Death Move Marital Arguments contain a toxic message, akin to ‘the poison on the tip of the dart (Gottman/Bumberry).” The apparent question isn’t really a question. Like the body of the dart, the question is only a delivery system for the poison. “Why are you such a slob?” is not a question looking for an answer. “What color are your eyes?” is a question looking for an answer.
“Why are you such a slob?” is a poisonous counterattack mas- querading as a question.
“You are defective, and one evidence of that is you are a slob.” The initial question, “Why aren’t you ever interested in sex?” wasn’t a question either. It was a poisonous attack: “You are defective, and one evidence of that is you are a frigid bitch.”
Whether disguised as question and counter question, or sarcasm and counter sarcasm, the death move marital argument boils down to one refrain, repeated endlessly:
“You’re no good.”
The “Death Move” is a phrase borrowed from legendary golf instructor Jim McLean. He espoused the belief that there was no one perfect swing in golf, rather that there were a range of possible planes. However, he held that if you wandered outside the acceptable range, then you had initiated a death move, from which there is no recovery.
“No, you’re no good.”
The “You’re no good” is inaudible. It’s inaudible but understood; it is boilerplate. Jen will fill in the blank. “You’re no good because _____________________.”
To which David will respond, “No, you’re no good because________________.”
They will simply hurl the fill-in-the-blank post-boilerplate at each other. The post-boilerplate is the part written into the blank space after ‘because;’ it is the modern equivalent of the crockery couples hurl at each other in old movies.
Instead of plates and dishes flying at each other’s heads, we have accusations flying through the air. Now the “You’re no good” portion is unspoken. If the allegation is “You’re no good because you never take out the trash,” what Jen will say is “You never take out the trash!”
Dave’s response is “No, you’re no good because you are always late,” though the audible portion will be “You’re always late.”They almost seem to be speaking at cross-purposes until the secret writing is revealed. It’s like when kids write secret messages on a paper with milk. The page looks blank before “you never take out the trash,” but when held over a candle, the secret message appears: “You’re no good because…” And the important part is the secret message: “You’re no good.”
SO, IT’S AN ARGUMENT ADDICTION?
In marital shorthand, if the “You’re no good…” gets left out, and whatever filled in the blanks becomes the repetitive and choreographed exchange. Leave out “you’re no good” and what do you get?
When the you’re no good gets left out then the familiar exchange is heard:
“Can’t you ever take out the garbage??”
“Can’t you ever be on time?
It is so important to understand this, because it reveals why Judge Judy doesn’t work. It is not that the Judge isn’t wise, and it is not that the solutions offered by the Judge are unreasonable. It is that, as we will see, no amount of sensible divvying up who takes out the garbage, or when each partner is ready to leave, — no amount of adjudication will address the underlying “you’re no good” that is the heart of the problem.
If you can stop the “Death Moves” and rebuild and you’ll make a bad marriage good and good marriage great. We’ll show you how, we promise.
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