Quick. Think of something you always do or did for your partner.
What is it about relationships that drive us to hyperbole? The best sex ever. Always and forever. Lester Burnham’s Spectacular from American Beauty. There’s something about being whooped that seems to limit our vernacular. Everything is amazing when you first fall in love, and everything about your new partner is even better. That, in and of itself is hyperbole, best identified in the extreme term used to generalize, the word everything.
We use words like these on both ends of the relational spectrum, falling in love on one end and falling out on the other, only the adjectives change.
It’s the adverbs that stay consistent, like always and never, extreme terms that erode relational foundations. Here’s how they do that:
Once again you’ve worked beyond your schedule. It’s dark outside, yours is the only cubicle illuminated and you break from whatever it is that’s keeping you there late and look at that photo of your significant other. You know you could knock off and go home, but another twenty minutes and you could put that project to bed. Besides, the last time you worked late your SO said something like, “You’re always working late.” Well, they think you’re always working late, so what difference is twenty minutes going to make?
It’s Bunko night, high stakes this time and on a Friday night to boot. You text your SO, “Bunko night, home late.” No, actually it’s probably more like, “Bunko 2nite, crib l8.” You get the idea. And you get a text back, “ur ALWAYS playing bunko friday nights!” No emoticon. And then you do the math: “If s/he thinks I’m always playing Bunko, and there’s a game tonight, then I might as well go.”
Time to go, really go and it’s the two-in-the-morning bathroom shuffle to the WC. You sit only to find that icy porcelain rim, impetus for your early morning pillow talk, “You never put the seat down.” The next time he’s whizzin’ standing up, what’s he going to recall? Right, that he never puts the seat down. Why start now.
The trip’s been planned since October and the youngest is throwing up. The car is packed and grandma is waiting and when you suggest you all ought to stay home this Thanksgiving your SO says, “You never want to visit my mother.” We all know where this is going.
You are taking forever.
You don’t do anything.
This is just impossible.
Funny how this syntax changed from;
I’ll always love you.
I’ll cherish you forever.
You’re everything to me.
So, did you do it? Did you come up with something you always do or did for your partner?
Me neither. No one always or never does anything. Sure, you probably have an exception or two, but aside from autonomic responses like breathing and beating hearts, chances are you’re not always late, that you are home on some Friday nights, that you do put the seat down, and that mom is worth a visit.
But as soon as we lock in the extreme accusations the consequences become self-fulfilling and terms of extreme become relational termites.