By Baila Sebrow

Question

I’m in a relationship with a girl who is the sweetest, nicest person — and fun, too. But she curses all the time, and not only when she gets angry. She will use four-letter words even when she is describing something great or when she is happy and excited about something. I’m not saying that I am better at controlling my language, but I didn’t expect that from a girl I am thinking seriously about marrying.

I told her that I don’t like it when she uses such words, but then she catches me doing the same, and she doesn’t get why it bothers me. I know it sounds like I am not being fair, but it really turns me off. I can’t help the way I feel.

I discussed this with a rav I respect, and he said that this shidduch is a no-go. My therapist (who happens to be frum) doesn’t think it’s such a big deal, because it is known that a lot of professionals in her field (and mine) use such language. She also says that people talk like that to be funny and that the only time to start worrying is if my girlfriend gets angry and curses out of anger. Well, she actually did lose it a few times since I saw my therapist. One time we were on the phone having a deep conversation about our future, and somebody came into the room while she was talking, and she lost it like crazy and screamed at the person, using really bad language.

I want to make it clear that she is a wonderful girl and I really think she would be a great mother and wife. Actually, she is humble, because every time I tell her how nice she is, she shyly says, “No, I’m really not so nice.” What is your opinion about all of this?

Response

I agree with your rav. I don’t know how much you shared with him, but he must have said that this relationship is a no-go for a good reason. You are feeling perplexed because your therapist encouraged you to reevaluate this girl’s behavior, and you fail to differentiate between wittiness and unwholesome outbursts, among other confusing aspects of her actions.

Nowadays, even in frum society, sadly, there are people who use improper language casually. For some it might be attributed to their upbringing, as that is how their parents or other family members communicated with one another, or it became a learned behavior because of their environment. If a person becomes accustomed to surroundings where improper words or profanities are screamed during moments of anger or frustration, it becomes part and parcel of who they are. They may feel that their verbal explosions have a calming effect, or worse, they might be using such language to intimidate someone with whom they are arguing or disagreeing.

In some professions, using vulgar language to express strong feelings may be the accepted norm. To a refined person, however, it is an unwelcome manner of speech. In most cases, the one who complains about bad language in a relationship is usually the type of individual who guards his speech; yet, you openly state that you use the same words. You recognize that this is unfair. While I do not in any way condone her manner of speech, it sounds like you might be living in a world of double standards.

When I respond to a query, I can only go by the one-sided information conveyed to me. Your situation is no different in that respect. So, I will look at this from different facets. Is it possible that she is really not the type of young lady who would typically use vulgar language in a dating relationship, but early on in the relationship she thought that she was communicating with you in the way you would understand or feel more comfortable? Again, this does not justify her speech. However, I have seen cases where a woman dates a man who uses crude expletives, and, in a poor effort to show compatibility, she starts doing the same. Moreover, is it possible that the reason she calls you out on your language is because it makes little sense to her that you reprimand her for the way she speaks when she initially thought that is what you expect of her? It would be a good idea to ponder this possibility.

Nonetheless, we have another issue that I cannot find any excuse for, and that is her alleged short fuse when you overheard her screaming at the person who walked in while she was on the phone. Even if that person heard something private that she did not want to be overheard, or even if that person deliberately eavesdropped, she still should have maintained some semblance of self-control. She was unable to that because she might be dealing with issues of anger management. You did say that “she lost it a few times.” What else did she lose her cool about, and how bad were her outbursts? Whatever it was that happened on those occasions, was that not what your therapist warned you to look out for?

Where do you go from here? Whether or not you are living in your own world of double standards, you carved out a different image of your wife and future mother of your children. You might want to be married to a genteel type of woman who not only guards her speech but will overlook whatever comes out of your mouth. I will not deny that such relationships and marriages exist, but you have come to the realization that this is not what you can expect of the girl you are dating.

In your letter you described that one incident that stood out most to you while on the phone with your girlfriend. You are clever enough to recognize that her over-the-top reaction was unjustified. Many things can go wrong throughout life in matters that are serious or trivial. People who have healthy dispositions deal with their disappointments in a rational, socially acceptable way. Those who cannot control their emotions lose it by ranting and raving. Worse still, they have no shame at that moment, and they could not care less if there is an audience who might listen in to their explosions. From what you are describing, it seems like this is the kind of girl you are contemplating marrying.

Can this ever get better? Will she change? Here is what you are looking at. People with such dispositions create an atmosphere in their family where the spouse and children constantly fear that they might be doing something wrong. Don’t fool yourself by thinking that if you go out of your way to make her happy she will appreciate it. A person who is predisposed to being angry will rarely, if ever, notice or appreciate the good that is being done for his or her benefit. They tend to be hyper-focused on what is going wrong. This is the type of marriage you can look forward to sharing with her.

I need to address the comment you made about her being humble because she tells you she is not a nice person. Believe her! That is not shyness or humility. That is her way of demonstrating arrogance. Furthermore, she feels confident to let you know exactly what you can expect from her in the future. She knows that she is not a nice person even though you believe that she is, and that is why you began and ended your letter praising her.

Most people who are not nice but seek to make a good impression for their own self-centered reasons, specifically when they seek to have a relationship, will do and say exactly what they know is expected of them to reach their end goal. When they feel secure in their relationship, that is when the true colors come out. Oftentimes it works for them, because the person they are dating feels that they invested so much in the relationship that they try to find a way to make it work. Look at how much effort you have made. You spoke to your rav and therapist, and you still felt the need to reach out to me anonymously. In your heart, you know that the right thing to do is to get out, but you need validation after validation.

Leaving an unhealthy relationship is never easy. This is somebody you care about and in whom you invested enough time and emotions to consider marriage. Additionally, you might be concerned about having regrets, which is common. I typically address issues of regret before they happen, because regret can stand in the way of future happiness. Therefore, I urge you to invite your girlfriend to join you at a session with your therapist. It is important to air your feelings in a candid way, and you will also learn more when you view her reactions in a professional setting. It will shed additional light on your relationship, and help you come to terms with who she truly is. Most importantly, it will assist you in determining whether this is the type of woman with whom you can share your life — or not.

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