How do I react to humiliation

Why we humiliate loved ones sometimes

Embarrassing loved ones and disciplining them, almost nobody can do that as well as their own partners. You don't have to be a Loriot fan to realize this. You just have to look around in your own life.

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I recently noticed that again in W. and H. The two have been together for years and seem to be average happy with the relationship. But that evening the other day, there was suddenly quite a gap between the two of them. It all started quite harmlessly.

H. had a new job and reported how exhausting and stressful the first time had been. W. always intervened in the narrative with biting comments. Comments of the kind that you want to laugh about because they're funny, but then you can't laugh because you notice in time that they are mostly hurtful. And so the rest of us fell silent, embarrassed, while W. couldn't stop laughing.

About ssmoldering conflicts

The rest of us weren't sure what kind of drama we were watching; was it an inexperienced teasing or was it something else? Wasn't it already pretty humiliating? Humiliation sounds big at first, after all, such teasing seems so common at first. But it's not that commonplace and harmless.

Behind such humiliations - which can of course take on much worse proportions - there is not simply a bad mood or a slight upset. Rather, humiliation in a partnership is a shadow play of deeper-seated problems. This is how Marina Gardini, couples therapist from Cologne, explains this phenomenon. Anyone who humiliates the partner in public, according to the psychologist, is indirectly pointing out a problem in the partnership. Humiliation, seen in this way, is a form of compensation. Compensation for a lack of ability to exchange ideas directly. But what's behind that?

In the case of rather jerky humiliations, such as between W. and H., which come along as small swipes, a basic problem is covered up. Often the problem is more money, sex or a shifted power structure within the relationship - a smoldering conflict. “But such behavior can also have biographical features. So what did the person experience in childhood, how were conflicts dealt with. Ultimately, it also indicates a lack of conflict resolution behavior, ”explains Marina Gardini.

Because whoever humiliates the partner shows a lack of courage. Courage, which you also need when it comes to saying what you are missing. What you want and what bothers you. Those who do not have this courage prefer to set tips instead of communicating in such a way that the partner understands what it is about.

Humiliation as self-appreciation

But the problem is also that such humiliation reveals something not only about the conflicts in the relationship, but also about the person himself. “It's about keeping other people down, giving them negative attention and controlling them,” explains Marina Gardini. This can happen consciously and unconsciously. It is clear, however, that there is at least a problematic self-image behind it.

“It's basically a mirror. Such people feel small and are often lonely too, ”explains Gardini, explaining the humiliating behavior.“ Here, self-confidence and self-worth are drawn over interaction, that is, humiliation. By seeing someone small, I feel bigger. "

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So basically classic schoolyard behavior. A behavior that we have probably all seen in ourselves. Making fun of others can work like a social stepladder. Suddenly you seem a bit bigger and at the top, so you think, everything could be endured better.

More broadly, humiliation also tries to shift a power structure: me further up, you further down. Marina Gardini points out that this is not only about the partners themselves, but that, at least in heterosexual relationships, a form of the unbearable gender battle is also fought out.

Battle of the sexes

“Although we are so modern and open, many people still think that equality in partnerships, financially and also in terms of career, is problematic. But many women no longer put up with that and enter into dialogue accordingly. ”And also demand this equality on other levels, very everyday levels. But even today these shifts in the power structure are not accepted by all men: "They have problems with a relationship on an equal footing and then go into confrontation, including through humiliation."

That may sound out of date, as there are now a great many men who almost fall over their own feet with zeal when it comes to assuring how equal women should be in all situations. But what about should and want - even a genuine wish must first be implemented. And sometimes there is a problem.

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“This generation does not yet have any role models when it comes to equal relationships. So many people first take the path of trial and error and thus also the path of failure, ”says Marina Gardini.

The path of failure. Nice formulation. Do I have to tell W.