Watching the movie ‘Why did I get married?’ the other day, I realised how easy it is for our dearest and closest friends and loved ones to hurt us. They have the power to stick the knife in and keep turning it. Why? Because they know where it hurts most and where we are most vulnerable. When pushed to a corner, they engage the best form of defence, attack.
In the movie (It’s really Tyler Perry at his best, and I recommend it to every married person or prospective candidate for marriage), Angela (Tasha Smith) presses her husband’s (Marcus’) ‘unemployed’ button during a couples’ retreat, after he presses her ‘alcoholic’ button.
“I’ll drink to that!” slurs Angela, an alcoholic, after a toast. “You’ll drink to nouns!” attacks her husband, intentionally setting her buzzer off. “How about we drink to Marcus getting a job. That would be nice. I’ll drink to you getting a real job!” she strikes back.
“I have a job,” Marcus is evidently bruised.
“Marcus, you work for me…” says Angela, completely deflating her husband who works at her hair salon.
That is when Patricia (Janet Jackson) intervenes and says “Guys, I thought we learned how to fight fair”.
She and her husband go ahead to explain that whenever couples argue, they must not press each other’s buttons because that is unfair fighting. Sounds familiar? I know it does. Of course none of us is perfect; we each have our Achilles’ heel; that weak spot which, when touched, we crumble. We call them insecurities, issues, skeletons in the closet, weaknesses, sore spots; and we guard them closely.
So a guy whose confidence went with his first bad relationship becomes a stay-home man, never wanting to approach any girl. A lady who was raped by her uncle, as a child, becomes a nun just to avoid interacting with men, because every time a man touches her, that buzzer goes off.
For many women, the buzzers are on some part of their bodies that they are uncomfortable with. Oversized breasts, a flat behind, oversupplied love handles, brown teeth, pimply skin…the list is endless. Men love to press those buttons, especially when they tease women or when women reject them. A husband, when confronted about an affair by his wife, may hit back “No one wants to walk around with a shapeless woman”.
Once that button has been pressed, she looks at her body and sees a baby factory and not an expression of her sexy femininity. Then she throws a pity party. Women also like pressing each other’s buttons she may, in a moment of anger, spill a secret “At least I don’t sleep my way to the top!” she may blurt out in an argument, sometimes in the presence of others.
Every day, you find people who want to cut you to size. Maybe you are bubbly and full of life, and some imbecile just gets an itch when they see you walk tall through the door, so they ask “Are you having problems with Electrogaz? Couldn’t you get your suit pressed?” I attended some communication skills course a while ago, and learnt the best technique for dealing with frustration. Of course at the university, communication skills is a largely useless course that teaches you how to use a computer and find your way in a library.
But the real challenge in life is how to deal with tricky every day situations like people or even experiences pressing your buttons. What do you do when you fail an interview? Do you believe the lie that you are daft?
Here’s how they do it at the course: They sit you on a chair and have someone who knows you well sit right in front of you. The idea is that you are not to flinch or move; just sit still and look the person straight in the eye.
The person tells you the nasty truth about yourself. Eventually, you learn to accept the ugly truth about yourself until it does not hurt any more. At that point, you have faced your fears, and you are really in control.