m in an abusive relationship?”
Here’s the link to listen: