Ways To Peeve Your Lover
The most popular ways to drive each other crazy in the name of love.
In any intimate relationship there’s a lot at stake. One thing of course, is the relationship; another is each partner’s self-esteem.
Still another, often overlooked and at odds with those first two I mentioned is each other’s BS detectors.
We need our BS detectors. We spend long years cultivating our BS Detectors so we don’t get ripped off, hornswoggled, shanghaied and manipulated.
Sometimes when the stakes get high in intimate conflict we start doing serious damage to each other’s BS detectors, saying anything we can get away with to maintain our self-esteem and demanding that our partners believe it, in effect saying “Suspend doubt please or I’ll have to face doubt about myself which I’d rather not do.”
Asking each other to dismantle our BS detectors in the name of love is not love. It’s a creepy form of self-indulgence that is bound to peeve our partners whether they can put a finger on it or not. Love doesn’t mean never having to say you’re sorry. It’s a delicate dance in which we challenge each other’s certainty while respecting each others right to judge what’s BS and what isn’t, not just in what other people say but in what we say to each other in partnership.
Conflict is like a high-strung game of hot potato, or actually doubt-potato in which what you’re shoving back and forth into each other’s sensitive laps is self-doubt.
If there’s one thing people are good at, it’s forcing others to doubt in our stead. Make your partner doubt his BS detector instead of having to doubt ourselves. By now there are some standard, popular, classic techniques people use to do this. I’ve been cataloging them over the years and list nineteen of them below, rhetorical moves that enable us to win at the game of doubt potato played with doubt whereby we say indulgently and automatically say “Don’t doubt me, doubt yourself.”
By rhetorical I mean these techniques are generic, or content-independent. They’re mercenary. You can employ them to cast doubt on anyone and on any topic.
Many are meta-moves, ways to act as though you’re above the fight, even while continuing to fight. They’re the equivalent of saying “I’m done playing,” just as you shove the doubt potato into your opponent’s lap. These ploys tend have a moral tone, like saying “Morally speaking, one shouldn’t try to win at doubt potato,” just as you pass the self-doubt to your opponent, for example in effect saying, “only losers like you care about winning and losing and, oh, by the way, haha, you lose.”
Though you might think I don’t have a lot of respect for these techniques, in two ways I actually do. First, they are quite formidable. I respect them in that if I were to name the one aspect of human nature most likely to cause our failure as a species (taking down a great many other species with us) it would be our alacrity and fluency at employing these and other techniques for deflecting self-doubt, setting off self-certainty wars. And the second way I respect them I’ll save for after the list.
“But My Intentions Are Good. Don’t They Count For Everything?” “But I didn’t mean to insult you.” “I would never intend to be mean.” Intentions don’t count for as much as actions, and anyway while few of us would deliberately set out to insult each other, we often intend to do things that would have that side effect. Instead of owning the consequences of our actions we pretend we couldn’t have had them since it wasn’t our deliberate outright intention to have them.
Nicessism: Narcissism protected by saying “That’s not nice” or “You’re mean” about anything we don’t want to hear. We pretend that there’s a moral rule that one should always be nice but what we usually mean by it is “Be nice to me always. Don’t disappoint me ever.”
Condemn the messenger: “Your Challenge Hurt, Therefore You Must Have Delivered It Wrong, so therefore I don’t have to listen to it.”Claim receptivity, but only to those challenges well delivered by your unattainably high double standards, whereby when you challenge people you’re just being honest and when they challenge you, they’re not being nice.
Smugging: Calmly refuse to budge and then when your challenger gets frustrated change the subject to his hotheaded reaction. This will make him more hotheaded making it easy to call even more attention to his reaction.
Youjustifications and Onetruesations: Deny all but one ignominious motive behind a challenger’s criticism. For example “You’re just trying to put me down.” Reciprocally, explain your own behavior as being exclusively virtuously motivated. For example, “Look, I was just trying to help.” “Just” is the key word here. It means “Ignore all other possible interpretations.
Exempt By Contempt: Claim that since you find a trait disgusting, you must not have that trait. For example: “Me selfish?! Impossible! I hate selfish people!”
“How Dare You Compare Me To…” If challenged for behaving as badly as some known manipulators, rather than considering the comparison on its merits, act as though there could be no parallel because there’s some assumed world of difference between the behaviors of good people like you, and bad people like them.
Litmus Paper Tiger: Profess loudly and actively to holding an absolute moral standard, then ignore it and do anything you like.
Selective Literalism: Attack others for their tone, but when you talk, deny tone has anything to do with it. For example, saying, “Look, I merely said…”
Freedom of Speech As Subterfuge: Accuse a challenger of denying freedoms: “Jeez, I’m sorry I spoke my mind. Next time I’m with you I’ll know better and silence myself.”
Equality as subterfuge: Appeal to a pretend law that everyone shares equal blame for all problems. When accused of a problem that is largely your fault, say, “It’s 50/50, so what about you? You’re not perfect! We both contributed equally to the problem.”
“That’s Totally Different!” Equivocations: For example, “I’m not being stubborn. I’m sticking to my principles.”
Misread the Criticism: Distort the case against you so it sounds totally cruel and unreasonable. For example, when challenged for dominating a conversation, say, “Right so I’m the next Hitler.”
Minutia And Highfalutia: To evade a challenge, focus on minute details or high-concept generalities on either side of a challenge. If called to task for doing a bad job at work, zoom in to talk about the tiny problems that got in the way (“but the paperclips didn’t arrive on time!”), or zoom way out to talk about how nobody’s perfect. Concentrate on any scale of analysis but the one on which the challenge itself is being leveled.
Mind-Reading Rights: Cite a pretend rule that everyone always knows their own feelings and thoughts better than anyone else does. Accuse the challenger of trespassing: “Don’t tell me what I feel!”
First-strike Advantage: Be the first to challenge. That way when they challenge back, you can dismiss it as retaliation.
The Butterfly Punch: In a win/lose competition, accuse the competitor of being selfish. “Why can’t we get along?” meaning actually, “do it my way.”
Sorry-taliations: Say sorry sarcastically or apologize for anything but your actions, as in “Sorry you misunderstood me,” or “Sorry you took it that way.” Or “Sorry for miscommunicating” when you clearly meant what you said.
Throw the Books At Em: When challenged on having done something explain why you didn’t, did, and wanted to dod it all at once. “Me, I would never do that. And of course I do that and most people like it, and I meant to do that, so you’re just wrong about me.”
I said I respect these doubt-deflection techniques in two ways and here’s the second. They’re effective because they look just like authentic and honorable moves. That’s the problem with decoys and cons of all sorts. For them to be effective, they have to be indistinguishable or at least easily confused with the genuine article. Lies sidle right up to truths so they won’t be noticed. Moral subterfuge hides right next to true morality. There are times when each of these moves is the appropriate justified response in conflict. So you can’t tell whether they’re abuses of power merely by them being deployed occasionally. Rather you bet they’re probably abuses when they’re used reflexively and chronically, when we can’t sit even for a minute with the challenge leveled at us but start whipping these out immediately. In other words can you let the doubt-potato sit in your lap for even a minute? If not, you’re probably using these tricks.