Weapons of Mass Destruction

What are the things that are unforgivable in a relationship?

What are the WMD?

One of you having an affair? Losing a job? Money?

No. Words are likely to be more harmful. When we’re in an intimate relationship, we have the knowledge and the power to annihilate; not annihilate the other person, but the ties that bind the relationship.

We rely here on two working definitions of love: (1) Love is trust; and (2) Love is an act, not a feeling. An ‘act’ includes speaking. When you say something that destroys trust, you have used the most powerful relationship WMD.

Having listened to people for many years about their relationships, I hear them repeat things said to them that they can’t get around, and when I hear them, I have to agree. They’re statements that destroy the relationship.

Will you read any of these statements here? No, because they’re confidential, and also because they’re so peculiar and unique they’re immediately identifiable. A relationship WMD is aimed exactly at the person it’s intended for.

Metaphorically, the fallout might be when you challenge the person with what they’ said and the response is something like, ‘You’re over-reacting,’ or ‘I’ll stop doing that the day I die. Get over it.’ Statements that show no understanding, no remorse, and no connection.

Will I make some up? Couldn’t get close. Whenever I’ve heard one, my inner response is, ‘I know that really happened because you couldn’t make up something like that.’

All EQ competencies are learned. How do you learn them? In the line of fire, and, as your mother probably told you, there are easy ways to learn things, and hard ways to learn them.

Love is an act, and as such it must be practised to be learned. It is practised every time you would really like to deliver the zinger and don’t. It gets easier every time you don’t. That’s one way to learn it. The other way to learn it is to deliver the WMD, lose the relationship, and be sadder but wiser. Is it hatefulness or cluelessness? Does it matter? Once launched, like the weapon it is, it doesn’t question it’s purpose, it simply does the job.

That’s one of the sad things because I hear the other side too, as I’m sure you have: ‘That’s not what I meant, and ‘I just wanted her to… It didn’t mean I didn’t love her.’

Sometimes you feel like the person who said it to you might be testing the limits of your love, like a five-year-old. Try a more adult approach. WMDs destroy the landscape.

John refers to it as ‘a killer statement,’ and agrees that he delivered one. ‘I didn’t realize what I had,’ he laments,’ until she left. I know it was a killer statement [that did it].’

‘Sticks and stones may break my bones but words can never harm me,’ applies on the playground and in the workplace, but just never will in our most intimate relationships. The reason they’re intimate is because they imply that trust level where sticks and stones could break your bones and words can really harm you too.

Is it a matter of forgiveness? Unfortunately, it is not. The person attacked generally has compassion for the deliverer and forgives them. This is actually part of the problem. Compassion is because we realize there’s something really wrong with someone who uses a WMD in the context of an intimate relationship. But we also know they’ll use them again. Trust is destroyed. Feeling sorry for someone is not the same as love.

‘Mad at her?’ says Richard. ‘Sadly, no. I suddenly pitied her. Pity isn’t compatible with love. Someone who would say something like that the way she did and where is after something I’m not. It destroyed it for me. I couldn’t feel the same way about us again.’

Weapons of Mass Destruction sever the connection of the relationship immediately. It’s like a string stretched between the two of you. WMDs cut the string in one swift motion. Both sides lie limp. Imagine trying to reconnect them. It’s not going to happen. It’s over.

Emmie says, ‘I could get over what he said, but I can never trust him again. I’d live the rest of the relationship waiting for the other shoe to drop.’

‘Stick the knife in?’ says Kevin. ‘Possible. Twist it? No way.’

You can see it isn’t a matter of forgiveness or compassion. Most of the time the person on the receiving end hears the statement and can only conclude someone who would talk that way (or do
something like that) is beyond redemption. That’s when the emotionally intelligent person quits with the empathy and moves into self-protection. When we become guarded, an intimate relationship ends.

We conclude – correctly – that the person owns, and is willing to use, weapons of mass destruction. Who wants to live with a killer? We leave emotionally. The feet and the golf clubs are only artifacts to be taken care of later on.

People with relationship WPD have it all together as to the placement of the attack. Most of us can toss off a statement or two made while ambling through Sea World or cleaning the garage together, but one made during a love-making session, when we are most open, most vulnerable, and most expecting (and deserving) unconditional love pretty much flattens the landscape.

‘No vegetation left,’ said Sean. ‘Pretty much annihilation of all forms of life.’

We understand innately that these statements have to do with the low self-esteem and low Emotional Intelligence of the person delivering them. Someone who loves him or herself only conditionally, which to say barely, is not likely to be trainable. Someone raised in a family which showed such disrespect to one another that such patterns developed, is not likely to turn around without what therapists call ‘intervention” (or sometimes even then).

‘Could I train him?’ said Meredith. ‘Been there done that. You’re stuck with the basic disrespect. All you get is a behavioral change and it’s compartmental. They just don’t have the big picture. Get this thing corrected so it’s tolerable, and here it comes again somewhere else. His father didn’t respect his mother. You don’t correct something like that by talking about concepts. I discovered.’

The take-with-you point: Words hurt. We all have the potential to hurt the one we love. How massive our weapons are depends. Developing your Emotional Intelligence, which includes empathy, interpersonal skills, frustration tolerance, communication savvy, and handling a conflict constructively, makes it as tiny as possible, and as much under your control as possible. Certainly a slow trigger finger helps.

Bear in mind, these statements are usually NOT delivered in moments of anger. We somehow can tolerate better the things shouted in the midst of a pitched battle. It’s kind of expected. In fact if he’s furious at me, I’d rather hear that (delivered without insult or injury) than a stilted phrase showing he doesn’t know or trust how he’s feeling so has memorized something out of a book, and isn’t being authentic. Wouldn’t you? If someone’s angry, it isn’t going to kill you. Unless they trigger a WMD.

Please, get mindful. Be intentional. Be accountable to yourself for the results of your actions, which include your words. Emotional Intelligence must be practised with the events of your life.


Written by Sonia Evans

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