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“Defending your honour” – how to find a balance

(21 Posts)
stillishwaters Wed 17-May-17 10:27:23

This seems to be a cultural issue between DH and I, but I have no idea how to deal with it. DH strongly believes that if either one of us is “mistreated” by someone, the other one should step in and defend their honour. I disagree.

Firstly, I loathe it when anyone does that to me. I should have the right to choose if I want to challenge someone’s words about/at me. I don’t want anyone (DH, friend, family) acting as though I’m not responding to someone because I’m incapable of defending myself, and then go put words in my mouth about how I feel about the situation. I feel like the defender is acting on my behalf without my consent and it really rubs me the wrong way.

Secondly, I have no flipping idea at what point someone’s attitude becomes “mistreatment”. Okay, if some random stranger comes up to me and says “Hey fatso, why don’t you just die?”, that’s offensive. But if I’m arguing with my BIL and my sister tells me to leave him alone, I wouldn’t find it offensive – I’d just ignore her because it’s not her fight.

Final point, whenever I have witnessed someone defend their partner’s honour (in my cultural background), the defensive partner’s behaviour was considered to show both the defender and their partner negatively – that the defender was unnecessarily aggressive, and that they were showing their partner as weak by acting on their behalf (or they were acting in a controlling manner towards their partner by not allowing them to address the situation themselves).

DH strongly believes the exact opposite. He thinks it’s shows passionate love and loyalty to defend your partner’s honour – loudly and aggressively. In both the situations above in the second point, he thinks the appropriate response would be do step in and tell the stranger/sister off for mistreating me. He can’t understand how such behaviour could possibly be viewed as a negative when it’s done for love, and thinks that I’m “just not a passionate person”.

This is the only issue in our relationship where we can’t seem to find a middle ground. Anyone got any ideas?

TheStoic Wed 17-May-17 10:44:21

You both sound at extreme opposite ends of the spectrum.

If I had to choose, I'd come down on his side. I would always stand up for my partner. I also would not view it negatively if someone I knew stood up for their partner. To me, that is perfectly understandable. I would find it strange if they didn't.

I guess you have to compromise. You may have to stand up for him if necessary, and he has to NOT stand up for you?

Scarlettablue Wed 17-May-17 11:03:29

I think culture does play a part here and I realise that my response is based on my own cultural experiences. It seems to me that stepping in to defend somebody's "honour" does two things. Firstly it implies that the other person is unable to defend themselves and sort of infantilises them. Secondly it would seem to shut down any kind of discussion so the conflict doesn't get resolved or thought about, but immediately lead to a confrontation. I do think however, that if somebody was being openly abused or insulted, it will be odd if their partner just stood by and watched it happen, particularly if the abuser was a member of the partners family!

stillishwaters Wed 17-May-17 11:21:29

TheStoic: The problem with that kind of arrangement is that we both have to do something that we are extremely uncomfortable with. And when is something bad enough to warrant an intervention? When DH disagrees with someone, should I always get involved?

Scarlettablue: I agree with you, but I just don't seem to always be aware of when something is insulting. For example, being told to "calm down". If I'm really angry and someone tells me to calm down I might calm down a bit, or I might get even angrier, depending on the situation and who says it. But I wouldn't feel insulted. Should I? Is it an insult?

Scarlettablue Wed 17-May-17 11:31:25

I don't think there's any "should" about whether or not to feel insulted - you feel what you feel. If someone told me to calm down I don't think I'd feel insulted, but I might feel a bit pissed off, depending on who it was and what I thought their intentions were. Sometimes it might actually be helpful to be told to calm down, for instance if I was getting so heated that I couldn't think clearly anymore. On the other hand, if I thought it was someone's way of trying to control me when I was expressing myself forcefully, rather than having lost my temper, I might feel very differently about it.

stillishwaters Wed 17-May-17 13:07:17

Thanks Scarlettablue. When should your partner intervene in those examples?

I know I'm kind of looking for a checklist here, which isn't possible. I want to do the right thing by my husband (and vice versa), but I'm kind of clueless. I have a hard enough time working out if I should feel insulted, but I really struggle with identifying when something happens that insults DH. He wants me to stick up for him and for myself, but I'm too slow to realise that something has happened that's insulting, I'm more used to ignoring it.

TheStoic Wed 17-May-17 13:13:57

TheStoic: The problem with that kind of arrangement is that we both have to do something that we are extremely uncomfortable with.

Well, what is the alternative?

stillishwaters Wed 17-May-17 13:18:03

TheStoic: Both of us doing something we're mildly uncomfortable with, or finding a mutually agreeable response that is somewhere between doing nothing and high drama.

HildaOg Wed 17-May-17 13:25:44

I'd be heavily on his side although I think it is dependent on the situation. If his family or friends were insulting or offensive to you then I think he should be obliged to immediately shut them down and vice versa. When it's your own side, I think he should let you shut them down first if you wish and support you in that and vice versa. I think a couple needs to define their own boundaries between themselves and present a united front.

I don't know how you'd unite the two extremes you seem to be at though.

stillishwaters Wed 17-May-17 14:30:52

Thanks HildaOg. I completely agree that we need to show a united front, and we do. DH agrees that I show support, but not passionately enough and not quickly enough.

What are your boundaries? When would you expect your partner to step in?

Maybe we need a codeword for when we expect the other to get involved. That could be a way to adapt and train ourselves to find a bit of middle ground. Verbal training wheels smile

No idea what DH will think of it though. Does it sound too dispassionate to train ourselves to respond differently?

TheStoic Wed 17-May-17 22:00:54

TheStoic: Both of us doing something we're mildly uncomfortable with, or finding a mutually agreeable response that is somewhere between doing nothing and high drama.

And what does that look like? In practical terms?

Changedname3456 Thu 18-May-17 03:40:16

It sounds like you have a remarkably confrontational life between you if this is an issue in your relationship.

I'd say there've been two occasions (very stressful, very much one-off situtauons) where I've felt it's been appropriate for my DC to support me vocally.

Changedname3456 Thu 18-May-17 03:40:38

*DP not DC

stillishwaters Thu 18-May-17 08:41:05

There's barely any confrontation in our life (thus why I don't know what to do). But when my parents are involved things get tense because they are from another planet. I've spent my life learning to ignore my mother's negging (before I even knew that "negging" was a thing and I believed I was just oversensitive), and now I just don't register it when someone insults me. Naturally, DH doesn't like that because he thinks I should respond if either one of us is insulted.

At the moment I'm leaning towards the codeword idea. That way we're acknowledging a situation when it occurs and giving each other support, even if it's months/years before it happens again.

NancyWake Thu 18-May-17 11:22:19

What you seem to be describing is a man who is insecure and aggressive who sees insults where there are none, who expects either to weigh in on your behalf, which is quite patronising and un-necesssary, or for you to weigh in on his behalf when he should be able to look after himself (and may indeed not have been insulted in the first place.)

stillishwaters Thu 18-May-17 15:16:36

That's where the cultural difference comes into play. We'll have to create a new cultural norm of our own.

NancyWake Thu 18-May-17 15:45:22

I don't think this is about cultural differences, I think he's just a bit paranoid.

stillishwaters Thu 18-May-17 16:39:40

I have no doubt about it being cultural. I've lived in his culture. I'm close to his family and friends, I watch the tv shows and movies, read the popular novels. Dramatic responses (almost theatrical to me but not actually like the movies) are as much part of their (DH, his family and friends) communication style as non-confrontational dismissal is of mine.

Neither of us are living in the culture we grew up in, so we've both trying to create a new one without the stuff we didn't like. He loves that I'm calm and he reasons less dramatically now. I love that he's passionate and I'm more expressive now. But for this particular form of confrontation our feelings of if/when/how to engage are very deep and different, so we're trying to work it out.

NancyWake Fri 19-May-17 08:48:33

I understand what you're saying but many people can transcend their culture. I suspect that his cultural conditioning is tallying with certain personality traits. Very often when people leave their own culture and move to a new one they question their assumptions, but this doesn't seem to be happening with your DH. He doesn't seem to be able to see his and your behaviour objectively in the way you can.

picklemepopcorn Fri 19-May-17 08:59:47

What about agreeing a code between you about signalling when to step in. If he wants back up from you, he lets you know, and vice versa. You have to reassure him that you will ask for his support when you want help to challenge something, though.

So you could decide to let it go and not rise to the bait and say 'mr waters knows this kind of thing doesn't bother me,' or 'mr Waters knows I am not like that, don't you Mr W?' As a sign you want him to jump in.

stillishwaters Fri 19-May-17 12:21:03

Transcending culture is one thing, but then there are also core beliefs and virtues. Our priorities are very different to those of our friends and family overseas and different from when we each arrived in the UK. But the desire for him to not immediate step in is extremely deep within my core belief of what I think is the right thing to do. It's only fair to accept that to do immediately stepp in is deep for him. After all, this is the only difference we've ever had that we haven't found middle ground on.

I'm thinking that the codeword could be "objectionable". We wouldn't usually use it in an argument so we are unlikely to use it by accident, but it makes sense to say to someone "I find that objectionable". Then the other can jump in.

Thanks to everyone. Wow, chatting it all out this way has been great for helping me get my own thoughts in order! Cheers for that! grin

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